PreAmp upgrade ? worth it or not

the thin end of the wedge
LornsStadt
junior member
junior member
Posts: 10
Joined: 17 Sep 2018 10:30

PreAmp upgrade ? worth it or not

Post by LornsStadt » 17 Sep 2018 10:48

Hi there,

I'm currently using a VM540ML Audio Technica cartridge, and I use the Pro Ject Phono Box MM as an out directly in my amp.

https://www.son-video.com/article/pream ... -box-mm-dc

I've been VERY happy with this setup, especially for the fact that I experience almost zero IGD, apart from 2 or 3 records which are in bad shape..

For the first time I tried to do a little LP / CD comparison on a few selected songs and the first thing I have to say is I'm quite impressed with the sound I get with my turntable.
At this point I would go as far as saying that I don't have a real preference between the two,
EXCEPT that the turntable lacks a little "deepness" in the sound ?
But again the AT cartridge is often cited as being a little too "bright", so maybe there's an explanation in here.

Anyway, not trying to be a sound expert but I was just wondering if upgrading into a better preamp would do me a favor or not ?
The obvious answer is yes because of course a preamp above 250$ will be better than the 70$ for the Phono Box.

But my question is would it be really worth it ? and for what price ?

Thank you for your time !

Agrippa
member
member
Norway
Posts: 115
Joined: 17 Oct 2003 01:07

Re: PreAmp upgrade ? worth it or not

Post by Agrippa » 17 Sep 2018 11:01

What turntable and arm? And what does the remainder of the system consist of? Without knowing that there's no way to provide a really meaningful answer.

Still: yes, you can do much better than the Pro-Ject Phono Box, which is very much an entry-level phono amplifier in terms of both price and capabilities.

LornsStadt
junior member
junior member
Posts: 10
Joined: 17 Sep 2018 10:30

Re: PreAmp upgrade ? worth it or not

Post by LornsStadt » 17 Sep 2018 11:04

My turntable is an Audio Technica LP3.
End amplifier : Sony STR-DE495

Agrippa
member
member
Norway
Posts: 115
Joined: 17 Oct 2003 01:07

Re: PreAmp upgrade ? worth it or not

Post by Agrippa » 17 Sep 2018 11:22

I'm familiar with neither of those, but I see the LP3 is well thought of. I suspect though, that the Sony is a limiting factor. I flirted with surround sound a year before the launch of the STR-DE495 and owned whatever was the top model bar one in Sony's line-up. It was fun for movies, but it just didn't cut it for audio use, being veiled and unexciting. While yours is a year or so more recent it's also placed further down the food chain and I doubt it can be as competent as the model I owned back in the day.

Basically then, my advice is to not spend any more on a phono stage while you're still using the Sony, but rather save up until you can buy a better amp (and phono stage). The cartridge you have is excellent and given what's written about it, I have no doubt that the LP3 can hold it's own well past where both the Pro-Ject and Sony end in terms of audio quality.

justjed0001
member
member
United States of America
Posts: 123
Joined: 05 May 2018 00:37

Re: PreAmp upgrade ? worth it or not

Post by justjed0001 » 18 Sep 2018 02:03

Yes, a better phono pre can be worth it. Whether the rest of your gear is capable of letting you hear the difference is another question. Any decent stand-alone phono-pre is likely going to better the Sony's on-board unit by a considerable margin. My favorite cheap phono-pre is the TEC TC-750. About $50, MM only, no adjustments, just a red light. Plug and play.

Unfortunately, to get the most of the AT cartridge you have, I would have to recommend spending more than $50 for a phono-pre. LOTS of choices out there. Parasound Zphono, not the quietest pre, but very good sound. MM/MC capable, about $200. I have one, and I like it(for whatever THAT is worth!). Emotiva XPS-1, lots of adjustment possibilities. MM/MC capable, and about $200. The Schiit Mani gets good reviews. Again, MM/MC capable, for $129. You might also consider a vintage pre-amp with a good phono stage. I just had a Kenwood Basic C-2 pre-amp rebuilt. This model has a really good phono-stage, even better than the Parasound I have been using.

I'd bet that before it's all over, like most of us, you have more than one. Welcome to the addiction!

LornsStadt
junior member
junior member
Posts: 10
Joined: 17 Sep 2018 10:30

Re: PreAmp upgrade ? worth it or not

Post by LornsStadt » 18 Sep 2018 08:00

Agrippa wrote: Basically then, my advice is to not spend any more on a phono stage while you're still using the Sony, but rather save up until you can buy a better amp (and phono stage). The cartridge you have is excellent and given what's written about it, I have no doubt that the LP3 can hold it's own well past where both the Pro-Ject and Sony end in terms of audio quality.
Thank you for your reply :)

LornsStadt
junior member
junior member
Posts: 10
Joined: 17 Sep 2018 10:30

Re: PreAmp upgrade ? worth it or not

Post by LornsStadt » 18 Sep 2018 08:02

justjed0001 wrote:Yes, a better phono pre can be worth it. Whether the rest of your gear is capable of letting you hear the difference is another question. Any decent stand-alone phono-pre is likely going to better the Sony's on-board unit by a considerable margin. My favorite cheap phono-pre is the TEC TC-750. About $50, MM only, no adjustments, just a red light. Plug and play.
I'm not sure I quite understand, what you mean is whatever I buy in the 200$ range is gonna be limited because at the end the sound comes through my Sony amplifier ?

In this case I'm stuck with what I already got because I have no phono exit on my Sony and I can only get the sound through the Phono Box.

I'll check out the ones you've cited !

Thanks :)

Sterling1
senior member
senior member
United States of America
Posts: 613
Joined: 01 Feb 2017 17:28
Contact:

Re: PreAmp upgrade ? worth it or not

Post by Sterling1 » 18 Sep 2018 09:48

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaARB28ZHkw This is a must see review from a highly qualified and credentialed reviewer.

LornsStadt
junior member
junior member
Posts: 10
Joined: 17 Sep 2018 10:30

Re: PreAmp upgrade ? worth it or not

Post by LornsStadt » 18 Sep 2018 14:20

Great !

justjed0001
member
member
United States of America
Posts: 123
Joined: 05 May 2018 00:37

Re: PreAmp upgrade ? worth it or not

Post by justjed0001 » 19 Sep 2018 01:30

I must apologize, wasn't slamming your Sony. I missed that you are using the Phono Box, and thought the Sony had an onboard phono stage. I looked up the specs, and it doesn't. What I was really trying to say is that I believe in keeping performance levels fairly even in my rig. The VM540ML is a very good cartridge/stylus combination. Even a $50 phono-pre will make it sound pretty decent, but to get the most of its abilities, you will likely have to spend more than $50. I was using $200 as kind of a ballpark figure, you might find something for considerably less that works for you. I hope so, but now you will always be curious about what a more expensive pre might sound like...

LornsStadt
junior member
junior member
Posts: 10
Joined: 17 Sep 2018 10:30

Re: PreAmp upgrade ? worth it or not

Post by LornsStadt » 19 Sep 2018 08:18

justjed0001 wrote:I must apologize, wasn't slamming your Sony.
No offense taken :)

Well now that you say it I gotta admit it's tempting to spend a few bucks, and the Schiit Mani seems like a really good upgrade for the price.

I ran other "tests" yesterday with a few songs and for now I'm really satisfied so we'll see, maybe one day !

Thanks a lot for your time :)

justjed0001
member
member
United States of America
Posts: 123
Joined: 05 May 2018 00:37

Re: PreAmp upgrade ? worth it or not

Post by justjed0001 » 20 Sep 2018 00:37

It's been said that pretty much all MM phono-pre's sound the same. And, to some extent, up to, say, $100 or so, it's pretty much true. There really just isn't much difference in sound quality. In my opinion, this is because there are only so many ways to build an inexpensive amplifier. The RIAA equalization is easy, it's the associated circuits and build quality that make the difference. And between $100 and $200-ish, you're usually paying for extra features, some of which you might not use. For instance, I have a couple of pre's that are MC capable, and I don't even HAVE a MC cart! (yet!:wink:)

If you're like me, and don't have a lot of disposable income, you should make sure any upgrade is just that, an UP-grade. Lateral steps are a waste of money. And below about $200, in my opinion, there really aren't any giant-killers. That being said, pretty much all of your choices are going to be at least decent. They have to be, there's too much competition. As a wise man(not me) once said: Different is easy. Better? Not so much.

Don't get too hung up on specs. They're good for comparison, but tell you nothing about how something will sound in your room, with the rest of your gear. Choose wisely! You have a really good cartridge. But it's going to take a better phono-pre to hear what it really has to offer. I've been where you are. Recently. Asking the same question: 'Is it worth it?'

It is to me.

Luck to you in your quest!

smee4
senior member
senior member
Posts: 884
Joined: 04 Jul 2004 08:07

Re: PreAmp upgrade ? worth it or not

Post by smee4 » 21 Sep 2018 01:42

Reading through the thread, I am a little concerned that it is the AT sound that find a bit bright. I don't know the 540, but I have an AT440MLa that sounds like you describe. The same phono preamp and system sounds much better, to me, when I use an AT95VL (Vividline stylus). It sounds even more full and "deep" when I use an old Shure M75 or Stanton 681eee.

If your existing phono stage is fairly accurate, and it probably is, then a bigger better one will still sound similar. I the old days, there were these things called tone controls and you could just turn up the low end a bit to fill in the sound. :)

MetalT75
member
member
Posts: 127
Joined: 13 Feb 2018 09:30

Re: PreAmp upgrade ? worth it or not

Post by MetalT75 » 21 Sep 2018 08:01

Sterling1 wrote:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaARB28ZHkw This is a must see review from a highly qualified and credentialed reviewer.
Yes, this guy has it right. Schiit Mani is an excellent choice. I got one myself based on reviews of this guy and couldn't be more pleased. It's hard to justify paying 3-4 times more from a phono stage.

TD 166 MKII
member
member
Canada
Posts: 128
Joined: 29 Nov 2017 23:07

Re: PreAmp upgrade ? worth it or not

Post by TD 166 MKII » 21 Sep 2018 19:58

One thing you can also try is changing out your cables from TT ( if possible ) and to your Pre
Amp. You may be shocked just how much changing cables can alter the sound. You should be able to ask at a HiFi shop, what cable would bring up the lower end, but be sensible and spend too much. Audio Quest use to market their cables that way. They had a line that was called Turquoise and they where like a neutral sound and then the Ruby series would give much more lower end. I don't know if they still are like that, but I do know you plug one and then change it out it was day and night.

Post Reply