Apologies in advance for the advice thread, but I'm hoping I can seek out some perspectives from the analog boffins on here....
I'm contemplating a turntable and/or tonearm upgrade. Here are the two set-ups I currently have:
1) Garrard 401, with the following upgrades and other components:
--Artisan Fidelity bearing and heavy stainless-steel platter
--Artisan Fidelity idler wheel
--LDA PSU and speed controller (all installed by AF tech, who also refurbished the 401)
--mass-y wooden plinth (made, I believe by Larry Spence--I bought secondhand with the 401)
--GrooveMaster 12-J tonearm
--Ortofon SPU Synergy G
2) Technics SP10mk2
--refurbed by Artisan Fidelity's technician
--Acoustand two-arm plinth
--Jelco 850L and 850M tonearms
--mix of carts: DL103, DL103R, Koetsu Black, SPU #1E
I like both of these set-ups and have put a fair bit of thought, effort, and expense into them. I plan on hanging on to them indefinitely. However, in this hobby, one's thoughts always turn to possible upgrades. Here are the turntables I'm contemplating, in the $10k-20k range:
TechDAS AirForce V
--possible pros: great company rep, up to four tonearms of any brand and length, air bearing and vacuum hold-down
--possible cons: the V Premium might be better (but out of my budget), motor and platter in same unit
TechDAS AirForce III
--same as above, minus the concern about the inboard motor
--I'd have to find one used
SOTA Cosmos (vacuum model)
--possible pros: factory is a two-hour drive from me, vacuum hold-down, suspension (though I've no experience with a suspended table), possibility for different tonearms (though only one at a time and no 12" arms)
--possible cons: limitations on what length arm can be used, I'm not 100% sure about the aesthetics
Basis 2500 or 2800
--possible pros: strong company rep, vacuum hold-down an option, matching tonearms seem well-regarded
--possible cons: possibly harder to use other-brand arms (?), I'm on the fence the aesthetics and the heavy use of acrylic, 2800 out of budget
Other possible tables:
--TransRotor FatBob, FatBob Reference
--TW Acustic Raven
--Clearaudio Innovation, various models
--Bergmann Galder (really like the styling and the well-thought out features, probably out of my budget)
--Kuzma Stabi R, Stabi Reference 2 (also like the styling, the company rep, and the possibility of natural pairing with 4-Point arms)
I have my possible tonearm upgrade much more narrowed down. It's between:
--Graham Engineering Phantom III
--Kuzma 4-Point 9 or 4-Point 11
I like both for their good reps and their adjustability. I'm getting more serious about cart alignment and want an arm with easily adjustable and repeatable VTA and azimuth settings.
Obviously, something like the Basis will often come with its own arm. That's not a dealbreaker, but I like the option to swap around arms and add other arms in the future. Multi-arm set-up is also nice.
For the 'table, I'm looking for something that is a noticeable upgrade from the two-set-ups I already own. My questions for the group (with apologies and thanks!):
--What are your favorites from my possible upgrade list? Thanks to those who might mention other tables, but I've done a fair bit of research to narrow down to the above.
--How important or beneficial is a well-implemented vacuum hold-down system? From the above, it's probably clear that this is of great interest to me. However, my experience with other clamping methods (VPI periphery ring and Michell reflex clamp) has been somewhat ambiguous, sometimes beneficial, sometimes making LP playback a little dull.
--Are there other factors or pros and cons to the above I'm missing?
--Are the Garrard 401 and SP10mk2 set-ups I own now "good enough" already? I know there are some out there who feel these vintage tables, well restored and set up, can be a platform for almost any arm or cart. Still, I'm curious if I can improve on what I already have. One option, of course, is to add a Graham or Kuzma arm to my SP10mk2, the plinth of which should take them. But I'm also drawn to the idea of keeping the dual Jelco arms as is and building another turntable platform from scratch.
I'll figure out cartridge(s) later. The Kuzma and Graham seem to be able handle most carts. The rest of my equipment, in brief:
--Allnic H7000 phono-pre
--Audio Research Reference 40 pre
--Sanders Sound ESL monoblocks
--dual 15" subs
I plan to get out and hear as many of my candidates as possible. But for now I'd very much appreciate the experiences of the great analog folks on these forums.
Thanks again for any thoughts, perspectives, and advice!