It's been a few years since I've visited this forum, due to a combination of living in apartments and not using my system much, being overall pretty satisfied with the sound, and having a relative lack of funds.
But I'm back to ponder some things on the internets, and I'm hoping you folks can help me out.
For starters, here's my current system:
Paradigm 7se Mk3
Rega Planar 3/RB300 with Sumiko Black Pearl
Airport Express, toslink into an Audio Alchemy DAC (I just upgraded to a Simaudio 100D - half price from Music Direct - but have not heard it yet because none of this is set up at the moment)
None of this stuff was terribly expensive, but I've been really happy with it. Unfussy, musical.
That being said, what I envision eventually upgrading to is a VPI Traveler, Rogue Cronus Magnum, and Maggie 1.7's. The goal is great sound on a budget, with as much stuff American-made as possible. (Because 'Merica.)
Sorry, I know this is a lot of information, and I HAVEN'T EVEN GOTTEN TO THE SUBJECT YET. I just want you to take the journey with me.
The turntable was slated to be the next upgrade, given that it's the cheapest and I still don't have much money, and because the Rega has flaws, particularly in speed accuracy, that are nagging.
It just so happens that I've been made an offer I can't refuse on a brand new Traveler, so I will probably be pulling the trigger on that very soon. (Excitement!) A turntable needs a cartridge to play music, so that will be the next thing, though I'm in no particular hurry to have the VPI ready to play, and can live with the Rega no problem until then. I just want to jump on the VPI while the offer is on the table. One option is just going with the factory-mounted Grado Prestige Gold, but based on reviews I've read, my impression is I can do much better for not a ton of money, so I'm inclined to get my own. (But do let me know if you think I'm foolish to turn down the Grado)
Options I've been pondering:
Ortofon 2M Bronze or Black
Any other suggestions?
Anyway, here's the deal: Amplifier will be the next upgrade after turntable (followed by speakers), but that may not be for some time. What I do NOT intend to do in the meantime is buy a standalone phono preamp, unless I can get a really good deal on a good one. It's sort of the icing on the cake for me, in the sense that I know it would be superior to the input on the Rega, but I'm looking to keep things simple for now, and will eventually have (from what I've read) a pretty solid built-in stage in the Rogue. Down the road, I'd be looking at a standalone stage, but it'll come last. So I'd like to get by with the Rega's input for now.
My concern is that it might not be a match for the 10x5, which I'm leaning towards. Output on the Dyna is 2.5mV, and input sensitivity on the Rega is 3.0mV. Based on my rudimentary understanding, that means the cartridge will never drive the amplifier to full rated output, even with the knob maxed. For my purposes, I don't care too much about that fact because I don't usually listen very loud, and my speakers are fairly efficient (92db, 6 ohms). I guess the question is would I need to crank the volume up enough that s/n ratio would suffer and I'd be dissatisfied with the sound. If I don't want a new phono stage, am I better off just avoiding the Dyna, or might it be dandy?
The other thing is matching performance across the system. My feeling based on reviews is I'd have to probably spend heaps on a cartridge before I truly outclassed the Traveler, so it comes down to the other equipment. My system overall is not all that resolving. I figure a mid-priced cartridge, say, $2-400, is roughly the limit of what I'd hear through it, even with the Traveler up front (or not?). However, I'd like a cartridge that can grow a bit with the other gear as it's upgraded. Let's say for the sake of argument that the budget is $700. MM or HOMC? Cartridge recommendations? Roughly where is the optimal performance/price for not completely outclassing associated equipment now, but still being respectable in the future with the new stuff?
If you read all of this, I'm impressed and I owe you a beer.