Getting back into venal with a $2,000 budget.

Targeting $1,500 for TT and $500 for phono preamp. Current 2 channel set up is made up of all ARCAM FMJ, C31 preamp, 2 P1 power amps, CD36 CD player and Energy Veritas V2.4 floorstanding speakers.

Considering used Marantz TT 15S1 with Clearaudio Virtuoso Ebony Wood cartridge, Butcher Block Acoustics Audio Isolation Platform and dust cover all for $1,100. Or New Rega Planer 3 with Exact 2 cartridge for $1,395. The phono preamps I’m considering are Parasound Zphono XRM or Rega Fono MM Mk5.

Also open to other suggestions that would be in the $2,000 price range. 

Sorry about “Venal” should obviously be “Vinyl”. My iPad and stylus don’t always play nice and work against me sometimes.  Lol


Below your budget level, have you considered the Technics SL1500-C?

Comes with an Ortofon M Red cartridge and a decent built in phono preamp.

I would also ask the dealer if a trade-in for an Ortofon Blue would be possible.  It would be a very good move.

See if you are going to like vinyl with a TT which will serve you well for a number of years.

I prefer to buy new when I can.  I have both the Technics 1210 and 1500 TTs.  Happy with both.  The 1500 C is a bargain at the price.  






While I’m a huge fan of Technics DD, I kind of like your option of the used Marantz. That particular model uses an AC synchronous motor so there won’t be any speed issues that are so common on the non-servo DC motor decks from Clearaudio, as long as the motor pulley is sufficiently secure. Also, the Satisfy tonearm is fine as well as the high-output Virtuoso Wood MM cartridge. 
Replacement styli are easily available from LP gear as any Audio Technica AT95 (pre VM) stylus (preferably MicroLine) with a recommended VTF of 2 grams can be easily cut up and inserted into the Virtuoso Wood as a replacement - just look for videos on YouTube for instructions.

Consider the $900 Sutherland KC Vibe as the matching phono stage to nail your $2k limit. 

@rar1, I typically always buy new, only considering the Marantz as it looks brand new, and unused.  I did look into the 1500c and may have to review it again.  Trying to get best bang for the buck at $2,000 budget.  Didn’t want to spend less now then upgrade and spend even more later.  It sounds like the 1500c is well built and worth another look.  

@yogiboy, 👍on the whatahifi review.


@boothroyd, I’ll have to check out the Sutherland kc vibe.  Not nocking Sutherland or any other manufacture but I am always amazed at some of the prices they charge for what’s inside the box.  

"Sorry about “Venal” should obviously be “Vinyl”. My iPad and stylus don’t always play nice and work against me sometimes.  Lol"


Maybe it's not.....You might consider that your iPad is working as a Ouji Board.  Look up the definition of Venal.  Just sayin. Lol

I like the Marantz- the star in that particular package is the cartridge. Having said that I’m not sure I would buy it used not knowing if the cartridge was set up properly  and taken care of properly. It depends on how much confidence you have in your own setup/ tweaking abilities to address any potential issues. I still like the Marantz package and think it is worth $1800 new with the cartridge checked and set up properly by a reputable dealer (Upscale Audio offers this service for free).

As far as the Rega goes, are you sure it comes with the Exact 2– for the price you noted it is usually packaged with Elys 2. The P3 is a nice table with a nice arm and definitely one to consider at your price point— I personally do not like the fact that you have to take the platter off to play 45s… not a deal breaker but a small quibble.

The real sleeper in this price range is the Consonance Wax Engine. It is associated with Well Tempered Labs and has inherited the Well Tempered bearing and drive system. It is often paired with either the Well Tempered TLC (made by Nagaoka) cartridge or the Charisma ECO.  Not a ton of press on this table but it may be worth looking into— looks like Don Better Audio carries it.


Another option is the Pioneer PLX-1000 ($650) with Soundsmith Carman cartridge (can be had for $800). Then you may be able to find a gently used Soundsmith MMP3 phono stage within your budget.  PLX-1000 has had some really nice reviews.

Hi - 


Adding to my original comments ...

For me, my initial spend would depend on how sure I was that I was going to stick with vinyl in the medium term.  

I found that once I embraced vinyl, it became like everything else with audio (or guitars or cars or ) ... I tweaked and when I maxed out tweaking, I upgraded ... first cartridges, then preamps, then TTs themselves.  I dismissed some wise words I read along the way which went like ... buy the best you can, because you will be winding up there at some point.  

Without getting into my travails of the last 6 years, I would just offer to make sure that vinyl will be a keeper for you, before sinking in major bucks.  At the end of the day, $2K is a drop in the bucket with vinyl, especially given how much most prices in audio have increased in the last 2 years alone.

One of the best features about the 1500C is its built-in preamp.  Besides saving you some money, it's decent and it will save you having to deal with ground loops & hum & some of the TT agita that comes with setting up vinyl.  Personally, I would trade in the Ortofon Red, if the dealer would allow it.  

Try to make your initial foray into vinyl headache free and your chances of keeping & using your set-up will increase.

Best of luck,  



Do yourself a favor and stretch a bit and get the $1600 Technics with a mofi preamp and let the dealer install a good $500 cartridge. The technics is trouble free and will probably last forever. Also- you will have dealer support, which you absolutely will need when you’re new to it. The Marantz is nice. I set one up for a friend, but the technics is nicer, IMO. 

Post removed 

New Marantz is a good deal with the included cartridge. However you can do way better than that on a used market.

@rar1 nicely written…and I so agree…especially about the cart…For me…those Ortofons (especially the Red… do not do this table justice)

FWIW…my words are from personal experience. Had the 1500 in my system..with some nice carts/pre.

IN short, I think the 1500c is an excellent table…shame it’s not offered without the built in pre and installed cart too. (I did have some concerns about workmanship though…but for the price….?).

That table begins to really breathe with better carts…and better pre. (However, for all-in, one-n-done, there may be no better option in its price range … sadly, it’s never just one and done, is it?)

@gotog, a while back Rega did not have parts to make Elys2 so they substituted the Exact 2 on the Rega P3 at no additional cost.  Some dealers have them and sell them for $1,395.  However, some dealers are charging $1,800 for P3 w/Exact 2.  That’s one thing that attracted me to to the P3 w/Exact at $1,395 like a $400 cartridge upgrade for free.


@rar1,  I would definitely upgrade the Red cartridge on the 1500c or keep it to play lower condition vinyl and buy a Ortofon Head Shell with The Black cartridge.  Turntable Lab will upgrade to the Blue cartridge for $160.


So at this point I’m leaning away from the used Marantz and am giving the Technics 1500c stronger consideration although the Rega P3 w/Exact 2 for $1,395 is still on my mind.  I have demoed both the Marantz and Rega  P3 with Elys2 and they both sounded good.  At this time I cant find a 1500c to demo which would be a big help so I’m strictly relying on forum advice and YouTube reviews.

If you go for the 1500…and it is delivered with auto lift location issue…do not panic…it may just need adjustment…unfortunately even from the factory…just google the process and try to adjust before returning. I’ve read a lot about this and suspect dozens were sent back unnecessarily. Technics could have avoided by including adjustment info in the manual…again…I have mixed feelings about their Malaysia direction.

Also…can’t speak for anyone but myself…but will likely never go back to a fixed headshell (or non adjustable vta, for that matter). Both are very nice features for even the casual listener.


please DO let us know how you end up.


p.s. The Exact 2 cart is one of my least favorite of all time…if you end up loving that cart…you should disregard my subjective recommendations 😉

“I have mixed feelings about their Malaysia direction”.  Why?   A big company like Technics has items manufactured world wide.  I would be more worried about the  no name cheap Chinese equipment than a large company that manufacturers in Malaysia.  

Hi litespeed 

if you have any questions about the 1500C, please feel free to ask them.

I do not use the auto lift setting (you can defeat it).  In practice it seemed to be clipping the last few seconds off longer albums.  

Do try the preamp, I was pleasantly surprised with it and liked it more than my Parasound z phono preamp.  

The Ortofon blue is much better than the red, not even close.  The Goldring (E3) is pretty good for the cash. 



@stereo5 I’ve returned a Malaysian 1200GR and a 1500C with wobbly platters which I (admittedly anecdotally) attribute to production move cost savings measures. They are actually now trying to justify visible platter wobble as being in spec. That was unheard of in the past. You could grab a Japanese 1200 from guitar center…and it would be perfect!

If you read my post…you will see I am a fan…but the newer constuction of say the 1200s can’t compare with the Japanese made ones. Design and performance are another discussion…but if you think you are getting the same quality construction out of Malaysia as you would Japan YOU ARE DREAMING.

Please don’t try to start quarrels where there are none. I’m not one of these domestic vs. China people…nor Malaysia vs. Japan…I don’t care where something is made…as long as it’s a good value. I owned the GEs too and loved them so you won’t get the argument you desire here.

i would Love for them to take out the pre and get rid of the cart…spend that savings on QC and they would have a Monster.


Although I deeply appreciate the 1500 …I suspect the Japanese would not have left that flimsy tonearm LIFT design leave THEIR factories for fear of shame. Kidding….(sorta )

What is venal? Sorry, I could not restrain myself...aside from that, get yourself a music hall mmf-7....comes with a great Ortofon Bronze 2m cartridge. I would recommend a good tubed phono preamp, such as the Tavish Design classic....

Getting into vinyl is more than a table. Alignment tools, record cleaner, and buying the albums. Your budget just will not do. 

@jpwarren58, tell me how much do I need to budget to get back into vinyl.  I may have to reconsider and stick with digital format.  Please keep in mind the budget was only in regards to Turntable and Phono Preamp.

@litespeedaudio  Getting back into venal (Vinyl LP) with a $2,000 budget

I can see from your OP that there are a selection of considerations being proposed.

Your consideration of the Marantz TT-15S1, will surely be bolstered by the merits made known about it as a TT, when looking at reviews. As a Belt Drive Model is on the list, it will be a Worthwhile endeavour to learn where the Marantz and the Rega are in terms of a Comparative Performance.  

Note: The Rega Design is the most plagiarised of all, there are numerous swap out Tonearms from other Companies using their Geometry and a vast range of TT Upgrade Ancillaries on offer. The Rega Brand is not limiting the options for ideas that might develop in the future.

A Direct Drive TT will have traits that are easily discernable when compared to a Belt Drive, whether the presentation will be captivating and the ultimately preferred, is a case of, 'each to their own'.  

I would advise a slow down in the purchase time allocated and attempt to experience a few of your considered purchases in advance.

I would try and hear a Belt Drive TT with a Wood Bodied Cartridge and a Metal/Plastic or Metal Only Bodied Cartridge. At present there is the Clearaudio Virtuoso Ebony Wood cartridge and Rega Exact 2 cartridge being considered.         I am sure either is a GVFM Cartridge.

 Again the differences between a Wood or Metal Body, it will be worthwhile having the experience, each will be discernible, and the ultimately preferred, is a case of, 'each to their own'.  . 

A consideration is for a Butcher Block Acoustics Audio Isolation Platform. These Sub Plinths also are available in a host of materials. Drawing on a Long Experience of carrying Out Trials on Materials and Structures, I will suggest that a Phenolic Resin Densified Wood is selected for this role.

The TT and Sub Plinth as an easy to achieve Mounting Platform, will most likely be best served using a Wall Mounted Shelve. 

I would not rush into the acquiring an end game Phonostage at present, there are plenty of suggestions for a Phonostage that will get you up and running at very reasonable money. A reasonable priced Phon' can easily require a 4-5 Time the outlay to acquire a Phon' that clearly shows the weakness in performance. Tread Carefully when selecting an end game Phon'.

A friend built a Hagerman 3 SS Phonotage and then a identical model with a modification, using a few bespoke selected parts. I was present at an A/B comparison of these as Breadboard Builds and the Good Value for Money was quite noticeable on the Standard SS Model. The modified model was very impressive, it was quite refined and this is the indelible memory.

When a £1500 Branded SS Phon' Model was included in the above demonstration, it did not get a chance it was removed almost immediately, the Hagerman's were just clearly much more attractive.

The Modified Hagerman was sold on to a Forum User who was quite impressed and ended up taking it to Forum Arranged Phonostage Bake Off's. On one occasion, it ascended up to the £2000 - £4000 Demonstrations before it was out voted to move further on to the Increased in Value Purchase Demonstrations. 

The above said about Bake Off's and surprises is not uncommon, I have heard a £1200 DIY Build come through to the Final where it was being compared to a £10000 Branded Model.

What is not known is how much Vinyl you have stashed as a Source Material from your previous usage of the Vinyl as a Source Material. Do you have plenty of Albums on standby, or is there a requirement to start purchasing, as this can become quite costly if not carefully undertaken, especially if intending on buying a large quantity of new releases.

If buying used the pre-replay treatment that can be considered to be used, to ensure the material is clean to a High Standard, is one more attention to detail awaiting in the flanks to come into view. The Link will put you on Track with all things Vinyl LP Preservation.




Hi litespeed -

Vinyl is a rabbit hole.  There are hardware, software, and storage considerations.  Vinyl takes up space.  Vinyl begets more vinyl.  Just like tube rolling, there will be cartridge swapping.  You will upgrade at some point.

If you grew up with vinyl, did you like the experience of going to record stores and going through the stacks?  I get the same thrills today that I did 55 years ago when I go to (or can actually find) a record store.  Consider for a second, did you acquire many CDs along the way?  Odds are you will do the same with vinyl.  

None of this is a bad thing, btw.  You just need to determine if vinyl is going to be worth going down the rabbit hole.  And how do you accomplish this without breaking the bank?

At a bare minimum, you will need a TT and a cartridge and a preamp and some cables.  Wherever your starting point is, you need to have good enough equipment to see if this will be an audio extension that you wish to pursue.

Problem with coming on this site is that you are chatting up vinyl converts and we all have our stories and preferences.

I suggested the 1500 C because for $1200 ($1400 if you swap out the cartridge) you can be on your way in literally minutes and you have something that you can live with for at least a few years.  I am sure that a similar Rega or Marantz or Pro-ject will get you there too, though it may cost you several hundred more.  You will always be able to sell it, if it doesn't work for you.

If you have old records or used record shops in your area, you will need something to clean your records.  That goes a long way to removing the record noise that you don't get with CDs.  

That is the least that you are going to get away with.

Go beyond this entry level, but solid approach and I think you will wind up in $5K territory in no time.  It is not very hard to spend $2K on a TT, $1K on a cartridge, $1K on a pre-amp, $1K on accessories.  

Best of luck,




This has happened here time and time again. A bunch of geezers front load a newbie with so much information that the newbie throws up his hands and quits. Nobody started vinyl with so much crap and we all managed to survive. Your idea about the rega was fine. All set up and turnkey. Just play records for a year and see if it intrigues you to go further. Some do, some don’t.  Some vinyl lovers tend to get obsessive and it’s a part of the hobby, but it’s not necessary. Do you think all the hipsters buying vinyl at American Eagle are worried about all this crap?  Just take the plunge and see where it goes. IMO

I have no problem with you taking the plunge but it can be expensive. When most of us played albums in out youth our main concern was not audio quality.  Having now gone down the audiophile path vinyl represents, to me at least, at least a $15,000 investment. And that does not include all the fiddling and time a tt deserves to sound its best. I have an old Thorens that needs some attention but I am passing. Mt tt setup just does not sound as good as my digital. Plus I am all thumbs. It would be interesting to ascertain what others have spent on their entire tt setup. 

5-10. Table.

5-10. Arm

500-1000  cartridge

1-5 phono pre-amp

500 cabling

500-1000 record cleaner

100-500 alignment tools

100-500 platform

2-5 albums

Power supply, clamps, brushes, strobes, lights, the list can be endless.  

But the rewards can be sublime.

@chayro Your approach is correct if jumping in a Trend.

As for the Hipsters, they are probably more interested a App to use Blue Tooth Speakers away from the TT to experience their Vinyl replays, not quite HiFi.

The OP has already spent their time and monies creating a CD Source and is looking to extend on this experience, throwing $2K + away without a caution does not cut it.

As a result of their being 'open to all other suggestions'. The OP has been encouraged prior to your post to consider their options, to try and have a few experiences and to attempt to create a SQ for the Vinyl LP as a Source that will be valued and worthy of being used in conjunction with their CD Source in use at present.

The costs associated can easily runaway, so far, all is contained in the suggestions made.  

Post removed 

I would like to thank everyone for all your input.  It’s been very enlightening.  When I originally considered getting back into vinyl and before I posted, I was considering only spending $500 on TT and $100 on phono preamp.  My current vinyl collection is only about 60 albums in very good condition that I purchased in the 70’s and 80’s before CD’s took over my music listening enjoyment.  Perhaps this only justifies a $500 investment in TT as a starting point.

However, after listening to a few TT’s around $500 I wondered if I would be happy or soon loose interest in vinyl.  So I set my sights on acquiring what I consider an entry level set up, $1500 for TT and $500 on phono preamp.  Full well knowing that spending on the hobby would definitely consume far more money than my initial $2000 investment if my interest in vinyl took off.  I’ve been down many rabbit holes over the years with a variety of hobbies but to me that’s what makes life fun.

I do plan on taking my time and listening to various TT’s and Phono Preamps before taking the jump.  Who knows, maybe in the end I’ll determine that a good Music Streamer and DAC will suit my music interest better than investing in vinyl.

Thanks again for all your input it is greatly appreciated.

@litespeedaudio I would not rule out a Streamer, over the past year-ish or so, I have been introduced to one a system I know very well.

The Streamer was a replaced model and then went through a a couple of Upgrades, to the point of the demonstration I received at a local HiFi Group Gathering on Saturday 10-12-22.

The Source Material was FLAC File CD Recordings from a PC. 

The routing of the Signal was not conventional, but from assessment of the demonstration, was totally acceptable and capable of delivering a memorable presentation for the better.

Eight Attendees were present at the Groups Gathering. One attendee has not heard a Streamer in use but does have a long time owned Lector CDP.

The System used is a SP10 R > Custom Built Phono Pre and Pre Amp > Wadia CDP > Linn Akurate Streamer > EAR Valve Power Amp >

The afternoon's digital session had a lot to live up to after the morning's delights. John's Akurate employing a different approach to connectivity this time around  did not disappoint, Next up, the PS Perfect Wave transport together with the custom valve DAC supplied by John G. offered  a bit more to the listener, I thought, with its  lovely open,expansive and tonally rich sound. The Lady Blackbird track sounded absolutely stunning through this combo. I was pleased to see that these characteristics were retained when we briefly swapped over to the Ear Acute Classic. Like the two Johns, I am curious to have a play with the TOSLINK input sometime, just to see whether the streaming  avenue is one worth travelling along.  

@rar1, I liked the idea of the Technics 1500c with its hard shell and built in phono preamp.  That would give me the opportunity to experience different cartridges and phono preamps.  However, I am concerned about the platter wobble issue I’ve read about.  Even if it didn’t affect sound quality it would still bother me.  Perhaps there is a platter lottery and not all units shipped have this issue.  YouTube influencer Andrew Robinson swears by his $500 Audio Technica 140 with a Ortofon Black cartridge.  Although I’m am a bit turned off by the DJ look.


@pindac, both the Rega 3 and Marantz I demoed sounded very good.  They did sound different but I couldn’t determine which one sounded better to me.  The Butcher Block Acoustics Audio Isolation Platform and dust cover were included in the $1100 price as the Marantz does not come with dust cover.  I was very impressed with the build quality of the Marantz.  Before putting the belt on it, I spun the platter ever so lightly and it spun forever.  The motor was also soundless.  Typically I don’t buy used equipment but the Marantz look new and unused, not even a scratch on the dust cover.  There is just something about German build quality that excites me.  Wow, 190 pages on Record Cleaning.  I never realized cleaning would be that detailed.  I may have to invest in record cleaning machine if this hobby takes off.


@chayro, that’s OK, I opened myself up for advice.  I’m interested in getting a set up that provides me with GVFM.  I have a friend that is into vinyl and his set up is all vintage that he spent next to nothing on.  I’m not into vintage audio buy he just loves his.  He is a good example that you don’t need to spend $15,000 to enjoy the hobby.  

Technics SL-1200 mk 7.

not quite as stiff as the older sl1200 mk2, but they sound a lot better,


had mine since mid late 80's, and bought another about 1995 i think.

all are flawless.  save some coin, drop a grand on a nice new sl1200 mk87, use the rest of the money towards a better amp, ore spoil your wife


take one home, set her up, as most places have a return policy.


@ litespeedaudio -

You could always ask your dealer to check for platter wobble, while he is prepping & installing your new cartridge.  Even though I live in NYC, I purchased my 1500C from an authorized, less known dealer, who I have dealt with over the years and would recommend highly.  He took care of everything for me.  Fwiw, no platter wobble with both my 1500C and 1210GR TTs.  


Best of luck & the holidays,


Buying into Vintage TT's has a broad appeal.

There can be a very impressive performance achieved for not too much monies needed. It can start at a simple overhaul/service through to a swap out of original supplied parts, from a Plinth and onto the Mechanical Parts and Electrical Parts.

A DD TT can be the better option when the Electronics and Speed Stability are the Goal, as these are already well catered for in certain models, and a add on ancillary to improve a Belt or Idler Drives Speed Stability can in cases cost as much as overhauled/serviced DD TT.

Belt and Idler Drive TT's are more accommodating of mechanical parts being exchanged such as a Bearing Assembly and Platter is desired.

With the introduction of a New Plinth Design, the types of Tonearm to be used can become extended in the options.

The above is my method for a TT and I have been loyal to it for nearly 30 years. My first Idler Drive Bearing Mod' and Dedicated Plinth was completed in the mid' 90's. 

I am without a TT Source in use at present, and am happy to be able visit friends homes and share in their Vinyl Source. Buying a Few Albums occasionally for the visits, adds to the enjoyment, is usually very well received by the system owner, and builds on a Vinyl Collection.

The rush to purchase is not necessary, as there are vinyl experiences available on the Vintage Set Up. I'm sure your friend will be quite interested in supporting you through to your choices made, even if a Streamer is the option selected as the new acquisition.       

OP how close to Minneapolis are you? The Craigslist used classifieds lists quite a few capable options for you to chose from, particularly a well sorted Thorens TD 165. I would suggest going used if you have a good local audio repair shop within driving distance. I would also like to echo earlier statements, slow down, stop picking out isolation platforms for a TT you do not own and start investing in alignment tools.

Very Best Regards & Happy Holidays



@jeffrey75, I’m in no rush to purchase.  I’m enjoying the journey of researching and the hunt for a Turntable that will best suit my needs.  One that sounds good to me and is a GVFM.  I’m not looking for or picking out and isolation platform, I only mentioned it and the dust cover because it was included in the price of the used Marantz I demoed.  I’m 2 1/2 hours south on Minneapolis, so nothing really close to me.  There are some Hi-Fi shops up in Minneapolis that I plan on visiting when time allows after the Holidays.

I really appreciate everyone taking their time and providing me with valuable input.

Happy & Safe Holidays to All

I ended up with the Rega P3 but I also considered Pro-ject and NAD and used Marantz turntables. There are a lot of Rega P3s on usaudiomart under $800.  

U-turn makes a nice table that includes a built in phono stage for under your budget. Will it beat the setups mentioned in earlier postings? Maybe not. Will it get you 90% of the way there and be plug and play? Yes! I believe it comes with the Ortofon Blue cartridge for around $1100.

I picked up a Marantz tt15s1 on Marketplace for 700 bucks a few months ago. I’m no vinyl expert by any stretch but it sounds way better than the Project Carbon I had before. With the quality of the cartridge and tone arm even at full retail seems to be one of the better deals out there. 

I'm going to second what @chayro  said about all the "veteran" voices throwing all sorts of obstacles in the way of someone who simply wants to experience a new medium. Please, @litespeedaudio. It is perfectly possible to get a wonderfully satisfying and mesmerizing system for the price point you want. Please ignore those who say You must invest five figures just to achieve anything happy.


Case in point, I have downsized in the past few years from a fairly expensive analog system to a smaller room with a much cheaper analog system that's just as satisfying. The combination of my cartridges, phono preamp, turntable and arm, all new, might be 2500, tho several components are used. 

And as one of those Gen X hipsters buying vinyl from many sources, including local record stores, online boutiques like acoustic sounds, and the occasional Barnes & Noble or Urban Outfitters, I try not to lump an entire population into an underwhelming vagary. Like all those Boomers with too much income and too much time who are uncomfortable with how music and Society is changing. Please note irony. 

@simao 'Getting Back into venal Vinyl' is the Thread Topic.

The OP is not looking to experience a New Medium, they are inquiring about getting back on board to use a known Source Medium within a particular budget. There is also made known a Historical owned Vinyl LP collection in their possession. 

As they are with an experience of the Dark Material, reminding them along withbthe odd set up recommendation of a few additional necessities to add to the Alchemy is no harm to enter into the mix.

Is there really a suggestion put forward that has substantially increased the constraints made known for the OP's Budget ? I don't see one.

The OP might alternatively go to Streaming, their evaluation process is quite broad at present, so being too fixated on one Source Medium is not really where the Thread is focused on.   

Your report of a positive outcome from a change of budget allowance for your present set up will undoubtedly be encouraging. 

@litespeedaudio I had a Rega P3 with the Elys cartridge for a while. I was somewhat underwhelmed by it. I was also somewhat put off by feeling locked into Rega cartridges. However, it gets rave reviews from many many other sources and users here. 

I have the P3 w/ the Exact 2 cartridge and love it. It's improved the listening enjoyment of my vinyl and it left some cash on the table that I can put toward other component upgrades down the road.