Advice and recommendations needed for a turntable rig...

So I have decided to add a source (analog) in one audio system I have. I will be getting a turntable, cartridge and phono preamp. Currently DO NOT have turntable in my audio system (although some 40 years I had a Thorens TD 320 (modest belt drive TT). I like the idea of a mass loading TT and interested in a heavy TT. Looking for advice from those who have used any TT set up and why. Looking in the modest budget of $3500 price range for all components. Currently looking at a Pro-ject x8 Evolution TT with a Sumiko Blue Point #3 MC cartridge and the Pro-Ject Phono Box Ds2 phonostage (a Michael Fremer positive review).

I listen to Jazz, Blues and instrument music mostly...

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Don't let the vinyl naysayers affect your decision!  Yes, it needs patience and room (to store records) but the rewards are worth it to many. I use both digital (CDs and internet radio)l and analog media and while digital is certainly convenient, it does not (for me) compare to analog. I find records to be much more sonically satisfying, plus album art work can be beautiful and the liner notes most informative.  Also, try getting an artist to sign a digital download. Will you sign my thumb drive? ; ) In addition, artists are getting totally ripped off on digital downloads... literally fractions of a penny on the dollar! Buying physical media helps them make more $ per record.

Also, @bigtwin, who are you to tell someone how to spend their money without knowing anything about them?



Although there are lots of available options, I think yours are solid picks - reflecting solid research and careful thought.  You're gonna love it.  

'Mass Loading' Is this a term you can expend on, as Heavy TT can be produced by including a wide range of singular materials or an even wider range of differing materials in the construction ? 

Do note 'Mass' needs good Support and a Wall Shelve is usually one method that can be discounted if the Wall Structure is questionable for the purpose.

$3.5K will be a substantial allocation on monies to get on board with Vinyl, if you are not needing to build a Vinyl Collection from 'all analogue production' of LP's.

Digital / Analogue Hybrid produced LP's will not be cheap but more affordable than an all analogue version.

Used LP purchases will have a mixed bag of opinions, and cleaning the LP will become a Buzz Word Topic, if one does buy used it will be their cheapest route into 'all analogue production' LP's. 

The LP is the Source, everything else to be achieved is attempts to have a optimised data extraction and optimised energy transfer for creating the signal to be sent Upstream in the signal paths circuitry.  

Wow, you guys are giving some awesome advice and I thank you. I know analog guys are out there and the luv of vinyl is strong. Younger generations are getting into albums for a reason and I think that helps keep HiFi alive. Some others have mentioned Technics and VPI, anyone out there with experience with those two brands?

Last year I purchased the X8 with an Ortofon Quintet Blue MC cartridge from a local dealer (I live in Austria where Pro-Ject is based). The TT/cartridge combination is offered as a package here, so everything was ready to go out of the box. I also went with the Pro-Ject Phono Box DS3 B phono stage to take advantage of the balanced output option of the X8 (the DS2 does not have that option). Additionally, load impedance on the DS3 B can be set continuously via a potentiometer. Adjusting impedance during playback has been a fun feature to play with. I have tested RCA and XLR back and forth, and the XLR balanced connection through the DS3 B and my rig produces about a 6db gain with a lower noise floor. I am really happy with the X8/Ortofon/DS3 B combination. The table weighs 33 lbs and is very well made. I have not listened to the Sumiko Blue Point MC cartridge, so I cannot comment on the difference to the Quintet Blue (which is a low-output MC design). The 9cc EVO carbon tonearm has an integrated headshell, so if you are interested in swapping cartridges in the future, it will not be the easiest rig to manipulate.

You can buy a Pioneer PLX1000 for $700 and then spend more on a mc cartridge like a $1300 Hana. Herb Reichert gave the Pioneer a very positive review in Stereophile. I bought one to add to my TT collection and am very pleased with it!

I have an older Technics 1200 and the PLX1000 is at least as good in all aspects!

Before you buy anything, make sure you have a stable place to put it. I suggest placing half a glass of water in the intended spot and walk around. If the water wobbles, you will have an issue. Been there and it’s not fun to get your new table home only to have the arm skitter across the record if you look at it the wrong way. As far as what you buy, I really think you should consider it an experiment to see if you really want to stick with vinyl. Any of the regular players are fine. technics, project, whatever. Then in a year or 2, if you want to stay with it, you’ll have a lot more experience from which to choose an upgrade if you like. 

From my personal experience. Had MMF-5, my understanding Music Hall is sister company of Pro-ject using the same components, and was not impressed to say the least. Moved to Marantz TT15S2,by Clearaudio, very significant upgrade. Went through several phono stages and settled on QHW Vinyl, see review by M. Framer. Currently having Hana ML, overall I am very satisfied and settled in with this set up for a while, I think.

Are you sure you will stick with Vinyl?

If not, it is my advice to start modestly, see if you stick with it, then move up.

Audio Technica AT-120 turntable is a great start, it now comes with their AT-VM95e cartridge (elliptical stylus). MM Interchangeable Stylus: You can upgrade the stylus (6 variations fit it). The cartridge body stays factory aligned, an advantage when starting out.

Certainly not excellent sound, but certainly enough to see if you stick with the 'hands on' Vinyl world.

Direct Drive

Internal optional Phono EQ gets you started with no additional expense (my AT-120’s optional eq sounded better to me than my McIntosh C28’s phono).

Removable headshell allows trying better cartridge in the future, then those headshell/cartridges can be used on a future arm, so that investment is transferrable as you move up.

You mentioned this is for ONE of your systems. Therefore, if you stick with vinyl, you could use the starter TT in a less important system or give it away, or sell it.

AT has an outlet store, certified .... even easier to start, find out if you will stick with it.


That Pioneer table looks like a great way to go.  A 32# table for $700!  Looks like a bargain.  I have the Project X2 in a headphone based system.  It's a beautiful table to be sure with a nice tonearm.  I'm very pleased with it.  But that Pioneer looks very interesting.

"I listen to Jazz, Blues and instrument music mostly..."

Another reason to start with an arm with removable headshell.

Jazz and Blues: many, many great Jazz masters were born around the turn of the prior century, made their reputation's 30's 40's 50's prior to Stereo, thus Mono LP's are in your future. Mono recording technics in the 40's and 50's were already very good, some Mono carried into the 60's. you are buying great listenable music, prior to that, 30's you are buying 'history'.

Thus, tonearm with removable headshell makes it easy to get/use a mono cartridge, as I learned here, it is MUCH better than playing a Stereo Cartridge in Mono Mode. Every friend agrees when they listen here. Several have gotten their own Mono Cartridges after that.

Looking for advice from those who have used any TT set up and why.

Why is easy. Vinyl pulls you into the music more than digital IMO. I think the biggest reason may be the ritual. Every 20 minutes or so you are going to have to do the dance, (the ritual). IOW it makes you pay attention and keeps you involved. Whenever I listen to digital I have a tendency to let my mind wander which turns into not really listening to the music. it has become a background event rather than the main event. I also believe there is something about the quality of sound from vinyl. Back in the CD player times, the advertising always mentioned the player having an analog sound.. So why not listen to vinyl? My system is skewed toward the vinyl so to say my digital is an unfair comparison. But I do like the convenience of digital. And it sounds pretty good.

Now about the ritual. Are you ready for the ritual? That’s what I usually ask the younger crowd.I suspect you remember the rituals, etc. But If you don’t like the ritual you won’t like vinyl all that much. BTW clean records are a necessity.

I’m partial to VPI TT’s I had several prior to my Teres and liked them. There are 2 rightn now that fit the bill for your budget on the 1st page of USAM. I lean more towards this one which has extras. But the TNT is a good deal too.

VPI Aries 3 with upgrades For Sale - US Audio Mart

good luck & Happy hunting

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Again guys, thanks for the recommendations. I have an old friend, Mike, for whom I have been close with off and on for decades. He passed with Covid about 1 year ago and his wife told me he wanted me to have his turntable and albums. We used to listen to the Beatles when we were early teenagers. The Dual TT is shot, but I now have 3 crates of old albums. I think buying a TT and listening to those records will help keep my good memories of him alive. So that will be part of the ritual for sure. I have waiting long enough to do this, even though I am a digital guy now. I do understand the big investment part. My budget is upper limit, I might spend much less but I will need a decent phono stage, since I don’t currently have one.


Sorry to hear about your friend's passing. Old friends like that are a treasure chest of memories. I have a notion that whatever TT you end up with will be a very enjoyable time. 


"Vinyl strikes me as a waste in 2024." Really! The OP was not asking for opinions on what people think of vinyl. He is looking for..."advice and recommendations for a turntable rig." I don’t see how your opinion helped him. Apparently, reading comprehension is not your strong suit.

I would look at VPI. The VPI Scout 21 would be a good choice. My first foray into high end tables was a VPI. It was a great choice. I think I prefer heavy tables overall.


If you want to see what vinyl play is like today but are a bit unsure how it will sound, Fluance TT's have a range of players which include the TT, arm, and cartridge.  If you go to at least the RT82, it will give you a good sounding system if you upgrade the cartridge one notch.  Step up to the top of the line RT85 and you get the upgraded platter, cartridge.  You could buy a better version of a phono preamp and save a lot of money.  The RT85 sells for only $500 delivered to your door.  The plinth on the RT82 on up is all wood.  I have a very high end system and my best friend bought the RT82 w/ upgraded cartridge.  We had about 5 people go listen to this system and were amazed at the authentic sound quality it provided.  Do yourself a favor and look up their TT's on line.  This system would keep you involved for many years and maybe more.  You could have it set up within about 20 minutes of getting it out of the box.  The price seems like a misprint, but these babies are for real.  I've had many very good turntable/arm combos.  The Fluance TT's will make you feel foolish for what very good tables cost.  I wish I were kidding about the SQ and the looks, but they are for real.  Rated the Best Buy in TT/arm/cartridge combos.  My TT weighs in at 120 lbs.  It sounds fantastic when all is working well.  My cartridge costs over $2500 alone.  The only drawback is you can't use most high end cartridges with the Fluance arms.  The cartridge they use is very good sounding.  You will not have much to brag about because of the price, but the SQ will make up for it.  Put the extra money into a much better phono preamp.  If you have never heard one of the upper end Fluance TT's, don't bash it on price or prestige, just because it costs a fraction of what many have invested in their analog setups.  


@2psyop I've used Technics TTs for almost 40 years.  In the 80's, I started with an SL-1200 and still have a SL-1600M2 that I purchased in 1984.  In my main system, I have a SL-1200G.  The build quality is impeccable, and, like all higher end Technics TTs, it is built like a tank. 

An SL-1200G with MC cartridge and phono pre is over your budget, but Technics has others that will.  Take a look at this one: Technics SL1200GR2 Direct Drive Turntable

You might want to look at this turntable from music direct Denon - DP-3000NE Direct Drive Turntable - Music Direct

heavy turntable that has had good reviews with a removable head shell if you want or need to change cartridges.

Neither Music Hall or Pro Ject have a mass leading design philosophy, they focus on lightness and reduced vibration.. They are different companies but do share some manufacturing space...

I no longer own one, but I agree that a Technics is probably the way to go. There are used ones, and the upper third, or so, of the range get the new motor. The brand has a great track record (not counting the late 80's and 90's... but they weren't the only ones to throw in the towel.  I forgave them, a little, long ago). They built their rep on dependable, rugged yet sophisticated direct drive TT's. The standard tonearm is effective, and (at least it used to be) easy to set up. The exchangeable head shells (basically the SME system) are convenient, but some people look down their noses. For myself, I don't care for the DJ knobs and features, but they seem to be part of the DNA. If I had a $3500 budget, I think I'd go for one of the GEM Dandy Poly TT's  (today). I wouldn't get too carried away with an expensive first TT, good, but not necessarily great. I'm a record collector first, so I would suggest a big portion of your budget is focused on the library. I have a U Turn Theory with a 2M Bronze which is maybe the best TT for 1K. I'm using a dedicated TT for stereo and mono in the main system, both MC carts, MM in the 2 upstairs systems. I have a couple of Kenwood KD TT's. There's a Denon auto in the system right now. I have a Dual 721, a Thorens 165 and a Realistic 420 on the healing bench. I also would suggest you start out with a Moving Magnet cartridge to get in the groove (sorry). MC carts can be a bit fiddley and frustrating as a first exposure, and maybe not so suitable for heavy daily use.. There are some amazing MM carts out there,  Don't neglect record cleaning (which is actually my hobby, the record hoarding is just the excuse to get material in the house). Get Fremmer's TT set up DVD. Have fun. See you in the record store.... someone has to support the artists out there being streamed.---- I think the corporations will survive the streaming craze, and if we get going with AI we won't have to worry about the musicians any more.

Shoot, I forgot to mention Depending on the model they might be able to fix, and improve your inheritance. I think that would be so cool.  again, have fun, that's what it's all about

Shoot, I forgot to mention Depending on the model they might be able to fix, and improve your inheritance. I think that would be so cool.  again, have fun, that's what it's all about

Get the best turntable you can afford. If you cheap out to dip your toes in the water as suggested by some of the guys, you'll be disappointed and you won't upgrade. 

Consider a used TT. Used heavy platter units from boutique suppliers can be very good value. See if you can find an old Nottingham Analogue table - so heavy that you have to push it up to speed by hand! But the sound is excellent, and not fatiguing.

Good luck!

Give Sota a hard look in the second-hand or refurbished market. A Sapphire is a simply excellent table that can be had in the ~$1K range in good condition for table only and in the ~$2.5K range with tonearm and cartridge in very good to excellent condition. They offer the best suspension available at sane asking price, are infinitely rebuildable and retain their value. They also have one of the best belt drive systems spinning a truly massive platter. Because of that, they are dimensionally larger than many, so space is an issue.

Tonearms can always be fiddled with and the Sota can be fit with many different types. Research them carefully, and look into more fully-featured designs. I believe VTA-on-the-fly is critical for proper playback. Cartridges are a whole other world, and others have posted some good advice. Start with a better MM and if you really decide you want to invest the time and effort, go MC. @sdbalsley has good advice on the phono stage: Adjustable loading allows you to match pretty much any type of MC if you go that route, future-proofing the device.

Cartridge set-up makes or breaks the rig, regardless of features. If the stylus isn’t aligned properly, it can’t reproduce the signal properly either. Alignment is an exercise in geometry. You can get paper protractors of the web for free that are just as valid as those costing beau coup bux. They all only work if you can see the stylus. Make sure you have a decent illuminated magnifying glass or bench magnifier handy. Some folks use a digital magnifier and like them; I prefer the eyeball. Scales for setting VTF range from simple balances to sleek electronic wonder instruments. As long as whatever you get can resolve in the 1.2 to 2.5 gram range, you’re fine for most any cartridge out there.

A word or three on anti-skate. There are many different opinions, and some get strident with them. Use a test record and follow cart/tonearm/table manufacturer guidelines when using it. That creates a reference point for you to apply your own best judgement from after you’ve gained some experience.

Record cleaning is also key, as many have mentioned. I’ve used LAST fluids since they were introduced and added an ultrasonic cleaner about 15 years ago. I do not have issues with surface noise unless the vinyl itself is damaged. That is a hazard with used records, and you will run into it. Those accessories aren’t inexpensive, so plan on allotting ~$300 for whatever fluid and brush combination decide to start with. Ultrasonic cleaners are all over the map. I’ve seen them on Amazon for a few hundred bucks complete and in hi-fi world for thousands. Mine was a hobbyist device for ~$800 and is totally satisfactory for my needs.

You’re embarking on a journey that formed the basis of the hobby for many of us from the very beginning. Don’t stress, have fun and remember always that it is a hobby and the goal is happy listening!

Good suggestion regarding the old Dual table.  Perhaps of sentimental value as well.  I had a Dual 1219 that I just finished restoring. (An old neighbor set this out for trash pickup!!  It sat in my basement for over 20 years and I finally made some time to restore it. Thank goodness for the internet.) It was a fun project.  If the OP has any questions on this project you are welcome to contact me.

Effischer. Thanks man, you always have great TT advice. And of course, thanks to others here as well who have much, much more knowledge than me. I am looking into VPI, Technics, SOTA, Fluance and even will check out getting the old Dual fixed up. Also will look into the proper phono stage and getting a good cartridge.

The Sutherland KS VIBE ($900.00) should fit the bill. The Grado OPUS 3 ($300.00). Any of the new Technics tables! Pass on those older Duals!

I agree with the go slow crowd.  Just because you have 3.5K in the budget doesn’t mean that you need to spend it.  Vinyl can be a PITA and once you have had the novelty of playing your new collection you might find yourself not going there.

  I wouldn’t bother with an included phono stage, as that is usually a major sonic compromise.  I would get solid entry level.  Get a decent moving magnet cartridge on a decent belt table.  My CA mm only phono stage was good value at around $200.  I prefer a Direct Drive table but you seem to lead in the other direction, but you should be able to score a decent weighty-belt drive with good mm cartridge for about $1K, especially if you go used.  That should be a high level performance.  If after a decent trial you want to upgrade if you stay with mm cartridge then the phono amp can still be used.

  If you break the cantilever on a mc cartridge trying to clean or change the cartridge, it’s a problem.  With an mm cartridge you probably just need to replace the stylus.  Just saying 

Great reviews on the music hall stealth direct drive turntable...$1699. Paired with music hall's own a3 tube preamp with alps blue velvet volume control...$999.

Something to consider in your budget is a record cleaning system, especially since you’re getting your friend’s records…condolences and sorry to hear but cool that you get to have them. One of the least expensive ways to clean your LPs is a SpinClean…there are others. And a record brush, something light weight (carbon fiber, etc) that won’t drag down the platter’s speed.

I tried to post a link, but Audiogon’s security denied it.


Given the inheritance, and memories of your friend, you will ’stick with it’ as I wondered about earlier.

The 1200 ....Technics are highly respected, come with removable headshell, good luck figuring out their many variations/naming

What I personally do not like is their appearance. I started a conversation about Wood Surrounds for these, which changes the appearance enough for me to consider one.


A hint of the AR look (especially if you got a black one, if you do not restore the AR. I would keep the AR, which allows a future restoration.




Logo app a 256




There’s a used Luxman PD-151 for sale on US AM

for approx. $2,300.  I’ve had one for 2 years and couldn’t be happier 

Then get yourself a trans impedence phono stage and you got a killer combo

Those tables in the second generation are $5600 new

Table speed is kept byProportional-Integral-Derivative (PID) 



Really  great table and the trans impedence phono stage 

will keep you from having to fiddle with  cartridge loading

Also a good Technics SL 1200 would be a good choice for a table with excellent speed control   Once you have this set up the you can budget some funds for vibration control

Good luck

Willy -T


Logo app a 256




There’s a used Luxman PD-151 for sale on US Audio Mart 

for approx. $2,300.  I’ve had one for 2 years and couldn’t be happier 

Then get yourself a trans impedence phono stage and you got a killer combo

Those tables in the second generation are $5600 new

Table speed is kept byProportional-Integral-Derivative (PID) 



Really  great table and the trans impedence phono stage 

will keep you from having to fiddle with  cartridge loading

Also a good Technics SL 1200 would be a good choice for a table with excellent speed control   Once you have this set up the you can budget some funds for vibration control

Good luck

Willy -T

Vintage Technics SP15


Plinth for it


cutout for terrific Vintage Micro-Seiki Arm 505, 

here's one, silver wire, from Vlad, whom I bought my JVC Plinth and TT81 from,. I unhesitantly recommend him


That would make a terrific TT.

Usually there are SP-10's and SP-15's, complete in Technics bases, have a look if tempted by Vintage Technics spinners.

@2psyop Now you have revealed the circumstances that happened and the Vinyl Collection being given to yourself, I’m confident there is a few things you can do to make the most of the legacy gifts you are now the Custodian of.

The Link is a very good place to learn about Vinyl Care and Rejuvenation.

I strongly advise the section on Manual Cleaning only, is the info learned and adopted to bring the inherited collection of Vinyl LP’s to their most purified cleanliness, probably since the day they were pressed.

Knowing your source material is in a pristine condition, is one of life’s little pleasures when one is taking a time out to enjoy a Vinyl Replay.

I’m sure it is one activity, your friend will smile at, as they are looking down on this world. If vinyl properly takes a bite, there will be plenty of other humorous moments that will follow.


There are some good suggestions here however in my opinion and experience I would never buy anything from ProJect again. Engineering and build quality at the higher end is poor - you can do better.   

@2psyop … My condolences on the passing of your friend. What a great opportunity to inherit their record collection. To answer your post… I’ve owned and used many different turntables over the years, and every VPI I’ve spent time with have always impressed me. My main ‘table for the past 15 years is the VPI Scoutmaster Signature. There have been times where I considered “upgrading”, but I haven’t auditioned anything (within a cost range of $4k - $7k) that compelled me to move on from the VPI. I appreciate “solid, simple, and reliable” to go along with “great sound” (of course!). I agree with others here who have suggested working in a record cleaning machine of some kind into the budget. I use a Spin Clean followed by a few rotations on a vacuum machine. It works well, and was relatively inexpensive. I’m using a Soundsmith Zephyr III MI cartridge, and a Music Reference tube phono preamp. Also, don’t be discouraged by those who find it necessary to seek out “vinyl threads” to try to put down the medium, and those who enjoy it. It’s really not difficult to use and maintain a vinyl playing system. I guess it’s possible that they either haven’t bothered to set it up properly, or maybe they’re super lazy. Who knows? But I am always drawn into the music more when I’m listening to my records than I am with any other source. To each his own, but my preference for vinyl has stood the test of time, so I’m sticking with it. Best of luck to you in your quest!

Not relevant, just to show this cool thing, in Bavaria, local pickup


has dust cover


@elliottbnewcombjr … Not relevant, but I have to say: Your posts are some of the most thoughtful, detailed, and helpful of anyone! I’ve been reading this forum for twenty years, and there are many super amazing contributors, but it always strikes me that your research and effort to provide guidance for people you don’t know is unmatched in my opinion. 👏🏼. Thank you. Now back to the discussion!



thanks for your kind words.

I'm retired, first covid, next I have been homebound with health issues a lot, and I enjoy hopping all over learning about stuff.

I want that TT just to look at it, pet it once in a while.


@elliottbnewcombjr … If it is the Scoutmaster you’re referring to, then yeah.. it’s just doing its job well, year after year. Sometimes I’m seduced by a pretty face, or by an exciting design philosophy, but when the time comes to go head to head, it makes me appreciate what I have. I wouldn’t recommend it so highly if it didn’t earn that recommendation from me. I hope you’re enjoying your retirement. I’m still about ten years away. 🤷🏻‍♂️


I meant the Ovaltine Shaped gizmo from Bavaria.

I like your VPI a lot, EXCEPT fixed cartridge tonearm.


This very positive review included this

"I am glad I had so many different cartridges to play on the Scoutmaster. They helped me characterize its essential quality: accuracy. This turntable does not romanticize, nor does it impose its own sound on the music in any way I can discern. Having swapped out all four cartridges numerous times I can attest to that. I hesitate to use the term neutral because in the ears of some audiophiles it connotes sterility or, worse, a kind of sonic banality. But that’s exactly what you get here. Slap in the Grado and its fulsome midrange comes through the VPI unclouded. Or switch to the Denon (which I like so much) and there is that balanced, unhurried and unflustered sound."


I wonder how long it took this reviewer to change these 4 cartridges, on ANY fixed cartridge arm, then he says ’numerous times’.

He probably owns a Jaguar 12 cylinder, a member of the Masochist club, (or a JVC TT-801, masochist membership required).

Disconnect the 4 wires; unscrew the cartridge; screw in the next cartridge (often a nightmare); hook up the 4 wires; adjust overhang; adjust null points; check arm height, adjust? check azimuth, adjust (how with that or most fixed cartridge arm?) adjust tracking weight; adjust tracking force.

4 cartridges-numerous times. I’d run out of curse words and I know plenty of them. (don’t drop any nuts/washers/screws)

numerous times: have some clips, silver solder, soldering skills to replace the cartridge pin clip that broke off. Insulation on clip? Rewire tonearm?

I do what he did, numerous times, without hesitation, no masochist me:

with my alternate cartridges pre-mounted in their own headshells. Overhang and null points done, azimuth done. If arm height is not right, my Acos Lustre GST-801 arm has the smoothest easiest arm height I ever touched, I adjust it while playing. I’m pretty quick at tracking weight, and use a blank LP for anti-skate.

What I really advocate is a TT with TWO Tonearms, two cartridges ready to go; one arm with removable headshell, that arm with easy arm height adjustment.