By Don Lindich
Week 24, 2016
Q. I am looking to replace my 30 year-old Bang & Olufsen RX-2 turntable because its MMC3 cartridge is fading out. My pre-amp that has a phono input, so I do not need an integrated phono preamp though I know many turntables now have them. I want very good sound with the convenience of the RX-2’s automatic operation, along with a dust cover and a “cue” function. I love my RX-2 and would prefer to keep using it, but B&O stopped making their proprietary cartridges and nothing else will fit. My budget for the turntable/cartridge package is around $400 to $500.
-John J., San Jose, CA
A. Once you get to the $400 price point the best-sounding turntables are manual models and there are not many automatics to choose from. The best option I could find for you is a Denon/Ortofon package with built-in preamp from The Needle Doctor (needledoctor.com.) It features a Denon DP300F with an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge for $419. Needle Doctor will even mount and align the cartridge for you, ensuring everything will sound its best. I think a manual turntable without a built-in phono preamp selling for the same price would likely sound better, but if you want automatic it is a nice package for the money.
You will be happy to know that you can get a brand-new cartridge for your B&O, and this is what I suggest you do. Soundsmith (sound-smith.com) reversed-engineered and improved upon the old B&O cartridge designs and now offers many cartridges that are superior to anything B&O ever made. You can get the Soundsmith SMMC4 cartridge for $199 and keep that beautiful B&O turntable running for decades to come. Higher prices models are available as well and have played to rave reviews in the audiophile press.
This question leads to a good tip for everyone else looking for a turntable. Used Bang & Olufsen turntables often sell for a pittance on Craigslist because people gave up on finding cartridges for them. For example, I found a working RX-2 without cartridge on Craigslist in San Jose (John J.’s hometown) for only $35. Add the $199 Soundsmith cartridge and you have an unbeatable $235 turntable with stunning modern design. Do a web search for “RX-2 turntable” images and you will see what I mean.
CES Wrap-up: This week I will conclude my 2016 Consumer Electronics Show product highlights with the DISH Hopper 3 Smart DVR. The Hopper 3 is the latest in DISH’s extremely innovative whole-house DVR system, offering class-leading features and wireless “Joey” set-top boxes. All the pay TV providers provide television content so beyond price and packages, a key differentiator is the equipment itself. I’ve been with DISH myself for almost 20 years and I think the equipment is a big reason I have been so loyal.
The Hopper 3 has 16 tuners, so you can record 16 different shows at once. Besides the fast and intuitive interface and voice remote, the Hopper 3 supports 4K content, Netflix and has a “Sports Bar” mode so you can watch four different channels simultaneously on your 4K TV. This is just scratching the surface of what this amazing piece of equipment can do, and it recently earned a very rare 5 out of 5 star review from PC Mag. If you subscribe to DISH and crave an upgrade or simply want the best equipment available supplying your home entertainment, it is definitely something you should check out. See it at dish.com.