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Trying to understand the turntable/vinyl world...

skymusic20

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Hi, all, well, It seems to me the TT world is very difficult to understand. It seems very wild world.

In 2019 I bought a "cheap" AT LP120X turntable (not really the same as AT LP120 but cheaper)
I bought it going against several people's advice (online and offline)
The general (strong) advice was "any new under $500 is total, aboslute crap, will sound horrible and will last a week or two.... For $300, or less, you can get a japanese/german/swiss/american made vintage tt that will be absolutely superior to any cheap chinese new tt and will last another 40 years..."

For some period of time I tried to get a japanese/german/swiss/american made vintage tt for $300 or less but it was very difficult and somewhat risky. I did not know what I was buying. So many variables and stuff not easy to understand. Lots of online sellers stated "in working condition". What does that mean? Yeah, my junk car I had when I was 18 years old was in working conditions... just not working properly. Plus, more stuff to buy... cartridge, stylus, mats, arms, covers, preamps, ball bearings, etc, etc.
So I got tired of hunting for vintage TT so I commited heresy and crime: bought a new "cheap" Chinese TT (Hanpin TT).
I did it knowingly such AT LP120X was labeled "absolute junk" (to say the least) in every single forum.

Now first of all, why is it that you need $500 to buy a decent TT when you can buy a DVD player for about $40??
And a $40 DVD player will play CDs that most likely will sound superior than a vinyl on a $500 TT?
I don't get why a mass produced TT is far more expensive compared to similar mass produced CD/DVD player.
Is it really far more difficult/expensive to build a TT than to build a DVD?
Do you need more mechanical precision?
I have heard DVD/CD technology requires very precise mechanical pieces.
Sorry to ask these questions, Im probably very ignorant.

TT technology is probably 100 years old so it is absolutely mature technology
Tons of money have been invested in TT technology research for about a century.
We live in very advanced industrial Capitalism which means mature technologies can only get cheaper, not more expensive.
Back in the 50s or 60s you had to pay premium for high fidelity.... Is it still true in 2021?
Now, I fully understand $500 are peanuts.
I fully understand that a true premium TT might truly cost more than my home and my car put together (including everything inside my home like my cheap TT)

My experience with AT LP120X after more than a year of almost daily use???

I have no reason to complain. Such is my experience.

I keep reading people telling that such is a junk TT that sounds horrible and disgusting and belongs to the trash can.

I will tell you what is junk sound to me: my laptop speakers; my logitech desktop speakers (though these Logitech speakers are a real improvement over my laptop speakers); my cellphone speaker; a boombox; a bluetooth speaker (big or small) and the like...... all that sounds bad to me but don't matter because such stuff are not really made for music listening.

My AT LP120X connected to entry level amp and entry level speakers does not sound like junk to me... My laptop certainly does...

I have personally listened to some Technics/Dual/Lenco (and others) TTs and yes boy they sound great but owners of these TTs buy very expensive carts and very expensive stylus and have them connected to multi thousand dollar preamps/amps then connected to multi thousand dollar speakers and dedicated rooms for music listening. So it is hard to tell if such great sound is due to TT or just partially/marginally due to it.

Now, about the love for vinyl.

I like vinyl, but I do not consider it to be worth investing thousands of dollars.

I have about 400 vinyl. About 350 are rock/pop and about 50 are classical music.

I never play classical on vinyl. It is my opinion that CD (digital music) is the best thing that happened to classical music. I have hundreds of classical music CDs and I think digital is the way to go for classical music.

About rock/pop sometimes I have some mixed feelings but I still consider digital the best format for all kind of music, specially for classical music.

I might be wrong but I truly consider digital is very elegant and superior technology for all kind of music.

I can certainly say I prefer some music/songs played on vinyl rather than on CD. But this is a personal preference. Not a scientific statement. I specially like Hendrix or Rory Gallagher on vinyl but not saying it sounds better than on CD. I just like it more, not saying that it sounds better.

I still buy inexpensive old used vinyl... Nostalgia is a powerful force indeed.

I guess most of my vinyl are in ok shape. Some are in very good shape. Some are in bad shape.

Im not exactly new to turntables or vinyl. Im just back at it.

I just did not know it was a very complicated world....

Back in the days I never gave much importance to it as I just bought turntables and vinyl records for the music and that was it...

Regards!!
 

JJB70

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Vinyl is one of those things that people are into because they like it, I don't think there's any rational case for it in today's world. So it is reasonable that an interest which stems from a preference detached from any objective analysis will attract lots of subjective opinions. That said, anyone telling you that a turntable costing less than$500 and quickly break is talking nonsense and indulging in audiophool snobbery.
 

Daverz

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As you found, the problem with buying vintage is that you need to have a good knowledge of vintage gear so that you know what you are getting.

As for cheap modern tables, make sure you are using a diamond stylus in good shape with a reasonable tracking force that isn't mistracking so that your records aren't damaged.
 

JP

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…I don't think there's any rational case for it in today's world.

Content that isn’t available on another format or a preference for the mastering for specific pieces/albums.
 

JP

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I disagree strongly with Steve Guttenberg pretty much always, but I do like his latest video on Why You Shouldn't Get Into Vinyl. Some good points.

Agreed, though reason #1 was marketing more than anything else.
 

EJ3

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Maybe you should look into the prices of quality CD players (or Universal Disc Players) and you will find that they are generally priced $500 & up.
I became enamored with higher quality sound when I was a teenager around 1974-75. As a consequence I have a DUAL 1229 TT that has been re-plinthed & refurbished in recent years. The mechanics are at or better than original, including the tone arm and I run a SHURE V15-V MR with a NOS stylus. All of this was bought new back then & things where taken care of over the years. Over the years, I have abut $1300 involved. Why is it expensive today? Quality, precision, rarity & demand. I suggest that you read:

https://www.vintageshifi.com/repertoire-pdf/pdf/telecharge.php?pdf=Dual-1229-Brochure.pdf

Dual 1229 Professional Automatic HiFi Turntable

Then on to my other TT which is a 1988 TECHNICS SL-M3 (which was also bought new and has about $5000 in it including the NOS SHURE ULTRA 300 cartridge & stylus. If you want to know why it cost so much to begin with ($484 & up [& now]), watch this video:

Technics SL-M3 Linear Tracking Turntable Repair & Service

I hope that this will help people understand the issues involved in why a proper TT is priced so high (New or Vintage).

And, as always, if it is good enough for you, please enjoy the music with what you've got.
Because that is ultimately what it is all about. All of us have different hearing abilities and different priorities as to what is "good 'nuff" for ourselves.

Enjoy the Music!

This is not to say that you shouldn't own CD's or other digital formats (I do & yes, when done correctly, they always have a lower noise floor and have greater POTENTIAL for sound that far exceeds that which is possible with a TT).
 
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JeffS7444

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Hi, all, well, It seems to me the TT world is very difficult to understand. It seems very wild world.
For you, turntable may simply be a means of enjoying your legacy music collection. But others are seeking a certain emotional "something" in the things surround themselves with, which may have little to do with how well they actually perform. As I recall, once upon a time both Naim Audio and Rolls Royce were deliberately vague about the performance specification of their products, simply referring to them in terms like "Sufficient". And people loved it! because when a product's qualities can be quantified, there's the risk of it being treated as a commodity.
 

Leiker535

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Turntables won't vary much by model, unless there is something really wrong with the platter and such. There are quirks of model vs model, like torque and such (this is why technics 1200 reigned supreme with DJs back in the day, it could start and get to full velocity way quicker than other generic models), but overall they are very similar in perfomance.

Enjoy your AT120X. It has the necessary adjustment properties, plays different speeds, has a counterweight and is cartridge swappable. Pragmatically and having a little science in mind this is all that matters most.

What matters in vinyl, after you acknowledge the very big diminished returns you get considering overall cost and consistency vs digital, and what an emotional/irrational medium it is today; is stage amplification (to a minor degree, once you hit a certain level it is all jewelry, just like with headphone amps and such) and cartridge selection. An conical cartridge WILL distort a lot more than a Microlinear, and you WILL notice it. A lot of things around cartridges are mystical, and receive the same treatment you got with your TT, but there is a solid bedrock of truth in tracking perfomance differences:



My advice to you and other people is to get a VM95ML from audiotechnica. It is the least expensive Microlinear available and it does its job wonderfully. There are other options yes but they are finicky with capacitance matching or much more expensive. Then you get to choose how much jewelry you want to buy for your living room.
 

JJB70

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For you, turntable may simply be a means of enjoying your legacy music collection. But others are seeking a certain emotional "something" in the things surround themselves with, which may have little to do with how well they actually perform. As I recall, once upon a time both Naim Audio and Rolls Royce were deliberately vague about the performance specification of their products, simply referring to them in terms like "Sufficient". And people loved it! because when a product's qualities can be quantified, there's the risk of it being treated as a commodity.
I always liked the Rolls Royce approach, it was in tune with their ethos of luxury and refinement.
 
OP
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skymusic20

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Maybe you should look into the prices of quality CD players (or Universal Disc Players) and you will find that they are generally priced $500 & up.
I became enamored with higher quality sound when I was a teenager around 1974-75. As a consequence I have a DUAL 1229 TT that has been re-plinthed & refurbished in recent years. The mechanics are at or better than original, including the tone arm and I run a SHURE V15-V MR with a NOS stylus. All of this was bought new back then & things where taken care of over the years. Over the years, I have abut $1300 involved. Why is it expensive today? Quality, precision, rarity & demand. I suggest that you read:

https://www.vintageshifi.com/repertoire-pdf/pdf/telecharge.php?pdf=Dual-1229-Brochure.pdf

Dual 1229 Professional Automatic HiFi Turntable

Then on to my other TT which is a 1988 TECHNICS SL-M3 (which was also bought new and has about $5000 in it including the NOS SHURE ULTRA 300 cartridge & stylus. If you want to know why it cost so much to begin with ($484 & up [& now]), watch this video:

Technics SL-M3 Linear Tracking Turntable Repair & Service

I hope that this will help people understand the issues involved in why a proper TT is priced so high (New or Vintage).

And, as always, if it is good enough for you, please enjoy the music with what you've got.
Because that is ultimately what it is all about. All of us have different hearing abilities and different priorities as to what is "good 'nuff" for ourselves.

Enjoy the Music!

This is not to say that you shouldn't own CD's or other digital formats (I do & yes, when done correctly, they always have a lower noise floor and have greater POTENTIAL for sound that far exceeds that which is possible with a TT).
Thanks!
Very interesting stuff to know more about it
It is a whole new world I knew very little if any about...
 
OP
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skymusic20

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Turntables won't vary much by model, unless there is something really wrong with the platter and such. There are quirks of model vs model, like torque and such (this is why technics 1200 reigned supreme with DJs back in the day, it could start and get to full velocity way quicker than other generic models), but overall they are very similar in perfomance.

Enjoy your AT120X. It has the necessary adjustment properties, plays different speeds, has a counterweight and is cartridge swappable. Pragmatically and having a little science in mind this is all that matters most.

What matters in vinyl, after you acknowledge the very big diminished returns you get considering overall cost and consistency vs digital, and what an emotional/irrational medium it is today; is stage amplification (to a minor degree, once you hit a certain level it is all jewelry, just like with headphone amps and such) and cartridge selection. An conical cartridge WILL distort a lot more than a Microlinear, and you WILL notice it. A lot of things around cartridges are mystical, and receive the same treatment you got with your TT, but there is a solid bedrock of truth in tracking perfomance differences:



My advice to you and other people is to get a VM95ML from audiotechnica. It is the least expensive Microlinear available and it does its job wonderfully. There are other options yes but they are finicky with capacitance matching or much more expensive. Then you get to choose how much jewelry you want to buy for your living room.
Thanks, you know, AT LP120x comes with an elliptical stylus.
Just tried a conical one. The thing is conical stylus seems to work better for records that are in poor shape. Elliptical is more revealing. I gues Microlinear is even more revealing but then you need to have your records in prefect condition...
Will consider microlinear, seems like a good try...
 

mhardy6647

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Hi, all, well, It seems to me the TT world is very difficult to understand. It seems very wild world.

In 2019 I bought a "cheap" AT LP120X turntable (not really the same as AT LP120 but cheaper)
I bought it going against several people's advice (online and offline)
The general (strong) advice was "any new under $500 is total, aboslute crap, will sound horrible and will last a week or two.... For $300, or less, you can get a japanese/german/swiss/american made vintage tt that will be absolutely superior to any cheap chinese new tt and will last another 40 years..."

For some period of time I tried to get a japanese/german/swiss/american made vintage tt for $300 or less but it was very difficult and somewhat risky. I did not know what I was buying. So many variables and stuff not easy to understand. Lots of online sellers stated "in working condition". What does that mean? Yeah, my junk car I had when I was 18 years old was in working conditions... just not working properly. Plus, more stuff to buy... cartridge, stylus, mats, arms, covers, preamps, ball bearings, etc, etc.
So I got tired of hunting for vintage TT so I commited heresy and crime: bought a new "cheap" Chinese TT (Hanpin TT).
I did it knowingly such AT LP120X was labeled "absolute junk" (to say the least) in every single forum.

Now first of all, why is it that you need $500 to buy a decent TT when you can buy a DVD player for about $40??
And a $40 DVD player will play CDs that most likely will sound superior than a vinyl on a $500 TT?
I don't get why a mass produced TT is far more expensive compared to similar mass produced CD/DVD player.
Is it really far more difficult/expensive to build a TT than to build a DVD?
Do you need more mechanical precision?
I have heard DVD/CD technology requires very precise mechanical pieces.
Sorry to ask these questions, Im probably very ignorant.

TT technology is probably 100 years old so it is absolutely mature technology
Tons of money have been invested in TT technology research for about a century.
We live in very advanced industrial Capitalism which means mature technologies can only get cheaper, not more expensive.
Back in the 50s or 60s you had to pay premium for high fidelity.... Is it still true in 2021?
Now, I fully understand $500 are peanuts.
I fully understand that a true premium TT might truly cost more than my home and my car put together (including everything inside my home like my cheap TT)

My experience with AT LP120X after more than a year of almost daily use???

I have no reason to complain. Such is my experience.

I keep reading people telling that such is a junk TT that sounds horrible and disgusting and belongs to the trash can.

I will tell you what is junk sound to me: my laptop speakers; my logitech desktop speakers (though these Logitech speakers are a real improvement over my laptop speakers); my cellphone speaker; a boombox; a bluetooth speaker (big or small) and the like...... all that sounds bad to me but don't matter because such stuff are not really made for music listening.

My AT LP120X connected to entry level amp and entry level speakers does not sound like junk to me... My laptop certainly does...

I have personally listened to some Technics/Dual/Lenco (and others) TTs and yes boy they sound great but owners of these TTs buy very expensive carts and very expensive stylus and have them connected to multi thousand dollar preamps/amps then connected to multi thousand dollar speakers and dedicated rooms for music listening. So it is hard to tell if such great sound is due to TT or just partially/marginally due to it.

Now, about the love for vinyl.

I like vinyl, but I do not consider it to be worth investing thousands of dollars.

I have about 400 vinyl. About 350 are rock/pop and about 50 are classical music.

I never play classical on vinyl. It is my opinion that CD (digital music) is the best thing that happened to classical music. I have hundreds of classical music CDs and I think digital is the way to go for classical music.

About rock/pop sometimes I have some mixed feelings but I still consider digital the best format for all kind of music, specially for classical music.

I might be wrong but I truly consider digital is very elegant and superior technology for all kind of music.

I can certainly say I prefer some music/songs played on vinyl rather than on CD. But this is a personal preference. Not a scientific statement. I specially like Hendrix or Rory Gallagher on vinyl but not saying it sounds better than on CD. I just like it more, not saying that it sounds better.

I still buy inexpensive old used vinyl... Nostalgia is a powerful force indeed.

I guess most of my vinyl are in ok shape. Some are in very good shape. Some are in bad shape.

Im not exactly new to turntables or vinyl. Im just back at it.

I just did not know it was a very complicated world....

Back in the days I never gave much importance to it as I just bought turntables and vinyl records for the music and that was it...

Regards!!
Get a 1970s or early 1980s vintage Technics direct drive tt and a decent quality (and price) name-brand cartridge of medium compliance. Align per the manual's instructions (use the alignment jig if you can get one -- but it's not necessary), set the tracking force as described in the manual and you're good to go. Prices are up, but still not necessarily outrageous if one scours fleamarkets, ads, and amateur radio or antique electronics 'swapmeets'.

This SL-Q2, e.g., was a dump find, which I equipped (ultimately) with a very low compliance, low output Denon DL-103 moving coil cartridge (not the ideal match for the arm, but OK). It has served well for years, although, I moved the DL-103 to a much nicer Sony DD a few years back.

DSC_2464 by Mark Hardy, on Flickr

You do need a phono preamp/EQ if your amplifier, receiver, or preamp doesn't have one, too.
 
OP
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skymusic20

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What in the world is your point?
Haha, you are right, sorry, I apologize about all the long nonsense
Trying to get to the point is... Why an old mature technology is so expensive nowadays?
And why new TTs are supposedly so junk that it is much better deal to go buy vintage... (Like today nobody will go and buy a TV from the 70s)
But reading here and Im learning some...
Sorry about the first post, now I read it and makes not much sense...
 

levimax

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Thanks, you know, AT LP120x comes with an elliptical stylus.
Just tried a conical one. The thing is conical stylus seems to work better for records that are in poor shape. Elliptical is more revealing. I gues Microlinear is even more revealing but then you need to have your records in prefect condition...
Will consider microlinear, seems like a good try...
Like pretty much everything with TT's "it depends" is more accurate than more definitive statements. Regarding the microlinear stylus on a AT 33ptg2 I recently got I would say in general it plays my older damaged records better than anything else I have tried. Sometimes the smaller microlinear stylus will ride lower in the groove in an "undamaged area" and an old damaged record can sound much better. Other times on a different record not so much. Also I had a Denon 103R with a conical stylus which lacked nothing in sound quality. To me the big issue with a conical stylus is that they only last 200 hours or so vs 1,000 hours for a microlinear. The biggest advantage of conical is that set up is not critical especially VTA where as microlinear needs VTA correct to work best. There is no end to the things you can try but make sure the compliance of the cart you chose matches the compliance of the tone arm and go from there.
 

EJ3

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Thanks!
Very interesting stuff to know more about it
It is a whole new world I knew very little if any about...
I am glad to help. I am happy (and have been for some time) with the analog parts of my system. There is still work to be done (on both the analog & digital sides of the system [having mainly to do with signal processing that will run both analog & digital through the same process [I hope it works that way, if not...more work to be done]) but I am waiting on results of some testing (and then the money to do it). Somehow time or money seem to be had in intermittent periods of which rarely coincide with each other.
 
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skymusic20

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Like pretty much everything with TT's "it depends" is more accurate than more definitive statements. Regarding the microlinear stylus on a AT 33ptg2 I recently got I would say in general it plays my older damaged records better than anything else I have tried. Sometimes the smaller microlinear stylus will ride lower in the groove in an "undamaged area" and an old damaged record can sound much better. Other times on a different record not so much. Also I had a Denon 103R with a conical stylus which lacked nothing in sound quality. To me the big issue with a conical stylus is that they only last 200 hours or so vs 1,000 hours for a microlinear. The biggest advantage of conical is that set up is not critical especially VTA where as microlinear needs VTA correct to work best. There is no end to the things you can try but make sure the compliance of the cart you chose matches the compliance of the tone arm and go from there.
Thanks for the advice...

Actually, my TT lacks VTA... So I guess Im very limited as to which carts I can try... (Probably will need to play with mats...)
 

Leiker535

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Thanks, you know, AT LP120x comes with an elliptical stylus.
Just tried a conical one. The thing is conical stylus seems to work better for records that are in poor shape. Elliptical is more revealing. I gues Microlinear is even more revealing but then you need to have your records in prefect condition...
Will consider microlinear, seems like a good try...
Conicals stay on the groove better and thus are a good choice for very worn or dirty records (a better solution for those is to clean them :p), so you're right. DJs also universally use conical because of this "feature", as is explained by the creator himself here:


Elliptical makes more contact with the grooves though, so it can theoretically bring out more detail. Microlinear is just a slab of nude diamond shafted with glue on the cantilever, and it can go even further in the groove, theoretically bringing out even more detail. But that is where diminishing returns kicks in hard and you don't hear such a substantial upgrade. When thinking of microlinear against elliptical, it's better to think in terms of better tracking (better alignment, less distortion) and much higher life expectancy: the AT95ML lasts three VM95Es, so you definitely get your moneys worth. In detail, youtube comparisons today are very nice and may show to you that the actual sound quality result, outside of IGD, is really splitting hairs and placebo-land.


But also yes, after I upgraded to the ML I had to keep my records more pristine than before, and still refrain from using it on trashy worn or recicled vinyl: it just won't play right, sounding sibilant or outright skipping.
 

EJ3

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But also yes, after I upgraded to the ML I had to keep my records more pristine than before, and still refrain from using it on trashy worn or recicled vinyl: it just won't play right, sounding sibilant or outright skipping.
Minute pieces of paper (from the original record sleeve) in the groove can get you when you us an ML. Great reason to use a record cleaning machine (mine is hand crank driven) and a record cleaning brush before playing the record.
 
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