Advice for phono pre-amp upgrade (pluto u-turn)

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by sadguitarsolo, Sep 19, 2021.

  1. sadguitarsolo

    sadguitarsolo Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon, USA
    Hi

    I'm pretty new to this forum (or at least posting here). I'm also a budget enthusiast.

    I've had a pluto u-turn phono pre-amp since 2017. It replaced an old chinese tube pre-amp which was horrible. This one has been a bit better, but being in a larger room I notice it seems to lack... volume, punch, and anything really interesting. It also seems to sometimes pick up erroneous signals; I swear I've had it peek in on phone calls randomly thru the day when it's on the channel. I have to turn my amp (which is just a Yamaha RX-V381 AV receiver) up to like 90% to get it decently loud, and that gets hot. It all starts with my Technics SL-1200. I listen to mostly 60s and 70s rock and some 80s thru modern metal.

    I paid $80 for this pre-amp. I was looking to go up a step, which I guess would be between $200-350. I want a definite upgrade though.

    Hopefully this is enough information, thanks!
     
  2. Davey

    Davey NP: Eydís Evensen ~ Bylur

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    In what part of the world do you live? Helps to fill out some profile info. Lot of different audio markets around the world, though I guess the Pluto may imply the US. If so, my standard suggestion would be to look at Darlington Labs, but it has the same gain as the Pluto at 40dB, which is standard. You must have a low output cart?
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2021
  3. Bob_in_OKC

    Bob_in_OKC Forum Resident

    Location:
    Texas
    The phono preamp isn’t exactly the most likely candidate for a meaningful upgrade, depending on what the cartridge and speakers are.
     
    harby likes this.
  4. sadguitarsolo

    sadguitarsolo Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon, USA
    I've added some info, and even got a fancy avatar now. I have a AT120Eb cart, which needs replacing soon anyways. It has an output of 4.0 mv. I'm all ears for a recommendation if you think that would make more of a difference; budget being the same since I'd be keeping the pre-amp. Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2021
  5. Davey

    Davey NP: Eydís Evensen ~ Bylur

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    Oh, you may have the older version of the Pluto, I guess it was 36dB gain, and the newer model is 40dB. Not a huge difference, but will definitely sound louder.
     
    patient_ot likes this.
  6. sadguitarsolo

    sadguitarsolo Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon, USA
    Yeah I have the original.
     
  7. Bob_in_OKC

    Bob_in_OKC Forum Resident

    Location:
    Texas
    $350 would cover a pair of Wharfedale Diamond 225 from MusicDirect at their current discounted price. Aside from tax it would cover a Yamaha A-S301 integrated amp with built-in phono. That said, you could try a phono preamp with twice as much gain. Your budget would cover a Lounge Audio LCR MKIII.
     
  8. sadguitarsolo

    sadguitarsolo Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon, USA
    Thanks for the info. Which of those would be the most meaningful do you think?
     
  9. Bob_in_OKC

    Bob_in_OKC Forum Resident

    Location:
    Texas
    I think speakers. Besides the Wharfedale speakers, the Polk S20 and Cambridge SX-60 are in budget.

    If you want to address phono gain, too, there are a couple of inexpensive phono preamps with more gain than the Pluto, like the Rolls VP29. I don’t know if that one is good, just noting the 42dB gain. Art DJ Pre II gain is adjustable up to 45dB.
     
  10. sadguitarsolo

    sadguitarsolo Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon, USA
    I do have the Cambridge S30s already. I haven't compared specs yet but they have always been a favorite of mine for what they are. Thanks for your recommendations.
     
  11. sturgus

    sturgus Forum Resident

    Location:
    St. Louis Mo
    Have you looked at Graham Slee? They have a number of different models. You should not have a problem finding something that works for you in your budget. The best thing is they have an in home audition that you can try in your system for a few weeks. they will also send a few models to compare. If you have any questions you can check out their forum and Mr. Slee may answer your questions. If I can help in any way PM me. I also know the US rep who is a very nice guy.

    Try before you buy | HiFi System Components
     
  12. Pkcpga

    Pkcpga Audio Enthusiast

    I think the lack of dynamics is coming from the preamp/receiver combo. Your bookcase speakers are not very efficient, along with a 70 wpc at 2 channel class D receiver, lower quality/power preamp. I think you have to decide what to upgrade first and move along piece by piece. I’d say your turntable and cartridge are better then the rest right now. Worst in the chain is the preamp, then receiver then speakers. If you’re not using multi channel when it comes time to replace buy a better two channel integrated amp.
    The Rega Fono Mini is very dynamic and works well with your listed taste in music for a very reasonable price, the Rega Fono MM is a decent amount better but not sure you can find it even used in budget, most likely $400-450.
    Don’t be fooled, biggest mistake many people new to audio make, bookcase speakers are generally less efficient then floor standers and require more watts.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2021
  13. sadguitarsolo

    sadguitarsolo Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon, USA
    Thanks for detailed response. I've had pretty much all the same stuff for 8 years now, lol, except some TT upgrades and the cart, which I swap every now and then depending on usage. I DID use the amp for 5.1, which is now 3.1 because no space for satellites, which I could care less if it became 2.1, as I only use the center channel for movies anyways. Integrated amp does seem pretty cool. The only problem is I have a small house so dedicated turntable speakers are difficult so everything just comes out of the TV stand basically, hence the A/V receiver being my power amp.

    When you say less efficient that basically means they're requiring more power to push out the same amount of sound? Floor speakers with a dedicated power amp are on the eventual list, after 15,000 other things ;D So thanks for the pre-amp suggestions I think that's my most replaceable piece right now.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2021
    Pkcpga likes this.
  14. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    I think Pluto is actually 36 dB.
     
  15. Pkcpga

    Pkcpga Audio Enthusiast

    Yes many floor standers are more efficient, so they would use less watts to have more dynamic sound, not only more volume. My large Klipsch Forte IV’s can sound loud off 5 watts but with a bit more become extremely dynamic, while the slightly smaller Hersey will require a few more watts to sound similarly dynamic, they have a lower efficiency rating. I had KEF LS50’s that required over a 100 watts to sound dynamic and they were space saving bookcase speakers, sounded best with 150 watts class A amp that cost more then the speakers. It’s a catch 22, many bookcase speakers are less expensive and are less efficient, requiring more watts to have them sound best which costs more money.
    You would replace your receiver with an integrated two channel or two channel receiver, that can connect to your Apple TV, DVD player, record player, just make sure to chose one with enough and the correct inputs for you. If you kept your old receiver you’d have to get banana clips or something easy to swap on your speaker cables and swap them back and forth on the back of your receivers/amps or have two sets of speaker cables and swap them on the back of speaker. I had two speaker cables sets when I lived in nyc and had a 5 channel receiver set up and with the same speakers I used as a 2 channel with a turntable and a different amp.
    Rega Fono Mini is 47db verse yours is 36db.
     
  16. sadguitarsolo

    sadguitarsolo Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon, USA
    I can't decide if I'd want to visit someone's house with an amazing system and be amazed, or never visit and live in my own ignorant bliss :p. There's a reason I don't come on here often! I just want to know what you mean by dynamic... though I think I can safely say my system could use some help in that regard.

    Thanks. I was trying to find the Rega Fono MM, and one disappeared off eBay that literally just went up for cheap as hell, but they only really seem to be in the UK and a bit troublesome to acquire. But yeah it does seem my pre-amp is on the low output side.

    I assume there's a large difference between the Rega Fono Mini and the Fono MM? Perhaps any other models I can look at? Rega Fono Mini sounds like it might be perfect though.. cheap replacement, louder, and a bit nicer, than what I have.

    I wonder how much of a difference 9db @ the pre-amp would make volume wise? I've read the "twice as loud" thing... but in my mind I don't understand how it works when you add +9db to the pre-amp, but then you also got the power amp involved, if that's the same gain in the end?
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2021
  17. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    I can nearly guaranty that even the lowly Pluto may be a better phono stage than the built-in one of the lower-end Yamaha integrated, which is likely a $12 PCB.
     
    bluemooze likes this.
  18. sadguitarsolo

    sadguitarsolo Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon, USA
    I can't find any source stating the gain on any of the Rega stuff, or if the Rega Fono Mini A2D MK1 vs MK2 makes much of a difference. There is a local MK1 for $100.
     
  19. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    The cart you are using now, AT120EB, has 4.0 mV output, that begs for 43-45 dB of gain to sound good. You're giving it only 36 dB with your Pluto, which results in only 252 mV going into your receivers, as opposed to about 2.0 V from your CD player (if you have one) - almost ten times less. Hence the anemic sound.

    As you have said, your cart needs replacement soon. This was not a cartridge recommendation thread, but if you intend to get it replaced anyway - take a good look at the new AT-VM95-ML - at $169 people are raving about it. Or, a step above would be VM540ML for $249.

    The VM95ML has a 3.5 mV output which, from my personal experience works great with 47 dB of gain offered by Parasound ZPhono: $229 new in standard version, or $299 (now) in USB version, which will allow you to do vinyl drops, if you want.

    The VM540ML has 4.0 mV output, which will be even more dynamic with 47 dB of gain.

    You can probably find the Parasound used for less, to stay within your stated budget.
     
  20. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Rega doesn't list gain, among other things it doesn't list, like wow/flutter on their TTs. Neither, incidentally, does Parasound list their gain, but they list "input sensitivity" for the unit, so I worked the math backward to arrive at 47 dB gain. I'd also used that phono with the old AT95E, which has the same 3.5 mV output, and can vouch for the their good synergy/dynamics.
     
  21. sadguitarsolo

    sadguitarsolo Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon, USA
    That is awesome information, thanks. It makes sense, I've always felt I was desiring something from this set-up, esp. since moving it to a bigger room and playing louder as I have been recently. I appreciate the recommendations. I have to ask, are you plugging those numbers in somewhere or do you know that off the top of your head? :D
     
  22. Bob_in_OKC

    Bob_in_OKC Forum Resident

    Location:
    Texas
    I don’t think which is better is the issue. The Pluto might not be much different, other than being in its own box. If anything, the gain is the issue. However, a good integrated amp makes a positive difference and its internal phono preamp is ordinarily a fine match for that integrated amp. I think it’s a close call here between speakers and an integrated amp being the best upgrade for the money, rather than a separate phono preamp.
     
  23. Bob_in_OKC

    Bob_in_OKC Forum Resident

    Location:
    Texas
  24. sadguitarsolo

    sadguitarsolo Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon, USA
    I think you wiki-edited that in, because I spent 10 mins looking for it. Lol, thanks. It gets that way when you have 75 tabs open I guess.
     
  25. sadguitarsolo

    sadguitarsolo Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon, USA
    Interestingly enough, one of the reviews for the Zphono pre-amp is:

    "1.0 out of 5 stars 45db gain awful. This thing has a 45db gain. Your music will sound every bit as loud as your modern CDs."

    Perfect!
     

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