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Rega Fono MM MK3 Phono Preamp Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Rega Fono MM MK3 phono stage. It was kindly sent to me by a member and costs US $395. Despite its relatively high price, it only supports Moving Magnet cartridges.

I was disappointed in the plastic case and overall look:
EDIT: case is actually aluminum.

Rega Fono MM MK3 Phono Preamp stage LP stereo review.jpg


Not much to see on the back either:
Rega Fono MM MK3 Phono Preamp stage LP Moving Magnet amplifier stereo review.jpg


As you see, it uses an AC transformer which allows it to generate both positive and negative DC voltages it needs internally with ease. Because of this the power supply is not universal so if you are importing it, better make sure it is rated for your voltage or pick up your own 24 volt supply.

Rega Fono MM MK3 Measurements
As usual we start with our dashboard using 5 millivolt to simulate a moving magnet cartridge output:

Rega Fono MM MK3 Phono Preamp stage audio measurements.png


SNIAD which is typically the relative sum of both distortion and noise tends to be noise limited in phono preamplifiers and such is the case. The rating places the Fono MM in the average category:

best phono stage preamp review.png


We can tease out just the distortion or just the noise:

Rega Fono MM MK3 Phono Preamp stage pure THD audio measurements.png


As you see the distortion is quite good on the left (equivalent to 17 bit digital audio). Both are far better than anything the LP as a format can produce.

Most important in a phono state is faithful RIAA equalization to give us a flat response:

Rega Fono MM MK3 Phono Preamp stage frequency response RIAA audio measurements-2.png


Nice to have a rumble filter but would have liked a more flat response above 20 Hz.

With respect overload (making pops and clicks sound worse than they have to), we get good bit of headroom:

Rega Fono MM MK3 Phono Preamp stage Overload THD vs Level audio measurements.png


Here is the Schiit Mani in comparison:



I should not that just about all the measurements match Rega specifications.

Conclusions
The Fono MM performance is fine. Nothing is broken. It is just that at $400 you are paying more for the brand than features and looks. I leave it up to you to decide if it is a good deal or not.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Had fair bit of harvest sitting for weeks on our porch waiting for us to do something about them. The peppers were bugging me especially since they were starting to get soft and develop some bad spots. So I thought I get them inside and cut and freeze them:

Pepper.jpg


First year growing these long sweet peppers. A bit less flexible to use since you can't make stuffed peppers easily with them. Still, they taste great in stir-fry's and such.

Appreciate any kind donations using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
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dougi

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#3
I'd just like to point out for posterity that the case is actually made of aluminum, and the front looks foggy /cheap because the protective plastic covering is still on the polished and shiny nameplate.

From the product description:
"The aesthetic design of the Fono MM was as important as the quality of its electrical capabilities, so it benefits from the same aluminium case as the Rega TTPSU and Fono MC amplifier, giving it a design which offers a familiar feel and moreover brings it in line with its illustrious bigger brothers."
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #4
I'd just like to point out for posterity that the case is actually made of aluminum, and the front looks foggy /cheap because the protective plastic covering is still on the glass nameplate.
Yeh, it feels like plastic but the owner also told me it is aluminum.
 
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#5
From the review:

"Both are far better than anything the LP as a format can produce."

Can someone tell me what the LP format can do if terms of S/N, dynamic range, frequency response, etc? I don't think I've ever seen the performance limits of the LP format summarized anywhere.
 

Angsty

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#6
Is there a measurement yet for “overload hangover recovery”, as was discussed in the Mani review?

Additionally, is there a practical limit for the overload margin such that it becomes a problem for the downstream preamp?
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #7
Is there a measurement yet for “overload hangover recovery”, as was discussed in the Mani review?
That measurement "didn't stick" with the membership so I gave up on it. :)
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #8
Additionally, is there a practical limit for the overload margin such that it becomes a problem for the downstream preamp?
Ah, that is a good question. I don't think it is a serious problem with clipping of the downstream preamp but have not tested for this.
 

Angsty

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#9
It was kindly sent to me by a member and costs US $395. Despite its relatively high price, it only supports Moving Magnet cartridges.
There are some other anomalies out there like that. The Bryston BP-2 also only supports MM cartridges and it retails for US $1000. For that price, I’d happily buy a Sutherland KC Vibe and pocket the difference for more vinyl.

Value is in the eye of the beholder and I know I’ve spent more on some components that many of my contemporaries would believe. That KC Vibe is still 3x the cost of the Cambridge Duo. But, I can’t buy it yet because Amir hasn’t measured it! :cool:
 
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#10
From the review:

"Both are far better than anything the LP as a format can produce."

Can someone tell me what the LP format can do if terms of S/N, dynamic range, frequency response, etc? I don't think I've ever seen the performance limits of the LP format summarized anywhere.

The big problem is that there are so many factors in the analog domain. Besides the needle/cartridge & signal path, you also have the vinyl material and the pressing itself (the final quality of which may depend on the overall condition of the nickel stamper, weather, time of day, etc). The only fair thing to do would be to take an average and maximum of a large lot of albums and pressings and hope you get a good idea of how good it can be.

Album dynamic ranges can be found here: http://dr.loudness-war.info/

This little article provides nice little visualization of dynamic range, frequency response, & S/N over a few pressings and compares them to CD & DVD-As: https://www.audioholics.com/audio-t...ynamic-comparison-of-lps-vs-cds-part-4-page-2

On the note of frequency response, remember that the CD-4 quadraphonic system existed in the early 1970's which relied on a 30kHz carrier frequency and (subtractive) audio data up to 45kHz or more (in addition to the needle reproducing the standard 0-20kHz audio spectrum) to produce 4 discrete channels of audio using a standard turntable and appropriate (Shibata/line contact style) needle. Late production date CD-4 vinyls (so called JVC Super Vinyl) would retain the high frequencies for 500 plays or more.

tl;dr: No concrete numbers but vinyl is surprisingly good considering the physics involved. S/N isn't as good as CD but it's not bad. Dynamic range can be excellent. Frequency response easily exceeds CDs if from an appropriate analog master.
 
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Helicopter

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#11
Thank you for the review Amir. I am always interested to see how these stack up. To me, this would not be worth it when Mani and Duo both offer better performance.
 

levimax

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#12
tl;dr: Dynamic range can be excellent and exceed CD.
A CD had 96 dB of dynamic range... there is no way an LP is even close to that. With a ~-40 dB noise floor that would mean peaks of 136 dB which is not possible in the physical world. That said the dynamic range in more than enough for most music except classical where the noise floor on quiet passages can be an issue. I think a reasonable but over simplified way to think of an LP is that under excellent conditions it has a S/N of ~ 60 dB.
 

dougi

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#13
Ah, that is a good question. I don't think it is a serious problem with clipping of the downstream preamp but have not tested for this.
Unless you digitise it like I do with an RME ADI-2 PRO. I try to balance phono and input gain to then balance noise, headroom and relative level compared with other sources.
 

Billy Budapest

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#20
Seriously after all this time I was being generous with a phono stage circuit's value.
You gotta count the price of the enclosure, power supply, and distributor and dealer profit. Hence, $100. Maybe you can find something cheaper than $100 but that would be pushing it unless it’s made in China.
 
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