Turntable upgrade recommendations: SME vs AMG vs Technics vs other

I've recently upgraded most of my system, but I still have a Rega P8, with Linn Krystal cartridge, which I like, but I've heard that there may be better options.

I have Sound Lab electrostatic speakers, Ypsilon Hyperior amplifiers, an Ypsilon PST-100 Mk2 pre-amplifier, and am thinking about an Ypsilon phono stage to match with my system, and a turntable/cartridge.  I listen to almost entirely classical, acoustic music. 

Based on my very limited knowledge, and simple research, I've been looking at three brands, each of which is a different type of turntable: SME (suspension), AMG (mass), and Technics (direct drive).  
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of turntables, and of those in particular?



@gasherbaum It is great to see there is a opportunity for yourself, to get out and experience different equipment without having to consider a long round trip.

In my experience there is no better way to evaluate a performance of a TT and supporting ancillaries, the actual being in the room with the equipment, is the best.

When a space to carry out the listening is carefully worked on, to enable a better presentation and listening experience, this is usually a much improved encounter over an encounter at a Big Event and can even be better than a home demonstration, as not all listening spaces in a home have a work carried out to improve the system/room coupling. 

Most importantly you was there, you have carried out an assessment and your evaluation is very relevant to the OP's query.        

Thanks Pindac.  I should say that the dealer who sells SME, AMG and Technics is Crescendo fine audio in Wheatridge Colorado and the owner there Matt is a great dealer.  Matt/Crescendo are super supportive of all the gear Crescendo sells and Matt will let you borrow almost anything (he even has shipped large Wilson speakers to someone for a test run).  He let me borrow his Ayre Amp and pre amp and take it to my house for a week to test in my system as well as an Aurender W20Se (which I bought).  similarly, Galibier, before i bought the turntable, Tom Mackris, the owner, brought the turntable down to my house and we spent an entire day comparing it to my turntable and actually swapped the arm and cart back and forth do a true comparison using my arm and my cart on both my turntable and the Galibier i was thinking of buying, before I bought it.  Too many dealers at least nowadays seem to just want you to buy stuff and if its more expensive they say it will be better (often not the case for me).  I like the dealers or in Galibier's case,  he is both a dealer of things like Kuzma and a manufacturer of his own tables, who will actually help you improve your sound and are not just trying to make the largest sale as quick as possible.  Also, if you are not in Colorado, but buy from Tom/Galibier, Tom will fly out to help you set up your turn table and I've never seen anyone better at turntable set up.  And I know Matt at Crescendo works with clients outside of Colorado, so anyway, if anyone is looking for a good dealer i would check both those out.    

@gasherbaum I have come to learn, with hopefully not sounding too critical, that there are many with a keen interest in equipment, that do not get out and create experiences for themselves.

It is very common today for an individual to use the available at fingertips searches and gain Knowledge of Equipment by observing different types of Media Presentation or through forums.

For many who use a HiFi System of as a Pass Time and a Luxury, the activity is a lone activity in general and can be quite insular. I can't help feel, the most common method used for creating a furthering of knowledge about owned or other equipment, is adding to the growth of insular equipment owners, with limited experiences of other equipment, especially being demonstrated in environments that are put in place to allow a system to perform at its best.

To take a owned device and have it used on another system, is a wonderful experience to undertake, and to bring a unfamiliar item of equipment into a owned system will have all of the same positive benefits. To achieve either of these outcomes, a dialogue is required between two individuals who share a similar interest, either of the individuals may have a much different set of experiences behind them, and shared information about impressions made can be a great way to share between each other. More importantly respect and friendship is developing and possibly even a whole new social interaction is only around the corner.

I have just described my own experiences and what possibly is a fair chunk of your own.

I am vehement toward avoiding any idea of being a lone participant, with very little interaction in undertaking experiences of equipment.

I like any other can write anything I like about an equipment not demonstrated, but cherry picking from writings from others. I wonder how an assessment would compare, if such a description was made following the outcome of a demonstration.   

For the record, my system is not in use at present, and in the past months, I have discovered devices, as a result of meeting with others and receiving demonstrations of equipment, that has left me with no other thoughts than these are needing a home trial, as the impression made in another system has been very good.    

Just sharing my thoughts here at this late thread date on the overall topic, as owner of an SME 20/2 model with the SME V arm and a Lyra Skala cartridge - I absolutely love it! And yes, I've heard other high-end tables in high-end systems. When I hear about how dead or tame these tables sound to others, I shake my head in disbelief- and that's as someone who's owned a Rega table plus a Linn LP-12 (neither known for 'deadness'), and has heard other ones for the sake of comparison.

But this is not a post about how great I think SMEs are. It's that one has to be wary of 'received audio wisdom' in general, without testing against reasonable skepticism and especially personal experience. One bit of 'received wisdom' I heard before I bought my SME years ago was that it was really a table for classical music lovers (the founder was a huge fan of opera). While classical listening is about half of my overall listening, the real revelation for me once I had my table was on the rock and jazz side of things- particularly jazz, which the table really brought to life in my experience. So- that notion about the SME turned out for me to be a bit misleading in its emphasis.

Overall, though, no one can tell someone else which high-end table is best for them. Not only do tastes differ, but the rest of the system, the listening room, perhaps even the genres of music favored really affect the subjective listening experience- often radically so. I love the rest of my system, but have heard various components of it sound lesser or even 'dead' elsewhere (in other setups), and imagine my SME setup could sound 'dead' in certain systems, and so have questions about just how reliably others who slam SMEs or their worthy competitors have made their own comparisons. It's possible that some people slamming certain table setups have not even reasonably optimized them in terms of setup or isolation or whatever, right? Plus, obviously cartridges make a huge difference, and I wonder how many people making comparisons between table lines have heard compared models using identical cartridges. So- IMO a lot of people who slam certain 'table lines simply ignore the relative degree of these factors because such individuals are so invested in their purchasing decisions plus their overall conceptualizations that they become insecure or overconfident in their outlook and respond accordingly.

SME, AMG, Technics, VPI, and so on- all make amazing high-end tables. For all but those particularly obsessed (even by audiophile standards) or who really enjoy endless equipment searches/sagas (I don't), I believe it's better to narrow down high-end choices to several or so reputable manufacturers - a half dozen at most (all of whom, as mentioned before, likely make fabulous turntables that are a lot more alike than different in their presentation within the same system); particularly ones with some track history and reliability; and choose among them, both by sound preferences, plus other features (whether one needs more or less adjustability in their turntable setup (I don't in my case). Factors leaning towards the SME in my case was concern about having to keep the Linn in tune over time; the SME is built more like a tank in that regard. Obviously there are other 'tank-like' tables out there.

Anyone who hasn't reliably heard the competing table/arm/cart setups in the same system and same room is deluding themselves to think they can reliably isolate variables in the sound differences between these tables. I mean, I've heard substantive differences from things like isolation, tube rolling, and cable swapping on the order of the differences between high-end tables- and these differences invariably exist between high-end tables in different systems. That's not to say that differences between high-end tables don't exist (for example, recently I was able to compare my table by hearing it in a system with an AMG Viella- and their were obviously sonic differences), but too many posters in this thread speak as though they've attained ultimate knowledge in a vacuum- and while sometimes dealers or professional critics have a deeper experiential base, they have their own personal and situational biases- particularly the former, in my experience.

In my case, while I wouldn't be surprised if there were setups I could afford that could substantively better what I have now, for my own ears, very, very good enough is very, very good enough when it comes to the time, money, hassle and care of further comparing turntables- though I know that to many audiophile ears, such a standard is heretical. So I will only swap out my setup if/when I go to the next level- whether it would be a better SME setup or something like a higher-end AMG or Basis setup or something like that.

Turntables are not better for any type of music. Turntables are supposed to be "dead" and let the cartridge do the work along with the phono stage. Same as the tonearm. It should be properly isolated if the table doesn't provide sufficient isolation (as the SME clearly does) by itself.

If someone says they can tell the sound of a turntable, then that turntable is not doing its job.