Phono stage question

tmurnin

tmurnin

Full Audioholic
So I know since vinyl has had its resurgence, we're naturally seeing a host of snake oil claims about various accessories improving the sound of a turntable miraculously and "opening up the music" beyond what one would normally hear. From my standpoint, I can certainly see benefits to improved tonearms/cartridges/styli/platters/subplatters of the turntable itself (within reason). However, my question is about the phono stage. I don't see any engineering or scientific reason why one phono stage would outperform another from an audio standpoint, assuming that both are adequately powered and matched to the appropriate cartridge (I understand that MC cartridges often require more power than MM ones), but would you get any actual audio benefit from upgrading a phono stage? I have a ProJect S2 phono box, which cost about $150, driving a Rega P2 with a Grado Prestige Gold cartridge, but I constantly see people spending $750+ on phono stages, and my local dealer swears by their SimAudio 110 at $400. Am I missing something? Is this just like the lure of expensive cabling or is there a real reason why my vinyl will sound better with an upgraded stage?
 
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sterling shoote

Audioholic Field Marshall
So I know since vinyl has had its resurgence, we're naturally seeing a host of snake oil claims about various accessories improving the sound of a turntable miraculously and "opening up the music" beyond what one would normally hear. From my standpoint, I can certainly see benefits to improved tonearms/cartridges/styli/platters/subplatters of the turntable itself (within reason). However, my question is about the phono stage. I don't see any engineering or scientific reason why one phono stage would outperform another from an audio standpoint, assuming that both are adequately powered and matched to the appropriate cartridge (I understand that MC cartridges often require more power than MM ones),but would you get any actual audio benefit from upgrading a phono stage? I have a ProJect S2 phono box, which cost about $150, driving a Rega P2 with a Grado Prestige Gold cartridge, but I constantly see people spending $750+ on phono stages, and my local dealer swears by their SimAudio 110 at $400. Am I missing something? Is this just like the lure of expensive cabling or is there a real reason why my vinyl will sound better with an upgraded stage?
I've wondered about it all too. Right now, my Shure V15V-MR with Jico SAS stylus on Boron coated cantilever is powered by the phono preamp section of my Sony TA-E9000ES Pre-Pro. I checked the specs of the phono preamp section and it appears to match the needs of my cart to perform well and in fact it does. In comparison and contrast of LPs to CDs of same music, there does not seem to be enough divergence in the sound between mediums to distinguish what I am listening to if it were not for the occasional snap, crackle, and pop heard from LPs. From this experience I conclude the phono stage built into the Sony Pre-Pro is getting the job done and this I find interesting since reviews I read long ago alluded to the Sony not having a remarkable phono stage. At any rate, I do not know what makes some phono preamps expensive but I do know it must not have a thing to do with sound quality when very cheap phono preamps work if they match the cart needs.
 
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sterling shoote

Audioholic Field Marshall
Doesn't really compare phono stages particularly, but an interesting test archimago did here
I believe a well recorded LP needle drop (especially at high resolution) does represent the actual sound produced by the turntable/cartridge/preamp - essentially 100% I agree. Every experiment I've done has had the same findings. Interestingly enough, I have a Shure M97xE and for the money it's awesome. I also have two Shure V15V-MR's. One has original stylus, the other has a Jico SAS stylus bonded to a Boron coated cantilever.. From my Technics SL-1210GR the Shure/Jico sounds best to me. The music just sounds smoother from high to low frequencies. At any rate, these days I just use the TT to digitize my growing inheritance of LPs because multi-channel SACDs and multi-channel downloads have spoiled me.
 
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davidscott

davidscott

Audioholic Samurai
I was very happy with my NAD preamp phono stage both a high output MC (Dynavector 10x3) and a V15type 4 back in the 80s and 90s. I would not have purchased a more expensive phono stage back then. These days with older used LPs the phono stage in my HK 3490 receiver sounds good enough with my REGA carbon cart. Maybe if I had pristine LPs and a better cart I would consider it. BTW I have a Planar 3 and love it!
 
tmurnin

tmurnin

Full Audioholic
I’m just trying to figure out if theres any engineering or science behind a claim that one phono stage sounds better than another. It doesn’t seem valid to me, but I’m also not an electrical or sound engineer
 
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sterling shoote

Audioholic Field Marshall
I’m just trying to figure out if theres any engineering or science behind a claim that one phono stage sounds better than another. It doesn’t seem valid to me, but I’m also not an electrical or sound engineer
It's all about matching the cart to the phono preamp. Some preamps are designed to accomodate the typical output of the average MM cart. If you have a cart which is not built to deliver that output but something else, there will be a mismatch unless the phono preamp is adjustable. Now, make that phono preamp infinitely adjustable for MC carts too and you've got a lot of electronics which can be costly. The bottom line is if you have a typical contemporary or vintage MM cart the non adjustable MM phono preamp built into vintage and most recent AVRs will satisfy. Of course, "most recent" is key since until now most Receiver/Integrated Amp manufactures eliminated the phono preamp in their offerings, since the TT was seen as obsolete and therefore the phono preamp was considered a needless function and unnecessary added expense to the cost of the amp. Thus, the TT revival caused the surge in phono preamp add-on need, and inexpensive one's have been made for the average MM cart demands.
 
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tmurnin

tmurnin

Full Audioholic
I get what you’re saying, but is a preamp like my ProJect S2 sonically inferior to one costing 4x as much? If I’m using my Grado cartridge or even if i upgraded to a Dynavector, I’m not sure I understand why the phono stage would improve the sound (assuming the models being compared aren’t junk to begin with, obviousl)
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
You could always just make your own....or delve into what goes into making one via the diyers' postings...

Overall, why so much concern about what you're using? I'd think you're pretty close to the line where diminishing returns sets in in any case. It's vinyl.
 
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sterling shoote

Audioholic Field Marshall
I get what you’re saying, but is a preamp like my ProJect S2 sonically inferior to one costing 4x as much? If I’m using my Grado cartridge or even if i upgraded to a Dynavector, I’m not sure I understand why the phono stage would improve the sound (assuming the models being compared aren’t junk to begin with, obviousl)
Just look at your phono preamp's specifications and then look at your cartridge specifications, the more they match the better the sound. For the most part this means no overload, which might induce clipping, or no need for gain to get noise free volume. When you have mismatches then the simple phono preamp becomes problematic. You either get a cart compatible to the phono preamp you've got, or you get a compatible preamp to the cart you've got. Generally this is something you do not need to think about since MM phono preamps are designed to work with typical MM cartridge output for no overload or gain concerns to achieve desired volume. In other words, in your case, unless you have noise at an average listening level where your ears are not glued to the tweeter you are good-to-go with your phono preamp.
 
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tmurnin

tmurnin

Full Audioholic
You could always just make your own....or delve into what goes into making one via the diyers' postings...

Overall, why so much concern about what you're using? I'd think you're pretty close to the line where diminishing returns sets in in any case. It's vinyl.
That's actually what I wanted to confirm. I keep hearing from people in the vinyl world that a better preamp would magically reveal elements in my music that had been missing before, but I suspected that was just snake oil by people who think amps sound differently. I don't know enough about phono stages to see if that is the case or not, which is why I was asking the question.
 
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sterling shoote

Audioholic Field Marshall
That's actually what I wanted to confirm. I keep hearing from people in the vinyl world that a better preamp would magically reveal elements in my music that had been missing before, but I suspected that was just snake oil by people who think amps sound differently. I don't know enough about phono stages to see if that is the case or not, which is why I was asking the question.
Here's something for you to read, it's about the Schiit Mani, a highly praised phono preamp. It BTW has a load rating of 47k ohms, so it matches MM carts with a load resistance of 47k ohms. http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/schiit-audio-mani-phonostage/
 

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