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  • ExUser
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
I'm looking to get a turntable for ripping vinyl. I have no misconceptions that at a budget of under $100 I'm not going to get anything top-of-the-line, but I'm not too concerned about that. I just want some decent digital recordings of music that doesn't exist digitally. I'm quite into electronic music and a lot of releases are sadly vinyl-only.

My reflex was to look for a second-hand turntable. At the price-point I'm aiming for, I anticipate that I'll get better results out of decent second-hand equipment than out of anything new. I'm also more liable to come across some lovely bargain.

I intend to run flat-transfers and then EQ and post-process to eliminate as many of the inherent defects of vinyl as I can. I'll be hooking into my E-MU 0404 as soon as the people at the music shop succeed in getting it in.

I currently think I want a belt-drive table to isolate from motor noise. I'm also going to pay special attention to the cartridge.

Is my logic accurate here? When out there hunting for turntables, are there specific things I can look for that will help me get a better result? I'm aware the whole situation is quite a gamble, but I'm willing to take it just for the sheer fun of figuring it all out. If this hobby gets more serious, I'll probably end up with a more audiophile-grade table and/or proper DJ tables. This is just me taking my first steps.

  • 2Bdecided
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #1
Half the budget on a cartridge/stylus, and half on a second-hand turntable?

Most of the random things you find are junk off the top of an old midi system. Still the occasional bargain to be had if you shop around second-hand shops.

Make sure it's working and set up properly with the new cartridge before you play anything half decent on it - you can destroy records quite easily with an old stylus, or a tone arm that wants to go its own way!

Cheers,
David.

  • Axon
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #2
I'm mostly speaking here from collective wisdom than personal experience, but here goes.

I can't imagine there's much good new below $100. That will get you an automatic Sony jobbie with a non-replacable cartridge on a tiny tonearm (which is metal if you're lucky). I have only occasionally heard such things, and they can sound nice, but you're kinda SOL if you have any problem with it. You'd have to upgrade.

At this price point I think your only option for a cartridge is a Shure M92E which goes for 19USD on amazon.com. No idea how it sounds. Keep an eye on the tonearm-cartridge resonance but I don't think that will come into play unless you have a really light tonearm.

There are plenty of good relatively no-name turntables out there, and the usual suspects like Thorens and Dual are mercilessly overpriced nowadays, so I don't think anybody can give you tips on which brands to look for specifically, except "not Crosley". Look up the turntables on Vinyl Engine (library for manual and possibly forum for scans of contemporary reviews) and the Gramophone Archive to get contemporary reviews of the turntables, in addition to the usual googling, to see if they're any good or not. At this price point belt drive vs direct drive matters less than the specific performance of each physical turntable you come across. Good turntables might have really eaten-up tonearm bearings and bad tables might be in mint condition. Belt drives have more repair potential, but direct drives tend not to break as much. In any case, turntable issues like rumble and noise and wow are probably going to be more objectionable than cartridge distortion which would suggest a more expensive cart, so I think the investment priority here should be on the table preferentially.

If you have a PCI 0404, you should give its phono input a shot, as I have heard decent things about it. Keep in mind that if you run flat you'll be wiring your own RC termination network for the MM cartridge and you will most likely want to reterminate to XLR. And when I had a 0404 USB its noise performance was shockingly poor at gain (but that only really mattered with MCs). You may want to keep your options open with respect to using the phono stage.

  • cliveb
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #3
I intend to run flat-transfers and then EQ

If by that you mean you plan on not using a phono preamp (instead going through something like a mic preamp to bring up the level), then be careful: the RIAA EQ greatly boosts the top end, and you might possibly run the risk of overloading the mic preamp at high frequencies. Also, a typical mic preamp input impedance is unlikely to be 47kOhm. But by all means give it a try to start with.

As for what sort of turntable to look out for. I agree that a secondhand deck will get you more for your money. The problem is that very few of the well-regarded manual belt drives are going to be had for under $100. Brands like Rega, Thorens, and the like will be out of range.

Brands that you might be able to pick up secondhand in your budget would be Pro-ject and Dual. Duals came in a wide variety of prices, and their top-end direct drives were very serious kit. At the low end there were things like the 1229 and 505 that were reasonable. I think they did a few very budget models - if you find one that's fully automatic and has few adjustable settings, then walk away.

If you are very lucky, you might come across an old AR turntable you can afford. The original AR turntable in the 1950s (60s, perhaps?) was one of the very first suspended subchassis designs - companies like Thorens and Linn owe a lot to its basic layout.

Apart from that, you could look out for an old Japanese belt drive from the 1970s. Pioneer PL12D is an obvious contender. I seem to recall that Sansui and Trio also made half-decent decks back then.

You will probably also need a new cartridge, and at your budget options are limited. I'd guess that you should be looking at the likes of Ortofon OM5E, Shure M92E, Audio Technica AT95E and Goldring Elektra.

  • DVDdoug
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #4
Quote
If you are very lucky, you might come across an old AR turntable you can afford. The original AR turntable
Check out this Acoustic Research Turntable on eBay[/color] for $10!!!  The ad says the condition is "new", which is amazing, but you might need a new belt... I don't know what kind of "rubber" the belt was made of, but it may have deteriorated.

I had one of these.  It was "fully manual", and you had to remove the turntable & move the belt when you wanted to change between 33 & 45.  It had a good reputation among the audiophile community at the time (even though the tonearm was nothing fancy), and it was considered quite a bargain.  (I actually gave mine away when I "upgraded" to a semi-automatic with direct drive.)

In any case, I thing you should be able to get a good bargain in a used turntable.  A lot of people are getting rid of them, or have an extra old one....  But, I would be a little cautious about a used cartridge/stylus.
  • Last Edit: 05 November, 2009, 01:22:23 PM by DVDdoug

  • gottogo99
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #5
That AR turntable for $10 is "manual" indeed--the auction listing is for an owner's manual, not the manual turntable.

For $100, you're pretty limited.  EBay is probably too competitive; if you have the time, poke around local thrift stores or Craigslist for a turntable and get a new cartridge on line.

  • DVDdoug
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #6
That AR turntable for $10 is "manual" indeed--the auction listing is for an owner's manual, not the manual turntable.
  Well, that's embarrasing!      And, it looks like it's too late to edit my post....

  • gottogo99
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #7
I got a chuckle out of it.

Seriously, an eBay Buy It Now AR turntable for $10 would sell in no time.

  • maggior
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #8
"fully manual"...that was pretty funny.

My turntable is a direct drive model made by JVC from 1988.  I bought it new for $120 (I think) back in the day.  It is now on EBay with a buy-it-now price of $65.

Like anything popular on EBay, the prices are high.  But I think if you keep polling EBay and arm yourself with a good list of models and makes to look for, you could turn up a bargain.

Direct drive is definitely going to be less maintenance.  Mine is direct drive.  I bought it on the recommendation of a friend at the time who had gone through the experience of having to have the belt replaced.

I also like the adjustable speed control with the strobe.  So, if the speed happens to be off, you can adjust it yourself rather than having to service it.

I seem to recall Technics being a popular TT brand in the 80's.  Perhaps you could turn one of them up.

Estate sales may be another thing to keep an eye out for.  Craigslist is another good suggestion.

Do you have a local used record shop nearby?  If so, you could ask in there.  Maybe they even have ads for TTs for sale.


  • MichaelW
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #9
FWIW, in the late '70s I was putting together a system around an excellent pair of speakers, but on a budget. The good hifi store I was dealing with (friends of friends) recommended a fairly cheap JVC belt drive, together with a rather fancy cartridge. So maybe JVC is another brand to look out for. I don't think replacing a belt is a major operation.

  • cliveb
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #10
I had one of these.  It was "fully manual", and you had to remove the turntable & move the belt when you wanted to change between 33 & 45.  It had a good reputation among the audiophile community at the time (even though the tonearm was nothing fancy), and it was considered quite a bargain.

Yep, I had an AR XB1 back in the late 80s. It's true that the arm was not especially great, but it was servicable. My father worked in a machine shop at the time and I got him to remove the arm bearing (which was part of the subchassis) and installed a Hadcock unipivot arm. It was a really nice deck, which was eventually replaced by a Linn LP12 back in 1979.

I seem to recall Technics being a popular TT brand in the 80's.  Perhaps you could turn one of them up.

Technics made some nice direct drive models (still do, in fact), but they are well known and fashionable. I seriously doubt you will find one for under $100.

Back in the 70s, Denon was one of the better brands of direct drives, and since they are not so fashionable nowadays, perhaps they might be affordable? (Note: I see that Denon these days make some cheap and nasty decks. Avoid those).

  • ExUser
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #11
Thanks for the information, guys. I will keep this in mind. I saw a Dual 508 for $65 on Craigslist before posting here. Sadly it's gone now. I'm gonna keep looking.

I've also asked my parents for one for Christmas. My dad made a living playing in bars and whatnot in the early 70s, and so vinyl was his format. He phased out of music after I was born, so his tastes are definitely a touch antique. As all this vinyl-reproduction stuff is so very subjective, I suspect the placebo coming off of a father-recommended turntable would be nigh irresistible to me.

The brand he recommended to me off-the-cuff was Sansui. I'm not sure how they stack up; I'm slightly suspicious of generic Japanese equipment, but we'll see how this goes.
  • Last Edit: 06 November, 2009, 08:55:08 AM by Canar

  • Cavaille
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #12
I have a used Grunding PS 3500. But please note that it doesn´t use a belt-drive. This Grundig is in fact a re-branded Technics from the 80s with a direct-drive, to be more precise, the famous direct-drive technique that is also used in the 1210 series. The Grundig/Technics doesn´t use a quartz-control though.

I won´t say anything about sound quality but I have to mention that this Grunding/Technics is extremely robust. It stood for 10 years in a cold, wet cellar until I discovered it there. When I powered it up it still played flawlessly - without any wow/flutter. The casing is plastique but it is very heavy nonetheless. The tone-arm is not one of the lightest and I don´t know anything about its precision. But you can easily change the system. I didn´t do that since I´m not recording that much vinyl.

Another advantage of this turntable is that you can modify the playing speed. When I record Vinyl I use the lowest speed the turntable offers and I do a speed-up of the Audio material afterwards (Sound Forge can do this without introducing artifacts). When I use this in combination with a de-noiser and/or de-clicker before the speed-up I´ll get better results.

I don´t know where you live, but if you live in the U.S. it´ll be difficult to obtain a Grundig. Sadly I don´t know which Technics was the basis for this Grundig.

And Sansui was - if I remember correctly - famous for its amplifiers. But I guess their turntables were not so bad either.
  • Last Edit: 06 November, 2009, 09:37:51 AM by Cavaille
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  • Speedskater
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #13
How do you deal with frequency response curve corrections when playing back at a lower speed?
Kevin Graf :: aka Speedskater

  • botface
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #14
Thanks for the information, guys. I will keep this in mind. I saw a Dual 508 for $65 on Craigslist before posting here. Sadly it's gone now. I'm gonna keep looking.

I've also asked my parents for one for Christmas. My dad made a living playing in bars and whatnot in the early 70s, and so vinyl was his format. He phased out of music after I was born, so his tastes are definitely a touch antique. As all this vinyl-reproduction stuff is so very subjective, I suspect the placebo coming off of a father-recommended turntable would be nigh irresistible to me.

The brand he recommended to me off-the-cuff was Sansui. I'm not sure how they stack up; I'm slightly suspicious of generic Japanese equipment, but we'll see how this goes.

Most of the big name Japanese manufacturers had a turntable in their catalogue in the 70's. Most of them were "so, so" but still put in a perfectly reasonable performance - these big names wouldn't risk their reputation by trying to sell crap. The long and short of what I'm trying to say is that if you're not looking for state of the art equipment almost any turntable from a 70's big name will probably be OK. BUT you'll need to to look out for excessive wear and factor in the the cost of a new belt (if belt drive) and stylus/cartridge. It's also worth the time and effort cleaning up the drive train (pulley etc) on a belt drive with a "Qtip" and meths to get rid of any depsoits that might cause speed instability

  • gottogo99
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #15
For years I had an inexpensive Technics direct drive turntable with a good P-mount cartridge.  It was very simple to operate and set up, and never broke.  In that price range, the direct drives were better than belt drives due to lower rumble and better speed control.  To get a superior belt drive, you had to pay a LOT more.

So that would be my recommendation:  a direct drive Technics with a straight tonearm.  Those with S-shaped arms are older models.  Technics sold millions of them before they abandoned the market along with all the other major electronics manufacturers.  I had an SL-Q200 and I see two on eBay right now.  Looks like you could get one with a questionable cartridge for well under $100 including shipping, or find another model more to your liking.

  • Cavaille
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #16
How do you deal with frequency response curve corrections when playing back at a lower speed?
  Indeed, that´s the tricky part. I don´t use an RIAA pre-amplifier, I´ll do the EQ curve correction in software after I did the speed-up. After that I only do occasional touch-up.

This method might give me good results, but it is more time consuming. The primary advantage for me is that I can hide possible artifacts from de-noising & de-clipping better - they are moved towards higher frequencies where they are not so audible. But, you´ll have additional signal processing.

Back to topic: Even more important is a turntable without any wow & flutter. I tried this method before with an older, belt-drive Thorens. The results were not that good. The Grundig/Technics can do both jobs (slow & standard speed) equally good (btw., it has a straight tonearm).
  • Last Edit: 06 November, 2009, 01:18:24 PM by Cavaille
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #17
Cruise the thrift stores at least weekly, and watch eBay for auctions within pickup distance.  I've seen direct drive Technics, belt drive AR & Connoisseur decks for under $50.  Once, a Radio Shack direct drive for 50 cents (but that was back in the '90s).  Try word of mouth; some friend/relative/co-worker may have a turntable gathering dust.  And yard sales and recycling yards that have (free) stores.

If you're in a hurry, visit or contact used record dealers... some of them sell refurbished turntables.

Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #18
The easiest plan, if you are not over concerned about quality and on that budget you aren't, would be to buy one of those USB turntables you see advertised in the papers specifically sold to digitise vinyl. Then you don't need a RIAA headamp or an old amplifier/mixer phono stage.

Numark make a whole range most below £100. There's a Skytec one for £60 new.

Alternatively many people on this list would recommend buying second-hand, especially if they had one to sell on themselves, but a 20-30 year old turntable is asking for trouble, particularly if it was a legacy hi-fi belt drive.  Avoid unless you know and trust the seller.

That said the DJ standard Technics 1200 Mk2 is practically indestructible, not far off hi-fi standard as stock and can be upgraded. I saw one just today in Mr. Exchanger for £129 so it's a possibility. You can always sell it on again later as well. It's a commodity. Record shops are closing at an alarming rate atm so you might try asking if they want to offload the ones they use as listening posts.

I bought my pair new 19 years ago and they are still here as good as the day they were bought. In the 19 years prior to that I had a variety of decks, six in total, and they all went West one way or another. Including a Linn and more than one Dual.

Bear in mind that whatever kit you use to rip vinyl it will never sound as good as a professionally mastered .WAV or even decent MP3. It'll sound better direct off the vinyl as well. Also unless you want to mess with a mastering suite/compressor/replay gain application your rips will sound audibly quieter than internet radio or CD tracks so playing different formats together successfully will require constant attention. 


  • ExUser
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #19
It'll sound better direct off the vinyl as well.
Gotta call your bluff here. The signal the turntable produces is exactly that, and good recording equipment should reproduce it every bit as accurately as an amp/speakers. If I run a flat-transfer properly, I may be able to equalize in software and avoid the requirement of an amplifier anyhow.

  • greynol
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #20
Bear in mind that whatever kit you use to rip vinyl it will never sound as good as a professionally mastered .WAV or even decent MP3.

Gotta call it here as well.  Sweeping generalizations of apples and oranges comparisons like these are not exactly useful.  As an example, many prefer vinyl rips of Beatles albums over CDs because of the mastering.  With the latest releases some may have changed their minds, but this isn't the point.
  • Last Edit: 16 November, 2009, 05:52:57 PM by greynol
13 February 2016: The world was blessed with the passing of a truly vile and wretched person.

Your eyes cannot hear.

Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #21
O.K. Fair play all round. hands up. I'm a n00b and shouldn't be bandying  around such vague and i imprecise terms as 'sound as good', 'sounds better'. 'Never' is probably a bit dodgy as well.

So. Sorry about that. All my advice is purely anecdotal. Based on my own experience. I don't own an oscilloscope and wouldn't know how to use it properly at first even if I did. The debate over whether or not format transfer loss is real or whether professional mastering is worth the cost is best left to the experts and even they might want to think twice before going off on one.

I have been through the same process as the OP. Just trying to help. I've compared the same tracks ripped by myself with a variety of cartridges and other equipment against other versions from commercial CD, commercial .WAV download (beatport), commercial MP3 download (beatport), Internet radio (Last Fm - MP3) (Spotify - Ogg Vorbis) and regular Radio (BBC).

Leaving aside variations in perceived quality (see above) the first problem you encounter is differences in volume. If you record vinyl following best practise guidelines  your tracks will almost always sound significantly quieter than a commercial product. So much so that making up playlist of tracks with differing source formats requires constant recourse to a gain knob somewhere along the line. 

So you are faced with four choices. Crank up your recording levels and hope for the best (bad practise), post process your signal to make it louder (descending to the lowest common denominator), post process commercial tracks to make them quieter (timeconsuming and silly)  or maybe run everything through a replay gain application.

Mmh  I'm in danger of going off topic here. The OP wanted advice on where to find a half decent turntable for < $100 not what problems he might encounter during the process. Hope perhaps others might be interested.   


  • honestguv
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #22
In the UK a Thorens TD 160/165 will go for about GBP 50-75 with a Thorens arm and a middling cartridge and their are plenty of examples for sale on ebay. It is the arm which is depressing the price and those with replacement arm will typically go for hundreds.

  • dodog
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #23
Given the level of respect vinyl gets around here, I find it a bit funny that a Super Moderator is even thinking about a TT.  TOS rules and all that aside, people are more-than-willing to jump on the anti-vinyl rant-wagons here.

If you'd really like to get a TT, a cart, and any other audio equipment, Craigslist is really your best bet (locally).  You can always pick up locally, you can test out the equipment before you buy, and you can always walk away from the deal.  I'd only use eBay as a last resort and, you can most likely count on your equipment arriving poorly packed and damaged (I'm 1 for 3 on eBay purchases).  On top of that, the usual eBay rule of thumb is the condition an item is rated at, take that down 2-3 notches.  Unless you ask ALL the correct questions such as "have you ever spilled a softdrink onto your turntable?" or "Did you ever open up the component and try to solder things yourself, thereby burning the board and causing a short?", you may be SOL.  Many sellers will give an "as-is" or "powers up but not tested" or some other BS line to cover their behinds.  Others will probably chime in and tell you the opposite, but I really don't think it's worth the gamble.  Also keep in mind that the shipping costs for a TT will likely be about 15-25% of your budget if you go the eBay route.

Really, though, if it were me, I'd create an account over at AudioKarma, then would pony up the $25 yearly subscription fee to be able to access "barter town" where there are deals-a-plenty, most from people who know how to care for their equipment and how to pack items.  Even if you don't want to subscribe, you can still access the forums and can post away.  It's, bar-none, the nicest forums I've ever been to and the amount of free parts (screws, headshells, belts, etc.) that people have given me is staggering (not to mention the advice on how to set-up and fix vintage equipment).  The site is full of passionate people, many who will beat you to any/all Craigslist postings, many who "collect" equipment but are more than willing to give things to a "noob".  But, the site is also full of "audiophiles" who tend to love "vintage" equipment (tubes, turntables, 40 lb. receivers, etc.).  The crowd that gets ridiculed here.

My point being, the people that get run of threads here, that have threads locked, that get ganged-up on by the "double-blind test" and "TOS violation" crowd, are the ones that are most likely to help you out there.


Edit-  I forgot to add.... I have a TT setup, a nice cart, and a nice soundcard.  I don't feel like gettting into a spec-war or battling with other posters but would give the details if they were really needed.  I don't want to make a habit out of it, but I'd be willing to help you out on some albums (I could provide you a flat transfer in 32/192 (or any other) format).  If you'd like to send me a PM, we could work something out.
  • Last Edit: 17 November, 2009, 12:19:36 PM by dodog

  • ExUser
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Inexpensive equipment for ripping vinyl
Reply #24
We're not anti-vinyl in the slightest. We simply accept the truth: that vinyl, as an audio reproduction technology, is quantifiably inferior to CD in all the ways that matter to human hearing.

I appreciate the offer and the advice, but one of the reasons I posted here is precisely because HA cuts through all of the audiophool nonsense. This "AudioKarma" site sounds nice and all, but the concept of paying to gain entrance to a forum full of the sort of nonsense that HA protects me from is really the opposite of what I want.

I listen primarily to electronic music. Often releases are vinyl-only. I don't like that fact, but it is the reality.

Posters here acknowledge that vinyl has a distinctive sound and that said distinctive sound is preferable to some over modern digital reproduction techniques.

If representing the scientific truth as accurately as we can is being "anti-vinyl" then I guess we are.