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.


@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.   



@chocaholic feel free to read more than headlines and you’ll learn a lot. You can do it. You’re smarter than you think!

A "need advice" thread that's going sideways...

Imagine that!

"Having been playing with these toys for 40 years, I’ve certainly learned that MSRP has no bearing on system sound quality in your room."

Buy a $6-8K setup, play it through a $700 unit and NEVER hear what the cartridge is capable of. 

Great advice