When is a phono pre-amp justified ?

Discussion in 'Turntables' started by Brad6260, Jun 22, 2017.

  1. Brad6260

    Brad6260 Member

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    For self serving applications I am referring to adding budget phono pre amps to entry or mid level systems.

    Example: I have a Yamaha CR-820 receiver which is supposed to have a pretty decent phono pre amp section.
    In reading up it appears worthwhile add on units can be bought pretty cheap say under $150.00.
    So my question is whats the tipping point when adding an external unit is justified and gets you noticeably better sound quality in this type system level ?

    To throw another twist into the discussion if I were to replace the CR 820 I am looking at new Yamaha integrated amps like a
    A-S501 so how would my question apply in this application?

    Thanks
     
  2. mythless

    mythless Too many projects! Subscriber

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    This is a psychological question as sound is highly perspective and money vs sound will differ among enthusiasts. For myself, budget phono preamps are fine as they're not expensive and easily returntable. However, I will not invest in a phono preamp that cost more than the valued unit.

    Comparing a modern amplifier with a "newer" phono preamp may not necessarily be better design than the older one, however, it might be "fresher." Only way to know is to try them out. I enjoy my bugle2 over much of my built in (I do not have many anymore), so I am satisfied.
     
  3. Poinzy

    Poinzy Super Member

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    The key consideration is noise. If you think you can get a quieter setup using an external preamp, you should use an external preamp. Otherwise you should just stick with the phono preamp integrated with the amplifier or receiver.

    External pres came on simply because amp manufacturers no longer saw the need to include phono pres in their units. People had stopped buying turntables. Now that external pres are so widely available, there's even less need to go back to the old amp designs. But there's nothing inherently wrong with integrated pres from a performance standpoint.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2017
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  4. lini

    lini just me...

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    Brad: Well, generally speaking a separate phono stage would pretty much always appear justified, if it provides additional capabilities compared to the integrated phono section (like for example MC capability, load and gain adjustment, support for different (re-)EQ curves...), which one would have a good use for, or if the table is too far away from the pre-amp/integrated amp/receiver/whatever with the integrated phono section, so that one would run into problems due to high load capacity or/and EMI.

    And then most so over here in Europe otherwise not bad integrated phono sections often are "crippled" by excessive capacity (and sometimes even also by lowered impedance) on the MM inputs, and modding these isn't always an attractive option, especially if one can't do it oneself - for example, because the device may (still) be under warranty, which one might not want to void. Another example would be surround receivers, which usually contain comparatively simple phono sections at best and often are rather cramped, so that accessing the phono section for modding may already require quite a bit of disassembly work...

    Regarding pure sound quality things become more subjective anyway - in several respects, 'cause not only will the sound quality impressions as such already vary between individuals, but also the "scaling" regarding both the degree of difference and the price-performance. And then similarly priced, particular phono stage models also vary in terms of sound quality and price-performance (even more so, if one is also open to buying used and/or to complete or partial DIY). Hence determining a certain price point as tipping point will be rather difficult.

    Greetings from Munich!

    Manfred / lini
     
  5. dcmfan

    dcmfan AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    The thing that got me looking at external phono stages was a move to low output moving coil cartridges. Not many integrated amplifiers have moving coil inputs and the ones that do offer few (if any) loading options.

    For moving magnet cartridges, I did not notice a marked improvement with an external phono stage, provided that the internal stage was operating quietly and properly.
     
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  6. Brad6260

    Brad6260 Member

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    Location:
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    and try from a


    Superb beta Manfred and much appreciated.
    It appears the best option as someone pointed out previously is to buy and try from a source that accepts returns so I can simply let my ears decide.
    Sad to say but even in a town of almost 1 million people we have zero brick and mortar stores offering audio anything. Bourbon or horses I'm well stocked.
    I assume given Munich's size it still has a good array of listening options.

    Thanks again,
    Brad
    Louisville, Kentucky
     
  7. bangsezmax

    bangsezmax Turntable Whisperer Subscriber

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    I have the Yamaha CA-2010. I bought a very well-reviewed $300 phono pre to test (I'd rather not name names). Beautiful box, obviously very well built.

    The Yamaha completely smoked it. Clearer, smoother, deeper, better soundstage, everything. Not even a contest. I sent the pre back. I have no urge to bother trying another.

    My guess is that it's going to be difficult to find something that can top your CR-820. Yamaha made some really excellent gear during that era.

    FYI, on my CA-2010 you have options for MC (10 ohms impedance) and different loading for MM (47K, 68K, 100K). Most of the time with MMs, I run it at the standard 47k. If I want MC, I use an SUT (Altec 4722s that let me run at 150 ohms, more suitable for my Denon MCs).

    This is a long-winded and technical way of saying that the stock setting of the Yamaha phono stage sounds great.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2017
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  8. Brad6260

    Brad6260 Member

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    Bang ,that's good to hear and substantiates other positive feedback on this era Yamaha I've run across. I'm coming to the conclusion that replacing my turntable is far greater a priority than beefing up a phono pre.

    Thanks
     
  9. sqlsavior

    sqlsavior AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    LOMC capability would be a justification, but I favor SUTs for that application. A 1:10 SUT is a versatile ratio, and handy to have available on this journey, especially if you like your MM stage, but want to try LOMC.
     
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  10. KentTeffeteller

    KentTeffeteller Gimpus Stereophilus!

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    A: People who's equipment lacks phono stages.
    B: People who's built in phono stage is noisy.
    C: People who need adjustable capacitance loading or different gain for their MM or MI cartridge they like.
    D: People who want to use a Low Output Moving Coil cartridge.
    E: People who want to upgrade their phono stage over what they have.
    F: People who want to position their turntable further than a few feet away from their preamplifier or receiver or integrated amplifier, who don't want to impose added capacitance load on their existing phono stage.
     
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  11. HypnoToad

    HypnoToad Ms Puss Puss Subscriber

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    G: People who want a step up from what they have and can build one for much less than the price of a better cart.
     
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  12. Montycat

    Montycat AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    H: People who want to easily swap turntables and only have one built-in phono stage.
     
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  13. freQ(*)Oddio

    freQ(*)Oddio AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    the nice thing about a outboard preamp is that you can stop wondering about the quality of your next budget components phono stage sound. I like to be able to swap the table and pre in whatever system choice i am using with a preamp sound i know is good to my ears.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2017
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  14. 4-2-7

    4-2-7 Smart Ass Sponsor Subscriber

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    Well pretty cheap under $150 retail is different than the same money buying used. I see nothing in this thread as to any of your record play back system. We also can't say what anything will sound like to you in your space with your equipment.

    This would not help anyway, again it's up to your space and equipment.

    I think really we need to look at your whole system. But really the best way I'v found to find good sounding equipment and what works in my system is to buy and try something. Take a leap and try some used things, if it's not right you can resell.
     
  15. techguy0192

    techguy0192 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Excellent point. Most people are not aware of the interaction between cable lengths and adjusting to compensate for the additional capacitance as the length increases. The user manual for the Manley Chinook covers that topic very nicely and can be downloaded from their website.
     
  16. lini

    lini just me...

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    I deliberatly left that out in my post above, 'cause in many cases a decent signal switch will do the job just fine for less. But of course one could still deem one or even several additional phono stages as justified, if the carts on one's tables would ideally require different load or gain adjustments, which either exceed the capabilities of the integrated phono section or would be cumbersome to change more frequently, for example do to being only accessible from the rear side... But I'd deem that already covered by "if it provides additional capabilities compared to the integrated phono section (like for example MC capability, load and gain adjustment, support for different (re-)EQ curves...), which one would have a good use for".

    Greetings from Munich!

    Manfred / lini
     
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  17. restorer-john

    restorer-john Super Member

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    You could better the CR-820s extremely basic internal phono preamp very easily and at a very low cost. I would definitely pick up an inexpensive outboard phono stage if you intend keeping the 820 and like to play records.
     
  18. bangsezmax

    bangsezmax Turntable Whisperer Subscriber

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    Have you heard the CR-820 or are you just saying that?
     
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  19. restorer-john

    restorer-john Super Member

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    I've owned several CR-820s, sold them all. Repaired many more. The phono stage ranked as one of the poorest sounding RIAA stages I have ever heard. It's a three transistor design- yes, three. They really pushed the boat out on that didn't they?

    Here's the schematic of the left channel, CR-820 RIAA stage:

    cr-820 riaa.JPG

    Now, below is a left channel schematic of the phono stage from a relatively inexpensive Denon preamplifier that is pretty much the best sounding phono stage I have ever heard. Notice the difference?

    pra 1000 riaa.JPG

    And here is just the RIAA left channel stage schematic of Yamaha's very highly regarded C-2 preamplifier, from a similar era as the CR-820. It is work of art and sounds like it on vinyl.

    yamaha c2 riaa.JPG

    As you can see, phono stages are not created equal. Cheap phono stages sound generally pretty poor. A good standalone stage should be considered not for what it costs, or what people say about it, but for what's inside, how it is designed, and how well it performs.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2017
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  20. restorer-john

    restorer-john Super Member

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    I certainly would expect the AS-501 phono stage to be quite a reasonable performer, but it is disappointing that Yamaha is running the New Japan Radio NJM-2068 dual opamp at the absolute bottom of its operational voltage range (+/-5v). Why they didn't run it at +/-15v or +/-18v is beyond me, the performance is effectively held back by that alone.
     

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