Rethinking Phono Preamp Gain Settings

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by avanti1960, Jul 8, 2017.

  1. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    All I can say is you sometimes see an original Piccolo around and it is not a plastic case. It has that NASA 1962 sort of sexy that is hard to find these days. Nice cart. Hope you get it dialed in and enjoy it.
     
  2. Phil Thien

    Phil Thien Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    MoFi StudioPhono maybe fits the bill, and could replace the Musical Fidelity for a single box solution that isn't too expensive.

    Has subsonic and mono switches, too. Nice features to have.

    There are people out there using them at the max (66db) gain and not having any noise issues.

    Just tossing that out there.

    I believe at least some of the places that have them feature a no hassle return. I got one at Abt, which does have zero hassle returns. But I kept mine.

    I have a few phono stages. I think the StudioPhono is my favorite.
     
    nvilletele likes this.
  3. Ontheone

    Ontheone Drifting Towards the Dead Wax

    Location:
    Indianapolis
    Yes, now as I retrace the thread (which I had not read all of) I see that's challenging. I use a tube phono stage and wouldn't choose a cart less than 0.3mV as noise would inevitably creep in with the high gain needed for 0.2mV. I find that 0.4mV-0.5mV carts seem to be the sweet spot for my setup. The closest my setup (between phonostage and SUT) could get would be is 62dB and 30 ohms or 63dB and 2.5 ohms, both of which would probably be insufficient for that cart.
     
  4. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    +1. Piccolo will work fine. The only reason I suggested the Tube Box is I thought you were looking to replace the MF
     
    nvilletele likes this.
  5. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Wait, you mean thre is something impossible for the Zesto SUT, after all?
     
  6. Ontheone

    Ontheone Drifting Towards the Dead Wax

    Location:
    Indianapolis
    Yep, with my tube phonostage it wont let me run it like a SS stage which no one would want to do anyway due to noise at very high gains. If I got something like a Whest phonostage the Zesto SUT would let me run at 68dB gain for instance while dialing in a very large range of loading.
     
  7. nvilletele

    nvilletele Active Member

    Location:
    New City
    It’s not so much that I was looking to replace the MF V90, it was just that I don’t want to spend too much more money. But I guess in things like these, having one unit is usually better than combining two units to achieve a desired result.

    I had read about the MoFi StudioPhono (maybe after purchasing the V90-LPS, no longer sure), and saw that it was very highly regarded. This was before I encountered more info about gain and recalling how low an output the Karat has. While I had just now been thinking about the Piccolo, given the 64-74db recommended gain for the Karat, the 66db top gain option on the PhonoStudio just might be the best solution for me. .

    I purchased the V90 from Music Direct in Chicago, and they carry the PhonoStudio as well. I’m now thinking of giving them a ring tomorrow morning and seeing if I can return the V90 and get the PhonoStudio.

    Any final thoughts or countervailing considerations before I go that route? Though we haven’t discussed the StudioPhono much here, based on the specs and what I have read here and elsewhere, I am feeling like I have made a decision. (Change my mind?)
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020
    avanti1960 likes this.
  8. psulioninks

    psulioninks Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midwest USA
    To get the gain you will need to make your cartridge work for you, you're going to need a SUT or a phono preamp of much greater expense than what you have with the MF unit. Ultimately, you would want a unit that allows you to adjust gain and loading as each will have affect the sound quality (and volume) you get from your phono cartridge. For a lot less cash, it might make sense to just go a different route with another less expensive cartridge and try it with your MF phono preamp. There are lots of good cartridges available for $500 or less. Just a thought...
     
  9. nvilletele

    nvilletele Active Member

    Location:
    New City
    Well, not a bad thought. But I just checked the return policy at Music Direct, and it seems I can return the V90 I bought and purchase the Studio Phono, for only $120 more, plus the cost of return shipping, which won’t be significant. The StudioPhono has adjustable gain and loading, as I understand it, so with only a small additional outlay I get a more flexible preamp, which can handle the Karat and other carts, for only around $130 more than I originally paid. Then I don’t need now to buy another cart, and can just use the Karat, which I really would like to do.

    From what I have seen the PhonoStudio is at least as well regarded as the V90 LPS.
     
    FalseMetal666 likes this.
  10. psulioninks

    psulioninks Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midwest USA
    Yup, you can always return it as well if it doesn't work out.

    The biggest issue you face is the fact that most phono preamps are really only designed to effectively handle moving coils with a minimum output of 0.3mV. That's why so many cartridges have this spec and so many phono preamps top out at around 60dB of gain at their highest setting.

    At any rate, be sure to let us know it works for you!
     
    nvilletele likes this.
  11. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Just keep in mind you will hear more noise when you jack up the gain to max on the Studio Phono vs. running an MM cart at 40db gain. If you want high gain and low noise, expect to spend a lot more on an MC phono preamp.
     
    nvilletele likes this.
  12. psulioninks

    psulioninks Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midwest USA
    Very true...and you can spend more money and still not get gain above 60dB - quality high gain in a phono preamp is not easy (or cheap) to come by.
     
    patient_ot likes this.
  13. nvilletele

    nvilletele Active Member

    Location:
    New City
    Well, what if I still want to use the Karat cart? Would use of the Piccolo 2 with the MM side of the V90 be better in this respect than going with the StudioPhono or other reasonably priced MC preamp?

    And as I have mentioned, I do already have an AT15Sa which I understand is reputed to be a very good MM cart.
     
  14. FalseMetal666

    FalseMetal666 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    I bet it would.

    The purpose-built circuit of the Piccolo, running into the MM section of the V90 would give you the gain and adjustability you need. Never used a head amp myself but the Piccolo (and Hagerman generally) has a sterling reputation.
     
    nvilletele likes this.
  15. nvilletele

    nvilletele Active Member

    Location:
    New City
    As the risk of repeating myself, I find I am consistently getting very good and very useful advice here. Often times at forums there are lots of arguments and opinions, but all of you kind folk have been very helpful in one way or another.

    So very much appreciated.
     
    psulioninks likes this.
  16. FalseMetal666

    FalseMetal666 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    It is a very civilized forum. All the good folks here just want every home to be filled with music.
     
    Benzion likes this.
  17. psulioninks

    psulioninks Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midwest USA
    A unit like the P2 or other SUT should allow you to reach the gain necessary for your cartridge. It will then just depend on how quiet the SUT is and how it integrates into your system. I used a nice SUT once with my phono preamp and Shelter MC cartridge. However, I had extra noise I could never get rid of due to another device (more cables, more potential ground loops, etc.) and I eventually just spent more money on a dedicated MM/MC phono preamp that could do everything I needed.

    Not knocking or discouraging the use of a SUT or MC headamp...it may be worth trying if you want to stick with your MF phono preamp.
     
  18. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    You'd have to try it to be sure. Ask about the return policy on the Piccolo before buying. Typically an MC headamp + MM preamp is going to be better than using a cheap MM/MC unit. The only concern I'd have about the Piccolo is the plastic box. That may make it susceptible to interference depending on your living situation. I would look for a similar product in a metal box instead. The Rothwell headspace is a similar product that is fairly popular. They have a few U.S. sales outlets if you search around. Also inquire about the return policy before buying.
     
  19. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Agree on this. Inexpensive phono stages tend to hum at high gain levels a lot more than a combination of head amp + MM phono stage.
    Hagerman Piccolo at 26 db + your V90 at 40 dB will likely be quiet, as opposed to the MoFi at 66 dB.

    Notice I say "likely", as I haven't heard the Mofi, but from my own experience, I'm pairing the Piccolo with a unit that is capable of 63 dB, but there it's noisy. Yet same unit at 43 dB + Piccolo is way quieter.
     
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  20. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    I haven't had interference issues with the Piccolo yet, but just in case I have it sitting on a piece of rubber foam matting. I did have interference/humming issues with the Cornet phono, but also solved it by putting it on rubber foam matting and isolating all its cabling within foam tubing. Generally, that plastic case doesn't like to be around too many other components and wiring, I agree. But it's probably the reason these units are sold for affordable prices, while giving performance way above more expensive competition.
     
    patient_ot likes this.
  21. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I figured the casework is done like that to keep prices down. I would personally never purchase a phono stage in a plastic box. I live near too many radio and TV stations.
     
  22. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    You can probably put it inside a small metal tool case, having drilled a couple of holes for wiring.
     
    patient_ot likes this.
  23. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I had the SP for awhile but never tried it in MC mode. Miller Audio Research did test the big brother Ultra Phono, which has slightly better specs. They found when the gain is jacked up real high the S/N ratio drops like a rock. This is common with a lot of inexpensive MM/MC switchable gain units.

    MoFi UltraPhono Phono/Headphone Preamp Lab Report

    A-wtd S/N ratio (re. 0dBV, MM/MC) 80.9dB / 61.1dB
     
  24. Phil Thien

    Phil Thien Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    Not that it does the OP much good, but there are power supply upgrades from China for the MoFi units. They are said to improve S/N. Seems plausible as I've found that most noise on phono stages is arriving via the power supply.

    I looked at some of the other reviews @ the site you linked and some of the expensive stages seem to have vanishingly low S/N numbers and even unchanging numbers at different gains, which seems astonishing to me, as I've never, ever heard a LOMC system that I'd call "quiet."
     
    patient_ot likes this.
  25. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I've heard some very expensive MC carts with expensive phono preamps and they all have a certain amount of noise. LOMC carts can be very sensitive and pick up quite a lot of noise from the record itself.
     

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