I have not heard a comparison, but I've read enough stories online to convince me that jettisoning the onboard phono stage could be a really good idea. There are a lot of very interesting turntables in the $400 and under price range that might be more appealing to some buyers if they were available without a phono stage installed. I wouldn't even mind spending just as much for a non-phono version--at least it wouldn't require the extra work of removal and void the warranty. I would also like to see some of these budget turntables marketed without an included phono cartridge, though in this case with a slightly reduced price. I don't mind the AT3600 variants, but anything with an AT95, VM95, or Ortofon 2M just means there's going to be something I have to remove and toss. Stanton did this with the STR8-80 model; when I bought mine, I got the STR8-80X, which was the same 'table but without a cartridge.