Currently running Technics SL-BD20 with the stock Technics cartridge. Got it new for $100.00. Will be replacing cartridge will P-mount Grado cartridge and stock power cord and interconnects. Intend to tweak it as mush as possible.
It's around 400-450 bucks, and you should buy it through one of those dealers that hates you and your insolent intrusion into his sanctuary of audio...you know the type...they are annoying (to me) but they set up a TT like nobody else.
I absolutely love the thing and I am enjoying the search for new software. People have wonderful music sitting on LPs that they will let you have for pennies each. My latest adventure was at a small thrift store that had about 300 LPs in a box... I offered the lady 40 bucks for the box and she said, "Get em outta here!" There was a mint Pink Floyd DSOTM in there, LEd ZepIV, and some cool Sinatra, Mel Torme, and others... I was able to salvage over half of the box (the rest was either in really bad shape or didn't interest me). Over 150 records for 40 bucks....
Does it sound better than CDs? Sometimes! Who cares? At a fraction of the cost for a CD...you bet it does!
Oh yeah...50 bucks for a "Spin Clean" REcord cleaner....although I was just using the kitchen sink and faucet for a while there...both work but the Spin Clean makes cleaning 100 LPs a lot quicker. Here's a link:
Sound quality through my Technics SA-DA8 receiver's built-in phono stage (& onto my Boston Acoustics CR9 speakers) can vary a lot. Records that were played with record players using old-style ceramic cartridges sound quite crappy--those old carts practically had ice picks for needles, and ground off most of the high frequencies. But my LPs played exclusively with my old Audio-Technica moving-magnet cart (w/Technics SL-D20 direct drive table) and proper elliptical stylus sound much better, many times almost like the CD version. Of course, the best sounding LPs are the newest ones I bought before my original table was broken. Pat Benatar's Seven The Hard Way, The Cars Panorama and Pink Floyd's The Wall sound 99% like a CD: clean highs & punchy lows. All with that much-talked about vinyl "smoothness".
But I still prefer the CD versions. Those smooth highs--for ME--are lacking the detail the CD format provides. I don't mean the CD is just simply brighter either. And the thing is, the more the record has been played, the more detail that is missing. My older LPs have a certain "distant" sound quality to them, almost like I am hearing the mids & highs from outside the room: I can hear the cymbals and voices but that delicate "shimmer" is gone and "s" sounds are muted. It's perfectly listenable, but not quite as involving anymore as when new. And that irritating inner-groove distortion is always there (the last track ends up sounding rather dull compared to the other, outer tracks. Nothing can prevent this, unless you own a linear tracking table or your tonearm is about five feet long!).
Of course the cartridge cost only sixty bucks (retail), table is entry level, and I’m using what’s probably a phonostage-on-a-chip but the comparison is correct as far as mid-fi equipment is concerned. I’m sure if I had Shure’s top model $350 V15 cart and a $500 table things would sound better. But personally speaking, my Technics SL-PG4, $120 CD player sounds better than the SL-BD22/MP94E combination. And especially, it will never wear out my music software collection just by playing them.
And of course, the hassles of vinyl. Nothing really bad (I just blew $230 bucks on this, so.......) but after a decade of dropping a silver disc on a tray, pushing "play" & hearing music, it takes getting used to again. Pull out record by the edges (don't want fingerprints on surface); brush off record; check stylus for dust bunnies; cue up tonearm and let tonearm down (making sure to use cueing device & not your fingers); and if record is warped, let tonearm down in-between warped section. There, you're done! This really is easy and only takes about 30 seconds. And like the others mentioned, the amount of music available--so much CHEAP music--makes it all worth it. And on a really shallow note: it's cool having a nice looking table like this in my equipment rack.
SL-BD22 notes: I bought this version because of the pitch control/stroboscope. The A/C line voltage varies slightly day-by-day which affects the platter speed and wanted some way to compensate for this. Those audiophile tables? None seem to have this important feature, and they seemed quite primitive in other ways too. Even the really expensive models ($1000+) don’t seem to have any kind of servo speed control that automatically controls speed like even a $450 Technics SL-1200 has (supposedly a “primitive” table to many audiophiles). Weird. Some had motors suspended with what looked like rubber bands--owners thought it was "endearing" when the pulley clanked against the platter until the motor spun up to speed . No thank you. Anyway.....the Technics tonearm was half metal (main L-shaped gimbal support, bearing & tonearm itself) and half dense plastic. Tonearm has a small spring underneath (near gimbal) to prevent damage if arm is accidentally dropped. Tracking force is set at 1.25 grams-a good, light weight. It's a P-mount cart system so you just plug in the cartridge, snug-up a tiny screw and you're done. Base of table is a funky, jet-black plasticky substance but almost feels like very hard rubber (better Technics receivers & CD players seem to use this stuff too for its anti-resonant qualites). Feet have reasonably good suspension qualities--I haven't heard any feedback so far. Cueing slider felt a little crunchy at first (until lubricant gets spread around?). Lastly, it was made in Japan--that is a rare thing these days.
I found that rather upscale (for a P-mount) Shure cart (at Parts Express of all places) by accident while poking around with Google. On the Shure website it lists it as “discontinued”—get’em while you can! Here’s something cool: along with the cart, Parts Express sent along a bag of microwave popcorn—now that’s service!
And don't forget that quite a bit of NEW music is appearing on vinyl also. And especially remixes: sometimes they are only available on vinyl. Here's one of my favorite labels that offers this (home of Thievery Corporation): Eighteenth Street Lounge Music
I bought the Technics/Shure along with a Pioneer DV-656A dvd-audio player—it was sort of weird, seeing these two machines from different audio eras next to each other. But both are fun to play with and listen to.
If I'm not mistaken, really good stylus designs can bring out lots more detail than elliptical types (mine) and especially conical ones.
If I remember this correctly, Shure's "micro-ridge" stylus has two narrow "ears" cut into it (for lack of a better term) that fit into the left/right grooves a lot better than just a simple geometrically shaped one can. But shaping this is very expensive--it's all hand labor under a microscope. So @$300 for the complete cartridge definitely isn't outlandish.
Another stylus design I remember from the 80s that got a lot of press was called the "Shibata". I can't even start to describe that funkily shaped thing (& very expensive too), but it got great reviews.
And these sophisticated styluses also take better care of the grooves (the conical type I think is the worst--it's round shape sort of crashes through the groove).
And if I was to use any cart above $150, I would probably try out a decent outboard phono preamp with it. I don't really much trust the ones built into today's receivers.
And if anyone wants to upgrade their table's cables (hehe) be careful about checking for the correct interconnect resistance & capacitance (the "pf" value) in the cart's manual: cartridges are pretty sensitive to these values & the wrong cable can make a great cart sound like crap--this is the only time I worry about cables audibly affecting the sound of a component. For example, for Shure's V15 it says (from Shure's V15 webpage): "Recommended Load: 47 kilohms in parallel with 250 pf".
I am running a Technics SL-BD22D Belt Drive table with Strobe-O-Scope, Double Gimball Suspension, Straight low mass tone arm (P-Mount) and I am using Audio-Technica's AT331-LP Cartridge on the end. I have the table sitting on Glass with 4 Brass Spike/Pad Isolator feet under the glass.
I also turned the 45RPM Adaptor into a custom level that I keep on the platter all the time and I also replaced the stock RCA's with much better cables.
The sound is dynamite.. The AT331-LP Cartridge is a very broad frequency range with good stereo seperation (In the $80.00 price range) and on good clean vinyl it sounds better than some (not all) CD's I have.
The Technichs SL-BD22 is an underrated table IMHO it's one heck of a deal for a semi automatic table!
I looked at the Music Hall offering and while the solid MDF base is nice and you do get a better tone arm you do not get the semi auto features nor the strobe-o-scope and that is what led me to purchase the SL-BD22D.
I am running the table into the Phono Input on my Onkyo TX-DS787 and it sounds very good to me.
I am quite pleased with my Rega Planar 3 with the P3 motor upgrade. (In effect, I have a P3 with the old-style Planar plinth.) In combination with a Grado Reference Platinum cartridge mounted on the standard RB300 tonearm, it performs admirably, with tight bass, well defined midrange and silky highs. My phono stage is the Lehmann Black Cube (Improved). I know this phono stage makes a positive difference, as I have tried several others including a number of ones built into preamps and receiver/integrated amps that I've used in my system.
I'm not going to get into a discussion about the sonic merits of vinyl relative to CD or other digital formats. All I will say at this point is that I am glad that I still have access to many music performances on LP that are not available to me on CD, using equipment that is far better than any I owned when I was originally building my collection during vinyl's "heyday" in the marketplace.
Running a Rega P3/RB300 with a Denon DL103 cartridge and a DIY phono stage. Hands down beats my modded Denon DCM-270 CD player any day of the week. For the last year or so, the CD player has been used almost exclusively for background music.
Not in my home theater, but in my office/music room I'm running a Denon DP-7F (about 8 years old) with an AT311EP cartridge (about 6 months old). Sounds fine, and I have about 300 LPs to go with it. I am currently trying to make CD copies of much of the collection using a Sony MDS-JB920 MD deck for the A/D conversion, running optical into my computer, recording with SoundForge, then burning the CDs with Cakewalk Pyro 2003. The resulting CDs sound fabulous.
In my two channel set up I use the Revolver Super with the Super arm and Grado Platinum cartridge running into the NAD PP1 phono stage. I still use it daily. I listen to a lot of stuff from the '70's and prefer the sonics of the LPs than the CDs for that stuff. Deep Purple's Machine Head has a warmth and intimacy that the CD misses altogether along with much better bass quality. Same with Jethro Tull Thick as a Brick and the old Genesis stuff.