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howhardcanitbe's picture
Last seen: 4 years 6 months ago
Joined: Apr 5 2013 - 12:48am
Building an entry level system to play vinyl - should it be this much of a drama?

Apologies for the length of this... Hi everyone, I decided to join and share my experience of putting together a reasonably priced entry level system to play vinyl. A tube amplifier, speakers, phono stage and turntable, how hard could it be right…??

I started with the amp as it’s the heart of the system. Prices for tube amps vary from expensive to silly but as I was aiming for entry level, I purchased the PrimaLuna Prologue Classic for just under $2k. There was none in stock on the day so I bought the demo model for a small saving and went home happy. Well, happy until I plugged it in and it made an electrical buzzing/arcing sound from around the power switch area and intermittently failed to power up.

The retailer replaced it with a new one and apart from one blown main fuse it’s been great. *tick* The speakers I chose were Paradigm Studio 60 v5’s. The Paradigm dealer even had them in stock and in the finish I wanted *feint* I bought a pair of Paradigm 9se’s almost 20 years ago and they were still working well but I decided it was time for an update. The Studio 60’s have been excellent and I’d recommend them to anyone looking for speakers in their price category. *tick* The phono stage was a little bit of a random purchase as I was hoping to be able to add the optional PrimaLuna phono stage to the amp but this didn’t seem to be possible so I settled on a Cambridge Audio 640P. I got it for a good price (probably because it’s superceded which I didn’t know) and it’s worked very well. *tick*

Now we come to the turntable. Almost ready to play some vinyl and getting excited! I started to research turntables in the $1k - $2k price bracket so as to keep the components on the same level. The Rega RP3 was my initial choice but the RP6 came with the external PSU for lower noise and other upgrades that made it a better option than the RP3 if you decided to add the PSU etc to the RP3. So I ordered an RP6 (none in sock) in Ferrari red and the Rega Exact cartridge and requested the cartridge be installed as it couldn’t be ordered factory fitted apparently. I received a phone call a few days later advising the turntable was set up and ready to be picked up. It wasn’t. I had to wait around while the cartridge was installed and other adjustments performed…

I carefully positioned the table and connected everything up ready to spin some freshly cleaned vinyl only to be greeted by hum when the amp was switched to the input I’d connected the phono stage to. The hum was present with the volume below half way and increased as the cartridge was moved towards the spindle. Then I turned on the separate PSU which introduced a buzz to accompany the hum. Switching from 33 to 45 increased the buzz. I was disappointed and confused. The table was using a Rega PSU and a Rega cartridge and they were both introducing noise into the system. Do Rega test their products together?

This is turning into an epic so I won’t go into too much detail of the next 3 weeks of taking the table to and from the shop, un packing, re packing, component swapping, earthing, testing etc… I finally ended up with an Ortofon 2M Bronze cartridge installed and an additional ground wire attached to the bottom of the spindle with a rubber band! The noise was reduced to a level I could live with but a spacer needed to be fitted to the tonearm mount to compensate for the height of the Ortofon cartridge. A genuine Rega spacer was ordered (at cost to me).

After reading on various forums about the spacer fitment resulting in the counterweight hitting the lid, I questioned the dealer about it and was told it was “bullshit” and made to feel a bit of a dill for asking. The spacer was subsequently fitted and the lid did indeed now make contact with the counterweight! Don’t Rega test their products together (again)? It was then suggested I purchase a different shaped counterweight… At this point after weeks of stuffing around with a new $2k turntable I asked for a refund which was provided. “How hard could it be?” Indeed.

So now I have a system with no source, not a bad result for $4k spent and nearly 4 weeks stuffing around. The other table I’d researched for similar money was the Clearaudio Concept, so I asked the dealer I’d purchased the RP6 from about it. He wasn’t very enthusiastic and of course didn’t have any in stock… Off to another dealer I went as I’d really given the first dealer every opportunity. To summarize the Concept purchase as it’s getting waaaaay too long.

1. Purchased a show demo unit with upgraded Aurum Alpha cartridge for a good price. It ran too fast and despite the speed adjustment being relatively simple, the dealer couldn’t manage it and found it easier to swap the Alpha onto another demo unit. There is another long version of the speed adjusting saga but you get the idea by now. Also, some of the accessories were missing from the box.

2. The second table had a faulty cuing mechanism that dropped the tonearm with little to no damping. This was not noticed by the dealer when swapping the cartridge…

3. The original table’s speed was finally able to be adjusted once the speed adjustment equipment was recovered from a home install and the Alpha was again swapped over. I took the original unit home and plugged it in ready to play a record. I turned it on and the motor was super quiet. I subsequently realized it wasn’t spinning! Something was amiss with the power socket in the back of the table and I had to hold the plug a certain way before the motor would run. Another repack…

4. After specifically requesting a “new table in a box” the dealer obtained a new table, installed the Alpha and set the table up including a check of the speed. I was given the accessories from the original table as it was deemed not acceptable to give me the new accessories package…

5. The third Concept seems to work OK apart from a noisy motor which doesn’t seem to effect the sound quality and I really, really, really don’t want to pack and unpack another turntable again in the near future. *tentative tick* I haven’t named any of the dealers and the point of this isn’t to bag Rega as I’m sure there are people who have bought an RP6 and couldn’t be happier.

I just couldn’t get a table to the standard I expect for $2k with the dealer and distributor support on offer. Hard to say if the two demo Concept’s had issues from the factory or they were introduced after the boxes were opened and the tables were fiddled with (the latter I hope). I’m just curious if others have experienced these sorts of issues when trying to build reasonably priced system to play vinyl?

Cheers Rob

Ariel Bitran
Ariel Bitran's picture
Last seen: 1 year 4 months ago
Joined: Jun 1 2007 - 2:14pm
Hi Rob

I moved your thread to the appropriate forum (The Entry Level). Also, for some reason, when I moved it, the post lost its formatting, so I had to reformat (hope that's ok).

Sorry to hear about your experiences. I would recommend contacting Rega to address the issues you had with the compatibility of their parts / take some pictures / see what their suggestion is. Although, it seems to late for that as you now have a Concept :-). So likewise, you should just contact Clearaudio or their distributor Musical Surroundings for a suggestion/comment.

I understand not wanting to bag on the dealer, and that doesn't seem necessary.

Hi-if is unfortunately (and forutnately) a hobby which is spent much more outside of the armchair than in it (at least when first getting your system together).

I'm going through a lot of the same troubles, but I can say that there is a light at the end of the tunnel as long as you stay committed to getting stuff right.

Hope it doesn't cost you too much more $$$. That's always the most annoying part :-(

commsysman's picture
Last seen: 16 hours 54 min ago
Joined: Apr 4 2006 - 11:33am

I suggest that you get a Music Hall MMF-7.1 turntable.

It will give you excellent performance with no problems. 

I have had the MMF-7 for four years and had no problems at all, and the sound quality is wonderful.

I am currently using a Benz Micro Ace cartridge, but there are many good cartridges available for $300-500.

Do not use a Grado, though, because they are not grounded and will

jgossman's picture
Last seen: 10 months 6 days ago
Joined: Aug 18 2011 - 6:21am

Use Grado in spite of the hum.  There are ways to minimise the hum.  There's no way to make a Benz or Clearaudio, etc cart sound human.  The palpable HUMANITY of the music is so far to my experience a Grado thing.  Most others only come close, regardless of price.  

Try the Reference Sonata for 500.

commsysman's picture
Last seen: 16 hours 54 min ago
Joined: Apr 4 2006 - 11:33am

Music Hall says that the Grado cartridges are incompatible with their turntables, according to the product advisor at Music Direct. It seems rather foolish to go against the manufacturer's advice, but hey; being a fool is free and not against the law.

My experience hads been that the Micro Benz Ace cartridge sounds far better than anything made by Grado.

I have had several Grado cartridges over the past 30 years, and am well aware of their good and not so good qualities.

JohnMichael's picture
Last seen: 10 months 4 days ago
Joined: Jan 30 2007 - 2:09pm
I have a Rega turntable and I

I have a Rega turntable and I have the Grado Sonata Statement installed. What a great combo and yes there is slight hum. The hum is not noticeable when the cartridge is generating a signal. Only when raised at the end of the record do I hear a slight hum. I own MC carts by Benz and AT and an IM from Ortofon and the Grado is my favorite.

Bill B
Bill B's picture
Last seen: 3 years 1 month ago
Joined: Jul 28 2012 - 1:59pm

no, it should not be that amount of drama and trouble at all!  I have never had any such problem with any component, analog or otherwise, over the years when buying new or even used.  You have had a very bad run of luck.  Dayum.

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