Top turntables?

Which turntables bring out the most from our vinyls.
The presence ambiance, that "you are there" feeling.
I am looking to upgrade from an old tnt.
What Patrickamory said. Beg Jean Nantais to build you a Lenco -- even the cosmetics are getting superb now. Then marvel.
Palasr: I see your logic but have you ever had a better cart on your Galibier rig? I haven't heard a cart under $800 that got me anywhere near my digital system on my friends setups.
What Phono Pre do you fit in that mix?
I agree totally with Richard (Palasr). It may not be coincidental that he and I are using the exact same setup---Galibier Gavia, Triplanar VII and Denon 103R.

The phono hierarchy should be table first, then arm, then cartridge. Part of my reason for saying this is just practical experience. Table upgrades have provided me with the most improvement in musical pleasure. A better arm can sound better, a better cartridge can sound better, but these are mostly hi-fi artifacts---detail and imaging for example. A table upgrade can change your whole listening paradigm. I have used 4 tonearms on my Galibier---the Triplanar, a Moerch DP-6, VPI JMW-10 and AQ PT-6. They all sound quite different, but frankly I could be quite happy with any of them...provided it was on the Galibier table. So I would always advise focusing your phono budget on the table provided you have enough left over for a decent arm and decent cartridge.

This doesn't mean that any $300 cartridge would be equally satisfying. The Denon is truly the overachieving cartridge of both this century and the last. I am amused to read so-called reviews of the Denon on e-zines that conclude it is "good for the money" but can't compete with a Benz Glider or what have you. Such a comment only reveals that the "reviewer" hasn't heard the Denon under optimal conditions, and in my experience that means a Triplanar arm. My feelings toward the Denon were only so-so with my other arms (VPI JMW-10, Moerch DP-6 and AQ PT-6), but the Denon took a huge step forward in the Triplanar. The Denon is not a universal cartridge like most budget carts. It is very particular about tonearms, it has a low output and needs to be loaded properly. But if you are prepared to treat it like a $3000 cartridge and spend some time (and money) to operate it under optimal conditions, then it can sound terrific by any standard.
I don't think anyone has done a real comparison of a Galibier to a Raven, at least a Raven One which is more in line price wise with a Gavia.

These mass loaded tables make it difficult to bring over to a buddies and set it up, let alone having the exact same arm, cart and wiring.

I heard a Galibier in a system I had never heard before, and it was a pretty meaningless audition. I heard a Raven AC in another unfamilar system and it told me little about how the table sounded.

I heard the Continum Criteron and Copperhead at the Hi fi show last week on a number of recordings, and on one cut I perhaps got a bit of the essence of how the table performed.

But ultimatley without a really well controlled shootout, a transducer at the head of a signal chain is so reliant on the rest of the chain that comparison other than side to side is made extremely difficult.

Why is it i feel hearing a speaker in an unfamilar room/electronics/front end tells me more about it's performance than a table? Maybe because it's the back end of the chain, or perhaps it's the speaker that give the system a much larger percentage of it's character?

I think many of us are stuck taking a stab at deciding on a table based on cost, size, and hype. I didn't even bother to hear the Raven One at Highwater sound before I ordered. I heard the AC briefly, and read the reviews of it and the One. I needed a compact table that was mass loaded but not too heavy - I realized 100+ lbs was out of the question for me, so I didn't go with Galibier, which was my original plan. Had I lived in a house and had more room, my choice may have been different.

Now once I get my Raven, if someone with a Galibier and a Phantom wants to bring their..... Nah, forget it. I'll save my back in live in ignorance with my blind choice of decks, as you Brits say.

I tend to think it is all in the ear of the beholder, meaning absolutely relative anyway, but I'll make a brief response to your query. Indeed I have had considerably more expensive cartridges on my Galibier (in the $1-2K range), mated to several different phono stages/preamps, but I will be honest in saying I've yet to flirt with the likes of a Dynavector XV-1S, a ZYX Universe, a Lyra Titan or a top Allerts in my system. Since we are dealing with something that is going to wear out, I've always balked somewhat at the pricepoints of the top contenders. That said, I have indeed heard the Dyna, for example, on a similarly equipped Galibier and delighted in its holistic magic - all the fabulous stuff you want, but none of the hi-fi artifice so common in so much of today's gear (at any point in the reproduction chain, from source to speaker).

Salectric is absolutely correct in his statements about the Denon DL103R - having heard this cartridge numerous times over the years, I could never understand what all the fuss was about. While I always thought it was an adequate performer, it was only when mated to Galibier/Triplanar that I finally(!) understood what the big deal was. You know what, my Lyra which I was so happy about using on my fully loaded Linn LP12 now sits in its box, and the Denon does the work. While the Lyra gives me oodles of detail, soundstage extending to infinity in all three dimensions and great frequency extension - it fails to make sense musically - it is, as I said, artifice, without very much meaningful content. While the Denon doesn't do a couple of those wonderful hi-fi things as well as the Lyra, ultimately it makes me smile, cry, laugh and tap my foot like there's no tomorrow - it communicates the emotional intent of the artist and the gestalt of the performance brilliantly.

Alas, there is no easy way to verbaly describe the communicative nature of the Denon (or the Dyna XV-1S, or the ZYX Uni., et al). You know it when you hear it - you become immersed in the performance, and forget all about the the hi-fi stuff we all hold so near and dear. You don't think about the gear, only the music.

If I look back at the trends in hi fidelity equipment since the dawn of the digital age, I think that while digital has made great strides to sound more analog in nature - analog has tended to go in the opposite direction - to become more digital sounding; to allow for a convergence of sonic types. Unfortunately, I tend to think cartridge designs are the biggest culprits here. This in my opinion is wrong-headed, but it reflects an overall trend I'm having difficulty ignoring. Some folks want big, slamming bass notes; they want every last iota of detail; they want a sound that more closely approximates the sounds they are continually bombarded with every day (whether on TV, in line at the airport, or on the radio) -- the modern ear has effectively been "detuned" away from natural musical reproduction, toward a homogenous, compressed, sterile approximation of the actual event. I'm sorry, but if one doesn't regularly attend acoustical music concerts, or has never heard a correctly transcribed LP untouched by ANY digital artifact, then all hope is lost IMHO. You've essentially never heard what real music sounds like, only a mere approximation. This analysis also begs to answer the question of why so many folks are into vintage gear, from amplification to transducers - perhaps there is some intrinsic value in a small degree of euphony; perhaps everything shouldn't be so so clean; maybe a little distortion is OK; maybe some designs from 60 years ago, now long forgotten - had it absolutely correct.

Sorry for the rant and the length, and of course, take this all with a grain of salt - we all value different aspects of musical reproduction, and ultimately we all find our own path toward nirvana. Happy listening,