Upgrade from PS-HX500 + Goldring E3?

John L

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Hello all.

I'm new to the forum so be kind :)

I'm a hi-fi-enthusiast of old and long-time buyer and reader of what-hi magazine and now the website.

I was always into cassettes first , then CD of course. Back in the 1980s a lot of people I knew only ever considered buying vinyl.

I never had a turntable until last year, when I found an Amazon warehouse "as new" Sony PS-HX500.

I stuck with the standard AT cartridge for a while, but then found a deal on a Goldring E3 and upgraded. What a difference! Those superlatives people use all the time to describe analogue sound suddenly made sense. More rhythmic and dynamic. Fuller, tauter, deeper reaching bass, crisper more detailed treble well under control and sibilance well under control (most of the time).

So the question is, what's my next step, as I'm definitely "hooked" ?

I'm thinking in terms of higher-end MM cartridges between my current E3 and a £300-£400 price point.

There's a cartridge "best buy" article on the WHF site, and a few of them are stated as needing careful setup, or require the "right" kind of equipment.

I'm not sure I fancy going the used LP12 and Linn arm route - I could be looking at thousands there, and then there are all the arm bearing tests and so on to be sure I've got something good.

So what turntable and arm combination would subtly outclass my next step-up, assuming my next cartridge price point would be an audible step up (or should I go higher) ?
 

Integralista

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Hi John, you have opened interesting topic. I think your Sony is interesting, "all eating" turntable with dac etc. etc....But... This is not real hifi turntable. Esp. when you plan to invest into more expensive cartridge. I use Rega turntables for some 26 years and still very satisfied. I will recommend combinations: Rega P2 or P3 with new cart. Rega ND3 and Rega Brio amp. Brio will drive even towers like Triangle Borea BR 07(08)This I tried at home. And sound will be excellent. Or for more money: Rega P3 or P6 with new cart Rega ND 05, combined with new Elex Mk4. All these components are best in class. You have more possibilities (freedom) here to choose speakers. I will take Triangle Antal or Rega Aya or Monitor Audio Bronze 500...depending on your room. You definitely do not have to burn thousands of bucks for some Linn or Clearaudio decks to have excellent sound at home. Happy listening😆.
 

John L

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Hi John, you have opened interesting topic. I think your Sony is interesting, "all eating" turntable with dac etc. etc....But... This is not real hifi turntable. Esp. when you plan to invest into more expensive cartridge. I use Rega turntables for some 26 years and still very satisfied. I will recommend combinations: Rega P2 or P3 with new cart. Rega ND3 and Rega Brio amp. Brio will drive even towers like Triangle Borea BR 07(08)This I tried at home. And sound will be excellent. Or for more money: Rega P3 or P6 with new cart Rega ND 05, combined with new Elex Mk4. All these components are best in class. You have more possibilities (freedom) here to choose speakers. I will take Triangle Antal or Rega Aya or Monitor Audio Bronze 500...depending on your room. You definitely do not have to burn thousands of bucks for some Linn or Clearaudio decks to have excellent sound at home. Happy listening😆.
Thanks for your reply. I love the idea of a Rega. I remember Rega from back in the 1980s and the original Planar 3 was always a strong recommendation even then. Even now looking at the P6, it's appealing and a solid award winner over several years. I don't think it's too expensive if I'm now hooked on vinyl listening, but maybe I go for an intermediate deck like the P3 first...? Decisions, decisions...

Still not sure about the cartridge. I hadn't considered the ND 05 but will have a look at what people say. I was thinking of something like the Goldring 1042 as I like the E3, but there are a few cartridges on the WHF pages that can be had for more or less the same money, so I need to do a bit more thinking.

Full disclosure though. I invested a lot of time and energy in building my own amplifier a little over 30 years ago. It's a Velleman K4020 with the LED power output meters. I upgraded literally every component before building it, so it's nothing like the original. It meters out in all measurable ways as very superior to plenty of high end amplifier specs I see online. At the time, it was reviewed by one popular hi-fi magazine who identified some HF oscillation, and so it didn't do well overall. However, with my circuit mods and component changes, mine doesn't show this characteristic.

I'm driving a now ancient pair of Rogers LS7t speakers, which are well-behaved impedance wise. I do like the Rogers. Really solid, deep bass that's quite tight, and a very crisp treble with lots of presence. Again, I know the Rogers were a matter of taste back in the day, as some people thought the titanium tweeters were too bright. I don't share that opinion, so I've stuck with them for many years.

I could consider an amp and speaker upgrade. But being of the electronics fraternity, I think I'd probably end up building something rather than buying one.

I will potentially be looking for a phono stage pre-amp though. I never had to consider this with the PS-HX500 as it's built-in.
 
Not sure about your amp. Can you clarify it does not have a phono stage built in?
Personally I wouldn't go any further up the cartridge ladder, although the 1042 is excellent, if you still intend using the phono preamp in that turntable of yours.
It might have been a bargain at the time but it's easily improved these days and you need to think about a turntable that is just that and doesn't have heaven knows what built into it.
Clarify your priorities and it will be easier to suggest your next step.
For what its worth setting up any cartridge needs some knowledge and tools unless you can get a dealer to do it for you.
 
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Integralista

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Hi, Rega P3 is still very good with MM cartridge, like new Rega ND3 or5. But P6 is a big step ahead. P6 deservs very good MC cart, like Rega Ania Pro or Ben Micro Glyder. Glyder is terrific cart. I have used it for some 12 years (2 generations) on my old Planar 25, with Benz Micro Lukaschek Phono stage. Amazing sound. I like also Goldring. I used 1042 MM, some 25 years ago😉. Replaced with Rega Exact. Today I think they are not so different as they were that time. Exact is more "meat and bones", Goldring more precise. With Exact you will have more fun. I use today Goldring Elite MC on my old Planar 25. Very good combination. Many years connected with Rega Aria phono stage. Aria is worth each penny, for sure one of the best Rega components in their history. Also Hana cartridges are good, just a bit heavy for Rega arms. BR
 

John L

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Not sure about your amp. Can you clarify it does not have a phono stage built in?
Personally I wouldn't go any further up the cartridge ladder, although the 1042 is excellent, if you still intend using the phono preamp in that turntable of yours.
It might have been a bargain at the time but it's easily improved these days and you need to think about a turntable that is just that and doesn't have heaven knows what built into it.
Clarify your priorities and it will be easier to suggest your next step.
For what its worth setting up any cartridge needs some knowledge and tools unless you can get a dealer to do it for you.
I got to grips with cartridge setup when I put the E3 on the PS-HX500. I've got both a PS-HX500 protractor and an Ortofon one. I've got Ortofon's tracking weight scale too, although I'm contemplating buying a digital one. I managed to get pieces of silver steel rod clamped to the sides of the E3 during setup (I have some model-making G clamps) which helped with alignment.

The amp doesn't have a phono stage. It's just a power amplifier. So a further disclosure is that I built my own preamp too. It does have gain, as there are NE5534s inside. Again, completely over the top performance wise. Screened side-mounted circuit boards, LM317 and LM337 power supplies, relay muting and signal switching at the back board, ALPS potentiometers including their lossless balance control. Again, it meters out very well in comparison with what's on offer commercially. It also has three outputs, main out, rec out 1 and rec out 2, which is what I wanted at the time. Only main out goes through the volume and balance controls. Balance defeat (switched relay) too.

But, it doesn't have a phono stage as I was never into vinyl when I built it. Buying the PS-HX500 was an easy way of getting into turntable ownership as it comes with its own preamp built-in (as well as the ADC board for hi-res recording) and you can switch between cartridge direct (then using a third part phono stage) or via Sony's preamp at the phono sockets on the back. So I'm currently using it in "active" mode getting line-level signals into a spare stereo channel on my own preamp.

The thing I still notice with the E3 is some vocal sibilance. Not everywhere, but say on tracks like Peter Gabriel's "In your eyes" on So, or "New Gold Dream" on Simple Minds Live (City of Light) double LP. And perhaps the treble detail isn't quite as refined as it could be, even though matters have improved considerably over what is rumoured to be an AT3600L fitted to the stock Sony deck.

My ears will resolve "hi-fi." I notice distortion first. Listening to tape playback versus the digital music I've got use to, I can really hear that nigh-on 1% distortion inherent in the medium now, even though I still like cassettes (but probably only ones I record myself these days).

Hiss and background noise don't bother me too much. I'm a "damping factor" addict. I know damping factor isn't all that for a lot of people, and in classical listening I know some people prefer a lower damping factor, particularly when listening to strings, as everything runs together in a very soothing way. But I do like tight, rolling, rhythmic, dynamic bass along with pristine treble. I was guilty, as a teenager, of owning a graphic equaliser and going for the "smile" band settings to get simultaneous bass and treble boost. There's something in that I suppose with the inclusion of a loudness control on some amplifiers, but my system is now very definitely flat. My amp and preamplifier definitely are, and the Rogers achieve 50Hz to 20Khz within 2dB if I remember correctly.

Maybe that explains a little more about what I'm after next. Neutral, accurate sound but which sounds tight and dynamic.

One thing I think about a lot when I look at cartridges is the stylus design. Manufacturers claim benefits associated with their particular "cut" and I guess this is where I expect some audible gain is to be had.
 
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Gray

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....Maybe that explains a little more about what I'm after next. Neutral, accurate sound but which sounds tight and dynamic.
I can never understand people that aren't after that.

Well done on the Velleman kit build John.
I never got to properly hear that - despite having worked as part of the 'get you working' department at Maplin - no doubt because most purchasers of that kit could construct without error.

You say yours is a souped up version, but it would be very interesting to hear how it would compare to a couple of Fosi V3 Monoblocks, for example 🤔
 

John L

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I can never understand people that aren't after that.

Well done on the Velleman kit build John.
I never got to properly hear that - despite having worked as part of the 'get you working' department at Maplin - no doubt because most purchasers of that kit could construct without error.

You say yours is a souped up version, but it would be very interesting to hear how it would compare to a couple of Fosi V3 Monoblocks, for example 🤔
Well, if you're ex-Maplin, then you know the specs. of the standard build. By the way, Maplin for me was the absolute epitome of accessible electronics in the UK. Getting the new catalogue each year was like deliverance of the 10 commandments for me. I can't tell you how many hours (actually years) I spent studying the Maplin catalogues from the late 1970s onwards. I lived for Maplin, I can tell you. I didn't like it when they went for the high-street presence. I thought that was very strange, seeing components in blister packs on shelves. It's not like there are that many people actually building things in the UK (I did like the counter service at the back of the shops though).

Here's my amplifier then, photographed a couple of years ago (so it was nigh-on 30- years old at this point):

amplifier cropped upload 1.jpgamplifier cropped upload 2.jpgamplifier cropped upload 3.jpg

That's my set-up as it was a few years ago now. I've still got the amp and pre-amp. The decks, tuner and CD player were all purchased whilst I was a teenager. I still have the tuner, and it still works just fine. I still have the decks too, but I've upgraded since then.

The amplifier build was very involved. 0.6W 1% metal film resistors (back when Maplin sold them for the right price), polystyrene low-value caps, then defaulting to polypropylene and polycarbonate if required. 650VA transformers replacing the 300VA ones in the kit. And yes, the Panasonic low ESR 47000uF capacitors are so old, the plastic wraps have perished and the round tops are now loose! 94,000uF per rail per mono-block. Custom heavy metalwork in the base to carry the transformers, a custom back panel including double output terminals for bi-wiring, and a custom front panel (actually 6mm tinted Perspex over the original printed front panel, and some cap-head bolts and washers). All the current carrying rails including the loudspeaker rails were bordered with 1mm copper wire and then flood-filled with solder, at least 1mm thick overall. You've got to get the damping factor up above the quoted figure of 600 somehow! There was so much solder, the boards began to warp as they cooled down!
 
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Gray

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Well, if you're ex-Maplin, then you know the specs. of the standard build. By the way, Maplin for me was the absolute epitome of accessible electronics in the UK. Getting the new catalogue each year was like deliverance of the 10 commandments for me. I can't tell you how many hours (actually years) I spent studying the Maplin catalogues from the late 1970s onwards. I lived for Maplin, I can tell you. I didn't like it when they went for the high-street presence. I thought that was very strange, seeing components in blister packs on shelves. It's not like there are that many people actually building things in the UK (I did like the counter service at the back of the shops though).

Here's my amplifier then, photographed a couple of years ago (so it was nigh-on 30- years old at this point):

View attachment 6920View attachment 6921View attachment 6922

That's my set-up as it was a few years ago now. I've still got the amp and pre-amp. The decks, tuner and CD player were all purchased whilst I was a teenager. I still have the tuner, and it still works just fine. I still have the decks too, but I've upgraded since then.

The amplifier build was very involved. 0.6W 1% metal film resistors (back when Maplin sold them for the right price), polystyrene low-value caps, then defaulting to polypropylene and polycarbonate if required. 650VA transformers replacing the 300VA ones in the kit. And yes, the Panasonic low ESR 47000uF capacitors are so old, the plastic wraps have perished and the round tops are now loose! 94,000uF per rail per mono-block. Custom heavy metalwork in the base to carry the transformers, a custom back panel including double output terminals for bi-wiring, and a custom front panel (actually 6mm tinted Perspex over the original printed front panel, and some cap-head bolts and washers). All the current carrying rails including the loudspeaker rails were bordered with 1mm copper wire and then flood-filled with solder, at least 1mm thick overall. You've got to get the damping factor up above the quoted figure of 600 somehow! There was so much solder, the boards began to warp as they cooled down!
Very nice.....and a nice stack of separates 👍

Of course we've still got our Maplin catalogues 🙂
They started with one shop in Westcliff, Essex in 1972.
Their new look and massive shop expansion was a result of a takeover from the original owners - that I spent 8 years working for, at the Essex Head Office - and you're right to think that was the beginning of the end.

I made a lot of use of the 25% staff discount.
New bosses said nothing would change....everything changed - including my job being relocated 200 miles north...so I didn't go.

Let us know what turntable you end up with and tell us what you think.
 

John L

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Very nice.....and a nice stack of separates 👍

Of course we've still got our Maplin catalogues 🙂
They started with one shop in Westcliff, Essex in 1972.
Their new look and massive shop expansion was a result of a takeover from the original owners - that I spent 8 years working for, at the Essex Head Office - and you're right to think that was the beginning of the end.

I made a lot of use of the 25% staff discount.
New bosses said nothing would change....everything changed - including my job being relocated 200 miles north...so I didn't go.

Let us know what turntable you end up with and tell us what you think.
Well, it might very well be a Rega. I'm still looking at cartridges though. Stylus shape and the claims made by various manufacturers has captured my interest.

What's the betting I design/build my own phono pre-amp? Not sure about this. I need to do a lot more reading about how various high-end kit is thought of.

I didn't save ANY of my Maplin catalogues I'm afraid. I could kick myself now, looking back now at how much information they contained in addition to the products being advertised.

Not sure where you're located now, but within reason I could transport my Velleman if you want a listen. I'm a bit tied up at the moment being a full-time carer, but the possibility is there. I'm based in the West Midlands.
 
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Gray

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Well, it might very well be a Rega. I'm still looking at cartridges though. Stylus shape and the claims made by various manufacturers has captured my interest.

What's the betting I design/build my own phono pre-amp? Not sure about this. I need to do a lot more reading about how various high-end kit is thought of.

I didn't save ANY of my Maplin catalogues I'm afraid. I could kick myself now, looking back now at how much information they contained in addition to the products being advertised.

Not sure where you're located now, but within reason I could transport my Velleman if you want a listen. I'm a bit tied up at the moment being a full-time carer, but the possibility is there. I'm based in the West Midlands.
Thanks for that offer John, but I'm down in South East Essex, so too much of a stretch.
Myself and fellow member here, @DougK1, have done a bit of genuinely blind testing of cartridges and phono stages.
Let's just say I'm glad we didn't bet any money on being able to tell them apart.
Point is to beware of night and day sound quality descriptions in reviews.
I reckon that if more people had done blind auditions, they'd have ended up buying differently.

You may well want the fun of designing and building your own phono stage but if I was in the market for one, right now I'd be interested in this. It will accommodate just about any MM/MC cartridge and, for what its worth, even has balanced output.
Importantly, the price is more than reasonable:
 
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John L

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You may well want the fun of designing and building your own phono stage but if I was in the market for one, right now I'd be interested in this. It will accommodate just about any MM/MC cartridge and, for what its worth, even has balanced output.
Importantly, the price is more than reasonable:

The specs. look really good on that phono amp. The dbV figure is intimidating, the SNRs less so. But yes, it looks as if it's has been engineered properly and may outclass far pricier phono stages. The reviews look good too. I suppose at the end of the day, we all like value for money.

I know very well the pitfalls of pursuing "better and better" in hi-fi. That's why I stuck with my amp and the LS7t speakers. Find something you really like and stick with it, is my motto. My starter system when I purchased the decks back in the 80s was a Marantz PM151 amplifier and some Sony APM-10ES speakers. So going for the LS7t speakers and Velleman K4020 *was* a night and day experience of course, However I think there's a level you reach where you spend the money but the rewards leave you feeling disappointed. Plus, when you actually find something you like the sound of, going for an upgrade may mean you lose your familiar sound full of the facets you like about it . Technically better or more esoteric aren't always reasons to seek upgrades.

Rather like the E3 versus the AT3600L stock cartridge on the PS-HX500. I can absolutely hear the difference - it's pretty much night and day, but what would I notice if I went for a G1042 or higher, I wonder. Would there be another night-and-day gain in perceived sound quality?

I also stuck with my AD-R460s for many, many years. They've got much cleaner electronics than earlier decks so in that respect I probably made a good choice. I didn't like the auto-reverse to be honest. Yes it was convenient, but eventually the heads would lose azimuth and so I got to be an expert in getting them just right again. I just wanted fixed head decks in the end, with their "definitive" azimuth from the factory. Not that pre-recorded cassettes were ever produced on decks with definitive azimuth!

I managed to get a couple of Technics RS-BX606 3-head decks which appear to be little used and they sound great. Recording quality is night-and-day with the Aiwa decks. The Technics decks produce more solid recordings and a much fuller sound, as if they can really exploit the tape medium. I also now have a Pioneer CT-S830S and whilst Dolby S is nice, and the recordings are very clean, they're almost clinical and to be honest I like the Technics recordings better. So going from "very budget" Aiwa decks to Technics entry-level 3-head machines was night-and-day for me again, but going for a deck 3 times the price of the Technics (as it was back in the late 1990s) hasn't lead to another huge step up in sound quality. I'll keep it though.

Maybe there's a lesson here for would-be hi-fi enthusiasts and upgraders. Budget systems can always be beaten easily, but upgrading from a "very competent" level requires a disproportional amount of cash to be spent. That's been my experience so far, anyway.
 
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