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I can't tell a difference between 4 phono preamps

rdenney

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Don't skip over the advice to get a photo stage that has adjustable input loading, both capacitance and resistance. This has a significant effect on the frequency response and therefore coloration of any given cartridge.

As for me, instead of a separate phono stage, I'm using an analog preamplifier from the past. The one I have has a spot on the circuit board where one can install the capacitor and resistor of one's choice for loading, with formulas in the manual for calculating the needed values. Leaving those spots empty results in less than 50 pF capacitance and 50K resistive impedance (nominally 47K). My cartridge (an AT440MLa) has a reputation for being rather bright, but (reportedly) flattening out with about 35K of preamp impedance and under 200 pH. Easy, peasy on my preamp. But even my other preamps that have all kinds of settings for loading don't provide 35K as an option. It also wants the lowest capacitance possible. Given that the wiring provides probably 150 pF or a bit more, even the 100 pF input loading of my previous preamp was a bit too much, which also emphasized the bright coloration. Every cartridge will have its own needs in this regard.

But the amp and RIAA equalizer themselves are not going to be the weak link with any phono stage, no matter what you read.

Rick "RIAA correction is usually within a fraction of a dB across the audible spectrum" Denney
 

anmpr1

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One plus of the Ultra and Zphono is that each has a subsonic filter, which is always helpful in order to remove low level grunge. If it's important, they both amplify MC output. The mono switch on the Z is a big deal with records. You can attach two players to the Z, and adjust impedance and gain. So for the feature set I'd advise the Z.
 

Caciara

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Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of experience with phono preamps, I bought a Cambridge audio alva duo and since it does its job without problems I didn’t look further. But if you don’t know exactly which cartridge you want I would take a phono preamp that maybe has gain, capacitance and impendance adjustable. I would take a look at audio technica vm95ml or a audio technica vm540ml. Personally I preferred the v540ml and bought it. Here there is a test of vm95ml and for the price I don’t think there is anything that comes close. But these are only my personal opinion. Good luck! when I searched all these things I was so excited to always discover new things
 

Caciara

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Also on this site you can play a bit with various parameters of cartridge and phono pre amp to see what happens. Also useful to see the resonance of the arm
 
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d3miller

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One plus of the Ultra and Zphono is that each has a subsonic filter, which is always helpful in order to remove low level grunge. If it's important, they both amplify MC output. The mono switch on the Z is a big deal with records. You can attach two players to the Z, and adjust impedance and gain. So for the feature set I'd advise the Z.
Yes, I'm liking it so far. That's the one that's actually still plugged in amongst these 4! I think it also has the best SNR of the bunch.
 

Linus

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Dull response old fashioned cartridge despite the fancy styling! 2M Black needs a better deck to fully realise its potential!

I'd replace the cartridge with an AT 540 or better for the arm tonally, the related 740 model (I cite the Lowbeats measurements as why, as the slightly more laid back 740 balance should partly offset the tonearm slight 'zing' in the midrange and should give a great 'tone' to records played on it... if that's too much, an AT VM95SH should do nicely :)

Don't get any of this sh*t these days with digital, thank goodness :D
Looking to uprage from a Nagaoka MP-110 on my SL1200 MK2.
Any suggestions in the price range of the AT 740, Ortofon 2M Bronze ?
Ever tried Denon DL 103 or 110 ?
 

DSJR

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Use your 1200mk2 like a Rega - lid off when playing and carefully sited - it's a darned good machine even if the audio 'salons' dislike it...

DL110 used to be cheap until 2008, after which it all but doubled in price in the UK (can't all be currency differences, can it?). It's a safe as houses but to me, rather bland sounding model which will work in anything. The two AT's (540 and 740) appear to be basically the same bar the mounting bracket material, the 540 offering a bit more 'life' which may be a bit over the top for some 'ringy' tonearm structures. The metallic mount of the 740 (using the same stylus assembly by the way), appears to 'calm it down' just a little if the German Lowbeats tests are anything to go by (top model Rega tonearm used which is as inert as an arm can be really). I use the earlier AT120E and love it, so I'm biased a bit. A UK technics expert used to sell the previous AT440MLa in the SL1200mk2, so I think the 740 would be a great choice and wouldn't 'sound' as 'grubby' as I found the cheaper Nagaokas to be (they had a massive price hike in the last few years too!). The technics headshell should be just fine, but a set of posher looking wires might make you feel better ;)

The 2M Bronze came along at a hiked price but little increase since while 'everyone else' caught up with them. I've only heard one after setting it up in a Rega 3 and I loved the precise 'funky' quality it offers*

DL103 is an antique with low resolution (at side end) conical tip. It's beloved of the 'analogue' fraternity for it's punchy bass and mids, but it prefers a higher mass arm (the 1200mk2 arm is actually quite moderate in mass I remember) and I personally don't like the progressively rolled off top as a side progresses.

*These subjective impressions are just my take and view on what's basically a these days mid-fi flawed medium. You can spice the dynamics up a little, but peeps then complain about a lack of lushness and '3-D depth' (who cares if it's in the master recording or not - it isn't as exaggerated as that usually in my pro experience). Others like the older 'Koetsu' approach, all lush, laid back and uber-refined to the point of blandness, where surface noise is damped out of existance along with far depth effects sometimes, depending on the model. That's not truthful to the recording at all, but vinyl people used to wet themselves over such models.

Some MC types (and a few MM's too), can have substantial hf peaks over 20kHz which we can't hear (no music signal there anyway - even CD-4 types after a few plays) but which can upset some less expensive phono stages with consequences lower down where we *can* hear it.

Sorry - pre breakfast subjective moanings above (I'll be better after some food intake. Hope it helps just a little and doesn't hinder...
 

anmpr1

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DL110 used to be cheap...

Out of curiosity I compared US prices. The on-line tweako presence, Music Direct, sells an Ortofon Quintet Red for $350.00. Red features their cheapest, bonded elliptical stylus. For comparison, the A/T OC9XEB with a bonded elliptical is $240.00.

Ortofon Quintet Blue, with the nude elliptical, sells for $480.00. The comparable A/T OC9XEN (nude elliptical) sells for $350.00. Denon 301-II with a nude elliptical sells for $450.00. DL-110 (high output nude elliptical) is $400.00.

The closest Ortofon gets to the DL-103 ($350.00) or DL-103R ($500.00) is probably one of their basic SPU models, but I think those start at about $1000.00, and then head north, if you want more than a ballpoint pen diamond. Of course with most SPUs you get one of those retro looking headshells, included.

The land of entry level but still high priced MM v MC is really the difference (to use an automobile analogy) between something like a GTI or Golf R, and one of the Porsche 718 variants. The former will be cheaper to own and service, for sure. Whether a Golf R will satisfy like a 718 is, of course, a personal thing.
 

DSJR

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1986, a DL110 was sixty quid, so was a Dynavector 10X IV (edit - according to HiFi Choice and my old memories selling 'em). A Linn K9 was £59 and due to the flock-of-sheep effect, we sold tens more K9's than the others. Using the BoE inflation calculator, £60 in 1986 equates to £188 approx. today. (edit - I seem to recall the prices by around 1990 being up to around £79)

I do realise the 2008 financial issues caused all manner of currency re-adjustments, but some audio gear and pickups in particular, suffered HUGE price increases in the years that followed (in 2009 or so, one could still buy a DL110 for £79 or so and £89 was typical - the model had a new flurry of interest in the UK forums around this time). The 10X IV did suffer more though, as in 1998 it was £200 (so nearly three times the price of the DL110 it used to be the same as). By 2000 it was £225 going on £250 in 'V' form with different mount plate size. Recently it went from £500 or so to nigh on £600 by substitution of a Shibata tip (I'm told by a cartridge maker that the cost differences aren't huge with different bought-in styli profile types - they usually come ready fitted to a cantilever I gather).

As for Porsche - I feel it's damned greed and well-off buyer product cachet with some parts being identical to VW parts but several times the price I believe.. Best not say more 'cos there's a good few here who can afford to own and maintain cars like this and think little of it...

P.S. Damned good idea AT rationalising their OC9's into a 'range' with different styli. the SH versions do seem the most refined without slugging the highs and even the baby VM95E cartridge has a nicely finished diamond chip on it, a far cry from the 'polished coal' Shure typically used to fit in the 70's...
 
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anmpr1

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... by substitution of a Shibata tip (I'm told by a cartridge maker that the cost differences aren't huge with different bought-in styli profile types - they usually come ready fitted to a cantilever I gather).
I don't know about Ortofon, who probably grind their own diamonds, but I suspect that most Japanese makers source their jewels from Adamant/Namiki, or Ogura Industrial. You can go to their sites and see base prices for the different cuts.

Interestingly, at Adamant, their most 'extreme' cut, the MicroRidge (Microline) is no more expensive than Shibata variants, or special Line Contact versions. The fact that certain manufacturers charge more for Shibata and/or LC shapes can't be due to initial sourcing costs.
 

Linus

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Use your 1200mk2 like a Rega - lid off when playing and carefully sited - it's a darned good machine even if the audio 'salons' dislike it...

DL110 used to be cheap until 2008, after which it all but doubled in price in the UK (can't all be currency differences, can it?). It's a safe as houses but to me, rather bland sounding model which will work in anything. The two AT's (540 and 740) appear to be basically the same bar the mounting bracket material, the 540 offering a bit more 'life' which may be a bit over the top for some 'ringy' tonearm structures. The metallic mount of the 740 (using the same stylus assembly by the way), appears to 'calm it down' just a little if the German Lowbeats tests are anything to go by (top model Rega tonearm used which is as inert as an arm can be really). I use the earlier AT120E and love it, so I'm biased a bit. A UK technics expert used to sell the previous AT440MLa in the SL1200mk2, so I think the 740 would be a great choice and wouldn't 'sound' as 'grubby' as I found the cheaper Nagaokas to be (they had a massive price hike in the last few years too!). The technics headshell should be just fine, but a set of posher looking wires might make you feel better ;)

The 2M Bronze came along at a hiked price but little increase since while 'everyone else' caught up with them. I've only heard one after setting it up in a Rega 3 and I loved the precise 'funky' quality it offers*

DL103 is an antique with low resolution (at side end) conical tip. It's beloved of the 'analogue' fraternity for it's punchy bass and mids, but it prefers a higher mass arm (the 1200mk2 arm is actually quite moderate in mass I remember) and I personally don't like the progressively rolled off top as a side progresses.

*These subjective impressions are just my take and view on what's basically a these days mid-fi flawed medium. You can spice the dynamics up a little, but peeps then complain about a lack of lushness and '3-D depth' (who cares if it's in the master recording or not - it isn't as exaggerated as that usually in my pro experience). Others like the older 'Koetsu' approach, all lush, laid back and uber-refined to the point of blandness, where surface noise is damped out of existance along with far depth effects sometimes, depending on the model. That's not truthful to the recording at all, but vinyl people used to wet themselves over such models.

Some MC types (and a few MM's too), can have substantial hf peaks over 20kHz which we can't hear (no music signal there anyway - even CD-4 types after a few plays) but which can upset some less expensive phono stages with consequences lower down where we *can* hear it.

Sorry - pre breakfast subjective moanings above (I'll be better after some food intake. Hope it helps just a little and doesn't hinder...
Much appreciate!! Thanks a lot!
 

orangejello

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I'm trying out vinyl because I'm sick of being tied to screens. I work in tech and basically staring at a screen all day, and am really trying to limit my screen time outside of work. But I love music and this hobby brings me happiness.

It's all new to me, but I love the whole process of vinyl. I love going to my local neighborhood record shop and discovering new music, cheap finds, and even things that I already stream digitally. It forces me to tune in, pay attention to the music, the artist, and their story. Flipping a record, turning a physical volume knob, reading the album booklets as I listen--it's so much more enjoyable to me.
Right there with you bro. I have been enjoying this activity for decades. I have well over 4000 carefully selected records in my collection - most bought when CDs took over and serious record collectors dumped their vinyl. Over the decades my skill at maximizing the fidelity of vinyl playback has increased and the result is exquisitely enjoyable.
 

Guerilla

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Could be that your cartridge is a good and balanced one, that Sound good om most riaas. Someone mentioned dull. If that means linear instead of sharp, for me it would be desireable.
 

deniall83

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I've owned a bunch of phono stages and have listened to many others. Some cheap, some expensive. Most of them pretty much sound the same with some being a bit noisier than others. I ended up buying the iFi Zen Phono. Immediate difference compared to my old one. So much quieter. The "thud" of the needle hitting the record and pop and clicks have been greatly reduced. An excellent budget phono stage. I'd like to try it with MC.
 
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I have a NAD preamp that has a internal phono preamp. I was thinking about buying a Parasound external phono preamp to see if it improves my sound compared to what is in my NAD. As long as I stick with my mm Grado cart. it seems that its not worth spending $500 for the Parasound. Perhaps if I had a MC cartridge that the NAD does not support it would only be worth it at that point.
 

Guerilla

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From reading I think MC are very expensive compared to the sound quality they can produce. I mean a reasonably priced MC will give you the qualities that MC gartridges have, but overall it will sound inferior to a similarly prized MM. Plus you need the stepup if your amp doesnt have a nice MC riia. MOVING IRON cartridges or what B&O called them should beat the rest. -Id like to try one of those.

Cheers!
 

Ingenieur

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The key as others have said is loading, not only C but R.
The online loading calculators are electrical models only.
You need someone that has optimized your cartridge (or close) to dial it in.
@JP provided some measurements that really improved my SQ.

As far as the phono amp: low noise, good OL margin, hefty power supply, good RIAA response.
 
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d3miller

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I've owned a bunch of phono stages and have listened to many others. Some cheap, some expensive. Most of them pretty much sound the same with some being a bit noisier than others. I ended up buying the iFi Zen Phono. Immediate difference compared to my old one. So much quieter. The "thud" of the needle hitting the record and pop and clicks have been greatly reduced. An excellent budget phono stage. I'd like to try it with MC.
Yep, this is where I've landed! Unfortunately the place I ordered from is backordered until May, so I'm just going to go with the cheap $89 Pro-Ject Phono Box to hold me over til then.
 
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