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Phono preamp or stereo amplifier?

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Hello All:

I want to seek your advise regarding upgrading components in my audio system. I have a home theater composed of B&W speakers, a Yamaha RX-A3050 receiver and a Monoprice Monolith 5-channel power amplifier which produces 200 W/channel. Also, I have a Rega Planar 2 MM turntable (w/Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge) for playing my small vinyl collection (Pink Floyd, Beatles, Led Zeppelin,...).

While I am truly happy with the home theater part of my system, it is the 2-channel audio playback for which I need some advise. Here's my current setup: Rega Planar 2 -> Schiit Mani -> Yamaha RX-A3050 (RCA input; pre-out to Monolith) -> Monolith (RCA input) -> B&W 683 S2. The Yamaha RX-A3050 also powers the B&W ASW610 subwoofer. The cartridge upgrade to Ortofon 2M Blue has certainly improved the musicality of playback: lows, mids and highs are all audibly better reproduced and soundstage is more expansive relative to the standard Carbon cartridge on the Rega Planar 2. However, with the gain set to 42db on the Schiit Mani, there's an audible hiss - at least I don't think there's any hum in the system. If I set the gain lower to 30db, then the hiss disappears, but the music sounds lifeless. On the Schiit Mani, there aren't any intermediate gain settings between 30db and 42db.

So, I am considering the following options:
Option #1: Replace the phono preamp
Replace the Schiit Mani with either an Emotiva XPS-1 or the Cambridge Audio Duo and leave the rest of the components in place. I also looked into the Parks Audio Puffin, but I couldn't determine if it is worth the money.
Option #2: Install a more direct path to the speakers
Rega Planar 2 -> Integrated Amplifier -> Monolith -> B&W 683 S2. For the 'Integrated Amplifier' I was considering an Audiolab 6000A or the Cambridge Audio CXA61/A81. The Cambridge Audio components do not have a 'Phono' input, but I think I can connect the Rega to the A1 or 'Unbalanced' RCA inputs.

Please advise whether Option # 1 or Option # 2 is more suitable. Many thanks!
 

tonycollinet

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Before changing anything you need to understand the source of the hiss. Or you risk spending a lot of money and not solving the problem.

Since it is impacted by the gain of your preamp, it means it is getting into the input of your preamp. One likely cause is a ground loop, and one way to check for this is to disconnect as much as possible just leaving the kit you want to test.

So disconnect subs, and any other components from the Yamaha, just leave the turntable, preamp and speakers connected to the 3050. Then see if you can still hear the hiss.

If you can, then try to ensure all devices are connected to a single power strip. Then try making sure all power cables are as close together as possible.


Another possible cause is direct coupling of noise onto the connections from your turntable. To check for this, you need to separate the turntable and preamp from the rest of the kit by as much distance as possible - taking especial care that the interconnect from the turntable to the preamp don't go anywhere near any other electrical kit, including the turntables own power supply wiring.
 
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Before changing anything you need to understand the source of the hiss. Or you risk spending a lot of money and not solving the problem.

Since it is impacted by the gain of your preamp, it means it is getting into the input of your preamp. One likely cause is a ground loop, and one way to check for this is to disconnect as much as possible just leaving the kit you want to test.

So disconnect subs, and any other components from the Yamaha, just leave the turntable, preamp and speakers connected to the 3050. Then see if you can still hear the hiss.

If you can, then try to ensure all devices are connected to a single power strip. Then try making sure all power cables are as close together as possible.


Another possible cause is direct coupling of noise onto the connections from your turntable. To check for this, you need to separate the turntable and preamp from the rest of the kit by as much distance as possible - taking especial care that the interconnect from the turntable to the preamp don't go anywhere near any other electrical kit, including the turntables own power supply wiring.
Thanks for your response! The turntable and preamp are separated from the rest of the components, at least physically. However, these do share the same electrical outlet with the power amplifier and the subwoofer.

I have connected the Yamaha receiver and other home theater components to a Furman power conditioner. Perhaps, I will get another Furman and run the turntable and preamp through it. Hopefully, this will diminish the hissing.

In general though, do you have any insights/advise regarding either Option # 1 or Option # 2, posted in my question?

Thanks!
 

tonycollinet

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Thanks for your response! The turntable and preamp are separated from the rest of the components, at least physically. However, these do share the same electrical outlet with the power amplifier and the subwoofer.

I have connected the Yamaha receiver and other home theater components to a Furman power conditioner. Perhaps, I will get another Furman and run the turntable and preamp through it. Hopefully, this will diminish the hissing.

In general though, do you have any insights/advise regarding either Option # 1 or Option # 2, posted in my question?

Thanks!
Power conditioning won't help if the hiss is coming from your system via ground loops.

Option 1 - replace one phono amp with another - may just end up with the same problem.

Option 2 - you can't plug your turntable directly into an integrated amp RCA input inless it is a MM phono input. And why would you go from an integrated amp to a power amp. then you are using the integrated amp just as a preamp. In fact how does that work, because presumably you already have the output of the yamaha going to the power amp, so how can you connect another preamp to it?
 
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Power conditioning won't help if the hiss is coming from your system via ground loops.

Option 1 - replace one phono amp with another - may just end up with the same problem.

Option 2 - you can't plug your turntable directly into an integrated amp RCA input inless it is a MM phono input. And why would you go from an integrated amp to a power amp. then you are using the integrated amp just as a preamp. In fact how does that work, because presumably you already have the output of the yamaha going to the power amp, so how can you connect another preamp to it?
Regarding your comment on Option 2: the Yamaha is connected to the power amplifier using it's pre-outs. So, I was thinking of removing the current preamp and the Yamaha from the 2-channel audio playback and replace them with an integrated amplifier. Of course, I can connect my speakers directly to the integrated amplifier and also run the subwoofer from it. However, the Audiolab 6000A for instance, produces only 50 W/channel and I think this might result in under-powering my B&W speakers. Therefore, I thought I could connect the integrated amplifier to the power amplifier to boost the signal and run my speakers from it.
 

AnalogSteph

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Is the hiss still there with power to the turntable cut? Have you tried Pure Direct mode on the receiver?

Are there any cordless phone bases or WiFi routers close to the setup? (I presume you don't have any RCA shorting plugs, which would be helpful though.)

Input noise of any decent preamp should generally be dwarfed by groove noise. I can't see anything unusual about the present setup either, it should generally work fine like that.
 
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Is the hiss still there with power to the turntable cut? Have you tried Pure Direct mode on the receiver?

Are there any cordless phone bases or WiFi routers close to the setup? (I presume you don't have any RCA shorting plugs, which would be helpful though.)

Input noise of any decent preamp should generally be dwarfed by groove noise. I can't see anything unusual about the present setup either, it should generally work fine like that.
Thanks for responding! With the power to the turntable cut-off, there isn't any hissing. In particular, there isn't any hiss while streaming through my phone or the Apple TV. I have tried the Pure Direct mode, but, the audio just comes out flat. I am not really sure what's the purpose of the Pure Direct mode. However, I do have a Wi-Fi router close to the Yamaha receiver - I'll try to move it elsewhere to determine if the hiss is reduced. Thanks!
 

tvrgeek

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The background noise for a record is only -65 dB at best. Records are noisy.
Do you hear hiss when it is not playing a record? If not, it is the record. It would be hard to see any modern phono stage coating more than $20 to be noisy. If you don't like hiss , ticks and pops, buy a CD player.
Hiss is not caused by a ground loop. Hum is. It is not your power. Look elsewhere unless your hiss is caused by your snakes not being oiled.
You want a preamp where you can match the input impedance to the cartridge. Older ones, even the kit Hafler could ( It was actually very good) The older Nakamichi and so in. You have to solder in the correct resistors.
I am not familiar with modern phono stages. As it is now a boutique item, you can pay as much as a car and get no better than an OP-Amp DIY off e-bay. Go carefully.
If your sound and dynamics are fine through the streamer, it is not your amp. 50W is not that small if a good amp.
 
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The background noise for a record is only -65 dB at best. Records are noisy.
Do you hear hiss when it is not playing a record? If not, it is the record. It would be hard to see any modern phono stage coating more than $20 to be noisy. If you don't like hiss , ticks and pops, buy a CD player.
Hiss is not caused by a ground loop. Hum is. It is not your power. Look elsewhere unless your hiss is caused by your snakes not being oiled.
You want a preamp where you can match the input impedance to the cartridge. Older ones, even the kit Hafler could ( It was actually very good) The older Nakamichi and so in. You have to solder in the correct resistors.
I am not familiar with modern phono stages. As it is now a boutique item, you can pay as much as a car and get no better than an OP-Amp DIY off e-bay. Go carefully.
If your sound and dynamics are fine through the streamer, it is not your amp. 50W is not that small if a good amp.
Thanks for your insights. I do hear a hiss even when a record is not playing. I really don't mind the hiss, ticks, pops and crackles - at least I thought I could minimize the hiss as much as possible. I do have a CD player, but I prefer vinyl with all of the above characteristics - to my ears, the music sounds livelier unless of course the pressing is not good enough.
 

MarcosCh

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Hi, i don't have nearly as much experience as other people here, but in all the systems i ever had there was always a certain degree of hiss if i cranked the volume high enough with no record playing, even with phono stages running on batteries. I assume this is normal, but of course depending how loud it is, that will also depend on how sensitive your speakers are.....
Will love to see people explaining how to completely eliminate any hiss from a phono stage, or if it is even possible...
 

tonycollinet

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The background noise for a record is only -65 dB at best. Records are noisy.
Do you hear hiss when it is not playing a record? If not, it is the record. It would be hard to see any modern phono stage coating more than $20 to be noisy. If you don't like hiss , ticks and pops, buy a CD player.
Hiss is not caused by a ground loop. Hum is. It is not your power. Look elsewhere unless your hiss is caused by your snakes not being oiled.
You want a preamp where you can match the input impedance to the cartridge. Older ones, even the kit Hafler could ( It was actually very good) The older Nakamichi and so in. You have to solder in the correct resistors.
I am not familiar with modern phono stages. As it is now a boutique item, you can pay as much as a car and get no better than an OP-Amp DIY off e-bay. Go carefully.
If your sound and dynamics are fine through the streamer, it is not your amp. 50W is not that small if a good amp.
A ground loop can pick up any frequency whether it is hiss or hum. It is essentially just a loop antenna, that will pick up any stray magnetic field. Most commonly it is hum from transformer magnetic fields, or just from nearby power wiring, simply because mains power is the most common source of a magnetic field**. However a common source of higher frequency noise is a PC, particularly displays and graphics hardware. Often in this case you can hear the noise change as what is displayed on screen changes. Switching devices such as switch mode power supplies are also able to generate high frequency noise in ground loops.

**EDIT and also because when a ground loop is created by two bits of earthed kit plugged into the mains supply in separate sockets far apart, part of the earth loop is run along the mains wiring in very close proximity to the mains power in the same cable.
 
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tvrgeek

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Looked up the Mani. S/N depending on gain setting is rather poor. 75 to 80 dB. But that should not be audible when playing a record which is the goal. I would be more concerned why you think the sound presentation is poor. Have you asked Schiit?

Seems most are fixed at 47K for MM cartridges and one capacitance. If I remember, that is not always optimum. Ortophon should list the optimum load in their specs. Back in the day everyone did. As far as which gain setting, again Ortophon should tell you. I suspect 48 is correct, but there have been some very high output cartridges over time. Of course there is no intermediate gain knob. That is why you have a volume control on your Yamaha.

There are several listed on Amazon with quite a bit lower numbers, and of course, returnable. The Cambridge solo is not very expensive, so might be worth a shot. Or you can buy a Halo-3 for three grand and specs no better than the Schiit.
 
OP
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Hello All:

Many thanks for your detailed insights. Based on the feedback, it appears to me that there a few things I can try out without spending too much money - I shall do so! I do like the sound of my system, but wanted to figure if I could improve upon it - hence my queries. Thanks again for your time and willingness to help.
 

Angsty

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Hello All:

Many thanks for your detailed insights. Based on the feedback, it appears to me that there a few things I can try out without spending too much money - I shall do so! I do like the sound of my system, but wanted to figure if I could improve upon it - hence my queries. Thanks again for your time and willingness to help.
Were you able to resolve your issue?
 
OP
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Were you able to resolve your issue?
Thanks for reaching out. I moved the phono pre-amp further away from the receiver and other equipment such as a wi-fi router. For now, the interference sounds to have diminished. At least, while the record is playing, I cannot hear any disturbance. However, in between tracks, and before the first track starts playing, I can hear a hiss, but only if I'm very close to the speakers. Down the line, I might consider acquiring a separate phono pre-amp (e.g. Emotiva BasX PT1) and a power amplifier (e.g. Emotiva BasX A2) for a dedicated two-channel stereo system. Thanks!
 

dualazmak

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Even though quite belated, I just came across with this thread.

My post recent post here would be of some reference for you:
- Inside of Audio-Technica AT-PEQ30 phono preamplifier, and successful DIY suppression of inaudible EMF (electro-magnetic field) interference noise: #697
 
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