Suggestions for inexpensive phono preamp

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by mfidelity, Oct 6, 2018.

  1. mfidelity

    mfidelity Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco
    I acquired a Technics SL-1200MK2 with Ortofon 2M and KAB modifications with an LP collection. I want to hook up the turntable to grade the records. I'll end up selling the TT and preamp when the records are sold.

    - budget $75 to $100 (used okay)
    - it's not for critical listening (but I don't want it to suck either)
    - easy to resell when I'm done with it

    Thanks.
     
  2. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland, U.S.A.
    Pro-ject Phono Box.
     
  3. The two statements in blue / bold you may find mutually exclusive. IMHO. YMMV. :cool:

    My two cents would be since you're rockin' a 1200MK2 with KAB (nice mid-fi TT, I have two 1200's), save a little and up the budget. The minimum investment would be a Mani, and you're close to a used one at $100 - but may have trouble finding one. To my ears the Phono Box, Pluto and other options under $100 just lack depth and soundstage...

    Maybe consider saving up for the Lounge LCR MKiii --- used I've seen them around $225- $250. In the price range the build quality does not get any better.... not even close IMHO. The Mofi Studio for $249 is another, I hear from others it puts out nice sound --- but made of plastic and have seen numerous feedback about the build quality being on the low side. The MoFi is more configurable than the Lounge, but my take is if you're running MC cartridges, you shouldn't be looking at a MoFi anyway.
     
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  4. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    Location:
    U.S.
    Used Parasound Z-Phono.
     
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  5. Have you heard the Z-Phono? I compared it to the Mani and Bugle, and they both beat the Z-Phono to my ears and in my system... plus it is retails for more than the Mani.
     
    Chris Schoen likes this.
  6. mfidelity

    mfidelity Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Good advice. Since I'll be reselling it when the records are sold I might as well increase my budget for something worthwhile.
     
    TheVinylAddict likes this.
  7. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    Location:
    U.S.
    I owned it for a time. It was better than the one built into the Rogue Pharaoh and Sphinx. Also better than DB Systems DB-8 and the one in the Halo Integrated. I have no experience with the Mani and Bugle.
     
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  8. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland, U.S.A.
    Bugle is a very clean, well designed pre-amp. Black backround, neutral. Recommended for needle-drops particularly.
     
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  9. Parasound makes a ton of nice gear - I own a P5, an A21, and will be trying out the JC3 Jr soon ---- but honestly the Z-Phono, although not a bad component, is bettered in class by a few offerings.... IMHO.

    But as you know, it's all system dependent! (and your own ears)
     
    Pythonman likes this.
  10. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    Location:
    U.S.
    Very. In some respects I preferred the Z-Phono to the Lounge LCR - in noise level and separation of instruments. The Shure/Jico cart I used at the time was an excellent match for the Z-Phono. It was too laid back for the Lounge. The DB Systems preamp was good with Ortofon carts, not so good with my Clearaudio V2.

    So far I'm having difficulty enjoying my Hana with the JC3 Jr, but it sounds sublime with the Shure combo.
     
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  11. mfidelity

    mfidelity Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Got a Mofi Studio from a forum member. Thanks for the advice.
     
    Carter DeVries, SoundDoctor and Helom like this.
  12. SoundDoctor

    SoundDoctor Forum Resident

    Location:
    United States
    I'm getting an UltraPhono pretty soon.
     
  13. That was fast! Congrats. Did you buy it on the Classifieds?
     
  14. Your Hana, MC no doubt - what is the mV output? What is the nature of the issue you're having?
     
  15. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    Location:
    U.S.
    .5mV. It may just need more break in. I run it with the 50db gain. It sounds great with some albums, terrible with others. Many claim they're very quiet in the grooves - not in my experience thus far.
     
    TheVinylAddict likes this.
  16. At first blush, 50db setting for 0.5mv sounds low for a "Low-ish OMC," but I am sure you've tried 60db and it's not a gain problem. 50Db is actually the performance "sweet spot" for the JC3 Jr, and where it maximizes the S/N ratio.

    But in theory, the 50db is more HOMC territory, and the numbers / testing of the JC3 Jr seem to crunch where 0.5mv and 60Db should be a great match!

    In fact, if you look at past threads on the JC3 Jr, my biggest "theoretical" gripe was the low-ish 60db setting for LOMC in the 0.3mv range, and that the JC3 Jr was more optimized for 0.5mv at 60db....

    Read this, which I cut from https://www.parasound.com/reviews/hi-fi-news-2018-2.pdf
    The lower sensitivity ‘+40dB’ option is better suited to
    high output MMs from the likes of Ortofon than the +50dB
    minimum setting of the flagship JC3+ and supports this with a
    healther 70mV input overload ceiling – a margin of +22.9dB
    for a standard 5mV MM (re. 1kHz/5cm/sec). The intermediate
    ‘+50dB’ option is ideal for lower output MMs and high output
    MCs where the JC3 Junior will yield its optimum 90dB A-wtd
    S/N ratio. With both +40dB and +50dB settings, the RIAA-eq’d
    distortion remains as low as 0.0012-0.012% from 20Hz-20kHz
    [see Graph 2, below]. The highest ‘+60dB’ option offers a useful

    input headroom of +23.9dB for standard 500μV MC pick-ups,
    although the lowest output MCs will not realise the potential
    74dB A-wtd S/N ratio.


    Note that 500uV = 0.5mv. But again, I trust your thoroughness as much as I trust my own, and I'm sure you've put it through the paces.
     
  17. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    Location:
    U.S.
    I settled on that setting based on listening. It still has plenty of headroom. 60db was too bright and didn't seem any lower in noise. IIRC, the manual recommends 50db for >/=0.5mV

    I'm beginning to suspect I'm just not a fan of MCs. Each one I've tried has has been too bright.
     
  18. HiFi Guy

    HiFi Guy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    You might want to consider a Grado. I just bought a Gold2 and it's magical. For me, it fulfills the promise of MCs (increased performance/resolution) but isn't bright. Having a user replaceable stylus is a plus too if you are a heavy spinner.
     
    Helom likes this.
  19. Or MC is not the JC3 Jr's sweet spot....? Have you tried the same MC carts on other phono preamps in addition to the JC3 Jr?

    There are many phono preamps that although they offer an MC option, MM is their strong suit... there are many different implementations of non-SUT based MC gain solutions (e.g JFET or opamp based gain stage), and not all are created equal. Not saying the JC3 Jr is poor with MC, but this is not the first time I've heard feedback on the Jr with MC.

    Of course the assertion that MC is too bright is a very debatable topic! :)
     
  20. Wasabi

    Wasabi Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Lutz, FL
    If anyone has a MoFi Studio FS, let me know. I’m in a similar boat as the OP and feel this is a good pre to start back into vinyl with.

    Thanks.
     
  21. blakep

    blakep Forum Resident

    You should not be having a brightness issue with MC's.

    Ideally, if you could use the balanced outputs from your JC3 Jr to create 56 dB of gain that should probably be ideal, but if you don't have balanced inputs on your upstream preamp or integrated that is not in the cards.

    Neither 50 or 60 dB would seem to me to be appropriate gain for most .5 mV output cartridges in most systems and both would seem likely to create noise problems with the cartridge. As Vinyl Addict pointed out though, the Parasound manual actually suggests the 60 dB setting for a .5 mV cartridge, indicating that setting with that output provides about 24 dB of headroom, which is a very good headroom number and should be adequate for almost any vinyl pressing.

    Something that you might try that might end up with good results for you would be to switch back to the 60 dB gain setting on the Parasound but load the Hana down below its recommended 400 ohm setting. Maybe start around 300 ohms and simply keep reducing the load, even into the 50-100 ohm range to see how it sounds. This will have the effect of slightly reducing the output of the cartridge and probably taking some of the zip and diminishing some of the brightness which is not appealing to you. The good thing about trying these adjustments out is that it can be done relatively quickly and at no cost.

    The other issue is a nude Shibata stylus on an aluminum cantilever with that cartridge. If there ever is a cartridge that will present noise issues, that will probably be it. Anything that you can do to really nail the setup there will pay big dividends in those areas. The problem is the sweet spot where it all comes together is very small with that combination. So you need things like a Mint or Feichert Protractor, for example, and you need to really experiment with very small changes in VTA/SRA to find the optimum setting. Also make sure you are not tracking too lightly in terms of VTF.
     
  22. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    Location:
    U.S.
    I'm pretty experienced in aligning carts and have put in a lot of effort with the Hana. The Parasound manual suggests 60db for carts below .5mV. I get plenty of headroom with the 50db setting. Maybe my gear synergy just sucks, Idk, but I'm content running the Shure/Jico setup, so I'll likely just sell the Hana and be done with MCs.
     
  23. Sounds like you have it all figured out...
     
  24. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    Location:
    U.S.
    I've tried everything short of shelling out more $$$$ for a new cart or preamp, so in that sense, yes, I suppose I do.
     
  25. paulewalnutz

    paulewalnutz Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mantua,NJ
    I have one with a 1210 MKII using an Ortofon 2M Blue. For the price its great. I get lots of detail plus I get a lot of use out of the mono button. I've had it since the winter and haven't had 1 bit of buyers remorse yet with it.
     
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