Do I really need an upgrade?

the thin end of the wedge
Post Reply
Nadguy
junior member
junior member
Posts: 20
Joined: 14 Feb 2009 21:21
Location: Farmington Hills MI

Do I really need an upgrade?

Post by Nadguy » 15 Jun 2019 00:31

I doubt it. Here’s why. I have been a very pleased owner of this stereo system since the mid 80’s so needless to say we are talking vintage. It started with the Linn LP 12 that has had many upgrades with Circus, Linn Lingo and an original Ekos tonearm(2ndhand). It plays through a NAD 3020 integrated amp connected to ESS Monitor speakers. Needless to say the Linn is the most expensive item in the chain of my modest system. At the time I had the Ekos installed I had it mounted with an original Rega Elys cart because I had limited funds and intended to get a higher end cart in the future.

Now the Elys cart is often slammed in these forums but to my ears is sounds so good that I never bothered to upgrade. It has convinced me that Ivor Tieffebrun, of Linn fame, really was right that the cartridge is the third or fourth most important element in the audio chain. I do have several other turntables, Pioneer , Dual(played through same system) that can’t come close to the sound of the Linn so I’m in agreement that the turntable and arm really determine the audio quality. Or is it that the Ekos arm matches very well with the Elys cart?
I am sure many will suggest upgrading to more highly regarded MM or MC carts and while it may sound better I expect the improvement would be negligible at best. Doubt I would upgrade the NAD 3020 either as I love that little amp. I welcome your thoughts.

jdjohn
long player
long player
United States of America
Posts: 2657
Joined: 20 Sep 2015 04:14
Location: Nashville, TN

Re: Do I really need an upgrade?

Post by jdjohn » 15 Jun 2019 16:11

Has your Rega Elys ever been re-tipped? That might be your best 'upgrade' given how much you apparently enjoy your current equipment. Of course for the price of a re-tip, you might be better off just getting a brand-new Elys.

abs1
senior member
senior member
United States of America
Posts: 577
Joined: 08 Oct 2012 18:17
Location: Western Colorado

Re: Do I really need an upgrade?

Post by abs1 » 15 Jun 2019 16:20

You know how the old saying goes ...............if it works, don't f**k with it.

That is to say that if you're satisfied with the sound quality that you're getting why go down the rabbit hole. Besides, after reading the last paragraph of your OP I can see where some kind of negative confirmation bias might be a factor.

Cheers,
Al

nat
long player
long player
Posts: 4498
Joined: 07 Nov 2002 19:05

Re: Do I really need an upgrade?

Post by nat » 15 Jun 2019 16:55

Being satisfied is a fine thing. Why go looking for reasons to be dissatisfied - companies, magazines, and random golden ears may want you to change, but for their own reasons, not because they are thinking solely of your happiness.

]eep
senior member
senior member
Netherlands
Posts: 251
Joined: 13 Jan 2018 22:18
Location: NL

Re: Do I really need an upgrade?

Post by ]eep » 17 Jun 2019 03:51

Are we talking about Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole or Matrix rabbit hole? The latter where the rabbit hole leads to the true state of things. I find dreams tend to turn unpleasant once I realise I can't change anything to what's happening in my unconscious state. I think you don't know what you're missing.

I've been working on a number of old turntables from the 60-ies and 70-ies lately and I started to realise where Ivor Tiefenbrun was coming from. Not when taking a Thorens 150 apart (the inspiration for the Lp12), but after going through a run of Lenco idlers, Dual idler and finally the British Garrard SP25 I finally understood where he got his paradigm. That Garrard was useless as a basis, the Swiss infinitely better made mechanically. But him being stuck on his TD150 derivative is equally stifling to innovation. FYI, I began with a Dual 505 then upgraded to a Linn Axis but now own a Clearaudio that is so much better. We should all be thankful Ivor for all he has done for vinyl music reproduction but he is not the only one.

In your system the LP12 is the highlight together with the ESS AMT. I own a pair of ESS Tower 1's so I know how good it is but also it's flaws. That is that it sounds rather forward, strident even with a modern amplifier, and the bass is not that well controlled and the transition from huge woofer to ultrafast tweeter is, erm, 'problematic'. The AMT often shows a 6dB bump from 4k-10k. If you want to compensate for that with an old (probably worn transistors and caps) budget highlight amplifier... Good for you. But you would be better off by adding a notch filter to the tweeter and getting a modern amplifier and a better dedicated phono-amp.

That NAD 3020 will kill any improvement on cartridge or stylus. It's old, tired and dull. I've recently heard the 3020 at a friend and borrowed the similar Yamaha A310 to try the venerated 'vintage phono sound'. To me it 'smells like mee-mah spirit', dull, stale and cloudy. Any cheap modern class A, T or D amp will show a lot more detail, air, soundstage and bass control.

I'm not saying the Nad 3020 is bad (it used to be a good entry point to decent HiFi) but the fact is you don't notice it ages over time and it's clearly the weak link in the chain that compensates for the speakers character.

Particularly in amplification great progress has been made in price/performance. Tube amps are way cheaper due to CE, digital amps dirt cheap and absolutely great. I have some €40 T-amps that sound really amazing, a €115 tube-amp of 'just' 3W that can match most multiple k€ amps in sound quality. Tubes will match better with the unbridled AMT, chip-amps will give much better damping factor for the woofers. If you could just dual amp...

A good phono-amp is a bit more taxing to decide on, and more expensive. But it can improve greatly on the simple fixed solid state input stage of the Nad. A proper phono-amp like the Shiit or better will show you what a cart upgrade can do.

I hope haven't ruined your chance to still take the blue pill.

abs1
senior member
senior member
United States of America
Posts: 577
Joined: 08 Oct 2012 18:17
Location: Western Colorado

Re: Do I really need an upgrade?

Post by abs1 » 17 Jun 2019 15:53

jeep,

What is a "British Garrard SP25"? Inquiring minds want to know :wink:

Cheers,
Al

]eep
senior member
senior member
Netherlands
Posts: 251
Joined: 13 Jan 2018 22:18
Location: NL

Re: Do I really need an upgrade?

Post by ]eep » 18 Jun 2019 00:42

Garrard is a British brand that made lots of turntables, very ingenious sometimes, but the SP 25 is sort of average changer with idler wheel and good motor, rather heavy platter but with a not so great ball bearing and a heavy arm that is set too high and is not adjustable. This is because of the stack of records it is supposed to play. The whole thing is a bit clunky. And there is clearly audible rumble. I grew up with a Garrard suitcase model playing my children's records. So it was nostalgia that made me get it. It's not bad, but you can't tweak or improve on it. Not like a Lenco B52 or L75 and thorens TD150 that are cheap and good to work on.
There are better Garrard though, like the 301 401 that are transcriptor TT's like the Thorens 124 etc.

I've got another Thorens, TD115 that is slightly better but also not something to turn into a project. The TD150 I will use for the platter with Philips 212 electronics an motor with a Rega arm. Some old turntables are diamonds in the rough, most are better left as is.

KentT
long player
long player
Posts: 4526
Joined: 13 Mar 2008 19:44
Location: Athens, TN

Re: Do I really need an upgrade?

Post by KentT » 24 Jun 2019 15:21

A tip for Americans. The Garrard SP-25 single play turntable was not imported to the USA officially until the very late models (Mk IV or V). It's a single play AutoSlim mechanism (usually based on the AT 60 or it's later derivatives). I wish the Mk II had been sold in the USA, it was a very nice choice for a budget buyer, and performed well. Not transcription grade (usually meaning broadcast grade, and usually accepting 16" discs, with a 12" tonearm) but a nice budget HiFi option of the day, and reasonably good performance and simpler than the changers it was based on. The closest the USA got was the Garrard Zero 100s.

abs1
senior member
senior member
United States of America
Posts: 577
Joined: 08 Oct 2012 18:17
Location: Western Colorado

Re: Do I really need an upgrade?

Post by abs1 » 24 Jun 2019 15:46

I suppose that the reason I was totally unfamiliar with the Garrard SP-25 is due to the fact that it was not really "pushed" by the importers until late in the game (and i'm not a big fan of changers to begin with), although I'll admit to owning a Garrard Type A, a couple of Duals, and a Miracord.

Previously, when I thought of an SP25, the only 'table to enter my mind was ......... well you guessed it (Technics) :wink:

Cheers,
Al

Post Reply