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Phono stages up to £2K.


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2 hours ago, montesquieu said:

My old Miyajima ETR-Stereo SUT had the ability to add capacitance through a knob (quite a lot of it, as you say quite different to the amounts used for MM). This was useful for some cartridges. Something more SUTs could benefit from.

I've been a fan of SUTs for many years ('ringing' is something that's perhaps measurable but not necessarily audible in my experience, at least not directly). However I currently use an Allnic HA5000 head amp which is a nu-vistor tube design. Gain is fixed at 30db so it's not really suitable for very low output designs like AN Io2 or even the FR-7f I had (I sold both and their respective high-ratio SUTs) but it's really superb with cartridges over 0.25mV. My Allnic H7000V has quite reasonable built in SUTs but the performance with the matching head amp is considerably better. Two inputs, which is handy as I have a pair of tonearms in operation. Of course nearly any solid state head amp would measure better than tubes but it all depends what you are aiming at.

Tubed LCR phono stages I have heard have on the whole been more satisfying musically, but while the Vida has its limitations, for me it was a rare solid state phono stage that I could managed to live with for an extended period. Many high-end solid state phono stages I have tried have buckets of detail, but no soul.  The Vida is an exception. I still have a soft spot for it.

I do remember your SUT shoot-out thread from AoS when I visited that forum and your "passion" for step up transformers . 

I've been brought up on digital replay , I listened to my brother vinyl occasionally but cd always sounded more correct to my ears , same with tubes I find them not to my liking in the source - cd or phono stage but I do like valves in the amplification , probably that's why we hear/like different presentation.

I heard few higher notch SUT's admittedly not in my system and I didn't found  the sound to be to my liking  , probably it's a time to try one  in my system for more extended period . 

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Just a side-question if I may.. what is the point of diminishing returns with phono stages? I mean, I find £500 a lot of money for such thing already and we’re talking £2000 already here. Is it compareable with integrateds amps (I believe that’s £3000 beyond which I find it very little in return SQ wise).

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13 minutes ago, Ceko said:

Just a side-question if I may.. what is the point of diminishing returns with phono stages? I mean, I find £500 a lot of money for such thing already and we’re talking £2000 already here. Is it compareable with integrateds amps (I believe that’s £3000 beyond which I find it very little in return SQ wise).

Everything is diminishing returns to some extent. I find it impossible to generalise, because it's all personal preference. To many people, it would be under £100. To me, it's a lot higher. It will also depend on how much vinyl is important to you, and of course also the cartridge in particular. My system is based around vinyl as a primary source, because most of my collection is on vinyl.

As a ballpark figure, I'd probably say that up to around £1500, the gains are substantial. Above that, possibly less so.

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3 hours ago, mac72 said:

I do remember your SUT shoot-out thread from AoS when I visited that forum and your "passion" for step up transformers . 

I've been brought up on digital replay , I listened to my brother vinyl occasionally but cd always sounded more correct to my ears , same with tubes I find them not to my liking in the source - cd or phono stage but I do like valves in the amplification , probably that's why we hear/like different presentation.

I heard few higher notch SUT's admittedly not in my system and I didn't found  the sound to be to my liking  , probably it's a time to try one  in my system for more extended period . 

Personal taste Slav. I was brought up on vinyl and valves, but I'm not fond of the 'lush' or 'laid back' sort of valve presentation. As for SUTs, I've always found a lot depends on the cartridge, as well as the phono stage, although to a lesser extent. To my ears, some cartridges seem to come alive with SUTs, whereas others don't gel as pleasantly. It may well just be my preference for presentation, but some low output Japanese cartridges (and notably the very low output ones) seem to come alive with an SUT, though a lot of care is needed over loading.

My current 50ANV has an output of around 0.1mV and of all the combinations I've tried so far, my old favourite of Hashimoto transformers and a valve gain stage suits my ears best. Fortunately not everyone agrees, or the price of the Hashi stuff would be even more painful...

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If I was paying 2 Grand for a Phono stage it had better support a fully balanced input and have load changing via relay switches whilst the device was powered on.

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21 hours ago, Ceko said:

Just a side-question if I may.. what is the point of diminishing returns with phono stages? I mean, I find £500 a lot of money for such thing already and we’re talking £2000 already here. Is it compareable with integrateds amps (I believe that’s £3000 beyond which I find it very little in return SQ wise).

£500 was my ,go-to, pricepoint for used electronics for ages, and I consider it a sweet spot if you are smart. One of the best value phono stages I had was a Welborne Labs clone which cost me exactly that (pre-owned).

Your system's overall cost will be a factor in what proportion you want to lay out for a phono stage naturally: roughly 1.5K front end, £500 phono, £500 pre, £1K amp, £1K speakers, give or take..

Graham Slee kit looks good value to me, if you are happy with SS.

Jack

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5 hours ago, MrSammy said:

If I was paying 2 Grand for a Phono stage it had better support a fully balanced input and have load changing via relay switches whilst the device was powered on.

Looks like you will be restricted to SS then, I know of no valve based phono that offers balanced input.

Plus load changing via relays isn't common.

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7 hours ago, MrSammy said:

If I was paying 2 Grand for a Phono stage it had better support a fully balanced input and have load changing via relay switches whilst the device was powered on.

Pro-Ject Phono Box RS

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C0313389-374A-45EE-ACF9-FE67C888D5F8.jpeg

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I'm old fashioned and pragmatic. I try and avoid any switches in the signal path, especially a phono-level signal. Apologies to anyone who may be easily offended, but DIP switches are about the worst thing to put in a signal path.

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Posted (edited)

^^^^^^

That makes sense to me Rabski, got to be honest I'd never thought of that before, you see so many phonostages with them, common sense has gone over the top of my head.

On 11/05/2021 at 21:33, Ceko said:

Just a side-question if I may.. what is the point of diminishing returns with phono stages? I mean, I find £500 a lot of money for such thing already and we’re talking £2000 already here. Is it compareable with integrateds amps (I believe that’s £3000 beyond which I find it very little in return SQ wise).

I purchased, as a temporary measure, a Sony ES amplifier because of the good reports about it and also it's phonostage abilities.  I didn't get on with the sound, too warm for my liking, and changed to a JVC, again good reports on the phonostage.  I have to say I got on ok with that amplifier, but when I changed to a separate phonostage the difference was night and day. The stage in question was an NVA which could be upgraded either with one or two power supplies, I listened at home and tried all three options, and each time an extra ps was added the improvement was not difficult to hear, so since then I've realised just how important a phonostage is to the overhaul sound of vinyl. Diminishing returns will always rear it's ugly head, but that happens with all pieces of hifi, and when you get to a certain level, more expensive is not necessarily better, for you or your system.

Edited by antonio66
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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, rabski said:

I'm old fashioned and pragmatic. I try and avoid any switches in the signal path, especially a phono-level signal. Apologies to anyone who may be easily offended, but DIP switches are about the worst thing to put in a signal path.

What's the alternative, Richard?

Jack NSM

Edited by Non-Smoking Man
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One of the easiest for adding loading components is additional loading sockets, with loading plugs fitted with the required resistor/capacitor.

Another alternative is gold plated pins (headers) and jumpers.

Also sealed small signal relays that are designed to handle very small signals.

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Also, I suppose, if you are using a SUT + mm phono, your gain is provided by the step up, avoiding one set of switches.

Jack

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For me, it's a box of bits and crocodile clips to test, then a soldering iron. I appreciate that isn't practical for most, so I'd agree with Alan that paralleled sockets and loading plugs are second best option.

DIP switches are practical, but get noisy very readily and don't have ideal contact surfaces. They were never designed or intended for low-level signal use and ended up there basically for convenience.

With an SUT, loading is still normally necessary. Initially just to reflect the secondary load as the ideal primary load to suit the cartridge requirements. After that, then ideally with a scope to look at HF artifacts and rigning in particular as Slav noted earlier. A lot of the time it works just fine and a little extra correctly calculated resistive load on the SUT secondary is good enough to damp anything.

Every setup is different. Issues come from distributed capacitance in the transformer, which is why the core material and winding techniques are crucial. Also, you need to take the whole circuit into consideration. Sticking a square wave signal into an SUT primary and then working out a simple resistor/capacitor value on the secondary with a scope to damp any rigning goes to hell in the real world, as the phono stage has an effect (as does the capacitance in the cables). If the first gain stage is a valve grid, then the Miller capacitance of the valve (and the value of any grid stopper resistor) will be enough to have a major effect.

A lot of the time, the combination of (high quality) SUT and valve phono stage works extremely well purely by accident, as the byproduct of the circuit is that it damps ringing.

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Not sure if it is a nationwide thing but in God's own county it is considered an insult if you call someone a "dip switch".

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