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Best Tube Phono Pre-amp under $400.00?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Massproductions, Sep 21, 2014.

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  1. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    Thanks. Guess I'll find out soon, ordered a Realistic 42-2101A this morning, am hoping for the best.

    As regards low-cost 'tube' phono preamps. The circuit topology is similar to 'starved tube' microphone preamp designs that had a tube follower/buffer after the solid state gain stage. The advantage for recording was a touch of soft limiting and an overall smoothing of the sound. However, resolution is degraded slightly with these sorts of designs compared to either well designed solid state or all tube designs. The two best phono stages I've heard, so far, are John Curl/CTC's "Blowtorch" design, J-Fets pushed to the wall with rock solid power supplies and the phono section of the old, all tube Scott 299b.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2015
  2. sami

    sami Mono still rules

    Location:
    Down The Shore
    I just picked up a 42-2101A as well. Can't wait to hear this thing.
     
  3. Ntotrar

    Ntotrar Forum Sciolist

    Location:
    Tri-Cities TN
    Opeth, Shel, ThorensSme and 1 other person like this.
  4. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    What I got was a Realistic 42-2101, not the "a" version, which appears to have a smaller footprint. Sounds decent enough, but more in a 'decent phono stage from a 70's receiver' way rather than a giant killer. I recall the phono stage of the NAD 3020 being more lucid. YMMV.
     
  5. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    I've had my Realistic 42-2101 powered on for a few days now—doesn't come with an 'on-off' switch so I suspect it's designed to be powered on continuously. After a few days I notice that background noise is receding into the background and a number of musical sounds are coming through that didn't come through before. Inner groove distortion doesn't seem as pronounced on old records, strumming and plucking on string instruments have more plausible textures. I guess I would recommend this old phono preamp over the 'decent' phono stages in the old Advent receiver, Nad 3020 and that ilk. Don't know how it compares to anything modern, but certainly an upgrade in my case.
     
  6. Slack

    Slack Forum Resident

    Yes it is best left on.
    I have compared it to a few modern preamps and preferred it to the Primare,Dynavector DV75,Creek.Yaqin MS22B .
    Just better clarity and imaging than any of them.
    That was feeding through a very good Supratek tube preamp.Perhaps in an all SS based system it might sound a bit lean?I would not describe it as rich sounding-more neutral but not dry.
    I think it is rhythmically very good and for me that is important.
     
    Robin L likes this.
  7. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    In mine it's downright skinny, but I suspect I can adjust that with a different interconnect between the phono pre and the receiver. Right now I'm using my brightest and shortest interconnect.
     
  8. sami

    sami Mono still rules

    Location:
    Down The Shore
    I'm running the 42-2101A with my SL-1500, which I primarily use for old singles and mono stuff. I think it sounds very nice - neutral would be a good description, with a lot of detail and a very balanced sound. Bass is nice and tight, and there is no distortion of any kind.

    All in all, not bad for a $15 investment. Thanks to Slack for the tip.
     
    Robin L likes this.
  9. Jack Flannery

    Jack Flannery Forum Resident

    Location:
    Houston, TX
    I have a ProJect that is good. Not as good as my Ares but a whole lot cheaper.
     
  10. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    Update—have had my Realistic 42-2101 powered up for over a week. That spurious brightness has gone away. The NAD 3020's phono stage didn't have this kind of dynamics or this fine a focus. While the sound could still be described as 'lean', there's plenty of finesse in the midrange. My old Dinah Washington and Frank Sinatra LPs have much more detail and dynamic life.
     
    sami likes this.
  11. sami

    sami Mono still rules

    Location:
    Down The Shore
    I never had the brightness you speak of with mine, but I completely agree with your description. I continue to be impressed with the performance of this little gem. I'm going to try it with my JVC and some newer vinyl and see how it performs.
     
  12. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    I suspect what I was hearing initially was due to capacitors re-forming. It's entirely possible that my unit hasn't been turned on for a long time before I got my mitts on it. Initially there was a 'tizzy', zippy top end. But not now.
     
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