Phono stage or preamp. And which one?

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misterdonlucas
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Phono stage or preamp. And which one?

Post by misterdonlucas » 16 Feb 2019 14:41

Dear all

I was lucky enough to have picked up a Systemdek iix in almost mint condition. It comes with an a MC cartridge (AT F5)

Firstly I'd like to ask,

a) what really is the difference between a preamp and a phono stage?
b) which am i gonna be better off with?
c) what other applications does a preamp have, other than hifi. (although i plan to have it dedicated to the turntable, really)

My further enquiry is, I don't really want to have to spend top-dollar on a phono stage. I have been told there is one by Project MM/MC at £89 one by cambridge audio at about £120 and one by Rega (Rega Fono MC) at a more paiinful £250. and another Valve one by project at £290. THOSE THREE are the brands that keep coming up.

d) any other brands that match the quality of the three mentioned but may be not as expensive?
e) All in all what Phono Stage so you reccomend?
f) all in all what preamps do you recommend?
g) If exclusively valves what phono stages what preamps?

Thanks so much - I hope you can enlighten me with replies to some or all my questions.

If relevant, My amp is a creek audio 4040s2 BUt don't let this complicate the replies i seek - i have already been advised on what input to use.... i only mention the amp in case someone thinks of the ideal phono stage or preamp, but the reality is that perhaps any of the above or suggested alternatives will work well.
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Re: PHONO STAGE OR PREAMP. AND WHICH ONE?

Post by raphaelmabo » 16 Feb 2019 15:24

a) A phono stage is the circuits that take the weak signal from the cartridge and amplify it to a line level signal, and adjusting the frequency so it’s sounds good. Records are cut or coded with a RIAA curve to maximize playing length, and they need to be decoded in order to sound right.

A phono-stage can be built into an amplifier, for example Creek makes amplifiers with built in phono stages, or that can be added later by inserting a phono stage card into the amplifier.

Your Creek 4040 has a built-in phono stage, for MM cartridges. But you have an MC cartridge, so it won’t work.

A pre-amp or pre-amplifier is a box that selects between different sources and it also has a volume control. It sends the signal out to a power amplifier that amplifys the sound for the speakers.

Your Creek is an integrated amplifier, it has the pre-amp section and the power-amp combined in one single box, one unit. Creek also makes separate pre- and power amp. This makes for versatility, you could for example one pre-amp and two power-amps, one for each speakers for maximum power.

Now, a phono pre-amp is a pre-amp with a built in phono-stage and without any inputs for other sources. It comes in a box to be connected to a pre-amp (with source switching) or into an integrated anplifier. A phono pre-amp is phono (turntable) only.

”phono” comes from the words ”phonogram” and ”grammophone”. ”Grammophone” is an older word for a turbtable, one with built in speakers.

b) You need a phono pre-amp for MC cartridge OR a step-up transformer. A step-up transformer converts the MC signal into MM so you can use the built-in MM phono stage that you have in your Creek. Now, step up transformers can be pricey and may not be an easy find, but search om the used market.

c) A phono pre-amp is only for a turntable. Some has a headphone out, but this is rare. They are for connecting a turntable to an amplifier.

Don’t confuse a ”phono pre-amp” with a ”pre-amp”. They are not the same. You don’t need a pre-amp, it’s built into your Creek. It’s a ”phono pre-amp” you need.

d) e) f) g)
Pre-amps for you are expensive because you have a low output MC cartridge. This requires more pre-anplification, which means higher prices. A MM cartridge can use the cheaper MM pre-amps, but you have a low output MC cartridge so you need the more expensive MC pre-amps!

The ones you mentions are low level budget offering, they are actually quite cheap. The ProJect with valves is the best one of them.
Dynavox TPR-2 is a valve phono pre-amp for around 200 euro, as an alternative. Works with MC cartridges. Micromega myGroove is a 200 euro MM/MC pre-amp.
So there’s some out there.

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Re: Phono stage or preamp. And which one?

Post by raphaelmabo » 16 Feb 2019 15:32

You could also sell the MC cartridge, the F5 and get a MM cartridge instead that works with your Creek 4040 without the need for an extra box. The Creek has a built-in phono stage for MM cartridges, but not for low output MC.

Now, there’s also high output MC’s, often called HOMC or HO-MC. They are electrical as a MM cartridge and works with MM phono stage. Denon DL-110, Ortofon MC1 and MC3 Turbo, Sumiko Blue Point, LP Gear Bin, Benz MC Silver, among others.

But your Audio-Technica F5 is a low output, so need a special MC phono stage or a step up transformer.

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Re: Phono stage or preamp. And which one?

Post by vintagevinyllover » 16 Feb 2019 15:47

The AT F5 is a nice cart but you meed an mc phono. recently someone was very happy on here with a Tisbury Audio phono stage that handles mc and mm for only £149, and published a long review. see this thread :viewtopic.php?f=19&t=108879

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Re: Phono stage or preamp. And which one?

Post by jdjohn » 16 Feb 2019 17:40

Raphael provided a very thorough and accurate explanation. Part of the confusion is that folks (me included) tend to use the terms phono-preamp and phonostage interchangeably. I'm wondering if that was the nature of Don's question. For all practical purposes, those are just two different terms (usually) referring to the same thing, depending on context, and who you are talking to.

Another option for running LOMC cartridges is to use a step-up transformer (SUT), the output of which can be ran through an MM phonostage. The chain is LOMC>SUT>MM phonostage. So in Don's case, he could use an SUT, and run that output into his Creek's MM phonostage.

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Re: PHONO STAGE OR PREAMP. AND WHICH ONE?

Post by misterdonlucas » 16 Feb 2019 19:53

wow. This is a trasuretrove of knowledge and i thank you immensely. So let me understand -
a) the main difference between a phono box and a pre amp is that the pre amp doesn't boost the signal like the phono box does? the main advantage of the pre amp being it has inputs for different sources and a volume control, a bit like a mixer, without the EQ, so to speak?

But then

b) what is the difference between a phono preamp and a phono stage? what is the point of the preamp if it doesnt have inputs for anything else and is dedicated for turntable use through its phono stage, which one can get separately?

(excuse my un-technichal mind) but i understand all else and , again, i thank you.

I was told if I get an MC phono stage I can go into other input into my creek, bypassing the phono input (named disc on the creek) which makes sense.

Now that you mention step-up transformers ,

c) will this allow me to change speeds without having to readjust the belt manually, as some power supplies for other turntables do? or is that another kettle of fish altogether?

Is this turntable upgradeable in that one way?

And very finally

d) Are you familiar with Tisbury Audio, Raphael?



raphaelmabo wrote:
16 Feb 2019 15:24
a) A phono stage is the circuits that take the weak signal from the cartridge and amplify it to a line level signal, and adjusting the frequency so it’s sounds good. Records are cut or coded with a RIAA curve to maximize playing length, and they need to be decoded in order to sound right.

A phono-stage can be built into an amplifier, for example Creek makes amplifiers with built in phono stages, or that can be added later by inserting a phono stage card into the amplifier.

Your Creek 4040 has a built-in phono stage, for MM cartridges. But you have an MC cartridge, so it won’t work.

A pre-amp or pre-amplifier is a box that selects between different sources and it also has a volume control. It sends the signal out to a power amplifier that amplifys the sound for the speakers.

Your Creek is an integrated amplifier, it has the pre-amp section and the power-amp combined in one single box, one unit. Creek also makes separate pre- and power amp. This makes for versatility, you could for example one pre-amp and two power-amps, one for each speakers for maximum power.

Now, a phono pre-amp is a pre-amp with a built in phono-stage and without any inputs for other sources. It comes in a box to be connected to a pre-amp (with source switching) or into an integrated anplifier. A phono pre-amp is phono (turntable) only.

”phono” comes from the words ”phonogram” and ”grammophone”. ”Grammophone” is an older word for a turbtable, one with built in speakers.

b) You need a phono pre-amp for MC cartridge OR a step-up transformer. A step-up transformer converts the MC signal into MM so you can use the built-in MM phono stage that you have in your Creek. Now, step up transformers can be pricey and may not be an easy find, but search om the used market.

c) A phono pre-amp is only for a turntable. Some has a headphone out, but this is rare. They are for connecting a turntable to an amplifier.

Don’t confuse a ”phono pre-amp” with a ”pre-amp”. They are not the same. You don’t need a pre-amp, it’s built into your Creek. It’s a ”phono pre-amp” you need.

d) e) f) g)
Pre-amps for you are expensive because you have a low output MC cartridge. This requires more pre-anplification, which means higher prices. A MM cartridge can use the cheaper MM pre-amps, but you have a low output MC cartridge so you need the more expensive MC pre-amps!

The ones you mentions are low level budget offering, they are actually quite cheap. The ProJect with valves is the best one of them.
Dynavox TPR-2 is a valve phono pre-amp for around 200 euro, as an alternative. Works with MC cartridges. Micromega myGroove is a 200 euro MM/MC pre-amp.
So there’s some out there.
Last edited by misterdonlucas on 16 Feb 2019 19:58, edited 1 time in total.

misterdonlucas
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Re: Phono stage or preamp. And which one?

Post by misterdonlucas » 16 Feb 2019 19:55

Thanks kindly John - it all begins to make sense now. The fog begins to lift. I am greatly un- technical and hope to improve. Thanks to you all.

jdjohn wrote:
16 Feb 2019 17:40
Raphael provided a very thorough and accurate explanation. Part of the confusion is that folks (me included) tend to use the terms phono-preamp and phonostage interchangeably. I'm wondering if that was the nature of Don's question. For all practical purposes, those are just two different terms (usually) referring to the same thing, depending on context, and who you are talking to.

Another option for running LOMC cartridges is to use a step-up transformer (SUT), the output of which can be ran through an MM phonostage. The chain is LOMC>SUT>MM phonostage. So in Don's case, he could use an SUT, and run that output into his Creek's MM phonostage.

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Re: Phono stage or preamp. And which one?

Post by misterdonlucas » 16 Feb 2019 19:56

A fantastic contribution to my question, thanks so much this is the kind of guidance i need , I will explore Tisbury Audio.

vintagevinyllover wrote:
16 Feb 2019 15:47
The AT F5 is a nice cart but you meed an mc phono. recently someone was very happy on here with a Tisbury Audio phono stage that handles mc and mm for only £149, and published a long review. see this thread :viewtopic.php?f=19&t=108879

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Re: Phono stage or preamp. And which one?

Post by Pryso » 16 Feb 2019 20:28

" the pre amp doesn't boost the signal like the phono box does"

No, you're still confused.

A simpler answer, although not as complete. A "phono box", more commonly called a phono stage, is a dedicated bit of electronics to do two things: boost the signal strength (the amount of boost may vary from one model to another, or offer multiple amounts of gain) and provide proper RIAA equalization to reverse that utilized when the recoding was made (the subject for a different discussion).

A preamplifier is the traditional name for the component which combines a phono stage with a line section which provides controls such as balance, input selection, etc. Separate line stages became more popular with the popularity of CDs, where the phono stage was no longer needed. Today if you have a line stage, or some receivers, if you want to utilize a turntable/cartridge then you will need an outboard phono stage.

In general, moving magnet (MM) cartridges will have higher electrical output than moving coil (MC) cartridges, so will not need as much signal boost. So not all phono stages will be appropriate for MC cartridges. Conversely, a phono stage designed for MC cartridges will provide too much boost and may distort the signal. All three types are available: lower output for MM cartridges, higher output for MC cartridges, and switchable gain (level) which may be used with most cartridges.

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Re: PHONO STAGE OR PREAMP. AND WHICH ONE?

Post by raphaelmabo » 16 Feb 2019 20:35

misterdonlucas wrote:
16 Feb 2019 19:53
wow. This is a trasuretrove of knowledge and i thank you immensely. So let me understand -
a) the main difference between a phono box and a pre amp is that the pre amp doesn't boost the signal like the phono box does? the main advantage of the pre amp being it has inputs for different sources and a volume control, a bit like a mixer, without the EQ, so to speak?
Ok, let me clarify - there are two types of pre-amp:

a) Phono pre-amp
b) Pre-amp

A *Phono pre-amp* is a turntable only pre-amp with RIAA-decoding and cartridge amplification. *No inputs for other sources*. It is a box with a built-in phono stage and nothing else. It is the "phono-stage in a box". This is what you call a "phono box".

"Phono box" = "external phono stage" = "phono pre-amp".

A *pre-amp* is a box with a volume control and inputs for many different sources. CD, tuner, digital sources, Video etc etc. It connects to a *power amp*. It doesn't have a built in power-amp.

Your Creek 4040 is an *integrated amplifier*, it has a *built in* pre-amp and a power amplifier. The source selection and volume control belongs to the pre-amp section in your amplifier. It has a pre-amp and a power amplifier in one box.
b) what is the difference between a phono preamp and a phono stage? what is the point of the preamp if it doesnt have inputs for anything else and is dedicated for turntable use through its phono stage, which one can get separately?
Phono pre-amp = "phono stage in a box". They are the same thing. A separate, external "phono stage" is called "phono pre-amp".
"Phono pre-amp" is the more formal or technical correct name for "phono stage in a box".

Phono stage is the actual card, the circuits without the box. You can't just plug that in, you need a power supply and connections etc... So an *external phono stage* is = "phono pre-amp". A phono pre-amp has a built-in phono stage.

One could of course say that you Creek has a "built in phono pre-amp", but it is more common to say "it has a phono stage" and to save "Phono pre-amp" for the "external phono stage". In litteratur and adverts, the "external phono stage" is called "Phono pre-amp", and you say "phono stage" for the built-in in an amplifier.

So, your Creek has a phono stage for MM cartridges.
But when talking about the external unit, the "phono box" we more commonly say "phono pre-amp".
Now that you mention step-up transformers ,
c) will this allow me to change speeds without having to readjust the belt manually, as some power supplies for other turntables do? or is that another kettle of fish altogether?
Is this turntable upgradeable in that one way?
A step-up transformer, a SUT, is for connection a MC cartridge into an MM phono stage. It transforms the MC signal into an MM signal, to be read by the MM phono stage in your amplifier. This way you can use your MC without having to buy an external phono pre-amp ("phono stage in a box").

It has nothing to do with the speed of your turntable. If you want to set the speed of your turntable, then you need an external motor controller. And yes I believe there is one available for Systemdekk.
d) Are you familiar with Tisbury Audio, Raphael?
No, haven't heard about them. :)
Last edited by raphaelmabo on 16 Feb 2019 21:04, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: Phono stage or preamp. And which one?

Post by raphaelmabo » 16 Feb 2019 20:37

Pryso wrote:
16 Feb 2019 20:28
A simpler answer, although not as complete. A "phono box", more commonly called a phono stage, is a dedicated bit of electronics to do two things: boost the signal strength (the amount of boost may vary from one model to another, or offer multiple amounts of gain) and provide proper RIAA equalization to reverse that utilized when the recoding was made (the subject for a different discussion).
It is "phono box" = "phono pre-amp" = "phono stage". "Phono pre-amp" can be said to be the more "formal" name. But it is more common to say "phono pre-amp" for the "external phono stage" and to say "phono stage" when it is built-in into an amplifier.
Last edited by raphaelmabo on 16 Feb 2019 21:07, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Phono stage or preamp. And which one?

Post by raphaelmabo » 16 Feb 2019 20:54

Here you have an example of a classic pre-amp:
Micromega PA 20.
https://micromega.com/en/products/mo-range/pa-20/

And it connects to a power amp:
Micromega PW-250.
https://micromega.com/en/products/mo-range/pw-250/

And a pre-amp and a power amp in one unit, is called "integrated amplifier". Like your Creek 4040.
Like this one, Micromega IA-180.
https://micromega.com/en/products/mo-range/ia-180/

PA = Pre-amplifier. PW = Power amplifier. IA = Integrated amplifier.

And here we have a phono pre-amp, also known as "phono stage" or "phono box". Also called "pre-amp phono" or "RIAA pre-amplifier".
Micromega My Groove.
https://micromega.com/en/products/my-range/mygroov/

(I just took Micromega as an example, there are many brands out there with similar products).

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Re: Phono stage or preamp. And which one?

Post by misterdonlucas » 17 Feb 2019 00:17

Thanks so much brother.
God bless great music and great sound. and people who can distinguish the great from the not so great. Thanks for the good vibes. Can't wait to make the right choice and have the phono box at home ,,, first on the platter will be 'Women Are Stoned' by Yeah Saint Paul, supposed to be not just good music but sonically very natural and beautiful. Thanks again.

Pryso wrote:
16 Feb 2019 20:28
" the pre amp doesn't boost the signal like the phono box does"

No, you're still confused.

A simpler answer, although not as complete. A "phono box", more commonly called a phono stage, is a dedicated bit of electronics to do two things: boost the signal strength (the amount of boost may vary from one model to another, or offer multiple amounts of gain) and provide proper RIAA equalization to reverse that utilized when the recoding was made (the subject for a different discussion).

A preamplifier is the traditional name for the component which combines a phono stage with a line section which provides controls such as balance, input selection, etc. Separate line stages became more popular with the popularity of CDs, where the phono stage was no longer needed. Today if you have a line stage, or some receivers, if you want to utilize a turntable/cartridge then you will need an outboard phono stage.

In general, moving magnet (MM) cartridges will have higher electrical output than moving coil (MC) cartridges, so will not need as much signal boost. So not all phono stages will be appropriate for MC cartridges. Conversely, a phono stage designed for MC cartridges will provide too much boost and may distort the signal. All three types are available: lower output for MM cartridges, higher output for MC cartridges, and switchable gain (level) which may be used with most cartridges.

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Re: Phono stage or preamp. And which one?

Post by misterdonlucas » 17 Feb 2019 00:18

Thanks again , man. Finally understood. I'll look at all these links over the weekend. So bloody helpful. Thanks again Raphael.
raphaelmabo wrote:
16 Feb 2019 20:54
Here you have an example of a classic pre-amp:
Micromega PA 20.
https://micromega.com/en/products/mo-range/pa-20/

And it connects to a power amp:
Micromega PW-250.
https://micromega.com/en/products/mo-range/pw-250/

And a pre-amp and a power amp in one unit, is called "integrated amplifier". Like your Creek 4040.
Like this one, Micromega IA-180.
https://micromega.com/en/products/mo-range/ia-180/

PA = Pre-amplifier. PW = Power amplifier. IA = Integrated amplifier.

And here we have a phono pre-amp, also known as "phono stage" or "phono box". Also called "pre-amp phono" or "RIAA pre-amplifier".
Micromega My Groove.
https://micromega.com/en/products/my-range/mygroov/

(I just took Micromega as an example, there are many brands out there with similar products).

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Re: Phono stage or preamp. And which one?

Post by misterdonlucas » 17 Feb 2019 00:20

Thanks to you too .JdJohn,,,, good vibes, good knowledge.... very useful and well received. thank you
jdjohn wrote:
16 Feb 2019 17:40
Raphael provided a very thorough and accurate explanation. Part of the confusion is that folks (me included) tend to use the terms phono-preamp and phonostage interchangeably. I'm wondering if that was the nature of Don's question. For all practical purposes, those are just two different terms (usually) referring to the same thing, depending on context, and who you are talking to.

Another option for running LOMC cartridges is to use a step-up transformer (SUT), the output of which can be ran through an MM phonostage. The chain is LOMC>SUT>MM phonostage. So in Don's case, he could use an SUT, and run that output into his Creek's MM phonostage.

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