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Buying First Vinyl Setup (Second Hand), Snake Oil Help / Advice & Suggestions - All Appreciated!
JacksonGrey
post Apr 6 2010, 18:05
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Hey everyone,

At the moment, I'm using a very poor 'Ion USB' turntable, which really doesn't cut the mustard. Fortunately for me, that's started to have some sound problems, so I have an excuse to buy a replacement. laugh.gif

I recently bought my first digital setup, and plan to connect the Ion's replacement to my Yamaha receiver. In looking at turntable reviews, though, I've become rather concerned with some of the seemingly psuedoscientific comments I've encountered.

It's fairly apparent what is and isn't snake-oil when we're discussing digital equipment, but beyond the obvious 'premium wire' nonsense, I'm unsure what to watch out for when reading turntable reviews. For instance, is there really an objective difference between the very expensive SL-1200 line and, say, the SL-1500? What sort of realistic improvement can I expect here? I really can't afford to waste money on a turntable that offers no substantive enhancement over a cheaper model. sad.gif

With all this in mind, I wonder if you guys can give me some answers to the following questions:

1) My budget is somewhere in the region of Ģ150/$230 (max). There are plenty of second-hand turntables on eBay within this price range, but they all seem similar, as do their reviews. Does anyone have experience of turntables in this price range, and if so, can you recommend any specific models? I will be using this just for listening, so no DJing, 'scratching' etc. laugh.gif

2) Is it worth buying a pre-amp separately, from the start? What is a sensible price for one? It seems hard to justify the extraordinary prices of some models, given their task appears to be fairly basic... Shouldn't even a relatively cheap one perform its function 'transparently'? unsure.gif


Any advice at all is appreciated! smile.gif

Thanks, JG.

This post has been edited by JacksonGrey: Apr 6 2010, 18:06
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analog scott
post Apr 6 2010, 19:05
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Is your budget for turntable only or is it for the whole rig with arm and cartridge? What is your budget for a preamp? What records are you planning to play? What is the rest of your system?

This post has been edited by greynol: Apr 6 2010, 19:10
Reason for edit: There's no point in quoting the entire first post in the first reply to a discussion.
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JacksonGrey
post Apr 6 2010, 19:36
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Apologies, I didn't make this clear. I need the 'whole rig', as I have nothing except this USB device right now. So that includes a cartridge etc, though I'm happy to use one bundled with a record player (for the time being), so long as it's in good condition etc.

You'll have to forgive my ignorance here, but what difference does the rest of my system/musical taste make when buying a record player? I don't want to buy a specific model that introduces colouration that might suit a particular genre, as I hope to play jazz, clasical, rock and dance music - I'm looking for the best representation of the record I can get for my budget. smile.gif

In respect to the pre-amp, I'm really not sure. As I previously raised, I'm concerned that the claimed difference in performance between reasonable second-hand units and expensive 'audiophile' ones is negligble/snake-oil. What sort of price range would you recommend for an (objectively) proficient pre-amp?

This post has been edited by JacksonGrey: Apr 6 2010, 19:38
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maggior
post Apr 6 2010, 20:33
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QUOTE (JacksonGrey @ Apr 6 2010, 13:05) *
2) Is it worth buying a pre-amp separately, from the start? What is a sensible price for one? It seems hard to justify the extraordinary prices of some models, given their task appears to be fairly basic... Shouldn't even a relatively cheap one perform its function 'transparently'? unsure.gif [/b]

Any advice at all is appreciated! smile.gif

Thanks, JG.


I recommend this device:
http://www.artproaudio.com/products.asp?ty...at=9&id=128

It is a USB audio input/output device with line-level input and output and includes a built in phono preamp. I've used this to record lps and have had great success with it. It's convenient because you don't have to connect your turntable to a receiver. It also has a knob to control the recording level and has a clipping indicator light.

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mixminus1
post Apr 6 2010, 21:03
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I just went through putting together my first vinyl playback+ripping rig a couple months ago, in about the same price range as you, and here's what I ended up with:

- Used Pioneer PL-4 direct-drive turntable: $70 w/shipping on eBay
- Shure M97xe cartridge: $80 from lpgear.com
- Shure SFG-2 stylus force gauge: $30 from lpgear.com
- Audio-Technica AT-PEQ3 phono preamp: $44 from lpgear.com

Total: $224 + ~$15 shipping

I also bought a carbon-fiber brush ($20), and ended up buying the little KAB EV-1(?) vacuum record cleaner ($170), which didn't make as big of a difference as I had hoped.

Overall, I think that setup sounds remarkably good - absolutely zero hum or rumble, and with good pressings, very clear sound, with little to no distortion. In particular, the cymbal crashes on a double 7" EP by Bowery Electric are amazingly clear...almost digital. wink.gif Of course, you can put on a different record, and get constant surface noise, horrendous inner-groove distortion, etc., etc., etc...but hey, it's vinyl. wink.gif

A couple months and about 30 records later, there is absolutely no love lost between me and vinyl (in fact, I've come to appreciate even more just how good my little $80 M-Audio USB Transit sounds), but if you want to upgrade from your ION - and you can keep your expectations realistic - I think it's absolutely possible to get surprisingly good sound for your budget.


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DVDdoug
post Apr 6 2010, 22:02
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I don't have any specific turntable recommendations, but here's what I said recently about cartridges:
QUOTE ("DVDdoug")
As a "cartridge benchmark", the Shure M97xE (Shure's best) is less than $100 USD. Shure has always made good cartridges, so I don't see any reason to spend more than that. In the old vinyl days, I was a fan of Grado cartridges, and any Grado is probably "good enough"....
And, it would be a good idea to get a new cartridge. The stylus on a used turntable might be worn (or damaged), and I think the elastomers in the stylus suspension can deteriorate with age.

You'll need some sort of preamp. If your Yamaha reciever is an older unit with a phono input, you can use the built-in preamp. (Newer receivers usually don't have phono inputs.) The phono cartridge output needs to be amplified (to line level) and it needs to be RIAA equalized. (That's what a phono preamp does.) A few turntables have built-in preamps (line-level outputs) but it's rare. And as you know, there are some turntables with digital/USB outputs.

This is analog, and there is a difference between the sound of cheap equipment and better equipment (i.e. phono cartridges). But, you hit a point of diminishing returns and no matter how high-end/audiophile you go, you're still dealing with inferior analog sound from inferior/scratchy vinyl records. (OK... Some audiophiles prefer the sound of vinyl... Not me! )

If you are digitizing records, you can do noise & click reduction. You can do more with sofware to improve/alter the sound than you will get by spending lots of money on analog hardware.

This post has been edited by DVDdoug: Apr 6 2010, 22:04
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mixminus1
post Apr 6 2010, 22:24
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QUOTE (DVDdoug @ Apr 6 2010, 14:02) *
...no matter how high-end/audiophile you go, you're still dealing with inferior analog sound from inferior/scratchy vinyl records.

Bingo - I did the vinyl "thing" just to see how "different" it was...and oh yes, it was definitely different than digital: "different" as in "really damned annoying."

Not just all the sonic issues, but the time involved in cleaning, digitizing, splitting tracks, tagging...and after all that, there was no way I was going to waste one more second trying to edit out all the ticks, pops, clicks, etc. etc...especially when virtually all of my "vinyl-only" releases from even a few years ago are now (thankfully!) available as good-quality MP3 - or even FLAC - downloads.


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JacksonGrey
post Apr 7 2010, 01:21
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Thanks a lot for your replies, guys, you've certainly given me food for thought. For clarification: I aim to plug this into my Yamaha receiver, which unfortunately lacks a built in pre-amp.

At the moment, I'm looking at some of those mid-range Technics record players from the early 1980s, perhaps in combination with a second-hand pre-amp and a new cartridge. These early 80s models seem well priced, though their reviews range from derision to praise... It's a little difficult to get an objective reading on any of them! laugh.gif

Any more advice/model suggestions are appreciated. smile.gif

This post has been edited by JacksonGrey: Apr 7 2010, 01:22
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Cavaille
post Apr 7 2010, 02:28
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QUOTE (JacksonGrey @ Apr 7 2010, 02:21) *
Thanks a lot for your replies, guys, you've certainly given me food for thought. For clarification: I aim to plug this into my Yamaha receiver, which unfortunately lacks a built in pre-amp.

At the moment, I'm looking at some of those mid-range Technics record players from the early 1980s, perhaps in combination with a second-hand pre-amp and a new cartridge. These early 80s models seem well priced, though their reviews range from derision to praise... It's a little difficult to get an objective reading on any of them! laugh.gif

Any more advice/model suggestions are appreciated. smile.gif
Itīs because most audiophiles despise a direct-drive-turntable (Technics was and is an expert on this). Without a proper reason. They simply love the ultra-expensive Linn turntable for 10000 bucks and more - it is belt-drive system, floating chassis etc. etc. Well, it may be good but I use a Grundig from the early 80s which itself is a rebagded Technics with Direct-Drive from that era. It is a wonderful turntable: robust, good sounding, indestructable, without wow and flutter, well built with an ultrastable sound. I also own a Thorens from the same era which in comparison is just horrible (and audiophiles love Thorens). The only bad thing about my Technics turntable is the pickup: itīs old and not very good (it still is the first system, only the needle was replaced a few years ago). I still have not decided on which replacement pick-up to buy for it.

When buying a turntable from the 80s make sure the tonearm is not too lightweight. That was the fashion of those days... today itīs hard to find decent pick-ups for lightweight tonearms. Also avoid the Technics turntables with a tangential tonearm - they are not as robust as the "normal" ones. Then there are Technics turntables that use a special pickup connector designed for easy installation: the system is called TP4. Avoid it because you will only find 3-5 pickup systems for it on the market. The idea was very good but sadly it went out of fashion very soon.

A Technics from the 80s will most certainly be better than your current USB-turntable (which Iīve heard myself) but donīt expect too much from Vinyl generally. It was and still is a very flawed medium.


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JacksonGrey
post Apr 7 2010, 02:41
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That's a lot of useful info, Cavaille, much appreciated. smile.gif

If you don't mind my asking, what model of Grundig do you use?
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analog scott
post Apr 7 2010, 04:04
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QUOTE (JacksonGrey @ Apr 6 2010, 20:36) *
Apologies, I didn't make this clear. I need the 'whole rig', as I have nothing except this USB device right now. So that includes a cartridge etc, though I'm happy to use one bundled with a record player (for the time being), so long as it's in good condition etc.

You'll have to forgive my ignorance here, but what difference does the rest of my system/musical taste make when buying a record player? I don't want to buy a specific model that introduces colouration that might suit a particular genre, as I hope to play jazz, clasical, rock and dance music - I'm looking for the best representation of the record I can get for my budget. smile.gif

In respect to the pre-amp, I'm really not sure. As I previously raised, I'm concerned that the claimed difference in performance between reasonable second-hand units and expensive 'audiophile' ones is negligble/snake-oil. What sort of price range would you recommend for an (objectively) proficient pre-amp?



In your price range pretty gross colorations are not a matter of choice but a matter of fact. So you *have* to make some choices in that regard. The records (not your taste in music) and your equipment could figure into a decision. Cartridges/arms/turntables require a certain level of synergy to be at their best. I would expect these factors will affect a good choice more than anything else. Looking at vinyl playback at such a budget in a vacuum is not the best choice IMO. You may find tracking to be a bigger issue and isolation depending on your records and you system than flat frequency response or speed stability or visa versa. At that price range you will find different rigs will excel at differnt things.
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cliveb
post Apr 7 2010, 09:12
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Just to throw in my two-pennyworth:

You are right to go for a secondhand turntable. New turntables in your budget range are cheap and, to be blunt, nasty.

Most people around here mention Technics, but they were not the only purveyor of decent direct drive turntables - just the only ones still in business. Back in the 1970s/80s, all the big Japanese manufacturers made "battleship" direct drives, and if you can find one it'll likely last a lifetime. Obvious brands to look for would be Denon, JVC, Pioneer, Sansui (as well as Technics, of course).

Don't dismiss belt drive - it works well if properly engineered. Look for brands such as AR, Rega, Dual, Thorens. Dual made both belt and direct drive turntables. Most of their models of both types are decent.

Don't trust the stylus on a secondhand cartridge. If you can't afford to replace the cartridge, at least fit a new stylus. And make sure the cartridge is correctly aligned with the tracking force and anti-skating properly set.

You can spend a fortune on a phono preamp. But all these "boutique" models just have their own peculiar colourations. When you consider that the signal that comes off a vinyl LP is awash in distortion and noise, all you really need from a phono preamp is *reasonable* accuracy and fairly low noise. The very cheapest ones are to be avoided, so look at things like the NAD PP2, Project Phonobox, and others in a similar price range. Unfortunately that's about a third of your budget. Maybe you can find one secondhand.

One last comment. DVDdoug says:

QUOTE (DVDdoug @ Apr 6 2010, 22:02) *
If you are digitizing records, you can do noise & click reduction. You can do more with sofware to improve/alter the sound than you will get by spending lots of money on analog hardware.

Despite the fact that I'm the author of a piece of software to assist in this process, I do have to disagree with Doug on this point. The best results when digitizing any analogue source (LP or tape) start with getting the best possible analogue signal in the first place. That's why you need to do things like clean the LP and have the turntable properly adjusted (or in the case of tape, make sure the heads are demagnetised, the azimuth matches the tape, and the playback EQ is correct). Just about the only aspect of LP transfer that is easier with software than hardware is declicking/decrackling, and a bit of broadband noise reduction. Use a bad turntable and/or a dirty LP and you'll get lots of horrible distortion, which no software is going to fix.
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southisup
post Apr 7 2010, 09:48
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Back in my vinyl days I had a Rega Planar 3, which are currently Ģ500 I think. It sounded good, but never remotely as true to the original recording as CD, when that came along. At the time, Dual turntables were usually proffered as the best budget option for sound quality.

If you want to play vinyl which contains recordings unavailable on CD or as MP3s / FLACs etc, then fair enough, get a budget turntable, but if you are collecting vinyl for nostalgia & would also like to be able to play it, then you should probably admit now that you won't be happy for long with a something cheap looking. I'm not suggesting you spend a lot of money - far from it - just that you seriously factor in looks & "feel" when making your decision. My old RP3 was recently sold on ebay for Ģ250, by a friend (more than I sold it to him for, many years ago), so things like that are probably still out of your price bracket, but good quality 1970s style decks shouldn't be. Almost anything recommended here & not contradicted by someone else will probably do, so long as you like the look of it too. Even if you spent thousands, the sound quality wouldn't come close to CD.

As mentioned by mixminus1, a carbon fibre brush is well worth having. I used to manually spin the platter backwards whilst breathing on the record & holding the brush so the fibres lightly contacted the surface. It lifted lots of dust out of the groove, reduced snap, crackle & pop, & made me feel better too.
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Cavaille
post Apr 7 2010, 10:25
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QUOTE (JacksonGrey @ Apr 7 2010, 03:41) *
If you don't mind my asking, what model of Grundig do you use?
Grundig PS 3500. There also was the PS 4500, the only difference was that the Direct-Drive was quartz controlled. Well, Iīve never missed that feature.

As for other companies building great direct drives: itīs true. Sansui, Denon, Pioneer - they would be a good choice. But try to avoid those Duals some are talking about. For sure, they are very well built and they look gorgeous but they were a victim of these ultra lightweight tonearms I already described, in fact, Dual invented that fashion. And as I said before, itīs difficult to find decent pick ups for it. Concerning belt drive / direct drive: both types of construction can be very well built and very good, itīs true. But let me tell you: the Grundig I own stood for around 7-8 years in a wet, cold cellar. When I discovered it and connected it to a power socket it still played without wow and flutter. And when it comes to Direct Drives I personally would choose a Technics built direct drive over any other. They produced the first commercially available direct drive turntable and fine tuned it over the following years, therefore they have the most experience with this system.




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JacksonGrey
post Apr 7 2010, 13:02
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Some great info here guys, thanks a lot. I'm scouring eBay right now. laugh.gif
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maggior
post Apr 7 2010, 14:45
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QUOTE (cliveb @ Apr 7 2010, 04:12) *
Obvious brands to look for would be Denon, JVC, Pioneer, Sansui (as well as Technics, of course).


My turntable is a JVC I bought new in 1987. It's seen some pretty heavy use and still works like a champ. It is direct drive.

And here it is available on eBay:
http://cgi.ebay.com/VINTAGE-TURNTABLE-JVC-...=item27af08e062

FYI, this isn't my auction - I was curious to see if my TT model was available on eBay.

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doctorcilantro
post Apr 7 2010, 16:38
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You can use a Grado with a lightweight tonearm. You may not get an 8hz resonance, but you won't be up over 11-ish given their "theoretical" compliance figure. That's why Graod always says "works best w/ a medium to heavy mass arm". I think I even had a 10hz resonance with my first homebrew airbearing using a Sonata. YMMV.

btw - I know many audiophiles who appreciate the KAB modded 1200 units. Clive makes a good point.

I haven't seen a DD table with a larger platter as we commonly see on Schue or ClearAudio tables (etc.), maybe platter size was/is a factor although no doubt the Technics could spin an 80mm platter with ease. They often want the motor offloaded but I think the 1200 rumble specs are pretty great iirc.

Don't forget that many of the new Denon or Stanton DD tables have preamps onboard so you would get a line level out.

QUOTE (Cavaille @ Apr 7 2010, 03:28) *
QUOTE (JacksonGrey @ Apr 7 2010, 02:21) *
Thanks a lot for your replies, guys, you've certainly given me food for thought. For clarification: I aim to plug this into my Yamaha receiver, which unfortunately lacks a built in pre-amp.

At the moment, I'm looking at some of those mid-range Technics record players from the early 1980s, perhaps in combination with a second-hand pre-amp and a new cartridge. These early 80s models seem well priced, though their reviews range from derision to praise... It's a little difficult to get an objective reading on any of them! laugh.gif

Any more advice/model suggestions are appreciated. smile.gif
Itīs because most audiophiles despise a direct-drive-turntable (Technics was and is an expert on this). Without a proper reason. They simply love the ultra-expensive Linn turntable for 10000 bucks and more - it is belt-drive system, floating chassis etc. etc. Well, it may be good but I use a Grundig from the early 80s which itself is a rebagded Technics with Direct-Drive from that era. It is a wonderful turntable: robust, good sounding, indestructable, without wow and flutter, well built with an ultrastable sound. I also own a Thorens from the same era which in comparison is just horrible (and audiophiles love Thorens). The only bad thing about my Technics turntable is the pickup: itīs old and not very good (it still is the first system, only the needle was replaced a few years ago). I still have not decided on which replacement pick-up to buy for it.

When buying a turntable from the 80s make sure the tonearm is not too lightweight. That was the fashion of those days... today itīs hard to find decent pick-ups for lightweight tonearms. Also avoid the Technics turntables with a tangential tonearm - they are not as robust as the "normal" ones. Then there are Technics turntables that use a special pickup connector designed for easy installation: the system is called TP4. Avoid it because you will only find 3-5 pickup systems for it on the market. The idea was very good but sadly it went out of fashion very soon.

A Technics from the 80s will most certainly be better than your current USB-turntable (which Iīve heard myself) but donīt expect too much from Vinyl generally. It was and still is a very flawed medium.


This post has been edited by doctorcilantro: Apr 7 2010, 16:44
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RonaldDumsfeld
post Apr 7 2010, 18:03
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Why make it complicated?

Buy a second hand Technics 1210.

It's by far the most readily available, DJing isn't as cool as it was so you should get a wide choice locally. Parts and advice are readily available and nowadays even old school audiophiles grudging admit it sounds as good as anything under twice the price at least. Mine are 20 years old and as good as new. If anything it sounds flat. Which is what you want.

You'll almost certainly need a new stylus so a new cartridge would make sense. I like Audio Technica & Denon.

Phono pre map? Dunno. I bought a Cambridge Audio AZUR640P which has been very well reviewed but turned out to be noisier than the one on my old mixer and the one in my receiver. If I had my choice again I would look hard at the ART range someone already mentioned.

Cannot see the point in doing much post processing. A half decent recording sounds just like the vinyl record playing. Audacity has nice 'repair' effect which fixes any obvious clicks without affecting all the file.
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JacksonGrey
post Apr 8 2010, 01:43
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Unfortunately I can't buy the SL-1210, as much as I'd like to. Given how many upgrades and replacement parts are available, it seems ideal, but it's just too far out of my budget. sad.gif

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tropicalfish
post Apr 10 2010, 23:55
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What about an A-T turntable such as this?
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/6659...ofessional.html

Or this one (pricier, comparable to the Technics 1200s from what I've read in the past.
http://www.stantondj.com/v2/prod_st150.asp

Both have built-in preamps. The A-T one is USB capable. The ST.150 feature SPDIF out.

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JacksonGrey
post Apr 16 2010, 04:47
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I like the look of both of those. There aren't many review available for either, though - does anyone here have experience with them? smile.gif
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tropicalfish
post Apr 16 2010, 05:26
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QUOTE (JacksonGrey @ Apr 15 2010, 22:47) *
I like the look of both of those. There aren't many review available for either, though - does anyone here have experience with them? smile.gif

I've seen good things about the Stanton ST.150 (and it's straight-arm variant STR8.150) on Youtube.. they're really heavy, solid, and have a ton of torque.
Here's a forum post I saw on a different site
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f7/what-defi...rntable-242907/
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cliveb
post Apr 16 2010, 08:42
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QUOTE (tropicalfish @ Apr 16 2010, 05:26) *
QUOTE (JacksonGrey @ Apr 15 2010, 22:47) *
I like the look of both of those. There aren't many review available for either, though - does anyone here have experience with them? smile.gif

I've seen good things about the Stanton ST.150 (and it's straight-arm variant STR8.150) on Youtube.. they're really heavy, solid, and have a ton of torque.
Here's a forum post I saw on a different site
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f7/what-defi...rntable-242907/

Whatever you do, DON'T buy a turntable with a straight tonearm without overhang and offset (such as the Stanton STR8.150). They are designed for DJ "scratching" and produce massive amounts of tracking distortion.

Straight arms where the headshell is angled and the stylus overhangs are fine.
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2Bdecided
post Apr 16 2010, 09:33
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http://www.kabusa.com/str8_doc.htm
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