Upgrading DAC section vs entering the world of vinyl?

Hi all,

Currently I’m using a NDX/nDAC/HCDR/SN2 system and had the possibility to audition an Audio Technika LP120XUSB turntable. The following things stood out for me:

  1. With the tuntable and using its internal phono preamp (LINE switch) I had to increase the volume approximately twice as much to achieve the same db levels compared to using NDX as a source. Is that so with higher quality external phono preamps?
  2. The turntable sounded very very detailed and clear with great midrange and highs, although a bit edgy and sharp from time to time. I was impressed that having a source which costs around 8 times less than my digital source I was able to pick greater amount of detail or at least the same and had a bit bigger soundstage and better dynamic and liveliness.
  3. The turntable lacked solidity and bass with its supplied cartridge and built-in phono preamp. The NDX/nDAC bring a lot more punch and bass. I believe having higher tier turntable and phono preamp this would be quite different.

Having this experience, I started having thoughts about getting a turntable and exploring the world of vinyl or/and getting an external PSU for my nDAC and hoping to improve the timing, fine detail and achieving more spacious and realistic soundstage like the turntable, however I’m suspecting that a good turntable might still surprass my digital source. In the end, analog and digital sources have their pros and cons and I might end getting a good analog source and also a PSU for my nDAC.

I’m a complete beginner in the world of turntables but I’ve read a lot of good opinions about Rega turntables. Having a little research I quickly picked my potential choice to Rega P3 or P6 with Rega Aria and Rega Phono/Aria phono preamp as an end configuration. Even though I don’t have much experience with turntables I don’t want to get started with an entry models like Rega P1 or other brand’s entry level model, then having to sell my gear and get a higher tier model, etc. Having in mind my amplification - SN2 with HicapDr, do you think I would pick the differences between P6 and P3? I also don’t plan to upgrage my amplification further than NAC 282/NAP 250DR in the future. Overall do you think a Rega system would match sonically a Naim system? What is good in a turntable configuration is that you can upgrade a lot of things step by step. I’ve read that Planar 3 is a good starting point, but P6 comes with the external NEO PSU and overall is a better turntable.

Overall do you think it’s worth investing in such a source and would for example a Rega Planar 6 source beat NDX/nDAX/XPS(XPS-DR)?

Vinyl sounds different from digital. Personally I think digital when done well sounds better, which is not surprising given the compromises of vinyl. But many people prefer vinyl, as might you, so you need to hear a system or twoof the level you might consider, and decide from there. Unfortunately digital is not always done well, and that includes the mastering of digital media as well as quality of DACs etc.


If you are going down the vinyl route I’d say get the best you can now for the budget you have decided on, then stop thinking about what might be better and spend anything else on records.

A good record player will give you years of enjoyment without needing anything other than the odd new belt and a new cartridge. Your SN2 and speakers will be more than up to the task.




You might be able to pick up a used Stageline phono stage. I’m very happy with mine.

Not necessarily. It’s down to the output of the cartridge and the amplification by the phono stage. The Stageline MC phono stages for example are fixed (at 60dB I think) which with a typical MC cartridge output will give you a volume close to the line level from your ndx.

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It seems digital and analogue sources are very different, indeed, and both options have their weak and strong places and also good and bad recordings. Also some singles and album releases were made only on vinyl and doesn’t have CD or streaming equivavlents. So, it might be worth exploring this different parth and thus combining best from both worlds.

Regarding the turntable setup, do you think Naim Stageline would be on par with Rega Fono or Rega Aria phono preamps? In my case it would be really practicle to reuse the HiCapDR and power a Stageline, but would it be a sacrifice in quality compared to Rega’s options?

How would Rega Ania MC cartridge compare with Ortofon 2M Blue or Bronze? There are a lot of options and it’s confusing what a good combination might be. Another option is getting Planar 3 but more expensive cartridges or/and phono preamp. For the moment the following setups come to my mind:

  1. Rega P6 + Ania MC + Stageline
  2. Rega P6 + Ania MC + Rega Aria phono
  3. Rega P6 + Ortofon 2M Bronze + Stageline
  4. Rega P6 + Ortofon 2M Bronze + Rega Aria phono
  5. Rega P3 + Ortofon 2M Black + Rega Aria phono
  6. Rega P3 + Ortofon 2M Black + Stageline

NOTE: I listen to a lot of hip-hop and RnB music and I want to achieve a solid and punch bass response with good PRaT and deep notes.

I recently upgraded my vinyl set up from a p3 and looked at the p6 and p8. When I researchd the carts I found a number of reports that the Ania gave excess sibilance in a worrying number of installations, and some Ania’s had been returned for factory reset, or had been returned for part ex. As a result I decided that the Ania pro was the minimum I’d look at for a p6 or above if I wanted a MC cart.
The cart and phono I eventually went for on the p8 weren’t from Rega, but at the price point I would have gone ania pro/aria if I had kept with Rega.

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From someone who loves vinyl do you have a record collection. If you don’t I’m not sure whether it makes sense to start now, given the range of music available on digital sources. That said logic doesn’t always inform this hobby!




Its great to have a second source like vinyl to run alongside your digital, as its nice to step back and enjoy what a good turntable can offer.
The rega turntables, cartridge’s and phono stages are all designed to work well with each other and is a safe way to go and get great results.
Set yourself a budget and go for it, the only problem i can see, if all the money you need these days to buy the records

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Your various options range quite widely in price. My advice would be that if you have a Rega cartridge it makes sense to have a Rega phono stage, as they are perfectly matched. I have a Planar 8 with Ortofon 2M Black, and use the SN3’s built in phono stage. I had a Planar 6 before and the 8 is much, much better. For the price of your first option, the P6 with Ania and and Aria phono stage, you could get a P8 with the 2M Black, and a Naim Stageline. The Stageline can be powered from the Aux 2 socket of your SN2.

We bought a Planar 1 just under two years ago, when we thought it might be fun to get some vinyl - we had about 10 albums at the time. It sounded good but not really good enough in comparison to the streamer. Then I got the 6, and then the 8. I probably have about 80 albums now. I really enjoy playing them and it’s a nice change from streaming. But the records are not cheap and with postage cost between £15 and £25. If you want to buy secondhand records it’s pretty much obligatory to get a record cleaning machine, which costs another £400.

I certainly wouldn’t say don’t do it, but remember that it’s not cheap and it can be quite addictive. And it can sound great - my P8 with 2M Black costs £2,200 and it’s just as enjoyable as my NDX2/555DR, which costs over £12,000. Looked at that way, it’s a bit of a bargain!


I think I want to follow a path similar to yours. I don’t have a vinyl collection but I would be happy and keen on searching and collecting my favourite records. I realize that it is an expensive path and it’s very far convenience wise from streaming but I would be glad to have an alternative source and see what a turntable can bring. As far as I know you can get more quality with less money from a turntable and your words confirm that. Beating NDX2/555DR with a less expensive turntable options seems like a good option, even though the amount of music collections would be a lot less limited. But listening to your most favourite records would be a joy.

I still haven’t defined a fixed budget and that’s why I’m looking at different options and combinations. There is one bad thing that my turntable would be approximately only half a meter away from my speakers which would introduce vibrations. Having this in mind I might not get the best from P6 for example, so going to P8 might be pointless in these circumstances?

Having read your opinions it seems if I go with Ania cartrbridge it would be good to get a Rega phono pream, but if I go with Ortofon, a Stageline would be a sensible option.

My P8 is only 0.5m from the speaker and it’s fine. My speakers are only small though. I think the 8 looks particularly lovely, though not everyone agrees of course.


I do.

The P6 with the factory fitted ania Pro and then rega phono stage like the fono mc or aria.
Sounds like a great place to start your journey

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I’d encourage you to try out LPs but I do envy those who can just prioritise one source.

I’m at the other end of this debate having grown up with LPs, never giving them up. In fact, I went into a Naim dealer to in the mid 1980s to buy a CD player and came out with an LP12, one of the best hifi decisions I’ve made. This was at a time when Naim were refusing to enter the digital market due to concerns about the sound quality.

Around 80% of my serious listening is via vinyl but if I want music on just in the background I’ll stream. I still regard it as one of life’s great treats to listen to a favourite LP all the way through and in the dark. It’s probably an age thing but I also love LPs and turntables just as physical objects, I want them in my life.

Digital music measures better than LPs across a range of parameters but LPs have a midrange quality and warmth that is addictive, and to my ear has a depth and quality to it that make it sound more real. Many however would claim this is just a form of distortion. The absolute difference between the two formats is difficult to judge as my LP12 cost, over almost 40 years, far more than my Chord Hugo but the Hugo holds its own. It is also possible my SBL speakers favour the LP, that’s what they were designed around.

The quality of the original recording is key, irrespective of whether it’s digital or analogue.

HH’s advice is excellent. I’d add, treat any LP you buy as you would a purchase of hifi equipment, i.e. research the recording and label. Virtually all modern recordings on LP are digitally mastered, so I’d tend to favour the download.

Be wary of the many labels now selling new LPs in the £10-20 range that simply use an out of copyright CDs as the master. Often these will be well produced and look nice in terms of the sleeve and offer 180g vinyl. They can even be badged “audiophile” but I’d stay well away from them.

The Rega’s are terrific. I plonked an out of the box P1 down on top of my LP12 last year and was pleasantly surprised by how good it sounded. Turntables are one of the components where improvements are very obvious as you move up a manufacturer’s range. That makes perfect sense as the record microgroove is very small. The quality of reproduction is down to the calibre of mechanical and electrical engineering, increasing tolerances costs money.

A good local secondhand record shop can be a great boon as can good sellers on the web. Discogs will give you an assurance on the appropriate price. You do also often need to clean these but Project make some reasonable machines and I find the cleaning process a form of therapy.

I’ve always used a Stageline, now powered by a Supercap. If you have a spare Hicap I’d go for a good secondhand Stageline to match the cartridge you choose but I’m not familiar with the recent Rega competitors.

If selecting a second hand LP look past the dust, and focus on evidence of scratches, dinks and stuck on dirt. The noise level on an LP that’s been well used can be a nuisance. A cheaper stylus may have worn away the vinyl. But then I always remember a quote, I think ascribed to John Peel, "Listen, mate, life has surface noise.”


I agree 100% on that. :+1:


@Michael17 Thank you for the coprehensive answer and sharing your experience with us! You gave me a deeper insight on what to expect starting with this journey. Picking an LP would involve really some investigation and checking the source of the vinyl. I also have heard a lot of the new LPs are based on digital masterings and produce different sound than the true all the way analogue LPs from the past.

Having the HiCap DR, would I be able to power both the preamp section of my SN2 and powering a Stageline at the same time? Is the Stageline connected to SN2 via a DIN cable?


Being a primarily analogue source individual, I would recommend buying a T/Tsystem that you wish to keep for a long time (I.e T/T, arm and phono stage with your cartridge being an item for upgrade). Therefore your budget should allow for a very good phono stage, often forgotten that the output from a MC cartridge is very small and therefore the phono stage is critical.


I’d have a study of the manual - my older Stageline is wired differently to a new one.

From (an increasingly suspect) memory I think the Hicap can only power one thing at a time. But with the Hicap powering your amp the Stageline is also improved.

You leave the Hicap powering your Supernait, and connect the Stageline to Aux 2, which will provide the power for it to work.


I recently got back into vinyl after 30 years or so away from the format. Be it nostalgia or curiosity, I bought an RP 10 last year knowing I would only upgrade if I bought a lesser deck. I only listen to vinyl when in the mood for it, but I am happy I jumped back in. My advice would be to search out new copies from known sources that produce good recordings. At first I just bought albums I know, or have known for years, and some are pretty poor quality recordings.
A while back I bought a few records from Blue Note, Tone Poet series, and they sound spectacular, well worth the high cost.
I kind of look at Vinyl as a luxury item that I will treat myself to occasionally, otherwise the cost can escalate quickly. Today I am listening to a 77 year old recording from Chet Baker, wonderful music.