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Thread: Advise on Phono preamp

  1. #1
    Junior Member jolen1aub's Avatar
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    Default Advise on Phono preamp

    Just wanted to hear from ML owners who still listen to vinyls, what Phono preamp/ cartridge/line preamp you use that gives good result (better than CDs?).

    I just completed assembling/aligning my LP12 with Ittok LVII/ Grado gold (got the right tools and meticuluosly followed Linns intructions, even build my own jig).
    I have a SF line 2 SE pre. mated with MC402 amp/ Ascent . The phono preamp I currently am using is the AES PH-1 tube phono preamp. It sounds okay but doesn't seem to have enough umph (gain). I wish it could be more warmer.
    PH-1 gain is 36dB when other phono preamps I read on Audiogon are somewhere in the 40dB's or higher. I am aware that gain has to match the type of cartridge you use. But in this case I feel strongly that a gain of 36dB is kind of on the low side.

    I noticed that when palying CDs I can play moderately loud with my preamp set at 65 but have to crank it to 75 when palying vinyls. Any suggestion would greatly help.

    Joel

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    I have enjoyed an Audio Research PH3SE for several years, 1st with a Sonic Frontiers SFL2 preamp and now with an Audio Research LS25II. The PH3 has been replaced by the PH5 and I have seen these very reasonably priced on Audiogon. Should have plenty of gain (I use a Koetsu) for all but the lowest output MC.

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    Super User Jeff Zaret's Avatar
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    I should be able to give you a comparison in a few weeks. I know this may not be what you wanted to hear. I bought the NAD PP2 Phono Preamp and the day I went to get it my needle/cartridge decided to die. I have decided on getting a Grado Prestige Gold but I have to wait for my tax return.

    If you are still interested I will let you know

    Jeff

  4. #4
    Super User risabet's Avatar
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    Default 75% Vinyl 25% Digital

    Quote Originally Posted by jolen1aub
    Just wanted to hear from ML owners who still listen to vinyls, what Phono preamp/ cartridge/line preamp you use that gives good result (better than CDs?).

    I just completed assembling/aligning my LP12 with Ittok LVII/ Grado gold (got the right tools and meticuluosly followed Linns intructions, even build my own jig).
    I have a SF line 2 SE pre. mated with MC402 amp/ Ascent . The phono preamp I currently am using is the AES PH-1 tube phono preamp. It sounds okay but doesn't seem to have enough umph (gain). I wish it could be more warmer.
    PH-1 gain is 36dB when other phono preamps I read on Audiogon are somewhere in the 40dB's or higher. I am aware that gain has to match the type of cartridge you use. But in this case I feel strongly that a gain of 36dB is kind of on the low side.

    I noticed that when palying CDs I can play moderately loud with my preamp set at 65 but have to crank it to 75 when palying vinyls. Any suggestion would greatly help.

    Joel
    I use a TAD-150 which I feel is competitive with more expensive units, fed by an LP-12/Ittok with a Talisman S low output MC. I find the gain to be adequate though I too run my volume control up above 3:00 o'clock at normal to high listening levels. The benefit to this is that the higher the volume control is run the less it effects the sound of the system, generally, I don't care where the VC is when I listen. On some albums, typically cut none too hot, I'll max out the control for realistic crescendos on large scale symphonic works, so be it.
    Last edited by risabet; 03-01-2005 at 09:19 AM.
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    Senior Member zaphod's Avatar
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    upstairs i have a lp-12 with an ittok arm, connected to a quad-44 preamp (in turn into Mac tubes and then esl-57). the cartridge is seen by sacriledge by some, it's a shure v-15.

    the sound is pretty darn good, no surface noise and great midrange (although i credit the esl and the mac tubes for that). it's as equal to the CD player i have attached which provides lots of boom and lots of "tish" but is hardly as musical.


    downstairs i run an oracle delphi mk III with a sme IV arm and koetsu rosewood. done by the father, just after his eye surgery about a decade or so ago

    that feeds into a meitner PA-6 pre-amp which i use for just the phono section. (in turn into the bryston sp1.7, meitner mono-block amps and then CLS).

    the sound is pretty darn good, but i can't quite get the soundstage to where it has been, and i blame the arm setup for that. i need to play with the VTA some.

    it's no secret that i like the sound of meitner electronics. there is whack of punch to the table, but without losing any detail on guitar fingerwork or warmth to female vocals.

    i've heard a lot of people talk about using old pre-amps for just their phone section. there are a few companies taking old tube pres (scott, eico, fisher) and rebuilding them for their phono sections.

    myself, i'd be inclined toward an old CJ pre if i were to replace the meitner.

    cheers
    CLS system here.

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    Member DavidG's Avatar
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    Default Lehman

    Hi there,

    I'm still using a pretty basic Rega cartridge (scheduled for upgrade soon!).

    For the phono stage I use the Lehman Audio Black Cube SE. This is a 2-box stage built in Germany, and gives the best sound I've heard short of the Trichord Delphini. And with the price of the Trichord, there really wasn't that much difficulty in choosing the Lehman.

    Cheers,

    David

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    Senior Member jjqiv's Avatar
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    Default Tube be or not Tube be.

    I am quite happy with my upgraded EAR 834P.

  8. #8
    Rouvin
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    Default Dances with phono preamps

    There are so many potential factors accounting for the “problem” you describe. I’ll note some that have not been mentioned so far:
    1. Cartridge alignment is a difficult and tedious process with minute differences making a potentially profound sonic difference. Tools, jigs and protractors certainly assist the process, but the final “tuning” is best accomplished by ear. Search forums on the alignment process generally, your arm, and cartridge, specifically, and arm/cartridge Each of these can constitute separate domain. Maddening!
    2. Record thickness varies and this can also be an issue if the thickness of the record you used is different from most you listen to. 180-200 gm lps are thicker than 140 gm (I think this is the standard). This effectively changes the cartridge alignment. If you arm adjustments are difficult to accomplish and easily replicate, as most are, well… I know several vinyl lovers who have gone to two table/arm combos.
    3. I notice you don’t list what type of cables go from your AES PH-1 to your preamp. If you are a cable, agnostic, a non-issue. If you are a cable “believer,” another maddening universe of opinions and auditions awaits. I just switched to AU 24 between my Benz Lukasheck and tube pre and the difference between these cables and two others, one cheaper, the other slightly more expensive, led me to settle on these. The differences between all 3 were readily apparent with the difference between the cheapest and 2 more expensive, sadly, easily detected in my blind testing. Then, unfortunately, there is the issue of the cables from the arm to the AES PH-1.
    4. Sonic isolation of your AES PH-1. Tubes are susceptible to micro-vibrations. Tube dampers and isolation platforms may help with this. More searches, etc. Mapleshade is my preference for platforms and I will be ordering their brass tube dampers soon. Pierre Sprey of Mapleshade, 301-627-7922, will be more than willing to talk to you about this, and he knows about cartridge/arm issues, too.
    5. It sounds like your AES PH-1 was used. New tubes or tube rolling might help. More and more forums await.
    6. Grado makes a phono pre. Theirs might be a better synergistic match for the ‘umph” and warmth you seek. You can probably call them, or, at least, some of the dealers of this unit.
    7. Type of cartridge is an issue for some with distinct preferences for moving magnet (Grado) or moving coil. Forums, forums, forums.
    8. You might be used to cd sound and need to adjust to the more relaxed sound on vinyl. Try to get a good quality cd and a good quality LP of the same recording of music you like. What do you like about each? I recently compared the Verve CD reissue of Bill Evans at the Montreaux Jazz Festival with the Classic Records LP reissue -- sonically quite different on my system, and neither was bad.
    9. Are we having fun, yet?

  9. #9
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    Default Linn Linto

    Hi
    I got back into vinyl about 6 months ago, when I bought a used LP12/Ittok. I have fitted a Ortofon Kontrapunkt C (MC) cartridge. I have had a Linn Linto on loan about 2 weeks, and I have decided to buy it!.

    This rig so vastly outperforms my Theta Miles CD player that it is incredible. I know the Miles is a few years old, but the LP sound I get is well beyond anything I have heard on CD, including very expensive Linn, Burmeister and Krell gear. It communicates in a different way. A more expensive phonostage such as the EAR mentioned may be even better, but the Linto is good enough to bring you well past what CD can do.

    On the gain side, my Miles give more gain than the Linto to the preamp, even though the Linto is 64 DB. 36 DB sounds pretty low for a MC cartridge. (Or is the Grado MM?)

    Getting back into vinyl has been a really positive experience for me, it just grabs me in a different way than CD. With your LP set-up and a phono preamp matching your cartridge you should get similar results. And running this through a pair of Logans does not hurt either...

    Svein

  10. #10
    Junior Member jolen1aub's Avatar
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    Question

    Thank you co-members for all your feedback. Special thanks to Rouvin for extensively laying out a large chunk of variables to consider with my dilema.

    What I stumbled on was a "micro-vibration" problem. I forgot to mention a minor detail that I use a Salamander S40 cabinet which is where I situate my PH-1. One evening, out of desperation I move the PH-1 out of the cabinet and placed it on the concrete floor. The result was night and day! The sound from my TT/Grado gold came to life with authority, tempo, clarity and soundstage. I could not beleive my ears...... to the extent of revelation by just merely placing the phono amp on a stable (vibration free) environment.

    This indicated that the cabinet (although looks good & sturdy...) did produced micro-vibrations caused by cabinet resonance itself. I will experiment further to determine which part of the cabinet is mostly the culprit (doors, wood panels, wooden shelfs...etc.) Why not just get another rack or table you might ask (Adona rack)? Had this rack for over 6 years playing CDs without any problem until last month when I decided to get a serious TT and resurrect my vinyls. I plan to keep this rack and do what's necessary to make it work ( Dampers, weights, isolators, chopping board, ..etc).

    I'm also consisdering replacing the Philips JAN6SL7WGTs with RCA 5691(Red or Black base) for better performance especially in the microphonic area.

  11. #11
    Super User kach22i's Avatar
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    You might want to look at your interconnects and the connection from turntable to phono preamp. That tube rolling idea is a good one too.

    I just picked up a Cardas Neutral Reference "Phono" interconnect from "The Cable Company" and it's made a huge difference across the board.
    George; Architect
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    Junior Member jolen1aub's Avatar
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    Talking

    Quote Originally Posted by kach22i
    You might want to look at your interconnects and the connection from turntable to phono preamp. That tube rolling idea is a good one too.

    I just picked up a Cardas Neutral Reference "Phono" interconnect from "The Cable Company" and it's made a huge difference across the board.

    Kach,

    Thanks for the suggestion. I may try the cables next....
    MY TIMELESS PASSION IS

  13. #13
    Junior Member jolen1aub's Avatar
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    Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Zaret
    I should be able to give you a comparison in a few weeks. I know this may not be what you wanted to hear. I bought the NAD PP2 Phono Preamp and the day I went to get it my needle/cartridge decided to die. I have decided on getting a Grado Prestige Gold but I have to wait for my tax return.

    If you are still interested I will let you know
    Jeff
    Jeff,

    Sorry about your cartridge/needle. BUT yes I would appreciate to hear what you find out with the Grado Prestige Gold. In particular, the volume setting comparison between phono and CD.

    Joel
    MY TIMELESS PASSION IS

  14. #14
    Rouvin
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    Default Gain and bad vibrations

    Jolen,
    I was thinking about the difference in the volume setting between your CD and Phono. Although there are several potential reasons for this, I'm not sure they are of that much consequence. Unless the higher setting for the phono is either in an area thta your preamp has higher distortion for some reason (not too likely with a good pre) or has to be so high that the gain setting means that your pre is running out of headroom (also unlikely), you will just have to get used to setting the volume at a different level for each. Some separates, like tuners, may have a gain setting that allows you to more or less match the output to that of another component, but this is rarely the case with a phono. Generally, the more gain settings there are, the more the sound is compromised by more electronics in the path.
    On the step up, I'm glad that moving it to the floor made a difference. I had my tube amp on a slab floor and thought that this would provide a mass that would make it impervcious from vibrations. Then I talked to Pierre Sprey of Mapleshade who persuaded me that this might not be the case. I ordered one of his 4" thick maple stands with umtimate triplepoint cones and some othetr composite footers, and ....well, it made a distinct and more than noticeable difference, particularly in the bass (and across the board) of my Quest z's, tightening it considerably and reducing the discontinuities between the panels and woofers. His stuff is returnable, so it seems a safe try.
    The Linn tables, btw, are notorious for their susceptibility to vibration and might benefit from some isolation. Different models, and there are many, have different problems in this area, so some forum searching might also yield some improvement there, too.
    Good luck,
    Rouvin

  15. #15
    Junior Member jolen1aub's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    On the step up, I'm glad that moving it to the floor made a difference. I had my tube amp on a slab floor and thought that this would provide a mass that would make it impervcious from vibrations. Then I talked to Pierre Sprey of Mapleshade who persuaded me that this might not be the case. I ordered one of his 4" thick maple stands with umtimate triplepoint cones and some othetr composite footers, and ....well, it made a distinct and more than noticeable difference, particularly in the bass (and across the board) of my Quest z's, tightening it considerably and reducing the discontinuities between the panels and woofers. His stuff is returnable, so it seems a safe try.
    The Linn tables, btw, are notorious for their susceptibility to vibration and might benefit from some isolation. Different models, and there are many, have different problems in this area, so some forum searching might also yield some improvement there, too.
    Good luck,

    Rouvin,

    You've given another good idea to try with my shelfs.. I've done some research on the web and the consensus coincides with yours.
    I will try this with tube rolling and cable swapping.

    Micro-vibration is the main issue here (tube dampers don't work here) and the mapleshade board idea might just do the trick. My LP12 has the trampoline which seem to be doing its job. But who knows somewhere along the trial chain I may find that its not. Not too concern with volume settings at this point.
    Thanks for the help..


    Joel
    MY TIMELESS PASSION IS

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