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break-3
22-03-2009, 10:25
I've noticed that most of us on here haven't spent a great deal on phono stages, regardless of other components, and wondered about reasons for that. For my own part, I tried a few up to £1k and the one I liked best was one of the cheaper ones. I guess it might have been a different matter if I'd been looking up to £2k - anyone got any experiences they can share? Anyone actually downgraded because they didn't find super-pricey stages to be any better than mid-pricers? Or upgraded because there was a massive difference? :)

Dave Cawley
22-03-2009, 10:34
Hi Simon

I have tested both on the bench and listening, 13 phonostages from £44 to just over £2K. There are differences. The cheapest was not the worst, some mid price ones were the worst and the most expensive was nearly the best.

Simon, you are listed as trade and a journalist, who are you?

:bag:

Regards

Dave

DSJR
22-03-2009, 11:49
I'd rather have a good, non fussy circuit in a cheapo box than a finely tweaked snake oil one in a lavishly concocted case..

Please remember that many top end products of this nature are chasing well heeled Hong Kong audiophools who buy on looks and price - i.e. implied status. A UK made phono stage at the best part of £3K is regarded over there as the Cambridge 640P is here. Apparently, it betters a £12K one which still sells...

John
22-03-2009, 12:13
I tried a good few phono stages there are some really good ones around the £800 that can compare well to phono stages costing double the WAD being a fine example I mostly heard phono stages in the £1500 price range yet again a big difference in performance

Marco
22-03-2009, 12:44
My experience is that, as with anything else in hi-fi, with phono stages it's difficult to quantify performance with price, especially these days when there are so many affordable, high quality phono stages on the market - quite simply in terms of the latter we've never had it so good!

The key for me lies not in the absolute cost but rather the excellence (and often simplicity) of the design, and whether or not the designer and/or manufacturer has a passion for vinyl and therefore a real handle on how to get the best from it. It is entirely possible for all those boxes to be ticked and the cost still to remain 'affordable', as demonstrated by the designs from A.N.T audio, NVA, Anatek Audio, Icon Audio, Puresound, Creek, Graham Slee, etc.

What makes for bad phono stages, in my experience, is when they're included as an afterthought on an amplifier which is primarily designed to be line-level only, or merely part of some huge multi-national company's product range where very little 'love' has gone into the product. It's no coincidence that the best phono stages made are generally from small (or fairly small) specialist manufacturers that have a passion for analogue and vinyl.

Another key factor in my experience responsible for creating a good phono stage is in designing a simple circuit using high quality components which doesn't mangle the 'delicate' audio signal being processed - this is easier said than done. One of the reasons why some expensive phono stages get it wrong and sound disappointing to say the least is because their designs are often overly-complicated from having to justify their (sometimes) exorbitant cost!!

In these types of designs the signal has to negotiate its way through a multitude of components, many of them often 'over-the-top' and unnecessary. For that reason one could argue that the K.I.S.S principle applies more when designing phono stages than anywhere else, simply because it's so easy to damage the 'delicate' audio signal, especially when it involves amplifying the minute signal from low-output moving-coil cartridges.

In that respect often the best solution is when high-quality phono stages are factored into the design of a preamp or integrated amplifier and hard-wired into the circuit, therefore negating the need for another box and cables with which to connect it, as this can adversely affect the integrity of the signal. A good example of this philosophy is in the designs from Croft Acoustics. Croft preamps always include a high quality, hard-wired, all-valve MM phono stage - it is their raison d'Ítre as Glenn Croft hates CD and digital with a passion, loving vinyl, therefore you can guarantee that the phono stages in his designs will be excellent; indeed this is what their deserved reputation suggests (the line-level only parts are none too shabby either!) All his designs embody the K.I.S.S principle and use the highest quality components available. Interestingly too, they're also 'affordably priced' ;)

Don't get me wrong, there are also examples of very costly phono stages from hi-end manufacturers where no expense has been spared in order to get the ultimate performance from vinyl; where genuine know-how and expertise have been applied in the right areas to create truly 'statement' examples of phono stages, and not simply over-complicated, musically inept examples of audiophile 'jewellery' designed to look impressive but ultimately fail where it matters most.

As ever though with hi-fi, sorting out the wheat from the chaff requires some experience, lateral thinking, and the ability not to be seduced by 'badges'. Think outside of the box, do some research, don't be fooled by marketing spiel, and above all trust your ears or those of someone whose opinions you respect, is the best advice I can give! :)

Marco.

Marco
22-03-2009, 12:46
I'd rather have a good, non fussy circuit in a cheapo box than a finely tweaked snake oil one in a lavishly concocted case..

Please remember that many top end products of this nature are chasing well heeled Hong Kong audiophools who buy on looks and price - i.e. implied status.


Hear, hear Dave! :clap:

Marco.

Snoopdog
22-03-2009, 15:04
A bit like this then...............................

http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y76/crystalref/009.jpg

http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y76/crystalref/015.jpg

:)

Marco
22-03-2009, 15:08
No, there are no valves :eyebrows:

;)

Marco.

P.S Looks very neat - not heard it, though. Oh, and can you do me a favour and reduce the image size? It's causing pages to 'scroll' outwith the available window - ta! :)

Alex Nikitin
22-03-2009, 15:41
No, there are no valves :eyebrows:

;)

Marco.

P.S Looks very neat - not heard it, though.

I am not impressed :smoking: . An unscreened micro in the middle of a preamplifier speaks volumes.

Alex

Dave Cawley
22-03-2009, 15:45
Any micro, anywhere in a phonostage, adds confusion and intermod.

This week or next, I'll have 15 tested phonostages, may be I will reveal all??

:bag:

Dave

Marco
22-03-2009, 15:51
Please do, Dave. Perhaps you'll discover another 'giant-killer' like Alex's? :)

Marco.

Spectral Morn
22-03-2009, 17:48
Hi Guys

I Agree

With Marco and Dave.

I have heard a fair few phono stages over the years and it was those that were valve that always sounded best to me. A good MM one with a really good MC step up transformer, mostly appealed to me most. I agree with Marco the designer must have a clear and detailed understanding of the issues involved in translating the delicate signal from the cart to the phono stage to the pre etc. Removing as much in the path of the signal is always to be encouraged, where possible. I think the biggest problem in these digital days is finding enough designers who truly understand those issues.

Many years ago I used to love the phono stage in my Audio innovations 500 amp (passive pre with active phono stage 2 ECC88's and 2 ECC83's) this used with a step up and Audio Note ANV cables. The sound was amazingly good by my standards then, not sure about now though.

One of the best sounds for the least amount of money I have heard was Guy's P10 Pure Sound with an old Tim De Paravachini designed Step Up I have called the Head. The combination only committed sins of omission and none of commission.

The trick is getting all the elements to work together. Tone arm cable inside and out, loading of the cart and gain with no pre-existing noise or added noise. Get this right and magic happens.

I have a few phono stages (the S/H collector in me). A Pass Labs Xono, Chord Coral, and Bat VK10se. And the quality of each really depends on the cart used and how it matches. The Pass labs works well with most of the carts I have and the Chord's not bad but its the Bat which does it for me. Its an all valve design which can be used with inbuilt step ups or direct. Noise levels are good for a valve design. I hook the Bat up via its balanced in and use the balanced out. The phono stage sounds much better this way, with a reduction in noise plus other sonic improvements. The recent number of phono stages offering a balanced hook up, makes sense as Cartridges are dual differential designs being left and right mono in design.

Inside view of the BatVK10Se

http://i549.photobucket.com/albums/ii364/davros124/holidayandhifipictures216.jpg

Rear view of BatVK10se. All connections via balanced XLR's

http://i549.photobucket.com/albums/ii364/davros124/holidayandhifipictures218.jpg

I am actually about to do a write up/review on the Einstein The records Choice-phono stage(love the name as I do Patho's design called In The Groove). Photos taken all ready and the units sitting warming up. I have the loan of it for two weeks, while a friend is away.

Einstein The Record's Choice phono stage, with selection of loading phono plugs.

http://i549.photobucket.com/albums/ii364/davros124/Einstein003.jpg

I am looking forward to comparing it with my other phono stages.


Regards D S D L.

Pete
25-03-2009, 14:30
The opamps in the previous pics do not bode well for top-level sound quality.
In my limited experience a well implemented discrete design will smoke an opamp based design.

Mike
25-03-2009, 20:15
In my limited experience a well implemented discrete design will smoke an opamp based design.

Gotta agree with that.

Must admit my 'valve bias' (no pun intended) though... :)

Alex Nikitin
25-03-2009, 20:32
The opamps in the previous pics do not bode well for top-level sound quality.
In my limited experience a well implemented discrete design will smoke an opamp based design.

Hi Pete,

where exactly did you see opamps on these pictures? BAT is all-valve (chips visible on the PCB are most likely for some power supply and control duties).

Cheers

Alex

pure sound
25-03-2009, 22:25
I think he meant in the Karan.

leo
25-03-2009, 22:42
I could be wrong but those op-amps in the Karan maybe used as a DC servo, ( so you don't use signal coupling cap), the signal circuitry maybe discrete under those cases?

BTW where something requiring a circuit with more than a few tranistors for the gain a modern op-amp is hard to beat imo, theres far more potential problems with discrete like matching, layout etc
The main advantage with say a discrete op-amp is that you can tap into parts internally you can't with a 8pin IC

Pete
26-03-2009, 22:56
I could be wrong but those op-amps in the Karan maybe used as a DC servo, ( so you don't use signal coupling cap), the signal circuitry maybe discrete under those cases?

BTW where something requiring a circuit with more than a few tranistors for the gain a modern op-amp is hard to beat imo, theres far more potential problems with discrete like matching, layout etc
The main advantage with say a discrete op-amp is that you can tap into parts internally you can't with a 8pin IC

yeah I meant the karan. If op amps are used only for a DC servo, then that is pretty good.

jakwb
21-04-2009, 21:29
This week or next, I'll have 15 tested phonostages, may be I will reveal all??



Dave


Dave, have you done your tests? Are you going to tell us the results? :eyebrows:

leo
22-04-2009, 19:30
Some of us sad gits like to see test results

alfie2902
27-04-2009, 20:57
Hmmm.. still no results, come on Dave let us know what you thought!

I've had the Pure sound P10 for a few days now & its an awesome bit of kit! :) . I'm very impressed!

Just need to spend some money on the TT now LOL. It would be nice to put my FR64s on a sp10 or a 301 (Looks like it may be a Gyrodeck first though- any thoughts?). then a better 103 or an SPU or maybe a shelter 501. we will see!

pure sound
28-04-2009, 11:37
Not sure a Gyro would actually represent a step up from a Systemdek III which was a very fine & substantial design. A well sorted SP10 or 301/401 could be but both are starting to get expensive now. A Shelter or an SPU would be a nice upgrade from the 103 though.

alfie2902
02-05-2009, 13:37
Hi Guy,

I'm on the lookout for a 301/401 or an sp10 to fettle as a longer term project, as they seem like they would be a good match for my FR64s thats on the Systemdek atm & a tonearm i want to keep!

I thought the gyro might make a worth while interim upgrade? But it seems from what you've said only a sidegrade (although more pleasing to the eye)
Is there any TT you would suggest as an interim uprade for the arm whilst i source & fettle one of the above?

The Systemdek III is a great bit of kit, but i wasn't sure if it would hold back a SPU, Shelter 501 or a 103rosewood or 103sa? what would your thoughts be on this?

Sorry for the slight thread hi-jack, But it did start with my views of the P10 which i'm loving & is making me think maybe a valve amp is imminent!

Cheers alfie

Marco
02-05-2009, 14:27
Hi Alfie,

I'm surprised, with the wealth of information on here, that you're not considering a modified 1210, unless your FR64 won't fit...

A fully-fettled Techy, in my experience, pisses all over a Systemdek or a Gyro - both are unfortunately severely hampered by the use of rubber bands. A fully modified 1210 is also 95% as good as an optimally functioning SP10, and brand new to boot!

As for cartridges, an SPU or Shelter would be great, but if you like the sound of the stock 103, you would be shocked and stunned at how good the 'SA' sounds through the A23 SUT and a superb valve MM stage such as the P10.

Options, options... :)

Marco.

alfie2902
02-05-2009, 17:45
Hi Marco,

I've heard a couple of modified 1210's one of them being yours! Albeit at the Pieshow & not in its normal surroundings & was very impressed! :) & no doubt sounds even better in your listening room!

But on the day of the Pieshow tbh i prefered Coco's Sp10 & Beoblokes 301 & quite fancy the challenge of rebuilding one to work with my FR64s. The high effective mass of the arm will limit my choice of cart to either an SPU, Shelter, 103sa or something similar. If the systemdek proves to be good enough not to limit the performace of one of the said carts, i may well stay with it until swapping arm/cart on to the fettled sp10/301/401.

If i was to buy a 1210 it would give me 2 projects to pour money into! So i don't think i'll go with a 1210.

I'm also not so sure all belt drives are as severely hampered as you say. Some well implemented belt drives still sound pretty good to me & i've heard some not so good DD tables. Theres good & bad examples of both designs! I'm not arguing that the systemdek is a good implementation by the way & have said how impressed i was with the 1210's. I just fancy an older deck to play with DD or idler, but if money was no problem i would be looking at a TW Raven!:)

Hmm maybe one day


Options, options...:)

pure sound
02-05-2009, 18:12
Hi Marco & Alfie,

A Systemdek III is a somewhat different creature to the little IIx and can, despite its rubber band, give very, very good results if set up well probably with a new belt & well oiled bearing. I certainly don't think it would 'hold back' any of the suggested cartridges.

It's a little too easy to dismiss all belt driven decks. There are a number of factors that come into play.

First of all there are the heavy unsuspended belt drive designs such as the Micro's, Verdiers, Brinkmann, TW Acoustic, Kuzma & even the Nottingham Analogue models. These don't tend to suffer from the uncertain pitch & image stability that can afflict poorly executed belt driven suspended models. However, they can be somewhat sensitive to what they stand on. That applies to many decks though.

Suspended belt driven decks potentially have a higher degree of acoustic isolation which is certainly beyond lighter decks with less acoustic decoupling and some of the heavyweights. The issue then is whether the suspension system, suspended mass and the belt chosen are optimised not to allow the suspended mass to be pulled about by the motor when the stylus tries to slow the record. Get that behaviour right and it can work well. Get it wrong & it can be a sloppy mess particularly on busy music. iirc the suspension system and where the drive was applied on the III was such that it was far more stable sounding than many of the competing decks of the time.

With regard to fitting an FR64 to a 1210, I'm not even sure it would go. Its a 10" design iirc.

I'm also not sure anyone need be quite so fearful of buying an SP10 either, particularly an 'ex domestic' one. I must know 10-15 people who have bought them over the past 2-3 years and none have had problems with them, regretted the purchase or indeed have sold them. Even if they were to have problems, there are at least 2 or 3 people around now who can put them right & they contain few if any electronic parts that can't be replaced. In a decent, substantial plinth there's much more scope for getting creative with tonearm choice too. It can be the last deck you'd need.

I think the SP10 is possibly easier to get working well than the 301 is. Having had both, I'd also choose the former every time but I can still understand why people like the 301 particularly if they've come from something like an LP12.

The answer as always is to try to hear the options before you buy.

The other more unusual suggestion might be to stick the FR64 onto something like a Kuzma Stabi S and be done with it that way. Another deck capable of excellent results.


EDIT: The deck in Mr Coco's room was one of my pair. Mr Coco's is not so portable but actually sounds much better (thanks in large part to the cartridge he has!)

Marco
02-05-2009, 18:41
Alfie,


I've heard a couple of modified 1210's one of them being yours! Albeit at the Pieshow & not in its normal surroundings & was very impressed! & no doubt sounds even better in your listening room!


Nice one, although I don't remember. Did you introduce yourself? :cool:


But on the day of the Pieshow tbh i prefered Coco's Sp10 & Beoblokes 301 & quite fancy the challenge of rebuilding one to work with my FR64s.


That's cool and I can understand that, but it's very difficult to analyse what impact the T/T was having in those systems you mention and separate it from the sonic signature imposed by the partnering electronics and speakers - especially at a show. It is entirely possible that it was the overall effect of the latter you preferred more than the former, particularly considering how different the gear was to what we were using in our room ;)


The high effective mass of the arm will limit my choice of cart to either an SPU, Shelter, 103sa or something similar. If the systemdek proves to be good enough not to limit the performace of one of the said carts, i may well stay with it until swapping arm/cart on to the fettled sp10/301/401.


I would live with the Systemdek at the moment, as switching to the likes of a Gyrodek would be more of a side-grade than an upgrade, IMO.

Incidentally, your FR64 would also be a great match for a Shure M3D. Trust me, you should include this veritable classic in your cartridge shortlist as it is utterly superb in the right set-up. Your FR64 and an SP10 or Garrard would be ideal. Steve (sps) here uses one to great effect on his FR/TD124 combo, as do I on my 1210. Have a read at my thread on the M3D elsewhere :)


I'm also not so sure all belt drives are as severely hampered as you say. Some well implemented belt drives still sound pretty good to me & i've heard some not so good DD tables. Theres good & bad examples of both designs!


Oh I completely agree - I should have explained myself better. What I meant was that, IMO, 'low-mass' belt-drive T/Ts, such as your Systemdek (sorry!) and the likes of the Gyro you mentioned, are fundamentally hampered by their use of 'rubber bands' (and low-torque motor units, in comparison to that used on SP10s and the like) such that 'dynamic wow' is a significant problem. It's to do with speed stability, and for me belt-drive T/Ts only get it right in that area when going down the high-mass route, such as the Kuzma here and other similar examples on the market:

http://www.stereophile.com/turntables/407kuzma/

It takes that amount of mass and engineering to properly solve the speed stability issues of belt-driven T/Ts, whereas with direct-drive or idler the problem is tackled in a much more 'elegant', less bulky package. Low-mass belt-driven T/Ts such as I have mentioned, and the likes of Linns and Regas, warble and waver all over the place in comparison, and unfortunately my ears are attuned to picking up on this annoying trait such that it does my head in within five minutes of listening to it!


I'm not arguing that the systemdek is a good implementation by the way & have said how impressed i was with the 1210's. I just fancy an older deck to play with DD or idler, but if money was no problem i would be looking at a TW Raven!


No worries whatsoever - I completely understand the attraction and satisfaction of fettling an older T/T, so I wish you all the best with your forthcoming project. I'm sure that it will be much fun :gig:

Marco.

P.S Guy, I'm with ya!

alfie2902
02-05-2009, 20:09
Guy & Marco,

Thanks both for the advice. Some things for me to think over!

The Systemdek was in storage for 12 years until 6 months or so ago. I'd used it for 5 or 6 years before that, but never really new much about TT's. So am still really a novice. :scratch:

I've given it a fettle, a new belt & changed the bearing Oil & am looking to change the feet! I picked up a Pro-ject Phono box se cheaply off ebay, my AU-300LC through AOS from 'Bong' & a cheap DL-103 just to get me going! I was quite shocked just how good it sounded! Then adding the P10 just over a week ago made a hugh improvement!! Now thanks to your advice i think i'll look for a cart upgrade next while thinking on what to do Long term!

The Kuzma Stabi S is an interesting suggestion thanks Guy! I didn't know it was your SP10, sounded very good anyway! Seem to remember there was a Kuzma also in Coco's room. I have been reading about Coco's IO Ltd over on the Wam. He's blown away with it atm now he's hooked it up with a battery! Lucky fellow.

Marco your point about trying to analyse different TT's in different systems is good & totally valid! But a show like the Pie show is really the only way to hear such gear. It Would be hard to get your 1210, Guy's or Coco's SP10, Beo's 301, Steve (sps) TD124 into my system & room to be able to judge them with constants that i know!

If Steve (sps) was using a Shure M3D at Scalford then yes did sound very good & maybe worth trying to pick one up. I couldn't beleive the power from his kit when i asked him to wick up some Led Zep & all from 6 valve watts. :eyebrows:

By the way Marco i was that thick set, long haired guy you couldn't get rid of at the end of the show. Antony TD (very nice bloke too) introduced us after we had got chatting outside & he said he'd give me a shout when your 1210 was back on!

Anyway enough rambling
Thanks chaps
alfie

i_should_coco
02-05-2009, 20:24
Hi Alfie, yeah, the SP10 was Guy's - it was the closest thing to my deck, and 'portable' :lolsign: as he says. It was simply because mine was to much a pain to ship. I have a crate for it now, so it should definitely make the next show! The Kuzma belonged to Tel, another wammer and it did get played later in the day. It's a really fine deck, too, perhaps only sounding a bit 'smaller' than the SP10.

To be honest, it's all the turntable I ever need. I'd like to try a Mk 3, but I suspect the cartridge on a 2 would be better than anything else on a 3, so I'm happy. :)

I'l probably have another fiddle with plinths - not because it needs it, but because I can!

The Grand Wazoo
07-11-2011, 00:34
From The Grave

So to veer violently back to the OP:

Phono stages - how much do the good ones cost? Why does performance not necessarily relate directly to price? Which ones are the bargains?

Thing Fish
07-11-2011, 02:00
Sorry posted a question but in hindsight I hijacked the thread, Sorry.

MartinT
07-11-2011, 06:44
I can only speak from experience; not saying that more expensive is always better, but for me I had to go a bit upmarket to get what I wanted.

I started with a Graham Slee 2SE with the upgraded PSU. Good all-round performance, but lacking dynamics and balls to give vinyl the sound I know it is capable of.

Then came a PS Audio GCPH. Much better sound, more delicate detail but far too much noise and hum, which became intrusive when using high gain for MC cartridges.

Now I'm using a Whest PS.30R. Fabulous all-round sound, dynamic and with excellent grunt at the bottom end. Works well either directly for MC carts or with a step-up transformer (my preferred coupling). I'm not looking any further for a phono preamp.

John
07-11-2011, 07:16
The best I heard is RS Samuels The Nighthawk its battery operated no hum issues what so ever is really dynamic and has lots of gain on tap In relatives terms considering its performance it is a bit of a bargin too.

darkstar078
07-11-2011, 13:29
I'm listening with a Lehmann Black Cube SE phono stage.

Is it good? I hope it is as good as I think it is. :confused:
I can say that I'm buying alot more vinyl since the purchase of the Lehmann. Not thinking of upgrading is a bonus too.

http://www.lehmannaudio.com/assets/site/home_audio/phono_stages/bc_se/fotos/bc_se_980x320.png

freefallrob
07-11-2011, 14:49
My favourite phono stage is the EAR834P MM, it's super just 'as is' out of the shop.

I also like the on board stage in the Rotel RA-04 integrated i'm using at present, very punchy and clean.

Others i've liked are the Creek OBH-8SE (slightly transistory, but good), the evergreen Cambridge Audio 640P (a bit 'airbrushed' and samey), the Goldring PA1 worked nicely with Goldrings cartridges, very smooth.

I little gem is the Graham Slee 'Bridge' in a metal box, not as open at the top end but nice bass and rhythm.

hifi_dave
07-11-2011, 15:17
The EAR 834p is a great phono stage. I've been selling them for over 20 years and it has stood the test of time.

REXTON
07-11-2011, 15:27
Tried a budget Creek which was excellent. Tried Trichord Dino + Diablo (full blown version), very very good. Tried Lehmann, hated. So far got a Sugden masterclass, its great, I dont think it will be my last one but time will tell.

Clive
07-11-2011, 16:21
I have a Ray Samuels Nighthawk amongst my 5 phono stages. I find on rock it's pretty much as good as anything. On more intimate and less processed recordings I prefer the diyhifisupply Vinyl Song LCR phono stage.

On rock the Nighthawk and Vinyl Song are pretty close, the Nighthawk being a touch more detailed and the Vinyl Ssong LCR being less aggressive. There is a huge difference when it comes to more naturally recorded music. The VS is far more 3D with great ambiance. A number of people I know use the Nighthawk as their reference. If I only listened to rock it would be my choice but the Vinyl Song LCR has better bass, more tuneful and better shape to the notes on the right music. Bass integration with the mid is better too. The soundstage differences are very apparent in my system which is OB and valve based. A solidstate system with box speakers may well be better matched with the Nighthawk.

John
07-11-2011, 16:27
Yes guess it the rocker in me that loves the Nighthawk

Ali Tait
07-11-2011, 18:52
Best I've heard is Nick's LCR phono stage. Not that I've heard many comercial ones, but it's head and shoulders above anything else I've heard.

Clive
07-11-2011, 18:55
Best I've heard is Nick's LCR phono stage. Not that I've heard many comercial ones, but it's head and shoulders above anything else I've heard.
Me too, the Vinyl Song LCR has elements on Nick's LCR phono stage. The Ergo Cole Max is a further development of Thorsten's LCR design but it seems hard to get hold of now, I'm not sure they are doing it any more.

Smoker
14-11-2011, 02:01
this thread interests me a great deal as im currently hooking my Gyro Dec up to a Yamaha DSP-595A straight (tin can set up compared to most here!) The Gyro Dec has a Rega Arm and a Denon DL-103 cartridge.

My issue is having to turn up the volume for better listening (Nancy Wilson sounds so smooth!) but alas without a proper pre-amp or phono stage I am not getting the best with my set up.

Ive seen that the Denon AU-300LC plus a pre-amp helps with the cartridge I have, but I'm unsure what is the best option for me as I am on a tight budget.

All my music is played thru my current Bose speakers which have been working well, If possible I'd like to use a cheap phono stage with out extra outlay on more speakers and pre-amp+power amp just to appreciate what I have now.

I would like to update my set up at a later date but right now i just need some advice on how to progress.

Any help is appreciated.

I have been looking at the Musical Fidelity XLP-S and also the Michell Iso with hera psu. would these suit me better? or something newer like the Musical Fidelity VLPS 2?

The Grand Wazoo
14-11-2011, 21:28
Hi Raz,
I think there are quite a few cheap phono stage options available. How much do you want to spend?
Even with a separate phono amp, however, you may possibly not sort out the problem you're finding with mismatched levels.
I understand that the Iso is ideally best optimised for the cartridge that you intend to use it with. When you ordered one from new, you were able to specify which, so that the settings were chosen to make the best match. Do you know what cartridge the Iso you're thinking of buying was matched to? I'm sure it can still be reconfigured, but it may add to your overall cost. Just worth knowing about.

Personally, I'd be inclined to look at alternative speaker options to the ones you use now. When they are sorted, I'd look into making changes to the amp.

Smoker
14-11-2011, 22:42
thanks for the replies, The cartrisge is a Denon DL-103. I could stretch to £119 for the Musical Fidelity VLPS 2, they have them at audio affair (http://www.audioaffair.co.uk/Musical-Fidelity-VLPS-2-Phono-Stage/product_5602). There is a Michell Iso plus Hera PSU on ebay (http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/170726841407?ssPageName=STRK:MEBIDX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1426.l2649#ht_1611wt_1396) i did bid on it but it has some time to go, im expecting the price to rise to equal that of the VLPS-2 or maybe more. So I#m not sure if I should wait 5 days for the chance that I can win the auction or just buy something new.

Smoker
20-11-2011, 16:42
just an update, I managed to find a michell iso from a non ebay source. It was being sold by a very nice gentleman who gave me plenty of info and of course an Iso lol This doesnt have a hera psu but thats not a problem as it was looked at by john michell himself and was also being used on a gyrodec as well.

I will get it on tuesday, I cant wait!

MartinT
20-11-2011, 20:47
Nice one, Raz. Don't forget to tell us how it sounds when you get it connected in.

Smoker
21-11-2011, 06:06
Sure thing Martin, I've a Clash double album on its way to add to the others I'll be testing it with. My main objective here was to upgrade in stages starting with a phono amp. the gyrodec is still the ac model (black & bronze) without any upgrades but has been kept in immaculate condition since purchase. Im the 2nd owner so would like to upgrade it in time.

My eye was on the Iso mainly for the reason that I cant really afford the more expensive models out there and this at least gives me a good starting point to progress. Ive read that the Iso can have the same Lithos regs added, has anyone had this done and have an idea of the cost and performance gains?

The output from the Iso will for now be fed into my Yamaha av amp (dsp-a595) directly, I'd like to upgrade the amp soon along with speakers to suit, My question on this would be should I upgrade to a better av amp or aim to have a dedicated pre and power amp for music only?

I did read a nice interview on the 6moons site with Tom Evans (http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/tomevans/lineara_2.html), apologies if this is old.

Thanks again for all the help

The Grand Wazoo
21-11-2011, 07:38
the gyrodec is still the ac model (black & bronze) without any upgrades

Hi Raz,
You should bear in mind that some folks prefer the AC version, so it might pay not to jump into that until you've explored the consequences properly.

MartinT
21-11-2011, 08:24
You're always going to be better off with dedicated stereo equipment. The compromises made in 5 channel gear are too great.

Also - for the other end - you could always upgrade to a step-up transformer for the Denon cartridge and reconfigure the Iso for mm. You'll be surprised at the sound quality improvement this can give you.

Smoker
21-11-2011, 09:11
thanks guys, I did want this to be a gradual but enjoyable progression. so i wont be hasty and will keep testing and researching as I go on. I have had a 10 year run with my bose and yamaha iirc so it is due for an upgrade/eviction!. but having a pure music system does appeal to me the most. so everyone's help with this greatly appreciated.

I had read about the denon step up transformer, so aiming for something like that plus pre/power amp and of course new speakers is needed. I am paranoid about the gyrodec, esp when fitting the dc motor. i did hear that about the sound difference too and also plus/minuses about the orb platter upgrade.

im not sure what version it is, only know its been kept so well.
here is a photo, it has its own table to rest on lol

http://img695.imageshack.us/img695/8623/img20111112015547.jpghttp://img714.imageshack.us/img714/4820/img20111112015953.jpg

Smoker
22-11-2011, 18:52
jus lil ole me again! :)

just wanted to give an update, I received my Iso today. I accidently plugged it into the phono input of my amp! after hearing the banshee screams I switched to an auxillary input and smiled my ass off when the Duke began to play.

My verdict on the little I know on these matters is that its simply amazing the level of depth and detail a phono stage can extract from a sweet groove.

For me these 2 really had me smiling, different instruments including amazing vocals to really give it a workout.
http://image.kazaa.com/images/52/077778120452/Nancy_Wilson_And_Cannonball_Adderle/Nancy_WilsonCannonball_Adderley/Nancy_Wilson_And_Cannonball_Adderley-Nanc_3.jpg
http://www.parisjazzcorner.com/en/pochs_g/099223.jpg

my last word...wow!

camtwister
22-11-2011, 22:44
A doff of the cap from me for spinnin' the "in a mellotone" long player.
Takin' the A Train...

MWalt
24-11-2011, 01:26
I don't think you need to spend a bundle to get a really nice phono preamp. I bought a stock Cambridge Audio 640p, which I consider a nice little budget preamp. I sent it to a guy out in Houston, Texas and he did the following mods to it:

Here is a review and synopsis of the mods / upgrades.

1. All electrolytic caps were replaced with Panasonic FC's and SU's for the bipolars.
2. Op amps removed and op amp sockets installed.
3. Polystyrene caps installed in place of ceramic bypass caps on the op amps.
4. The two 220pf input caps removed completely.
5. Optionally input resistors changed to adjust impedance to the cart for best performance.

I paid about $100 plus shipping for the work. I would put my preamp up against any at $1000.00 or less and I have been told by others that it has bested preamps in the $1500.00 range.

Rowlf
24-11-2011, 21:03
Agree that the Nighthawk is great value for money. And being battery operated gives it a lot of flexibility with moving around different turntables. I got a friend who carries it with him where ever he goes.