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ART Precision Phono Pre Review

Rate this phono stage:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 6 5.3%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 30 26.5%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 62 54.9%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 15 13.3%

  • Total voters
    113

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the ART Precision Phono Pre. It was kindly drop shipped to me by a member and costs US $81.
ART Precision Phono Pre Review Magnet Moving Coil stage preamp.jpg

The look reminds of Radio Shack equipment of 1970s! So outdated but I guess it keeps their costs down. You get variable gain which is handy together with a low cut rumble filter. Support is provided for both Moving Magnet and Moving Coil cartridges. Power is provided through a 9 volt AC transformer:
ART Precision Phono Pre Review back panel Magnet Moving Coil stage preamp.jpg


A bit of loading choice is provided in the back as well (25 vs 100 ohm).

ART Precision Phono Pre Measurements
As usual we start with our dashboard in MM mode:
ART Precision Phono Pre Measurements Moving Magnet stage preamp.png

This ranks the unit above average with respect to noise & distortion:

best budget phono stage review.png


It could do better if power supply noise was kept in check more. Here is the Moving Coil performance:
ART Precision Phono Pre Measurements Moving Coil stage preamp.png


Power supply noise dominates even more here.

Most important test here is RIAA equalization implementation:
ART Precision Phono Pre Measurements Frequency Response RIAA Moving Magnet stage preamp.png


There is a shelving down below 3 kHz or so but rather small. There is channel imbalance though courtesy of that gain potentiometer. Low-cut filter is doing its job but causes a bit of boost before rolling off steeply.

Next important bit is headroom so that pops and clicks don't get amplified due to amplifier clipping:
ART Precision Phono Pre Measurements THD vs Level Moving Magnet stage preamp.png


This is better than many phono stages. Finally, here is a rather new/optimized measurement of distortion alone:
ART Precision Phono Pre Measurements THD vs Frequency Moving Magnet stage preamp.png


Normally THD+N is dominated by noise due to high gain of these preamps. Above graph isolates just the distortion so we can keep a handle on it. It has a slope down because due to RIAA equalization, gain is increased in lower frequencies and hence rise in distortion.

Conclusions
The ART Precision Phono Pre gets the basics right at a very attractive price. Flexibility of variable gain is there but you lose some channel matching (mine was set to "0" for above tests). Not much to ask for other than a nicer looking enclosure in a future revision.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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abdo123

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Channel mismatch and drop in response are okay considering we’re talking about 0.5 dB values.

But personally I wouldn’t buy a phono pre-amp without a channel balance knob. The stylus introduces huge mismatch in comparison and this is the point where i would like this dealt with.
 

DSJR

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Don't think so as regards a balance control but got to say it'd be a good idea if there was an easy 'domestic' way of correcting for cartridge errors as well as those in the control on the front..
 

Sal1950

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If I was looking for a phono amp today I think I'd prefer one that offers a few choices of capacitance for the MM input.
My last PS Audio PS III offered 50, 150, and 300 pf.
Surprised we see so little of that today, they also should be loaded a 47k ohms.
I guess if you don't run the audiophile baby MC your needs don't count today?
 

Sal1950

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But personally I wouldn’t buy a phono pre-amp without a channel balance knob.
The feature was usually figured to be part of the pre-amp that came after it.
Another feature mostly not found in pre-amps today
 
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amirm

amirm

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Nice
How do you achieve this ?
It is a different part of AP software that uses signal processing to extract the harmonics.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Why was the Cambridge Duo removed from the SINAD chart?
Because it was tested at higher input voltage before I standardized on a lower value. That gave it unfair advantage as noise no longer dominates SINAD.
 

laudio

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Cambridge audio solo has a balance control can be had for not much more than the art and is at top of your sinad chart. Did you forget? Oh wait forgot about your tiff with Cambridge lol
 

anphex

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Just wondering, were the Phono Pre Stages of (Denon) AVR measured too? Are they measurable anyway? Would love to see how Denon performed there.
 

sergeauckland

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As there's a fair bit of mains power supply noise, I wonder how much better the SINAD would be if the power supply was changed for a 12v DC supply. Then, all the AC would stay out of the box.

I've noticed this with a few items with external AC supplies, they're quieter if fed DC. Presumably the internal smoothing isn't great so feeding in already smoothed DC helps a lot.

S
 
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abdo123

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The feature was usually figured to be part of the pre-amp that came after it.
Another feature mostly not found in pre-amps today
That’s a really annoying way to go around it because your other sources will not have the imbalance.
 

Thomas_A

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With respect to channel balance correction, every phono preamp should have one IMO. In my Muffsy kit phono preamp there is an option using different gain using an internal dip switch. The component values can be easily changed to adjust gain in ≈0.5 dB steps for each channel. So if you don’t need the orignal gain options there is a possibility to adapt gain setting for cartridge balance corrections between 0.5-2 dB. I wish that this would be a standard feature of every phono preamp.
 

BDWoody

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I don't know that I have seen a phono pre with balance control. Is there one?

The Parks Puffin has balance control.
 
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