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?


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.


An idea.  Since you consider digital sound beats analogue, why do you remain heavily invested in analogue?  You say you would sell up if you didn't have ~3k albums.  But selling up is logical for you.

Record to digital all the LPs you don't already have on digital or can't hear for free on the internet.  Then sell all your analogue kit plus all the albums.  This will realise many $10,000s.


1.   You will be a lot richer

2.   You won't be wasting space storing 3,000 LPs

3.   You will have better sound (in your opinion)

What's not to like???


I wanted a TT so I could listen to my father’s albums

Went with the Clearaudio Concept and think it was a great choice. Plug and play, and lovely sound (it’s comparatively modest compared to my digital path, so that’s my reference re: enjoyment)

When I want to upgrade, I will buy a better Clearaudio cartridge as a start (their MM cartidges range from $250 - $2,000)

I’ve had it for about five years. If I decide to do a serious upgrade (say $10 - $15k), now I have some experience to guide me. I am glad I kept it to $2,500 on the first experiment. Why spend $15k on a first turntable? I would not have had any frame of reference. Now I do. My pre has a good phono stage for a TT in this price range

Just what worked for me - one could do the same with any number of TT brands. At that price range, my guess is everything “sounds good”. Get some experience first, then up the budget

I am glad I kept it simple, and can spend my time listening to music. I am glad I did not spend much time making the decisions

Keep it simple, and start listening this weekend

Let us know what you decide!

Have a great day

@jonwatches1 that is sort of what I was thinking: that there would be some learning I could get from a cheaper system that I could put to use when I make the longer term, much larger investment. A lot of good info in this thread though!

I have two turntable suggestions, both of which already come with a pre mounted cartridge, and both of which I own. The first is the Music Hall MMF-7.3 with Ortofon 2M Bronze, the second is the Avid Ingenium plug & play with a unbadged Rega carbon. 

The Music Hall is a very well designed turntable that sounds magnificent. Electronic speed change via the outboard motor, a carbon fiber 9" tonearm (9cc), acrylic platter driven by a round belt, threaded spindle with screw on record clamp, two plinth design, tip-toe feet, and includes both a dustcover and quality interconnects. Not to mention a beautiful walnut finish (available in gloss black for cheaper). The walnut version is about $1800. 

The Avid plug and play Ingenium is a skeletal design that is built like a tank. It has an MDF platter driven by an external motor assembly. The tonearm is the Rega RB 110, with, as mentioned, an unbadged Rega carbon attached and aligned. Avid Is known to abide to the theory that the turntable itself is more important than the cartridge installed to achieve the best sound. In other words, you do not have to have an ultra expensive cartridge installed to achieve great sound. The Avid Ingenium  uses a titanium ball bearing which rides on a sapphire bearing, the same as the more expensive Avid models. The turntable oozes quality build. It can be had for about $2100, but i got mine new for $1800. 

As far as a phono stage, I also have two to recommend, two of which I also own. The first is the Tavish Design the Classic, the second is the Pro-ject tube box DS2. Both are tube preamps. I run NOS tubes in the Tavish with great results. The tube box DS2 has a front mounted knob to adjust moving coil load on the fly. The Tavish is about $800, the pro-ject is about $1000 with the wood side panels, otherwise about $800. So, for about $3000 total outlay, you can have a very nice analog set up.