Need advice for upgrading my analog setup


I got into records 2 years ago and have been using ProJect Carbon Debut Evo with a Sumiko Rainier cartridge. It has served me great as my first table and a way to see if I would enjoy playing records. Well I do enjoy records. And my dad gave me all of his records too (he's a CD guy but never abandoned his collection when vinyl fell out of vogue).

Anyway, I'm planning to upgrade my entire analog setup and I'm very much a buy once , cry once kind of person. I'm looking at a SOTA Sapphire, Origin Live Zephyr tonearm, and a Soundsmith Zephyr Mk.III cartridge. Is this a good combination? Are there any other combinations of gear in the $6k range I should consider? I try to buy American as much as I can. I've looked at VPI but I like the look of SOTA much more.

Oh and I'm using a Darlington Labs MP-7 phono preamp that I'm happy with and don't plan on replacing.

Thanks for reading and helping me out.


I can't speak to the arm and cart but the SOTA is a great TT, I've had mine for over 20 years. I did upgrade it to the magnetic bearing and new control board recently and it's better than ever .

@chocaholic you've obviously not listened to the difference between a $500 phono and a $2-$3k phono if you're recommending someone to stay with what they have. Especially when they're moving up the ranks big time from an entry level table. 


In all honesty @thefrator my phonostage and turntables have been my best and most enjoyable upgrade. Phonos definitely need not be insanely expensive but the Musical Surroundings recommended above is great advise. Or hunt for a used Manley Chinook. Haven't heard SOTA or the Soundsmith, but I've gone through a few upgrades of tables, carts and phonos and you're in for a treat. 

@j-wall Mr. jaywall, I’ll have to respectfully disagree with your incorrect assumption. What my experience tells me is that a price tag is not an upgrade criteria. Rather, the perceived SQ and enjoyment in your own listening room is far more logical. The OP likes and is happy with his phononstage. Whether he chooses to upgrade will depend on his experience with his new ‘table. But it should not be because he simply hasn’t spent enough money on his phono section. That is just ridiculous.

@chocaholic you're sorely mistaken if you think a $500 phonostage will deliver the capabilities of $1,500 cartridge. That phonostage is entirely built to budget, which is fine for those with bare bones entry level gear that don't want to spend the dollars. But this gentleman is looking to upgrade for better sound, so your entirely baseless and incorrect assumption that he doesn't need to upgrade his phonostage (when he's already asked for phonostage advice) isn't helpful. And he definitely should upgrade. Phonostages do wonders!

@j-wall Once again you seem to read things that are not there. From his original post:

“Oh and I'm using a Darlington Labs MP-7 phono preamp that I'm happy with and don't plan on replacing.”

How you’ve interpreted that as a request for phono preamp advice is a mystery to me. But feel free to carry on. You’re on a roll.