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Thread: Are expensive phono preamps worth it?

  1. #31
    Join Date: Apr 2008

    Location: Cheshire, UK

    Posts: 2,698
    I'm Clive.


    My MM level cartridge (not strictly an MM) which requires an MM phono stage has a current list price of £3k. It sees off a lot of MCs. Whether this cartridge qualifies as a contender in this discussion I suppose is open to question.
    TT 1 Trans-Fi Salvation with magnetic bearing + Trans-Fi Terminator T3Pro + London Reference
    TT 2 Garrard 301 with NWA main bearing + OL Encounter mkIII + Ortofon 2M Mono SE
    Digital Fanless i5 Skylake ASUS H110T Windows file server with HDPLEX LPS / Allo USBridge into Ciunas Audio ISO-DAC & Pi/DigiOne into Metrum Musette
    Preamp Hagerman Cornet 2 phono stage, John Chapman's Slagleformer-based AVC-1 into Transcendent Sound Sub Buddy
    Power Amp Temple Audio Monoblocks with Supercap LPS / 300B WE91 SE Monoblocks / Firebottle EL84 PSE
    Bass Amp & DSP Behringer iNuke NU3000DSP x 2
    Speakers 1 Bastanis Sagarmatha Duo with twin baffleless 15" bass drivers per side
    Speakers 2 MarkaudioSota Viotti One

  2. #32
    Join Date: Feb 2019

    Location: United Kingdom

    Posts: 8
    I'm robert.


    I had pre cambridge 540; 650, shiit mani, project phono box s. Most i like project. Now thinkin about more expensive project tube box. DS2, its around £600. Thinkin connect to naim5i with 685 S2

  3. #33
    Join Date: Feb 2013

    Location: W Lothian

    Posts: 52,057
    I'm Grant.


    Quote Originally Posted by jmalkovich18 View Post
    I had pre cambridge 540; 650, shiit mani, project phono box s. Most i like project. Now thinkin about more expensive project tube box. DS2, its around £600. Thinkin connect to naim5i with 685 S2
    Looked at that and the ds2 usb one too. Both look decent but without a trial it's really difficult. I've heard some fairly ordinary stages for a lot of money before. A wheat comes to mind
    Grant ....

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: democracy simply-doesn't-work
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  4. #34
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 3,599
    I'm Tom.


    Quote Originally Posted by George47 View Post
    I believe the answer is yes. The phono stage has a tricky job in that the signals it has to deal with are very small. So attention to earthing, noise and layout are far more important than in other amplifiers. If you use a moving coil then it becomes even more important as there microVolts to work with not milliVolts. If you use a low output moving coil then you are really a glutten for punishment.

    Od course what you spend will depend upon the rest of your system and what your expectations are. As always there are some expensive lemons and some brilliant, expensive phono amps and matching them to your system becomes more important.
    +1 to all of this.
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers with Tannoy ST50 supertweeters; Amp - Silvercore 833C monoblocks; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 9 inch and Ikeda IT-407 12 inch tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Miyajima Takumi, Ikeda 9TT, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912 + Miyajima ETR-Mono SUT; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; tube preamp - Gate Audio tube; Vinyl: Technics SL10 with Pickering TL-3; Phono Stage from Gate Audio preamp; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink.

  5. #35
    Join Date: Apr 2015

    Location: Central Virginia

    Posts: 1,410
    I'm Russell.


    I tend to go with a rule of thumb to keep the money spread evenly. A £2k Ďtable, with a £2k arm, and a £2k cartridge, and a £2k phono pre. For example. But of course this is not a hard and fast rule, just pointing out that it may prove unwise to buy a £4K cartridge and connect it to a £200 phono pre. Or visa versa.

    But, as everyone else above has said, quality varies at all price points. Plus, itís just a fact of life that one cartridge may work better with a particular phono stage than another of the same price. And, how well a phono pre works with a particular main preamp can also be true. So, it opens the need to listen to all combinations, and hear how each works in your system. A major headache when shopping. And donít forget a decent phono cable! This cable will make a larger difference in SQ than any other cable in your system, seeing it handles such low level signals. But you donít have to spend a few grand to get a decent cable. Just the one that works best with your gear. I bought a used VPI cable for $200, I have no complaints.

    My Parasound main preamp has a nice built in phono pre. I was using a Grado Gold cart., at the time and when I moved to an external Musical Surroundings two box phono pre, there was a major jump in SQ! A $1000 unit new, I got used for $400. And is battery powered.

    So, I moved up to a Sumiko Blue Point EVO 3. A little more than twice the price of the Gold. I tried both with the built in phono, and while the Blue Point was better, it wasnít a vast improvement. But! When I played them both through the Musical Surroundings unit, the difference in cartridges was major! It made the new Blue Point shine! And, according to my own math, I should upgrade to a $1000 cart., to get the most out of my phono preamp. But, Iím loving the Blue Point right now, it does many things right, and Iím in no hurry to upgrade, but probably will eventually. Would it sound even better if I bought a BAT $7,000 phono preamp? Iím sure, but I would not be getting the most from it feeding it from a $500 cart. So, even money makes sense. To me anyway.


  6. #36
    Join Date: Jun 2010

    Location: Bucharest

    Posts: 862
    I'm Geoff.


    I use integrated amps with internal phono stages. I did use high end pre-power with a high end (3.6k) phono stage. A friend of mine has recently changed his 6k valve integrated with 3k phono stage for the integrated amp I have too, so it's not just me!

    Back in the day, your phono stage was your amp. Vinyl was the medium of choice so if your amp's phono stage was poor, the amp didn't sell.

    There is no link, especially in the used market, between cost and quality IMO. As always, trust your ears and demo what you want to hear.
    Main system: Sony TTS8000; SME IV; Audio Technica Art1; The Lentek integrated amplifier; SBT; Technics sh-x1000 DAC; Yamaha NS1000M.
    System 2 - SBT; Kinshaw Perception DAC; Denon PMA850 integrated; Kef Reference 103.
    System 3 - Taken over by my son! Chromecast; Beresford Caiman II; Klark Teknik Jade 1 active studio monitors.

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