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I need advice on choosing a phono preamp.

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T

tramp201

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Pro-ject Phono Box RS - balanced phono preamp

https://www.project-audio.com/en/product/phono-box-rs/

Features
  • MM & MC capable
  • True dual mono design
  • Balanced XLR & unbalanced RCA In & Outputs
  • Fully passive RIAA & DECCA equalisation
  • Unique continously variable input impedance loading, matches every cartridge (adjustment even while playing)
  • RCA & XLR In & Out
I had considered the Project Phono Box RS before, but if I want to achieve better performance, I would need to add a Project linear power supply, which would cost an additional $680.
 

Blumlein 88

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The Cambridge audio is a good choice. If you wanted to keep box count down, the Emotiva XPS-1 is very good. Small enough it can be hidden behind other gear on your shelf if that appeals. MC and MM with adjustable loading.
 

DSJR

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Legendary Shure V15 is also a cartridge I'm considering. I will consider purchasing a second-hand Shure V15 and pairing it with a Jico SAS replacement stylus.
It may sound good, but it won't be a V15 as Shure intended... The V15 T2 here is too wayward in frequency response up top although the bass and mids are good, the best V15 III was the HE version with red stylus housing as it seemed to take away a subjective hardness away which both my V15 III's exhibit to an extent (apologies, but I never got to hear the MR stylus they seemed to do in the home market), the V15 IV HE is an odd one really, but subjectively it 'grows' on the listener and until an accident with the stylus, my V15 VMR was a real favourite, as everything was in the right proportion, just 'smaller scale' compared to a higher end MC, let alone my beloved and superbly neutral Decca Gold Microscanner which my current tonearms can't use properly.

If you *really* want to try a nice vintage cartridge with the possibility of an original stylus, the Ortofon M20E Super is a neutral but sweet sound. My stylus is sadly worn (Ortodons can go increasingly lively and 'sibilant' as their styli wear) and a 20FL Super stylus is a bit 'thumpy sounding' in the bass for some reason and not as nice as I believe the 2M Bronze to be.

The OP could always just get a 2M Black stylus, sit back enjoying the music and forget all about messing about with cartridges and phono stages :D
 
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Angsty

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I would recommend the Schiit from your short list. I could recommend a bunch of other options, but I want to keep to your question first. The reasons why the Skoll are:

1. MM phonos tend to vary less than MC phonos. Starting with the 2M Bronze you’ll find the Schiit to be more than sufficient. It measures well.

2. It takes balanced inputs. This feature should help avoid ground loops; those are a royal pain to overcome. Take advantage since the Thorens is one of few turntables with this feature.

3. Your tastes will change. Over-investment in your first phono may make it harder to switch as you develop preferences. You need a bit of time to really know what preferences you will develop with different cartridges. I’m on my third (likely last) phono now in 10 years.

The Teac is only balanced in MC mode and has quirks with the subsonic filter operation. The Hegel has no balanced inputs and seems needlessly complex to setup.

For the question you did not ask, in this price range, my go-to recommendation would be the Sutherland KC Vibe. I had a Sutherland Insight (my second phono) for several years and the Vibe is quite similar. I did find better, but at a multiple of the MSRP of the Insight. I have not tried the Skoll, but it measures as well if not better in most areas as the KC Vibe.

The Classic Audio MM Pro and MC Pro phonos are likely best-in-class under US$2000, but they are dedicated to either MM or MC, not capable for both. I would have been tempted to buy one of each if they had come around earlier in my vinyl journey.
 

Angsty

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I failed to note the general excellence of the other Classic Audio Spartan phonostages by Michael Fidler, but they are MM only.

For the Ortofon 2M Bronze, the $450 Spartan 15 could be a stellar choice. The pricing is low due to a direct sales model but the value is very high. The no-nonsense technical approach that Fidler brings is very refreshing.
 

Bob from Florida

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Another vote for the Parks Audio Waxwing Phono DSP. Every cartridge I have tried with it works great - moving coil or moving magnet.
 

Jaxjax

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Radial J33
& that Grado is very nice indeed. If you haven't heard that level of Grado,.. you should.
Joe
 
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I would recommend the Schiit from your short list. I could recommend a bunch of other options, but I want to keep to your question first. The reasons why the Skoll are:

1. MM phonos tend to vary less than MC phonos. Starting with the 2M Bronze you’ll find the Schiit to be more than sufficient. It measures well.

2. It takes balanced inputs. This feature should help avoid ground loops; those are a royal pain to overcome. Take advantage since the Thorens is one of few turntables with this feature.

3. Your tastes will change. Over-investment in your first phono may make it harder to switch as you develop preferences. You need a bit of time to really know what preferences you will develop with different cartridges. I’m on my third (likely last) phono now in 10 years.

The Teac is only balanced in MC mode and has quirks with the subsonic filter operation. The Hegel has no balanced inputs and seems needlessly complex to setup.

For the question you did not ask, in this price range, my go-to recommendation would be the Sutherland KC Vibe. I had a Sutherland Insight (my second phono) for several years and the Vibe is quite similar. I did find better, but at a multiple of the MSRP of the Insight. I have not tried the Skoll, but it measures as well if not better in most areas as the KC Vibe.

The Classic Audio MM Pro and MC Pro phonos are likely best-in-class under US$2000, but they are dedicated to either MM or MC, not capable for both. I would have been tempted to buy one of each if they had come around earlier in my vinyl journey.
There was a lot to be said about the high pass filter slope when Amer reviewed the Skoll, do you know much about this area of concern others brought up in the comments of said review?
 

Angsty

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I don’t know of users complaining about the slow roll-off of the low-cut filter, but I would imagine that it would produce a response that was a bit bass shy.

Of course, you could use the preamp without the filter to determine which setting sounds best.
 

benanders

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The OP could always just get a 2M Black stylus, sit back enjoying the music and forget all about messing about with cartridges and phono stages :D

I took that route - 2M Black - haven’t since felt need to try anything else from a price-to-performance angle.
It was likely my most effective purchase of any, specific to vinyl record playback.
Well, other than the vinyl digitizer. ;)
 

dzerig

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There was a lot to be said about the high pass filter slope when Amer reviewed the Skoll, do you know much about this area of concern others brought up in the comments of said review?
imo:

If your rumble is so bad that you need to use the cutoff filter to mitigate woofer travel, then I wager it is unlikely you will hear much bass there anyway.

Using the remote, in a blind test I can tell 2 of 3 tries consistently (and better if I take my time) when it is engaged vs not engaged with Buchardt 400 (6.5" woofer bookshelf with a good amount of bass for a bookshelf). That's without selecting music with lots of bass, just trying it randomly.

I really need to be critically listening to hear the difference.

Did you end up buying anything?
 

Angsty

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The OP could always just get a 2M Black stylus, sit back enjoying the music and forget all about messing about with cartridges and phono stages :D
The OP needs some kind of phono stage if he’s new to vinyl; many integrated amps don’t have built-in phonostages.

But I agree that picking a MM phonostage is less hassle than one for MC.
 

Angsty

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If your rumble is so bad that you need to use the cutoff filter to mitigate woofer travel, then I wager it is unlikely you will hear much bass there anyway.
Rumble itself is not the only, or worst, cause of LF problems. Warped records and acoustic feedback are likely worse. Sometimes the manufacturing process itself can introduce noise into the grooves.

With vinyl, there really is not much useful happening below 30 Hz.
 
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imo:

If your rumble is so bad that you need to use the cutoff filter to mitigate woofer travel, then I wager it is unlikely you will hear much bass there anyway.

Using the remote, in a blind test I can tell 2 of 3 tries consistently (and better if I take my time) when it is engaged vs not engaged with Buchardt 400 (6.5" woofer bookshelf with a good amount of bass for a bookshelf). That's without selecting music with lots of bass, just trying it randomly.

I really need to be critically listening to hear the difference.

Did you end up buying anything?
Nah I havent. I was considering the Skoll but then checked out the Michael Fidler Spartan 15 and now I am wondering which of these would perform better.
 

OldHvyMec

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+ 1 for Puffin. It has a lot of features and well supported by the creator. (Prince of a fellow)

I'm a Mcintosh guy, so they are alway on my list. I picked up a MP100 for 1600.00 its very close to the MM/MC in the C2500/2600/2700
sonicaly. Side by side I can't tell any difference in the phono section of the SS pres like C45,46,47,48,49,50,52 or MX 120,121,150,160.
ALL have MM, MI, MC options. MP100s are balanced out they work well for TT isolation and using long XLRs to a pre. Good for parties!

Early MX110z, C11, C20, C22. They have some of the best phono section for valves made in my opinion. Easy to upgrade and they resell
for what you paid, SO if you don't like it, sell it. 50 years and 50+ vintage pieces from Mac later, I check twice a week!! I love the house
sound of the older Macs with the phono sections worked and GOOD Telefunken valves.

I LOVE Herron. If you can find one, V1 or V2. The last version is a VT-PH2 is a serious piece of well made gear. Bulletproof. 18-4,000.00
They easily rival 6-10K phono preamps. Fet/valve, LONG valve life and easy valve configuration for gain setting. Good factory loading
plugs and still has factory support from Mr. Herron. NO XLR options. )-: Wonderful person to talk too. Mr. Keith Herron/semi-retired.

Decware basic model, no goodies added, unless your in to reel to reel direct head playback. Super quiet units too. If you can find a used
one (you won't) 12-2,000.00. The finish has a bit to be desired. My only complaint. PTP wiring if you're into that.
Tube rectified with a AO3 smoker. If your not used to that type of valve, they can be a little spooky. LOL

DIY, there are some top notch DIY phono sections kits. DYODD I'm not suggesting one, BUT have built 4 that were very quiet and fun.

Cocktail. Some people chuckle but for a purpose built preamp/streamer/CD/Server/phono section, and balanced out it's a great option for
an all in one kind of thing. 45X was a great addition and a VERY well built unit. Physically pick one up! The have weight and very good build
quality inside and out. 13-2200.00 Depends on new, used, refurbished.

I added what wasn't there (?), but I want to reintegrate my support the Mighty Puffin. THAT is a great unit. There is something about the
way it looks and works. 350-650.00

I use it with Russco/QRKs/Sparta/SME or Woody broadcast builds. HEAVY Shure or Stanton MM carts. Soundsmith too.

Regards
 

Angsty

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I can’t address that directly as I have not heard either. But, I can say that Micheal Fidler has one of the best technical minds in phono design I’ve had the pleasure of reading. He’s on ASR if you want to DM him. A representative from Schiit, Tyler Noble, also hangs out here occasionally.

I would note that Frank Dernie, one our acknowledged industry experts on phono systems, said about the Skoll: “The problem with this one is that the, essential for accurate output, high pass filter is completely wrong so IMO this is a useless piece of kit...”

Frank commented this about Fidler’s MC Pro, “This manufacturer understands how record players work, bravo for good engineering.”

Frank Dernie is one of the experts here I trust and I prefer good engineering.
 

ctbarker32

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You mean Parks Audio and you’re recommending his WaxWing, not their Puffin, or both??
They are the same in functionality. The Waxwing is the new version that you control with your phone. Puffin is being deprecated.
 
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