Realistic 42-2101/42-2101-a Phono Preamps

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Robin L, Aug 12, 2015.

  1. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    The thread on best tube phono pre-amps under $400 has a number of posts by forum member 'Slack' mentioning the old Realistic 42-2101a phono stage:

    [​IMG]

    http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threa...-amp-under-400-00.382960/page-2#post-12808066

    This is a unit from the seventies, as far as I can tell. Slack said that the pre-amp is competitive with modern, much higher priced phono preamps.

    I ordered the earlier 42-2101 via ebay, it arrived last Thursday:

    [​IMG]

    Right out of the box, the preamp sounded average, like the phono stage of your typical 1970's receiver. As you can see, there's no on/off switch on this side of the unit, the other side only has a captive non-polarized a/c plug/cord and a ground terminal.

    [​IMG]


    The phono pre-amp took several days to warm up. It's on the bright side, which helps with my cartridge of choice, the Shure 97xe. It also seems to reduce subjective levels of background noise, images very well and has strong bass. As Slack pointed out

    I wonder if anyone else on this forum has used this preamp or the follow-up "a" version. Mine was $30 + $13 of shipping. I'm very happy with mine.
     
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  2. I use the first one you have pictured and preferred it to the Hagerman Bugle I built by a very wide margin.
     
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  3. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    How much did the Hagerman Bugle cost? What makes the 42-2101a different from the Bugle?
     
  4. royzak2000

    royzak2000 Forum Resident

    Location:
    London,England
    This was just about as cheap as you could get at one time, not even classed as hi-Fi. Would love to hear one now, have heard some cheap Japanese ones from the same time that sounded very good, wonder if it was based on the same ideas.
     
  5. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    My understanding is that it's a very simple circuit based on FETs. I guess there's a schematic, wonder what the working voltage is for the circuit. I'm thinking of getting another one and building a gel-cell based battery power supply for it.
     
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  6. royzak2000

    royzak2000 Forum Resident

    Location:
    London,England
    That's a good idea, power supplies are so important, give us some feedback. I used a very reasonably priced, for the time, Denon with some quality cartridges for some time.
     
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  7. TerryB

    TerryB Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Calais, VT
    I picked one of these up as a result of the thread as well. Played some records yesterday and it does sound very nice. I haven't really run it head-to-head against my usual stages, a modified Cambridge 640P and the internal stage on my Scott 299.
     
  8. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    I'd love to know. So far, of all the phono stages I'v actually had in use for prolonged periods, the Scott 299b's phono stage was the most musical, the least mechanical. I suspect that the Realistic-2101 is not in that league, but as it will cost about $500 to get my Scott up and running again.
     
  9. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    I can't recall any component I've owned that's taken this long to burn-in. That is to say, the sound continues to improve after being powered up continuously for over a week. The spurious brightness seems to have gone away. However, because the Realistic 42-2101 is more dynamic than other phono preamps and phono preamp sections I've used, brass sounds pop out further from the mix. Metallic sounds come through more powerfully. At the same time, there's nothing metallic about vocal sounds, and strings, which can and often do sound metallic in real life, alternate in sound character in a realistic way. I seriously wonder if anyone has taken the trouble to modify this preamp of upgraded parts. I suspect this preamp would be a candidate for DIY modification.
     
  10. OcdMan

    OcdMan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland
    I also had the first one pictured and was always impressed by it. I definitely prefer the Hagerman Bugle but the 42-2101a was surprisingly good. I don't recall it having a particularly accurate frequency-response when I checked it with an inverse RIAA filter. The input impedance was 55k Ohms and it's capacitance was high enough that my moving-magnets were automatically going to sound plenty different from the Bugle with its 47k Ohms and very low capacitance, but the Realistic produced a nice, pleasing sound.

    I found a link to some documentation including specs here.

    I have a hunch this preamp matched up perfectly with the Shure V15-RS cartridge.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2015
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  11. charlie W

    charlie W Forum Resident

    Location:
    ATX North
    I have that top one now. Haven't used it in years but I did use to transcribe vinyl records from turntable directly to computer until I got an AVR with a phono input.
     
  12. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    A Radio-Shack badged iteration of Shure's venerable V-15 series?
     
  13. OcdMan

    OcdMan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland
    Yes, pretty much. As I understand it, it used an older design internally than the Type V. But the stylus assembly had all the tech that Shure was famous for: hollow tapered beryllium shank, hyper-elliptical stylus, low tracking force, and very high trackability.
     
  14. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    The Shure 97xe is close to the V-15 series in many parameters. Interestingly, my Shure 97 [stylus replaced 2 weeks ago] comes through with more in the top octaves than previously. The sound is half-way to what I expect from Audio Technica's AT 44o or 120 cartridges. Which is just about right. And sibilance is tamed to where it sounds natural on good recordings. However, if the LP is worn out, distortion becomes more obvious.
     
  15. OcdMan

    OcdMan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland
    That sounds about right. Nice. Sibilance probably improved some with the new stylus even before the preamp change?
     
  16. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    Not much. Nothing like this.
     
  17. OcdMan

    OcdMan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland
    That's cool. So I guess your other preamp was overloading during harsh sibilant sounds?
     
  18. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    That's one model. And it wasn't just one phono preamp, it was three different ones. Overloading with a Shure 97? I don't think so. I think more like innate distortion. But more to the point, it demonstrates the sonic goodness of the Realistic preamp.
     
  19. George Blair

    George Blair Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, OR
    I just hooked up one of these, with a Project Debut Carbon - Ortofon 2M Blue. Am comparing with my previous Cambridge 540, but I think burn-in is required, as it seemed a bit on the brighter side out of the box. Only cost me $20, so not a big gamble really. Actually sounds really good, but I'll need to do a bunch more listening to make an informed judgement.
     
  20. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    Like I said before, haven't owned anything else that required more burn-in.
     
  21. Jim T

    Jim T Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mars
    ---------------------------------------
    Looks like old Shure used in many radio stations back in the day. Maybe just a rebadging?
     
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  22. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    Probably, seeing as most RS product was re-badged.
     
  23. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    OK, I've got one of these on the way, to use to fill in while mine is in the shop or for the kid who bought my speakers and now has a vintage integrated that “won't work”. Either way, I'll enjoy giving it a listen.
     
  24. djohannesen

    djohannesen Member

    Location:
    Olympia
    Is there a trick to getting the 2101a apart? I found one on the bay but it's power cord is kinda funky and needs replacing. (Pinched in a cabinet from the looks of it.)
     
  25. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    This looks similar but not identical. My preamp has a slider switch with two positions and there are 1/4" jacks for microphones:

    [​IMG]
     

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