Table,cartridge,phono...where to put most of my money?

  Let me start by saying im a digital guy,to be specific a CD/SACD guy.Years ago I ventured back into vinyl only to be totally disappointed in my efforts.I wanted to hear the records I had been hauling around the country every time i relocated.I  bought a Linn LP12 and had  all the upgrades done.I never could get it sounding good,even paid to have it setup by a so called expert...Fast forward ,I tried again maybe 6 years ago.Bought a VPI super scout with a couple different phono stages(dont recall what they were)..About the same outcome,was ok but for all the fuss,time,cost I felt another unsuccessful attempt..A few weeks ago i bought at an auction a direct drive Pioneer table from the 70s for a couple hundred.It was paired with a decent cartridge.I bought a used phone amp off ebay and off and rolling i went.Its no where near my digital side across the board and i didnt expect it to be but its got me wanting more....Long story short,I have a budget of 5k/6k for everything..table,cartridge and phone amp..Yes i understand everything is important but where would you put the bulk of the budget...and what would you buy with the limited info given,,Thanks


I agree,I see lp playback as hopefully enjoyable but will never replace my digital......just something fun.


With all due respect to you, you are comparing your digital sound quality history that your ears have become accustomed to for decades, to the analog quality of a $5k - $6k analog rig.  Quite frankly, given the inherent obstacles of old technology analog turntable playback, overcoming those obstacles to the extent of duplicating the competitive digital sound quality that is engrained in your brain (ie, no cracks, no pops, no ticks, etc etc, together with the so called, "warmer" sound of vinyl) COULD easily cost well into the $20k - $35k range for a well matched turntable, tonearm, cartridge combination, and add another $5k minimum for a decent phono stage preamp.  IMO, if you are a demanding and astute listener, $6k will NEVER get you analog sound quality that even remotely compares to great digital.  For me, after listening to top tier digital audio reproduction for many decades through some relatively high end gear, it is rare that I run across budget analog systems that that even begin to approach the sound of high end digital.  

AND ONE LAST THING, I too, desperately desire in my advancing age to rekindle the "sexy analog experience", but quite frankly, am not so confident I want to invest $30k plus into an analog rig, on the mere hope, that it JUST MIGHT be competitive with my perceived sound quality of the digital rig.  It is the sound experience of the music that is most important to music lovers.  And if we are already getting nearly the best audio experience possible, then it begs the question as to why we would risk big dollars in old technology that has "again become quite the fad".  (My favorite record store owner (a mom & pops record store) just leased a 2024 BMW X7!!!)  

Where does it say/state anywhere that $30K is a sum required to create a TT>TA>Cart’ > Phon’ that will perform at a level that will be extremely satisfying.

I have done much better than that as a cost and have the main Vinyl Source Equipment bought used and then sent on to be Bespoke produced. The Phon’ in use is Bespoke Produced as a from scratch build.

As a guideline and not being too equipment type centric.

A Denon DP 80 Motor Unit and Bespoke Plinth, where using materials selected for the Plinth that are being selected for Plinth use on Branded TT’s up to $60k, can be produced for less than a $1000 if prudent purchasing is put in place.

$2K will be quite the top end of a budget if other TT’s were considered from a similar era and drive type, using the same Plinth Material referred to.

I still stand by a Aurex SR 510 being a great value TT for the monies asked, and will is not a let down when one is proved to be in good fettle. The Platter Bearing Housing, Platter Bearing Assembly and Stator Assembly are quite substantial in the selection of materials used, and this in itself stands out for being mechanically much more attractive than other Vintage Japanese TT;s I have dismantled.

A Tonearm from a conventional design, well worthy of such a TT set up can be acquired for between $1000-$5000 if purchased as a used or new model. There are also designs considered not conventional, such a Viv Labs that can still be acquired within this Budget, but unfortunately are rarely seen as used sale items.

There are extremely good Cart’s out there between $700 - $2000

A Search will show a Phon’, such as an Essential 3160 can be acquired for close to $3K as a used purchase, if such a device takes ones fancy.

My experiences are that when an owner discovers a better Phon’ there is usually a need to substantially devalue the in use Phon’ to get a speedy resale. For this reason the Used Market is very very good.

My experiences are, that exceptional Phon’s can be acquired for less than the $3K used item value, if one looks into the DIY Kit Designs on offer.

Using the Values above at their Top End, $13K is looking like a Bottom Line, or the lower of values will get one in at around $6K as a Bottom Line.

Used Purchases comes with a Risk, overall function can be compromised, a additional service may be needed, which will add to the cost?

Caveat Emptor is ones better companion when embarking on such a method to purchase used items.

I do agree with the notion that is stated, "COULD easily cost well into the $20k - $35k range for a well matched turntable, tonearm, cartridge combination, and add another $5k minimum for a decent phono stage preamp."

I also agree much much more than this type of outlay can be considered.

I dare not encourage anybody to not do what they think is best for them, but do like to think they have all considerations presented to assist with their evaluations.

My prudent method will certainly not suit with all types of Ego.