Out With the Old in With the New?

Dear Michael,

I grew up in the golden age of high-fi and began my hardware journey with a Fisher X202B amplifier, AR2a speakers, and an Empire 398 turntable followed by the addition of a McIntosh MR-67 tuner. Of course, I've been a subscriber to High Fidelity, Stereo Review, their successors, The Absolute Sound and Stereophile going back to the 60's.

Most of the hardware has long since been replaced, but I've kept my Empire 398 -- as much because I could just not part with it but also because of its absolutely pristine condition.

To be sure, I went through the CD phase from its very beginning (I had the advantage of having a job which enabled me to attend the Electronics Show going back to the Show's Chicago days) and am now very much into DACs and digital downloads from my Mac to my iPod Touch.

For too many years, I've been thinking about getting back into vinyl (long before vinyl's resurgence) but have been unable to pull the trigger on a turntable, at various times, because of indecision, not having many choices, now having almost too many choices, and still wondering if I should be thinking about a "tune-up" of my 398 with a new belt, new motor mounts, some additional damping and a new tonearm -- I've been looking at the Jelco SA-750DB 9" arm.

I've also been following cartridge developments, but I've concluded that I may already have a very desirable cartridge -- an audio-technica AT15Sa Dual Magnet with a Shibata Nude Diamond Stylus.

Sadly, I've missed out on listening to a great collection of vinyl albums because I've just let my Empire sit on its shelf.

What to do?

I've decided that my turntable/cartridge budget is in the range of $1,500 to $2,000, which seems to be the sweet spot for Clearaudio, Rega, Project, and, most recently, VPI.

It's time to ask the expert and make a decision.

Would you invest in an upgrade of the Empire 398 or sell the 398 and purchase one of the many recommended new turntables in my price range?

Your answer will be the key to unlocking my old and new vinyl enjoyment.

Thank you very much.


Jerry O....

Jerry: If you'd asked me whether or not you should buy a vintage Empire 398 or a new turntable, I'd tell you to buy a new turntable unless you were familiar with how to restore the old one (etc.), but since you already have the 398 that I assume is in good operating condition, along with a very good MM cartridge, I'd say set that one up carefully (especially the SRA on the Shibata stylus) and see how you like it. I've not had any experience with Empire turntables other than lusting after them as a kid but if I had one "lying around" I'd be setting it up and listening to it before trading it in for something new.

If you're not satisfied with the performance you could always sell it and then get a new 'table. So let's talk again after you set up and listen to the Empire!

alan james's picture

I would try and work on the 398 if you like that refurbishing kind of thing which I do.  If you want to replace the tone arm without breaking the bank look that the Rega arms from britaudio.com, bulk packed and put a nice RB 300 on it. 

Art Dudley loves the refurbishing route, but not sure if he has done en Empire over the years. Scour the internet and I'll bet you find some folks who have made your journey you are considering. 

If you didn't want to invest too much in a new table the new Project Debut Carbon has gotten some excellent reviews for a $400 complete table. Of course the new RP3 is worth considering as well, and then up the ladder is the new VPI traveler that just might be your ticket.

I agree, the market for turntables has gotten crowded and maybe confusing. I would go back and read some of MF and AD's reviews where they won't steer you wrong. 





KimC's picture

I feel you on this but if I may say there are still old stuff that are deemed useful these days. They're much better than the new ones actually. Say for example my old phone is better than my new phone now. The semantics and all are better but its usefulness for me, I prefer the older one. Anyhow, I prefer online these days especially with this site https://reviewresumeservice.blogspot.com/p/resumeedegecom-review.html helping me fill up my resume.

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