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Old Audiophile
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Yup! It's time to upgrade!

Fell in love with music in the late 50s. Got the audiophile bug in 1972 when I could afford my first entry level system (Sansui 2000X receiver + Phillips 212 electronic turntable + Studiocraft speakers). Upgraded the speakers about a year later to Ohm C. Thought the Bose 501s were too midrangie and too smooth in lengthy A/B listening with the Ohms. Liked that acoustic suspension sound compared to the Bose base reflex. Next upgrade was to Paradigm Studio Monitor 9 speakers. Actually liked the Klipsch better but their recommended room placement just didn't work for my living room. Next upgrade was Yamaha RX 596 receiver (80 WATTS). Still have the Sansui and Phillips and both still work but definitely showing their age. Questions now are: next turntable? Amp? Pre-amp? Have always wanted separates since I heard McIntosh, Phase Linear and Adcoms over the years. You old audiophiles out there will know what I'm talking about by now! Thinking of Rega Planar 3 with the Exact; either Parasound A 21 or A 23 or an Anthem 2 channel. Must admit I am a bit intrigued by the Cambridge Audio Azur XD unit but it runs really hot and hot is the enemy of solid state circuitry. So, that instinctively doesn't make sense, to me. Have yet to audition any of these but, based on stats & research, I think I'll lean Parasound. Not sure I really need more than 125 clean WATTS because the Paradigms are efficient, my living room is modest size (about 15' X 30') and post & beam wood (nice dead room; good acoustics). I listen to everything except rap. Mostly listen to acoustic guitar, rock, jazz, classic big band and classical. So, sock it to me all you knowledgeable audiophiles out there. I appreciate any knowledgeable supportive guidance and advice I can get. Thank you and may music always be with you!

Biblical12
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bierfeldt
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Methinks the spam will not be helpful

So, will you be using the Sansui as a preamp? Otherwise you seem to be missing a preamp with the list of Amps you mentioned and you are going to need some sort of volume control.

As far as turntables go, I have the Rega RP3 (model before Planar 3) with an Exact2 and it is spectacular. Highly detailed, balanced sound that is slight forward in the midrange but a hair laid back at higher frequencies. It is spectacular for the type of music you listen too. If you listened to Rap or EDM it would be a poor choice.

I personally own separate and have an Ayre Acoustics Pre-amp, Rogue Audio Power Amp and Vincent Audio phono stage and honestly, for what I paid a nice integrated may have been a better choice from someone like Musical Fidelity, Simaudio Moon or Ayre. And I do know what you mean. My first audiophile system was Carver separates with Infinity speakers and there separates were the only step up from a receiver back then.

The deal is, separates are wonderful and make a lot of sense if you are going to spend $6500 or more. Below that, a well designed integrated amp will perform as well as any separates you will find and even then, that is debatable.

On the low end, the Parasound Halo P5 with an Halo A23 is going to cost you $2100 and for ~$2000 to $2500 you can get some really awesome integrated amps that will sound as good if not better from Musical Fidelity, Parasound, Creek, Roksan, Rogue, PrimaLuna, Mystere...

Or a step up from that would be to look at the Rogue Audio RP1 with an Atlas Magnum which is going to cost you $4100 for those as separates and I think the PrimaLuna Dialogue HP $4399 or the McInstosh MA5200 at $4500 would both be superior.

I assume you get the point.

What is your budget? Do you want tube gear? How much space do you have for the equipment? Are you willing to consider Class D gear...there are some innovative units that have come out that run very cool and sound great. A little insight and we can help get you to something that is going to be amazing sounding.

Old Audiophile
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Thanks for the input, Bierfeldt!

Have done a cursory research of some of the products you recommended. You definitely sound like a tube man. I haven't done any serious listening to tubed products since my grand-pa's 5 foot stand-up AM radio in the 50s. Tubes burn out way faster than solid state; don't they? Aren't they more susceptible to dust, which I would think hastens their demise? Also, everything I've read talks about their "warm sound"; another subjective term. I think I'm probably more of an accurate, as close to the real performance or studio recording as I can get kind a guy.

With regard to the budget question, I guess I'm trying to keep the amp/pre-amp or integrated outlay under 5 grand. Easily done with a Parasound A23 and P5 or the integrated, as you pointed out. The Parasound integrated, however, gives up a little performance, specs-wise. I'd have to listen. The MacIntosh is certainly within range and rock solid, as one would expect, but again specs-wise, seems to give a little on line output and signal to noise performance overall. Also, and surprisingly, their warranty is not as good as Parasound.

No, I am not considering using the Sansui as pre-amp. Thought about it but it's just to old. Reason I replaced it about 7 or 8 years ago is because I could hear something when I upgraded to the Paradigms. Sounded like an extremely faint, intermittent buzzing or crackling in the background. Initially thought it was the Ohm Cs, which is why I upgraded to the Paradigms. Had the Ohms re-foamed twice over the years and wasn't going to do that again. Had the Sansui examined & bench tested by an audio engineer and he said it performed to spec. Took it home, cleaned and hooked everything back up again. Still heard the faint, intermittent background crackling. Had the wife listen. She couldn't hear it. My theory: one or more of the transistors or capacitors or those gizmos was finally giving up the ghost. Problem went away permanently when the Yamaha came home.

Your other questions: space is not a concern. Have read a little about Class D (e.g. NAD; Benchmark; Cambridge Audio Azure XD; etc.). Guess I really don't care. Only care about best quality sound I can get without mortgaging my house, good quality build that will be dependable and stand up qualitatively over time.

Thanks again, Bierfedldt!

bierfeldt
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Thoughts

I am actually not a particularly big tube guy. My Rogue power amp is a hybrid tube class D. Tubes do get warm and wear out. Some amps require some maintenance and they are definitely warm of neutral. That being said, a well made tune amp will take a long time for the tubes to wear out and they are not as warm as they were 20-30 years ago most of the time. Take something like PrimaLuna. It will be more neutral than a Rega integrated which is class a/b.

So, the fact that I was recommending tubes is an internal bias of mine. I find paradigm speakers a bit forward and like the way tube gear balances there sound profile. It is a personal bias and is a great illustration of the limitations of this advice.

As far as separated go, I am not in love with any preamps in the sub $3500 range. I know this sounds snooty but if you want the best sound for the money, an integrated makes sense. the Parasound Halo gear is very good but not spectacular and on your budget, you can afford spectacular.

I would consider the following -
Musical Fidelity M6si - $3k and a company that has a reputation for making stupidly good equipment for the money. I like this product a lot and it can be ordered fro
Audio Advisor or Music Direct with a 30 day return policy.

Ayre Acoustics AX-7e - I know this is only 60w, but it is 60 really spectacular watts. You left speakers are relatively efficient and depending on how often you turn it up to 11 and if your room isn't that big, this might be an option. Sure makes just about the whitest equipment you will find and it is as neutral as you can get. I have the k-5xwMP preamp in my system and it is spectacular. It is $4K but if there is a 60w amp worth $4K, this is it.

Simimaudio Moon 340i at $4700 is 100w. I have been pleasantly surprised by how good there equipment sounds. They have a great upgrade program (or they did) and quality is exceptional. There is an optional phono stage that can be added and they make a spectacular one which depending ton the price is worth adding.

Keel Vanguard - Krell is all about power and controlled bass. This is a class G and I haven't heard it but it is in your price range and is an interesting unit. it is interesting how different companies have opted for different tech, some class d, some class g. It is worth investigating.

McIntosh - may not have the same specs as the Parasound but I would love for you to hear this in a blind test vs. the Parasound. More musical and more engaging in every way. I would be shocked if you picked the Parasound equipment over it.

Rogue Audio Pharoah - this is $3500 and a hybrid Class D. They are using Hypex output modules with a tube input. These tubes need to be replaced every 3000 hours so it will be a while. This is similar to the power amp I have which is the Rogue Audio Hydra. I love this amp and it sounds like a slightly forward solid state amp out of the box. Class D has a reputation for being bright with a bit of graininess in the treble. A few companies have opted for tube inputs (peachtree used to and sounded better then) and Rogue. I love this amp. One of the cool things is of you want to tweak the sound a hair you can roll in different tubes. Want a touch of warmth, get some Mullards. A little more sparkle, pick up some Ciftes. These can be had for a couple hundred bucks.

There are more in this range that are great. I would also encourage you give the PrimaLuna Dialogue HP a listen. It is a truly special amp.

And that is my last point. You need to listen to a few of these if you can. In-home is always best with your speakers but that is obviously a challenge. I would love to suggest some separates but I am struggling.

One wildcard is Mytek. The Brooklyn DAC can be used as a preamp and has a built in phono stage for $2K. This is one heck of a good unit. The DAC is flying off shelves at the moment because it is great sounding and supports MQA. They are introducing a Class D amp for $2K that is available for preorder and is supposed to be great. It might be worth an in-home demo.

The Rogue audio Hydra is $3K and spectacular and there are a few other power amps that are very good that can be had in the $3K range. If you are hell bent on separates, that is the way I would go.

bierfeldt
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Typed on a phone

Sorry about typos. Done from a phone and I have fat thumbs

caphill
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Analog front end source

Is you Rega turntable the only source component you have? If you don't have any digital front end source or not planning to get one I would suggest that you get an analog integrated amp (no DAC) for your Paradigm Studio Monitor 9 speakers. There are countless choices out there. The Rega Elicit-r integrated amp would be a great choice for your Paradigm.
All Rega integrated amps don't have DAC. Anything higher than the Rega Elicit-r would be overkill for your speakers IMO. Unless if you are planning to upgrade your speakers in the near future.

Old Audiophile
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More system infol

Other source components in my current system: CD = Marantz CD6005 + Cassette tape deck = Denon DRM-710. Been reading a lot lately about the McInthosh MA5200 + Musical Fidelity M6si + Parasound integrated. There are enough local shops around me to allow for serious listening to all of these but probably not A/B comparisons. Will have to keep that in my mind's ear, so to speak. On specs & value, I'm leaning Musical Fidelity, which jives with Bierfelt's advice, which seems sound, to me. I think we speak the same language or near enough. Once again, specs aren't the whole story. I really have to listen & hear before I shell out this kind of green. Keep that good advice coming, folks. After my brother-in-law returns from South Carolina, he and I are going to go out and do some serious toy shopping.

commsysman
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Amplifier
Old Audiophile wrote:

Other source components in my current system: CD = Marantz CD6005 + Cassette tape deck = Denon DRM-710. Been reading a lot lately about the McInthosh MA5200 + Musical Fidelity M6si + Parasound integrated. There are enough local shops around me to allow for serious listening to all of these but probably not A/B comparisons. Will have to keep that in my mind's ear, so to speak. On specs & value, I'm leaning Musical Fidelity, which jives with Bierfelt's advice, which seems sound, to me. I think we speak the same language or near enough. Once again, specs aren't the whole story. I really have to listen & hear before I shell out this kind of green. Keep that good advice coming, folks. After my brother-in-law returns from South Carolina, he and I are going to go out and do some serious toy shopping.

The Musical Fidelity M6si is superb, and has enough power to run even very low-sensitivity speakers. It is a real bargain, when you consider that it is basically the combination of the M6PRX power amp and M6 preamp, which together would cost $7000. You can't go wrong with it.

Old Audiophile
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McIntosh MA5200 vs. Musical Fidelity M6si

Has anybody out there been able to do a fair A/B comparison between the McIntosh MA5200 and the Musical Fidelity M6si? I'm fairly certain these are the last 2 on my short list. My research indicates they both sound great but the phono stage on the MF is just a tad better. Sock it to me!

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sound

the "warm sound" argument from those who like vacuum tube gear sounds a lot like the argument in support of vinyl. I do have a vinyl rig, as well as a regular set up. After listening to the vinyl rig for about two years I've come to the conclusion that,even though I enjoy spinning vinyl,and still do, what I thought was better sound from it was actually a consequence of the limitations of it in terms of frequency response. I suspect the same thing is true of tubes. And there is no scientific,technical, or electronic reason of any kind why a good integrated should not be the equal of separates in terms of sound quality.

bierfeldt
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I have not done an a/b comparison

I think a big part of this comes down to whether you want McIntosh gear. You are paying a bit of a premium for that brand, the glass face plate and the meters. I doubt you will be unhappy with either.

I have listened to the phono stage in the musical fidelity M8 Preamp which should be very similar and it sounded great and you would have to pay $1000 or more to get one that sounds better. MF is a great value while McIntosh is the brand everyone knows.

Old Audiophile
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Turntable Recommendations

It's been a while, indeed, since my last post but thought I'd check in again now that I've made my decision on the integrated amplifier. Bierfeldt, I hope you're still out there because your advice has been spot on. I chose the MacIntosh MA 5200 after several hours of critical listening of it and the Musical Fidelity M6si on the same day but, unfortunately, not in the same shop. My listening sessions were about an hour apart as I traveled from one shop to the other. Both listening rooms were different, unfortunately. So, I was forced to factor that in, of course. In one of the shops I was able to listen on the same CD deck I have and some new Paradigm 9's which, frankly, do not sound as good as my original 9's. Frankly, both the MAC and the MF sounded great! I honestly couldn't say one sounded better than the other without a direct A/B comparison. That said, the MAC is nicely ensconced in my living room now and sounding, as Bierfeldt would say, spectacular! So, I do not regret the decision. Now, the next decision is: which turntable? I'm gravitating toward the Rega Planar 6 with exact cart. (The MAC only has a MM output.) I've heard the Rega 3 hooked up to the MAC with an Ortofon Blue cart and that was very nice, indeed. However, when you add the upgrades recommended for the Rega 3 (Exact cart; white drive belt; TTPSU unit) it approaches the price of the Rega 6. So, for a few hundred more it looks like the 6 is a better decision. I definitely want to keep this under 2 grand. So, what say ye, knowledgeable audiophiles out there in the great ether?

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Linn LP12

Bierfeldt is an excellent audio guy and he is still around...in fact he and I are discussing turntables and I am leaning towards the Linn LP12...and he agrees it could sound better than a high end Rega. However, I do love that Rega signature sound and may end up with one at the end of the day.

Good luck with your next purchase. I just wanted to plant the idea of a Linn in your mind to at least consider as they are outstanding and going by the other gear you have already chosen a Linn could be the one.

Kind Regards,

Ron

bierfeldt
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You will spend more for a Linn

Glad to hear you are enjoying the McIntosh.

It will be tough to find a Linn LP12 for $2K and they are a pain in the butt to setup. The Rega Planar 6 w/ Exact II is a fine choice. Easy to setup and the Exact II deliver the PRAT Rega is famous for but with much tighter bass than the Elys II. For your musical taste the Rega sound is wonderful.

The Music Hall 7.3 with an Ortofon 2M Bronze is outstanding and will deliver a balanced, clean sound.

The Clear Audio Concept MM for $1800 is a wonderful tanble. This is an ultra precise table that will deliver us colored sound.

You will likely be happy with anyone of the 3. There are other tables available but these are pretty good choices.

rrstesiak
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Whoops

Sorry.. I missed the budget limit. Bierfeldt's recommendations are excellent.

caphill
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Linn LP12

Linn LP12 is an excellent turntable when set up correctly and paired with the right accompanying accessories. It is very musical and is a step up sonically from any Rega turntables.
Rega makes very good turntables especially for the money and they sound very good but aren't in the same league as the Linn LP12 sonically.

Earlier this year I upgraded my analog rigs in my main stereo setup previously using a Linn Klimax version turntable with Ekos SE titanium tonearm, Kandid mc cartridge, Trambolin base board, Urika phonostage, Klimax Radikal PSU. Then I have upgraded to a Kronos Pro turntable with 12" Black Beauty tonearm, Air Tight PC-1 Supreme mc cartridge, class A linear PSU, dedicated Kronos stand, Audio Research Reference 10 phonostage preamp. I know that this isn't fair comparison as my new analog rigs (Konos Pro tt & phonostage, etc) costs a little more than $100k and my Linn LP12 Klimax version turntable with all Klimax upgrades and accessories etc cost around $35k altogether. And yes indeed my new a log rigs now sound better than the previous Linn LP12 Klimax version as they should be but at the expense of much higher price tags. The Kronos Pro is in different league.
But the Linn LP12 is really really good and you will have to step up to something like the Kronos Sparta or Kronos Pro to better it.

I would look for a used Linn LP12 if you can't afford new and I would suggest getting the right tonearm, cartridge, phonostage, etc for it and I would suggest to have a certified Linn dealer to set them up for you if you have never had experience with Linn LP12 before or not familiar with it. It can be difficult to set up but once you get everything right they will sound very right and very musical. Linn's own various different phonostages and PSU (power supply units) for the LP12 are spectacular.
Otherwise the Rega would be a good option too and don't cost as much as Linn LP12 (especially Linn LP12 Klimax version).

Good luck.

Old Audiophile
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A few more questions!

Gentlemen (and ladies), a few more questions if you don't mind? I'll be forced to place the turntable in closer proximity to a speaker than I would like (i.e. about 12" to the side of the left speaker cabinet). It will be sitting on an equipment stand that is extremely heavy-duty steel with equally heavy half inch thick glass shelves. The entire unit (forget what it's called) is very, very heavy, indeed. The stand is on feet that decouple it from the floor. The speakers are on spikes. Regardless, when the music is cranking & the bass is thumping and I put my hand on the spot where the turntable would have to live, I can feel an ever so slight acoustic vibration; not nearly enough to be detected by a dish or glass of water put in that spot but still enough to be detected to the touch; again, ever so slightly. I've read several articles, one specific to the Regas, in fact, saying this would not affect it's ability to track properly and, as such, would make the need for an isolation table superfluous. However, a 1.5 or 1.75 gram tracking force leads me to question otherwise. My old Phillips 212 Electronic was unfazed at 1.75 and 2 grams but that was before the MAC. The MAC is a beast! I'm tempted to get something like the Auralic (I think that's what it's called) isolation table to hedge my apprehension. I'd rather this than compensating by increasing tracking force. I've considered a wall mount, which would certainly be rock solid in a 9" solid wood log cabin wall, but the placement in my listening room would be funky. Thoughts? Opinions? Experiences?

caphill
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Turntable placement

I would either get it wall mounted or buy a completely good quality turntable rack that can isolate vibration and damp vibration.
IMO turntable placement is very crucial and has a great impact on the sonic performance.

Old Audiophile
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I'm baaaack!

Still obsessing over the TT purchase. I was just about to pull the trigger on the Rega P6 with Exact but, then, had an email exchange with Mikey (Michael Fremer - yes! that Michael Fremer!). God Bless Michael Fremer! Michael suggested that, for my system, I seriously consider the Music Hall MMF 7.3 with Ortofon Bronze. Bierfeldt, this is why I trust your ears! Michael thinks the Bronze had an edge over the Exact but also thinks the Rega has an edge over the Music Hall deck. I'm willing to consider the Rega with the Bronze but only if the two will play nice together. I know, with relatively high end TT, they are often finicky with what carts you pair them with. However, as I noted earlier, I have heard the Rega P3 with an Ortofon Blue through the McIntosh MA5200 and its Luxman competition through some $4,000.00 a pair Focals that really rocked my world! Granted, I was listening to $350.00 Mobile Fidelity re-issued vinyl disks but that was truly amazing! I can just imagine what that experience would have been like through the Rega P6 and Bronze. Can't say, of course, but now my research has me researching the MoFi Ultradeck with Master Tracker cart. All the reviews I've read about this deck and this cart have been really impressive. Mikey hasn't had a chance to do a review of the MoFi yet (a few other folks have, though) and there are no Mofi dealers near me for me to do my on review. So, I'm wondering what you guys might have heard.

bierfeldt
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Funny

I have been considering a turntable upgrade and funnily enough, my statement above about not being a huge tube guy is now a fib. I bought an older pair of VTL MB185 mono blocks which were shockingly inexpensive considering that they were almost $15K new. First time my wife heard a system change and said wow!

The difference between the the Rega cartridges and Ortofon 2Ms are going to be in precision/detail vs. PRaT. The Ortofon cartridges excel at delivering a flatter, cleaner and more precise sound while the Rega cartridges have a slightly more colored sound that has a punchy midbass and amazing treble but bass is always lacking slightly vs. the more precise and flatter response of the Ortofon.

Not shocking at all that I agree with Mr Fremer, in that with a SS Mc amp along with a slightly forward speaker, the Ortofon cartridge is probably a better choice. Generally, Ortofon cartridges do well with Rega tonearms and with brands like Michell which use Rega or modified Rega tonearms, Ortofon cartridges are common pairings.

You get savings by buying the pre-bundled Deck and Cartridge thus P6 vs. MMF 7.3. If you don't mind paying extra, a Rega P6 with a 2M Bronze is likely a better choice. No question the tone arm on the P6 is superior and now that Music Hall has stopped using AC motors I feel like they have ceded a little ground.

How is the power in your house? If your power is good or you have a conditioner in place on your system, you could just consider the P3 with the 2M Bronze. The external power supply makes a big difference when you have bad power. If your power is good or you have a conditioner, the external power supply will make a minimal difference. Could be a way to keep your spend down.

Old Audiophile
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THANKS AGAIN, Bierfeldt!

Talk about Funny! The first and only time my wife said "Wow" regarding any of my system upgrades over the last 46 some odd years, or so, was when I brought the MAC home. By that time, she had, despite my best obfuscating and avoidance techniques that I though I'd honed to a fine art over the years, already learned what I paid for it and wasn't very happy, if you know what I mean. So, with that context, I was surprised when she immediately said "Wow" after about 2 or 3 minutes into the first CD I played and then immediately started telling me to play more than several of her favorites! Both of us remarked about fine details in the music we hadn't heard before, neither with the Sansui nor the Yamaha.

We live out in a small rural country town; less than 1700 population, no package store, no pizza shop, nothing but a good school for the kids, ancient town hall, volunteer fire and part-time police department. Great town with great people! Love it! Have all the equipment hooked up through a Monster power strip (can't remember model number but cost me about $200.00 about 30 years ago), which I think provides some conditioning but I don't have anything more sophisticated than that. Have never noticed any issues with the power quality (e.g. surges; drops; etc.) and we don't get that many failures. So, I'm assuming the power quality is OK. I definitely will check out what a P6 with Bronze would run me but what about the Mofi Ultra with Master Tracker. I like that 10" tone arm, the wiring, mass, etc. Like Mikey, I think they really should have put that power switch away from the tone arm, though. Specs on the Master Tracker are respectable. Have you heard one? Have never liked the idea of ordering equipment on-line to hear in my house and possibility of dealing with the hassle of return if I don't like it. Much less reticent with the Rega deck because I've heard the P3 with Ortofon Blue through a very similar system to my own in a more sound absorbing listening room, however. So, I think my listening room would be better.

Just to keep you thinking, I should conclude with the latest recommendation from (can't remember, now, which on-line seller … Audio Advisor … I think?). They are saying the Clear Audio Black with MM is a step above the Rega P6 with Exact set-up. Have never listened to a Clear Audio but have heard, at length, (day I auditioned the Musical Fidelity M6si) a Marrantz TT something, which is built by Clear Audio. That was/is a very nice TT.

Keep the good advice coming, Bierfeldt. And I hasten to add, as well, most of you other folks have also been very, very helpful, indeed! Don't want you folks to feel slighted or left out at all. You all, as well as Bierfeldt, have been in the same ball park or should I say listening arena and given good guidance.

Thanks so much, all of you!

bierfeldt
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Precision and detail

Clearaudio makes wonderful turntables and I believe they are who make the McIntosh tables. They are very German and all about neutrality and precision. I like the sound of them very much. I like it the way I always really like Dynaudio speakers but I never love them. The concept MM cartridge is awesome for the money. Can’t say it is better or worse than comparable Rega or Music Hall tables. The other brand to consider is VPI. Made in America, the Prime Scout with a 2M bronze would be amazing but a bit pricier. Currently Music Direct has an open box. Evidently the tone arm takes a bit of getting used to but it is an awesome sounding table.

Here is the reality. You are sweating the difference between outstanding choices that you are likely to be very happy with. I like the absurdly easy setup of a Rega and having that external PSU is going to make more of a difference than you think. I have been surprised out how crappy/volatile my power supply is. That combined with the best Tonearms in its price class makes Rega super appealing. A P6 with an Ortofon 2M Bronze or if you can swing it, 2M Black IMO will be amazing.

The Prime Scout has an AC motor, a great Tonearm and is built like a tank. With the discount on the open box, it is a step up even vs. the P6 and pairs really well with Ortofon 2M cartridges. Call Music Direct to get their POV but that could be the deal worth jumping on.

I have never heard the MoFi table or the Master Tracker. I am going to try and run out today to hear a Linn vs. Rega comparison today. I am thinking about upgrading and getting an Ortofon Cadenza Bronze or Black MC but this is an unapproved purchase at the moment so it may be a while. If I see the MoFi while I am out I will be sure to listen and offer a POV.

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