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Schiit Skoll Balanced Phono Stage Review

Rate this phono stage:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 6 4.3%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 9 6.4%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 78 55.7%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 47 33.6%

  • Total voters
    140

EJ3

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If you're already committed to strictly MC or MM, I'd be very tempted by Michael Fidler's stuff
I am waiting on an AMIRM test of the MM.
I won't have the money to buy it in my audio budget until after Jan 1, 2025 but I hope to see an AMIRM report on it before then.
 

antcollinet

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Parks Audio Puffin - or it's current successor, the waxwing.

Mainly for it's "Magic" function (digital filtering of pops/clicks)
 

DesertHawk

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Parks Audio Puffin - or it's current successor, the waxwing.

Mainly for it's "Magic" function (digital filtering of pops/clicks)
I think a puffin would be fun to have. The waxwing, IMHO, made a design flaw in having all controls be done via an app. I get so frustrated with streaming or Bluetooth apps. Plus, one of the biggest advantages to vinyl for me is the "analog experience" - I'm not talking about the sonic differences between analog and digital music, I mean the experience of being about to flip through a catalog of music without looking at screen. My day has too many screens already.
 

Bob from Florida

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I think a puffin would be fun to have. The waxwing, IMHO, made a design flaw in having all controls be done via an app. I get so frustrated with streaming or Bluetooth apps. Plus, one of the biggest advantages to vinyl for me is the "analog experience" - I'm not talking about the sonic differences between analog and digital music, I mean the experience of being about to flip through a catalog of music without looking at screen. My day has too many screens already.
Puffin makes you change things at the device. Waxwing lets you make changes from couch potato position. App makes Bluetooth connection pretty much instantly when opening the app. Imagine that, a Bluetooth connection with no dancing around. It simply works.
 

Digital1955

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So, out of the phone pre’s Amir has reviewed, ignoring the cost, which one would you use if it were free?

My brain wants the say the Skoll, but it seems like they all have some shortcomings.

You should ask this question on a new thread.
 

Angsty

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If you're already committed to strictly MC or MM, I'd be very tempted by Michael Fidler's stuff
The whole line from Spartan 5 to Spartan 15 to MM Pro looks to be very thoughtfully designed. The design notes for the Spartan 15 remind me of the gain architecture of the Bryston BP-2, which is far more expensive using discrete components. I am disturbed by the number of people who report balance and noise problems with the Skoll.
 

EJ3

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The whole line from Spartan 5 to Spartan 15 to MM Pro looks to be very thoughtfully designed. The design notes for the Spartan 15 remind me of the gain architecture of the Bryston BP-2, which is far more expensive using discrete components. I am disturbed by the number of people who report balance and noise problems with the Skoll.
And I do not care about (sit in a chair with an APP: PERIOD)
 

ampguy

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This product cracks me up. Most good carts/table setups have fixed RCA's, so adding unbal to bal with loads of wiring and chips when the original design was through a simple RIAA filter w proper gain, hoping the gizmo adds as little artifacts as possible ;)
 

milosz

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A number of turntables, such as several from Pro-Ject, have balanced line outputs. Balanced phono signals make sense to me, in terms of avoiding noise and so on. In those cases no unbalanced-to-balanced measures need be taken.
 

DesertHawk

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This product cracks me up. Most good carts/table setups have fixed RCA's, so adding unbal to bal with loads of wiring and chips when the original design was through a simple RIAA filter w proper gain, hoping the gizmo adds as little artifacts as possible ;)
If you have a balanced preamp and power Amp then you have to go from balanced to unbalanced at some point, right? I don't know if there are pros/cons to doing that in the phono stage rather than in the preamp.
 

ampguy

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If you have a balanced preamp and power Amp then you have to go from balanced to unbalanced at some point, right? I don't know if there are pros/cons to doing that in the phono stage rather than in the preamp.
Sure, but home audio gear without RCA line in for Phonos is unusual. Turntables like 2 of the Project models do have a proprietary balanced out (along with standard RCAs), but to get XLR out of them is a $200 cable add on. Amir states that computer noise generates makes balanced Turntables a good idea. Would love to see measurements on that, and what kind of computer gear folks are plugging in that XLR balanced cancels out.
 

EJ3

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Sure, but home audio gear without RCA line in for Phonos is unusual. Turntables like 2 of the Project models do have a proprietary balanced out (along with standard RCAs), but to get XLR out of them is a $200 cable add on. Amir states that computer noise generates makes balanced Turntables a good idea. Would love to see measurements on that, and what kind of computer gear folks are plugging in that XLR balanced cancels out.
I don't have a computer in my audio system (but I can set up a Bluetooth transceiver that I have along with a Bluetooth receiver at the stereo 50 ft. away & send whatever audio (from whatever source) that my computer is playing into the stereo through a line in. It will not be receiving computer noise due to the computer not being in the system.
 

milosz

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Pretty much any turntable can be wired for balanced output. You just need some skill an know how.
A cartridge has a + and a - terminal, neither of which is referenced to ground. So all cartridges have - essentially - balanced output. You just need to wire the + and - leads coming out of the tonearm to an XLR socket. You'll have to mount the XLr socket in some way, requires a few simple tools and mechanical aptitude.

XLR PIN CONNECT TO
1 Turntable ground (same connection you would connect to the ground screw on the back of a typical phono preamp - this is connected to the arm tube and sometimes to the turntable cassis)
2 + output pin of the phono cartridge
3 - output pin of the phono cartridge

You'll need TWO such XLR sockets, one for the LEFT channel and one for the RIGHT channel.

It's a very good idea to use balanced connections for something with as low a signal voltage as a phono cartridge. It's much like a microphone in terms of signal level, and there is a good reason that professional audio - recording studios, live venues, etc - ALWAYS use balanced connections for microphones. There's no reason those same benefits can't be enjoyed by people listening to vinyl.

Of course, it's kind of moot to try to reduce noise and distortion in a phono setup, as the medium itself -vinyl - has abysmal SINAD. But, if you want to try to improve it to be as good as it COULD be (which admittedly isn't very good) then by all means go with balanced.
 

mike70

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Pretty much any turntable can be wired for balanced output. You just need some skill an know how.
A cartridge has a + and a - terminal, neither of which is referenced to ground. So all cartridges have - essentially - balanced output. You just need to wire the + and - leads coming out of the tonearm to an XLR socket. You'll have to mount the XLr socket in some way, requires a few simple tools and mechanical aptitude.

XLR PIN CONNECT TO
1 Turntable ground (same connection you would connect to the ground screw on the back of a typical phono preamp - this is connected to the arm tube and sometimes to the turntable cassis)
2 + output pin of the phono cartridge
3 - output pin of the phono cartridge

You'll need TWO such XLR sockets, one for the LEFT channel and one for the RIGHT channel.

It's a very good idea to use balanced connections for something with as low a signal voltage as a phono cartridge. It's much like a microphone in terms of signal level, and there is a good reason that professional audio - recording studios, live venues, etc - ALWAYS use balanced connections for microphones. There's no reason those same benefits can't be enjoyed by people listening to vinyl.

Of course, it's kind of moot to try to reduce noise and distortion in a phono setup, as the medium itself -vinyl - has abysmal SINAD. But, if you want to try to improve it to be as good as it COULD be (which admittedly isn't very good) then by all means go with balanced.

It also depends how the ground is connected internally in the turntable ... some implementations (I think some Rega as an example) don't have the external ground cable and is connected internally.

I don't have much knowledge in electronics but I only try to mention that aspect.
 

ErVikingo

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I enjoy mine. I connects my SL1200 (on RCA) out to my Pre on XLR. Now all but 1 of my sources (old fancy Sony ES CD) go xlr into the pre.

Lots of easy to change parameters for different cartridges.
 

Dagnabbit

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I enjoy mine. I connects my SL1200 (on RCA) out to my Pre on XLR. Now all but 1 of my sources (old fancy Sony ES CD) go xlr into the pre.

Lots of easy to change parameters for different cartridges.

In your setup, can you detect any buzzing from your Skoll?
 

milosz

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Yes there are some turntables where conversion to balanced output is more difficult, like Rega.

But it CAN be done:

 

Angsty

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Of course, it's kind of moot to try to reduce noise and distortion in a phono setup, as the medium itself -vinyl - has abysmal SINAD.
Yes, the SINAD is much lower for vinyl than digital. But, I certainly still enjoy the vinyl nonetheless.
 

EJ3

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Yes, the SINAD is much lower for vinyl than digital. But, I certainly still enjoy the vinyl nonetheless.
Me too. And I do not know many people that have a need to run the RCA type phono cable more than a few feet (which should have only minimal, if any impact on noise).
If I do need to run it a bit further,(like at my mother's home) I run it from the TT to a phono pre & run the line out the next 8 feet to a line in on the Apt/Holman preamp. Much simpler than making signal conversions to XLR (& back), to go into the phono input of the preamp.
Yes, SOME TT's have balanced outputs & SOME PHONO PREAMPS have balanced inputs.
But the vast majority of both do not (nor are they needed for the normally very short runs that are used). Naturally, some people do longer runs or have more RFI problems and would benefit from balanced in out's & in's but not in MOST home environments.
This is also dependent on where you live.
I live in a single house that at least 4 cars can be parked next to each other with their doors open before you get to the next closest house.
RFI is absolutely not a problem here.
 
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