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#1963 - 03/07/02 10:31 PM Alan ,do you have any suggestions on turntables?
duff Offline
old hand

Registered: 01/12/02
Posts: 71
I'm curious if you ever did any test or comparisions between different turntables. I've been looking at the Rega 3 and the Music Hall 5. I have not had the chance to hear either yet. Really curious to know if one is better than the other, and if so why?Any input by you or anyone would be appreciated.


Edited by duff (03/07/02 10:34 PM)

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#1964 - 03/10/02 03:16 PM Re: Alan ,do you have any suggestions on turntables?
alan Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 01/29/02
Posts: 3188
Loc: Toronto/New York/Dwight
Hi Duff,
Yes, I reviewed quite a few turntables but not in recent years. I can give you a few general guidelines and some specific comments on a few models. I'm not familiar at all with the Music Hall line.

Rega has been around for years, and seems to offer fair value in a simple, belt-drive turntable with a nicely designed Rega tonearm. Whether you decide on a moving-coil (MC) or moving-magnet (MM) cartridge, it's prudent to check the combo in a retail store for hum shielding. Some older Regas had poor shielding of their motors so that as you moved the tonearm towards the center grooves, the cartridge picked up AC hum from the turntable motor. This is something you can check in a store if a demo model is set up and working. Hum pickup is especially critical with MC cartridges. By the way, hum pickup is also a function of the cartridge's own shielding as well. Some are poorly shielded.

These comments apply to any turntable, not just Rega. Motor and cartridge shielding varies from one brand to another.

You might find a good used Linn or Ariston--both Scottish belt-drive turntables of excellent calibre. I know someone who found a used Ariston at a yard sale in Toronto for $25. It was in excellent condition. Lots of people think they'll continue to play LPs but never do and eventually get rid of their turntables.

Belt-drive turntables all generate about 0.1% wow and flutter (no matter what their manufacturers claim), which is audible on any piano recordings with long sustained piano chords. But it's only audible if you listen for it, and I don't advise you to learn how to hear wow and flutter, as I did, because then you can never listen to piano recordings again on a belt-drive turntable! The rumble figures on many belt-drive 'tables are usually about -70 dB, which is largely inaudible on most material. Direct-drive systems generally produce inaudible rumble that's barely measurable--about -80 dB or better.

The only turntables capable of playing piano recordings without audible flutter are direct-drive systems like the Technics SL-1200 or a few models from Denon. The flutter from these units typically measures about 0.01%, far less (one-tenth) than any belt-drive system. However, the integrated tonearms supplied with these models are rather massive, and only so-so. They're fine for lots of recordings but you can't align them as well as a custom tonearm in order to get the best performance from an expensive cartridge.

If you get into record collecting, you may want a turntable with a 45 rpm or 78 rpm speed capability. Not many offer this, so check it out if that's important to you. Some excellent direct-to-disc LPs were cut at 45 rpm.

But do check hum pickup no matter what model you look at.

Regards,
_________________________
Alan Lofft,
Axiom Resident Expert

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#1965 - 03/10/02 09:57 PM Re: Alan ,do you have any suggestions on turntables?
duff Offline
old hand

Registered: 01/12/02
Posts: 71
thanks for the info. What is the benefit of belt driven machines? I've noticed most higher end tables use this method.

I'm using a Bang & Olufesen beogram rx-2 right now and I'm just trying to decide if I should upgrade. I'm also looking into phono amps too, since my integrated amp does not have a phono input ( i'm using a sony receiver right now as a phono preamp from my turntble to my integrated amp).
Thanks again.


Edited by duff (03/10/02 10:02 PM)

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#1966 - 03/14/02 12:20 AM Re: Alan ,do you have any suggestions on turntables?
SurinderDhoti Offline
hobbyist

Registered: 08/06/01
Posts: 20
Hi Alan,
You may have saved me a bit of money with this thread. I picked up a Japanese direct drive turntable in perfect shape at a garage sale last summer for $20. It had an old Ortofon cartridge in it and sounded OK but it certainly wasn't much much competition for my old Sansui CD player. After I picked up my M3s I started listening again to everything I could get my hands on including all the old records. I upgraded to a new Ortofon OMB 10 and my opinion of vinyl changed in a second. Records in good shape suddenly sounded better than the CD player. The soundstage was wider, and for whatever reason music seemed to be more fun to listen to. My wife used to work for Capitol Records and she had a bunch of sealed Beatle albums. After we found out that they weren't worth a Zillion dollars, we opened some up and put them on. These songs are ingrained in the fabric of our lives, but it was as if we were really hearing them for the very first time. John Lennon sounded so alive in our room that it brought tears to our eyes. I was hooked. I started reading everything I could about turntables with the idea of moving up to something like a Rega, Pro-ject, or a used Ariston or Thorens. Everything I have read says that belt drive is the way to go and that the direct drive units channel motor noise through the platter. I have to admit that I am pretty sceptical about some of the claims made for most high-end turntables and arms. You hear the same sort of nebulous language that is present in expensive interconnect and wiring advertising. I can see a cartridge making a fairly audible difference in sound quality, but I have a great deal of trouble believing that different tonearms, if set up correctly in the first place, are going to make enough of a difference to justify spending as much on them as you would on a small car. Unfortunately I can't audition any turntables at home, so... I guess my question is: should I be happy with my good sounding but unimpressively named turntable, or should I keep looking to upgrade to one of the better-known companies out there? Also, at what price point do you stop paying for sound and start paying for snob appeal? Thanks

BTW - after hearing how poorly my old CD player sounded I borrowed a new one from a friend. The difference was astonishing.


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#1967 - 03/17/02 05:16 PM Re: Alan ,do you have any suggestions on turntables?
alan Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 01/29/02
Posts: 3188
Loc: Toronto/New York/Dwight
Hello Surinder,
Thanks for your thoughtful and articulate response. In a very general way, I'd estimate that beyond the $500 to $800 range (for a new turntable, not including the tonearm), you are into the region of rapidly diminishing sonic returns.

Cartridges can vary greatly in the smoothness of their frequency response (many moving-coil models--not all-- have a built-in high-frequency boost of 2dB to 3 dB around 12 kHz that gives them an alleged "transparency") and in their ability to track heavily modulated grooves without letting distortion rise to annoyingly high--and audible--levels. Certainly more expensive cartridges tend to track better at low tracking weights and have smoother frequency response than entry-level models. Beyond about $400, however, the improvements become largely inaudible.

Custom tonearms, properly aligned, will let you get significantly improved tracking of highly dynamic music (i.e. heavily modulated grooves) at lower tracking weights, and especially in inner grooves. That's partly a result of lower bearing friction than integrated tonearms typically exhibit, and less "mass". But, in my experience, spending more than $1,000 on a custom tonearm yields little if any sonic improvement. The one exception I would make is for a servo-controlled straight-line tracking tonearms. That design eliminates "tracking error" because the cartridge remains perfectly tangent to the groove across the entire record, which, incidentally, is the way all records are cut. The cutter head rides on a rail above the lacquer disc, traversing the disc in a straight line.

Any pivoted tonearm introduces inherent tracking error because it describes an arc as it swings across the disc. Actually, the physics of record cutting and tonearm/cartridge interaction are quite fascinating. And LP playback can sound remarkably fine--except on those torturous inner grooves, where cartridge distortion on complex material routinely rises to--brace yourself--levels of 5% to 7%! Only a few of the very best cartridges can track these inner grooves and keep distortion below 2%.

Regards,
_________________________
Alan Lofft,
Axiom Resident Expert

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#1968 - 03/21/02 06:16 PM Re: Alan ,do you have any suggestions on turntables?
BBIBH Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 01/10/02
Posts: 1043
Loc: Canada
The Rega is a good brand, it is actually recommended by Linn to people who can not afford the Linn product.

Most of the comments in this thread are interesting and somewhat correct. To build on them, I will go in another area of a table. The basic undelying principle of a turntable is that it is designed to pick up vibrations. Vibrations that can and will be reproduced as energy. Some of these vibrations may come from sources other than the record. A quality turntable setup (arm and cartridge included) will have greater attention paid to controlling the vibration created by areas outside of the record. A tonearm can twist, and that puts the needle at a different position, and the twist can cause vibrations and friction. No tonearm is error free at any point in the equation. The better models will be more stable and less likely to introduce variables.

There are some quality models produced today at decent prices - another name that has re-emerged is Sota.
_________________________
Regards,

Mike

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#1969 - 03/21/02 07:38 PM Re: Alan ,do you have any suggestions on turntables?
duff Offline
old hand

Registered: 01/12/02
Posts: 71
thanks once again for your input on this topic. I just about have all the necessary funds. it's either going to be the rega 3 or the music hall 5.
also when i saw Partyka's response in this post, and his system, i sent him a private message and asked about the monolithic phono amp. he had just received it and had good things to say about it.
i did some searching on the net and actually came across greg weaver's reference system ( he's the executive editor of stereo times) and he uses the monolithic phono amp. he also uses and reviewed the music hall 5, this turntable is part of his second system.
i emailed him and he said they work wonderful together. the phono amp is more than i planned to spend, but the music hall 5 is less than the rega 3 and it comes with a cartridge. so the final cost would be the same as if i went with the rega and a less expensive phono amp.
i'm going to take my time with this prurchase and really try to hear everything i can before i make my purchase.


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#1970 - 03/23/02 06:46 PM Re: Alan ,do you have any suggestions on turntables?
BBIBH Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 01/10/02
Posts: 1043
Loc: Canada
Well, I have not heard of the magazine or the reviewer, so I have no comment on that portion.

As for taking your time, I would suggest that a turntable is NOT an item you want to buy without listening, using, and especially not via mail order. The Rega has a decent line of arms (RB Line) but the main issue with them is they require manual height adjustment. It is not something the average audiophile will want to play with. This adjustment has a great impact on the overall sound of the table.

I have not heard the MH line, as I mentioned when I sent the link to you. Are they located close to you in NE? A visit could be a valuable way to spend a few hours if they are.
_________________________
Regards,

Mike

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