Turntable advice

Hey there, I was wondering if anyone has any advice on a turntable and cart. I was looking at the rega p6 but the lack of vta and azimuth adjustment turned me off, I mainly listen to hip hop/ soul/ funk/ jazz and blues for the cart reference. Im looking to spend around 2-3500 with the cart price included if possible but could stretch a bit if need be. Mainly my concerns are ease of cartridge adjustment and alignment  or a clear path for adjustment if something has a known quirk. I still haven’t decided on a phono or amp either if anyone has any advice there. Budget for those is around 1500 give or take for both. 

i appreciate any advice in advance ! 


There is endless chatter on forums about the Rega philosophy and mass, etc. But Rega is a successful company, started in the 70s with lots of dealership support.

If you stay with Rega cartridges then there really is very little fiddling needed. Rega is one of those brands with component system synergy. So, if considering the P6 or P8 you need to listen to the Ania Pro or new Apheta 3 plus the Rega Aria phono stage. They all work together well. 

If you are an audiophile who likes to play and swap things around this is not the system for you. If you want a “I just want to enjoy my records” guy then at this price point Rega is still worth checking out even if for comparison evaluations only.

I reread your question. Tell us about your speakers. If you need an amp and phono stage then this mission will need more time, research and a working budget overall. 

Do you also listen to digital? Do you own records? If you don’t have a record collection be advised that not everyone who dashes out and spends real money on a turntable station will stay committed to collecting expensive records to make this whole thing worthwhile. 

Your first turntable does not have to be your endgame table. Pick a model with solid resale value if you decide to change course…

Pioneer PLX1000 ($700) and a Hana SL mc cartridge ($750). This combination is competitive with other four-figure setups.

So my budget for the table is 2-3500 preferably with the cart price included. I don’t have phono Stage or (headphone) amp yet (I plan to listen on headphones for a bunch of reasons.) my main concern other than sound and stability ( I will have it placed on a piece of furniture on a wood floor) is ease of cartridge alignment and adjustments (the p6 and it’s vta and azimuth inability to adjust kinda turns me off from it for that much money) I have another 1500 or so set aside for the phono stage and headphone amp so all told like 5k for the phono, headphone amp, TT, and cart and probably another 5-800 for headphones. I own some records and would like to expand my collection. Digital Is my only really listening venue atm because of having no analog gear and I mainly stream on tidal on earbuds or in the car. It dosent really need to fit into my turntable equation because it will be in a seperate room from my pc. I appreciate the help so far  ! 

$5K is real money so hopefully you can listen to options rather just following suggestions from us Internet forum slobs!

Most HiFi is priced at different cost vs performance points. At the lower end doubling the investment will reveal real improvement. But the more you spend the weirder the relationshio between cost and sound quality gets. 

So, if you have access to audio stores I would audition kit at your budget plus kit below and above your budget. Does the cheaper stuff really sound poorer to you? Does the expensive stuff blow you away or does it reveal a bad land mine you will be thankful of avoiding?

Trust your ears and enjoy the journey…

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My suggestion would be to look at a used VPI Classic 1 with a JMW arm, which tend to hit the market used for around $2K or less. It is truly a high-performer with a 20lb aluminum platter and very heavy plinth. The tonearm tracks very well, and the whole turntable can be upgraded - tonearms, footers, clamps, etc.

For cartridges, I would look for an Audio Technica ART9 xi. Best cartridge around $1K hands down, the only cartridges I liked after owning the ART9 cost $5K+. This though would require you to have a moving coil phono stage.

For phono and amp, if you do not look into a speaker amplifier, then look into the Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2 and Woo Audio WA7 fireflies which is an incredible tube headphone amp with a great built in DAC. 

If you play your cards right you should be able to get all this for less than $5K, but you may need to leave a little extra for quality cables as these components will absolutely require them for optimal performance. 

Technics 1200GR.  Build quality is superb, and adjustments can’t get any easier.  $1700

The Rega RP6 is a fine turntable for the money. There are lots of cartridges that will fit it without VTA problems. And in that regard, it's worth reading Roy Gandy's paper on VTA adjustment and the significance) or otherwise, thereof.

In regard to phono stages, while outside your budget at new price, a pre-owned Ear 834p is worth considering - the are extremely reliable and a great buy used at a little over a thousand dollars.

Plan on spending some money on record cleaning equipment! A carbon fiber brush at a minimum. Without it, you won't be able to enjoy the music without the distraction of clicks and pops.

Caution: The VPI Classic recommendation above is not what you want as you are specifically asking for ease of cartridge adjustment. At first, It will take you hours to get it right, more like days. Of course, after 9 years with one, it is a piece of cake and I get it done under an hour. Digital is easy, analog is hard. Just know that before you dive in. Less expensive tables with less adjustments will ease the process but you will regret it later as your options to get a sound to your liking will be limited. You are thinking wisely when you state a table with no VTA or azimuth adjustments turns you off. It should.

@baylinor the OP may need to explain what ease of cartridge alignment means. They may mean being able to dial it in correctly. In the original post, it was stated that the Rega P6 was a turn off because of lack of VTA or azimuth adjustment. The Classic has everything he was asking for considering the jig for the tonearm and ability to align the cartridge against it. I too owned the Classic for almost as long. I found it is easy to align a cartridge to sound good after the learning curve. 

I recently purchased the Gold Note PH-10 and PSU-10. So far I’m really liking it. Lots of settings for various carts. But having those settings available on the fly on the front of the unit is a huge plus.

The main concerns I have regarding adjustment and ease there of basically boil down to how manageable it is to adjust and align the cart without excessive expensive tools to best reproduce the recording with good tracking and minimal excessive wear to records. I’d also prefer if most of the adjustments with the included / purchased headshell and within the whole table were sufficient to fulfill the requirements above without excessive shimming. 

The 1200gr looked appealing but I had read somewhere about some issues regarding vta with some carts/ headshells and needing to find a mat that helps the cart be leveled out but that could have been user error on the posters part. 

some models I considered 

clearaudio concept with satisfy arm 


Mofi ultra deck +m 

well tempered labs Amadeus jr ( pushing the upper end of my budget with 5-700 dollar cart) 

Eat C major  ( pushing the upper end of my budget with a 5-700 dollar cart)

vpi scout 21 ( super pushing the budget with 5-700 dollar cart)


also ease of alignment for me is a weird sticking point due to some records being brand new ( for use with the more expensive cart above) and then I’d like to use a cheaper cart for sampling older more worn/etc records to not put excessive wear/grime on the higher end cart ( higher end relatively speaking within my budget I realize 5-700 probably isn’t a lot for a cart in most peoples eyes)  

as far as MC cartridges and phono, folks generally ge tthe best sound from a step-up transformer into a top-notch MM phono stage. but a stepup is $400-$1k for good ones. 

someone mentioned the DS2. ive listened to  MM section, and it was damn good. all adjustments on front of unit. quite good. never listened to MC section. adjustable gain is a nice feature regardless. 

Rega has a great reputation for a reason. I recommend buying a Rega from a dealer. Have him set it up. My dealer/friend sells many and attests to their incredible value and simplicity. 

While the tools for adjustment are not expensive, adjustment is a very fine work and best that final adjustments done by ear… an acquired skill. I am fairly impatient and therefore never adjust my turntable. On the other hand once set up no adjustment is required until upgrade or stylist replacement. 

So, as a beginner, I would highly recommend a Rega… great value for the money. Just get with cartridge and no setup should be required… and better yet buy from a local dealer… over time if you get into it he can guide you and take yours as a trade in.

There was another similar thread here recently that the OP may find interesting.

To spend $5K for your list of needs, Pro-Ject hits the sweet spot with the X8 EVO, a Wellfleet cart, HeadBox and PhonoBox DS3. I would add a pair of Sennheiser HD660S and a Cardas Parsec cable. Other carts to consider…Ortofon 2M Bronze, Dynavector 10X5 Low. 

right.....VPI almost demands "fiddling around".   With that said...you really only have to do it twice (the second time to assure the first time was correct).  Perfect VTA, and perfect side thrust compensation is only sharpening the edge but in many cases make little difference.  I have a VPI and like it, but I wonder if you'd actually just like to play a record and smile.

Agree on the 1200GR out of this group for your use case. The removable headshell will allow you to keep multiple cartridges ready to swap in easily in a few minutes.

Adjustable feet including springs will make it easier to level and isolate using furniture as a base. 

The motors are legendary and long lasting. 

Setup is easy and service/parts will be more stable/available than other boutique options. 

If it were my money I'd talk to Sota about certified trade-ins or buy a used one and have it shipped directly to Sota for evaluation/service/any wanted upgrades. Full suspension (neutralizing wood floor issue), vacuum hold down and compatibility with most arms give you flexibility now and in the future. Cheers,


I’m a BIG fan of clearaudio products. The concept Turntable can be factory ordered with the arm and cartridge of choice properly aligned! It’s basically plug and play! If you plan to “abuse” your cartridge by playing uncleaned records, you do not want the MC cartridge. But if you want to get the most from your turntable, you DO want the MC cartridge option. The satisfy arm is good! It deserves a decent cart. ($2800 for the satisfy/concept MC option.) The concept turntable performs above its pay grade. Clearaudio also has an entry level phono amp that can be ordered with a headphone Jack (about $800.) Spend some dough on a reallllly nice headphone set if that’s how you will listen. Some amps also have a phono amp built into it. So, it’s possible to find one amp with a phono amp and decent headphones amp, thus an all in one option.

Arcam has some very “musical” home theater amps that have earphone Jack and can be ordered with a phono amp option. I think they have about 120 watts per channel which should adequately drive most speakers. But there are lots of amps in the $750-1500 price range that can sound decent. I’d suggest taking an album you know really well, take your headphones with you also, and try out some amps with a clearaudio table set up like you want. Clearaudio tends to be neutral, not “warm” but detailed. So finding an amp to give you your desired “warmth” can be accomplished by talking with your dealer and then listening live before you buy. 

Finally, PLEASE do not abuse your cartridge and your vinyl by playing it dirty. At least buy a spin clean record cleaner and fluid. It will get the gross dirt out and will save you needing a second wand/cart set up! And it will reduce the pops and wear on the records. 

Happy shopping!


Buy a Rega P6 with a factory installed Rega cartridge. It’ll take about 15-20 minutes to unbox, level, set the tracking force, set the anti-skate adjustment and start playing records. No worries about azimuth, zenith, vertical tracking angle; etc. I currently have a Rega P10 and a Linn LP12 with upgrades. The Rega turntables are as close to plug-n-play as it gets and they sound great.  The cost will be well under your $3500 budget.  You'll have enough money left over to buy a good record cleaning machine which is must for enjoying vinyl.  You can buy a VPI 16.5 or even better an ultrasonic record cleaner.

Anyone who recommends VPI to anyone has a sick sense of humor. Their unipivot  tonearms have to be the worst on the market. 

@waroftheants , look closely at the MoFi UltraDeck +. It has everything you are looking for in a tidy package. You would have to spend three times as much to do better. 

jasonbourne52's avatar


2,083 posts


Pioneer PLX1000 ($700) and a Hana SL mc cartridge ($750). This combination is competitive with other four-figure setups.


And you know this how?



Well within your budget, I’d have a look at the music hall mmf-7.3 with the ortofon 2m Bronze. However, this turntable is now up around $1899 (in Gloss black), $1999 (in walnut). I think this turntable provides a lot for your money. Pair it with a Tavish Design classic or vintage tubed phono preamp. I’m giving this opinion/advise based on my own experience/ownership. It is a great sounding combination.

I just set up my MoFi UltraDeck with Hana ML cartridge (upgraded from Hana EL). Like what I’m hearing so far! This combo fits your budget.
Other choices…Marantz with the included Clearaudio cartridge is a great combo. As well as Clearaudio Concept table that leaves you enough for a good cartridge to complement it.

Lots of choices for a phono amp in the $1500 budget as well. Tube or solid state. Fee examples…Sutherland is a very good choice in solid state with plenty of loading and gain settings. EAT E-Glo Petite has good rep in tubed units in that price range.


+1 on the SOTA recommendation.


Regardless of which turntable you decide on for best long term results spend your money on the table and tonearm. Don't get too wrapped up in the cartridge and preamp because you may make a few changes along the way.


I bought a refurbished SOTA Sapphire two years ago. I ordered it with an Origin Live Silver tonearm and an Ortofon 2M Red Cartridge. I did end up putting a SoundSmith on it a couple of weeks later.


You would have to call them to order. Their customer service is excellent. I got Donna Bodinet the owner when I called. She knows her stuff. Since it is a 55 minute drive from my driveway to their factory I picked mine up. I got to meet Donna and while I was loading my new toy up she told me my setup could handle any cartridge I could throw at up to around $3k.


A new Sapphire is $4k and a refurbished one around $3200. Add $1k for the tonearm. The Sapphire is a suspended table and can absorb a lot of vibration. It is also one of the two turntables certified by SoundSmith for their $9k to $17k strain Guage cartridges. You might need a better tonearm than the Silver.


The 2M Red was nice. I put it on my parents' old Sansui turntable. It could be upgraded to a 2m Silver or Blue... they all use the same pickup. I will recommend the Audio Technica VM95 series cartridges. Herb Reichert recommended the VM95E in two separate interviews with Steve Gutenberg. There are six cartridges in the series. The VM95SP is for 78rpm records. The other five are a conical VM95C, an elliptical VM95E, a nude elliptical VM95EN, a Microline VM95ML and a Shibata VM95SH. The cheapest is around $40 and the most expensive $199. They all use the same pickup. You could get a Microline and an elliptical for around $200. You could get all five...one cartridge and the other four replacement styluses for around $500. Set up one and just swap the stylus. Use a cheap one fore the records you are not sure of.


To start off I would suggest sticking to a moving magnet (MM) or moving iron (MI).  Moving coil can require special care and feeding. A decent MC cart starts out in the $500 to $700 range. Good MM or MI can be had for less. The VM95 series will allow you to see how different stylus profiles affect the sound. SoundSmith and Grado make moving iron cartridges.


Check out the Schiit Jotunheim. It can be ordered with a phono card. I am using one as a preamp. It is the only headphone amp in their lineup that has three inputs and handles XLR. It also has a quarter inch and a four pin XLR jacks for headphones. I liked it so much I bought a second one for my daughter to set up a system for her.


If you want to add digital you don't need a computer. I am using a Raspberry pi 3 with Volumio in my main system. I also have a Dayton Audio WBA31 I use in the bedroom with a Vali2 and Modi Multibit DAC. I think it has been replaced by the WBA51. You can also look into the Wiim. Both of those need to be used with an external DAC and if you go with the Jotunheim get a DAC with XLR outputs. The Bifrost2 or Modius will stack nicely.


Jumping in feet first and starting from scratch is never easy. Hope you end up with something you absolutely love. Don't forget to sit back and enjoy it.