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Need help with new Turntable choice to use with QS/SQ & SMv2

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J. PUPSTER

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I'd greatly appreciate help deciding on a new turntable / cartridge combo to use with regular stereo LPs, and also QS & SQ to Surround Master v2. This setup would also be used to convert to 96/24 flac files.

Thanks for any advice on this!:)
 

Sonik Wiz

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Wowsers. Starting a conversation about TT/Cart combo is tantamount to reviving analog/digital or tube/solid state debates. Of the many people on QQ I bet there's no two people have a matching TT/Cart set up. So if you get a dozen individual replies you'll get a dozen different suggestions as to what to buy and why. Still it's a worthwhile question to ask as someone may have the $$ to spend wisely, but not to waste.

What is your current turntable & cartridge set up? What do you use for pre-amp? Do you intend to only play through a PC to capture or also just play casually? And of course do you have a loose idea of what you want to spend.
 

J. PUPSTER

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Wowsers. Starting a conversation about TT/Cart combo is tantamount to reviving analog/digital or tube/solid state debates. Of the many people on QQ I bet there's no two people have a matching TT/Cart set up. So if you get a dozen individual replies you'll get a dozen different suggestions as to what to buy and why. Still it's a worthwhile question to ask as someone may have the $$ to spend wisely, but not to waste.

What is your current turntable & cartridge set up? What do you use for pre-amp? Do you intend to only play through a PC to capture or also just play casually? And of course do you have a loose idea of what you want to spend.
Thanks for the reply SW. First off, just know that you're dealing with the equivalent of a child when it comes to TT/Carts. I've had them most of my life, but none that are close to audiophile. My current digital collection dwarfs the analog; and I have been buying better equipment within the last 15 or so years to support that ever growing pile of digital gold. I still have a decent size LP collection of maybe 400-500 (but in what condition) who knows, haven't played them in years. I started thinking about LPs more recently since a lot of the albums I'd like to hear in Quad, never were, or just haven't been made available in a digital format. Also by the tantalizing work that Gene (GOS) is doing with his record collection has got my juices flowing towards that side of things. Who knows, now that I have better equipment, I might find that I prefer that warm analog sound to that of digital after all? I also have some semi-rare albums and others that just were never released in a digital format; so I'd like to check them out with a better setup and digitize them for comparison.

I'm planning on using the new setup for both casual listening as well as QS/SQ through the SMv2 and convert to digital through my main computer with a decent SoundBlaster card (which it already has.) The SB card has analog, USB and Firewire inputs. I also have Audition installed on that Win. 7 64 bit computer.

Here's what I have now:
TT is a: Technics SL-D30 with a Technics P328 cartridge probably the original.
Per-amp is a Rotel RQ-970BX (bought 15-20 years ago - new) and haven't actually used it much. I'm going to assume this is adequate, unless someone convinces me it's total crap.

As far as what I'm willing to spend on the TT, I was hoping to keep it to $500 or less. And for the cart., I really have no clue because I do want something that would work well for the QS/SQ albums and the regular LPs.

As to your first statement about matching TT/cart combos; seems like if there's no real consensus on that, then is there really a wrong answer?

Thanks for any help on this, I also will be doing a lot of digging here on the forum, as I know there's a wealth of "good" info buried, just waiting to be discovered.
 

MyCuff

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Unless you are eventually playing CD-4, it is all about personal preference. Whatever you think is the best sounding TT/Cart combo for regular stereo should do just fine for QS/SQ. For stereo, I like my Rega RP-1 and Denon DL-110. They seemed to have matched well and together were under $500. I play all my quad lps with a restored dual 1229Q TT and AT-440MLB since that is setup with a quad receiver.
 

Sonik Wiz

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Thanks for the reply SW. First off, just know that you're dealing with the equivalent of a child when it comes to TT/Carts. I've had them most of my life, but none that are close to audiophile. My current digital collection dwarfs the analog; and I have been buying better equipment within the last 15 or so years to support that ever growing pile of digital gold. I still have a decent size LP collection of maybe 400-500 (but in what condition) who knows, haven't played them in years. I started thinking about LPs more recently since a lot of the albums I'd like to hear in Quad, never were, or just haven't been made available in a digital format. Also by the tantalizing work that Gene (GOS) is doing with his record collection has got my juices flowing towards that side of things. Who knows, now that I have better equipment, I might find that I prefer that warm analog sound to that of digital after all? I also have some semi-rare albums and others that just were never released in a digital format; so I'd like to check them out with a better setup and digitize them for comparison.

I'm planning on using the new setup for both casual listening as well as QS/SQ through the SMv2 and convert to digital through my main computer with a decent SoundBlaster card (which it already has.) The SB card has analog, USB and Firewire inputs. I also have Audition installed on that Win. 7 64 bit computer.

Here's what I have now:
TT is a: Technics SL-D30 with a Technics P328 cartridge probably the original.
Per-amp is a Rotel RQ-970BX (bought 15-20 years ago - new) and haven't actually used it much. I'm going to assume this is adequate, unless someone convinces me it's total crap.

As far as what I'm willing to spend on the TT, I was hoping to keep it to $500 or less. And for the cart., I really have no clue because I do want something that would work well for the QS/SQ albums and the regular LPs.

As to your first statement about matching TT/cart combos; seems like if there's no real consensus on that, then is there really a wrong answer?

Thanks for any help on this, I also will be doing a lot of digging here on the forum, as I know there's a wealth of "good" info buried, just waiting to be discovered.
I think looking into upgrading is a good idea & I'll bet you will appreciate the improvement in sound quality.

The Rotel RQ-970BX is a decent design. It has discrete transistor input with an AD744 chip for RIAA equalization. This is a chip with good specs even by today's standards. The output is the NE5534, not as good as the AD744 but very common for the time. There is no level out but there is on the SM v2. Also there is no input balance on the Rotel or the SM v2 which would concern me. Recordings that are a little off balance become even more off balance after a decoder does it's separation enhancement. But it costs nothing to otherwise use this preamp so why not start off giving it a try?

The biggest choice to make in selecting a turntable might be the easiest: direct drive or belt? The former has the most audiophile acceptance but either has their pros and cons. You can certainly find DD TT's with great specs just like belt drive. I guess rule of thumb might be a high quality DD TT will out perform a cheapo poorly designed belt drive, and vice versa. I purchased my (non-USB) AT-LP120 before the vinyl renaissance and was concerned about availability of belt replacement years later so I went with direct drive. Like MyCuff I also have an Audio Technica AT 440Mlb cart. There is a whole next level of skill in matching cart to tone arm that I don't have. I was confident Audio Technica would produce well matched compatibility. It has the Micro-Line stylus that I strongly prefer over elliptical and though I rarely listen to CD-4 it works great with just a Clarion demodulator. This cart is now out of production replaced by the VM450 ML which is also Micro-Line and current Amazon price is $250.

If I were to consider belt drive unit I would be most interested in the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon unit. Pro-Ject has been around a long time with a great reputation and this includes the Ortofon 2M Red for about $360, well within your budget. I would also probably replace the Ortofon cart which specs average at best with some thing else such as the AT VM540 or a higher end Ortofon that also makes a wide range of excellent carts.

RE: USB TT's
Elsewhere I have been rather critical of the turntables with built in RIAA and digital USB output. Looking at the current replacement for my TT, the AT LP120 USB I see that only 16 bit output at 44.1/48 sampling is available. This fails to meet current audiophile standards of both higher bit depth and sampling. The signal to noise ratio is listed as -50dB. This is pretty bad. It is accepted that a good LP recording can have a dynamic range of 60 dB so it can't even match that.

The Sound Blaster card seems to have a good compliment of connectivity. I have to say I look at the typical PC sound card a warily. They are built to provide upgraded sound from MOBO chip capabilities but I don't think match up to audiophile quality. I could be wrong as I have no reason to deeply research this. I will say it might be worth looking at some of the AD convertors mentioned in Gene's post about ripping LP's. There are some good choices there to consider.

Yup like you the SM v2 is getting me back to my turntable & getting things ready to play from digital to save wear & tear on the records. The declick noise reducer mentioned elsewhere works great IMO & that makes it even better than simply "playing a record."
 

J. PUPSTER

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I think looking into upgrading is a good idea & I'll bet you will appreciate the improvement in sound quality.

The Rotel RQ-970BX is a decent design. It has discrete transistor input with an AD744 chip for RIAA equalization. This is a chip with good specs even by today's standards. The output is the NE5534, not as good as the AD744 but very common for the time. There is no level out but there is on the SM v2. Also there is no input balance on the Rotel or the SM v2 which would concern me. Recordings that are a little off balance become even more off balance after a decoder does it's separation enhancement. But it costs nothing to otherwise use this preamp so why not start off giving it a try?

The biggest choice to make in selecting a turntable might be the easiest: direct drive or belt? The former has the most audiophile acceptance but either has their pros and cons. You can certainly find DD TT's with great specs just like belt drive. I guess rule of thumb might be a high quality DD TT will out perform a cheapo poorly designed belt drive, and vice versa. I purchased my (non-USB) AT-LP120 before the vinyl renaissance and was concerned about availability of belt replacement years later so I went with direct drive. Like MyCuff I also have an Audio Technica AT 440Mlb cart. There is a whole next level of skill in matching cart to tone arm that I don't have. I was confident Audio Technica would produce well matched compatibility. It has the Micro-Line stylus that I strongly prefer over elliptical and though I rarely listen to CD-4 it works great with just a Clarion demodulator. This cart is now out of production replaced by the VM450 ML which is also Micro-Line and current Amazon price is $250.

If I were to consider belt drive unit I would be most interested in the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon unit. Pro-Ject has been around a long time with a great reputation and this includes the Ortofon 2M Red for about $360, well within your budget. I would also probably replace the Ortofon cart which specs average at best with some thing else such as the AT VM540 or a higher end Ortofon that also makes a wide range of excellent carts.

RE: USB TT's
Elsewhere I have been rather critical of the turntables with built in RIAA and digital USB output. Looking at the current replacement for my TT, the AT LP120 USB I see that only 16 bit output at 44.1/48 sampling is available. This fails to meet current audiophile standards of both higher bit depth and sampling. The signal to noise ratio is listed as -50dB. This is pretty bad. It is accepted that a good LP recording can have a dynamic range of 60 dB so it can't even match that.

The Sound Blaster card seems to have a good compliment of connectivity. I have to say I look at the typical PC sound card a warily. They are built to provide upgraded sound from MOBO chip capabilities but I don't think match up to audiophile quality. I could be wrong as I have no reason to deeply research this. I will say it might be worth looking at some of the AD convertors mentioned in Gene's post about ripping LP's. There are some good choices there to consider.

Yup like you the SM v2 is getting me back to my turntable & getting things ready to play from digital to save wear & tear on the records. The declick noise reducer mentioned elsewhere works great IMO & that makes it even better than simply "playing a record."
Great, very helpful response SW; funny you should mention the AT LP120 USB, because I Googled TTs under $500 just this morning and that's the one that caught my eye. So it is just 16 bit output at 44.1/48 sampling going through the USB I assume, but it also gives you the analog cable option with direct bypass for your own pre-amp also. But yes, that makes the USB function useless as I would want a 96/24 result. I haven't looked yet, but are there other selectable TTs using USB/analog that will output 96/24? Also the LP120 USB is only $250 which gives me more upside in my search.

I guess when you mention AD convertors, you're talking about something like a MOTU or another brand mentioned I can't think of right now?

Your info is much appreciated; and by the way have you seen the Netflix series - Love, Death + Robots?
 

Sonik Wiz

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I found a Sony TT/Cart combo that outputs high res DSD but nothing 24/96 LPCM. DSD is a whole 'nother world I am too old and dumb to want to master. You may feel more ambitious!

RE: AD interface
As I said the Ripping LP's had some good options I had never heard of before. So I would check back on that. My own choice many years ago was a M-Audio Delta 1010. As you can tell by the name it has 10 simultaneous in/out connections. I knew it was a good choice when I saw it given a line of tech credit in recording an Alicia Keys CD. Anyway that is a long gone legacy gear that lives happy in my Bassment but I can not recommend. Like most around here I would recommend based on previous experience but since this is my only good "sound card" I can't be too specific otherwise. But in genral I am very happy at the quality construction & I love the M-Audio support. updates, etc. So poking around I found this:

https://www.amazon.com/M-Audio-M-Track-2X2-Interface-24-bit/dp/B01FFH5XMC

I bet it out performs it's price level and certainly any USB table. And it looks cool. Also they make 4x4 if that's what you want.

I have not seen Love, Death + Robots or even heard of it. I have wiki'ed it, read reviews & checked it out. I have someting to watch tonight & I suspect will pass on to my anime friends as well.

Edit: you can't see in the Amazon pic but input is two line level 1/4" jacks. Easy to convert to accept phono plugs.
 

Sonik Wiz

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Well slap me silly. I was wrong about the M-Audio M Track 2x2. It does have two analog inputs but one is foe a microphone and one is for guitar & I can't predict how thety would work with simple line level inputs. Certainly mic/guitar would be lower level so I don't know if it would over load. The two 1/4" jacks on the back are outputs for self powed monitor speakers. See, always good to download & check the users manual before helping someone else spend their money!
 

J. PUPSTER

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Well slap me silly. I was wrong about the M-Audio M Track 2x2. It does have two analog inputs but one is foe a microphone and one is for guitar & I can't predict how thety would work with simple line level inputs. Certainly mic/guitar would be lower level so I don't know if it would over load. The two 1/4" jacks on the back are outputs for self powed monitor speakers. See, always good to download & check the users manual before helping someone else spend their money!
No worries, I like to beat it ta death before I pull the trigger on something (mostly.) And with my relatively advanced age and memory, I need to go back through that whole TT thread of GOS's to hit refresh 🙄 And Focusrite was the other brand I was thinking of.
 
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J. PUPSTER

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Bump

For GOS's thread on LP to Digital conversion; lots of great info there!

Also, it's important for me to mention that I also have a TEAC A-2340 Reel to Reel in great shape, that I want to work with as to converting to digital. I have some 1970's King Biscuit Flower Hour concerts i.e. ERIC CLAPTON, ZZ TOP, ELP, etc. that I'd like to transfer (stereo.)
But there's also the possibility I can find some good R-R Quads to purchase that could also be converted as well:LB; so that's why a MOTU or Focusrite with 4 inputs might be important.
 
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Sonik Wiz

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And here's yet something else to consider while doing research. The Delta 1010LT has been very popular around here if you search quite a bit to read. Georgeshannon has reported great success with it. I don't know how the cost compares with MOTU etc. But here it is $199 and brand new despite being a legacy product:

Ebay Delta 1010LT

It is nifty for tucking away with all the various connections behind your PC. Please note that this is not a USB intereface but plugs into a PCI (NOT PCI e) slot inside your computer.
 

Sonik Wiz

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Bump
For GOS's thread on LP to Digital conversion; lots of great info there!

Also, it's important for me to mention that I also have a TEAC A-2340 Reel to Reel in great shape, that I want to work with as to converting to digital. I have some 1970's King Biscuit Flower Hour concerts i.e. ERIC CLAPTON, ZZ TOP, ELP, etc. that I'd like to transfer (stereo.)
But there's also the possibility I can find some good R-R Quads to purchase that could also be converted as well:LB; so that's why a MOTU or Focusrite with 4 inputs might be important.
So how's the selection process going?

Since the Audio Technica USB table has been discussed here, I found a good review even if it's a few years old:

AT LP-120 USB
 

J. PUPSTER

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So how's the selection process going?

Since the Audio Technica USB table has been discussed here, I found a good review even if it's a few years old:

AT LP-120 USB
I've been looking at the Audio Technica TTs, but the USB aspect is rather limiting because its only 44.1K or 48K @ 16 bit resolution. However you can switch it between on-board Pre-Amp to a separate. They also fit my price range, just not sure of the model yet.

Do you have any preference for MM or MC carts, especially for QS/SQ records?
 

4-earredwonder

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I've been looking at the Audio Technica TTs, but the USB aspect is rather limiting because its only 44.1K or 48K @ 16 bit resolution. However you can switch it between on-board Pre-Amp to a separate. They also fit my price range, just not sure of the model yet.

Do you have any preference for MM or MC carts, especially for QS/SQ records?
JP, you might want to try contacting the experienced salespersons @ Music Direct in Illinois [1-800-449--8333]. They're not pushy and in my experience they will probably better assist your needs than local salespeople at Best Buy or equivalent.

And Music Direct also has Open Box Items at attractive discounts. They're really vinyl enthusiasts, as well. They also offer a 60 day money back guarantee...so if you're not satisfied ...... Hey ... it's a PHONE CALL!
 

Sonik Wiz

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I've been looking at the Audio Technica TTs, but the USB aspect is rather limiting because its only 44.1K or 48K @ 16 bit resolution. However you can switch it between on-board Pre-Amp to a separate. They also fit my price range, just not sure of the model yet.

Do you have any preference for MM or MC carts, especially for QS/SQ records?
4-earredwonder had some good advice. Give 'em a call.
My preference is for MM carts. Higher output, less expensive & some MC carts require sending back to the factory for stylus replacement.
 

4-earredwonder

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I need this rig🥴
A few years ago [haven't check the prices lately] Clearaudio used to sell Cartridges for $20K. Of course in those days a 1m pair of RCA interconnects also used to go for as high as $18K+. When you hit the lottery, JP .... the sky's the limit!

If you put that kind of diamond [stylus] on your turntable rig ... and NOT on Mrs. Pupster's finger ..... I assure YOU besides being in the DOG🐶HOUSE [and DEEP :poop::poop:]:

 
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Franklin

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In terms of stylii, I would recommend going a decent profile. Like others here I use an Audio Technica microline stylus. I'm not convinced it will make a massive amount of difference in playing quad outside of CD-4, but the stylus shape/profile makes a huge difference once the album gets closer to the end of the side, so the benefit in stereo alone, IMHO, is worth it. I wouldn't want to go back to eliptical or conical/spherical for main listening. (I do use a conical for DJing and it's useful for playing obviously dirty second hand records, etc.) The Audio Technica sound isn't for everyone, but I spent several years with Ortofon OM (I changed because it didn't suit a later tonearm I got) and Grado Prestige which were a nightmare for wobbles. Personally for amps, I like Rotel. I use a separate pre-amp though. I currently use the much maligned SL-1200 Mk II with a much maligned stock arm (it's the stock arm from a 1210, but that's another story) and it suits the Audio Technica cart (AT440MLa, but with difference stylus) very well.

Audio Technica hiked their prices in a big way when they discontinued the AT range of stylii. The new VM series is compatible with the old AT cartridge. However, there is another new range which is significantly cheaper, although on paper the specs are not as good: the AT-VM range. This, despite sharing the same prefix is not compatible with the old AT cartridges. In Sterling, the AT-VM95ML (microline) is £149, whereas the VM540ML (also microline) is £230.

So in summary: I'd recommend a microline/shibata/gyger profile for better end of side performance.
 
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