Buyer's Guides

TURNTABLE BUYER’S GUIDE: RAW BEGINNERS!

Looking to buy a turntable for yourself or loved one? Haven’t got a clue how to go about it? Paul Rigby presents his top turntable buyer’s guide plus some extra advice

Fashion. It can be a right pain in the neck, can’t it? As soon as something moves into ‘vogue’, everyone has to have one and, if the fashion is of a technical bent then the larger populace suddenly has to do a crash course in physics, maths and engineering to get their heads around it. Or that’s how it seems to those raw beginners who are faced with buying a turntable.

Audio-Technica Soundburger - guide

Audio-Technica Soundburger

At the moment, vinyl records have become terribly popular…again. Of course, this is not the first time. Vinyl was the only serious game in town from the 50s until the early 80s, if you wanted to listen to music (I say ‘serious’, there were other options like cassettes and the like out there too).

During the early 80s, CD was introduced and everyone declared vinyl to be a dinosaur, dead and buried. Incredibly, this particular flexible friend has not only survived the CD onslaught but also the download scene and it refuses to move when faced with streaming, laptops, mobile phones and multi-room audio.

Maybe that has something to do with the fact that vinyl is a physical medium. This is music you can actually hold in your hands. It also has value as a second hand item, it is tactile, it is a perfect canvas for expressive sleeve art, it often contains easily read lyrics and interesting notes plus additional artist memorabilia within its packaging.

Rega Planar 1 - guide

Rega Planar 1

More than that, despite what fans of digital music (i.e.: CD, downloads, etc) will tell you, vinyl offers the best sound quality of any music source currently available on the planet (except reel-to-reel master tape but new albums on that medium costs around £475 each, so we’ll gloss over that one) and provides the best value. That is, you can get better sound quality from a cheap vinyl system than a similarly priced digital system.

I addition, the more money you throw at a vinyl system, the more those records will reward you. There is no upper limit because analogue has no sonic limit. So, I currently have a turntable here worth in excess of £10,000, a bit more than the turntables on show here and the sound quality from it and the similarly priced components it is attached to is simply staggering. I don’t say that in an attempt to impress you, I offer these words because, if you pursue and continue the vinyl adventure from the early beginnings available below, if you decide to invest more money and upgrade your hi-fi over the months, years and decades, then your vinyl will constantly reward you with improved sonic quality. If not, you’ll still have a ball.

Pro-Ject Primary - guide

Pro-Ject Primary

CAN WE GET DOWN TO BUSINESS?

Sure, enough of the future. What about now? Let’s assume that you are either buying a turntable for the first time for yourself or are buying the same for a friend or relation. Before we get into the nitty gritty of choosing a turntable, you should ask yourself a few questions first.

1: Budget: how much do you want to spend on this turntable?

2: System: if you buy a turntable and that’s all you have in your possession, don’t think “Job done!” In the majority of cases, you will not be able to get any music from a turntable itself. You will need to think about a few other components to attach to the turntable first, such as an amplifier and speakers. There are exceptions to that and we’ll get to those later. Of course, all of this might affect your budget.

3: Space: If you are buying a turntable…and amplifier…and speakers. Where are you going to put them all? This little lot can take a fair portion of acreage. A vertical shelf system is a good idea although, for the beginner, any available flat area will get you started, at least.

4: New or Second Hand? There are Pros and Cons around this question. ‘New’ means that everything works, everything is shiny, whole and in one piece. You also have an easier time of it if something goes wrong. But you pay a premium and, it could be argued, the value for money quotient is lower. Second Hand? You can buy top quality for a relatively low price. An expensive item released in 1985 and worth a few thousand pounds in today’s money might be available on eBay for a couple of hundred, for example. Downside? With any second-hand purchase, you know yourself that you have to be wary of the seller, to some extent (although the likes of eBay help you out on this one by ‘rating’ their sellers to encourage a sense of trust), do all of the parts in the sale item actually work as advertised? Are there any issues? Any problems waiting to happen? For secondhand purchase, you really have to ask lots of questions.

So let’s address that now.

Dansette Record Player - guide

Dansette Record Player

HOW DO I BUY A SECOND HAND TURNTABLE?

If you want to buy second hand then there is plenty of general advice on offer from the likes of eBay, accessible readily within their site. Over and above that, if you want to buy a turntable, you need to ask the buyer several questions.

A: Firstly, is the cartridge/stylus new? (The cartridge is the body that holds the stylus/needle and is often sold as a single unit – sometimes the stylus can be separated and replaced. If not, you may have to buy an entire new cartridge.) If it is not new, when was it last replaced? If it hasn’t, to be safe, you need to buy a new one. Factor that into your budget. There are plenty of available sources for these things. One of them is Musonic (www.musonic.co.uk). This chap has around 10,000 different styli on his books so your proposed purchase should be in there somewhere.

B: The platter, the rotating flat surface that the record sits on, does it move freely? If it moves yet emits a scraping sound then there might be issues with the internal bearing or something under the platter causing an obstruction.

C: The arm, the piece of metal/plastic that holds the cartridge/stlus, does this move freely? Again, if not there could be problems afoot.

D: Does the turntable sit properly? Is it level? If not, there could be a support problem.

VPI Player - guide

VPI Player

E: When it’s ‘doing its thing’ and playing music. If you reach around the back and twiddle the wires, do you hear a crackling noise? If so, then there may be electrical connection issues.

F: Speed Consistency. When the music plays does the speed change at all, moving slower then faster? Maybe the belt needs changing because it has stretched or is slipping.

G: Overall condition. Take a look around the chassis. Does it look battered, chipped, unkempt, excessively dirty and mucky? If yes on all of these matters then be suspicious.

H: Are the original accessories with the turntable? For example, did the original arrive with a lid? If any of the original accessories are missing then this can be a useful bargaining point for a turntable priced relatively high.

I: Packaging. Does the seller retain the original packaging? This is important because the original packaging will provide the bits and pieces of your turntable with proper support and protection during posting. If you insist that the seller send the turntable via a courier and the turntable does NOT have the original packaging then the seller might have to make it up as he goes along. You are then at the mercy of his packaging skills. Also, couriers are lovely people and generally very efficient but also have a reputation of delivering sensitive pieces of hifi into something resembling a jigsaw. No original packaging? Think about picking up the turntable up yourself, in person.

J: Personal Demo or… Points A-I can only really be cleared up if you are there in person so, if at all possible, arrange an appointment with the seller for a demo of the item concerned. If you really cannot make it to the seller’s location and you are buying the item via someone like eBay, then ask as many questions as possible but always ask and wait for the replies on the official site. Do NOT have an offline conversation about the item, even if the seller adds financial inducements. Keep the chatting open and official. That way, if a later disagreement occurs and the seller is found to be lying about this or that, then eBay can track a record of your online conversation to see that the seller is in the wrong and that you are due compensation.

VPI Player - guide

VPI Player

I HAVE AN ‘ALL IN ONE’ QUESTION

There are some turntables out there that arrive with everything that you need to play vinyl records and hear them too. All of the electronics are neatly hidden inside a single chassis. You simply plug it in, turn it on and bingo! You’re away.

There are systems which match this criteria and, if you really want such a system, then I will recommend an example or two for you later.

“So,” you might muse to yourself over a coffee and a biscuit, “how come all turntables are not like that then? Why is it that some turntables are sold separately along with amplifiers and speakers? Surely it would save a whole heap of hassle to pile the lot into one svelte box with a single plug?”

Of course, in an ideal world that would be so but the reason all turntables do not follow the ‘all in one’ approach is because of four major reasons:

1: Sound Quality. This is the biggy. If you squeeze a sensitive turntable with an even more sensitive cartridge/stylus right up close to a throbbing amplifier, pulsating with electricity alongside a bouncing and jumping set of speaker cones then sonic chaos ensues. OK, I exaggerate a tad. Well, look, if you hear such a system on its own, what you hear is a reasonable musical output. But, if you placed such an ‘all in one’ system next to a similarly priced system which has a turntable, separated from an individual amplifier which is also separated from individual speakers, then you would clearly hear the difference and how much nicer a ‘separates system’, as it’s often referred to, really is. In this light, by comparison, the ‘all in one’ would sound rather chaotic.

Pro-Ject Primary - guide

Pro-Ject Primary

2: Mix and Match. An ‘all in one’ tends to derive from a single source company. That company might make reasonable turntables but do they make the best amplifiers on the market for the price? How about speakers? Going down the ‘separates’ route allows you to obtain better value for money by cherry-picking components.

3: Upgrades. If you find yourself financially flush later on, you can always improve a separates system, one piece at a time. That is, you can buy a better turntable, amplifier or speakers as funds allow.

3: Quality/Style. It’s easier to maximise the performance of an item if you provide room to fit quality components within. An ‘all in one’ tends to provide a claustrophobic chassis to work with. Also, given the same space, you can give each component impressive styling to boot.

B&O Beocenter - guide

B&O Beocenter

WHAT DO I NEED TO BUY TO MAKE MUSIC?

If you do decide to buy separate components, what exactly do you require? The first and most obvious is the turntable itself. These days, low budget turntables tend to have a semblance of friendliness about them, veering towards the ‘plug and play’ status of much of today’s consumer technology. Well, nearly. You may have to complete some minor assembly but the task should not be an onerous one. Hence, the manufacturers of these designs often fit the arm and the stylus for you and set both up correctly with cables included (You’ll find, on more expensive turntables, that the arm might be a separate purchase as well as the cartridge/stylus bit and even the cables too.)

OK, so you’ve got your turntable: now what? You need to grab an amplifier. This will boost the signal from the turntable so you can hear what’s going on. Generally, you can plug your turntable directly into the back of many amplifiers and be done with it.

When you plug a turntable into the back of an amplifier what you are doing is plugging the turntable’s wires into a bit called a Phono Amplifier. This is a specially designed mini-amplifier that sits, buried, inside the main amplifier casing. This little module looks after the turntable. When you get your amp, take a look at the back and you’ll probably see the word ‘Phono’ printed next to the appropriate sockets. Thats the only bit of the Phono Amplifier that you’ll see or need to see. That’s where the turntable cables need to go. The only fly in that ointment is if the turntable holds the Phono Amplifier itself inside the turntables chassis. In that case plug those wires – not in the main amplifier’s Phono sockets – but in another free pair. There’s normally a wide choice and they feature labels such as Aux or CD or Tuner. All these are ok if you have a pair spare.

What happens if you look behind your chosen amplifier and you don’t see the word ‘Phono’ adjacent to any sockets and your turntable doesn’t arrive with a built-in Phono Amplifier? This is a possibility. Don’t panic but do reach for your wallet/purse. What’s happened here is that the Phono Amplifier has not been included in the first place. Hence, you need to buy a stand-alone Phono Amplifier. The latter tends to arrive in a small chassis, much smaller than the main amplifier. The Phono Amplifier plugs into the amplifier and the turntable plugs into the Phono Amplifier. Don’t worry about what plugs exactly where at this stage. The included instructions will walk you through that task.

Rega Planar 1 - guide

Rega Planar 1

Next? You’ll need a pair of speakers. These also plug into the main amplifier. Speakers come in all shapes and sizes but I’d recommend spending more on your turntable, less on your amplifier and less again on your speakers. Some hi-fi users might disagree with me on this point but I believe that most of your budget should be invested on the source of the music. The more information and detail that you can extract from the source means nicer sounding music. Don’t forget, you can always upgrade these components later on.

There’s one alternative direction you need to consider when considering the above: active speakers. For those with a small amount of available space available for a turntable set-up or looking for greater convenience, active speakers might be the answer. They consist of a pair of speakers with an amplifier built into the speaker itself. Hence, you plug your phono amp into the speaker and the turntable into the phono amp. This choice gives you one less box to worry about.

In a nutshell, that’s it. If you have a turntable, amplifier (with or without a separate phono amplifier) plus speakers then you’re ready to go. Now, this feature is supposed to be about buying a turntable but I’m more than aware that there may be all kinds of new turntable/non-turntable related questions that may have just popped up in your head after reading the above. This is where my ‘After Feature Support’ service comes in or AFS which is an acronym I’ve just made up to sound slick and official. If you do have any issues and you’re reading this away from my website, then pop over there at www.theaudiophileman.com or Google ‘Paul Rigby’ and ‘Audiophile’, post your question (there’s an area at the bottom of the Home page) and I’ll do my best. If you are reading this from within my website then scroll down to the bottom of this article and post your question. Finally, you can always email me at [email protected] There are no ‘stupid’ or ‘silly’ questions when it comes down to hi-fi. Everyone has to start somewhere, so ask away and don’t be shy.

This is a free service so, as such, please be patient for your answer, I’ll address your concerns as soon as I possibly can in between my regular work to pay the gas bill and feed the cat.

BRAUN PC3 SV - guide

Braun PC3 SV

ARE YOU GOING TO RECOMMEND A TURNTABLE OR NOT, THEN?

Finally, we get to the turntable recommendations in this guide. A few notes about my selection (no sighing in frustration at the back there!) Firstly, I’ve tried to select different types of turntables. If I’ve neglected to mention your favourite turntable it’s not because I think badly of them, it’s just that I’m attempting to cover all bases for all people under different circumstances. There’s no point in basically repeating the same type of turntable 10 times. That helps no-one. I’m looking at many different types of user here. That also means looking at new and second-hand designs. I want to vary the field here and show the beginner that variety exists in the budget turntable market.

Secondly, I appreciate the different people have different lifestyles and differing amounts of cash in their pockets. Hence, I’m looking at varying budgets. In this case from around £150 up to £1,500

Thirdly, beginners need to be aware of one word which often surrounds the hi-fi enthusiast and the associated technologies: audiophile. This word relates to the search for sonic perfection and can start right here, if you so wish. Those looking for great sound are catered for but, I ask budding and veteran audiophiles directly, please don’t be upset if you see non-audiophile recommendations here too. Part of the reason for this feature is to get as many people onto the vinyl wagon as possible: however and whatever way I can. If that means recommending non-audiophile methods of doing that, then so be it.

VPI Player - guide

VPI Player

If you just want a basic record player to play some decent music and have no ambitions to go any further on the hi-fi upgrade pathways then great. I’m all for that. The aim here is to help you get the most out of your records and to help you to enjoy yourself.

Fourthly, there is one exception to the above. If you are a beginner and you are a reader of glossy supplements or have breezed through the High St of late then you will be familiar with a range of turntables that sit under brand names such as Crosley, Steepletone, ION, GPO and so on. These companies tend to spend more money on marketing than investing in product quality (It’s a ‘Bose’ way of doing business, if you’re familiar with that audio brand). These cheap and cheerful turntables often look appealing, some seem to feature innovative designs while others have a great looking vintage casing. All are available for low, low prices. The ION Audio Max LP is just £79, the GPO Style 3 is £35, the Crosley Cruiser is only £70 and all are available from Amazon et al. Bargain, no? Well, no. Not at all. These poorly built, poorly designed, poorly implemented disasters waiting to happen are put together in such a way as to look great, reel you in, take your money and let you struggle with the aftermath. Not only do they offer poor performance they, more importantly, threaten to damage your precious vinyl, partly because how they are put together more than anything else. Do me a favour, don’t go there. Take advice from your Uncle Paul on this one.

NOW? REALLY?? HONESTLY???

Yes, yes, ok.

I’ve tried to provide at least one turntable that addresses a particular type of beginner for this guide: and that type is noted in each sub-heading below. We all look for different things in a turntable. We are all individuals. So, no matter what you’re after, I hope you find your design here or, at least, a place to start looking. And you can always ask me for help if you need it. If I have done a review of the item or featured it in some way, then you can click on the highlighted name to see more. Here’s the first one then…

(All prices are at the time of writing and all are ‘real world prices’ to RRPs)

GUIDE TURNTABLE No.1

Where Price Is An Issue But Sound Quality Is Paramount

PRO-JECT PRIMARY

Price: £188

Contact: www.amazon.co.uk

Pro-Ject Primary - guide

Pro-Ject Primary

One of the cheapest, ‘audiophile’ quality turntables currently on the market at the moment. It might off a simple design and its facilities might look a little bare but the sound it produces is top notch for the price. Helped by the useful free Ortofon cartridge. You can choose from a range of colours too.

GUIDE TURNTABLE No.2

For Those Wanting Mobile Vinyl Play

AUDIO-TECHNICS SOUNDBURGER

Price: £175+

Contact: www.ebay.co.uk

Audio-Technica Soundburger - guide

Audio-Technica Soundburger

The best luggable record player ever. Now sadly deleted but available still via second-hand outlets (there are poor quality, copycat copies around for sale as new from competitors – avoid) this turntable arrives with a clamshell chassis. This lid opens up, you put the vinyl on the mini platter, push a rubber bung over it for stability, close the clamshell top and away your go. Arrives with a good quality stylus too. Solid and reliable, it sounds great.

GUIDE TURNTABLE No.3

An All-In-One At A Low Price

B&O BEOCENTER

Price: £200-£500+

Contact: www.ebay.co.uk

B&O Beocenter - guide

B&O Beocenter

Plenty of second hand value and for those who want an ‘all in one’ system that should also include a radio and cassette deck plus style, style, style. If you want a great sounding system that you can show off at parties then this is the one to go for. I say ‘one’ but there are many variants of the Beocenter of differing specifications and prices and, being second hand, condition. Don’t forget, be cautious and wary but do look. Bang & Olufsen’s sound output is vastly under-rated.

GUIDE TURNTABLE No.4

For The Ultimate Budget Turntable

REGA PLANAR 1

Price: £249

Contact: www.amazon.co.uk 

Rega Planar 1 - guide

Rega Planar 1

Rega is one of the turntable manufacturing legends of the hi-fi world. It’s been around forever and is highly respected while its turntables are all excellent. This is the outfit’s entry point. Well made and supplying great sound quality, it’s a good buy for those looking at sound as the ultimate priority. It’s not for a user who wants their turntable awash with features and toys, though.

GUIDE TURNTABLE No.5

Fancy Direct Drive And Toys In Abundance?

LENCO L-3808
Price: £180
Contact: www.amazon.co.uk

Lenco L-3808 - guide

Lenco L-3808

It’s a manual turntable but does include DJ-type facilities if you need it plus a USB port to ‘rip’ vinyl to a digital file and there’s a built-in phono amplifier. Ideal if your amplifier doesn’t have one and, thus, saving you money on buying an external mode. Also, you can plug this deck directly into powered speakers for a small footprint system. The highlight is the direct drive system which lifts the sound quality above others offering similar features.

GUIDE TURNTABLE No.6

A Blast From The Past And Vintage Vibes

HACKER RECORD PLAYER

Price: £350+

Contact: www.ebay.co.uk

Hacker Record Player - guide

Hacker Record Player

For some people, music and vinyl means the 50s, 60s and 70s and the ‘sound’ of a record player means just one thing, a Dansette or something similar. These little beauties are, in themselves, vintage collectables and feature everything you need within one (rather heavy) chassis. They sound sepia-tinged and very warm and are absolutely not audiophile in any way but they evoke a time and a place. If you can, buy one that has been fully serviced (and not one picked up from a car boot, unless you have the techie skills to service one of these things) because lots of things can go wrong with vintage items such as these. While Hacker is a top quality brand to head for, any brand toting a Garrard turntable is preferable than a BSR turntable or similar. Better build and sound quality.

GUIDE TURNTABLE No.7

Combining History With Style

BRAUN PC3 SV

Price: £450+

Contact: www.ebay.co.uk

BRAUN PC3 SV - guide

Braun PC3 SV

I’ve included this model for those who look upon the basic turntable design and yawn. For those who see design as the most important aspect of the contents of their home. For those who see art as the central focus. This turntable (built in 1959) is just one example (there are other turntables out there) of a series of classic Braun technologies that was created by renowned designer, Dieter Rams. Rams became a protégé of the Ulm School of Design (successor to the Bauhaus) luminaries Hans Gugelot, Fritz Eichler and Otl Aicher. you can see a collection of his works at www.vitsoe.com amongst other sites.

GUIDE TURNTABLE No.8

A New All-In-One Of Top All-Round Quality

VPI PLAYER

Price: £1,500

Contact: www.renaissanceaudio.co.uk

VPI Player - guide

VPI Player

A modern take on the ‘all in one’ concept. This particular collection of technologies, though, includes the phono amplifier plus a headphone amplifier built inside the chassis. Because of the latter, you don’t have to buy a pair of speakers if you’re happy to go headphones only. The arm is an excellent one while the Ortofon cartridge is top notch. It’s not cheap but if you’re a music fan with a healthy budget, you like the Apple-esque approach that says that you don’t have to fiddle and mess around with the hardware – it just works, then this is the deck for you.  This is a true hi-fi turntable but still offers great value for money and ease of use, even at this price.

IS THIS GOODBYE? [sniff]

Not quite. I hope you’ve enjoyed this turntable guide or, at least, the guide itself has either given you some help in your quest for your first turntable or has prompted you to think carefully about your proposed choice. Just to remind you, if you have any questions, complaints, notes, points of order, large monetary donations or you wish to include me in your Will, then contact me at The Audiophile Man, www.theaudiophileman.com

[Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Group, The Audiophile Man: Hi-Fi & Music here: www.facebook.com/groups/theaudiophileman for exclusive postings, exclusive editorial and more!]

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107 Comments

  • Reply
    kevin bowes
    24th September 2016 at 6:44 pm

    Rega RP3 everytime ! I’ve had one for 37yrs. without a complaint! Haven’t change anything apart from a replacement cartridge and this was for no real reason !!

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      25th September 2016 at 9:37 am

      Thank you for your note, Kevin. Glad to hear that the Rega is supplying you with sterling service. I have to agree on the turntable’s qualities, it serves amongst my reference system during reviews.

  • Reply
    Jim Van Dyk
    3rd October 2016 at 6:35 pm

    The Audio Technica LP120 is better made and can sound better than the entry level belt drive tables. On mine, I use the Emotiva XPS1 Phono Pre and upgraded the headshell to the LP Gear Ultimate. Also upgraded the Cart to the AT120. Finally, I added the AT-618 Record Clamp. The included AT95e Cart is also very good. The built in pre-amp is not so good.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      3rd October 2016 at 6:51 pm

      Informative post, Jim. Thanks very much for that.

  • Reply
    Phil Longworth
    3rd October 2016 at 10:51 pm

    My pink triangle PToo may not entry-level but a good second hand will out class these for a similar price. Mines been updated over the years. It’s got a consonance unipivot arm ortophon blue. Running through a yaqin phono amp and Schitt audio headphone sounds terrific or my yaqin valve amp and q acoustics it’s a great budget system with plenty of scope to upgrade.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      4th October 2016 at 9:37 am

      And very nice it all is too, Phil. I do address second hand purchases in the feature but, often, part of the definition of the ‘raw’ beginner is a slight lack of confidence in buying second hand decks.

  • Reply
    Don Porter
    31st May 2017 at 11:08 pm

    That was a very informative article Paul, thank you. I’m thinking of returning to vinyl after a very long break of, ahem 30ish years! I bought a Linn Axis as my first and only turntable in the late 80’s. I loved it and was hooked as soon as I heard it. I added a Rotel amp, a pair of Mission speakers, upgraded the tone arm/cartridge later and this was my system until I went to work in the Middle East in ’96. The hifi and vinyl didn’t go with me, sadly. Now I’m retired I’d like to return to the fold, but on a meagre company pension. I’ve been looking at new/vintage turntables for weeks now and have found what seems to be the answer. I have been looking at a Timestep version of the Onkyo CP 1050 on eBay for £209.99. I really like the almost retro look of this turntable. For this price it seems like the bargain of the year and with the deck reduced by almost £100 I could put the savings towards a better cartridge. Do you think an Ortofon 2m Red would be a worthwhile upgrade to the pre installed cartridge? Many thanks, Don.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      1st June 2017 at 8:16 am

      Thanks for your comment, Don. I too am an ex-user of the Axis and Mission speakers. Fond memories. Yes, the Timestep choice is a good one – what cart is on the model you are looking at?

  • Reply
    Don Porter
    2nd June 2017 at 12:19 am

    It looked like a Denon of some kind Paul, but it just said ships with a quality MM cart in the blurb. When I went back to check they’d just sold the last one so not to worry, I’m sure there’ll be others. The Onkyo was in my top 3 new turntables along with rega and project, but having gone back to the auction site and seen some absolutely stunning refurbished Thorens, Marantz and Rotel turntables today I’m tempted to reconsider.

  • Reply
    Geoffrey
    28th November 2017 at 7:45 pm

    Hello Paul

    Wow. What a long article. It really shows a firm belief in vinyl. I sold my turntable a couple of years ago to buy my speakers. But now i’m going to buy a new budget one. Probably the rega planar 1 or 2. But can i upgrade the rega planar 1/2 with an ortofon red, bleu, black cartridge in the future? Or do i need a planar 3 at least to have a good result? Can you in fact upgrade every turntable with a better cartridge or doesn’t that make any sense?

    Best regards

    Geoff

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      29th November 2017 at 12:19 am

      Hi Geoffrey – as a rule of thumb, every factory turntable has upgrade capacity in terms of an improved cartridge.

  • Reply
    Dave hattey
    29th November 2017 at 8:55 am

    Plastic always looks cheap,IMHO. Makes me run away fast.

  • Reply
    Dermot
    8th December 2017 at 4:01 pm

    Absolute fantastic guide full of humour and, most important, real honest to God information laced with a lifetime of experience. You’re a legend Paul!

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      8th December 2017 at 4:12 pm

      Gawd blimey, Dermot, that’s very kind of you to say so. Please tell my wife that. No, really, she needs to learn facts like that.

      • Reply
        Dermot
        9th December 2017 at 12:22 pm

        A message to your wife:

        PAUL IS A LEGEND 🎸

        No, not THAT Paul!

  • Reply
    Edward
    8th December 2017 at 7:58 pm

    Great read,Paul. I recently stuck my foot back in to the audio separates arena,so articles,such as this,are of great interest. My recent turntable purchase was a new old stock/still in factory box Technics BD-22 that I picked up last year. Nothing fancy,but it mates well with my Grado Red cartridge,Yamaha A-S500 amp,Onkyo C-7030,Teac V-2030S and Celestion Impact 20 speakers. I look forward to my system’ future upgrades toward higher quality and even better sound. Thanks again,Paul!

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      8th December 2017 at 9:51 pm

      Very kind of you, Edward. You sound like you are enjoying your system which is , after all, the point. So well done on that. If you require upgrades in the future, pop around and we can talk about advice on that, if you wish.

  • Reply
    Ed Pringle
    13th December 2017 at 9:29 pm

    Hi Paul, this is a great article and really helps reconfirms what i’ve been looking at from other reviews. Just need to make my mind up on which, Rega Planar 1or Proj-ect Primary. I also need to decide on what amp and speakers to buy. Any suggestions would be a great starting point. Thanks, Ed

  • Reply
    chris holmes
    4th January 2018 at 9:03 am

    thanks for the article. I have a question, my wife bought me a rega planar 2 in the US as a xmas present, we live in Singapore which has the same power supply as the UK. What is the best way to get it to work? can i change the power adaptor to a UK one? or do i use a transformer? any help well recived as i want to rediscover my vinyl collection…

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      4th January 2018 at 3:40 pm

      I have my own thoughts on this but also let me check with Rega to see what they say. Be back to you soon.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      4th January 2018 at 4:00 pm

      This from Rega, Chris:

      “He needs a new motor, the pulley size controls the frequency and cannot be removed without damaging the motor.

      He can order from our distributor Audio 88 in Singapore listed on our website.”

      Singapore GMT + 8hrs (BST + 7hrs)

      Audio 88
      1 Coleman Street
      #01-01A The Adelphi
      Singapore 179803.

      Tel: (65) 6333 5515

      Email: [email protected]
      Web: http://www.audio88.net

  • Reply
    Dave
    22nd March 2018 at 7:12 am

    What an exellent article! I bought my first turntable in …! a Logic, and have recently de – mothballed my Roksan Xerses, SME IV and Koetsu black. taken a few months to level things, get bits where needed etc, but Im almost there. Certainly if you already have a good LP collection as I do, and enjoy switching off the phone and lights and just listening, the LP sound will keep you hungry for more.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      22nd March 2018 at 5:10 pm

      Very nice of you to say, Dave. Thank you. I agree absolutely – incidentally, watch out for my review of the Roksan coming soon (ish). Just arrive today, actually. Features a new cartridge and Nima arm for a bit of a twist on the favourite 🙂

  • Reply
    paul c
    30th March 2018 at 9:00 pm

    Hi, I’ve found this really useful … I’m looking to rediscover my vinyl collection after having a loft conversion. I’m assuming your advice about the regs planar 1 combined with a cambridge topaz am10 and roth audio speakers still stands? Would this be a good beginner’s kit? Any advice re speaker cables? Thanks

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      31st March 2018 at 2:49 pm

      Thanks Paul and, yes, that advice still stands for a budget of that type. Check out QED speaker cables on Amazon and grab the best you can afford.

      • Reply
        Paul C
        1st April 2018 at 11:07 am

        Cheers Paul, much appreciated. Reckon I’m set on that – though do you have a view on these? Roth VA4 Active Speakers – or am I better sticking to separates. Happy Easter btw

        • Reply
          Paul Rigby
          1st April 2018 at 11:14 am

          And a Happy Easter to you too Paul. Yes, separates are better in terms of sonics but actives/powered speakers are useful if space is at a premium.

  • Reply
    Bob stoppard
    8th April 2018 at 4:36 pm

    Hi Paul
    I’ve been offered a Garrard DD75 turntable in superb condition. Any advice on the best amp and speake S to pair up with this? Should I stay vintage or something more modern? Cheers

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      9th April 2018 at 4:22 pm

      Do you have a budget in mind Bob?

  • Reply
    Bob Stoppard
    9th April 2018 at 9:01 pm

    £300-450 …. cheers

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      10th April 2018 at 8:46 am

      Hi Bob – you know yourself how hard it is to grab vintage kit at the right price and condition. Obtaining it is a task you have to undertake and carefully too. I can suggest a few amp names: Creek CAS4040, A&R 60 and NAD 3020 and for the speakers? Heybrook HB1, Celestion SL6 and Acostic Research AR18S. New? I’d look at the Cambridge Topaz (£200) and the Q Acoustics 3020 (£190): https://theaudiophileman.com/q-acoustics-3020-bookshelf-speakers-first-q/

  • Reply
    Bob stoppard
    10th April 2018 at 10:41 pm

    Thanks Paul, really helpful. Does the A60 need anything else or can the Garrard simply plug into it and away you go (+speakers obviously )

    Reckon I’m going for an A60 with the hey brooks

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      11th April 2018 at 9:45 am

      Hi Bob – you can help me to help you here. Here is the A60 manual for you to check: https://www.manualslib.com/manual/9217/AAndr-A60.html?page=4#manual
      I think your Garrard has phono plugs and not a DIN plug. The 60 appears to offer phono plugs for a deck (pictured on the right). I know that there is a phono amp built in to the 60. Assuming you’re ok on the plug from then, yes, all you need is a set of speakers. Enjoy the amp!

  • Reply
    Bob stoppard
    13th April 2018 at 2:49 pm

    Hi Paul, do you have a view on the quality of wharfedale super Linton w30d speakers? Until I can get hold a pair of heybrooks or Celestion sl6s I was wonder8ng how good these would be paired up with my a60 amp? Thanks, Bob

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      13th April 2018 at 5:39 pm

      I have heard that the Celestions have more pizazz and sparkle but the Lintons should still be a good match – I’d recommend a quick hook up and demo if you can, though, to make absolutely sure.

  • Reply
    david mercer
    11th June 2018 at 11:53 pm

    I have a good vinyl collection but a failed KLH.
    Would a Rega Planar 1 paired with Peachtree m24 speakers be a good value setup for a not so savvy guy?
    Thanks. Good stuff!
    David

  • Reply
    Erik Bro
    7th July 2018 at 1:14 am

    Hi Paul,

    Thank you for a fantastic article. I just got a Rega Planar 2 as a gift and have been trying to figure out how to complete the setup. I’m looking for either an integrated amp with passive speakers or getting a phono preamp and pairing that with some active speakers. Ideally I want to keep the the amount of gear to a minimum and don’t want to have a large amp for this setup. I see you’ve recommended a couple different products here, but wondering if you could give any advice on a good setup for the Rega P2. An integrated amp I was considering was the PS Audio Sprout and I was looking at the different Rega phono preamps if I go the other route. I have no real direction on speakers, beyond being space conscious and probably needing a pair of bookshelf speakers for at least the next year or two. Budget wise I’d like to complete the setup between $500-$1000.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      8th July 2018 at 10:46 am

      Thanks for your kind comments, Erik. In sonic terms a Sprout would be a fine choice along with a Rega Fono pre-amp (external phono amps sound better or leave it if the budget is strained and use the Sprout’s internal phono for now but upgrade later) plus Q Acoustics 3020i speakers (https://theaudiophileman.com/3020i-q-acoustics-speakers-review/). Failing that, you could dump the amp, keep the Phono amp and go for something like Oli active speakers or something similar (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Roth-Monitor-Speakers-Multiple-Connectivity/dp/B00A8I9A5K/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1531042879&sr=8-4&keywords=oli+speakers)

      • Reply
        Erik Bro
        11th July 2018 at 6:37 am

        Thanks for the quick reply and thoughtful advice Paul. After reading your review I’m sold on the Q Acoustics 3020s for my speakers if I go with that setup. I had been deciding between the ELAC Debut B6 and these, and I think I’ll give these a shot.

        I’m still not sure what I want to do with the amp/phono stage though. I like the idea of going with something like the Schiit Mani as a standalone phono, but I’ve been having a tough time finding a standalone power amp that has good reviews under $500. Any recommendations? I see you mentioned the Roth powered speakers that could pair with that phono, but most of what I’ve read has encouraged me to go with a passive speaker and an amp. Do you prefer amp + passive speakers or better phono + active speakers?

        Sorry for all the questions, but I appreciate the guidance!

  • Reply
    Pawel
    8th July 2018 at 6:08 pm

    Hi Paul, quick question. Would it make sense and would it work if I hook up rega planar 1 to my system which consists Denon DM40 and Q Acoustics 3020 speakers? If yes what would I need in terms of connecting it all? Do you recommend any specific pre-amp? I was considering rega’s Phono mini A2D.

    BTW thanks for the Rega 1 Plus review, will stuck to my first choice, which is Rega Plannar 1.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      8th July 2018 at 10:52 pm

      Hi Pawel – yes, you can certainly do that and the Rega Fono will add extra sonic quality. If you are able, next time you upgrade, grab a quality 2-channel amplifier as an upgrade for your vinyl ‘system’. If you do that, talk to me first.

  • Reply
    Johny H
    16th September 2018 at 5:57 pm

    Hi Paul. I never thought I’d find an article as good as this when delving into Google. So well thought out, unbiased and accessible. Thank you.

    I have piles of vinyl that I’m hoping to start using again. I’m looking to have a modern setup that I can also wirelessly connect a phone to in order to play MP3s. I currently don’t have anything – no record player, amp or speakers.

    Do you have any thoughts about the best way to go about this? Any steering would be greatly appreciated. I haven’t put much thought into budget. Maybe I’d spend up to £1500 but could be persuaded to raise this 🙂

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      16th September 2018 at 7:31 pm

      Thanks for your kind words, Johny. Re your proposed system, so we’re looking at a turntable, an amp with streaming capability, and speakers? Does that sound right or did I miss something?

      • Reply
        Johny H
        17th September 2018 at 8:29 am

        Hi Paul. Thanks for coming back to me so quickly. That’s correct, I think that’s the best way of doing things but not sure what options are available. I might bolt on a cd player too.

        • Reply
          Paul Rigby
          17th September 2018 at 10:12 am

          OK – prices may not be exact and, as I sense there might be a tad extra cash in the pot here, I’ll go over your budget a little bit…I’d go for a Rega Planar 3 (£580), Rega Fono phono amplifier (£90), Cyrus One (£700; https://theaudiophileman.com/cyrus-one-2/), Q Acoustic 3020i speakers (£249; https://theaudiophileman.com/3020i-q-acoustics-speakers-review/).

          • Johny H
            17th September 2018 at 4:07 pm

            Thanks Paul, this is really useful. It looks like the Rega Planar 3 might be hard to get hold of as nobody posts it and I can’t see anywhere within reasonable driving distance.

            A friend suggested that Sonos might be a solution but I’ve seen mixed messages about them. I see you’ve tried a couple of product, what do you think?

            If I were to go for a CD player too, do you have any recommendations?

          • Paul Rigby
            17th September 2018 at 5:33 pm

            Hi Johny – Rega’s Apollo is very nice re a CD player. Pro-Ject’s RPM 3 is a nice turntable as is, for a bit more Funk Firm’s Gett! : https://theaudiophileman.com/gett/

  • Reply
    Scott
    12th October 2018 at 4:32 pm

    Hi Paul,

    Thannks for writing such a great article. I am a complete newbie to this, so please bear with me.
    I am looking at making my first purchase (House Of Marley Stir It Up Turntable) https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01JT42M8U/ref=ask_ql_qh_dp_hza or https://www.thehouseofmarley.co.uk/stir-it-up-turntable.html but I am still a little confused as to what else I will need. The turntable has a built in pre amp. I am wanting to keep the cost down and the amount of equipment, so was looking into getting some active speakers. Can you tell me if I will need anything else, or will that particular turntable be able to connect straight into a pair of active spaeakers?

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      12th October 2018 at 4:56 pm

      And thanks for the kind words, Scott. Your turntable has a phono amplifier inside (I say that to prevent possible future confusion because that’s what it’s called and others may say the same thing to you) which is fine. You just need to plug the turntable into a pair of active speakers and you’re away.

    • Reply
      Paul Findlay
      25th November 2018 at 6:41 pm

      Hi Scott,
      You’ve possibly already gone for the HoM turntable with active speakers but I thought I’d reply to your post anyway (if that’s okay to do Mr Rigby?) I was looking at one of these earlier on in the year as a first turntable for my teenage daughter who has shown a growing interest in vinyl (I’m guarding my collection more closely now). I decided to also pair the turntable with a set of active speakers to give her the opportunity to upgrade if she wanted to in the future but let her try it all out for a relatively small outlay initially. I purchased the HoM turntable and the speakers and set it all up to test before giving it to her for her birthday. Now it’s a good looking deck with the bamboo plinth and all but the problem I had with the Marley deck was that the motor is very noisy and detracted from the sound quality. Thinking maybe this was a fault with this particular deck I swapped it out with the supplier but the second one was exactly the same. In the end I returned it again and instead purchased the Lenco L-3808 which proved to be far superior and has the option to upgrade the cartridge which the HoM deck didn’t. Hope you don’t mind me adding my two penny’s worth. Thanks Paul F

      • Reply
        Paul Rigby
        26th November 2018 at 11:04 am

        Not a problem, Paul – thanks for offering the advice.

  • Reply
    Andrew Palmer
    27th October 2018 at 5:55 pm

    Great article, won’t be buying an ION now. I think I will opt for the AT-LP3, it is good value and I can use it out of the box. I believe I can upgrade the cartridge and pre amp at a later date.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      27th October 2018 at 7:50 pm

      Thanks for your kind words and, yes, wise move. Meanwhile, your beliefs are spot on.

  • Reply
    Geoffrey
    19th November 2018 at 7:57 pm

    Thank you for this Paul

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      19th November 2018 at 10:28 pm

      No problem, Geoff.

  • Reply
    Eamon M
    25th November 2018 at 7:19 am

    Hey Paul, thanks for this, it’s been a great help. I’m looking at buying a planar 1, any advice on amps and speakers to go with this?

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      25th November 2018 at 12:55 pm

      No problem, Eamon, what’s your budget?

  • Reply
    Damian
    25th November 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Hi Paul. Tkanks for sharing all that information .I am going for an AT lp5 for £249 or Rega 1. Same price but AT has built in phono amp. Is there any better of these two? Is it worth to buy better RCA cable for this level turntables?
    I am going to connect it to my old Logitech z5500 system for now through RCA to 3.5mm adapter. Will this affect a sound quality?
    Thank you .

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      25th November 2018 at 3:30 pm

      Hi Damian – thanks for your question. There’s lots of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ with this one and I’ll go through a few for you.
      If you intend to hook up the turntable to a decent separates-type hi-fi at some point, go for the Rega.
      If sound quality is a priority then go for the Rega.
      The LP5 has a phono amplifier built in, of course and the Rega needs one at some point (either an external model or found elsewhere such as within an integrated amp) so the built in LP5 model will save cash if that’s important.
      For the phono amp, an external mode will sound better than an internal model but an internal model, as I say, saves you cash because it’s there already.
      The Logitech will not sound as good as a proper hi-fi of course but is fine in terms of convenience and you already have it there.
      The RCA-to-3.5mm is not a problem per se.
      A basic bundled black cable won’t sound as good as a third party, specialist model but I wouldn’t spend out on a quality cable to connect it to a Logitech. Save the cash for a stand-alone hi-fi or more vinyl 🙂
      I hope that covers everything. Let me know if not.

  • Reply
    Paul Findlay
    25th November 2018 at 5:48 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I have a Rega RP3 with an ATMLB 440 plus Marantz Amp, Rega Mini Phono Stage and Q Acoustics 3020 speakers as my main system (until I can afford some upgrades) but I recently picked up a Hacker Grenadier GP45 that has a Garrard SP25 TT deck as I also like that warm all-in-one sound that suits a lot of the 60’s vinyl that I uh-hum “borrowed” from my parents. I’m reluctant to play anything on it yet as I’m sure it all needs a bit of a service by now. I want to change the stylus and set up the tracking force correctly but I don’t have a “user” manual and I can’t seem to find one online. I did download the service manual but it’s mostly techy circuit diagrams and not really what I’m looking for. As far as anything more involved goes I’m quite handy with these things but need some advice and generally pointing in the right direction. Do you know of any literature I can get hold of or any specialists that I can get in touch with?… any help gratefully received. Thanks Paul

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      26th November 2018 at 11:02 am

      Hi Paul – I would talk to this company in terms of that new stylus but also additional advice. They know their stuff: https://www.musonic.co.uk You’ll often find the tracking force arrives with the new stylus or, at least, on the website itself tagged alongside the item for sale.

  • Reply
    Paul Findlay
    26th November 2018 at 2:58 pm

    I’ll certainly get in touch with them, thanks Paul

  • Reply
    Anshul
    27th November 2018 at 3:20 am

    Hi Paul, im looking to buy the lp5. Should I? Is it really worth the money? I am unsure. Thanks, Anshul.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      27th November 2018 at 11:52 am

      Hi Anshul – if the built in phono amp and USB is important to you then go for the LP5. If sound quality is a priority, then there’s better buys out there.

  • Reply
    Michael Brennan
    9th December 2018 at 1:15 pm

    Is it OK to ask a question here ? Sorry if it isn’t. I am experienced in IT matters but not very knowledgeable on Turntable issues despite owning a Technics SL 1200 in the 1980s. (could never resist a top toy)
    I have bought an Audio-Technica 1240 and the standard at-95e cartridge to fit it with but was reading in a What Hi-Fi review that the output is much punchier and more dynamic when passed through a Regza Phono Mini A2D.
    Probably a dumb question but is that “improved” output (in their opinion) transferred to the vinyl recording via USB on the hard drive or does it apply only to playback sound via amp & speakers ?
    In other words, am I wasting my money buying the Regza if all I am interested in is HQ vinyl recording on the PC ?
    Thanks

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      10th December 2018 at 10:37 am

      Thanks for the question, Michael – sure you can ask questions anywhere on this site. Not a problem. So you want to ‘rip’ vinyl to a PC file? To confirm, this is the Fono you’re talking about? :https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rega-Fono-Mini-A2D-Pre-Amplifier-black/dp/B0072RZ95U/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1544438027&sr=8-6&keywords=rega+fono

      As you know, you can do that with the internal 1240 USB port. You can also do that with Rega’s USB port found on the Fono. The thing about an external phono amplifier like the Rega Fono is that, well it’s outside and away from the turntable. This reduces electrical noise interference and vibration infecting the turntable from that phono amplifier. Hence, keeping the phono amplifier distant from the turntable purifies, as it where, the signal. Purifies is too strong a word actually…improves the quality, shall we say. That’s the gain, that’s what you’re getting with the external model and that’s why it’s recommended.
      If you need further help, please shout.

  • Reply
    Joseline
    14th December 2018 at 1:12 pm

    Hello Paul! I was wondering, if I purchased the Pro-ject Primary record player, would I need to purchase anything else to actually hear/play the vinyl records?

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      14th December 2018 at 2:53 pm

      Thanks for the question, Joseline – indeed you would. You would need an amplifier and speakers plus a few cables to hook them up. There’s two options here. Either buy them as separate items or you can buy ‘powered speakers’ that bundle the amplifier inside the speakers (you can then forget the cables too) to save a bit on cost and space. If you need further help, please shout.

  • Reply
    Issa
    20th December 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Hello Paul thanks for your article very much! I absolutely knew nothing about turntable before reading it! Now I’m gonna take your advice and go for a rega1 and Rega Fono phono amplifier , and what do you think of audio engine a5+ Speaker comparing to Q3020i ? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      20th December 2018 at 2:30 pm

      Hi Issa – not a problem. Glad to be of help. The A5+ speakers are powered with an amplifier built in (useful if you don’t have one). The 3020i speakers are passive and will need an external amplifier to work.

  • Reply
    Issa
    20th December 2018 at 3:09 pm

    Got it! I’ll go for q3020i as you suggested that the separate ones better.thanks!

  • Reply
    Stuart Foster
    27th December 2018 at 3:22 am

    Really interesting article this Paul, was a good read.

    I’m looking to delve into the TT market in the new year. I’m still quite unsure what to get. I do consider myself a proper music lover. In the throws of basically ditching my entire CD collection (barring the rarities) that I’ve built up over a 25 year period. Sadly (for me!) I grew up at the start of the digital age so its – almost – all I’ve known barring my old man’s sony deck that first introduced me to music. Anyhow, now that my digital collection is going to be resigned entirely to apple encoded bit rates, I want to be able to of course enjoy the proper ‘cuts’ from my collection on vinyl.

    I read lots of reviews about Audio Technica being superb in the kind of price range that I’m looking at to get started. However, I’ve read some reviews also saying how they found the wow and flutter of ‘only’ 0.25% audibly noticeable (apparently it is to the trained ear). Also, stability issues from even the slightest knock have been some minor critique aswell, though reviews seem to trend very highly, particularly for the models AT-LP120 and AT-LP5 (especially regarding pickup).

    I am, however, leaning towards a model by Onkyo. I just don’t know really what is best. The downsides I’ve read about it seem to be regarding the pickup being a passable but quite basic Audio Technica one. Basically, I’ve no idea what is best so, thought i’d ask here. Most reviews i’m reading of the Onkyo give high praise on stability and being a good product in the <£300 price range (I don't want to spend over £300 at the moment tbh). Some comments i've read say its worth upgrading the pickup immediately to an AT-95E. If I do go for the Onkyo then adding that on gets me to my £300 limit. Amp and speakers I think I will have to go to richer sounds and see what deals they have. Overall budget is to try and keep everything under £600. Tough task probably!

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      28th December 2018 at 3:05 pm

      Hi Stuart – thanks for you kind comments. Before I launch into my reply, what are your priorities? Vinyl sound quality? The ability to ‘rip’ vinyl to computer files? Something else? Are you looking at streaming, etc, or just a pure vinyl player? What do you want from your system?

  • Reply
    Stuart Foster
    28th December 2018 at 10:49 pm

    Thanks in advance for taking the time Paul, appreciate it…
    Chiefly, I want it to sound good. Being able to rip to computer would be an added bonus but its not really something high on the agenda at all In fact, top of my priorities I would say is the lowest possible wow and flutter (I am worried about this part of the package, but possibly more so than I should?) and a player where I at least have the ability or potential to put different cartridges and such on.. I want something that can last me a while too.

    I think I changed my mind about the Onkyo model actually. I have read some other reviews and comments that said how poor the quality of the tonearm is, and the supplied cartridge. From what I analysed since, the Onyko model has leaned too far in the style direction and made sacrifices on some things that I believe I would have a problem with- for me a player looking good is most certainly the least important aspect.

    As I sit here now I have pretty much narrowed things down to a few, but with one other pause for thought that a mate of mine teased my mind with yesterday. At this moment I think the Audio Technica AT-LP5 and the Pro-ject Debut Carbon are firm favourites. The Rega Planar 1 coming in third. I do have some doubts about each of these I think. The worst thing said about the AT-LP5 seems to be that it can be “quite bright”. I wasn’t 100% sure what this meant…not enough bass and too much treble is what I assumed, but if I am wrong then I will need that explained to me?! However, almost all reviewers of the AT-LP5 are most impressed with it barring nit-picking…which in my price range most probably is the case.

    The Pro-ject debut I can’t really see any fault with, the cartridge is a 2M red Ortofon I see, which is probably the best cart I could get supplied with a TT in this price range I think? Only thing of concern would be the fact the speakers would be sitting either next to or behind the player, I don’t know how that would be in terms of vibration and whether the unit would be stable enough to withstand cranking up the volume. The Rega I guess I would have similar concerns. The AT-LP being more gutsy (twice the weight of each of those almost) seems more like the ideal choice..but it niggles me this thing about it being “bright”?

    Last part now (sorry again!). The pause for thought that was brought to my attention was the matter of what I was spending on the amp/speakers. A mate of mine used to be a DJ and he thinks I should spend a bit more on a TT to get the best possible model that say £400 buys and then spend £200 on active speakers. He thinks there’s more chance I’d be disappointed buying a cheaper/lower budget TT than if I got a better/more expensive one with less of my budget spent on the amp/speaker setup. He thinks my priority should be the best possible TT that my budget can stretch which has a built in preamp, with enough money to then get an active speaker to get me going. He said I would potentially regret having to change TT within 12-18 months and believes it’d be better if my future concern was a new amp/speakers than a new TT. He did point me to a different model I should add which initially sent a shiver down my spine …it was the AT-LP1240. It is retailing at just under £400 in a couple of places. He swears to me that it would be a lot better than spending £250 on some of the ones I am looking at.

    I’ll leave it there and await your wise words of advice.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      29th December 2018 at 6:18 pm

      Hi Stuart – if sound quality is a priority then I would leave the LP5. It’s a nice deck and offers useful ‘toys’ within if you need them but, if sound is the priority then these toys infect the delicate turntable engineering with electrical noise. The root of the bright sound you mentioned.
      The Carbon is also a fine deck. It is much more superior in terms of sound quality. For the latter, though, I’d have to say that the latest incarnation of the Rega Planar 1 is the best budget option currently on the market: https://theaudiophileman.com/planar-1/
      That’s around £250. Another £200 would give you a Cambridge Topaz AM10: https://www.cambridgeaudio.com/gbr/en/products/hifi-and-home-cinema/topaz-am10
      This has a built in phono amplifier. Your next upgrade is an external model. The Rega Fono is a good buy at around £90.
      Speakers? I’d go for the Q Acoustics 3020i at £249 (a bit over your budget but worth it) or buy the slightly older 3020 speakers which you may find on a deal elsewhere.
      Your friend is right in that the turntable is the most important part of an analogue chain but not at the price of a balanced hi-fi chain. Buying powered speakers means forcing the amp into the speaker chassis. That amp is never as good a quality as a separate model and then you also get that electrical noise infection I mentioned above.
      I hope this helps 🙂

  • Reply
    Stuart Foster
    30th December 2018 at 3:33 am

    Really great cheers Paul…
    The Cambridge Audio amp is £179 on Richer Sounds, and the Q Acoustics 3020i are actually on a New Year sale at £189 in the same store. Looks good to me. That Planar 1 does look like a damn fine player. At last, my mind is no longer foggy. Have a happy New Year btw ad thanks again 🙂

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      30th December 2018 at 7:48 pm

      Glad I could help you in your vinyl need, Stuart 🙂

  • Reply
    Emma Jeavons
    2nd January 2019 at 3:34 pm

    Hi Paul,
    Great article, thanks! Complete newbie here looking to purchase for a partner’s 30th in a few months.
    Can you recommend, if i purchase the Rega PLanar 1 turntable, a powered speaker that saves on cost and space of a separate amplifier? Thanks 🙂

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      3rd January 2019 at 11:54 am

      Thanks for your question Emma. Yes, you’re spot on, in terms of space and price. A powered speaker combines the speaker bit and the amplifier bit in one box. A Rega Planar 1 is an ideal choice too. There’s plenty to choose from, the more expensive, the better in terms of sonic performance (in general terms). One thing you’ll need at some point is a phono amplifier. This is a separate thing, a bit specialist. What this box does is to amplify the tiny signal coming from the stylus on your turntable. The main amp can’t handle it. Sometimes you’ll find a phono amp in a bigger amp (look at the rear for the Phono connections), sometimes there will be one in a set of powered speakers, there are also plenty of external models in their own chassis. Generally speaking? The external models offer better sound. And this is another thing you might want to consider, the downside to cramming the amp in the speakers (to form that powered speaker) is a lowering of sound quality. It’ll still sounds very nice and there’s nothing wrong with that, don’t get me wrong, but an external amp sounds better. Depends how picky you/your partner is, I suppose. 🙂

  • Reply
    Arthur Kiwacz
    2nd February 2019 at 1:14 am

    Hi Paul,
    Thank you for that awesome article! I also would like to command you for answering all these questions, you just don’t see that these days anymore, it really shows you’re doing this out of true passion. I wanted to ask a question as well, of course 😉 My current set up is B&W CM10 S2 and Hegel H160 amp. I’m trying to get a 1-2k turntable and have a hard time deciding between Rega RP3 or RP6, VPI Prime Scout and LSD. What would you recommend for me given I have no prior experience with turntables but have a good ear 😉 Thank you.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      2nd February 2019 at 9:53 am

      Well that’s very nice of you to say so, Arthur. Thank you 🙂

      As for the turntable, I’d always advise that you get the best you can afford. Hence, the Planar 6 is better than the Planar 3 so I’d leave the latter, for example. LSD is a top quality design and highly recommend but a more expensive FX3 arm is the one for me – that pushes your budget ever higher though. Of that bunch, I’d go for the VPI. It’s solid, easy to set up, easy to use for a beginner, good support and sounds great. I’m sure you’ve seen it but, in case, here’s the review link: https://theaudiophileman.com/prime-scout-vpi-turntable-review/

  • Reply
    Gonzalo
    8th February 2019 at 8:16 am

    Hi Paul,
    First of all thank you for all your great work, I find it very useful!
    I am about to start my own set up and after reading your reviews and this fantastic guide some doubts have raised.
    Turntable – I was thinking about the fluance RT81 or RT82, what do you think about them? should I go with the RP1 instead?
    Amplifier – I had no clue what to go with, so I guess I would follow your advice with the Cambridge Topaz AM10.
    Speakers – I don’t have much space, and I was considering the Yamaha HS8 on a stand.
    What do you think?
    Thanks again!
    Gonzalo

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      8th February 2019 at 9:55 am

      Thanks for your question, Gonzalo. Fluance did promise to send me their turntables for review but I’m still waiting 🙂 So, I’ll have to reserve judgement until they finally arrive. I’d go for the Rega.
      Finding a decent amp for that rock bottom price is tough, very tough. The AM10 is pretty solid for £200.
      Speakers? The Q Acoustic 3020i sound better: https://theaudiophileman.com/3020i-q-acoustics-speakers-review/ These need to be stand mounted too, though.

  • Reply
    Jacob
    8th March 2019 at 2:33 pm

    Hi Paul,

    First of all thank you so much for the guide. I was wondering the internet to buy my first turntable, you have definitely convinced me to really not buy a cheap turntable.
    So basically I am now deciding on what to buy and would love some extra advice. I hope you find the time to respond.

    I currently have Audioengine a5+ speakers and I am looking for something to connect to these speakers. I still like them after owning them ffor about 6 years. As a student on quitte a budget, actually would like to limit it to around 200 euro… But actually I like to make a ‘lifetime’, say 10 year, investment so if have to spend a little more to get something really better I wouldn’t mind. Currently I am unable to make a decision.

    Currently having trouble choosing between Pro-ject Primary, Raga Planar 1 and a second hand beocenter.
    Pro-ject primary seems to sell a lot of different versions these days, which one would you recommend for my speakers?
    Raga Planar 1 goes for like 370 euro here in holland, quite a bit above my budget.
    A second hand fully revised beocenter 2000 I found online including two Beovox S4500 speakers for 250 euro.

    Probably I haven’t given you enough information, but I would be pleased to hear your ideas and opinion. Ofcourse if you have any other options feel free to write them down too!

    Kind regards,

    Jacob

  • Reply
    Jacob
    8th March 2019 at 3:49 pm

    Hi Paul,

    Wow you are quick with a response! Thanks for all the information. I was looking it over for a bit:
    I am leaning towards an “all in one” solution.
    It will cost me 219.
    Or the other solutions that will cost me 169 TT + 30-40 cable + 50-60 amp = 249-269

    Basically you are saying to spend another 50 ish, its not much, but its hard see how much I will gain in sound performance here.
    (Also I dislike the cables going everywhere, but that’s a personal thing)
    Is the internal phono that bad that I should look for an external one?
    Is it for example possible to connect one to the “all in one” version later?(could really find it out)
    Maybe the pre-amped version is just a (very) good start and later if I really have developed my vinyl collection go for something better, or is that a crazy idea?

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      8th March 2019 at 4:20 pm

      Hi Jacob – it depends on your priorities and what you want from your music. Hi-Fi is a fickle thing. Components really like to be separated from each other. The more products you bundle, the more electrical cross contamination noise they produce and the greater the veil that’s draped over the sound quality. So, isolating one box from another is a good thing – hence the reason a separate phono amp is better. More than that, the quality of the components in a separate product tends to be higher too.

      That said, a built-in phono amp reduces costs, offers a smaller footprint, is less hassle and is quicker to get up and running. Don’t forget that you can upgrade later too, if you wish. You’re not ‘stuck’. There is no right or wrong answer to this. Just what fits you and your lifestyle.

  • Reply
    Jacob
    8th March 2019 at 7:44 pm

    Thanks again for your great answer.
    I will go for the project with the amp build in.
    Sorry for asking again. But I can also connect a phono amp to this one, the one with the amp build in, later if I would like/want to?

  • Reply
    Richard Kennedy
    15th April 2019 at 12:40 am

    HI Paul. I,am old school. I have a Pioneer SX 950 amp and Advent speakers. I have 2 turn tables a Audio Technica 120 that seems to have tracking issues. The other is a Lex Man PL 100 that is a great turntable. I am looking for a new turn table. Rega Planar may be what I want but, the more I read the more confused I get.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      15th April 2019 at 10:41 am

      Hi Richard – hopefully I can help just a bit. How much are you looking to spend?

  • Reply
    gary rohrbouck
    29th October 2019 at 7:22 pm

    Thoroughly enjoyed your article, thank you! Just need a little help. I have KHorn speakers, a Frenzel tube amp and a Marantz 6110 with the original QLM 32 MKiii cartridge. What is good upgrade replacement cartridge?

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      30th October 2019 at 12:49 pm

      Hi Gary – I would look either at a Goldring E3 at £100. Any more than that and I’d recommend looking at a better quality turntable.

  • Reply
    Peter
    3rd November 2019 at 4:59 pm

    What a great article – I see from the dates on the commentary that it’s been around for some years, but no matter. Glad to see the Pro-ject Primary in the recommendations, of which I have one, rececntly acquired. This may seem strange to all of you out there in Rigby-Land, but I replaced my venerable old Thorens TD160 with the Pro-Ject. Seemingly a step or two down, but not really … the Pro-Ject plays records, pure and simple, which is all we ask of a turntable/cartridge, and it does so very well. I suppose my ears (I’ in my early 70s) may not be good enough to tell the difference. The Thorens (various models) are excellent ‘tables, but tend to be a bit “fiddly” in my view.. I needed to simplify.

    Another thing: Paul, you perhaps should emphasize more the importance of a component table being part of a system, which is only as strong as its weakest link. I used to sell audio many turns around the sun ago, and we always stressed the importance of matching components. I know, theoretically any component system can accommodate any part, but (although I don’t disagree with your general rule of the turntable -> amplifier -> speakers hierarchy), I submit that the speakers (what you hear) are at least as important as the source and should be carefully chosen to match the power of the amp and your listening room acoustics. To say (as someone did recently) that Mission Model XXX speakers are crap, or some such generalization is simply silly – we used to sell Missions at the little shop I worked in, and we found they were a fit for many customers. Similarly, choosing a ‘table can be just as individual. The source and the speakers / what you hear, in other words – the yin and yang.

    Thanks for all your good advice.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      4th November 2019 at 9:47 am

      Thanks for all your thoughts, Peter. Yes, this one has been around a bit but I update it and it remains popular so I push the updated version out now and again. This piece is a bit niche – turntables only – but I take your point re. systems. See my recently posted budget vinyl system, YouTube video for more on that. The issue with buyer’s guides is that you really need to post around 150 of the things before you start to cover all of the basics 🙂

  • Reply
    Vancouver Turntables
    11th November 2019 at 10:18 am

    There are various things which you need to look for turntable before buying it as you need to look its sound quality which are most important factor while choosing it beside this you will also be require to check space whether it is compatible to you or not and then only choose it.

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