I'm looking to put together a small system for our living room to play vinyl on. I found a Dual 505 turntable with Ortofon cartridge for $125. Is this a decent turntable and a reasonable price? Anything to look out for when buying a used turntable? Really trying to pick up a decent turntable for under $200-250 which I know is really scraping the bottom of price which is why I'm looking at used gear. Also any suggestions for good, used amps and speakers to keep an eye out for?
I started with Dual TT model 1212 and was quite happy with it. I sold it and got a 1218, but do not use it now for LPs (needs cleaning and lube). I do use another one 1215 for the 78 RPM records. These Duals I have are idler-wheel driven. The 505 only has 33-1/3 and 45 RPM and is belt-driven.
In my opinion, the Dual is a good beginning, if it's in good operating condition. Some of these are several decades old and may need service to be running in top shape. Usually the lubricants are dried and need cleaning and re-lube. Next thing is the belt. It may be stretched and does not give enough torque.
Look to see if the arm lift has a working damping mechanism that slowly lowers the arm. Make sure the arm moves with very little friction. You can set the tracking force and anti-skate to zero, balance the arm (it will float horizontally), and it will move across and above the platter toward the spindle when you blow sideways on the headshell.
Of course, the cables must be working well without causing a hum. This checks that the tonearm wiring is working too.
Check out the history or specs on the Ortofon (tracking force, alignment, etc.). Especially check the condition of the stylus. Make sure it's not worn out or you will damage the LPs. The amp must have a RIAA equalized phono input to work with the magnetic cartridges, assuming the Ortofon is of that type.
You can look at this site for parts if needed: http://turntableexperts.com/. I've bought parts from them before.
If you want to spend a little more, you could check out the Rega, VPI, and see if there are any in your price range.
There are lots of used gear for amps and speakers on sites like Audiogon or eBay.
I have had 3 different Dual turntables over 10 years or so, and I thought they were good at the time. I was very ignorant on the subject then, however.
When I went to a Harmon-Kardon T60 turntable ($500) in 1981, that was a very large improvement. It functioned well until 2008, when the main bearing went south on me.
I then purchased a Music Hall MMF-2.2, which was a noticeable sonic improvement over the Harmon-Kardon.
I could not recommend a Dual turntable, because they were never very good new compared to what you can get now pretty cheap new, and besides the odds of finding one that isn't worn out in all the wrong places is very poor. Your records could wear excessively.
I recommend that you get the Thorens TD-158 from Audio Advisor for $199. You will get a brand-new turntable that is probably better than any Dual ever was when it was new. The technology has come a long way in 30 years, in the sense that pretty good technology has trickled down to low price levels.
Another possibility to consider is the Thorens TD-170EV, which is currently marked down from $650 to $299, and in addition to the very good turntable there is a built-in phono preamp. If you don't already have a phono preamp, that could be a good way to go.
A worn-out turntable can be hard on your records, and once they are damaged they are damaged.
P.S.- I have a Cambridge 340A amplifier that is very nice (like new) and would be a good deal for you; $220. You can check it out on the Cambridge website in the archive section.
Good advice. I am not familiar with the new Thorens line. But at the prices you wrote, I'd more than agree to check those out instead of fixing a Dual, as good as they were back then. Heck, I'd even may want one. I do remember the Thorens of the late '60s, which was highly regarded. I think it was a 125.