Phono Pre-amps: Talk to me....

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by RAF, Jun 3, 2002.

  1. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

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    I have been told by a number of people that I should take advantage of the sound capabilities of my 950 to re-introduce myself to my vinyl collection. As you know, one of the things missing from the 950 and most modern pre/pros is a phono stage so I'm in the market for something reasonable here. I don't want to spend a huge amount of money, but I would like to get something that produces good bang for the buck if that's possible.

    I have both an AR turntable and a B&O 4002 (which needs work but I might invest in if the AR doesn't work out). I believe both have MM cartridges.

    Audio Advisor is selling a Parasound P/PH-100 phono pre-amp (which does both MM and MC) for $129 (including shipping). Someone else mentioned a Rotel (but I can't find a part number or a source).

    Anyone have any recommendations? Is the Parasound worth the money? I read the Stereophile (June, 2002) article on phono pre-amps and some of them sound intriguing but a little hard to locate. Also, I like the flexibility of an MM/MC dual capability design. Anything else I'm missing here?

    What say you?

    (Let's not make this into a Vinyl vs. Digital debate here. I'm aware of both sides of this and I simply want to start using my long idle vinyl a bit in the 950 world.)

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Norm Strong

    Norm Strong Stunt Coordinator

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    If you want to play vinyl, why did you buy a 950, which is notable for having no phono stage?
     
  3. Michael Hurst

    Michael Hurst Stunt Coordinator

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    The Rotel phono pre-amp is the RQ-970 and lists for $199 USD, street price is probably around $175. I also like Parasound gear, strong powerful sound without being harsh; however, I've never heard their phono pre-amp. For the people that are not faint of wallet, the best phono pre-amp is the Linn Linto. If the price is to much you might be able to find a used one at Audiogon.
     
  4. Michael Hurst

    Michael Hurst Stunt Coordinator

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    Norm, the best sound for a low output cartridge is thru the use of an external pre-amp. Most integrated phono stages in the Outlaw's price range are well, lacking. It's just that there are so few vinyl fans out there, the phono stage is an after thought.
     
  5. Bob_L

    Bob_L Supporting Actor

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    Real Name:
    Bob Lindstrom
    Robert:

    To get back into the vinyl action on the cheap, don't forget about the "Little Rat." It's a battery-powered phono preamp from Radio Shack that runs about $30, I believe, and many audiophiles swear by it.

    At least, it's a no-brainer purchase until you decide you want to invest in something bigger.
     
  6. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    I have a "Little Rat", and can vouch for it heartily. It's fantastic for its price ($25), but make no mistakes, it's not the best phono stage under $1K or anything like that.

    RAF, what's your budget? AR makes (made) some very good 'tables, and depending on the quality of cartridge you have on there (and assuming the level of the rest of your system), you probably don't want the phono preamp being the weak link by a huge margin. At the same time, you probably don't want to invest too much up-front either.

    The NAD PP-1 gets decent reviews, and can be found for around $150 new. The Rotel units are RQ-97x, as Michael said, and I don't remember if I've seen a 971 or 972 or not. These have received high praise from some people whose opinion I respect. The Parasound gets pretty good reviews too. Between these three, I would probably pick the Rotel, based on my memories of what I'd read back when I was trying to pick a phono stage. If you want to move up a notch, Creek makes some pretty good phono stages. They're different units for MM and MC though, and supposedly more susceptible to RFI than others.

    And I probably don't need to say this - spend a lot of time and patience in setting up your turntable and cartridge. That will probably make a bigger difference to the sound than your phono stage purchase decision.
     
  7. Charles Gurganus

    Charles Gurganus Supporting Actor

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    Saurav pretty much nailed this...I think the Nad PP-1 can be had through soundcity.com for around $100. Then the Parasound you mentioned and the Rotel are good as well. I bought the Creek OBH-8 through audioadvisor and can vouch for that. So that is 4 choices from $100 to $200 and it depends on how much you want to put into this. I'd probably spend about the same on the cartridge as whatever phono stage you get or close to 40% anyway. (If you had $300 to spend, get about a $120 cart and $180 for the stage)
     
  8. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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  9. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

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    Thanks for the replies. Lots of good information here. I'm going to investigate a little further.
     
  10. Nicholas Renter

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    I've got a Rotel RQ-970BX on order, and should have it sometime this week. I'm matiching with with a Music Hall MMF-5 turntable (and other Rotel / B&W hardware). For the price, you really can't beat it. There are definately better phono pre-amps, and when looking for on in the under $300 - $350 US price range, it can be frustrating. If you think people are opinionated about their speakers, amps and cables...wait until you experience a phono pre-amp cat fight.
    Like everything in life, there must be balance. A $300 phono pre-amp may be better than the $200 Rotel RQ-970BX, but I'd rather spend that additional money on a good carbon fiber brush and some Disc Doctor cleaning supplies (http://www.discdoc.com). You'll get a bigger bang for your buck if you do.
    Then go hit the used book stores for some great vinyl. Welcome back to the silky-smooth sounds of the good life.
     
  11. BrentPollard

    BrentPollard Second Unit

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    Nicholas
    Did you order your RQ 970 in silver? I just ordered one along with a 1066 and was told both were available in silver, but I'm a little skeptical.[​IMG]
     
  12. Nicholas Renter

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    No...I went all black. I wasn't bold enough to go all silver. I also bought a 1066, 1095, and 1080 (tuner). If I would have been able to check out the silver look in the store before committing to it, I may have done it. But I wasn't going to do it sight unseen.
     
  13. IraSWeiss

    IraSWeiss Stunt Coordinator

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    Robert;
    I have an SAE 5000 myself somewhere in my basement. You will need to put it between the phone preamp and the 950 as very few pre-pros and receivers have a tape monitor switch/loop these days. Of course, rice krispies would be cheaper...
    I'm in the process of copying many of my lps to CD-R myself with my nearly two decade old Yamaha 750/Shure V15Type VMR.
    Here is a link the the rat shack page...
    http://www.radioshack.com/product.as...Fid=970%2D1018
    Here is the model number: 970-1018
     
  14. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    AFAIK, the Rat is out of order at most RS store, maybe even online. Or maybe they ended the old one and started with a new one, which is the same product with a different part number... something like that. You can also search eBay for "Radio Shack preamp", someone's been selling these fairly regularly. He doesn't use the word 'phono' in his auction title, so he's a little hard to find.

     
  15. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

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    Ira,
    Thanks for the link! It is appreciated. And yes, one of the things in the back of my mind was dumping some Vinyl to CD (I know, sacrilege - but I can't seem to get my turntable to work in my car without skipping!)
    [​IMG]
    Yes, the SAE 5000 will probably be dusted off a bit once I'm up and running. Fairly easy to introduce into the mix with an outboard phono-preamp.
     
  16. Jack Keck

    Jack Keck Second Unit

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    If I wanted to play lps through my Pioneer receiver, which like your Outlaw 950, has no phono input, I'd use teh pre-amp section of my NAD 3045 amp by running the tape out into an appropriate input on the receiver. You might want totry something like that if you have an old stereo receiver or integrated amp lying around.
    Of course, this would take up quite a bit of room on your rack.[​IMG]
     
  17. PomingF

    PomingF Second Unit

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    Robert, costing a bit more than the RS, NAD & Parasound Micheal Fremer has in the current issue of Stereophile's analog corner a review on several 'affordable' phono stages incl the Lehmann, Zanden, etc.

    PF
     
  18. Ted Kim

    Ted Kim Stunt Coordinator

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    I would also like to recommend Lehmann Audio's Black Cube ~$595 list, but often found on audiogon for about $350 and Gram Slee's Gram 2SE, which got recently reviewed in Absolute Sound and stereophile and is available for $219 new from lpgear.com
    http://www.gspaudio.com/
    Both are on my final list for phono. If you need adjustable gain, the Lehmann has it, but not the 2SE. From what I understand, either of these should be better than the Parasound or NAD options for not much more $$$. I've also considered the "Little Rat" but you would need to continually buy/recharge batteries and thus its operating costs over time would really add up.
     
  19. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    Why would rechargable batteries add up the operating cost over time? If you're talking about having to eventually replace even rechargable batteries, my response is: No one keeps equipment for that long [​IMG]
    I really don't think the Little Rat is anywhere close to the Black Cube. This is an opinion based on hearsay, since I haven't heard the Black Cube.
     
  20. Ed Haze

    Ed Haze Agent

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    "Little Rat" is Cat.#: 970-1018. Available at 1-800-THE-SHACK, but be quick. They do not stay in stock long b/c of it's high demand. I received mine the other day, and have no complaints whatsoever.
     

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