There was lots of talk last month about new digital software and hardware at the 2017 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, the premiere show for high end audio equipment in North America. Lots of excited chatter about streaming and streamers, servers, mobile audio, MQA, digital files, etc. Today’s cash cow and the market leaders of tomorrow. Interestingly, in just about every room you could spot a turntable, considered several years ago in our avocation an anachronism. And no matter the room, when the serious listening got going, it was sourced from a turntable. I heard more requests for vinyl demos than ever before.
This is no big surprise. The popular press has been crowing about vinyl’s resurgence for the past couple of years. It still lags light years behind streaming, but is a healthy portion of the market–what high enders like to see in their systems.
The great news about this resurgence is the vast number of turntables now available for purchase, at all price levels (over 100 manufacturers now make quality turntables). Sure, you can plonk down US$150,000 for a ‘table, and not even get the tonearm or cartridge. But Ludwig Van Toronto readers can go a fiscally painless route and still enjoy many of the benefits.
As such, I’m going to recommend five audiophile-grade turntables that sound incredibly good, are setup at the factory and come with a cartridge installed. Plug & Play, almost. All are available from stockists in Toronto. Look for the link below the ‘table’s photo.
Software. Records. Many companies know the value of fantastic legacy recordings remastered then pressed on 180 or 200g virgin vinyl. And they charge a pretty penny. Up to US$50 for LPs in stock, and much more for out of print releases. They usually sell out quickly. But there is no better feeling as an audiophile and music lover in discovering garage sale finds. You probably won’t be finding a box of original, mint EMIs and Deccas in granny’s basement, but there are lots of great sounding records out there. For pennies. Just one trick, they have to be cleaned.
Record cleaning fluid is like catnip for vinyl. Even better, use vacuum cleaning machine. But a cleaner’s for another time, when you are getting serious (and you will) and faced with ten boxes of dusty records from the estate sale down the street.
Two things, unless you have an integrated amplifier or receiver with a phono amplifier included (a circuit which applies the correct amplification from the cartridge; also called a phono stage or phono preamp, among other things), you’ll have to buy a stand-alone phono stage. You can get them on Amazon for as little as a hundred bucks, but more money usually gets you a better sound. And some of the turntables come with phono cables attached or in the box. If not, they are also available quite cheaply.
The following turntables are in the order I would purchase; each will give you years of satisfaction. You can purchase turntables from the same company even cheaper, but these models have true audiophile quality for a great price, setup with arm and cart incl. Prices in CAD.
Rega Planar 3 (an English classic with the exceptional RB330 tonearm and Rega’s own Elys 2 cartridge) $1499 American Sound of Canada
Clearaudio Concept (with Verify tonearm and Concept cartridge; brilliant German engineering in a one stop solution) $2195 Toronto Home of Audiophile
VPI Cliffwood (American made and features VPI’s gimbaled tonearm, pre-mounted Grado cart and aluminum platter) $1299 Audio by Mark Jones
Pro-ject Carbon (Still the best deal in analogue high end audio. A superb carbon fibre tonearm with Ortofon Red cart pre-mounted). $499 American Sound of Canada
Elipson Omega 100R Turntable (and for those who want the easiest plug & play, the 100R comes with a built in phono stage. Just plug it into any line input of your integrated amplifier or receiver. Comes with Elipson’s tonearm and a pre-mounted Ortofon OM10 cart). $699 Planet of Sound