Ohio Vinylohiles, and other who love analog fronts

I have been reading everything I can get my hands or mouse on about analog front ends. At this point I have a feel for they types of tables that I am looking for, but have limited time to listen as Cleveland is a bit thin in analog HiFi options.

I am pushing my budget to the limit with a $1000 to spend, but I do have some extra stuff to work with as far as trades or sales go.

I have my amp and speakers set and have a modest digital front end that will work till I decide between cd, pc, or tt.

Based on the limited time I have spent with vinyl spinning, I feel pretty strong that this is the road I will continue down into the future.

That said, Everything except my speakers and amplifiers are up for reconsideration. I have been looking at several options (based on reading), but would love to hear your comparisons or better yet, stop buy for some listening.

So far I am leaning toward a VPI JR. or Scout, A Nottingham Horizon, A SOTA Sapphire, J.A. Mitchel, Clear Audio Concept (I think), A oracle Alexandria or Delphi. These are what seem to be the safe investment for trial and error and decks that seem to hold their value.

On the other hand I there is a local Pro-Ject Debut III that has everything needed to get spinning. Just not sure I can live with this for long enough to make the effort worth while.

Also have been looking for a Empire 208 (298) as well.

If I did not say it before, I am now lost. Anyone have suggestions based on their personal journey or are their owners of any of these tables within driving distance of Cleveland that might let me stop by for a listen?
Yes, he has very high end products, but he also has the entry level Rega tables too, so there's something for all budgets. I thought he was very knowledgeable and could guide those of us with less analog experience. I also think he offered a flexible upgrade option if you bought something and wanted to upgrade later. I'm not 100% sure of that, but I think that was the case. I only made one visit and have not made a purchase yet. But I was very impressed with the options that were available.

By the way, I have no affiliation with this store. It's just that I was very impressed... and he's in your backyard.
I am in the Cleveland area. I have been to Don Better Audio once and did buy my Tetra speakers there. Don is a good guy. He is heavy into analog, but in my budget, I do not really care for Rega, and if he has anything else in the budget mentioned above, that is something I did not know, as it is not on his web site, or from what I remember being there. But certainly worth a look. This was 2 years ago.

Recently though, I decided to fire my Vinyl back up again, after selling my VPI a few years ago. I sort of lost interest in working on a few vintage tables I have, so decided to spend some money on a new table. I was going to most likely buy a refurbished Sota of some kind from Sota, possibly a vacuum table. Another possibility was some kind of VPI new. Then I also found a few others I was interested in, and realized how many other things I wanted to do with my audio. So I decided not to spend as much now for a table, and delay the more expensive table for a few years.

What I finally did after much research was to buy a new Music Hall MMF 9.1 It had a lot of what I was looking for, a stand alone motor, decent platter and inverted bearing, speed control, some level of isolation, and adjustability on the tone arm. I found some good reviews and comments and went for it. It also comes with a nice MC catridge. Now this is a bit more then you wanted to spend at $2100.00. But it does come with the cartridge, that is now selling for $750.00 outright. Also with some research you can find a good discounts from list price. I was at first somewhat skeptical, but in the end very impressed with the overall package, quality and performance. Since I was able to find such a good price on the MMF 9.1, I don't think future resale return is much of a concern.

I am not suggesting you go this way, just offering what I did , after usually buying used turntables. Many of the tables you mentioned buying used at around $1,000 are good tables, but some can be expensive to fix if there is an issue. Sota and Oracle come to mind if they are older. There is also some of the popular used direct drive from Denon, Kenwood and some others.

I would think in the end you would be happier passing on the lower end Pro-ject and Music Hall tables, like the one you mentioned.

New, closer to your budget there is of course Rega(not for me but a lot of people love them), there are a few models from Pro-Ject and Music hall that are well liked, and there is the Sota Comet that gets great reviews.

Of course as anything on any forum there will be alternate takes of the info I provided, so you can maybe sum it all up to some conclusion. If you have anyother questions please post them.


Check out what Don Better has to offer. I have bought two tables an three cartridges from him. A straight shooter and not a snob.
It's nice to find some Clevelanders on here. Hi John. Like John said, give Don Better a try, he is a good guy. I love my Tetra speakers I bought from him. If nothing there that appeals to you, there is a lot out there to choose from. I would not discount the Music Hall, but would suggest you move up from the model you mentioned originally. Like I said I was skeptical of Music hall / Pro-ject tables at first. But some of the lastest improved models are pretty sweet.
I have made the call and will be headed over later in the week for a visit. Will keep you posted.