I recently decided to upgrade from my old Revolver Rebel (owned from new) to a new TT. Well, rather a new to me TT, and looking at the prices for new TTs decided on the s/h route.
When I got the Revolver I'd actually wanted either a Thorens or Rega but at the time could afford neither. And now while I think a classic R2 or R3 still looks wonderful (I've always loved the ones with green writing!) I actually wanted a classic suspended Thorens as I had a gut feeling their design was ultimately far better when you take arms out of the equation.
So a Thorens it was to be, but not a Thorens arm as their reputation was never that good (perhaps unfairly I conceed). To keep costs down I aimed for a newer 160 or 166, and ended up with what I think was a late production and never used (it didn't have a mark on it) 166 MkVI BC without an arm. Yes, I know the 160S has a better rep, but as a result it also has a big price - the mint 166 including original external PSU cost me £38 inclusing postage!
So next was a tonearm and cartridge. I was very tempted by the classic SME 3009, as again to me they are things of beauty, but prices these days seem very high indeed, and with the risks of a less than perfect example. A Rega 250 or 300 would have been the obvious choice, but I decided to go for the Origin Live Alliance as it just seems far better made than the plasticy Rega's - the Alliance actually seems more on the level of a Rega 700, but far cheaper, it also has a built in and very easy to use VTA adjuster which is a huge bonus compared to the 250/300s.
A Goldring Japanese made 2200 cartridge later and a few minor tweeks (new oil, belt, cork mat, better isolating feet, some strips of sorbothane etc.) and I was ready to go. A fairly easy board levelling of the suspension springs, then arm/cartridge alignment (I found Seb's baerwald protractor gave a far better sound than the protractor supplied with the Alliance arm) and everything was done.
The results have really blown me away, even without any cartridge running in. The Thorens is rock steady, and the speed seems accurate (although I will test with a strobe when I get the chance). The tonearm works well, and the cartridge seems fantastic. The sound compared to the Revolver is a huge step up, and more than a match for my Marantz CD6000 OSE (although I have just ordered a bargain ex-dem Opera Consonance CD 120 Linear so it will be interesting to make some different comparisons with a CD player that is meant to sound very analogue).
Total cost for getting the new TT up and running is around the £400 mark - and I'm guessing the quality and sound is far bettrer than what £400 would have got me in terms of a new TT. The mix of old and new ingredients to my mind (and ears) appears to have worked very well, and I'm wondering now how much better it will get after some running in time on the clock. Also, the only other tweek I can think of is perhaps a better PSU, but then a good one would seriously add to the overall cost of the TT without necessarily adding that much, but then this is an area I'm really not familiar with - what do others think?