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Equipment Setup – What is most important to you?

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Hey guys, I think among the casual / non-audiophile listeners I talk to, they tend to commonly agree, if you're not after a super high end setup, certain components can be a waste of money. That said, I'd love to hear your personal preferences for which components are your highest priority and which ones you think can save money by either purchasing entry level equipment or not at all? For example, if you hypothetically had $1000 (ish) budget (and wanted to keep some leftover to buy records!)  how would you rank the importance or priority of your setup?

  1. Turntable Selection - no need to get into specific models necessarily
  2. Home receiver - not all created equal and not a necessity for all setups
  3. Pre-amp - if your receiver has a good enough built-in, should you invest in more power?
  4. Speakers / Headphones - more or less important than some of the above items?
  5. Cartridge / Stylus – some people swear by them but is an upgrade worth it for a casual listener?

I listed in order of my personal preference, but what do I know?! :)  Did I miss any other considerations?

Edited by timmayd
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I would say start with your table as it will determine a lot of other links in the chain. At that entry/mid-level (I'm in the same boat) the cartridge can make the most difference for the money, but you'd need to balance that with the other equipment you buy. For example, a $400 cartridge wouldn't make sense paired with a $200 table and $25 Behringer pre-amp - get a table that will work well as is, but also has the ability to upgrade if you should want to in the coming years. The U-turn makes sense with your budget and has many upgradable features.


A dedicated pre-amp can really improve overall sound, but if you buy a receiver that has that tech built in and does it well, you could get away without one (for a while). Be weary of turntables that come with built-in preamps however, they tend to be lower quality overall and the preamp capability is never that good. Lastly the "receiver" stage has the widest breadth of acceptable options in my experience, there is an abundance of new and used gear that could do the job just fine, ranging from entry level audiophile to .  An alternative would be to get a power amp in the mix, but that might start to eat away at your budget. 


Speakers and headphones are so incredibly subjective (as this all is, really) that I would just say try a bunch out until you hear what you like. Be prepared to set aside a good chunk of your budget for that; perhaps in that budget range a solid pair of bookshelf speakers would do it. I'm sure others will disagree with some of this, but I'd say a good north star for budget would be roughly: 30% table / 30% speakers / 20% receiver - it won't get you in Audiophile magazine but it'll certainly sound decent to your average listener. 

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They are all links in a chain.  Any weak link in the chain will make the sound quality lower. 

From my perspective, all of those components mentioned matter, and matter greatly. Cartridges have the task of essentially converting a mechanical input to an electrical output at extremely precise levels.  Turntables really only need to be stable, consistent, and not prone to vibrations. Preamp's color the tiny electrical energy from your stylus using a RIAA curve.  A crap preamp will work, but the closer to the RIAA curve the output is, the closer to the intended sound form your records. An amplifier can color the sound in a good way or bad way as well. Speakers - the same. They will all influence the sound for better or worse.


One other thing to consider is the record itself. A shit recording cant sound good no matter how nice of equipment you have.

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