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.


@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




Too bad he didn’t pay $5k for his $700 phononstage. His system would sound so much better to him that way.

You guys rock!

the phono stage arguments seems to have descended into a bloody bar fight, I must ask: how about speakers? Do speakers matter more than the phono stage?


(I know it's not a "more" type of riddle. But still) 

There are many great phono stages at far less than what some here recommend. Let’s see...the Graham slee Era Gold V....the one Fremmer drooled’s a grand! How about the Ear 834p? How about the pro ject tube box ds2? All raved about in countless reviews. Then there is the ifi phono3....a grand....even the cheap musical fidelity lx lps is a fantastic phono preamp.