Is There Any Point To Entry Level Vinyl?

Aloha. I have a well developed digital side. I last owned a vinyl record in perhaps 1980. Once cassette tape came out, moved on to that, and did the same with CD once that came around. Now it’s digital files with Roon/ HQPlayer and a Border Patrol SE-i Dac.

I’m quite satisfied with the sound I’m getting. However, I’m super intrigued by how vinyl has become so popular. And it’s being driven by average folks rather than audiophiles. Can’t help but wonder what all the fuss is about.

Given I have a good mid range audiophile system, is there any point in giving a sub $1000 vinyl rig a try? Or is it going to take far more money than that to better my digital rig? I don’t have a frame of reference to grasp what decent vinyl is going to cost. I see YouTube videos from audiophile reviewers like Andrew Robinson who give high praise to $500 turntables. Just not sure how to interpret that.

Advice is appreciated.

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Vinyl can be a lot of work, in terms setting up a turntable, selecting a phono stage, and ultimately acquiring a collection. Then there is maintaining and storing your collection. That said it can be worthwhile if you are willing to put the effort into it, and your musical tastes are well represented on vinyl. If you are willing to commit to it a worthy turntable sub $1k would be a Rega P3 sans phono cartridge. I’m not a fan of the Elys 2 phono cartridge, and would consider a Ortofon Blue, or Audio Technica VM530EN. Pro-ject is also worth consideration, but I lean towards Rega.

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My digital setup now rivals my analogue rig comprising Rega P10 and PS Audio Stellar Phono pre. I am into analogue because I never ceased using it for decades. Otherwise, I am happy to exit.

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Personally, and I’m about to get raked over the coals with this comment. Stick with your Digital Rig. Vinyl is such a Black Hole nowadays. 180g Pressings going for $40 or more. 200g new pressings are rare, and the new fashion trend is 45rpm LP’s.

Entry level Vinyl sounds nowhere near entry level Digital IMHO (waiting to be burnt to a crisp right about now).

Now if you get Darren’s Preamp, a 4 figure Cartridge mounted to a 4 figure Tonearm bolted to a 4 figure Turntable. You’ll have a hell of an Analog System. Now for half that money, you can get a DirectStream Sr., a Sony UBP-1000ES or X800 with a HDMI to I2S adapter and have a rig that will rival the aforementioned Analog Rig.

I like Andrew’s YouTube Channel and his attitude that the viewer’s opinion matters more than his. He & his Wife are Vinyl Junkies and that’s cool with me.

Even though I sold my Vinyl collection to build my Music Server, I’d ripped them all to 96/24 files. They sound better than they ever did when played via the DSSr. I transcribed them with a Dual CS515 TT with a Grado Red Cart., played though a Denon AVR-1802 Home Theater Receiver, then captured on a Soundblaster Audigy Platinum 2 Sound Card, and reduced the hiss/noise/scratches with Nero 10 without killing the music. You can hear a bit of squishyness in some of the fade outs and in’s. Oh Well.

I’ve fooled a lot of people with those Vinyl transfers over the years :slight_smile:.

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Hmmm… I love vinyl, but this is one of those things I think I’ll always struggle with.

As far as gear goes, after years of limping along with a B&O turntable I rarely listened to, a couple of years ago I decided to get a new deck. Actually bought a Rega. But before I even opened the box, I happened upon a mid-60’s Swiss-made Thorens TD-150 MKI, and I fell in love. (They were both around $600 I think.)

Down the rabbit hole I went, and I eventually upgraded the Thorens’ stock arm to an SME 3009 with a Shure V15 Type III & Jico SAS stylus, and built a walnut plinth, and added a new armboard, and it really became something special. (I have since bought two more old Thorens. It’s nuts. I love them.)

Does it sound better than my digital gear? Some albums, yeah, maybe. Some Blue Note and ECM stuff sound amazing. Some of the MoFi stuff. Really good. But most of my 800 albums? Stuff I’ve had for years, or interesting things I’ve stumbled upon in the used record shops. They sound good, but not better than digital. Some are downright iffy, but I like having them in my library.

For me, though, beyond whether it sounds “better,” it’s about the ritual and focus. The vinyl experience can be like a vintage British motorcycle vs a crotch rocket. Or my Mazda Miata vs a Porsche GT3. A country backroad vs a racetrack. Versions of the same thing, shifting your own gears, satisfying in their own way. But not all necessarily better than driving a reaaaaallly nice, smooth, luxurious Autobahn cruiser. (And for what it’s worth, I probably listen to 80% digital, either streaming Tidal/Qobuz or ripped CDs.)

So, I would say, yeah, go for it. Embrace records. But I don’t know that I’d go into it thinking of rivaling the digital stuff across the board. At some point, maybe. But for mid-level gear like I have? Ahdunno. (I think you have to spend a lot more in vinyl to compete with digital.)

I’d probably argue that I’m not an audiophile. But I love music and I love the gear – and turntables are very cool gear.

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Vinyl is a hobby. Do you want a hobby or are you just bored and itching for something different?

Perhaps a little bit of both. But if entry level vinyl isn’t going to sound very good, then I might pass. I’m intrigued by vinyl’s resurgence. At the same time, don’t want to go down a PITA rabbit hold either!

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Depends on what you mean by “entry level”, $1000 gets you a very decent setup. There are so many combos to think of, but one that many Audiophiles miss are the new Technics direct drive turntables! Couple of the new ones are quite affordable, easy to setup, and sound GREAT for the money! Rega and Thorens have good options too. For cartridge, I recommend this Japanese cartridge that BEATS anything under $250 or even higher! https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002SDU67Y/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Here’s a good comparison of turntables under $500

at $1000

Also, the cartridge review is posted on the same channel.

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Last 18 months I invested $6600 in a turntable and $2500 in a phono preamp to catch up with my digital front end which cost about the same. So, to get the sound of your digital setup, you could be looking at a similar investment in analogue front end. As a hobby, though I keep mulling the idea of exiting, it seems I may never do :grimacing:

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I think we need some clarity about the proposed budget. Is your sub-$1k intended to include just the 'table and cartridge, or is that figure also supposed to include what I’m sure is a needed phono preamp as well? If the latter, you may be pushing it to stay under $1200 for everything.

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Amen Brother ! I’ve thought about it too. I put that money into better Amps and Speakers.

This cartoon from the New Yorker has been circulating for a few years now…

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Like the cartoon says:
“The two things that really drew me to vinyl are the expense and the inconvenience.”
EDIT: HAHA I WAS TYPING THIS BEFORE YOU POSTED IT!

Not like streaming, where you subscribe to a service for $20/month for (nearly) everything ever recorded. Then sit back, tap your iPad and you’ve got CD-quality or better sound. Click again and listen for another hour. Queue up a bunch of albums (or let the algorithm choose for you) and you have a mix for days.

High-quality vinyl is expensive AND you have to enjoy the old-school activity. Get up from your chair, select a record from your shelf, take it out of multiple sleeves, de-static it, place it on the turntable, clean the record, clean the stylus, drop the needle. And 20 minutes later, you do it again. (I do think of it like a manual transmission. You have to love the activity. Not many have the time for it, but it’s very rewarding. However, I doubt they will make a comeback like records have!)

But let’s say you know you want that. You still need the library to listen to.

I know $10K isn’t your budget, but I think if I had $10K to spend on a vinyl setup, I’d find as nice a setup as I could for ~$1000 (TT and preamp) and spend $9K on the records. (And upgrade the deck over time.)

(Now, don’t get me started on ultrasonic cleaning machines.)

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I agree with the comment that vinyl is probably for a lot of people a hobby independent of the audio equipment or sound quality. It’s much more about collecting records than the playback equipment.

My elder son, age 23, is an avid vinyl collector, and for the last 5 or 6 years was happily using a $250 entry level Pro-ject deck. He has single records worth more than that. His phono stage was part of a vintage $300 integrated amp, but now uses a Nobusound Mini Valve phono stage that cost $50 new off Amazon. I bought him a Rega P3 recently and that will last him forever.

My other son loves music just as much, but has no interest in vinyl, and streams everything via Spotify to a compact player that makes lots of noise.

The equipment side of vinyl playback is a bottomless pit that consumes as much money as you care to throw down it.

As far as relative sound quality of vinyl and digital, on that front you only need two people to have three opinions.

So entry level vinyl equipment is perfectly adequate, but there is no point if you are not committed to spending far more on vinyl.

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That sums it up. I was looking at the new Degritter, but have a trusty and hugely effective Loricraft PRC3. I have to wipe the Degritter idea out of my head.

One of the great joys of vinyl is going to record stores for a browse.

THIS.

I KNOW that if I pop into a record store, I will find something cool/amazing/out of print, etc… Sure, I could order a $75 Blue Note Music Matters 45RPM pressing of Kenny Dorham or Wayne Shorter from Music Direct and KNOW I’ll get a great audio experience, but that’s not the point. At least not for me.

Besides, I like looking at this:

More than this:

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Sorry, that’s a vinyl museum. Seriously miss my local shop, it’s suburban, but well known nationally. The owner is the nicest guy you could ever meet. Best not to know what you are looking for before you find it.

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Although vinyl might have the one or other strong side already around 1k, seen from a pure sound quality point of view, I would not try vinyl in that price range in your stead. Especially if you don’t have a record collection already.

The reason why vinyl got so popular (related to the mass demand) is not validated sound quality in that class I’d say. It’s lifestyle, large covers, manual feel and handling.

But I’m special there and extreme probably. For me, for a good full range setup a turntable rig that nearly equals and partly betters digital (assumed 6k DAC range) starts at around 15-20k (turntable, arm, cartridge, phono amp) by still having weak points. It takes more money and effort to have it better all around. Many will hate me for this point of view :wink: But there are also other optional reasons than pure sound quality to jump onto vinyl.

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oh, yeah, i just meant I’d rather look at the wall of LP’s in my house than a NAS drive. :slight_smile:

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A minor point, it will take less time to dust the NAS

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