Recommend an Entry Level Turntable (And maybe an integrated Amp)

I've been wanting to upgrade my system for a long time now.

My system currently consists of a pair of B&W 630's, an old Denon 50 watt reciever (DRA-550) from the mid 80's,  and a Marantz 5004 cd player.  I'm pretty happy with all three.

I'm looking to get into vinyl and The Project Debut Carbon turntable was recommended.  I listened to it but wasn't amazed by it. So I sent it back.

I then called my local audio store and the salesman said that if the system sounds good with cds but not with the turntable then the weak link is probably the phono pre amp.

So, he recommended the NAD C388 integrated amp which has the added benefit of more power (150 watts per channel) and bluetooth as well (something I definitely want).  He did qualify it by saying that reciever/amp technology hasn't changed much over the years.

He also recommended an upgrade of the turntable cartridge to the Sumiko Rainier.

Just thinking out loud.  I'd be open to adding a bluetooth and a new phono preamp to the Denon, but I'm not sure if that would be better.



I like NAD equipment and think it's a nice option.

I don't know your budget and the All-in-one solutions such as Moon ACE, Naim Atom Uni and Cambridge Evo could also be great options that provide you a digital and analog compatibility.

I like the MoFi table w Ortofon cartridge. There are some super $500 ish phono stages available now. The NAIM Atom as mentioned above is an excellent integrated with a lot of capability, it does not have a phono section. What is the budget ?

Try a Rega Planar 2 and upgrade the cartridge, I use an audio-technica vm540ml.For a phono preamp try a Schiit Mani or Cambridge Alva duo.I have both, pros and cons to both. The Schiit Mani has an adjustable gain which is a huge plus when using a lower watt amplifier such as the Cambridge cxa81 80w or Vincent sv500  50 w. I enjoy both of these amps.


You are best served by upgrading your integrated

A modern integrated will beat rhe older denon

Also the rega tables have more life to the sound over the project






Check out some of the Yamaha integrated amps---they have several that can fit most budgets and a decent phono amps built in so you may not need to purchase a separate phono amp. I have a Denon PMA 757 from 1985 and only use it for streaming from my MacBook via a IFI Zen DAC Ver 2. Sounds amazing. 

Belles Aria integrated w phono, Ortofon Bronze or equivalent $ Soundsmith  phono cartridge on a MoFi deck will vault you into great sound ! John Rutan @audioconnection should be able to help you get the most out of tge old but good 630’s.

Just another response of someone suggesting random components to look at, but for an affordable phono stage check out the Project Tube Box S2 and replace the tubes with Gold Lions. Definitely a big step up compared to a basic phono in an integrated amp and really fleshes out a great sound when paired with most any cartridge. It's certainly not the best in the world but it'll allow you to not need an upgrade for quite a while and still allows a big budget for the rest of the system.

I get you're still happy with the Denon, but I'd also suggest you upgrade that receiver first. You will hear a big difference with the NAD (NAD always sounded better then Denon in my opinion), or any of the others mentioned -  for CD's and streaming even, much less a new turntable. The phono pre-amp in the Denon is a weak link, not just the power, or age of the whole thing. The Project is a decent table for the money, but I doubt you'd be happy spending more money on a table right now as it probably won't make much difference with that receiver - good in its day, but that was a long time ago. 

As for turntables, I own a REGA, but the other ones mentioned are fine also. Just one opinion, but I hope it helps.

Agreed, upgrade the integrated. Look at the Audiolab 6000A. Fully featured, wonderful sound, reasonable and a nice built in phono section. My fave except for maybe the Parasound Int. I would say don't cheat on the cartridge either. I see a lot of nice ($500.00+) turntables sporting a $79.00 cartridge. My old rule of thumb, crude as it may be, is 25-30% of the TT cost for the cartridge. That's 70's thinking but that's when I started in to audio...

If I were in your situation, I would look at the Denon PMA-110A.

It’s the real deal.

This is the anniversary edition of this 2ch integrated amp.

It has an excellent partitioned dedicated phono section.

80 watts into 8ohms and it doubles down to 160 watts into 4ohms

Stable to 2 ohms and will push a 1 ohm load.

Dual mono: two transformers! 

Its not cheap (just under 4k) but it’s a poor man’s Luxman.

Then get a $1000 turntable. If you can push a little higher, the Technics 1200GR is tough to beat.


I do not want to rain on your parade but it is very unlikely that you will find vinyl gear which is likely to sound anywhere as good as digital, unless you spend some serious cash. Simply by the limits of the underlying technology involved, vinyl will never be able to match the dynamic range of a CD. And a new amp will not make that much of a difference. The limitation is at the source.

If you still must, check out direct drive Technics turntables for probably the best price for value and reliability.

Yes, the Yamaha integrated amps are good and almost complete for your needs. For example, the A-S501, which lacks only Bluetooth. The A-S501 delivers fine clarity, with perhaps a slight bit of warmth. Since the Yamaha has digital inputs, I chose to use a wi-fi device to receive stream input:, the Audioengine B-Fi. But you can get a Bluetooth device instead. (Disclosure: I have my A-S501 up for sale on my local Craigslist.)


A 5k budget does an ok job for what you are asking. You could do a Parasound Hint 6, has all the goodies you want, phono stage, DAC etc. Plenty of power to drive your speakers, and throw a Rega Planar 6 in the mix and you will simply blow away what you have now. Both can be had new right within your budget. Less if you do preowned.

I was going to make a recommendation but I don't think you'd listen to me anyhow. Where you're at and some of the recommendations that other's have made would be in a somewhat different direction from mine. No sense confusing you more. Besides, I only have about 60 years of experience in the field of music and audio.

Good Luck.

Pioneer PLX1000 is the best sub-$1K TT. I have one in my TT collection. For the price ($699) can't be beat! Sound quality as good as the several times more expensive Technics TTs.

And so right you are axpert. I can tell right now from absolutely no information how I would have trolled you on all the lame gear you were going to recommend. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Grease Stain, that's what it would be.

Awww, who am I kidding? Please pretty please tell us! I promise I'll be ever so impressed! Don't be a stingy old meanie!

I'd have a look at Music Hall's Classic turntable at $599....tough to beat at that price. Good looks, a uni-pivot tonearm, electronic speed control, a removable headshell, and auto lift and shutoff...the pre-mounted Spirit cartridge is of good quality. The built in phono preamp is by-passable/defeatable. Heck, I certainly do not need another turntable, but I may grab one, why not @599....

Which would be the best cartridge for the Project Debut Carbon? And would it be comparable to the Technics SL-1210GR? (which is probably too rich for my blood.)



Go slow. If you envision continuing on the upgrade path and perhaps envision owning a top shelf system in the future , go slow. ONLY ONE charge at a time (except tt/pre, of course). Get a real handle on what changes that one component made. Good, bad? Try optimizing it with the right cable, placement, etc. THEN make another change. You’ll end up with a better system and you’ll save a lot of money.

I would start with tt first. Good luck and have fun.

Have no idea why everything is underlined😊


Another question:  Would it make more sense to buy an all in one amp that includes a bluetooth/ streaming, and phono pre amp or buy them separately?

I want to second, go slow. I know much of the equipment you mention and don't think highly of it or of Bluetooth. there are more effective ways to put a system together. Also, set a goal precisely since 5k does not give you much room. If the goal is to build a great sound around a TT, that is one thing. if the goal is to build the greatest sound possible for 5k, that is a very very very different situation.   


I am interested in doing both if possible (Streaming/Blutooth) and a preamp + TT

I'm just worried that the streaming device may eventually become obsolete.


Dynamic range of digital is greater, yes. But that’s because it’s super quiet. It’s super quiet because it’s limited to 20hz-20khz, it’s filtered and it’s missing musical information. So ’more dynamic range’ sounds great but is a little misleading.

Don’t mistake dynamic range for frequency response or musicality. Vinyl walks away from digital with those.

I listen to both and they’re simply different musical experiences.

It’s really nice to have both if you can swing it.

But yes, outstanding vinyl performance takes more than a little effort and dollars.

@klimt, save some coin in your budget for a few basic vinyl accessories (i.e. record brush; stylus cleaner; anti-static poly sleeves; record cleaner; VTF gauge; etc.). Records require a little TLC if you want the sound quality to be all it can be. With the right TT, cart, phono stage, speakers... guess this amounts to the whole damn audio system, not to mention quality vinyl pressings... vinyl will provide a significantly more dynamic experience than Red Book CD's played, presumably, through the DAC in your Marantz or most other CD players. If you get an integrated amp with a good internal DAC, you might want to by-pass your CD player's DAC and use it as a transport by tapping into the amp's DAC with a good quality digital cable. If you've never done the vinyl thing before, I recommend you do some reading on basic care & handling of records, TT's, etc. Analog Planet is a good place to start and keep going to. Michael Fremer will become a new friend. Vinyl's not as easy and care-free as popping in a CD. However, with just a little effort, the reward in sound quality is certainly worth it!

If you buy a manual TT, I'd strongly recommend investing in a tone arm lifter, as well. You don't want your stylus spending any time bumping into the record labels after it hits the lead-out grooves.

For TT choices, I'd recommend you have a serious look & listen to the Marantz TT-15 with the Clearaudio cart it comes bundled with. That TT is actually manufactured by Clearaudio to Marantz's specifications. This one is hard to beat at anywhere near its price. Unfortunately, it doesn't come with a dust cover. Kind of a stupid move by Marantz. You could probably find a cheap solution for this at an arts & crafts store like Michael's or at the website of an acrylic products manufacturer, instead of paying the crazy, wildly inflated prices for an after-market dust cover.

The Rega P3 with Ortofon Blue is another I've spent serious seat-time with that was/is very, very nice, indeed. I'm certain there are many other good choices in your budget range but those are the only two under 2K I've spent serious seat-time with that I would recommend without hesitation.

Finally, no matter what TT you go with, make sure you have a rock steady and level spot to put it on, especially if you go with a low-mass design like Rega.

If I were you I'd a good buy on a good high-end used table for the same money you spend on a budget new table. A Linn or a sota


I’m gonna ask a question:

can you keep this as a happy second system, enjoy it elsewhere, ... office, .... and start over piece by piece for a new music system?

IOW, new speakers, probably used to move up within your budget. That is the biggest improvement you will hear (first with the existing receiver and cd player). If not streaming, that marantz looks like a keeper.

then new or used components with the sources/inputs/features/remote controls you want. think long, sketch the ideal, then begin.

Any starter TT, it’s not the deck and arm difference: you will be hearing the cartridge, and it will be colored via the Phono stage. You need to find the combo that you like, that ain’t easy. Alignment skills for a TT/cartridge are paramount, who will do that?

Then, having an enjoyable TT, if you stick with Vinyl, move up with your then acquired experience and alignment skills. also think long, I went from a decent Audio Technica AT120 with a single great cartridge to a Vintage TT and Large Plinth with 3 arms/cartridges ready to go. Got there by accident with a lot of help here.

have a peek, 8th photo here


my good friend just went to a new arm with removable headshell and VTA on the FLY. IMO that is the best way to go with a single arm, it allows changing headshells with different cartridges easily, i.e. MM Stereo; MC Stereo; Mono. That is a commitment, after you decide you will move deeper into Vinyl


you could jump right in with this vintage JVC Victor two arm plinth, direct drive quartz locked TT81;

and Long 7082 arm with VTA on the Fly


that’s $1,100 usd, and sold by Vlad, the Russian in Canada I bought mine from and Bill subsequently got his from. I highly recommend him. note: he also has the standard length 7045 arm listed separately. If I knew what I ended up knowing, I would buy this and the 9" arm.

that JVC Victor plinth is big and heavy, check the measurements, I had to order a deeper glass shelf for it. 


Very good discussion and great advice from your A'gon friends.

I'm going to point the discussion in another direction.  I am in total agreement that a modern integrated will offer far superior performance than your Denon receiver.  The unknown factor here is the strength of the emotional attachment between yourself and the Denon.  My 40+ years of experience shows that this can be quite strong in many cases.  The daily "feel good" sensation you get from a piece of gear that was a loyal companion through some of the most important cycles of your life is impossible to place a value on vs setting it aside for something that delivers an improved listening experience.  Only you can make that determination.  That being said it is possible to significantly improve the performance of the Denon the degree where it doesn't sound like it came from the same factory.  Yes, "audiophile" characteristic are possible with significant improvements in warmth, detail, and overall musicality from the Denon. There are "mods" you can do at home if you're "handy" or the average hifi service tech can easily perform these.  Plan on spending between $200-$300 for a 40%+ performance improvement.  Will it match the performance of a modern integrated?  No.  But, it you want your old friend to look the same, operate the same, and sound like a product a couple of rungs up the ladder, then you can have it all.  If this is interesting, I'll be happy to share some insights into our successes with "mainstream" audio gear.  Not trying to drum up business here.  We keep pretty busy and you can have this done locally.  Just didn't want you to place the Denon in a Garage Sale or demote it to a secondary system if a performance improvement would keep it center stage.


An outboard phono stage (with decent interconnects) is recommended with this.  If you like your DM630's there are some do-it-yourself mods you can perform as well.  The goal here is not to fundamentally change the voicing the the B&Ws but to just get things out of the way that crush detail, dynamics, and imaging.


Best of luck in your pursuits.

correction, that listing is from Eugene in Canada, not Vlad. I wrote him, the gasket in that arm looks perfect. Verify proper double boxing with Eugene if you order from him.

Vlad's current listings

you could start with a great arm with VTA on the Fly



this one has the base plate for a technics plinth (scroll down, see 'other listing)


then you need to find a TT to put it on.

Hey waytoomuchstuff, 

Thanks for the post.  I'm actually very happy with the B&W's and they may have already been modified.  I bought them used.  

I brought them to a hi fi shop years ago and the salesperson was slightly amazed, saying they sounded a lot better than he expected. 

As for the Denon, 

I am sort of attached to them as they were a major upgrade from a Sansui receiver I had in the past, but I"m willing to upgrade now. 

I definitely would like to hear these speakers with more power.  As I mentioned I'd also like to have a streaming option and a better pre amp. 

Thanks again.

Hey elliott, 

I"m not interested in starting a new system as I'm very happy with my speakers and the Marantz 5004 cd player.

I"d like to build from these.

Thanks for the detailed post. You've been very helpful.

The post to waytoomuchstuff is also for you. 

Thanks again.


Anyone know how the Parasound Halo integrated compares with the NAD C388 integrated amp?


If it were me & I had 5k I would start with a Marantz MODEL 30 Integrated Amplifier.

Rega and Project are great for set-and-forget types, but if you want to swap carts and play around in general you need a removable headshell and adjustable VTA.  Look at  It has those, a carbon arm, adjustable feet for leveling and comes with an AT VM95E, all for $349.

The biggest difference is Class A/B amplification for the Hint 6 (Halo is the earlier, but similar model) vs Class D amplification. Do a search on the two if not familiar. With the B&W’s Class A/B would be the better bet IMO synergy wise.

A little off topic as l've never had a turntable in my stereo rig So l receive a call from my Son and he tells me that someone in his neighborhood has posted " turntable free to a good home" He thought of me right away ( good Son) So l jump in my car right away and go pick it up. To my surprise it's a 1915 Victor-Victrola in almost perfect condition with working turntable! It even came with a few old, l mean really old 78's



I and 2 of my friends have done very well on canuckaudiomart.

Use PayPal for it's protection, and use your best credit card to pay paypal so you get the CC protection also. Seller may want you to split or pay the 3% paypal seller's fee they were not planning on, the protection is worth it.

You need an invoice for the item, i.e. 'goods' so you are paying for goods (protected) rather than sending money which is not protected.

Insurance: keep in mind, the seller is paying on your behalf, and if a damage claim, the seller has to make the claim, thus is is IMPERATIVE items are properly DOUBLE BOXED.

I had a bad experience, because Eugene didn't double box the unit, sadly destroyed, he gave me a full refund, but such a shame and it took a while. Got the one I have now from Vlad on canuckaudiomart, he is a master packager!!!

I would buy from Eugene, he had lots of great items, only after we had a conversation about double boxing. 


Another option, any item 'local pickup only' (any seller unsure about packaging): you pre-arrange and pay UPS to pack and ship to you, even from Canada. Find UPS office near seller, pre-arrange, seller simply takes unpackaged item to UPS in your name. UPS calls with the price, you pay them, they guarantee undamaged delivery. I just did it, worked like a charm.

It is interference, wherever it comes from.  Sunspots? Electrical? Traffic? Extraterrestials?  Whatever you have is affected by something.  Could also be mental.  Get an attitude adjustment.  Works for me.

Lot of great advice that is sound on here today. If it were me I also would get a different integrated. New ones are very good. I had an old 1976 Luxman I got attached to for almost 25 years and it hurt to let it go but it can be done. Not easy.