Turntable ratios

Hi all

Is there any general guidance on the ratios to spend on TT items?
I.e. the turntable: arm: cartridge: phono stage.

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Cost doesn’t always tie in with quality and some components are harder to make; this makes a cost based allocation difficult.

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Preferably zero on each item. For the sake of your sanity and bank balance. Lol.

Seriously though, I suspect you will get a lot of different suggestions on this.

My first thoughts:
TT 35%
Arm 30%
Cart 15%
Phono 20%

I wonder what you hope to gain from this knowledge. It seems a rather reductive approach.

It may be helpful if you were to list your TT components, with their prices and the relevant percentages as a starting point, and then consider why you feel those percentages might need adjusting.

I’m likely to change my cartridge this year. My current Benz ACE Sl has served me well, but it’s been well used during the last 6 years.
Cartridges are always difficult to demo; often relying on personal recommendation. So any “ratio guidance” might help to keep me on track. I’d previously seen some suggested ratios, hence just checking if they are still current or just tosh.

My TT is a Michell Gyro SE with HR psu.
( £2000?)
Arm is a Rega Rb3000.
(£1100)
Current cartridge is the Benz ACE Sl
(£800)
Phono Stage is Cyrus Phono Sig, with a psxr2 psu.
(£2000)
So, in my current set up the cartridge is the cheapest part. But that could be as apart from the TT itself it’s the only original bit.

Linn advise was to always upgrade to the top of each level before moving onto the next:

  • Main Bearing
  • Power supply / motor controller
  • Subchassis
  • Tonearm
  • Cartridge

Marketing has taken a hold the past 15-20 years and Linn now have 3 entry point decks, with the mid-range deck going against the old-school source first approach.

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When I was looking for my TT in 2018, Conrad Mas told me he happily demos with an ortofon 2m black. So that’s a £500 cart on a £4k TT.

I’m not sure there is any hard and fast rule.

If you want percentages, strip a rega package to its individual parts. Eg how much is an apheta compared with the complete set?
Planar 10 no cart, 3960, with apheta 4950. Apheta by itself 1375. Does that mean cart equals 1/3rd of TT and arm?

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Nice income stream for them, so their recommendation is unsurprising! More economical and so more affordable for many would be fewer but bigger upgrades, even if that means different components ‘leapfrogging’ up the hierarchy.

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Or maybe they knew how to build the most musically engaging deck within a given budget

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It’s best to think of a turntable like a structure with the deck itself being the foundation for the tonearm and then finally the cartridge.

A lot of this was covered back in the early '80s by reviewers, doubtless wanting to find out for themselves. I recall one big test of 3 different systems at two price levels (so 6 systems in all) where the proportion spent on the parts of the system varied. Needless to say the panel overwhelmingly preferred the two systems where the most resource had been put towards the source. What was more interesting was that with the various sources they also went further and swapped around tonearms and cartridges. The result was interesting. Sticking the best cartridge on anything less than the best turntable, did not outperform the best turntable with the least expensive separate tonearm and cartridge. Even sticking the best tonearm and best cartridge on the second best turntable did not outperform the best turntable with the least expensive separate tonearm and cartridge.

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Of all the upgrades I’ve done on the past 2 or so years, the arm and phono stage have brought significant improvements to the output from my Gyro SE. The change from Rb330 to the Rb3000 was quite noticeable. Which did surprise me.

My head is around £1200 for the next cartridge. I was trying to check if that felt about right, given the other bits.
The next stage will be to get guidance on what to actually buy!

I think the suggestion is you want the orbe before putting a £1200 cart on the gyro.

Assuming the price to change is favourable, and perhaps contrary to what you might imagine, the better deck is able to get more out of a lesser arm and cart than the other way around.

When I sorted out my TT upgrade, my spending / decision making was the largest spend was the TT itself, then the arm, and finally the cart.

I would not forget leads/cables.

Particularly given the delicacy of the signal being transmitted.

I replaced the original lead on my Systemdek with a new Roksan phono cable recently, was a nice improvement. I do not know if the Michell has a replaceable phono cable. I think I do recall the cabling in the RB3000 tonearm being pretty high quality though?

1/ Source Quality of Record/Mastering
2/ Turntable
3/Tonearm
4/Phono Stage
5/Support-isolation-Cabling
6/ RCM
7/ Cartridge

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Always difficult to know what cabling is inside a commercial tonearm. Given that it’s Rega’s best, I’d like to think it should not need changing yet. But who knows?
My dealer has mentioned cartridges in the £2.5k to £3.5k bracket, which I think is bonkers! The basis for this being the Rb3000s ability to deal with these cartridges. My pocket is at £1200!

The ‘Flat Earth’ philosophy back in the 80’s was basically:

Linn LP12 - Cheap Arm - Cheap Cart
Linn LP12 - Expensive Arm - Cheap Cart
Linn LP12 - Expensive Arm - Expensive Cart

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As @IanRobertM says flat earth says an LP 12, with biro for a tonearm and pin for a stylus as the starting point :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: I’m reluctant to say this but I’m at adds with @Richard.Dane. I remember that review Richard, without wishing to be controversial I think the reviewers took communion at Drakemire Drive.

Touraj of Roksan/Vertere fame maintains the arm is the most important element and I’m inclined to agree. Back in the 80s I used to go to a dealer in N London who would demonstrate a Michell Focus with Ittok and good moving coil up against a LP12/LVX/K9, to my ears the Michell won the day. Similarly, on 2 occasions I’ve heard quite brilliant systems with a relatively high end MC in a Michell Technoarm. But always more than one way to skin a cat.

Regards,

Lindsay

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Lindsay, I always remain open minded, and where would we be without testing and finding exceptions to every so-called “rule”… I’m just relaying what was heard by a panel when they put these questions to a very comprehensive test. Ultimately, if you prefer things a different way then that’s fine by me.

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Yes, sorry, I replaced the phono cable (arm to plugs) the tonearm cable is original Tabriz. I suspect your tonearm cable is just fine!

I’m honestly not sure how you audition turntable components. Or how you compare with what you have. I think it is more likely that you buy into a given manufacturer’s approach. Certainly that behaviour is common on here, Rega proponents upgrading decks and packages, Linn owners trading up through bearing and chassis updates etc. Pretty much the thing with most freedom is the cartridge, and according to the above, the thing that “matters least” X)

I reckon if you read reviews of any proposed replacement, and it’s reasonably similar in electrical characteristics to your current cartridge, you won’t go far wrong. How bad can a £1200 cartridge sound!? 8)

It’s worth remembering that the wire on the RB3000 runs continuously from the cartridge tags to the RCA plugs, so you can’t replace the arm lead without a full rewire. And why would you do that? The ‘package’ cartridge with the Rega 10 is the Apheta 3, which costs £1,375 if bought by itself. Rega also make the Aphelion 2, which costs £3,465, which works happily with the P10 and costs almost as much as the deck and arm combined. What that means in the scheme of things I’ve no idea.

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