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Should I upgrade my set with a seperate Phono Preamp? Added value & advice

mb10975

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Hi all

I presently own the following hifi equipment:

  • Yamaha RN-800a stereo receiver featuring a built-in phono stage.
  • A set of Q Acoustics 3050 speakers.
  • Rel T/5x subwoofer.
  • Yamaha Vinyl 500 record player upgraded with an Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge (btw: I do not use the built-in preamp since the soundquality is not great, in my opinion. I connect the un-amplified phono RCA output on the vinyl player directly to the phono RCA input of my Yamaha amp ).

While I generally enjoy the performance of my current audio setup, I find myself contemplating the idea of acquiring a standalone phono preamp. Occasionally, I don't find the vinyl playback as impressive as I'd like, and I'm uncertain about the quality of the built-in phono stage in the Yamaha RN-800a.

Another concern is the need to significantly (a huge lot) increase the volume when playing vinyl, which is somewhat inconvenient.
While some volume increase is expected with vinyl, it feels a bit more pronounced than I've experienced in the past.

So, I'm seeking advice on whether investing in a separate phono preamp would be beneficial for my setup and if it would address the volume issue, and what phono-preamp you guys would suggest?.

Furthermore, I've recently tested the Pro-Ject Tube Box S2 and, while satisfied with the sound, I was disappointed with the build quality as both units I tested experienced malfunctions.
Given this, I'm open to alternative suggestions for phono preamps that offer both quality performance and reliable construction, and bring added value to the current setup.
I'm btw considering something more or less in the price range of the Tubebox S2.


I appreciate any recommendations or insights you can provide. Thanks.
 

Godataloss

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If the output with the Blue is too low at 5.5 mV, you may indeed benefit from a different phono stage. Did the Tube Box solve your volume issue?
 
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mb10975

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If the output with the Blue is too low at 5.5 mV, you may indeed benefit from a different phono stage. Did the Tube Box solve your volume issue?
Hi Godataloss
Thanks for the response

The TubeBox indeed helped a lot with the volume, especially with the manually adjustable ohms at the back, and the adjustable gain at the front.
I also experienced a warmer, more detailed sound from it.

However, it's quite coincidental that I've had the chance to test two of these , and both experienced malfunctions during the process (they became exceptionally hot, the left channel frequently dropped out, until all the LED lights were on, and the device completely stopped functioning). A bit reluctant to go for this one.
 

Godataloss

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What gain were you running the S2 at? I see it goes up to 63 db which should blow you out of the room with normal amplifier levels and the Blue. Are you sure everything is electrically sound with your setup? Not having adequate volume with the Yamaha built in phono with that cart is also a red flag as is the melting down S2's. I'm not seeing specs on the phono stage of the Yamaha, but at that price point I would be surprised if it wasn't completely adequate. I'm currently running a turntable with my Denon 3800h AVR in my home theater system and it sounds great with the 2M Black which has the same 5.5 mV output. If it was my money, I would double check things with the built in phono and try to get that to your satisfaction. I think you would realize greater system gains by getting a better cart or better speakers if you are looking to spend money. Vinyl is the easiest way to add 'flavor' to your system, but you can quickly find yourself tossing heaps of cash at lateral movements if you don't have a proper goal in mind.
 
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mb10975

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What gain were you running the S2 at? I see it goes up to 63 db which should blow you out of the room with normal amplifier levels and the Blue. Are you sure everything is electrically sound with your setup? Not having adequate volume with the Yamaha built in phono with that cart is also a red flag as is the melting down S2's. I'm not seeing specs on the phono stage of the Yamaha, but at that price point I would be surprised if it wasn't completely adequate. I'm currently running a turntable with my Denon 3800h AVR in my home theater system and it sounds great with the 2M Black which has the same 5.5 mV output. If it was my money, I would double check things with the built in phono and try to get that to your satisfaction. I think you would realize greater system gains by getting a better cart or better speakers if you are looking to spend money. Vinyl is the easiest way to add 'flavor' to your system, but you can quickly find yourself tossing heaps of cash at lateral movements if you don't have a proper goal in mind.

I was running the gain at 43db (second lowest level). That was already more than enough.
I did not experience issues earlier with electricity, so I assume no issue there.
 

Blumlein 88

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This Emotiva unit is pretty neat, adjustable loading as well as MM or MC. They are quite small, but give the impression of a quality build in hand.
 

Godataloss

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I was running the gain at 43db (second lowest level). That was already more than enough.
I did not experience issues earlier with electricity, so I assume no issue there.
That is how it should be. If this is the case, then I expect there is something wrong with the setup or the actual phono section of the Yamaha so if you are unable to get that fixed, you need to find a new phono. If you like tubes, you could try to find a Parks Audio Budgie. They usually sell for near their original sale price of $500, but sometimes you can get lucky and find one on Ebay for less. I have one and it's very reliable and Shane at Parks has fantastic customer support. FWIW the 6922 tube doesn't add as much warmth as the 12ax7 in the S2 in my experience.
 

DVDdoug

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Occasionally, I don't find the vinyl playback as impressive as I'd like
The weak link is usually the viny records themselves. ;) Next would be your cartridge. But IMO - It's foolish to chase sound quality with inferior-outdated, analog vinyl.

and I'm uncertain about the quality of the built-in phono stage in the Yamaha RN-800a.
The main concern is usually noise (hiss or hum in the background). But again, once you start the record the surface noise of the record is usually worse.

You could also get frequency response deviations (imperfect RIAA equalization), and again, records vary a lot, phono cartridges vary (probably more than the preamp) and the frequency balance can be tweaked with bass/treble/EQ adjustments.

And of course, gain can vary.

Another concern is the need to significantly (a huge lot) increase the volume when playing vinyl, which is somewhat inconvenient.
While some volume increase is expected with vinyl, it feels a bit more pronounced than I've experienced in the past.
There's no calibration between vinyl and digital levels, or any other sources. If you have a high-gain preamp, or a hot cartridge, or a loud record, the record could be louder than digital, or louder than your TV or whatever.

Of course digital loudness varies too, and many CDs are victims of The Loudness War. (Modern vinyl too.)
 

golio

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Salut tout le monde

Je possède actuellement le matériel hifi suivant :

  • Récepteur stéréo Yamaha RN-800a doté d'un étage phono intégré.
  • Un ensemble d'enceintes Q Acoustics 3050.
  • Caisson de basse Rel T/5x.
  • Tourne-disque Yamaha Vinyl 500 amélioré avec une cellule Ortofon 2M Blue (au fait : je n'utilise pas le préampli intégré car la qualité sonore n'est pas excellente, à mon avis. Je connecte la sortie phono RCA non amplifiée du lecteur vinyle directement à l'entrée phono RCA de mon ampli Yamaha).

Bien que j’apprécie généralement les performances de ma configuration audio actuelle, je me retrouve à envisager l’idée d’acquérir un préampli phono autonome. Parfois, je ne trouve pas la lecture du vinyle aussi impressionnante que je le souhaiterais et je ne suis pas sûr de la qualité de l'étage phono intégré du Yamaha RN-800a.

Une autre préoccupation est la nécessité d'augmenter considérablement (beaucoup) le volume lors de la lecture de vinyles, ce qui est quelque peu gênant.
Bien qu'une certaine augmentation de volume soit attendue avec le vinyle, elle semble un peu plus prononcée que ce que j'ai connu dans le passé.

Je cherche donc des conseils pour savoir si investir dans un préampli phono séparé serait bénéfique pour ma configuration et si cela résoudrait le problème de volume, et quel préampli phono suggéreriez-vous ?.

De plus, j'ai récemment testé la Pro-Ject Tube Box S2 et, bien que satisfait du son, j'ai été déçu de la qualité de fabrication car les deux unités que j'ai testées ont connu des dysfonctionnements.
Compte tenu de cela, je suis ouvert aux suggestions alternatives de préamplis phono offrant à la fois des performances de qualité et une construction fiable, et apportant une valeur ajoutée à la configuration actuelle.
En fait, j'envisage quelque chose de plus ou moins dans la gamme de prix de la Tubebox S2.


J'apprécie toutes les recommandations ou idées que vous pouvez fournir. Merci.
j'ai un peu le même problème avec mon tourne disque, lorsque j'écoute un vinyle, je dois mettre le volume de mon Préamp Marantz plus fort et celui-ci semble un peu plus chaud que lorsque j'utilise un lecteur CD et faut pas oublié de baisser le son après l'écoute du vinyle au passage du CD , on peut faire un saut à cause du volume vraiment plus fort donc je me suis souvent demandé si je devais utiliser un préamp phono, on peut en avoir por vraiment pas cher et si on a pas besoin d'un préamp phono sur notre table tournante et qu'on en installe un , çà peux-tu nuire ?
 

Snoopy

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The weak link is usually the viny records themselves. ;) Next would be your cartridge. But IMO - It's foolish to chase sound quality with inferior-outdated, analog vinyl.

True as that all is, and I don’t doubt it there are still improvements with a good cartridge.. I believe a ML or Shibata stylus is way better for inner groove distortion and less prone to clicks and pops since the stylus is finer and doesn’t touch the grooves the same way a simple shape on cheaper cartridges does.

So something affordable like a AT95ML or AT540ML might be really worth considering.

But the basics that you need to get close to perfect for upgrades to even make sense are really something else… perfectly level turntable, setting the tonearm up correct, the cartridge, azimuth, antiskating , getting rid of static and cleaning the damn things.

And that’s all before getting into the Ridiculous stuff that some people do to their turntable.
 
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