just picked up a turntable a couple of weeks ago and and have been having a blast buying LPs again.
My 'system' now is a Lenco L60 (this one is from the late 70's/early 80's, not the 50's!) , a Marantz model 2270 receiver and a pair of B&W speakers. Not a high end set up by any means but I am having fun with it for the moment.
My question is how much difference in sound does the turntable-tonearm and cartridge mainly I suppose-make? I see turntables and cartridges selling for thousands of dollars but I haven't been able to find any information about the actual benefits. I don't know what kind of cartridge is in my TT now but I don't think it's very high end-the whole thing just cost$140- but generally speaking do you think I would hear a big improvement with, say, a $100 cartridge?
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
Better tables, arms, and carts have two fundamental goals, IMHO:
1. Decrease noise
2. Increase information retrieval
As you move up, you'll generally hear fewer unwanted things (like the ticks and pops digi-ciples often cite), and much more music. Cartridges are designed to extract as much information as possible and induce the electrical current effectively. Turntables and tonearms are there to make the cartridge's job easier; The less everything resonates, and the more stable the stylus is in the groove, the more accurate and involving the music will be. This is probably a very over-simplified account, but it works for me.
When you're auditioning, I recommend listening to gear you CAN'T afford, as well as that which might be at the low end of what you're thinking of spending. That way, you'll know what the entry level has to offer, but also what is possible when the prices get prohibitive. You'll probably find a "sweet spot" in the market, where a product exists that offers an impressive amount of what the big boys do, and is also decisively better than products below it. For me, that product is the Rega P3-24, which is unfortunate because $1100 is a lot of money for me. However, it offered up a decent chunk of the Linn Sondek experience at a (*cough*) affordable price.
So, my best advice is to do a lot of listening and figure out where you want to jump off the diminishing returns curve.
Oops, I didn't completely answer your question. Regarding the $100 cartridge: This is kind of a lame answer, but the improvement you hear will depend on the quality of the table and tonearm, and also the condition of the vinyl. That being said, a better cartridge certainly wouldn't hurt. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you WILL hear an improvement, but it may not be commensurate with the investment. A good dealer can help you out here.
For your price range, I recommend the Grado Prestige series, which starts at $40 for the Black, and extends to $180 for the Gold.
I think Eric said it well. Go listen to low-priced stuff up to the ones you can't afford. Buy high enough (to get the most information from the LPs to the pre-amp) that you can afford and can reasonably justify on the "diminishing returns curve".
I started with a Dual 1212 turntable over 30 years ago. I sold it and got a higher-end Dual. Then I got a straight-line tracking turntable that was touted to be state-of-the-art then. I still use it, having made improvements to it since then, and have not gone back to a pivoted arm since.
Then the preamp must be good, or it constricts what goes to the power amp. If you use a receiver, then you likely can't separate the two signals anyway.
Anyway, happy listening and let us know how you do with your journey. Do come back with your own suggestions too.
Thanks for the replies you guys, all good advice. I guess the only way to tell is to try some different turntables/cartridges through the same pre/power amps and listen for the sonic differences.
I will probably get a new cartridge this week and see what happens-will post my findings when I do.
I have an old Technics turntable with a Grado black on it. In some ways, I like the combination better than my slightly "high-end" turntable. It's a very good cartridge for the money.
For me, a modern well made turntable and cartridge is well worth every step you can afford. A Rega, a funk Firm or a Pro-Ject are all fantastic 'tables and with a newer cartridge you will get way more out of a LP than you can imagine. Personally, I think the point of truly diminishing returns doesn't start until around $5000 for the 'table/arm/cartridge combo. That being said you can get great gear for less.
OK- so why? Think of it this way- you're retrieving microscopically small wave forms from that vinyl and converting into a signal. Anything outside that loop distorts or fails to retrieve it. A better cartridge can pick up so much more, along with very faithfully converting into the signal. The turntable needs to have a very stable and quiet motor, with an ability to absorb it's own internal vibrations as well dissipate outside interference. The arm needs to have the ability to accurately track plus deal with LP variations and lastly not introduce any of it's own bearing noise etc. Each upgrade goes farther and farther down the road in dealing with these many factors. Take a look at the thread titled Turntables under a $1000.
Now- I can't speak to how all this factors with your current setup as I've not heard it. I've used Grados for years BTW. Every time I get a more expensive one I thrilled and love all the extra music I get out of it. My 2 cents, hope it helps!
I'm just curious I mentioned this in another thread but no one addressed it. I also have an old technics turntable, SL-D2 I believe is the model. It is a direct drive model. I went to The Needle Doctor in MPLS and told the kid there that I wanted to spend about $150 on a cartridge I previously had a Grado Green I think it was, and liked it very much on the belt driven MCS table I used to have. The salesperson told me that I should stay away from Grado with a direct drive table because they tend to hum. He then directed me toward the Ortofon Super OM-10 for $69. Did he do me a disservice or was he correct about the hum issue?
He was probably right. Grados won't work on some tables.