The best way to start adding A=analog to my system

When I started this hobby, I never thought I would need a turntable, so I didn’t think about phono stages etc. That changed with a recent listening session. Vinyl just sounds better to me so now I am trying to figure out where I need to spend, where I can go cheap for the moment. Should I balance all parts at the same level or begin with one great piece and gradually upgrade around it?

For context, my current system has:

Blumenhofer Genuin FS2 speakers, Art Audio PX-25 power, Audio Research SP16L pre-amp. I have a Ayre Cx5 CD player/DAC and an MD-90 tuner.

For turntables, I have auditioned Pro-Jects Xtension 9, Rega P3 and the Clearaudio Concept. I am planning to listen to the Clearaudio Performance next and based on what I have read and heard, I think that may be the answer. but that is a $2k step up in price. Part of me is thinking just get the better table and maybe the Tracer arm and start with cheaper cartridge/stage for now, vs matching things that are more within budget and then having to change everything later.

What makes the most sense?


I understand what you have heard and want. I have owned turntables for over fifty years. At first analog could not be duplicated at any cost with digital… then it could but at a huge difference in cost. The differential has been reduced year by year. At this point you can get the “same” sound out of digital for not much more. But like anything… it takes effort. You have some very good equipment. Whatever the sound you liked, you can get through digital… and likely for the same price or less than getting into vinyl.


Getting into analog will require a turntable and phono stage… plus buying record and a record cleaner. To try and abstract this: A turntable with cartridge and a Phonostage should cost each roughly the same as your preamp and amp… which should be on the same as DAC and Streamer. These need to be carefully chosen, not just some random purchase… obvious this is a generalization… but my system ended up pretty close to this (see my UserID). The phono stage is really important.

So as a quick review of your system. I would invest in a great streamer (Aurender is my choice… it is all they do).. if that doesn’t do it then trade in the CD / Player / DAC for a great DAC (or CD player / DAC). A great streamer (stand alone is required for audiophile sound and it should be an investment similar to amp or preamp a bit less than speakers.


In my system vinyl and digital sound the same. There is no “vinyl character” that sounds better (although I know this difference as for most of my life it was obvious)… both digital and analog have the same character. One can sound a bit better on on because of mastering.



I'd rather have one great setup between analog and digital rather than two mediocre setups. So, if I were you, I'd upgrade the digital or wait and save for top flight vinyl setup. Both mijostyn and ghdprentice make good points.


My vinyl setup is more costly than what your budgeting for and rarely gets played since my digital outperforms it. Continuing to go with two setups has been costly for me,  getting two setups to be competitive with each other has resulted in far greater expenditure vs. what I would have spent with only one top flight system. I'm now in position that $10k phono stage and at least $2k cartridge will be required to compete with digital, cha ching, cash register keeps on adding up. I'd likely give up vinyl if I didn't have 3k+ albums.

This may be a small thing, but take it or leave it:

I’m not sure if Mike Fajen is still the customer service representative at Clearaudio’s American distribution company, Musical Surroundings, but he has been nothing short of tremendous with answering my questions and, all in all, providing unimpeachable customer service.  Just fantastic.

When I play fantastic pressings on my Concept Wood/Carbon Fiber Satisfy/Concerto v2 setup into the Musical Surroundings Phonomena II+ phono stage, I’m quite a happy camper, FWIW.  The noise floor of the Phonomena II+ may leave something to be desired @ $700 MSRP.

We all have different ears, but to mine the vinyl sound is unique but not nearly as convenient as digital. You might consider a rega planar 6 with the Ania cart and rega phono stage. I have owned that in the past and while you can certainly do better, I thought it delivered a lot of performance for the cost. I thought there was a pretty big jump in performance from the 3 to the 6. Good luck!

If you like Clearaudio, look into a Marantz TT-15S1. It is made by Clearaudio and comes with the Satisfy arm and the Virutoso Ebony Wood cartridge. It is similar to the Clearaudio Emotion but with a better arm and cartridge.