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Do Budget Phono Preamp with volume control exist?

josesa

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I've been scavenging the internet in search for the holy grail but I feel I'm missing out on something really basic.
So here is my story/setup.

I've un-hearted from the father-in-law garage an old turntable (Panasonic SL-H401) that after a bit of cleaning works great. I've brought to Berlin where my audio setup consists in just a Libratone Zipp wireless speaker.

With time, I plan to replace it with some other, better powered speakers but at the moment this one just works fine (baby steps) so the first step was to get a phono-preamp. And this is where it gets complicated.

I just wanted a preamp that would have a volume control so I could set the turntable volume without having to mess with the speaker volume (which is annoying to say the least).

So I started searching for something for my shelf (small footprint) and budget (< 300 euros) and there weren't many options. Most were quite cheap (under 100 like the dynavox and the ART DJ) but when connected they hum a lot and they are just unusable. - Yes I've retested the connections including the ground. Currently have it setup with a xone23 mixer from a friend that works great, but I can't keep. So the turntable and speaker works fine.

But now I feel I'm hitting a wall: is there really no market for this kind of devices? Will I need 2 separate devices (phono-preamp + amp) like the Schiit Mani and Magni that are just impossible to find in Europe. Most volume control amps are for headphones or USB recording, not RCA line outs.

Will I need to give up for the volume control and just get the preamp and thats it?
 

Prana Ferox

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I'll assume you're not looking for a remote control, just something with a knob.

I'd look for an old used receiver with a built in phono preamp and preamp outs. Probably not small footprint, though.

There's also the various Kanto powered speakers with built in phono preamp. By the time you bought a pile of Schiit the Kanto speakers might be cheaper.

You could also get a Cambridge Duo preamp and just run your powered speaker from the headphone output.
 

0bs3rv3r

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teched58

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Ohhh interesting.
But these only make the volume go down right?

No. It works like a regular volume control. Turned down, i.e., at 8 o'clock position, you hear nothing. At full clockwise, you have full volume. I use one of these (the exact same one) between my receiver and subwoofer to control the subwoofer volume. I think I got it for $7 though, instead of $15 they're charging.

It's a possible solution. might work (assuming you got rid of the hum; this won't do anything one way or another about that.
 

Chrispy

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The ART Phono PLus (and believe the DJ models) have adjustable gain control.
 

rdenney

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I've been scavenging the internet in search for the holy grail but I feel I'm missing out on something really basic.
So here is my story/setup.

I've un-hearted from the father-in-law garage an old turntable (Panasonic SL-H401) that after a bit of cleaning works great. I've brought to Berlin where my audio setup consists in just a Libratone Zipp wireless speaker.

With time, I plan to replace it with some other, better powered speakers but at the moment this one just works fine (baby steps) so the first step was to get a phono-preamp. And this is where it gets complicated.

I just wanted a preamp that would have a volume control so I could set the turntable volume without having to mess with the speaker volume (which is annoying to say the least).

So I started searching for something for my shelf (small footprint) and budget (< 300 euros) and there weren't many options. Most were quite cheap (under 100 like the dynavox and the ART DJ) but when connected they hum a lot and they are just unusable. - Yes I've retested the connections including the ground. Currently have it setup with a xone23 mixer from a friend that works great, but I can't keep. So the turntable and speaker works fine.

But now I feel I'm hitting a wall: is there really no market for this kind of devices? Will I need 2 separate devices (phono-preamp + amp) like the Schiit Mani and Magni that are just impossible to find in Europe. Most volume control amps are for headphones or USB recording, not RCA line outs.

Will I need to give up for the volume control and just get the preamp and thats it?
I was going to suggest that any vintage stereo preamplifier would do what you need with ease, if you have a way to feed the wireless speakers from a wired device, but I just went poking around ebay and discovered that vintage stereo preamps have just about doubled in price over the last year or two. But there are still plenty of excellent options that would be less than 300 euros, they just aren't the obvious easy answer I was expecting them to be.

Examples that are less expensive but still highly regarded include the Kenwood Basic C1, the SAE P101 or P102, the Adcom GFP-555, plus a range of NAD, Rotel, and similar preamps. These are from the analog era. All have proper phono inputs; all have volume controls; all have line-level outputs. None of them will hum unless they are broken, and none were cheaply made. People who bought separate preamplifiers and power amplifiers back in those days (before about 2000) were higher up in the enthusiast ranking, and had higher standards, so there were really very view incompetent stereo preamplifiers made. You may need to take the lid off and give them a deOxit treatment. I'm seeing these in the $200-300 range, which I think is rather high, but still under your budget.

Look locally, too. Often, you'll find a Kenwood, like a KC-106 (which was lower down their line than the C1 or C2) for a very good price. I paid a hundred dollars for a Kenwood C1, and also a hundred dollars for an SAE P102; both are completely competent. I paid a bit more for an Adcom GFP555 maybe two years ago. There were more expensive preamps and of course there were high-end preamps that cost much more, but these are still vastly better made than the $50 no-name models I see on ebay.

But they do tend to be 17 inches wide.

Rick "what's old is new again" Denney
 
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J

josesa

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Wow! Thanks so much for all the information.

Indeed it doesn't seem linear to find what I'm looking for. Some of the suggestions are a bit out of my budget or not available in europe but it shows that there are a few out there.

I really wanted to avoid old amps due their size and having no idea how my hobby will evolve into the future. Was discussing with the wife moving the TV into the wall to gain a bit of shelf real-estate that would allow for such things but I don't see it happening in the near future :D

The ART DJ was one of the amps that I tried but it hums and I'm now talking to support to see if I can return it.

For now I think I will forgo the volume control and just go with a Pro-ject Phono Box, a Rolls VP 29 or even a Radial Engineering J 33 that I can easily get online here in Germany.
 

MarcosCh

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The ART DJ was one of the amps that I tried but it hums and I'm now talking to support to see if I can return it.
Watch out, all phono stages hum a bit and you might hear it if your speaker is sensitive or when there is no music playing and volume is high. Not saying this is the case but could be your ART is not broken if those were the conditions you tested it
 
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josesa

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Watch out, all phono stages hum a bit and you might hear it if your speaker is sensitive or when there is no music playing and volume is high. Not saying this is the case but could be your ART is not broken if those were the conditions you tested it
Yep, That is normal.

But in this case the hum was very noticeable even with the music playing. Adjusting the volume would also make the hum much higher making the listening a not very good experience.

Currently, my comparison is the xone23 mixer that a friend lent to me. I get very low hum and only noticeable on when there is no music playing and the room is quiet. At the moment, I would be happy to not notice it when the music is playing.
 

DanielT

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I was going to suggest that any vintage stereo preamplifier would do what you need with ease, if you have a way to feed the wireless speakers from a wired device, but I just went poking around ebay and discovered that vintage stereo preamps have just about doubled in price over the last year or two. But there are still plenty of excellent options that would be less than 300 euros, they just aren't the obvious easy answer I was expecting them to be.

Examples that are less expensive but still highly regarded include the Kenwood Basic C1, the SAE P101 or P102, the Adcom GFP-555, plus a range of NAD, Rotel, and similar preamps. These are from the analog era. All have proper phono inputs; all have volume controls; all have line-level outputs. None of them will hum unless they are broken, and none were cheaply made. People who bought separate preamplifiers and power amplifiers back in those days (before about 2000) were higher up in the enthusiast ranking, and had higher standards, so there were really very view incompetent stereo preamplifiers made. You may need to take the lid off and give them a deOxit treatment. I'm seeing these in the $200-300 range, which I think is rather high, but still under your budget.

Look locally, too. Often, you'll find a Kenwood, like a KC-106 (which was lower down their line than the C1 or C2) for a very good price. I paid a hundred dollars for a Kenwood C1, and also a hundred dollars for an SAE P102; both are completely competent. I paid a bit more for an Adcom GFP555 maybe two years ago. There were more expensive preamps and of course there were high-end preamps that cost much more, but these are still vastly better made than the $50 no-name models I see on ebay.

But they do tend to be 17 inches wide.

Rick "what's old is new again" Denney
That very aspect was addressed here: :)


Tip. Check hum regarding old vintage amp. If it is only to be used as a pre amp, I would have chosen one with a small power section in the amplifier (unnecessary to pay for power that will not be used).:)
I know you know this regarding old amps rdenney, more general information for those who do not know it.:)

Edit:
An example among many, one like this I saw was sold a few weeks ago. $90, in good condition. Quite new (from the 1990s I think). Incidentally, it can probably also work well as integrated, to the main system, with the right type of speakers.:)

Rotel RA-870BX

 

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rdenney

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I wasn’t suggesting an integrated amp, but rather a preamplifier feeding powered speakers. And that NAD had reliability issues with the amp.

A lot of smaller old integrated amps don’t have preamp outputs, for one thing. And the speaker amplifier in them will use power even if not used. And they are big and heavy.

No, I was talking about a separate preamplifier with component switching, volume control, a phono input, and line-level outputs, but not speaker-level outputs.

Rick “that said, the Rotel would certainly work” Denney
 
D

Deleted member 43441

Guest
I've been scavenging the internet in search for the holy grail but I feel I'm missing out on something really basic.
So here is my story/setup.

I've un-hearted from the father-in-law garage an old turntable (Panasonic SL-H401) that after a bit of cleaning works great. I've brought to Berlin where my audio setup consists in just a Libratone Zipp wireless speaker.

With time, I plan to replace it with some other, better powered speakers but at the moment this one just works fine (baby steps) so the first step was to get a phono-preamp. And this is where it gets complicated.

I just wanted a preamp that would have a volume control so I could set the turntable volume without having to mess with the speaker volume (which is annoying to say the least).

So I started searching for something for my shelf (small footprint) and budget (< 300 euros) and there weren't many options. Most were quite cheap (under 100 like the dynavox and the ART DJ) but when connected they hum a lot and they are just unusable. - Yes I've retested the connections including the ground. Currently have it setup with a xone23 mixer from a friend that works great, but I can't keep. So the turntable and speaker works fine.

But now I feel I'm hitting a wall: is there really no market for this kind of devices? Will I need 2 separate devices (phono-preamp + amp) like the Schiit Mani and Magni that are just impossible to find in Europe. Most volume control amps are for headphones or USB recording, not RCA line outs.

Will I need to give up for the volume control and just get the preamp and thats it?
I know of a company (PJL electronics) that makes one, in fact I have two with individual left and right variable gain, called a vinyl edition preamp. I offered to send one in to Amir For a review, and I’ll see if he wants to. Anyway the gentleman’s name is Pat, a very nice guy from New Jersey, and I’ve had extensive conversations with him. I also have a line preamp made by him that’s very good.

His Fusion model in addition to a volume control has bass and treble controls, but can probably be eliminated if not desired;


Tube sound is a misconception by the way, and if it’s a good design it’s transparent just like solid state.
 
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D

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I wanted to add that I am actually quite fond of mine, and the vinyl edition works for moving coil cartridges as well. They are dead silent Even in between tracks, and at high volumes. I asked the gentleman that makes them for measurements, and he is going to provide some. I know it has a lot of good parts inside, and I’m pretty sure this guy is competent and knows how to use them. Anyway there is an option, and a set of good 12AU7 tubes (or most preamp tubes) can last between 5,000 and 10,000 hours. The build quality of the case leans towards DIY, but it’s not ugly, but inside the quality is very good.
 

bloomdido

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Have you checked out Aliexpress? There are a lot of ultra cheap phono preamps there like this one

You could buy three different models hoping that one of them works and send the rest to Amir for review :p
 
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