Budget vs entry level... sound quality?

snap, crackle and pop
joedisco
junior member
junior member
Mexico
Posts: 20
Joined: 02 Jan 2019 17:00

Budget vs entry level... sound quality?

Post by joedisco » 11 Jan 2019 00:10

Hi all
I have seen comparisons of budget vs entry level TT's elsewhere. But these comparisons get too much into features (like antiskate or lack of it or the interchangeable cartridge and removable headshell vs permament cartridge or fully automatic vs manual, or belt driven vs direct drive, high torque vs weak torque, etc, etc...) and discuss very little about sound quality as experienced by the reviewer...
I consider budget TT the ubiquitous AT LP60 and entry level the AT LP120.
Both are produced for many other brands, thus rebadged...
I tend to think that the removable cartridge included in the AT120 should be somehow better than the fixed one in the LP60? (both can be connected directly to phono inputs)
I wonder if there is a clear and important sound quality difference between these two well known generic TT?
I mean, budget vs entry level in terms of sound quality, is there an obvious improvement?
Just wondering...

Thanks!

jdjohn
long player
long player
United States of America
Posts: 2324
Joined: 20 Sep 2015 04:14
Location: Nashville, TN

Re: Budget vs entry level... sound quality?

Post by jdjohn » 11 Jan 2019 01:07

I think a visual of the two might be a good start.

AT-LP60
AT-LP60.jpg
(51.28 KiB) Downloaded 371 times
AT-LP120
AT-LP120.jpg
(61.79 KiB) Downloaded 371 times
First, look at the tonearm bearings (pivot point). The LP60 bearing is a black plastic box; the LP120 bearing is made of metal and is a gimble bearing, which is smoother and will perform better for much longer than the plastic box.

Next, look at the platters. The LP60 platter is a thin stamped platter; the LP120 is a cast platter that is heavier and more stable. Heavy and stable equals smoother and more consistent playback - it won't skip as easily or have variations in pitch - it's steadier and has a better spindle bearing underneath as well. Also underneath, you would find a bigger motor on the LP120.

The swappable headshell itself on the LP120 does not mean it will sound better, but it does give the ability to more easily install a better cartridge, which will make it sound better.

If you could see and touch these in person, you would then appreciate the overall difference in quality. The LP60 looks and feels like a toy when you see it, touch it, and use it in person. The LP120 is more serious, frankly trying to imitate the classic Technics SL-1200, which is a noble endeavor.

retrofan
junior member
junior member
Posts: 13
Joined: 03 Aug 2015 01:13

Re: Budget vs entry level... sound quality?

Post by retrofan » 11 Jan 2019 03:12

Anything under a grand is a budget entry level turntable..Dont expect it to last or sound good!

Alec124c41
vinyl engineer
vinyl engineer
Canada
Posts: 22535
Joined: 28 Oct 2002 04:24
Location: North of Toronto, Canada

Re: Budget vs entry level... sound quality?

Post by Alec124c41 » 11 Jan 2019 05:54

retrofan wrote:
11 Jan 2019 03:12
Anything under a grand is a budget entry level turntable..Dont expect it to last or sound good!
That's a bit harsh.
The cheapies are obviously shoddy, but you don't have to spend thousands to get a turntable that will play music very satisfactorily, and will last for many years.
Back to business: any turntable with a cartridge you can't change is to be avoided. Cheap construction, cheap cartridge, cheap sound.
If you can at least change the cartridge, there is an immediate prospect of upgrading your sound.

Cheers,
Alec

abril
long player
long player
England
Posts: 2485
Joined: 13 Oct 2002 20:48
Location: Republic of Georgia/Cornwall

Re: Budget vs entry level... sound quality?

Post by abril » 11 Jan 2019 08:44

Anything under a grand is a budget entry level turntable
So my Pink Triangle PT1/Mission 774 original/Denon DL304 is budget entry level eh :shock:
Total cost when I bought them £650-700 :D

Pauw
senior member
senior member
Netherlands
Posts: 365
Joined: 01 Jun 2018 13:09
Location: Spinning round and round somewhere.

Re: Budget vs entry level... sound quality?

Post by Pauw » 11 Jan 2019 09:39

I think there is a perspective angle to add here ...the..."Anything under a grand" ......needs careful expression...eg...maybe the date of 2019 is important here ......and even then it is still a generalisation and we all know how weak an argument a generalisation is......

I have a Technics SL D 303 which is in no way and entry level table and it was only 18 Euros.....

In the 70s decks like a Pioneer PL 12 D was around 50GBP and was not really an entry level deck......however we were at a time of great volume sales and so quality production at a reasonable price was possible. That is not the case now-a-days, today the volume of sales is too small for this.

Also a good simple design that will last doesn't need to be expensive and the performance can be excellent. There are many excellent decks that were not that expensive in their time that produce an excellent sound. I remember NAD's deck that looked very flimsy and quite cheap has proved to be an excellent deck which has lasted.

In conclusion a cheap very flimsy is unlikely to be a poor performer ....however spending large amounts doesn't mean you but quality......it's not as simple as that ...the situation is too complex to just measure by a simple generalisation as price.

abril
long player
long player
England
Posts: 2485
Joined: 13 Oct 2002 20:48
Location: Republic of Georgia/Cornwall

Re: Budget vs entry level... sound quality?

Post by abril » 11 Jan 2019 11:46

I've had my combo for a number of years now (and have no intention of upgrading), 'under a grand' is still very much a generalisation,have seen a PT1/Syrinx PU3 recently for £800,add a £195 cartridge and you have a top class setup still for under a grand.
Would hardly call these budget.

cafe latte
vinyl addict
vinyl addict
Australia
Posts: 10654
Joined: 11 Oct 2009 04:27
Location: Cattle property near Ravenshoe Qld Australia

Re: Budget vs entry level... sound quality?

Post by cafe latte » 11 Jan 2019 12:52

At3600l the cart to get going which sounds great is 10 bucks, a decent used turntable cost depends how lucky you are but 50 bucks to 500 bucks you can get something good with a bit of luck. I have a Lenco GL78 which was a couple of hundred I think and an Orpheus which was 220 bucks, both sound fantastic even compared to my other far more expensive turntables and there are lots of stuff used like this. Some new offerings are terrible but decent quality vintage with a cart like I suggested will give a sound you wont believe is possible for the money.
Chris

Tinkaroo
vinyl addict
vinyl addict
Canada
Posts: 7142
Joined: 04 Feb 2011 21:00
Location: Pixie Hollow by The Bay

Re: Budget vs entry level... sound quality?

Post by Tinkaroo » 11 Jan 2019 13:23

I think it's a matter of semantics regarding budget vs entry level since to me they are the same.

If we are talking apples and apples with new turntables then you get what you pay for if you go too cheap. Back in 1978 I bought a new Dual 604 for $280. It's been a very good turntable but from my perspective a basic semi-auto direct drive. Their top of the line 721 cost $400 at that time. Adjust those numbers for inflation and you can see what $200-400 buys you today in comparison. You would have to pay much more today to get anything of similar quality.

Solist
senior member
senior member
Slovenia
Posts: 376
Joined: 08 May 2017 18:49
Location: Ljubljana

Re: Budget vs entry level... sound quality?

Post by Solist » 11 Jan 2019 13:33

cafe latte wrote:
11 Jan 2019 12:52
I have a Lenco GL78 which was a couple of hundred I think and an Orpheus which was 220 bucks, both sound fantastic even compared to my other far more expensive turntables
Out of curiosity, did you mod the Lenco or are you running it stock?

Regarding the sound quality. Often especially in the cheaper segment of the market, the manufacturers will try to avoid putting an emphasis on specs. That is why they write adjustable feet, led lights etc..

With turntables, the sound improvement is often related to the rest of the equipment. How good are the speakers, the cartridge/stylus, the amp, and especially the phono stage.

Then it also depends how much time will you take to set the cartridge correctly. Factory set cartridges tend to be poorly aligned which will result in a worse sound.

I think to start, if you do not hear any changes in tempo and if the tonearm has no resistance when you move it by hand its a good starter deck. And it should allow to change the cartridge since its the cartridge job to produce the sound.

Its like buying a car. You can buy a cheap car which will take you from point A to point B. It might not be a pleasant ride but you will get there. The more money you decide to put into it, the more enjoyable the ride will be. Some people tend to care less about the ride, some care more.

I would pick the AT LP120, its a good starter deck. But be careful, and check if the anti skate is working properly. It is a common problem with this turntable.

If you really want the best performance for the money used is the way to go. My turntable/amp/cartridge are from the late 60s, speakers early 80s, and the phono stage is new.

You can get really nice stuff for very little money, but there are also risks involved. Old amps need to be checked by a skilled repair shop, turntables need to be completely disassembled, cleaned and relubed. Speakers often need to be refoamed. Old cartridges will need a new stylus.

DeepEnd
long player
long player
Great Britain
Posts: 1111
Joined: 19 Dec 2014 11:21
Location: Lancashire

Re: Budget vs entry level... sound quality?

Post by DeepEnd » 11 Jan 2019 16:41

retrofan wrote:
11 Jan 2019 03:12
Anything under a grand is a budget entry level turntable..Dont expect it to last or sound good!
This has thrown me a bit and I may have to rethink all my concepts.

Previously I had considered that my Planar 3 still sounds excellent today and has been doing so since 1987 so therefore I conclude that it has lasted quite well and given how hard I had to save for it I would class it as a "serious" level rather than entry or budget level.

This replaced what I considered my "entry level" Sansui SR222 Mk2 which cost just over a third of the cost of my Planar 3. This replaced my "budget" Garrard SP25 MkIII which was even cheaper.

The new Planar 3 version is still available for under £600 ($950) so working backwards at just over one third would be £225-£275 as "entry" level e.g. LP120, Planar 1, Debut 3SE, LP-5 in the UK and perhaps Under £150 as budget (Pioneer PL990 @£124, Sony PS-LX300USB@ £125 or Denon DP200USB @£139 or LP60 @£125)?

Otherwise my ex-demo RP8 has only just crawled out of the budget level!!!!

jdjohn
long player
long player
United States of America
Posts: 2324
Joined: 20 Sep 2015 04:14
Location: Nashville, TN

Re: Budget vs entry level... sound quality?

Post by jdjohn » 11 Jan 2019 18:05

I'll bet retrofan/Dan's Sansui FR-3060 sounds pretty good AND cost under a grand.

joedisco
junior member
junior member
Mexico
Posts: 20
Joined: 02 Jan 2019 17:00

Re: Budget vs entry level... sound quality?

Post by joedisco » 11 Jan 2019 19:12

Thanks all for your answers. This is a joy to read.
Tinkaroo wrote:
11 Jan 2019 13:23
You would have to pay much more today to get anything of similar quality.
Im afraid that's true, sadly. One would have thought that as technology and industrial process evolves the same product could be made with the same quality at a reduced cost (but not cheap).
Audio industry seems (to me) to be a difficult world to undestand. I know quality always comes at a price and good stuff is nearly always expensive but It seems to me there is no mid market for new stuff. If you wanna buy new stuff, you either go budget (and accept all kind of risks and pray to be lucky) or you need to be wealthy, no mid point.

Thanks again

smee4
senior member
senior member
Posts: 958
Joined: 04 Jul 2004 08:07

Re: Budget vs entry level... sound quality?

Post by smee4 » 12 Jan 2019 01:08

Actually, I find even the LP120 to be too cheap. Every one I have looked at in the shops had loose wobbly arm bearings. For my money, the budget end of the Pro-ject and Rega tables is the desired starting point. Something around $500 should get a very acceptable table. Maybe a Pro-ject Essential or Debut, Rega P1 or P2.

stevoz
senior member
senior member
Australia
Posts: 330
Joined: 23 Nov 2015 03:31

Re: Budget vs entry level... sound quality?

Post by stevoz » 12 Jan 2019 02:37

retrofan wrote:
11 Jan 2019 03:12
Anything under a grand is a budget entry level turntable..Dont expect it to last or sound good!
It's more than harsh......IMO, it's snobbish bullshit!

Post Reply