what to TURN to when starting $1000 budget

besides telling more bad jokes


Originally I posted this question on yahoo. Someone that uses this site recommended that I post it here instead which, will allow others with experience to answer it. Here is the typical question.

I started to read posts on turntables (MANY of them) and I cant help succumbing to the confusion of everyone contradicting every bit of advice. Someone will say this model is good and then another post or comment will attempt to discredit the feedback claiming it to be incorrect, seems to be no end to the cycle. Others will say new products are great yet others say the vintage makes are far superior because of belt drives and and various other reasons. I dont think I am alone with this experience of frustration specifically regarding turntables as there is quite a bit of equipment that we the reader cant really listen to and judge for ourselves half the time. Thus we are rendered helpless in a sense to just take advice yet as noted above its a circle of confusion. Therefore I need your/someones "professional experience" to set me straight. My goals are to find a set up that produces great sound for a cost around 1000. Is there an official resource on this forum with lots of experience in high end audio equipment or at least someone that has experience where I can ask the questions I need answered like, should I buy all the pieces separate and put them together or buy a table that is set up already. Is it possible to get more for each dollar if you by each part separate or not. After a purchase I would like to listen to the music. What exactly do I need eg pre amp and such. Who can recommend an a to z set up with the budget restrictions that I gave and by all means if there is something that costs a little more than that but makes a large difference in quality recommend it to me. Also can someone explain where to buy or what brand to go with for each. Each piece of equipment makes up the quality of sound but is there a main piece or a top three to invest in that will be the cause of the majority of the effect. Lots of questions but it just seems like nobody from the stores that are close to me know what they are talking about which I expected in the first place however, the customer representative in the sound department should know where to refer you. I would be very grateful if anyone with actual experience (Hands on not just repeating what they read, suggesting what looks cool or what is trendy) can lend their insight and teach me what is what. Thank you!
Wisdom from Schubert. It's a long journey, so take your time, enjoy the ride, and look to the future. The goal near term is to hear your records in something approaching excellent fidelity. With your budget, there's not room to make a long-term system that does everything and is also great sound. That's OK, because you've got to start somewhere, and there are great ways to start within your budget that also keep the longer term in mind. Try this idea:

Little Dot Mk. 2 tube headphone amplifier $140.00
Grado SR 80i headphones $100.00
Project Debut Carbon turntable with Ortofon cartridge $400.00
Cambridge Audio 651 phono preamplifier $225.00
Interconnects (2 sets) $100.00 (or less)
-----------Total $965.00

This plan is based on new prices. Used, you can do even better. When you have more thousands to spend, keep the headphone amplifier, headphones, turntable, and phono pre. These are all good sounding items and will likely hold you for a while. Add a decent integrated amplifier and loudspeakers.

Good luck!
Fun challenge...here's an option (all new from Amazon):

Marantz PM6004 Integrated Amplifier - $399.00 (Amazon)
Rega - RP1 Turntable - $450.00 (Amazon)
Grado Prestige Series SR125i Headphones - $150.00 (Amazon)

Total - $999.00

Keep your eyes open for a pair of speakers in the future.
I agree with Schubert that a headphone system provides great sound/dollar. I have a pair of AKG701s with headphone amp and they sound wonderful. Based on your post, I don't believe that is what you are looking for. Here goes one person's opinion on a speaker based system:

Marantz makes a great budget integrated amp. Look for the PM5004 or 6004. They both have phonostage. There is a new version out (the 5005, 6005 series) so the 04 series are discounted making them a great deal. Try Amazon or go to Music Direct online.

Project had the Debut III ($300) and the Debut Carbon($400), both complete with cartridge. Shipping TTs can be a problem when buying used online. Again try Music Direct or Needledoctor online.

The Pioneer SP22BS are a great deal for the $130 asking price. To do better would cost ~3x as much. There are many good speakers in the ~$350 -$500 range. I am hesitant to make a recommendation at that price point. The thing about speakers is that they contribute the most to the character of a system. When one is just starting out one usually is not sure of ones true preferences. My thinking here is to buy a quality budget pair, enjoy the music, explore the marketplace and upgrade speakers later and experience your system all over again. Same is true for headphones.
Headphones always a good way to start on a budget.

Otherwise, an existing computer as source with integrated and decent quality monitors in general is a good way to go to start. Add a sub or subs later if needed.