Vinyl setup

Back to the poor man setups, any suggestions for an inexpensive entry into vinyl? A used turntable plus a couple of hundred for amp and DAC?

If you keep looking here

You will eventually find something pretty decent, and it WILL have been gone over. I recently upgraded my turntable and haven’t put my old one up for sale yet. Totally manual AR Xa. I suggest the above link because when I serviced my old turntable, I went there for AR parts. If you look on Ebay, I would suggest you look at one of the newer AR models with a better tone arm than the original. You can then go to the above link and slowly upgrade it - all for cheap money.

It’s certainly possible to get started with vinyl without breaking the bank. It’s harder than with a digital system, and there’s more to consider in doing so, especially if you want digital and vinyl replay in the same setup.

On the turntable side of things, if you’re completely new to vinyl replay, I would skip all the vintage and used stuff and go for a new, ready-to-run, table package. You might not get quite the same level of performance doing it this way, but it’ll work, properly, out of the box and has far fewer pitfalls than used gear (which might be mechanically fine, but still has to be setup properly).

You’ll need a turntable with arm and cartridge, a phono preamp (or a table that has this built-in), and ideally a way to wash your records (even new ones), to brush them before play and to clean the stylus. The cleaning aspects are important to get satisfying results that aren’t an absolute nightmare of clicks and pops.

And then either an amp that has two inputs (one of the DAC, one for the output from the phono pre-amp) or a built-in DAC/phono-stage and an auxiliary input.

If you want to define “inexpensive” for a complete setup, I’ll give you some thoughts on how I might go about it (with specifics). But one viable, new, ready-to-run table is the U-Turn Orbit + OM5E cartridge upgrade for $214. There are some other good options up to the $500 mark, including things like the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC, that has a better arm, much better cartridge and a nice platter … for $399.

But it’s really all the gubbins that you need on top of the table that makes “entry level” vinyl more expensive than most people expect (or results in a mess of clicks, pops and other undesirable artifacts).


I’m sure this will get some gulps and gasps, but I’ve been wanting to try some of my vinyl that’s been moved from place to place and mostly setting in storage since the 70s or early 80s. So for Christmas my wife gave me an Audio-Technica AT-LP60USB turntable that includes a pre-amp and automatic arm. It may not be a turntable for audiophiles, but it sounds pretty good and plays my 60s and 70s records just fine. I don’t plan on using the USB portion to burn vinyl to digital, but it works just fine for listening to my vinyl. For $99 to $149 (depending on the version) I don’t see how you could go wrong. They also make the AT-LP120 which gets a lot of great reviews. It’s supposedly a DJ capable machine. Check them out on Amazon.

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As usual, Torq brings up some very good points. For budget record cleaning, I have found this quite useful. You may find Spin Clean elsewhere also.

One modern thing is a record clamp. If you have records with any degree of warpage, having a turntable that works with a record clamp is an advantage. Most vintage tables don’t do that.

Pro-Ject and Music Hall are, I understand manufactured by the same people. They are competent, but I’m not a huge fan. You can also find good entry level turntables from Rega, Marantz, and AudioTechnica. If you want to gaze online, Needle Doctor, Music Direct, and Audio Advisor are all among “the usual suspects”.

@jflores476 did say a “used” turntable. Audiogon is the primary auction house for used equipment. But, you should have a good idea of what you are looking for. Possibly looking at some recent new stuff and finding someone that just couldn’t resist upgrading.

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I 2nd the Audio-Technica AT-LP60 Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Turntable $99. It is a very good value. It has a belt driven plater which I favor. It comes equipped a Audio-Technica Cartridge which can be up graded later should you wish. The only thing I don’t like about it is does not do 78 RPM. This would be useful for transcribing 78 RPM records to a digital format. By fully automatic the tone arm is lifted off the record and parked, it should be described as semi-automatic.

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As for a record center weight/clamp that is an excellent idea. Don’t pay a rediculous price get it here.

My current setup is under $500 and I am very pleased with it. I inherited a Thorens TD 165 which I cleaned up. I upgraded the cartridge to an Ortofon 2m Red for $100 which I like a lot. It is very detailed with slight warmth. I purchased a Schiit Mani and Schiit Vali for $278 which pairs very nicely with the warmth of the Ortofon. I have been tube rolling with the Vali and it is always rewarding when you get the right combination. I use these with the Sennheiser HD 650’s which are very neutral. I like a more warm sound signature so the Vali tube amp and Ortofon cartridge make the music a bit more lively and fun.

All in all I spent $378, but If you need to find a turntable as well, you might be better off getting one with a preamp, and Ortofon 2m Red pre installed. The Uturn custom can be spec’ed for that and it comes in at $324. Add the Vali and that is your budget at $500.

Below is a picture of my current setup, though I did take the Schiit Asgard amp which is pictured for my digital setup at my desk and replaced it with the Vali.


That Muddy Waters albums is great…one of my favorites! My Dad used to listen to it a lot…good memories

I love it as well. Love testing out new headphones with it in order to test sound stage, because this record is BIG.