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anax93
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Strategy to get a new system

Back when I posted my previous question, I had decided to get a Rega P3. Before the exclusive dealer had brought that where I was then based (Athens, the original one), I moved to Maryland! (I wonder if he ever did... Talking about monopolies...) And now I don't have my old speakers and amplifier with me. Sure enough, there is a dealer nearby where I can get the Rega - but what about the rest? I have no idea what is happening in that part of the market, and I don't know what brands to look for. So...

I am wondering if listening to amp/turntable/speaker combinations in a store will actually be helpful, since those places are set up to sound great anyway (unlike my humble wooden, creaky appartment).

What's an amp that would go well with that turntable?

Given the poor listening conditions at home (that includes regular neighbor noise), I even thought of just buying... headphones, or just some respectable computer speakers. I can't believe I'm even saying this, but is it at all realistic? - or will I be wasting my money on a Rega if I'm going to be listening without speakers?

Thanks for any feedback.

judicata
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Re: Strategy to get a new system

Get an amp based on the speakers. I live in an apartment and I'm happy with some good bookshelf speakers and a decent amp.

You can get a great headphone setup, especially with a good headphone amp. If you're willing to spend closer to $1,000, it will sound really, really sweet.

For the love of all that is pure and holy, stay away from "computer speakers."

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Strategy to get a new system

I think I would look in another direction...meaning, what cartridge do you have your eye on and at what price point? IMHO it makes little sense to decide on a TT and then based on the price of such means a compromise on the cart. The cartridge and phono preamp will a deciding factor on the overall sound quality, considering that the rest of your system will be cut from the same cloth.

A recommendation of a good pair of cans and a headphone amp may be a wise choice to start. A set of AKG 701, 601, or Sennheiser 600 or 650's is hard for a under $1K set of speakers to match.

I am still questioning the logic of the Rega P1 at the $400 pricepoint, and I am a huge Rega fan. The fact that MF found reason to recommend, or prefer, one Rega cart over the other is reason that the cartredge needs to be more of a consideration. The cheaper cartridge was holding back the overall performance of the P3-24. I might submit that it might? make more sense to buy a $900 ClearAudio cart and put it on a $100 Stanton T-50X than a $100 cart on a P3-24 if you have a $1k pricepoint to reach. This is a match that I am considering making and see if I am right and makes any sense. That is the problem I have with the P1. The pitch instability is a major deal to me.

anax93
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Re: Strategy to get a new system

Thanks for the input!

Sounds interesting that headphones can actually be so good! So I am thinking to go in that direction.

Jim- I was not considering the P1, rather the P3-24 with Elys. Those two should be a good match?

In any case, I'll go listen to some gear to get a better feel for how things sound and what price range this corresponds to. I am looking at around $2000, but I am not sure this will get me an amplifier to match headphones and turntable. This is not an absolute upper limit, but I'll need to be able to hear the difference to justify paying more.

I was also thinking about record cleaning machines, as some of my vinul is pretty cruddy, but this may have to wait.

judicata
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Re: Strategy to get a new system

If you're focusing on headphones, the headphone amp is probably more important (well, at least as important) as the amp. Which headphone amp you get depends on your preferred headphones. For example, people rave about the WooAudion WA6 and the AKG K701 combo. I've been eyeing the WA6 for mine. The only reason I haven't just grabbed the headphone amp, is because the 'phones already sound great just getting power from my integrated amp. I guess I am exercising some delayed gratification.

anax93
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Re: Strategy to get a new system


Quote:
If you're focusing on headphones, the headphone amp is probably more important (well, at least as important) as the amp. Which headphone amp you get depends on your preferred headphones. For example, people rave about the WooAudion WA6 and the AKG K701 combo. I've been eyeing the WA6 for mine. The only reason I haven't just grabbed the headphone amp, is because the 'phones already sound great just getting power from my integrated amp. I guess I am exercising some delayed gratification.

Thanks - And which would that integrated amp (ie yours) happen to be? Sounds like I might delay getting the headphones amp?

judicata
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Re: Strategy to get a new system

I have the rather modest Marantz PM7001, but I wouldn't totally base your decision on my report - I have not compared how the headphones sound coming out of any other amp (I'm pretty new to this). I have heard that NAD amps have great headphone outputs as well. It seemed that the headphones needed about 100 hours on them to sound less harsh.

My strategy was to get an amp with a decent headphone out and save up for the headphone amp. I'm in a nice little position where I'm happy with the sound I'm getting, but looking forward to the headphone amp.

head-fi.org has some great info on this stuff.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Strategy to get a new system

The more I thought about your post I became curious...have you considered the Marantz TT package? I think I might. Look at MF review before you jump...just so you might not have buyer's remorse.

Regards,

anax93
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Re: Strategy to get a new system

Hey, Jim, this was something!

Taking your lead, I found this
amazon review (of all places!)

An extremely detailed review, which now has got me thinking, is this too good to be true? Sounds like total value for money! I almost ordered the thing on-line.

Although Marantz somehow doesn't sound "serious" enough (prejudice, I know) it's really a Clearaudio, but if there is anything to this review, I'll have to think a lot about this. Hopefully not for three years like this reviewer.

anax93
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Dealer experience

So I finally made it to the dealer. I thus managed to listen to a Rega P-3-24 and a VPI Scout. Nothing else was available without prior arrangement. I am fairly confused now, and I think it's ... the dealer's fault!

Don't get me wrong. I was happy to finally have some real listening experience. I listened to the same record with both turntables (though different amps and speakers were used). This was some pretty demanding chamber music, given to me by a friend who seems happy to give me for free any of her late brother's records. But I noticed that with the Rega, surface noise was not fully decoupled from volume! What I mean here is that, when there was a sudden "bang" in the music, there were lots of cracks and pops, clearly correlating with music intensity. I could also call this "distortion" . Very unpleasant.

With the VPI this effect was totally absent. Indeed, I felt there was clearly less surface noise.

But I doubt this was a fair comparison. The dealer said that the "Rega may not be properly set up". I'd say, why use it with a customer then? Maybe to promote the VPI? However, I preferred the sound coming from the amp and speakers set up with the Rega. Great stereo image. It doesn't matter what the amp and speakers are really because they cost up in the tens of thousands, so I'd never go for them. With the VPI setup the sound was extremely harsh. Indeed, I told the dealer I thought this was not even stereo, but he insisted I just didn't like those electrostatic speakers.

Both tables seems pretty well isolated to me, so I don't know what to say. I asked if we could arrange for me to listen to the tables with some headphones, and this can be done. I will also ask to listen to the Marantz TT-15S1.

But this guy just seemed to be a bit too relaxed... For one thing he didn't ask how much I was planning to spend - and seemed to think I could spend just about anything, since I walked into a high-end store. He is not one of the owners, so maybe I should try to meet someone else next time?

Amps and speakers aside, I find it hard to believe a properly set up Rega could not deal with the problem described. The VPI was just amazing in comparison. Could this be a genuine difference?

Apart from this, I liked

dcstep
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Re: Dealer experience

Did they have the same cartridge?? Generally a better cartridge will have a higher resonant frequency and sound quieter than a lesser cartridge. (Generally, but not always, the designer tries to lower the moving mass and raise the resonant frequency as cartridges get more expensive). It's next to impossible to compare turntables when the same cartridge isn't properly setup in both.

Dave

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Strategy to get a new system

You will now find yourself trapped in the "if I just spend a little more" dilema. We have all been there and done that.

The VPI at $1800 is an excellent buy, but then I would suggest you look at the prepackaged Music Hall 9.1 just to further muddy the water. Now we're doubling the price of the P3-24 and, yes, many things are possible...and the ultimate rub of highend audio...pay more and usually get more.

I would still want to see and hear the Marantz TT before I put my money down. Remember to keep repeating to yourself, "I am having fun. I am having fun. "

If you start looking like Rev. Jim from the old comedy show Taxi, you've gone too far!

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Re: Strategy to get a new system

i second what DC said. i am breaking in a new moving magnet aurum beta s cartridge from clearaudio in place of a benz silver high output moving coil.
the difference in the surface noise is astounding. the new cartridge lists for exactly twice the cost of the old. last night, i started pulling out albums that i thought were really shot - you know the type, had them since the halcion days of drunken frat parties in college, played on too many techniques turn tables. incredible.
also, may i suggest when you are comparison listening, also listen for small details in the music and bring some of your own albums if you have any that you are very familiar with. for example, in pink floyd's "wish you were here", in the intro, someone lets go with a nasty, phlegmy cough - not nice to think about, but how real does it sound - does he just have a little cough or is he about to hurl up a lung? funny, but there is some truth to it. try to get them to move the tables to a system that most closely approximates what you have. if your budget is $2,000, i would spend more on the table and less on the cart, you can upgrade later. there are a lot of good tables between the price of the p3 and the scout, p5 maybe since the carry rega.
good luck

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Re: Dealer experience


Quote:
Did they have the same cartridge?? Generally a better cartridge will have a higher resonant frequency and sound quieter than a lesser cartridge. (Generally, but not always, the designer tries to lower the moving mass and raise the resonant frequency as cartridges get more expensive). It's next to impossible to compare turntables when the same cartridge isn't properly setup in both.

Dave

No, they certainly didn't. They were just their two ad hoc setups. The Rega had Elys and the VPI had a Benz Micro - not sure which. I'd have to explicitly demand a particular combination and make an appointment, which I can do - except I am not terribly sure what to ask for! See my next posting...

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Re: Strategy to get a new system

Thanks for these suggestions, Jim! They can certainly get all of these for me to listen to. And, yes, I will spend a little more, if I can hear the difference, particularly if it such an annoying difference. I am the prospective owner of 500+ LPs which belonged to a local friend's late brother. The selection is amazing ranging from classical to jazz to whatever you can imagine!

My real problem now is shifting towards the amp selection. For a long time I was hooked on the turntable aspect of things. This is partly due to the fact that I have an old amp/preamp set. This is now on another continent, and it's probably simpler to get a new one on this one! From my little research, I discovered the highly praised Primalunas. The most modest one (prologue 1) seems to be pretty good, and decently priced at $1375 as well. I should perhaps say I started with a $2000 budget, which is now an "approximately $3000" budget. So an amp like this, with one of these turntables, plus a phono stage, and headphones, should keep me around that mark (on the upper side of it really!). However, I can't get the Primaluna from this dealer - and he is sure to hook everything on some $8000 dollar amp system. So, any suggestions on that side would be appreciated!


Quote:
You will now find yourself trapped in the "if I just spend a little more" dilema. We have all been there and done that.

The VPI at $1800 is an excellent buy, but then I would suggest you look at the prepackaged Music Hall 9.1 just to further muddy the water. Now we're doubling the price of the P3-24 and, yes, many things are possible...and the ultimate rub of highend audio...pay more and usually get more.

I would still want to see and hear the Marantz TT before I put my money down. Remember to keep repeating to yourself, "I am having fun. I am having fun. "

If you start looking like Rev. Jim from the old comedy show Taxi, you've gone too far!

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Re: Dealer experience

Changing cartridges is a royal pain in the butt, so most dealers are reluctant to do that, but it never hurts to ask. It's fair, particularly if your very likely to do some business with this particular dealer. This is why you use a bricks and mortor retailer. Please don't have him do all this demo and then buy mail order. If you don't like what you hear and then go elsewhere, then that's fair, but if you have him do all the work and buy elsewhere, that's not fair, IMHO.

Dave

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Re: Dealer experience


Quote:
Changing cartridges is a royal pain in the butt, so most dealers are reluctant to do that, but it never hurts to ask. It's fair, particularly if your very likely to do some business with this particular dealer. This is why you use a bricks and mortor retailer. Please don't have him do all this demo and then buy mail order. If you don't like what you hear and then go elsewhere, then that's fair, but if you have him do all the work and buy elsewhere, that's not fair, IMHO.

Dave

I agree, and also think it's not clever to do so! After all, I don't see any price differences, eg on-line, I am distrustful of used equipment, and also of having to do all the setting up! I recently read that the Marantz TT15S1, comes completely dissassembled for example! The problem I have with this dealer, at least the person I talked to, is that he doesn't "talk money"! And this is A LOT of money, which I need to feel is justified for my ears. So, I need to make this clear, and if, after all, my ears cannot be satisfied with anything around $3,000 (and this includes amplifier, turntable, arm, cartridge, headphones, phono-stage) then I probably shouldn't buy.

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Update


Quote:
You will now find yourself trapped in the "if I just spend a little more" dilema. We have all been there and done that.

The VPI at $1800 is an excellent buy, but then I would suggest you look at the prepackaged Music Hall 9.1 just to further muddy the water. Now we're doubling the price of the P3-24 and, yes, many things are possible...and the ultimate rub of highend audio...pay more and usually get more.

I would still want to see and hear the Marantz TT before I put my money down. Remember to keep repeating to yourself, "I am having fun. I am having fun. "

If you start looking like Rev. Jim from the old comedy show Taxi, you've gone too far!

So yes, it happened. The Rev. Jim thing I mean. I'm now disgruntled. And, yes, I'm facing a dilemma, but it's in the opposite direction. "If I just spend a lot less"...

The dealer that would set up all sorts of tables for me, well, he won't. So you listen to the VPI scout, you listen to the Rega P-3 and you choose. I really wanted to listen to that Marantz TT, but there's no way.

Turns out, I found another dealer further out. I payed him a visit - he's a hardcore Clearaudio promoter. So be it. I listened to three tables there. One of them cost a full $15,000 (that's more than my car). As much as I tried, I couldn't hear the difference from the $5,000 one. Don't get me wrong, but I have a degree in music and I'm classically trained. I *should* be able to "get it". OK, *maybe* there was "something" there (that's a big maybe), but I'd really need a blind test for that, and this "something" is definitely not worth paying $10,000 more. The third table was cheaper and the difference I could tell was due to the tubed amplifier (according to the demonstrator). Really no difference attributable to the table+cartridge again.

So... It is impossible to listen to many tables and to compare them with the same cartridge. It is impossible to listen to the same table with different amps and preamps. It is impossible to know if the effect I described in earlier posts (distortion at high volumes) is due to the system or the recording (although I *think* the VPI was dealing pretty well with that - but the overall sound was awful, extremely clinical, which was attributed to the speakers, yes, by the demonstrators again). Seems to me I have to buy blind. Clearly, the dealers I've met are interested in people who have money to burn, not to those who want to make an informed choice.

Well, if I have to buy blind, I'll go for cheap. After all, I consider many of my records to be "shot". I cannot assume that more money will magically make them new - I need to hear the proof of that, and that is not happening. What this cheap gear I'm buying is going to be I don't know. Perhaps a cheap Pro-ject. As for amplifier, I have no idea. I'll just keep the whole thing below $1,500, as I am extremely distrustful now. If anybody can make suggestions on turntable-amplifier combinations within this range, I'll roll my dice and get one.

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Re: Update

pana: sorry to hear about your unsatisfactory experience trying to buy a TT. you are correct that it is difficult to know what you will get until you get it home. however, i think you can hear differences if the dealer will use the same rack of equipment and just switch tables. are you saying that none of them would do this even when the table was set up and only needed to be moved? that is bad service and in this economy, shocking. once you get over that, you have to deal with the different cartridges and their effect. when you describe what you like in the way of sound to your dealer, he should be able to point you to a cartridge. he should also be able to describe in general terms the strengths of the various tables he carries. maybe the would send you home with a demo to try in your system, you should ask. or offer a buy-back if you are not happy. i would expect some creativity in these times. if your local dealers are not trying very hard to address your needs, i suggest that they will not be there in the next 18 months to 2 years, therefore, not buying from that type of dealer will only hasten the inevitable. if you are in the dc metro area, you must have some choices available within an hour or 2.
when i bought my current table, the dealer had a rega p2 and an nottingham on display on the same rack and speakers. i liked the p2 and loved the nottingham, but cheaped out and got the rega. i was back for a nottingham in about a year and the dealer sold my rega on audiogon for me. if you find one that you love when you hear it, get it. the nott by the way - killer sound. when i take my next step, it will be up the nott food chain.

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Re: Update

Hey, I don't blame you. After you've spent a lot of time with a turntable, I think you'll be able to detect TT differences better. In my case, I just grabbed a Rega P2, and a sub-$100 cart and off I went. From there, I started identifying things in the sound I didn't like and addressed them accordingly (new phono pre, new cartridge). I now believe I can hear qualities of the TT that I'd like to change, but not yet enough for me to grab another one. Anyhow, it isn't a terrible approach, as long as you're willing to figure things out as you go.

linden518
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Re: Update

Sorry to hear that. If I had $1500, I'd spring for these at $1190, used on Audiogon.

http://www.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/cls.pl?anlgtabl&1232202316&/Bluenote-BellaVista-Turntable-

Bluenote TTs almost never show up, and I used to sweat these pretty hard before I got my TT, when I started looking.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Update

Even with the extra $400 for the Rega arm that is one nice table. Then you can agonize over the cart. That looks like a great value.

What makes the Marantz table attractive is the cartridge bundled with the table. That is why I think MF liked it so much. It is alot of great sound for little money, just as the new MMF 9.1 is, but it is over $2K.

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Re: Update


Quote:
Even with the extra $400 for the Rega arm that is one nice table. Then you can agonize over the cart. That looks like a great value.


Not to mention fantastic upgradability. I know a guy who has a Origin Live Encounter arm on it with Allaerts cart, and just loves it to death. He's had mega-buck TTs, but he doesn't feel Bellavista/Encounter/Allaerts isn't a downgrade at all.

And the Marantz package is a hard deal to refuse, w/ Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood included in the package. Enough said!

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TT15S1 and?

OK, so I'm sold on the Marantz TT15S1. I really prefer a new turntable, and everybody is raving about this cartridge. Too bad I can't actually listen to it, but I think listening and choosing is mostly unrealistic these days.

I've been trying to locate a decent amplifier for this one, and obviously my budget just bounced upwards to around $3,000. I'd really like to get an integrated with both a good (and I mean good) built-in phono stage and a good (and again I mean good) headphones jack. I'd be happy to get a used one, but this combination appears to be next to impossible! For instance,

Rega Brio: good phono stage, no headphone jack
Portal Panache: good headphone jack, no phono stage
Musical Fidelity A1, A5: sometimes with phono stage, no headphone jack.

I'd also like to avoid massive, heavy things. My space is limited and I'm not going to be using speakers at all to begin with, although I will be getting them later.

Is there such an integrated after all? Call me lazy, but I'd like to avoid as many extra connections as possible. On the other hand, I could compromise with one of the above, say, and getting the separate equipment. Not that I know which...

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Re: TT15S1 and?

I think budget integrateds from Outlaw, Marantz and Onkyo have both phono input and headphone-out, but with that sweet-ass budget, forget that route. Here's the plan - get this used Plinius 8150 for $1200 on 'Gon... the 8150 rarely comes up on Audiogon. It sounds better than the newer Plinius models, and at 150 wpc at 8 ohms, 230 wpc at 4 ohms, it will handle virtually any speakers, no problem.

http://www.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/cls.pl?intatran&1233176409&/Plinius-8150-

I can speak for this personally, because I own one. It's fantastic, and I daresay I prefer it to a LOT of more expensive amps out there. I love my $5K Leben CS600, a tube integrated with a killer headphone-out, but Plinius does certain things better than Leben. They're both compellingly musical in their own way. I've heard a lot of solid state integrateds upto $5K last year, when I was shopping for myself, but I personally haven't heard anything that sounds better than the Plinius 8150. It's really musical, great midrange and killer bass. It also has a phono card inside, which you can switch for either MM or MC, which will be better than the built-in phono stages in the budget amps I mentioned. (But I still think you should get a separate phono stage... you can start with the built-in one, and later upgrade, which is always a nice option w/ the Plinius 8150.)

So with the leftover $1800, you can get some of the nicest headphone amps out there in the market today! You can get the Grace m902 that Stereophile writers rave about, which also has a quality DAC built in; that takes care of your digital right there as well. Or maybe something from Woo Audio or Yamamoto for some tube magic with headphone listening. Great thing about some of the headphone amps is that they do not have a big footprint, well, some of them at least.

What do you think?

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Re: TT15S1 and?


Quote:
I think budget integrateds from Outlaw, Marantz and Onkyo have both phono input and headphone-out, but with that sweet-ass budget, forget that route. Here's the plan - get this used Plinius 8150 for $1200 on 'Gon... the 8150 rarely comes up on Audiogon. It sounds better than the newer Plinius models, and at 150 wpc at 8 ohms, 230 wpc at 4 ohms, it will handle virtually any speakers, no problem.

http://www.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/cls.pl?intatran&1233176409&/Plinius-8150-

I can speak for this personally, because I own one. It's fantastic, and I daresay I prefer it to a LOT of more expensive amps out there. I love my $5K Leben CS600, a tube integrated with a killer headphone-out, but Plinius does certain things better than Leben. They're both compellingly musical in their own way. I've heard a lot of solid state integrateds upto $5K last year, when I was shopping for myself, but I personally haven't heard anything that sounds better than the Plinius 8150. It's really musical, great midrange and killer bass. It also has a phono card inside, which you can switch for either MM or MC, which will be better than the built-in phono stages in the budget amps I mentioned. (But I still think you should get a separate phono stage... you can start with the built-in one, and later upgrade, which is always a nice option w/ the Plinius 8150.)

So with the leftover $1800, you can get some of the nicest headphone amps out there in the market today! You can get the Grace m902 that Stereophile writers rave about, which also has a quality DAC built in; that takes care of your digital right there as well. Or maybe something from Woo Audio or Yamamoto for some tube magic with headphone listening. Great thing about some of the headphone amps is that they do not have a big footprint, well, some of them at least.

What do you think?

I say it makes good sense and I'm in touch with the seller. I did read a couple of times that this amplifier gets hot. I guess an amplifier would get hot, but it's good to be aware of such things. Was that a problem for you in any way?

As for a headphones stage for the remaining $1800? Well, need to factor in the headphones in there, and I'm thinking something good, maybe Grado RS-1. Starts to make sense to get the speakers first

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Re: TT15S1 and?

Pana, email me at selfdivider@gmail.com and I'll tell you about the ins & outs of the Plinius 8150. The amp runs a bit warm, but not alarmingly so. I keep mine on 24/7. It runs in Class A for the first crucial watts (sweet!) before going Class AB...

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