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Phono Preamp Suggestion Needed

knightkat

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So it's limited what I can test out here since both the Mani 2, Solo, and Duo aren't sold in stores I can demo. What I would like to know is will all 4 preamp's have a noticeable difference in audio quality (sound stage, separation, clarity, etc). Also any idea which would pair well with my setup and why? Based on the review's I've read, I'd like to go with the Mani 2, but will it be head-and-shoulders above the Art DJ with my setup (cost is a factor here)?

Ok, so I have the following:

  • Marantz TT-15S1 turntable (coming from an old CEC STP-69)
  • Yaquin MS-20L tube amp
  • Pyle 999 preamp (needs replacement)
  • Frugel Horn MK3 with Mark Audio 7.3 drivers (diy build)
  • an open vaulted ceiling area (ie no acoustic paneling or anything, just a big open room)
What I see is that my preamp is the weakest link here. I've been looking at:

  • Art DJ Pre II - $50CAD from a local music store
  • Schiit Mani 2 - $363CAD from amazon
  • Cambridge Audio Solo - $350CAD from Visions Electronics
  • Cambridge Audio Duo - $500CAD from Visions Electronics
 

DSJR

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Basic answer - the ****** discs of black plastic you/we play will be the major limiting factor, followed by the turntable and it's siting and setup!!! The old UK 'never get it back in the phono stage if lost in the pressing or turntable' mantra holds true absolutely where vinyl is concerned, this from years of setting up decks and countless dems and comparisons admittedly sighted!

The Mani 2 looks to be a great compromise overall and I'd like to give this a shout as I believe it can be exported (no, I've not tried one but the overload is generous for a less expensive device and I feel it needs decent investigation and a third party tech appraisal) - Michael is a regular here so may be able to give a bit of a salesman's push from a tech viewpoint ;)

 

DVDdoug

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You can sort the reviews here at ASR by Device Type to find the phono preamps.

What I would like to know is will all 4 preamp's have a noticeable difference in audio quality (sound stage, separation, clarity, etc).
The main thing I'd be concerned with is noise. The record itself will usually have more noise than the preamp, but still you don't want to hear hiss or hum when you lift the stylus off of the record, or stop the rotation.

Next would be "frequency response" (RIAA EQ accuracy) but it's usually "good enough" and again, the record and phono cartridge will have more error & variation than the preamp.

You might want to check the headroom/clipping in the case of a "hot" cartridge and/or record.

Then, maybe look for "features" like variable capacitance (which will affect frequency response) or variable gain and/or a moving-magnet/moving-coil switch if you ever want a moving coil cartridge.

"Soundstage" won't be affected by the preamp. It depends on the recording, your speakers, room acoustics, and your brain.

"Separation" is limited by the cartridge. The phono preamp will be many-many dBs better. But most (all?) cartridges are good-enough for good stereo. Theoretically, poor separation could affect soundstage but in reality I don't think it does unless you artificially blend the channels.

"Clarity" also shouldn't be affected unless you have a terrible high-frequency roll-off (unlikely) or an overload/clipping problem.

What I see is that my preamp is the weakest link here.
The weak link is the analog vinyl format. ;) The cartridge can make a difference too, but that's mostly frequency response which can be tweaked with a little EQ or treble adjustment. And come cartridges are less prone to tracking distortion.
 

Ricardus

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Another option is to build one. The ESP P06 gets good reviews.

A friend of mine made up some boards and sent me a set. I haven't finished building them but it will be fun to use when I get them done.
 

GXAlan

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So it's limited what I can test out here since both the Mani 2, Solo, and Duo aren't sold in stores I can demo. What I would like to know is will all 4 preamp's have a noticeable difference in audio quality (sound stage, separation, clarity, etc). Also any idea which would pair well with my setup and why? Based on the review's I've read, I'd like to go with the Mani 2, but will it be head-and-shoulders above the Art DJ with my setup (cost is a factor here)?

Ok, so I have the following:

  • Marantz TT-15S1 turntable (coming from an old CEC STP-69)
  • Yaquin MS-20L tube amp
  • Pyle 999 preamp (needs replacement)
  • Frugel Horn MK3 with Mark Audio 7.3 drivers (diy build)
  • an open vaulted ceiling area (ie no acoustic paneling or anything, just a big open room)
What I see is that my preamp is the weakest link here. I've been looking at:

  • Art DJ Pre II - $50CAD from a local music store
  • Schiit Mani 2 - $363CAD from amazon
  • Cambridge Audio Solo - $350CAD from Visions Electronics
  • Cambridge Audio Duo - $500CAD from Visions Electronics

Since you have a tube amp, and DIY ful range speakers, there are two theories to your approach.

1) What is weak with your Pyle? noise? tone?
2) What cartridge are you using? MM or MC?

I think your options are the Schiit Skoll for all of the fancy loading options or I actually would say the Luxman LXV-OT10 which is very tube-y with sky high distortion, but reasonably low noise with op-amp rolling.
 
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knightkat

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Basic answer - the ****** discs of black plastic you/we play will be the major limiting factor, followed by the turntable and it's siting and setup!!! The old UK 'never get it back in the phono stage if lost in the pressing or turntable' mantra holds true absolutely where vinyl is concerned, this from years of setting up decks and countless dems and comparisons admittedly sighted!
The weak link is the analog vinyl format. The cartridge can make a difference too, but that's mostly frequency response which can be tweaked with a little EQ or treble adjustment. And come cartridges are less prone to tracking distortion.
Hmm... I think maybe I don't quite have the whole picture here. I was of the understanding that if you have a good quality (good condition) vinyl and a good turntable, then the quality of all the following components would the limiting factor. My "guess" would have been since the Pyle 999 is a very cheap preamp that there would likely be some major corners cut and it would massively affect the audio quality. I did find that Amir did a review of the Pyle444 and it appears to be pretty bad, so that "could" imply that the 999 is also pretty horrible.

Since you have a tube amp, and DIY ful range speakers, there are two theories to your approach.

1) What is weak with your Pyle? noise? tone?
2) What cartridge are you using? MM or MC?

I think your options are the Schiit Skoll for all of the fancy loading options or I actually would say the Luxman LXV-OT10 which is very tube-y with sky high distortion, but reasonably low noise with op-amp rolling.
I am unsure what is weak with the Pyle 999, but I don't actually have the ability to compare it directly with another preamp with my setup. The cartridge is a Clearaudio Virtuoso Ebony Wood MM. I heard the Marantz TT-15s1 before I purchased it, but it was also hooked up to some crazy astronomically expensive amp/speaker setup.

Maybe the pre-amp won't make any difference to what I can hear, but then I'd have "assumed" there would be a reason most of the audiophiles don't buy $30 preamps? I do understand that the cost of the component isn't always directly proportional to the performance though.
 

Thomas_A

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A DIY option as well:

 

GXAlan

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I did find that Amir did a review of the Pyle444 and it appears to be pretty bad, so that "could" imply that the 999 is also pretty horrible.


Maybe the pre-amp won't make any difference to what I can hear, but then I'd have "assumed" there would be a reason most of the audiophiles don't buy $30 preamps? I do understand that the cost of the component isn't always directly proportional to the performance though.

- RIAA accuracy
- Control of AC mains noise
- Distortion
- Cartridge Loading options which can non linearly affect FR
- Gain and noise at that gain
- Overload
- Subsonic filters

Something like the Cambridge Audio is very low noise and distortion but it only has a fixed loading option which means that it can be weak with different setups. It is a solid reference to start and offers a lot of bang for the buck.

Since FR is the main reason we hear differences between cartridges, I actually really like the Luxman LXV-OT10 since you can tweak the RIAA curves slightly. It’s a very controversial choice since it’s got A LOT of tube distortion. It has more noise than my PM-10’s phono stage but with the op amp tweaks, it’s pretty close. This is a kit you have to build, so again, not the best choice. But you have a tube amp, so you already are choosing to have added distortion. At one level, you probably only need one tube element in your signal chain to get the tube nonlinearities but on the other hand, all tube setups are popular too.

The Schiit Skoll gives you all sorts of loading options and balanced outputs. This would be my choice if it was released before I bought my second Luxman LXV-OT10.

That would be my recommendation in the present day. Measures well and has lots of options for tweaking to your preference.
 
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knightkat

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- RIAA accuracy
- Control of AC mains noise
- Distortion
- Cartridge Loading options which can non linearly affect FR
- Gain and noise at that gain
- Overload
- Subsonic filters

Something like the Cambridge Audio is very low noise and distortion but it only has a fixed loading option which means that it can be weak with different setups. It is a solid reference to start and offers a lot of bang for the buck.

Since FR is the main reason we hear differences between cartridges, I actually really like the Luxman LXV-OT10 since you can tweak the RIAA curves slightly. It’s a very controversial choice since it’s got A LOT of tube distortion. It has more noise than my PM-10’s phono stage but with the op amp tweaks, it’s pretty close. This is a kit you have to build, so again, not the best choice. But you have a tube amp, so you already are choosing to have added distortion. At one level, you probably only need one tube element in your signal chain to get the tube nonlinearities but on the other hand, all tube setups are popular too.

The Schiit Skoll gives you all sorts of loading options and balanced outputs. This would be my choice if it was released before I bought my second Luxman LXV-OT10.

That would be my recommendation in the present day. Measures well and has lots of options for tweaking to your preference.
Awesome, thanks for your help (and thanks to everyone else as well). I appreciate the feedback and suggestions as I am still fairly early in my foray into vinyl and audio in general. I know there's a balance in there between what I can hear vs the money spent.
 

GXAlan

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Awesome, thanks for your help (and thanks to everyone else as well). I appreciate the feedback and suggestions as I am still fairly early in my foray into vinyl and audio in general. I know there's a balance in there between what I can hear vs the money spent.

Yeah. My advice, recognizing it’s “do as I say, not as I do”, is to make sure you invest more in your digital sources than your vinyl. Vinyl is the espresso at the end of a big meal. Tweaking the cartridge and phono amp etc are valid, and there is something really enjoyable about an espresso at the end of meal, even though it’s nutritionally and gastronomically not as impressive as the meal. :)

The Schiit is also great because you can tweak the settings in real-time with your remote.
 

ampguy

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I have that Marantz. I use it with a Parks Puffin phono pre. I love the "Magic" setting which can get rid of some of the pops and clicks on my very old 60s70s albums from record sales. I also have a Schiit Mani which sounds great on the ~42db gain.
 

Waxx

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The Cambridge phono stages are the best i know, and i did compare to many way more expensive ones. I never tested the Shiit ones altough and they measure good. But so does the Art DJ Pre2. If you have the Art, i see no need to get something else except when you want variable capitance and resistance loads for your cartridge. But those are only availeble on way more expensive units if you want it truely variable. Replacing the ART with the Mani or even the Cambridge won't make a big difference i think.

I use the Cambridge CP2, the older version of the Alva Duo, and i don't feel the need to upgrade it at all. My cell is the AT-VM95EN and my turntable is an old but mint Technics SL1500 from 1976, fully original but the power and signal cable (that were broken when i bought it). I did replace those myself with very standard cables. And that setup is end game for me, no need to tweak those. I did try way more expensive carts (MM and MC) but those AT's are hard to beat on sound, very durable and (relative) cheap.
 
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