Cartridge or phono pre?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by olschl, Sep 13, 2017 at 2:01 PM.

  1. olschl

    olschl Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
    In my system My Denon DL-301 III is my favorite cartridge and I connect it through an Emotiva XPS-1. If I had say $500 to spend; which would I upgrade and to what? I'm trying to make an audition plan. I'm not looking for subtle improvement.
     
  2. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Well-Known Member

    Location:
    East Bay, CA
    What turntable are you using?
     
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  3. olschl

    olschl Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
    Oracle Alexandria MK III with a Sumiko Premier MMT.
     
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  4. Daddy Dom

    Daddy Dom Well-Known Member

    Location:
    New Zealand
    How is your equipment sited?
    Sometimes we can get huge gains by making sure everything is placed correctly and isolated etc. before spending a cent.
     
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  5. olschl

    olschl Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
    What I am asking is what are people's opinions about the degree of impact on SQ with all other things being equal. I've done everything within reason to optimize the rest of mt system and listening space. Experimented and tested over and over. I'm pretty happy with it. LP playback is about as good as SACD or Blu Ray audio, so I don't know what compels me; but I always like to have a plan. Right now I'm leaning toward a Hana EL; but the XPS-1 was such a bargain I'm wondering if something 3x the cost could knock the snot out of it.

    I appreciate all contributions!
     
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  6. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    You might take a moment and fill out your profile. People can evaluate your matching.

    How do you think your cartridge works with your arm? Many people find an SUT a great way to bring up a low output signal. I suspect the preamp or combination of preamp and SUT would make a worthy difference.

    If your effective tone arm mass is 18-20 g, and the compliance on the cart is around 22, you may have a rather low resonant frequency for the combo.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2017 at 12:57 PM
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  7. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Forum Resident

    The Emotiva is going to be hard to beat, unless you are looking to spend a significantly more money on a better SS phono-pre. And, it already has the benefit of having a SUT already built in and ready to go.

    This is speaking from personal experience. I have their remote controlled, analog input extender and it has the XPS-1

    Ttavish Design's, has two tube models, the Classic, starts at under $600, with standard tubes.

    They make a Vintage model, with 6SL7 tubes, that runs a little bit more.

    They also have available tube upgrades, which will increase the price.

    I had intended to purchase the Vintage, but I ended up with a pre-loved Decware tube phono-pre, partly, because I have two other Decware power amplifier's.

    [​IMG]

    This is the Vintage version, it can also be used with MC cartridges.

    There is a nice C|Net review by Steve Guttenberg, a few years back.
     
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  8. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
  9. Daddy Dom

    Daddy Dom Well-Known Member

    Location:
    New Zealand
    My thoughts on this are, the higher up you go with cartridges, will the Emotiva be able to keep pace with the quality?

    So, personally, I would put my spend on the phono stage so the benefits of every cart upgrade can be enjoyed as I go along, otherwise you risk the dreaded "bottleneck". FWIW, it is not uncommon among many Linn users to use a cheap AT95 MM cart (-$50??) because their phono stages really make anything sing.

    I use the Graham Slee Era Gold V MM and Reflex C MC stages, they are just fantastic, highly recommended and very well priced. There are cheaper models than these although I have no personal experience. This news is fresh off the innernet.
    in Analog Planet poll
    15 year old original Era Gold V phono stage beat off a $4500 rival, winning by 1 vote in an eight phono preamp poll.


    The Hana carts seem to be pretty well liked, as well. It's just so hard to get any mass opinions when something is reasonably recent to the market.
    DD
     
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  10. Funky54

    Funky54 Forum Resident

    I was where you are. Your cart and phono stage are equal in capability. If it were me, I'd up the phono stage first. The Emotiva stage is well reviewed and seems like a good one. But I would not think it would let you see full potential of a better cart. You "might" like a different vibe with a romantic tube phono stage like an EAR or one of the EAR knock offs like the dauk audio one. I'm not saying the EAR is better than the Emotiva, but it would be different, and you might like that.

    I had a Yaqin ms12b that I still love. It has a wonderful sound. Tube rolling allowed for fine tuning to compliment your cart, speakers, amp or even music choice. I replaced the Yaqin with a rouge audio perseius atlas tube preamp at like 5 or 6 times the money. Yes it does things that the Yaqin could not. But that Yaqin really did some things right too. I had to tube roll a lot and buy some really nice tubes to gain back what the Yaqin could do. Now it can do more than the Yaqin, but I'm not sure if it was worth the money. I have greater detail and much of the same romance or tubey sound.... but it cost me considerable.

    What you have is a lot of bang for the money. It's going to take a lot of money to gain something worthwhile.
     
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  11. olschl

    olschl Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
    I am a detail junkie, so I wasn't thinking of tubes; but I guess I do owe it to myself to audition some. Maybe a hybrid like the Vincent PHO-701? As well as the Tavish, which I'd never heard of before. Thanks SandandGlass.

    Some of the SS models that intrigue me are the Clearaudio Nano V2, Musical Fidelity LX LPS, and iFi iPhono and Trichord Dino. If I tried to demo them all I'd be on the road for a month. Would anyone like to help me narrow it down? My preamp has no phonostage so I need MM & MC.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2017 at 5:39 PM
  12. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Forum Resident

    I bought the Emotiva, both because my version, for about another $125, I could get an analog input extender, and one with a wireless remote control, plus a needed phono-preamp.

    This was to be used on a temporary basis with a Dual 1219 TT and vintage Sure V15 Type 4 cartridge.

    It sounded quite fine with the above mentioned combinations. Absolutely no complaints about the SQ.

    I did intend to retire this phono-pre, in favor of a decent tube pre and keep this product as a back-up.

    In the meantime, I had an excellent opportunity to purchase a pre-loved, Vinyl Nirvana, Thorens TD-160 Super TT, with a Ortofon 2M Bronze (which I found to be a beautiful cartridge match with this TT).

    I decided, that I would have to be stepping up my time frame and my budget to about $500-$700, and ASAP.

    In the meantime, the TD-160 Super, was being played through the Emotiva. Sounded really fine. But then I was wanting to hear the "Black" version.

    With that in mind, I found a Black stylus, slightly used, in Germany, at a very attractive price, so I bought it.

    There was a thread already going on the Bronze VS. the Black, so I decided to throw in a first impression's review of those two cartridge combinations. I did the review, which I posted to that thread, with the Emotiva phono preamp.

    This was used with three different cartridges and I had no issues with the SQ.

    Now, having a Decware tube product that is about 7X more expensive, than the Emotiva, I still maintain my take, that the XPS-1 can hold it's own against anything in, not only it's price range, but can compete strongly with products costing 5X as much!

    NO!

    [I'm moving to all tube amplification for the A7's. This has involved a decision to go a different direction with SS, with tube vs. SS. With tube amplification, you do usually have to make more of investment than SS. It is also more costly to maintain tube components, compared to SS, that is why I was budgeting a lot more money for the tube side of things.

    There are some really nice SS phono stages out there and I have nothing against them. I think that @Daddy Dom 's link in the previous post, illustrates this.

    Just spending substantially more money doesn't, in itself, mean that something is of "better" quality, just because it might happen to be 3X more expensive.
     
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  13. blakep

    blakep Forum Resident

    OP's table and arm appear to be quite reasonable and should be a pretty good match with the Denon, particularly if the MMT has fluid damping capability.

    My money would definitely be on a phono stage upgrade as opposed to cartridge and used phono stages are much less of a risk than used cartridges; $500 should buy a pretty nice used phono stage that I would expect to dramatically better the Emotiva.

    The 301's higher internal impedance needs to be considered as ideally you would probably want a phono stage with the ability to load somewhere between 300 and 400 ohms and deliver around 57-60 dB of gain.

    The 301 and Emotiva are probably both high value products but on a relative basis my expectation would be that the Denon is the higher value/performance proposition of the two.

    This would appear to be a no brainer to me.

    Phono Stage
     
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  14. olschl

    olschl Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
    Done. I think. Can you see it?
     
  15. gekados

    gekados Active Member

    Location:
    Uppsala, Sweden
    I would for fun suggest a Thorhauge Riaa with step up.
    These units are fairly cheap and have an outstanding performance.
    Would rate his 'low-cost' mm stage nearly as good as an ear834p. For half the price of a secondhand 834..

    [​IMG]
     
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  16. olschl

    olschl Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
  17. olschl

    olschl Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
    It seems Tavish is sold out of assembled products.
     
  18. Funky54

    Funky54 Forum Resident

    The Vincent is horrible. I had a very tough time replacing the Yaqin preamp. I took it to work where it battled with about 7 different preamps and then all over again with another cart. It always easily beat out the others, Lounge, McIntosh, rega, Vincent, aric Audio, and a few others. The worst was the lounge followed by the Vincent. I tried them all with a rp9 and a goldring 1042 and then with a AT33ptgii and two different SUT's. Then on another occasion on my Roksan Radius and then again with a ikura table.
     
  19. swvahokie

    swvahokie Well-Known Member

    With that TT, I would recommend you save up for a Sutherland KC Vibe. 895, but it is a simplified version of his high dollar stuff. Uses a lot of the same parts, and it is dead quiet. I mean full gain, speaker to the ear and no noise.
     
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  20. delmonaco

    delmonaco Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sofia, Bulgaria
    I had a look on your setup info, and although I cannot give an opinion about the Emotiva XPS-1, nor about your speakers (don't have any experience with both), I can say that Denon DL-301 III is a great cart, and your Primare amp have a potential, but it's very tricky in matching other components (I had one of those at home for few weeks and didn't quite manage to make it sing...) So perhaps you have to test different phono stages with your amp in order to find the perfect match. So my vote is - spend the money for a phono stage, but not without auditioning.
     
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  21. bluemooze

    bluemooze Forum Resident

    Location:
    Frenchtown NJ USA
    Keep saving until you have $1000. Until then, your current cartridge and phono preamp should give you a very satisfactory listening experience. Good luck. :)
     
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  22. olschl

    olschl Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
    Thanks. Probably the best idea. However, I probably won't be able to wait. The flesh is willing; but the spirit is strong, to totally mangle an old saying.
     
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  23. olschl

    olschl Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
  24. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    I look at it like this, your phono stage is going to be with you for as long as you care to have it. Any upgrade you make with a cart is going to be limited by the phono it is connected to. Getting too far in front with your cart is the wrong sequence for an upgrade. For $500 you can buy a used phono that sold new for at least $1,000, will be as good as a new one and a big upgrade over an Emotiva. With carts personal preference is a great variable but generally speaking, a new $500 cart isn't going to be all that much better than a 301.
     
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  25. olschl

    olschl Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
    Which ones would be a big upgrade in terms of detail, realistic tonal balance, and soundstage? Have you ever heard the XPS-1, BTW?
    I've eliminated Yaquin, as they don't seem to offer MM/MC
    Tavish seems to have stopped manufacturing.
    Thorhauge would be tough to find or support in USA.
    Sutherland is interesting. I'll keep an eye out or maybe try a home demo.
     
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