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Thread: What affects sound more, phono stage or main amp?

  1. #1
    Join Date: Mar 2016

    Location: Brighton, UK.

    Posts: 473
    I'm Mike.

    Default What affects sound more, phono stage or main amp?

    If I'm only using main amp for vinyl and streaming playback then how much of the sound of vinyl playback is dictated by the phono stage and how much by the main amp? I ask this as thinking a Naim Unitiqute would be a neat one box solution. I understand the Unitiqute has one RCA input (which I could use for phono stage). Was gonna go the 90s Jap amp route, but thought, I don't need 7 odd inputs, tape outs etc etc. Though I might prefer its sound over something modern like the Unitqute, but then as I have a fine phono stage would this matter?
    Current system. TT - NAS Interspace, Jelco 750, Goldring 2200/Denon 110/Ortofon Blue, Nakamichi CA-5 (as phono stage). Streaming - Pioneer N-50K. CD Player - Pioneer PD 8700. Ruark Talisman II.

  2. #2
    Join Date: Apr 2008

    Location: Warrington

    Posts: 3,029
    I'm Neil.

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    It depends. If the amp is not capable of properly driving the speakers i.e. they are low impedance / low sensitivity, then the amp side would be more important. If the amp is properly matched, then the phono stage can easily have more of an impact on the sound.
    Mana Acoustics Racks / Bright Star IsoNodes Decoupling >> Custom Silent Media Server >> Halide Bridge USB (with AQVOX USB power) >> Pedja Rogic's Audial Model S DAC + Pioneer PL-71 turntable / Vista Audio phono-1 mk II / Denon PCL-5 headshell / Reson Reca >> LFD DLS >> LFD PA2M (SE) >> Royd RR3s.

  3. #3
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

    Posts: 79,496
    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

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    Hi Mike,

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikeandvan View Post
    Though I might prefer its sound over something modern like the Unitqute, but then as I have a fine phono stage would this matter?
    Firstly, what is your phono stage, as I don't see it listed in your signature?

    Aside from that, the *only* way that your amp would be more sonically influential than your phono stage, when playing vinyl, is if it was distinctly crap, compared with it! Otherwise, if both items are on a par, quality wise, the phono stage should always exert the greater influence on what you're finally hearing through your speakers.

    Ditto (going back further in the chain), your tonearm, cartridge and the turntable itself. In a vinyl-based system, it's strictly a case of 'source first', as no matter how good the next item in the chain is, it cannot alleviate the shortcomings of that which preceded it, both sonically and in terms of lost musical information.

    Therefore, in summary, in a vinyl-based set-up, the order of importance (what you should spend most money on first, and what should make the biggest difference) is thus:

    Turntable (i.e. the quality of the motor unit itself and influence of the plinth) > *tonearm > cartridge > phono stage > amplifier... Obviously, in the case of an integrated amplifier, the latter two are often one and the same. Hope this helps!

    [NB *in certain cases it can be advantageous to prioritise the quality of the cartridge over the tonearm, if the former is exceptionally poor in comparison, but as a general rule, no].

    Marco.
    http://www.thestainedglasscompany.com

    "A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do" -- Milan Kundera.

    BE HAPPY EVERYDAY!

  4. #4
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

    Posts: 79,496
    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

    Default



    Any feedback on this, Mike?

    Marco.
    http://www.thestainedglasscompany.com

    "A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do" -- Milan Kundera.

    BE HAPPY EVERYDAY!

  5. #5
    Join Date: Mar 2016

    Location: Brighton, UK.

    Posts: 473
    I'm Mike.

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    Thanks Marco and Yomanze. Just changed signature, phono stage is a Nakamichi CA-5 pre amp used as a stand alone phono stage, into a slightly rough sounding Yamaha ax-396 that I found outside a bin - lol. Recently sold my 'old reliable' Naim shoe boxes as just wanted to get off the Naim treadmill and discover the many many other brands out there! I like the Nak as a phono stage so far, but have yet to hear it with a decent power amp - or integrated amp. Just bought a cheapy - Harmon Kardon HK6500 off the bay, so hoping this will improve things until something nicer comes up, though I've read good things about the HK.
    My TT is a NAS Interspace, this was sent back to NAS last year for them to fit a tonearm board. I'm really glad I sent it back to them as they also noticed the motor was a bit noisy, so gave me a new one - literally free. Plus they cleaned up the TT and put a neat little 'NAS Interspace' label on it! The tonearm is a Jelco 750, with decent cable and cart is Goldring 2200, or Ortofon blue. It sits on a sturdy Ikea shelf (with vinyl in the bottom to weigh it down), I have a TT wall shelf which I should mount soon, but I don't see it will make much difference as the NAS is not a suspended TT. So, to my mind the TT set up is all ok, mind you my cartridge applying skills may not be quite up to scratch.
    So, here's hoping the HK brings an improvement, and down the line like to try a Nak power amp to match it.
    Current system. TT - NAS Interspace, Jelco 750, Goldring 2200/Denon 110/Ortofon Blue, Nakamichi CA-5 (as phono stage). Streaming - Pioneer N-50K. CD Player - Pioneer PD 8700. Ruark Talisman II.

  6. #6
    Join Date: Feb 2018

    Location: Suffolk, UK

    Posts: 24
    I'm Steve.

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    Hi Mike,

    I've always thought that unless the magic is in the very first part of the system's food chain then it won't ever be there in the last.

    Or to put it another way, with a set budget I personally would spend a greater percentage of it on cart & phono ahead of power amps, to be sure I was mining the most I could from the grooves in the first instance. No amount of great power amplification will "add back in" anything that the cart & phono stage miss.

    I'm not a scientist, your mileage may vary. :-)

    Steve

  7. #7
    Join Date: Nov 2015

    Location: Wolverhampton

    Posts: 5,866
    I'm Oliver.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steveharman View Post
    Hi Mike,

    I've always thought that unless the magic is in the very first part of the system's food chain then it won't ever be there in the last.

    Or to put it another way, with a set budget I personally would spend a greater percentage of it on cart & phono ahead of power amps, to be sure I was mining the most I could from the grooves in the first instance. No amount of great power amplification will "add back in" anything that the cart & phono stage miss.

    I'm not a scientist, your mileage may vary. :-)

    Steve
    Truth is, it all matters. If your front end is lacking, your amps and speakers won't rescue it. If the power section is la king, you won't hear the quality of the front end. I'm afraid there is no way other than to systematically try and go through the chain and add quality where possible. There are amps, carts, speakers and TTs that punch above their weight and coupled together sound very impressive.

    Go for second hand bargains and get lots of advice.
    Analogue: Technics SP10 MK2 > Phonomac AT-1010 MK5 tonearm > Ortofon Kontrapunkt b > Wizard Jfet MC Valve Phonostage (Telefunken & Tesla Valves)
    Digital: NONE
    Amplification: Nelson Pass DCB1 & Monarchy Audio SM-70 Class A Amplifier
    Cables: Fisual S-Flex Speaker Cable & SPOTFIRE IC Cables & NEW SPOTFIRE Tonearm cable
    Speakers: Pioneer CS-77A

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