Mike – should I spend a little on my old deck or just get rid of it and buy a new one? I get asked this all the time. Is there a simple answer? Well yes, usually there is.
There is nothing new in turntable design and much of the best turntable engineering and design was done back in the 70’s and 80’s. Sure there was some junk from the time too, but it was cheap to buy even then and best avoided now.
Good gear of that vintage is almost always worth holding on to and spending a little time and money on. It often features high quality bespoke tonearms of Japanese origin or quality aftermarket designs from Grace, SME, Jelco and so on. Motors tend to be more robust, platters heavier and more precisely worked, plinths more solid and exotic.
Contrast this with ‘affordable’ new turntables. By affordable I mean under a grand new. Decks in this category feature motors that would not look out of place in a cheap clock and platters made of wood, that wobble – I kid you not! You pretty much get rubbish new for under a grand and as long as you know that you won’t go too far wrong.
Good quality vintage direct drive and belt drive turntables can be very fun to own and rewarding to use. The added benefit is that, being well-engineered and built to last, these decks are far more collectible than affordable new decks, hold their value well and often become more desirable with age. Many good decks like my Kenwood KD-600 fetch far more now than they cost to buy new, because nothing under $3000 comes close!
If you are prepared to spend a bit more on a new turntable like say an SP-1200 or good Clearaudio or VPI deck the you are starting to look at some nice gear, but be prepared to spend $1500 – $2000 at a minimum.