Can a phono preamp amplify ticks and pops?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by russk, Apr 20, 2017.

  1. russk

    russk Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Syracuse NY
    I copied this over from a reply I made in another thread.

    I just got my iPhono 2 last week. I grabbed it because it was the quietest phono pre I have ever heard and I liked it's tonal balance and flexibility and gain. I was playing with it today and noticed something weird when comparing it to my Fisher 500c phonostage. Crackles, ticks, and pops seem more plentiful and louder through the iFi. Anyone else experience this difference between phono sections?

    So far I've played three different album sides to specifically compare an iFi iPhono 2 to a Fisher 500c phono section. What I have noticed is that either the iFi seems to amplify the ticks and pops and assorted surface noises associated with vinyl or the Fisher's phonostage supreses them some how.

    I first noticed this when playing a really nice and really quiet Australian pressing of the Stones "Big Hits High Tide and Green Grass" through the iFi. The LP has a few ticks and pops and a little lead in noise on a couple of songs. Nothing that really would be described as distracting and 90+ percent of the LP is dead quiet. I maintain my albums pretty well and they've all been cleaned on a Record Doctor RCM but when playing it through the iFi I really noticed the surface noise but mostly thought the actual ticks and pops were louder than normal. So I ran it through the the cleaner, spun another album then played the Stones album again and their was no change in the surface noise. So I went on to another album. The 2003 Black DSD pressing of Beggar's Banquet. It is by far the quietest album in my collection, Dead quiet all the way through and I had used it to listen to a Leben CS600 and RS30 ( brilliant combo) and I don't recall it being at all noisy. It sounded great, just like I recalled it sounding through the Fisher only with better bass and detail and just more realistic. But toward the end of Factory Girl I heard some surface noise that I had never heard before.

    So I hooked the Fisher up and played the sides of the albums that I noticed the noise on the most. The ticks and pops were noticeably quieter through the Fisher. By noticable I mean it sounded like I actually turned the Fisher from say 11 o'clock to say 10:30 or maybe a bit more. I played my RL copy of Back in Black and it sounded nice. A few ticks and pops on the lead-ins to the more popular songs but totally listenable.

    Put the iFi back in and played Back in Black and it was like the iFi was adding a little extra amplification to the ticks and pops and maybe even stretching them out a bit. Other than that he iFi sounds great, better bass, highs and detail and other than surface noise issue it is quieter than the Fisher.

    The iFi seems to make all surface noise a little more noticeable but the ticks and pops are definitely coming through louder than they do through the Fisher and there seems to be more of them. Has anyone ever experienced anything like this before when comparing phono sections? I never really thought that a phono pre would have much influence on surface noise. Does anyone have any ideas on how this is possible?

    I did put a little bit into my methodology with the last album I tested. I used an American Recorder SPL meter to level match to make up for any gain differences and the iFi was hooked through the aux input on the Fisher.
  2. blakep

    blakep Forum Resident


    Quality of phono stage and headroom among other things can have a huge effect on making surface noise & pops and clicks more or less noticeable.

    Increasing gain to unnatural levels will also naturally decrease headroom and thereby emphasize pops and ticks and surface noise as well but that is a setup issue more than a quality issue. Lots of listeners do themselves no favours by jacking up gain. They get crappy sound quality along with more emphasis of surface noise, pops etc.

    A quote from a thread at Audioasylum many years ago discussing this specifically:

    "If you look at pops and ticks vs. the music signal they tend to be much greater in magnitude and have nasty waveforms to boot. A design that has ample headroom in the input stage will be able to deal with the transient with less distortion and a faster recovery, thereby minimizing (but not eliminating) the tick or pop. A phono amp with poor headroom will actually make the ticks &pops louder and longer in duration as the gain stage distorts and recovers slowly."
  3. russk

    russk Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Syracuse NY
    So I've read this thread and a few others now. There is also mention that active preamps and preamps that use negative feedback have problems with ringing and exaggerate and prolong the ticks and pops.

    Has anyone done any listen to test this theory out. After spending the day with the iFi I'm already looking to upgrade it to something that does a better job with surface noise. Perhaps something all tube and passive. Any suggestions in the under 2K range?

    If this is a common problem with active equalization I'm kinda surprised it's not more talked about. The pre I was using before the Fisher was a Lehmann Black Cube which I just looked up and found out is a passive unit. I switched to the Fisher because I actually liked the way it played all my 60s and 70s LPs and even though I thought the Lehmann was more accurate with a bit better bass I felt it was a bit sterile sounding but I don't recall it increasing surface noise like the iFi. Find myself wishing I hadn't sold the Lehmann now.
  4. Bananas&blow

    Bananas&blow Forum Resident

    My phono pre-amp amplifies everything! UGH!
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  5. bluemooze

    bluemooze Forum Resident

    Frenchtown NJ USA
    What phono preamps have you heard that are not quiet? :)
  6. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    That makes sense. A preamp of any design will amplify any signal that is injected into it. Having higher gain and more NFB will cause the unit to respond louder and longer than a more simple design. I always choose a preamp with as little gain as possible to get the job done. If it is designed well and uses good components, it sounds more neutral and less peaky than higher gain units. They can also sound a bit smoother, softer without colorations. Other issues can be poor shielding and immunity to external noise, such that RF and EMI add to the extraneous noise during playback. Having adequate gain and a flat response helps with transparency but can also come with the side effects that you are experiencing. The fisher avoids surface noise by having lower gain and a frequency response that is not as accurate but more forgiving.
  7. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    russ, not necessarily on its own. amplified pops and ticks (assuming your alignment and VTF are optimized) is a function of stylus shape, cartridge gain and phono preamp gain all working as a system. since you already have a cartridge and stylus make sure your phono pre gain is adjusted to your cart output, e.g. the KAB calculator or slightly highet.
    russk likes this.
  8. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Forum Resident

    Tavish Design Vintage 6SL7 Phono Stage, $549/$669.


    Adagio Vacuum Tube Phono Stage (MM / MC), $1,690.


    I know that you don't seem to care much for Decware, but...

    I had intended to purchase the Tavish Design, Vintage 6SL7.

    Because I now have two Decware amps, I have decided to go with their tube preamp stage.

    Decware, Zen Triode Phono. $1,295.


    Although I have not listened to any of these, they all appear to be excellent tube phono-stages.
    Manimal, russk and Dennis0675 like this.
  9. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident

    There are so many variables to the use of a given phono stage in a particular system-- including cartridge, stylus profile, gain settings--that I'd be reluctant to conclude that there is a single answer to your question. My off the cuff reaction in your comparison to the Fisher is that the latter is probably "rounder"-sounding on the edges-- something that gives it a warmth that may also de-accentuate the abrupt pops and clicks and that the iPhono may be giving you more high frequency information, but at a sonic price (the emphasis of pops and ticks). But, that's pure guesswork on my part. I know a few folks- some with no real budget constraints- that are in constant search of the best sounding (in their system) phono stage-- and seem to be in an endless battle over improving clarity without losing the natural "decay" of the notes. But, that really isn't your issue. What I did find, in passing, was a thread on Audiogon about the iPhono that suggested replacing the switching power supply with a linear power supply, something that can probably be done pretty cheaply. (The only hi-fi system device I have with a wall wart is my Acoustic Revive Schumann generator and for that, I bought a relatively cheap variable bench power supply with a large toroidal transformer-- since the whole concept of the Schumann tone is borderline voodoo anyway, I'm reluctant to suggest that the linear supply made much difference in that context). Anyway, here's that Audiogon thread for what it's worth:
    review iPhono 2 | Audiogon Discussion Forum
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  10. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    More high-end detail = the more you hear ticks and pops. That might be due to the phono preamp, the settings on it, or other parts of your system.
  11. Catcher10

    Catcher10 I like records, and Prog...duh

    As avanti1960 stated, check your phono gain setting with the KAB calculator and use what they state based on the output of your cartridge. When I did this I actually backed my gain off another 4-5dB and found it reduced surface noise even more (naturally) but the SQ increased. If you want more "gain" just turn up the amp volume more.
    I agree, some users love to jack the gain to like 60-65 even 70dB.....overload!
    patient_ot likes this.
  12. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Burnout from the smoke pit

    I like the looks of that. Also, everything Decware is hard to beat.
    Manimal and SandAndGlass like this.
  13. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Forum Resident

    Tavish Designs makes two phono pre's around the $600 mark. The other one is called the classic and uses the more standard tubes.

    The designer is an ex-IBM engineer, responsible for many patents. If I hadn't decided to go with Decware, the Tavish would definitely be my choice.

    Right now, their Adagio is so popular, that they can't build them fast enough. Said to compete with units costing several times the Adagio's price.
  14. harby

    harby Forum Resident

    Portland, OR, USA
    To paraphrase a prior post of mine, dust ticks and clicks are high-frequency noise, the impulse of them is almost instantaneous, and the the better the high-frequency and ultrasonic response of the system, the more they will be emphasized over program material.

    The new phono preamp will have a different frequency response because of not only its quality of design, but because it provides a different impedance and capacitance load to the cartridge. Since the iPhono has the choice of adjusting capacitance when using MM (but only gives resistance adjustment with MC input) you might try those different settings on the DIP switches, or even see if the MC input and its adjustments are more pleasing. The gain setting is separate from, and applies to, both MM and MC inputs, so experimenting with the alternate input shouldn't blow your ears out.

    Here's a characteristic curve showing how higher capacitance (blue) can instead emphasize music's treble while rolling off the extremes that old ears might not hear unless they are distorted clicks.


    An ideal preamp would give you both resistance and capacitance load adjustment at the same time, but you'd have a burdensome infinite combination of adjustments to play with.
  15. russk

    russk Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Syracuse NY
    Lots. Most recently the Dynavector P75 mk3 (not the latest version). Project Phono Box S and anything by project I've ever heard. And compared to the iFi the EAR 834p and the Rogue Ares were down right noisy.
    doctor fuse and bluemooze like this.
  16. missan

    missan Forum Resident

    If we talk about normal pops and clicks, I would lean to that they are just better reproduced with this amp. Normally the amplitudes and freq involved are not any problems for a well designed phono amp. There should not be any clipping in the feedback circuit normally, I havenĀ“t seen this. And clicks freq are normally rather low.

    Run a steady tone at 10kHz -20dB and look at the normal clicks there is to be seen, with a normal FFT software.
  17. russk

    russk Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Syracuse NY
    Based on the specs of the iFi I don't think the Exact can overload it at 48db but I've tried it at 40db too and still experienced the same problem. My first thought was to wonder if the Exact just has too much gain for the iFi to handle since it is a fairly high output cartridge (6.5mv to 7mv is the spec I believe). I'm tempted to through my 2m Blue back on just to see.
  18. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Forum Resident

    I don't have much experience, at all, when it comes to TT's and cartridges.

    I will say this, the 2M Bronze is the quietest cartridge that I have ever listened to.

    Less background noise by far. And, I think that it is a nice sounding cartridge.

    That could go a long way toward taming your background noise.
  19. blakep

    blakep Forum Resident

    A 6.5-7 mV cartridge requires no more gain than about 32-34 dB. I see the iFi does have a lowest gain setting of 36 dB. I'd suggest you go to that and not even consider the other settings as you'd almost be guaranteed to be in overload either at the phono stage or ahead in the chain with your preamp/integrated with the 48 dB setting and quite possibly with the 40 dB setting as well. As well as improving things with pops/clicks and surface noise you're likely to achieve much better sound quality so it is a win/win situation all the way around.

    If you are a digital user as well, consider that it is quite likely that you'll have to turn your volume pot up higher on the analog side than when playing digital in this situation. This is quite normal, and trying to "volume match" digital with analog is, almost all of the time, a sucker's game that results in poor analog sound quality and other related problems like this.

    Bear in mind that most cartridges will output approximately 10X their spec'd value on musical peaks and more extreme clicks/pops would probably exceed that. The overload calculator in the KAB phono preamp calculator will give you an idea of how easily that overload spec can be achieved.

    I'm a moving coil guy so I'll leave others to recommend capacitance settings for the Exact if the iFi has them.

    I would respectfully disagree with the idea that the better the high frequency response of a phono stage, the more pops and clicks will be emphasized. Quality phono stages will achieve both better high frequency response while minimizing the effects of surface noise, pops and clicks in my experience although it may come at a price.
    russk likes this.
  20. russk

    russk Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Syracuse NY
    I have nothing against Decware I just like a more tubey sound. That preamp seems pretty nice. I noticed he talked about it being a passively equalized RIAA and that it doesn't use any negative feedback. Tavish is about a three hour drive from me. I've always been interested in their designs. My problem is that I am really getting the phono pre to run with my 5 watt SEP amp. It's a tube rectified Ef86 and EL84 amp that I'm currently running with e80f signal tubes. It has an input sensitivity of 1.3 volts so the math says an ideal gain match is 47db. I've always tried to stay within 2db of ideal when matching preamps and amps and of course avoid overload. But Decware still has like a two week trial I think so I might try that pre next. It looks like it has everything I like but the gain.
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  21. russk

    russk Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Syracuse NY
    The amount of gain required depends on the input sensitivity of the amp. I'm mainly buying it for a 5 watt SEP amp with an input sensitivity of 1.3volts. If it was a solid state amp with an input sensitivity of 500mv then I could get away with a gain of 36db or even 34db but feeding that little gain into my amp will suck out all the dynamics and really raise the noise floor. I will try the lowest setting though and see how it goes.
  22. Another suggestion is to play with the loading. When I load my cartridge at, for example, 400 ohms rather than the recommended 100 ohms the surface noise is much more pronounced.
    Joe Spivey likes this.
  23. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Forum Resident

    Check out the two Decware amps I have, the Mini Torii and the Torii Jr.

    These are both power amps, that can be driven by input voltages of less than today's general standard of 2-volts.

    Both of my Decware amps have two separate stereo inputs, meaning, without adding additional equipment, you can connect two different sources.

    In addition, there are separate volume controls for each channel.

    Since whatever source you are using, will have a sufficient output to drive the amplifier directly. Because of this, if you think about it, there is really no need for either a preamp section or a separate preamp, it is unnecessary.

    I use a wired, remote volume control between the 6SN7 tube preamp that takes input from the sources and feeds into one of the tube power amps, that I happen to be using, at the time.

    I have two ways that I can use to control the volume, going into the Decware amps. One way is the volume control on the 6SN7. The other way, is by a wired volume control that I have inserted between the preamp and the power amp.

    It is called a Control Freak and was made by Emotiva and now is a discontinued product.

    The other Decware amp, is the Mini Torii. It is a single ended pentode that uses 6V6 tubes and has a 3.9-watt output.

    They also make SET amplifiers.

    I agree with you on the EL84 power tubes. My Scott 222C uses 7189 power tubes that are in the EL84 family and I also like the nice tubby sound that they produce, running into the A7's.

    I only run the tube amps into the high efficiency speakers. The SS amps are perfectly alright for the 90-dB tower speakers.

    Both the Decware and the Tavish Designs, employ passive RIAA equalization.
  24. missan

    missan Forum Resident

    That is of course not possible. 0dB at 1kHz is a velocity of 5,6cm/s. That would mean a velocity of 56cm/s and an output 20dB higher. This is by far not possible to track.
    Also remember the possible velocity is very frequency dependent.
    The clicks and pops are normally in the region of 2-5kHz and normally not at a very high velocity, and the importance is also lessened by the RIAA.
  25. GuildX700

    GuildX700 Forum Resident

    When it comes to phono preamps having minimal accentuation of vinyl noises I use and can heartily recommend the old 1988 Adcom GFP565 preamp for MM phono use mainly because it has one of the best phono stages I've ever heard, even at 5X the price it is still stiff competition for any an all units even in this day and age.

    It is amazingly dead quiet for hum and noise and it sounds simply wonderful with MM cartridges, and record noise with this preamp is exceptionally low, it does not make any ticks, pops or other sounds come to the forefront.

    And the best part is it can be bought used for under $320 if one watches used sales.

    It's got plenty of inputs and outputs, and when running it in it's true bypass outputs most everything unnecessary is bypassed, only the vol and balance control are in the signal path & it is then also direct coupled with no final filter capacitors so it is true broadband with response down to DC. But, if your amp can't handle a signal that is not restricted on the low end as some can't there is also a norm output with high quality DC filtering caps.

    It has exceptional RIAA curve accuracy +/-0.1 dB and the phono section's S/N ratio is exceptional low at >95 dB which is better than many line level stages.

    It also does have a very good sounding line level stage, not quite as amazing as it's phono section, but still very good and again quiet with very low hum and noise, S/N is >100dB on line level.

    It's transparent and quite neutral in it's overall sound, and fairly flexible too with a decent array of inputs and outputs, as well as controls if needed when using the norm output.

    Considering it's 30 years old it still stands up against tons of competition and many times it's original and now used price. It has an exceptionally clean build with near everything mounted on one high quality glass epoxy board that is copper plated on both sides.




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