Noob Vinyl System

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by blackholematter, May 22, 2020.

  1. blackholematter

    blackholematter New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Relative noob here to the entry level hifi vinyl world. With so many options and opinions, I've been having a hard time "fairly" assessing my system. I would appreciate comments on any obvious weak link and on upgrade contenders.

    Here's the system: Yamaha A-S501; U-Turn Orbit with Ortofon 2M Blue; Monitor Bronze 2; Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2.

    The DS2 is brand new and I haven't received interconnects yet. I've been relying on the A-S501's internal preamp (which IMO seems pretty good).

    Apart from overall comments on the system, I would be interested to hear about what turntable and / or cartridge upgrades would make sense.

    For instance, keeping everything else the same, would a Rega Planar 6 be too "much" for the current system?

    Also, does it make sense to consider upgrading the cartridge to an Ortofon 2M Bronze. I've run the current 2M Blue for about 2 years and am approaching around 1000 hours, and found a new 2M Bronze for $340 (swapped from a new TT).
     
  2. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    1000 hours is too long for an Elliptical. I know Ortofon states that timeframe now but it just does not comport with most other papers or even their previous recommendations a few years back.
    Invest in good carts early to preserve your collection. Dont cheap out on that part. A Bronze could be a good route indeed since it has that Line contact stylus.

    The system seems fairly well rounded, what are you looking for?
    Better sound? What kind of better? If you feel a Planar 6 is in the budget have you considered cleaning machines?

    If you want better general sound I would just go for a Cart and Speaker upgrade. A new table wouldnt do you much in terms of sound. And your new Project DS2 should have you set in the phono stage end, possibly for good. You can let us know how you like the switch.

    Welcome to the forum!
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2020
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  3. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Personal Survival Daily Record-Breaker

    Location:
    Toronto
    You'll get many different opinions.

    The turntable is the obvious weak link. This is just my opinion, but I'm no fan of Rega turntables for a bunch of reasons. If you're ready to spend that much, I'd suggest you look into the Marantz TT15S1, a turntable made by ClearAudio. It is highly reputed and I can vouch for its build and sound quality. It also comes with a cart which I find provides more detail than the 2M Blue. That would seem to provide you the most bang for the buck and likely a bigger leap in sound quality, IMHO.

    Others will urge you to upgrade your speakers and I agree that is the other part that I'd consider spending more money on and you will get better sound quality once they're upgraded but since you're looking into changing carts anyway and are considering a new turntable, you might as get something like the Marantz TT15S1 and fill that need while upgrading your analog playback chain. You can focus on the speakers afterward.

    Again, just the order in which *I* would upgrade.
     
  4. nwdavis1

    nwdavis1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Detroit
    I agree that the turntable is the weak link. The bronze is a good cartridge but probably overkill on a U-turn. If you cannot upgrade the turntable now I'd just get another blue stylus until you can.
     
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  5. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    Overkill how? The performance? You still get the sound benefit if its there, the table doesnt hinder that.
    With some dedication and patience you should be able to install a Line contact well.
     
  6. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Your 2M Blue stylus is pretty much toast at this point. So either by a new one or install the Bronze, if you want. The most obvious upgrade is the turntable, since everything else is pretty new without obvious problems. I dunno your speakers really but will assume they are decent.
     
  7. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    They are pretty much the least expensive part of the setup if I recall. So I would say that is the most obvious area.
     
  8. CMT

    CMT Forum Resident

    Location:
    Santa Rosa, CA
    For what it's worth, I'm using a Rega Planar 6 and the Ortophon Bronze 2M and I'm very pleased with the combination, but the sweetness in my system may come in large part from the wonderful KEF R3s it's all going through. Still, the Bronze 2M sounds very good to me.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2020
  9. nwdavis1

    nwdavis1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Detroit
    Not the performance, just the price.
     
  10. HiFiTweeter

    HiFiTweeter Active Member

    Location:
    Cotati
    I have a Regar Planar 3 with the Ortofon 2M Black. Works well for me. That’s gotta last me for awhile. Love the sound. The cartridge is tall so I had to do the shim kit for the rear of the tonearm.
     
  11. HiFi Guy

    HiFi Guy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    Just to throw this out there, you can get a 2m Bronze for around $300 is ordered from Thakker in Germany. That’s what I did. That said, I didn’t like it and moved it on. The Bronze tracks like
    it’s on rails, the Blue sounds more balanced.

    I’d go Grado Gold3 or Nagaoka MP-200 over the Bronze.
     
  12. SpinalRecord

    SpinalRecord Active Member

    100% this. I've upgraded turntables twice and this was my experience: my $500 "entry-level serious", if you will, Music Hall 2.3 (slightly different from, but very comparable to the Pro-Jects, U-Turns, et al at that price point. Maybe even a little better than the U-Turns) really did feel like twice the TT than the $250 AT that I was upgrading from. That's really what you aim for when it comes to upgrading, right? My $1500 Marantz TT-15S1 might be ten times the turntable that the Music Hall was at only three times the price. And I liked the Music Hall. As far as I'm concerned, a casual listener who has no desire to get weedy in audiophile-land might never need to upgrade.

    As Strat-Mangler mentioned, the turntable is made for Marantz by clearaudio--a major heavy hitter in the audiophile world. Any turntable that says "clearaudio" on it will set you back at least $1800. However, this does not mean that, as one might assume, Marantz is commissioning them to make lesser versions of their own products that cut corners and can be sold for less. For whatever reason, neither Marantz nor clearaudio actually specifies by by name the model of tonearm it comes equipped with, but it seems awfully identical in design to a clearaudio Satisfy. The cartridge is, conversely, is advertised as one of the major pluses of the table (which it is): a clearaudio Virtuoso Moving Magnet cart (the highest quality MM they make.) Separately, the tonearm and cartridge would cost $2,800. You'd save $1,300 by buying the actual Marantz TT and throwing everything else away.

    There are a lot of things that change as you move to a higher quality turntable than just quality of parts. There are two things in particular that come to mind that I didn't really think about before that are hugely important and are major reasons why a turntable like the Marantz is capable of such higher performance than more entry level offerings. 1) So many things, including nearly every setting of the tonearm, can be finely adjusted. This includes, of course, a counterweight for VTF, but you can adjust tonearm height (which can be hugely impactful both sonically and functionally), and an anti-skate/bias mechanism that is fine enough to perfectly balance your arm. Of course, the cartridge overhang is adjustable, too. The importance of these cannot be overstated. Does it mean more work? (Or a few extra bucks to have it professionally set up, which I recommend if you're not experienced with setting things up yourself yet)? Yes. Will the difference totally blow you away? It did for me. 2) Many aspects of the turntable are designed to minimize as much transference of vibration as possible. These include a high density, 1.2" acrylic platter (as well as plinth, which aside from being very effective is rather pleasing to the eye IMO) which is belt driven by an off board motor and is "semi-suspended" above the plinth (I don't know the exact word for this--the spindle rests on top of ball bearings so that there's some amount of give the will keep the platter spinning level, even if something causes the plinth (which is 20 pounds, btw) to move. Think of what the point of a car's suspension is...). I couldn't make a record skip on that thing if I tried.

    However, there is a downside, or at least something to be wary of when you're upgrading components: higher precision and more intricately designed and built parts are often what you're paying for and they are often the things that make the difference and provide the upgrade in performance that you were after. The trade off is that they're fragile. I've had to warranty out a part two times with Marantz. Both times they amazed me with their alacrity and professionalism without even broaching the subject of whether or not that thing was covered or not, or did they seem at all bothered by the timeframe of when their "official" warrantee ends. Being an audiophile means having very expensive things break on you. I had to replace a cartridge and the motor within the first few years. It happens. Out of pocket, those parts nearly match the original cost of the TT. They replaced them without batting an eyelash. I suppose this is the place where I should clarify that I have no ties, professional nor personal, to Marantz--just a fan.
     
  13. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    While I do like my MP-200 a lot Im not eager to recommend it because of the stylus.
     
  14. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    Upgrading doesnt necessarily mean more options, sometimes less. Look at Rega which OP was doing, no VTA or Azimuth even at their 50000$ table. And they also dont look for more mass to reduce vibrations.

    Seems like your Marantz had lots of problems. I dont think its common for quality gear to need motors and such replaced after a year.
     
  15. SpinalRecord

    SpinalRecord Active Member

    I recognize that I got caught speaking more broadly than I should have--it is very much the case that Rega's design MO is very different from the aspects of my turntable that I personally attribute much of the performance quality to. And please correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that Rega's tonearms lack of adjustability re: VTA and Azimuth is a compromise in the name of rigidity, which is very clearly Rega's number one focus. And I know Rega actually works to make their TT as light as possible and has feet made out of some slightly elastic material that "discharges" vibration into the surface on which it's placed. Clearly the people who engineer turntables know a heck of a lot more than I, but that sort of sounds like it requires that you place it on a solid enough surface that will do the job that a heavy plinth is meant to do in the first place. If anyone cares to educate me, I'm interested. I just got a little carried away rallying for my own TT that I got a little hyperbolic and made some over-generalized comments.

    I hear what you're saying, but I feel I should be more specific: I have medication induced tremors, which led to me accidentally brushing against the sylus on a particularly shaky day. Next thing I knew, the whole cartridge was flat on the record. I'm not the type of person to lie and demand anything. I would've been honest, but they didn't even ask. The motor used make a clicking sound like 3% of the time. Eventually I got too annoyed with it, even though it was so intermittent and got a replacement.
     
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  16. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I am glad some companies still offer great customer service and honor warranties, but if a motor or another critical part broke after a year, I'd be looking to get rid of that product, period. That's either poor QC or poor reliability. I have turntables here that are 40+ years old and nothing on them is broken.
     
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  17. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    That is the idea of Rega yes, my point though, as you basically stated in the beginning is that attributing what you like to your table isnt necessarily a result of the table or its particular design. But hey, as one could probably guess from my initial post, Im no great fan of them as upgrades, even while I know a bit about them. Ive done the journey myself, my 1800$ table just was not a big sound improvement in general even though I love it.

    I see, sorry about your bad luck with the gear you purchased. Good to hear it worked out well though. By the way whats the warranty period on those things?
     
  18. Slick Willie

    Slick Willie Decisively Indecisive

    Location:
    sweet VA.
    Assuming your gear is mostly new to you as you call yourself a noob, I would play with whatcha' got for awhile.
    Although with a new Blue stylus and hook up your phono stage.
    You don't mention what music you listen to, but I would put more emphasis on getting the best pressings I could afford.
    The 'right' pressing can be just as rewarding sonically as a gear upgrade.
     
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  19. Clonesteak

    Clonesteak Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kalamazoo, MI
    I agree and would recommend buying a new blue stylus and enjoy the blue. Buy some killer pressings of albums and artists you love.
     
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  20. blackholematter

    blackholematter New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Thanks guys, this is all super helpful.

    I’m definitely happy with the sound of what I have now. With the 2M Blue, I paid $600 for the orbit at the end of 2017, which is also when I bought the receiver and speakers. I moved in early 2019 and the setup now is more conducive to listening on a regular basis.

    Also, in addition to the DS2, I recently bought a Pro-Ject cleaner (not yet arrived) since the stylus would turn up gunk for several plays even after a manual cleaning of used records. And some of those pressings I feel would sound much better if thoroughly cleaned. So I decided to focus on getting the vinyl clean, replacing the old 2M blue, and reaping the benefits of a well regarded phonostage (which I understand is probably overkill for my current system, but I like its appearance, wanted to bring a tube aspect into the system, and feel like spending an extra $500-$600 for a solid component is fine, especially since it will prob survive another upgrade or two of the main components).

    I also recently bought a Pro-Ject VC-S2 cleaner, and new Audioquest black mamba II interconnects and Type 8 speaker cables. The cables also may be overkill, but I figure there may be a difference I can hear now and these cables should survive another upgrade or two to the main components as well.

    So, I don’t have any issues I’m trying to address with the sound of my current system. But probably in a few years I’ll start to upgrade the components to see if I can do better. I mainly listen to classical, bluegrass, folk, rock, and metal. Some pressings sound better than others, particularly some used classical seems dull and canny (hence the cleaner).

    It’s helpful for me to have an idea of what the next upgrade level should be to see a real difference in sound. From your perspective, if I had a general target to upgrade from the current base system with a value of $1500 (TT, receiver, speakers) to $6000 (roughly 2k on each component), does that seem like it would probably be a noticeable difference? I would think yes and would think the difference would be much larger than with a $3000 target, but maybe not as large in degree, so less bang for the buck, with a $10,000 target.

    I get how speakers could make an immediate difference and prob should be the first upgrade, and if around $2k is a good target, then that’s what I’ll try to save for.
     
  21. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    The idea of things being overkill is only applicable when a new component doesnt contribute any change. The new DS2 will pretty clearly make a difference in some way and you will in the future look to upgrade some other parts as well, so theres no issue here, you have to start somewhere and its better to go a substantial step rather than a small one or even just a side step.
    Similarly, the main benefit of the Bronze to me is not sound necessarily, but the real difference is in wear. It will be much more gentle on your records and last longer, that benefit is there regardless of what you hear, which should be less distortions of all kinds. And with that new cleaner of yours there will be no issues regarding dirt for it.

    Now the cables are a pretty perfect example of overkill since Im quite certain that you wont hear any real difference, but hey, at least it will make the system look nicer which I can get behind and they arnt so over expensive either thankfully.

    You should be made aware that cleaners dont change the sound of the mastering on records however, they make them play quieter, thats about it. So I agree with the previous tips about focusing more effort and time in researching pressings and investing on releases that are well made. You can search around and ask on the Music forums or just look at Discogs entries.

    I dont quite follow the budget ideas, but you should know that sound doesnt just exponentially become better. There are clearly diminishing returns but where that line lies is debatable. In general I think its pretty safe to say that at 1000$ each component caps off at their max potential pretty much and any difference heard is just that, differences, not necessarily objective improvements. The one exception being Speakers where the that price may double, so yeah I think 2K is a great target. But I would again advice to focus on a new cart or at least stylus first.
     
  22. GyroSE

    GyroSE Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sweden
    When you look at a new cart why don’t you check out the hi fi worlds most recent darling? The Audio-Technica AT-VM95ML has a killer price-performance ratio that’s very hard to beat in its price bracket and it’s so good that it competes with more expensive MM carts like the 2M Bronze. It has a more advanced stylus than the 2M carts with benefits like longer life span as well as less wear on the records.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2020 at 6:24 AM
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