Turntable Advice

DJTipster

Active Member
Morning all,

My first step into the hi-fi separates world was a couple of years ago when I purchased Bower & Wilkins 606 Speakers, Pioneer A-40AE Amplifier, Pioneer N-30AE Network Streamer, and Pioneer PLX-500 turntable. You guys on AV Forums helped me with that, and so I am reaching out again for some more advice.

I have a bit of an upgrade itch at the moment, and that is with the PLX-500 turntable. Past few weeks I have been looking at upgrading the turntable and I seem to have narrowed down some options but I need some steering from you lovely lot. Options I have looked at are -
  • Keep the PLX-500 turntable but upgrade the currently in-use stock cartridge and replace with a Ortofon 2M Red
  • Same as above but replace with Ortofon 2M Blue instead
  • Completely replace turntable and in keeping with Pioneer go for the PLX-1000
  • Replace and go with Pro-Ject Debut Pro
  • Replace and go with Pro-Ject X1
Keep in mind that the PLX-500 RCA cables are hardwired into the turntable and are not replaceable. I don't know if changing the cartridge on this turntable is going to make much of a difference due to this hence why I'm thinking I don't want to spend ~£100-£200 on the Red / Blue cartridges when I could use that money to upgrade to a better turntable anyway if that is the sensible route to go?

Million dollar question .... what would you guys do? :)
 

Ascotbilly

Well-known Member
@DJTipster - I get where you’re coming from as I’m thinking of upgrading my TT and have too many options now.

Option 1 is by far the cheapest and whilst it’s not something I’ve done myself I read numerous positive posts on merits of adding a new cartridge.

Had a look at the Pro-Ject Debut Pro in store last week, it’s a really smart looking piece of kit, looks well built and quality components.

The PLC1000 and Debut Pro are £699, X1 is £799.

I don’t know the Pioneer TT Series it looks very similar to the Technics range - do you need a “DJ” style TT. If you do then you have your answer.

If you prefer the Project there are numerous reviews of the Debut Pro vs X1

Enjoy your research !!
 

DJTipster

Active Member
Thanks for replying Ascotbilly. I dont need a DJ style turntable at all no. Its only for home use to play jazz, indie, rock, electronic, country, folk, and americana vinyl records, and I only picked the PLX-500 because it matched my hi-fi equipment brand Pioneer. Was aesthetics for me to have everything branded Pioneer at the time, but happy to look at other equipment if it is worth doing so.

Okay so good to note then if i was to upgrade the stock cartridge it actually would make a difference even with the non-changeable cables out the back of the PLX-500 👍
 

Ascotbilly

Well-known Member
Okay so good to note then if i was to upgrade the stock cartridge it actually would make a difference even with the non-changeable cables out the back of the PLX-500 👍
Any people suggest it does, just don’t spend to much as your TT itself will have limitations.

I would go and have a look at the Projects Debut Pro, below is the one I looked at last week it’s a very neat compact design. You also have the Project debut Carbon Evo
With some very good deals at the moment

 

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Ugg10

Distinguished Member
As for cartridges, personally I would skip the 2M Red, I used a blue cartridge body with a silver stylus which is actually all the same as a complete red cartridge and stylus. It generally does not get the best reviews and is quite a harsh sounding cartridge.

For similar money you can get the AT VM95ML which is a significant upgrade on the Red and even the Blue. It also has the benefit of having a significantly longer stylus life (about 3x the red/blue stylus) and so long term will be cheaper.

Also, at the £700 mark I would also throw in the Rega Planar 3.

Have a look at the clearance/ex demo/open box sections of the main retailers, Sevenoaks have a number of turntables on their site at the moment including a Project Debut pro, X1, RPM5 and also Technics SL1500C which comes with a 2M red cartridge.
 

camcroft

Well-known Member
+1 for the AT VM95ML it is an excellent cartridge.
 

DJTipster

Active Member
I forgot about Sevenoaks - yes cheers for all of this - great information. So are you saying the 2M red doesn't get good reviews? I see loads of people on here say they use that one, and google reviews have them down as 4.8/5 from 339 reviews... definitely will have a look at the ATVM95ML as well. hope these are easy to install 😂

Just saw the Debut in Sevenoaks clearence... and the X1 ... ahhh, which one to press the button on !?

I think to narrow it down....will i get better bang for my buck having an X1 or Debut Pro vs my current PLX-500 with either 2M Blue/Red or ATVM95ML ?
 

Ascotbilly

Well-known Member
.will i get better bang for my buck having an X1 or Debut Pro vs my current PLX-500 with either 2M Blue/Red or ATVM95ML ?

Logic states the Projects will sound better with like for like cartridges as they should contain better components given the cost over the Pioneer but at the end of the day it’s your ears.
 

DJTipster

Active Member
Just had a look at the ATVM95ML and the ATVM95SH … very tempted by both of these from your recommendations today and from what I have read. My only drawback on the SH is the In Groove Distortion. How bad can this be, and does the SH really cause the record to distort very badly over time? Offer on the SH at the moment on Richer Sounds and I'm thinking of buying it now, but like I say - the comments re the IGD are putting me off slightly as of course I don't want my records to distort !
 

camcroft

Well-known Member
Just had a look at the ATVM95ML and the ATVM95SH … very tempted by both of these from your recommendations today and from what I have read. My only drawback on the SH is the In Groove Distortion. How bad can this be, and does the SH really cause the record to distort very badly over time? Offer on the SH at the moment on Richer Sounds and I'm thinking of buying it now, but like I say - the comments re the IGD are putting me off slightly as of course I don't want my records to distort !
The ML tracks really well and its lifespan is better than the SH
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
Theoretically the ML is the better stylus, the SH is more expensive as AT have to pay a royalty to use it. The SH is a tad more mellow but you would really have to listen for it. I’d go for the ML (had it on three different turntables and has performed really well on all of them).
 

dogfonos

Well-known Member
Completely replace turntable

Best option.

There's only so far you can take the PLX-500. Even with the usual upgrades, I would expect it's limitations to show. I was going to suggest throwing the Audio Technica AT-LP7 into the mix but I'm not sure it's currently sold in the UK despite being available in other parts of the world.
 

camcroft

Well-known Member
Theoretically the ML is the better stylus, the SH is more expensive as AT have to pay a royalty to use it. The SH is a tad more mellow but you would really have to listen for it. I’d go for the ML (had it on three different turntables and has performed really well on all of them).
I am personally enjoying my ML cartridge and I like the way it sounds since I had the
RigB solid body fitted to it. But that is only my opinion.
 

harkpabst

Well-known Member
Offer on the SH at the moment on Richer Sounds and I'm thinking of buying it now, but like I say - the comments re the IGD are putting me off slightly as of course I don't want my records to distort !
I can only compare the (more expensive) VM540ML to the VM95SH and definitely prefer the latter (on a turntable costing roughly 30 times as much as the cart). If the SH is on offer I see absolutely no reason to avoid it. :) The difference in specified needle life is real, but not dramatic (800 hours SH vs. 1000 hours ML, some people generally prefer to replace the stylus much earlier).

IDG is an absolute non-issue with SH styli (and ML styli), as long as they are properly aligned. Whoever tells any different has no clue. However, alignment is critical. You cannot simply screw a Shibata cart to the headshell and hope for the best. You definitely do need a protractor. Period.

Unfortunately, Pioneer do not specify the effective mass of the PLX-500 tonearm. This makes picking a suitable cart a guessing game. Judging by looks it is most probably a medium mass arm and should work with all recommended pickups.

In the end it all comes down to your budget. A Rega P3 with either VM95SH or VM95ML will slaughter any Pioneer turntable any day.

BTW: Are you using the built-in phono stage or the A-40AE phono input? In both cases Pioneer does not specify the input capacitance (unfortunately). One can only hope that it works well with the factory fitted AT3600L. If it does, it will also work well with the VM95 series of carts.
 

DJTipster

Active Member
I can only compare the (more expensive) VM540ML to the VM95SH and definitely prefer the latter (on a turntable costing roughly 30 times as much as the cart). If the SH is on offer I see absolutely no reason to avoid it. :) The difference in specified needle life is real, but not dramatic (800 hours SH vs. 1000 hours ML, some people generally prefer to replace the stylus much earlier).

IDG is an absolute non-issue with SH styli (and ML styli), as long as they are properly aligned. Whoever tells any different has no clue. However, alignment is critical. You cannot simply screw a Shibata cart to the headshell and hope for the best. You definitely do need a protractor. Period.

Unfortunately, Pioneer do not specify the effective mass of the PLX-500 tonearm. This makes picking a suitable cart a guessing game. Judging by looks it is most probably a medium mass arm and should work with all recommended pickups.

In the end it all comes down to your budget. A Rega P3 with either VM95SH or VM95ML will slaughter any Pioneer turntable any day.

BTW: Are you using the built-in phono stage or the A-40AE phono input? In both cases Pioneer does not specify the input capacitance (unfortunately). One can only hope that it works well with the factory fitted AT3600L. If it does, it will also work well with the VM95 series of carts.

Love this, and more food for thought when it comes to the upgrades.

Okay so I am going to sound like a total noob here but I can't give you a straight answer on what is connected to what... I've just plugged things in where I think they should go! Bad, I know ! 🙈

So, PLX-500 is switch selected to Phono and the RCA cables are connected straight into the phono inputs in the A-40AE. Please tell me I've done that right... been like that for 2 years and sounded fine to me ! 😂

I've become a lot more heavily invested in vinyl since I got my turntable and love the enthusiasm for HiFi and audio, hence looking at an upgrade now
 

harkpabst

Well-known Member
So, PLX-500 is switch selected to Phono and the RCA cables are connected straight into the phono inputs in the A-40AE. Please tell me I've done that right... been like that for 2 years and sounded fine to me ! 😂

I've become a lot more heavily invested in vinyl since I got my turntable and love the enthusiasm for HiFi and audio, hence looking at an upgrade now
Yep, that's definitely right. :) If you feel like tinkering you could also switch the PLX-500 to Line and connect it to one of the line inputs on the A-40AE. I'm not saying it will sound better, but comparing both options is completely free. ;) It's even possible that the turntable built-in phono stage is exactly the same as that in your amp.

So it sounds like budget is a concern (it always is, right?) but not your top concern. As has been said before the PLX-500 can surely be bettered by many mid-price (whatever that means) record players. I'm living out my bias to the maximum extend and strongly second @Ugg10 recommending the Rega Planar 3. If dusting is high on your list of hobbies you can go for the black one. White and red are easier to live with if not. :D

PS:
Rega MM cartridges are not amongst my favourites. The cheapest one (the Carbon) is pretty good, but you already own one. It's an AT3600L like factory fitted to your Pioneer. And it retails for around GBP 22 without the Rega logo.
 
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DJTipster

Active Member
Haha yes love the dusting ! 😂

Budget is kind of -ish an issue. Of course to fund a new turntable I would happily sell my PLX-500.

So I'm a little torn but in a good way... love these debates and rabbit holes we always find ourselves in !

For me now it's either
  • Pro-Ject X1
  • Rega Planar 3
  • Keep PLX-500 and upgrade to VM95SH
  • Keep PLX-500 and upgrade to VM95ML
That's where I'm at 🤔
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
Remember you can buy the Rega Planar 3 with or without cartridge, buying it with the Rega cartridge does get you a discount but iirc the stylus are not replaceable it is a trade in for a new full cartridge when you need to.
 
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DJTipster

Active Member
That's it mate. If I go cartridge now I'd keep and use on new TT (Rega or Pro-Ject) when I get a new turntable later on down the line (making sure I had enough hours on it still of course)

If I go new turntable now then I'd swap to one of the AT cartridges we have been talking about later on down the line utilising whichever cartridge they come with straight out of the box for now
 

DJTipster

Active Member
I can't afford everything all at the same time hence why I'm trying to split out what to do first
 

harkpabst

Well-known Member
Remember you can buy the Rega Planar 3 with or without cartridge, buying it with the Rega cartridge does get you a discount but iirc the stylus are not replaceable it is a trade in for a new full cartridge when you need to.
Exactly. Also the Elys 2 cart is currently not available, neither as a separate product nor bundled with the Planar 3. This leaves P3 plus Exact as the only factory-fitted option, which is a bit pricey and frankly not worth it in my opinion.

That's it mate. If I go cartridge now I'd keep and use on new TT (Rega or Pro-Ject) when I get a new turntable later on down the line (making sure I had enough hours on it still of course)
In contrast to the above the stylus is not only replaceable on VM95 cartridges, you can retrofit whatever stylus you want later. Options include conical, elliptical, nude elliptical, Microline and Shibata stylus. The generator, the body of the cart is absolutely identical between the different models.

Admittedly, the stylus is the most costly part of a pickup. A replacement stylus is close to the price of a full cart. Still a little money can be saved when replacing, upgrading or downgrading the stylus.

Buying a new cart now and upgrading the turntable later might not show the carts full potential. But there will surely be an improvement and it won't break the bank.
 

Kapkirk

Active Member
As for cartridges, personally I would skip the 2M Red, I used a blue cartridge body with a silver stylus which is actually all the same as a complete red cartridge and stylus. It generally does not get the best reviews and is quite a harsh sounding cartridge.

For similar money you can get the AT VM95ML which is a significant upgrade on the Red and even the Blue. It also has the benefit of having a significantly longer stylus life (about 3x the red/blue stylus) and so long term will be cheaper.

Also, at the £700 mark I would also throw in the Rega Planar 3.

Have a look at the clearance/ex demo/open box sections of the main retailers, Sevenoaks have a number of turntables on their site at the moment including a Project Debut pro, X1, RPM5 and also Technics SL1500C which comes with a 2M red cartridge.

Just bought a Debut Pro and an AT540ml, soundS fantastic now I have the right Phono Pre amp.
I wasn't happy with the cartridge it came with (pick it pro) which is based on the 2M Red with a tweak.
If you're OK with setting up and changing cartridges, I would just buy the VM95ML and stick it in your Pioneer and see how you like it, it should definitely sound better than the supplied cartridge, a better turntable will allow you to get the most out of it should you upgrade later. The Audio Technica 540ml was light years ahead of the Pick it pro in terms of tracking, IGD, and sound quality and the VM95ml should be just as good.
 

Ascotbilly

Well-known Member
@Kapkirk - Did you compare the Debut Pro with the Planar 3?

RP3 has been my choice for ages but with increasing costs, cartridge issues, new design PSU not matching my Fono, dust etc I’m considering the Debut Pro after seeing one in the flesh last week
 
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Ascotbilly

Well-known Member
I can't afford everything all at the same time hence why I'm trying to split out what to do first
From my experience and upgrading I would advise buying what you actually want even if that means “saving up” for it.

I read that the X1 is not a “forgiving” TT and that it may expose lesser equipment in a set up. Personally I’d look more into the Debut Pro and compare the two, plus it’s £100 cheaper.
 
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Kapkirk

Active Member
@Kapkirk - Did you compare the Debut Pro with the Planar 3?

RP3 has been my choice for ages but with increasing costs, cartridge issues, new design PSU not matching my Fono, dust etc I’m considering the Debut Pro after seeing one in the flesh last week
I owned the rega 3 (the older one) a few years back with a Linn K9 rb300 and it was enjoyable to use and listen too, I think the new Pro Ject Pro sounds a bit more dynamic, and more low end grunt. I'd say it's a pretty musical turntable. You can hear certain notes start and stop faster and it has the ability to want to make you listen to more and more records and actually sit in the sweet spot instead of wondering off to the kitchen for example, it really makes you want to sit up and listen to your vinyl (with the 540ml)
I can't comment on the newer RP3 as I haven't heard it but I didn't dismiss it, I just fancied a Pro Ject this time round and the pro looked nice. TBH I don't like the armrest on the pro ject, the rega arm has a side cut out in it like my old technics where the arm is easier to just slide into whereas on the pro ject you need to lift the arm right up and place it back in the arm rest (just a little bugbear of mine) Had I have been able to find a decent used one reasonably quickly I would have prefered an old Thorens 147 because of the study build quality and longevity.

I'd also say if you haven't set one up for ages, it's a little bit finicky especially removing the Pick It Pro cartridge and trying fit my new 540ml Cartridge which can be easily damaged it you use a heavy handed approach. You need to be very careful as the tone arm is very light and it has to be done with the tone arm in place, all while fitting a little plate under the cartridge, then of course meticulous alignment of the tip using the supplied alignment gauge, and digital weight gauge to get the tracking weight spot on (I use 1.9g) But if you get this far the turntable rewards you in spades, massive wide soundstage (with the 540ml) super detail that's neither hard or aggressive and a nice airy upper mid range, no distortion on the inner grooves (mine actually sounds better when playing the last track) whereas with the pro ject cartridge it was all distortion and quite a bland experience TBO. The VM95ml will also work well with this deck and is a little cheaper.

Speed switch on the top is really handy as well. I may well order the new add on aluminium sub platter in the coming weeks, many have said it improves the deck even further. Lastly I'd say it almost sounds as good as a good quality dynamic CD but with the warmth as well.
Runs very quiet with no hum from motor or leads. Acoustic Isolation is also very good, I have my left speaker 6 inches from the turntable (turntable is on a metal rack) and with the needle in the groove and it not turning I can turn my Denon amp volume up to max without ANY acoustic feedback through the speakers. I normally play it with the volume control at 8-9 o'clock position so absolutely no noise coming through at that vol. All IN ALL a really good turntable.

Review here: .https://www.avforums.com/threads/pro-ject-audio-debut-pro-vs-x1-turntable.2378229/
And here: Review: The Pro-Ject Debut PRO Is the Best Turntable Under $1,000
.
 

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