Mate, if I were near you I'd have sent a few pints your way already! Thanks a lot Doug! And Al Ears, too. He's always been very helpful and kind.That's some good information, thank you. You seem to be very limited as to what is available for you to purchase in your country. For comparison, prices in the UK are as follows:
Marantz TT-15S1 - £1400 (vs $1245)
Pioneer PLX1000 - £600 (vs $645)
Yamaha TT-S303 - n/a in UK ($650)
Rega Planar 3 - £600 (vs $1300)
Project DC RM - £650 (vs $740)
Audio Technica - AT-LP5 - £300
Using the above comparisons here's my thoughts:
Forget the Rega it's too expensive for what it is. Also forget the Technics as that's too much money as well. AT is not available to you so forget that too. The Yamaha S303 isn't available here, only an upgraded Music Cast 500 version @ £500.
I've had the pleasure of owning three of the above models: Project, Pioneer and Marantz, purchased in that order and I would categorise their performance in that order too, the Project and the Pioneer were close, just a different sound signature. My sister has my old Project in her system and it still sounds very good indeed.
If you can get the Marantz it will get you the best sound for your money. Is it better than the Project/PLX? Yes. Is it twice as good as the Project/PLX? No.
The Yamaha looks interesting, made in China again, but most things are made there these days. It does look a little expensive in the price comparison being the same price as the Pioneer, when its superior version is available here for the same price as the PLX. The Yamaha is belt driven whereas the Pioneer is DD, I personally have no preference either way. The Yamaha does look sleek and uncluttered compared to the Pioneer and also comes with a cartridge, though a replacement cart does seem to be a necessary upgrade.
Marantz comes with a good cartridge but it's not plug and play out of the box, there is some assembly required, so not novice friendly. It also has no dust cover.
Pioneer comes with a dust cover but no cartridge so not quite plug and play straight out of the box.
Yamaha comes with a dust cover and a bundled cartridge so once set-up you will spinning LPs within the hour.
Project comes with a dust cover and a reasonable mounted cartridge, so is probably the most novice friendly deck in the list. Stylus upgrade on the Ortofon is simple. For a beginners turntable the Project would be my choice.
Does your amp have an internal phono-stage for turntable connection?
Can you get a standard Project Debut Carbon in your country and if so what is the price?
Great, I agree with what you suggested. Narrowing down my options I'm left with these 3:
1.Marantz TT15 if (fingers crossed) its asynchronous motor isn't affected by power frequency or find a 50hz pulley (waiting for ClearAudio and/or Marantz reply to my email). 1265$. This is my ideal TT, I'm in love with it! I do not want to go the upgrading route but I think can handle all the assembly process and have a bunch of tools (azimuth, stylus gauge, tweezers, protractors and good steady hands). I think I could be good with this TT for years to come.
2- Pioneer PLX1000 with an Ortofon 2M Bronze (I listened to some demos on YouTube today and really liked that cartridge, 440$). For this combo I'd pay 1085$ or 1000$ if I can get it w/o taxes. This will leave me with some extra money I could save to upgrade my Q Acoustics 3030i for a pair of Monitor Audio Silver 100 or 200 in a couple of months.
3- Pro Ject Debut Carbon standard if they have one in stock here. The one I'm sure they have here is the RecordMaster version which has a built in phono and USB which I do not like for the extra wiring and circuits I wouldn't use and may affect overall audio quality. I do not want to keep the 2M Red that comes with it, I'd need to get the 2M Bronze. I could see the Red for 80$ and the total cost would be pretty much the same as option 2 (plx1000).
I have a Cambridge Audio Solo Phono stage going into a Cambridge Audio CXA61,