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Thread: Are expensive phono preamps worth it?

  1. #31
    Join Date: Apr 2008

    Location: Cheshire, UK

    Posts: 2,768
    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
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  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: 71,674
    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 whest comes to mind
    Last edited by struth; 23-03-2019 at 15:02.
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  4. #34
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Posts: 4,172
    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.

  5. #35
    Join Date: Apr 2015

    Location: Central Virginia

    Posts: 1,754
    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: Liverpool, UK.

    Posts: 1,111
    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; Denon PMA-850; SBT; Technics sh-x1000 DAC; Yamaha NS1000.
    System 2 - SBT; Kinshaw Perception DAC; Lentek and Klark Teknik Jade 1 studio monitors

  7. #37
    Join Date: Apr 2008

    Location: Warrington

    Posts: 3,442
    I'm Neil.

    Default Are expensive phono preamps worth it?

    As you go up the chain, things get more explosive, dynamic, quiet and open. Phono stages are just as important, if not more so, than the cartridge IMHO. Price doesnít always mean performance though...
    Mana Acoustics Racks / Bright Star IsoNodes Decoupling >> Allo DigiOne Player >> 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.

  8. #38
    Join Date: Mar 2013

    Location: West Sussex

    Posts: 191
    I'm Chris.


    ..Sorry late to this thread as per usual!Doh!

    I have owned a lot of low to mid (£100-350) priced phono stages over many years and they all have their pros and cons. Some are insensitive with insufficient gain, some sound clinical and some suffer from earthing and hum susceptibility problems. Price seems to be no reliable indicator of a phono stages sound quality.

    IMHO you could do a lot worse than a Croft Acoustics Micro 25 and kill two birds with one stone. I bought one and it has a quite simply brilliant MM phono stage and a great pre-amp which brings life and emotion to all that pass through it. It is fast, quiet with plenty of gain and is fun to listen to and beautifully built by a true craftsman who always supports his gear...and a bargain price and there is not much out there that you can all that about these days.

    Oh, and one final thing, it has cured me of any desire to keep swapping phono stages or pre-amps.

  9. #39
    Join Date: Jun 2015

    Location: London/Durham

    Posts: 4,133
    I'm Lawrence.


    +1 on the croft I loved my micro basic but for those for whom money is tight, I now use one of those Yaqin valve stages and I'm more than happy with it.

    Sent from my BLN-L21 using Tapatalk

  10. #40
    Join Date: Mar 2019

    Location: Windsor, Ontario, canada

    Posts: 24
    I'm Bruce.


    Last week a friend gave me to try a beautifully-built Bottlehead Seduction with all of the upgrades and prime quality bits employed. It had been sitting on his shelf for a number of years and had a new NOS tube set in it. After maybe 30 hours of play time it really is sounding delightful. I'm running a custom-built SUT (Microtrans transformers) into it and am delighted. I've tun quite a number of phono stages/pres over the years and this one is definitely the new favourite. Not at all expensive, either.

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