Phono Sweetspot for Stellar?

I’ll be honest and admit that I know next to nothing about nice analog phono setups.

I mean, I know you need a turntable, a phono preamp, a regular preamp (I think), power amp and speakers, assuming separates (ie, not an integrated with phono stage built in or regular preamp with same), and I know turntables can be further broken down to cartridges and styluses and tone arms (and maybe more), but I’m not interested in those finer TT details.

Anyway, here’s my question, and I’m looking for now for answers in phono isolation without getting into rest of system details, just phono stuff:

If I were gonna add phono to my reference or secondary systems and start with the $2.5k Stellar phono preamp, please give me a range of turntable new prices that would be sensical to consider. Let’s leave separate carts and styluses out and only deal with off the shelf turntables that come with everything available new.

For example, I’m assuming it wouldn’t make much sense to pair a $200 turntable or a $30k turntable (as if I could afford anyway) with the $2.5k stellar phono preamp (not that you couldn’t but I’m looking for realistic sweetspot), but what is a range of TT prices you’d consider the sweetspot for pairing?

And if you are really feeling generous with your advice (and thanks in advance!), maybe a budget TT recommendation at the lower end of your suggested range, a median TT recommendation in middle of your suggested range, and finally one near upper end of your range? Again, this is all assuming pairing with the Stellar phono preamp.

Thanks much from a phono novice! I assume folks’ suggested ranges for pairing with Stellar will vary greatly but interested to get the proverbial lay of the land!

Do you like new stuff or vintage stuff?

New, just for reliability I guess

The Rega brand of TT’s are nice and affordably priced.

Edit: They have a range of prices to suit one’s budget.

Rega, with Groovetracer enhancements, is where I found my thrill and sweet spot.

1 Like

VPI table

I don’t think you can do better for the money than a Pioneer PLX-1000. And Stereophile’s Herb Reichert is in violent agreement with me.

“ Yes, people, the Pioneer PLX-1000 plays music like a high-torque direct-drive record-playing machine. That is why I enjoyed it so much. It gave tangible force and soulful energy to pop, R&B, jazz, and electronica. Belts can’t touch the PLX-1000’s excitement, naturally formed detail, and clearly expressed forward momentum. And who could have imagined? This new Pioneer also showcases the complex tonal character and elegant structures of classical music better than any affordable belt-drive I’ve experienced. So . . .

That’s me you see, standing on my Bed-Stuy stoop, waving my hands and entreating you: “Give up your prejudices! You have nothing to lose but your dried-out ol’ rubber bands!” Pioneer’s new PLX-1000 is not only a worthy successor to the legendary Technics SL-1200MK2, it is a serious contender for the best audiophile-grade turntable for less than $2000. Unabashedly recommended.”


I am a big fan of direct drive turntables as opposed to belt drives and still use a TOTL JVC table from the early 80’s so I would also recommend looking in that direction for ease of setup and use. Instead of the Pioneer though I would suggest you look at the new Technics SL-1210GR which can be found from multiple online vendors for $1699.

Appreciate all the replies so far!

I dunno. With the Pioneer’s MSRP of $699 (and available for less) you can get an awful nice cartridge upgrade with the money you save. I can’t speak to the Technics, but my Pioneer is a great table with an Ortofon 2M Bronze. But I recognize that I inhabit the lower end of mid-fi. Everything in that review rings true to me after two-plus years with the Pioneer.

If you’re really going to commit to vinyl as a source, leave a bit of room in your budget for a record cleaning machine. I was stunned at the improvement in sound quality when I played clean records…

1 Like

Don’t know anything about the build quality of the current Pioneer TT line but if the new Technics line in any way resembles the classic line the OP can give that TT to his grand kids. I’ve got two mid-line vintage Technics in my “collection” and other than one cleaning and re-greasing they work just like they did 40+ years ago. Whether or not the current owners of the Pioneer brand name are building to their older standards only time will tell or if they are farming them out to Hanpin. Plus if the OP decides vinyl is not for him the Technics will be an easier sell.

Rega also makes cartridges at a variety of price points for their turntables. The Technics and Pioneer recommendations are also a good starting point. I have the Rega P8 with a Hana Ml cartridge feeding the Stella Phono preamp

+1 for Rega tables and carts. I have an RP10 with an Apheta2 cart and the combo is stunning. Installing the cart is also trivial because Rega uses a three point mounting scheme. When considering tables also think about the tonearm in particular. Smallest features in a record groove are less than half a mil! You need very tight tolerances and very good bearings. That doesn’t come cheap but I found my table used for $2500.

Good luck.

PS The Stellar Phono is also great. Worthy of the best TT and cart you can swing.

I have a Rega and I am quite happy with it. I have read a lot of fine things about the Mobile Fidelity turntables and cartridges. It is possible to get a good TT for less than $1500.
A friend of mine asked me for help finding a new TT and he said $500 was all he was willing to spend. I was thinking that i wouldn’t be able to help anyone with that kind of budget. He ended up finding an excellent older Thorens TT for like, $550 on Ebay. It worked out slick. I was just on eBay and there is no shortage of turntables for sale.

I will tell you right now that is what I’d do.

Bought myself a new Rega P2 for Christmas 2018, but stumbled upon a Thorens TD-150 MKI, and I fell in love with it. Returned the Rega without ever opening the box.

Never a single regret. These old tables are rock solid, and will work for years in stock form.

But be warned, vintage turntables can turn into an fierce obsession. I now have three Thorens decks, and I’ve made custom plinths/armboards for them, and have upgraded them with aftermarket tonearms. It’s nuts. Like accessorizing and sewing clothes for dolls.

Proceed smartly.


Thanks to all who have graciously offered advice. I have looked up or attempted to everything new that has been suggested. I also appreciate the vintage/used advice, and I am sure that such a path is enjoyable for those with the chops to navigate it successfully, but for me I don’t know enough to go down that path near term so I’m going to focus on new for now - maybe later on the vintage stuff.

Okay, so looking at the recommendations to this point, I’m seeing price ranges from about $600 on the low end to about $4.5k on the upper end. Does that sound like the proper range of TT new cost that is a good matching fit with the PSA Stellar Phono?

Let me explain more what I mean by that question. I’m someone who is very conscious of overall system compatibility to get the best sound quality results. Limiting this to phono (assume that the Stellar phono will fit well into my system), I don’t want to look at TT’s that would sound almost as good with an inexpensive Schitt or Parasound phono stage (because then I likely overspent on the PSA), and I don’t want to look at TT’s that would realistically to get performance commensurate with their quality require a better phono preamp than the Stellar (I know I’m on a PSA forum here and there will be some who say you can’t do better than a Stellar, but as I always tell my kids, no matter how good you think you are at something, there is ALWAYS someone better so keep working hard).

Anyway, I digress. Again, thanks for the suggestions, and like I said it appears that forum consensus to this point is directing me to a TT cost range of roughly $600-$4.5k as being smart budgetary pairings with a Stellar phono so that neither is out of their league with the other. If you disagree with that range, please let me know and why.

A little more about me. Right now I’m exclusively digital, Tidal streaming, and pretty happy. I’ve owned two vinyl records in my life, back in the early-80s as a kid with one of those Sears all-in-one systems that included a TT when boomboxes and walkmans and cassettes were the way my generation consumed music at the time, just before CDs came out and most including me went all to CDs. (for the record, the two albums were Quiet Riot and Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms (DS remains one of my all-time fav bands now, Quiet Riot, not so much, haha, I probably bought it for the one song and the album cover looked awesome with the Friday the 13th goalie style mask, haha - remember going into Musicland and evaluating albums as much by how album covers grabbed you as a kid as by the one or two songs you’d heard on radio??).

I’m not even entirely sure I’ll ever make the jump into vinyl, but I want to better understand what is involved, which is why I posted this thread. My younger brother has a budget vinyl system but is into collecting rare records on ebay and stuff and is also planning to upgrade in next year or two, so some of this research is also for his benefit, as he lacks the gearhead interest to delve into this stuff (he’s the type who will just buy the first thing he listens to and move on with his life, whereas I value the educational aspect of this and meticulously research and audition - (heck when I bought my speakers a year ago (Spendor D7), I auditioned in-store about 30 different speakers over a six month period for at least 30-60 minutes each, sometimes several hours over multiple visits.

Sorry for the ramble. Thanks again all who have offered advice. I really appreciate it. Stay safe and enjoy the music! And Happy Easter weekend.

1 Like

I have my doubts the turntable itself, as long as it’s in good working order is as big a game changer as the other components in your system. I have an old b&o RX2 turntable (tuned up at a local shop for $100) a very good sound-smith cartridge, and a phono preamp that is certainly not the equal of the stellar. The biggest, most noticeable improvement to my system’s sound -more than upgraded interconnects, power regenerator, speakers, and power cords - has been GOOD cleaning of the vinyl.

1 Like

Let me add some philosophy here, as you’re looking to “get into vinyl.”

There are a billion pages/posts/threads on internet forums that have beat this dead horse to death, but generally (GENERALLY!), vinyl will not sound as good as digital. I mean, it’s easier and less expensive to get digital to sound good. Especially with the great DACs and streamers and hi-res services out there.

It can be expensive to get vinyl to sound really good. This we know, and lovingly embrace. Not saying a record can’t sound better than its digital counterpart, because it can. But there are a lot of variables that need to be sorted out to get there.

Turntable, Cartridge, Stylus.

The fine-tuning of all of those parts. (Alignment, balance, weight, anti-skate, compliance between cart and arm, etc…)

The condition – and the pressing – of the record.

The phono stage.


But I think of it this way:

I love record libraries. My dad was in radio back in the day, and my favorite thing was to go to the studio and into the record room and just look at the wall of records and pull something random off the shelf and go into one of the little listening rooms with some goofy transcription turntable (with a 12" or maybe 16" arm!), and just listen. This was the early-to-mid 70s, and I was probably 9 years old, maybe up to 12 or so.

So, I love to see the records on the shelf, and thumb through them, and take them down and look at them. To read the liner notes. To look at the awesome art and read the lyrics. Yeah, there are PDFs for that now, but is it the same? I think not. Just like i prefer paper books, and like to see them on the shelf. A Kindle has its place though, right? Variety is the spice, eh?

I love the ritual. I love washing them. I love taking them out of the sleeves and placing them on a really cool turntable. Brushing them off. Cleaning the stylus. It’s like sorting seeds and stems back in the day. The ritual is the thing. (And what did we sort those seeds and stems on? ALBUM COVERS!)

I love the vintage nature of the gear. (Even new turntables.) The tonearms are works of mechanical engineering. The delicate balance to achieve 1.5 grams tracking force EXACTLY. Anti-skate weights attached with filament. SME tonearms made in England in the 60s and 70s. Walnut plinths. (That’s why I like the vintage stuff. Mad Men-era hi-fi, baby!)

The cartridges are like little racecar engines; they look so freaking cool. Some of those Koetsus and Lyras should be in architectural digest.

Listening to an album is so analog, and I love it. Start here, end there. No skipping around. Patience, Grasshopper.

But I know that, more often than not, if I play the same file on CD/SACD or from my digital library through my DAC, it will probably sound better, cleaner, crisper, fuller. Not all the time, but more often than not. That’s just the way it is.

Some vinyl systems will put others’ digital systems to shame. (Paging Michael Fremer.) But that is a giant rabbit hole and you can get lost down there for a long time. More power to you if you get in deep.

That all said, I probably listen to 75% digital, 25% vinyl. But, I’ll never get rid of my records!

(I still drive a manual transmission. Maybe it’s a little like that. Certainly not as convenient. New automatics shift far more quickly and efficiently. But are they as “fun”? Not for me.)

anyway, blah blah blah, was waiting for my kid to be ready to go on our grocery run, and i’m just killin time


Thank you. Great post!