Please recommend a Phono preamp

the thin end of the wedge
Boltman92124
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Re: Please recommend a Phono preamp

Post by Boltman92124 » 27 Dec 2018 17:02

technome wrote:
26 Dec 2018 19:14
Chuck Glider wrote:
26 Dec 2018 11:06
*snip*

What would happen if you use a MM cart while it's set to MC?

*snip*
It would certainly let you know about it!

You’d be applying an additional 20dB gain to the MM signal and things might get loud. The Arcam’s got 30 dB overload margin on the phono input, though. So it should be OK.
Alot of us have done it before by accident. The bigger problem is the low impedance loading (under 1k usually). It totally rolls off the high frequencies on a MM cart. Sounds truly horrible. Playing a LOMC cart on MM settings doesn't sound bad at all though, just not enough gain.

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Re: Please recommend a Phono preamp

Post by Phono-lover » 28 Dec 2018 00:12

+1 on the Schiit Mani. It has lots of switches for gain and is for both MM and MC carts. I had a little RF pickup when first installed but it went away when I put the box on its side.

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Re: Please recommend a Phono preamp

Post by vintagevinyllover » 28 Dec 2018 11:22

Tisbury is only sold direct, so no dealer margins, which is why it's much cheaper than its peers. Very much worth an audition and you can try it in your system and return in 2 weeks for a full refund if you don't think it brings additional benefits

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Re: Please recommend a Phono preamp

Post by Chuck Glider » 29 Dec 2018 02:04

Having researched the Tisbury Audio Domino, I decided to give it a go. The excellent reviews, appearance of quality, different approach to PSU (stepped down AC in), 14d return period and price all did it! Also I realised that simply getting a PSU to upgrade my MF X-LPS would cost more.

Will audition it and aim to report back here in due course.

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Re: Please recommend a Phono preamp

Post by Chuck Glider » 09 Jan 2019 17:56

The Tisbury Audio Domino has arrived. I'm excited, but need to find the time to hook it up and listen.

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Re: Please recommend a Phono preamp

Post by Chuck Glider » 10 Jan 2019 20:40

Actually on second thoughts, let me say this.
Thank you all for your recommendations. The Tisbury Audio Domino seems like a great high quality product and I will review it.

However, given what happened to my speaker cable review (basically pooped on and moved to Off Topic) and despite me being a Dr in physics, and citing well researched articles on the subject by qualified engineers including a US university Prof Greiner, and Fred Davis, I shall not be posting any further reviews on this forum.

If you read that thread from my first post on Speaker cable listening test of 3 January 2019 (now moved to page 113 of X files in off topic) and note what I said and what others said, you may understand.

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Re: Please recommend a Phono preamp

Post by DeepEnd » 11 Jan 2019 18:01

Chuck Glider wrote:
10 Jan 2019 20:40

However, given what happened to my speaker cable review (basically pooped on and moved to Off Topic) and despite me being a Dr in physics, and citing well researched articles on the subject by qualified engineers including a US university Prof Greiner, and Fred Davis, I shall not be posting any further reviews on this forum.

If you read that thread from my first post on Speaker cable listening test of 3 January 2019 (now moved to page 113 of X files in off topic) and note what I said and what others said, you may understand.

I understand how you feel but please do not stop putting forward your views. Unfortunately cable sound is one of the most derisive topics in Hi-Fi and of these speaker cables are the most polarised and people take their view and cannot be moved no matter how any information is presented so all that follows are arguements (I did read the links, thanks). There have been a number of previous posts on the subject so perhaps the mods are just trying to keep them all together (hence page 113 in the combined post) as I don't think it will ever get easliy resolved. Yes I have done blind tests that gave meaningful results to me and those involved but would with no formal records would not stand up to a full assesment. One person 10/10 correct another 9/10 and my wife as the non Hi-Fi person 7/10 correct even though they did not know what I changed only that "something" had changed. I also know from my semiconductor days that we don't actually know exactly what path individual electrons take only that statisticaly so many go from here to there.

I hope you enjoy the Tisbury as much as I enjoy my Rothwell Rialto phono stage.

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Re: Please recommend a Phono preamp

Post by Chuck Glider » 12 Jan 2019 11:39

Yeah, you're right Deepend. I've chilled out a bit now.

I'll give the Tisbury a whirl as soon as I can and will let you know what I think. My first impression is that it was carefully packed, and external finish and appearance is good quality. "Cute" is the word I'd use. First it's going to be up against my Arcam A65+ integrated's mm phono stage. However, the Tisbury also allows mc, but the A65+ does not. A nice touch is that they include a little wooden peg to use to flip the dip switches underneath. The photos at the link below are better than any I could take:
https://www.tnt-audio.com/ampli/tisbury_domino_e.html

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Re: Please recommend a Phono preamp

Post by raphaelmabo » 12 Jan 2019 13:07

I'm thinking of upgrading to a MoFi StudioPhono myself. It's cool, quirky and British! :) (well, it's designed by The legendary Tim de Paravicini and he's British, but it's made in the US).

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Re: Please recommend a Phono preamp

Post by Chuck Glider » 15 Jan 2019 17:28

TISBURY AUDIO DOMINO: REVIEW

The Tisbury Audio Domino is a British phono preamp with wide gain and impedance settings to handle a variety of cartridges, both MM and MC. Tisbury design, test and hand-build all their equipment in their London workshop. Their online sales are factory-direct. By not using dealers and distributors, they can set “prices substantially lower, meaning most of the final cost goes where it should: into quality parts and labour.” Unlike many UK internet retailers, their website gives high prominence to buyers’ statutory rights. If you do not like the preamp for any reason, then return it within 14 days and they will refund your money - all you lose is the cost of postage. So, would I be returning my unit?

THE COMPARISON

For the last few months, I have been listening to records via the phono input on my Arcam A65+ integrated amp. This is because I had noticed that it sounded better than my Musical Fidelity X-LPS phono preamp (with basic wall-wart psu). With hindsight, I guess this makes sense, as Arcam know a thing or two about phono stages. Essentially, the Arcam’s phono stage provided more detail and treble clarity than the X-LPS. I will assess the Domino against the Arcam A65+ phono stage.

UNBOXING & SET UP

The Domino arrived tidily packed in a small box. The dip switches were set for MM. Hooking it up was easy - the sockets are well located at the back and the power supply lead has decent length. I like that it has a power switch signaled by a discreet green LED on the front walnut panel. It comes with a small wooden peg as a tool for moving the dip switches, which I felt was a thoughtful touch by Tisbury. The unit should be the first thing to be switched on and the last to be switched off. Output went into the CD line level input of the Arcam A65+. The small alloy box has the appearance of grey titanium, laser etched, looking cool and well made. The front walnut piece adds something different. On my rack it looked neat and cute. More info about the Domino, including the manual and great photos can be found here:

https://www.tisburyaudio.co.uk/domino-p ... eamplifier

LISTENING

With no running in, I listened to Mozart. Immediately, the sense of available power struck me. When the orchestra went full gas, the oomph was there when in comparison, the A65+ phono stage was more relaxed. Switching to jazz funk with electric bass and drums, the difference was even more stark than with classical. Bass was deeper, but not bloated or wooly. The Tisbury handled transients with more dynamism and musical rhythm was better for it. Bass lines and percussion, especially kick drums, kettle drums, tom toms and rim shots, sounded fabulous. Transients in piano and pizzicato in violin, all better rendered. It felt like there was power in reserve.

The power supply must be responsible for a significant part of the dynamic character. This is not a plain and nasty DC adapter, but strikes me as being vey well thought out. The small wall-wart style plug unit houses a step down transformer, providing 15V AC into the back of the Domino. This must be making itself readily available for use. I have not opened and examined, but am guessing that the 15V AC is rectified to DC to provide a + and - dual supply for op amp circuitry. Throughout my listening I heard no hum, or interference noise from the Tisbury. It appears to be a very low noise preamp, as silence is aurally inky black - in a vinyl groove sort of way, of course!

Instrument separation was significantly better than the A65+. I could hear details in bass lines throughout the music, rather than mushing into it. I was also pleasantly surprised by the slightly wider soundscape and greater sense of ambience. This added an element of performance that was lacking with the A65+ phono input, with instruments being cleanly placed around the room. I really enjoyed Duke Ellington’s Perdido - you could almost picture where individual players were standing from the first bass trombonist, to the last clarinetist.

The enhanced dynamics and oomph of this little preamp, “disrobed” my cartridge, the AT-440MLb. It is a cartridge that is well known to be on the “bright” side of the tonal palette, but it seems that I had made a good marriage between it and the A65+. The slightly relaxed attitude of the A65+ phono stage had tamed the top end of the AT-440MLb. Swapping in the Tisbury undid that and although bass, timing and instrument separation was so much better, treble became clinical bordering on harsh to my ears. Perhaps this could be due to lack of running in, but I’ve always been a bit sceptical of that concept for solid state electronics. For valves, speakers and cartridges yes, but not so much for solid state.

SWAPPING CARTRIDGES

There then followed a pleasurable time of rummaging through my cartridge stock, trying to find something that matched the sound of the Tisbury for me. First up a Nagaoka MP11 body with MP110 stylus, and then I swapped that for a MP11 Boron stylus. Being warmer sounding cartridge combinations, these were good at taming that top end, but I was not quite happy. I will experiment more with Nagaoka cartridges later.

I decided to switch to MC and the AT-OC3, an older cartridge in my collection and somewhat like the newer AT-OC9/II. Of course, this is not something I can compare directly with the A65+ phono stage, as that is MM only. The OC3 sounded open and airy, clear in treble, but not as top end bright as the AT-440MLb. The bass was clean, tight and detailed, but for me there was just not enough of it. That was always my gripe with this particular cartridge, even at a higher tracking force.

The point is, I was lost in music by now, trying to find a source cartridge that worked for me. In other words, I liked the Domino so much that I would rather change the cartridge than the preamp to obtain the sound that my ears craved.

Just for fun, I mounted a AT-95E and my goodness, what a stroke of luck that was. For my ears it made a super companion to the Tisbury. Sufficient bass with good detail, wide soundscape - well, ok not MC like, but pretty darned good. Instrument separation still excellent and the top end was now detailed but not too bright or harshly clinical. While this is a review of the Tisbury Audio Domino, it was also the day I realized just how good the AT-95E is after all these head to head comparisons. Given the number of other cartridges that are based on or inspired by the AT-95E, I would hazard a guess that it is the kind of cartridge that the typical Tisbury Audio Domino customer would already own.

The Tisbury handled all these cartridge swaps in its stride. For MC, I simply used the supplied wooden stick to flip the dip switches to 100 ohm and 58dB and it did fine, very well behaved.

ANOTHER COMPARISON

At this point, as a check, I switched back to the Arcam’s in-built phono stage. The effect could best be described as dropping a thin veil over the music. Ever so slightly muffled and less dynamic. There was no way I would be going back to that.

CONCLUSION

The Tisbury Audio Domino is a quality hand made preamp. It costs £149 (well under US$200) - fabulous value for money and a clear upgrade over an excellent integrated amp’s phono stage. What about the 14 day refund option? Well, I’m definitely not returning the Domino - it’s staying put on my rack!

RECORD TRACKS USED FOR THE REVIEW

1. Mozart piano concerto no.20 in D minor, K466, Alfred Brendel, Academy of St Martin in the Fields
2. Ramsey Lewis, Sun Goddess
3. Eric Gale, Dark romance
4. Dave Grusin, Playera
5. Duke Ellington band, Perdido
6. Randy Crawford, Rainy night in Georgia
7. Shirley Bassey, Diamonds are forever
8. Art of Noise, Close up
9. Eurythmics, Sweet dreams are made of this

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Re: Please recommend a Phono preamp

Post by Tonybro » 15 Jan 2019 21:57

So pleased for you Chuck! :-) Sounds like a keeper...

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Re: Please recommend a Phono preamp

Post by klegier » 16 Jan 2019 02:02

Very detailed review. Thank you for that. I have an MP-150 on the way (to replace my Ortofon 2M Red....too bright) and will be looking for a preamp to pair it with, in order to get away from the Denon 4311 AVR internal preamp. I can't help but wonder if the relatively high, non-adjustable, 220pf capacitance is causing the high end to be "untamed" (with the MP-110, as you mention). My (relatively uninformed) thought is that, it is very easy to add capacitance, so why add so much at the preamp? Wouldn't it have been "safer" to just put 100pf (like 99% of <$200 preamps these days)? Or, another uninformed opinion....maybe this is just a British thing....like Vox amps that sound really bright (to an Americans ears)?

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Re: Please recommend a Phono preamp

Post by DeepEnd » 16 Jan 2019 09:24

Congratulations it sounds like the phono stage is doing what it is supposed to do and transmitting what the cartridge is doing/capable of.

I would be interested in your thoughts on the MP110 and MP11B styli in the older MP body to see if it is similar to my findings.

The MP11/110 I found it enjoyable for the cost, had a good midrange and bass but slightly unrefined/excitable higher registers.
The MP11/11B (or MP200 Stylus) same good midrange, much much more refined treble with slightly less, but very well controlled bass, wider soundstage and a bit more air and sparkle. Overall perhaps a bit too refined and “polite”.

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Re: Please recommend a Phono preamp

Post by vintagevinyllover » 16 Jan 2019 14:47

Chuck - great review, glad you liked it!

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Re: Please recommend a Phono preamp

Post by patient_ot » 16 Jan 2019 15:32

klegier wrote:
16 Jan 2019 02:02
Very detailed review. Thank you for that. I have an MP-150 on the way (to replace my Ortofon 2M Red....too bright) and will be looking for a preamp to pair it with, in order to get away from the Denon 4311 AVR internal preamp. I can't help but wonder if the relatively high, non-adjustable, 220pf capacitance is causing the high end to be "untamed" (with the MP-110, as you mention). My (relatively uninformed) thought is that, it is very easy to add capacitance, so why add so much at the preamp? Wouldn't it have been "safer" to just put 100pf (like 99% of <$200 preamps these days)? Or, another uninformed opinion....maybe this is just a British thing....like Vox amps that sound really bright (to an Americans ears)?

For awhile a lot of units had 220pf as the capacitance. If you look at the newer phono preamps coming out, they are mostly in the 100-150pf range which is much better IMHO. Agree that it is very easy to add capacitance - not easy to take it away unless you want to open up your unit and break out the soldering iron. I think some of these brands are just using a well circulated design (not a lot of innovation on the phono preamp front) and not giving the capacitance much thought, which is why some use 220pf. AT MM cartridges, among others, are very sensitive to excess capacitance and can sound overly bright if there is too much capacitance.