RIAA pre-amps: Integrated vs. low-cost external

the thin end of the wedge
dr_jones
Denmark
Posts: 4
Joined: 24 Jun 2019 13:38

RIAA pre-amps: Integrated vs. low-cost external

Post by dr_jones » 24 Jun 2019 14:02

Hi there,

I am on the market for a 300-600 € A.I.T. turntable. I am looking at models like:
  • Audio Technica AT-LP5
  • Teac TN-400S
  • Pro-ject Debut III Recordmaster
  • Reloop Turn 3
  • Thorens TD 201
Observant readers might have noticed that all of the above have built-in pre-amps. Where I am fully aware that these pre-amps do not measure up to "audiophile-class" pre-amps, I am a little bit confused as to how bad they actually are.

Fx., does integrated pre-amps stack up to 50-100€ pre-amps like a Pro-ject Phono Box MM or Rega Mini Fono A2D?

In other words, would you guys consider adding a 100€ pre-amp to a 400€ TT or just use the integrated pre?

Cossack
member
member
Posts: 83
Joined: 30 Jun 2016 22:22

Re: RIAA pre-amps: Integrated vs. low-cost external

Post by Cossack » 24 Jun 2019 15:33

The way you have asked the question suggests to me that you already know the answer. If you want a "plug and play" solution then the shortlisted tables will, I'm sure, be adequate. However for most of us on the forum one of the key benefits (or curses) of the turntable is that it offers infinite ways of tweaking. If you are sure that "adequate" will always be good enough then fine.

If you think that "adequate" may not always be good enough then consider separates. If you decide you want to change the cartridge at some point the built in phono stage may not be a good match or will restrict your choice. If you decide that the phono could do with upgrading you will struggle to sell it if it is part of your turntable. As you have identified there are a large number of low cost phonos, many of which have switching capability and will allow you into the next phase of your vinyl journey

You will also have a much wider choice of turntables in the first instance.

So to not answer your question I would buy a TT without the integrated phono stage and buy a separate one.

Hope this helps

Tympani1982
member
member
Posts: 110
Joined: 02 Sep 2011 18:37
Location: California

Re: RIAA pre-amps: Integrated vs. low-cost external

Post by Tympani1982 » 24 Jun 2019 18:04

Both integrated ones and external low cost ones are most likely not in the league of real audiophile class. You may waste a lot of money in upgrading and upgrading from those and keep tossing money away. Find a decent used one of Yamaha, Denon, pioneer, etc. made in 70's or 80's if your money is tight. I took a plunge and spent 6 months worth of what I earned from work and bought a Yamaha C-2 in 1980 and I have not had any desire or need to upgrade from it yet.

mamakasou
senior member
senior member
Greece
Posts: 610
Joined: 30 Dec 2014 15:04

Re: RIAA pre-amps: Integrated vs. low-cost external

Post by mamakasou » 24 Jun 2019 19:22

dr_jones wrote:
24 Jun 2019 14:02
Hi there,

I am on the market for a 300-600 € A.I.T. turntable. I am looking at models like:
  • Audio Technica AT-LP5
  • Teac TN-400S
  • Pro-ject Debut III Recordmaster
  • Reloop Turn 3
  • Thorens TD 201
Observant readers might have noticed that all of the above have built-in pre-amps. Where I am fully aware that these pre-amps do not measure up to "audiophile-class" pre-amps, I am a little bit confused as to how bad they actually are.

Fx., does integrated pre-amps stack up to 50-100€ pre-amps like a Pro-ject Phono Box MM or Rega Mini Fono A2D?

In other words, would you guys consider adding a 100€ pre-amp to a 400€ TT or just use the integrated pre?
They might be cheap but not necessarily bad.
Bare in mind that a phono preamp can be a very simple circuit with minimal design and parts.
That can be a good thing sometimes, since less parts can aid to a good result.

For better results that don't break the bank you could also look into DIY kits.

PS: That Audio Technica seems to be a better one.

aardvarkash10
long player
long player
Posts: 1329
Joined: 24 Mar 2009 01:57
Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Re: RIAA pre-amps: Integrated vs. low-cost external

Post by aardvarkash10 » 24 Jun 2019 21:03

thereis a lot of emotional tosh and man-parts comparing in the audio world.

Phono pre-amps are no exception.

With the components available today, its trivial to build a highly competent RIAA preamp for less than $20 - in essence its a couple of $2 op-amps and a handful of resistors and capacitors. Assuming a competent design and build its performance will be within sampling error tolerances of any other competent pre-amp and, with the right dark coloured aluminium box and suitably gold-encrusted terminations, it will be indistinguishable from items retailing for a couple of orders of magnitude more.

I'm picking, given the ease of the design and construction phases for a large audio manufacturer, any of the devices you list will have an eminently stable and accurate RIAA pre-amp in place.

Collux
senior member
senior member
Australia
Posts: 267
Joined: 01 Oct 2017 23:54
Location: Melbourne, AUSTRALIA

Re: RIAA pre-amps: Integrated vs. low-cost external

Post by Collux » 24 Jun 2019 21:27

aardvarkash10 wrote:
24 Jun 2019 21:03
With the components available today, its trivial to build a highly competent RIAA preamp for less than $20 -
Definitely agree with this view.

There are many op-amp designs and DIY kits to be found on the web.
Here are a couple:
https://www.muffsy.com/
http://hifisonix.com/riaa-phono-eq-amp/

Alternatively on the commercial front, offerings from Schiit may appeal.
Starting with https://www.schiit.com/products/mani

Whichever way you go (particularly in the longer term), I think you will be much happier with an external unit.

Boltman92124
senior member
senior member
Posts: 895
Joined: 22 Jan 2016 23:18
Location: San Diego

Re: RIAA pre-amps: Integrated vs. low-cost external

Post by Boltman92124 » 24 Jun 2019 21:43

I switched from the built in Audio Technica pre-amp to an external within a few months of getting mine. The built in pre sounded OK but had low output and not much "beef" compared to the Emotiva XPS-1. There is a new AT model coming out called the AT-LP140x ($399) that does not contain the built in pre(thus eliminating electronics/capacitance in the chain) and has removable RCA's.

https://www.audio-technica.com/cms/turn ... index.html

Bob Dillon
senior member
senior member
United States of America
Posts: 415
Joined: 03 Mar 2019 20:22

Re: RIAA pre-amps: Integrated vs. low-cost external

Post by Bob Dillon » 24 Jun 2019 23:01

dr_jones wrote:
24 Jun 2019 14:02
Hi there,

I am on the market for a 300-600 € A.I.T. turntable. I am looking at models like:
  • Audio Technica AT-LP5
  • Teac TN-400S
  • Pro-ject Debut III Recordmaster
  • Reloop Turn 3
  • Thorens TD 201
Observant readers might have noticed that all of the above have built-in pre-amps. Where I am fully aware that these pre-amps do not measure up to "audiophile-class" pre-amps, I am a little bit confused as to how bad they actually are.

Fx., does integrated pre-amps stack up to 50-100€ pre-amps like a Pro-ject Phono Box MM or Rega Mini Fono A2D?

In other words, would you guys consider adding a 100€ pre-amp to a 400€ TT or just use the integrated pre?
You are in Denmark, I don't know...but have you considered a U-Turn ? https://uturnaudio.com/products/orbit-custom

I have no direct experience with the turntable. Word of mouth on these TT's is generally positive. You can get one with a built in U-Turn preamp, or the preamp as seperate. The preamp I do have experience with. It's a very decent MM preamp for it's price point. You can get the TT, Ortofon 2M Blue cart and built in Pluto for under your budget, at least as it is in U.S dollars. In U.S. that package is 460.00, not too shabby. Or get the Ortofon cart and upgrade the stylus later, when budget allows.

EDIT - NEVERMIND : Looks like shipping is only to U.S. and Canada. #-o

Collux
senior member
senior member
Australia
Posts: 267
Joined: 01 Oct 2017 23:54
Location: Melbourne, AUSTRALIA

Re: RIAA pre-amps: Integrated vs. low-cost external

Post by Collux » 25 Jun 2019 09:01

If low cost is a priority: there are many pre-amp options on ebay:
from:
-boards only
-populated boards
-kits
-completed units.

I would hope most at the very low end, are at least functional !
Yet, I've no idea regards the quality & performance at the lower price points.
Perhaps someone who has gone down this path can comment?

I would think at this price level however, many may not be an optimum match for a 300-600€ turntable.

At the end of the day, it's really a matter of what you are prepared to pay for a 'low cost' pre-amp?
- for ~100€, something better than the integrated units seems possible.

The other important consideration in matching components is: just what cartridge are you proposing to use?
Last edited by Collux on 25 Jun 2019 09:26, edited 3 times in total.

raphaelmabo
long player
long player
Sweden
Posts: 1641
Joined: 30 Aug 2010 21:01
Location: Askersund, Sweden
Contact:

Re: RIAA pre-amps: Integrated vs. low-cost external

Post by raphaelmabo » 25 Jun 2019 09:16

I believe the AT, Teac, Reloop and Thorens has the same built-in phono pre-amp. They are all made by Hanpin, in Taiwan or in China (I know that the Thorens is "Made in Taiwan", but Hanpin has factories also in mainland China). These turntables are not identical, there are differences between them - but I think the phono pre-amp is the same. You may also consider the Elac Miracord 50, this too is within your price range.

It's a perfectly Ok phono pre-amp, it works. Compared to an external phono pre-amp at above 100 euro, their sound can feel a bit "clouded", lacking in resolution. There are many good phono pre-amps out there. It's easy to disconnect the built-in one and attach an external, so even if you are not using the built-in phono pre-amp those turntables may be worth getting.

Agrippa
member
member
Norway
Posts: 204
Joined: 17 Oct 2003 01:07

Re: RIAA pre-amps: Integrated vs. low-cost external

Post by Agrippa » 25 Jun 2019 12:16

dr_jones wrote:
24 Jun 2019 14:02
In other words, would you guys consider adding a 100€ pre-amp to a 400€ TT or just use the integrated pre?
Ideally neither. However, The first two choices (possibly all, but I just had a quick look at those two) have the option to bypass the built-in preamp. Hence you can use it to your heart's content while at the same time auditioning external phono stages and decide if you want or need one.

Buying a separate 100 Euro phono stage right off the bat without knowing if you're getting anything better than what's built in is the very last thing I would do, as to date I've never heard a good 100 Euro phono stage (DIY jobs not included).

aardvarkash10 wrote:
24 Jun 2019 21:03
With the components available today, its trivial to build a highly competent RIAA preamp for less than $20
While that's true, it does not in any way equate to a 100 Euro off-the-shelf phono pre being highly competent. And not everyone knows front from back on a soldering iron and is comfortable building their own.

dr_jones
Denmark
Posts: 4
Joined: 24 Jun 2019 13:38

Re: RIAA pre-amps: Integrated vs. low-cost external

Post by dr_jones » 25 Jun 2019 21:18

Thanks, guys, for your input. It is greatly valued.

I'll pick the TT first and worry about RIAA afterwards (if it has a built-in, then I'll give that a try to begin with).

As for your suggestions on alternate tables: I am actually also looking at previously owned older models like -
  • Systemdek IIX
  • Systemdek II
  • Era mk6
  • Micro Seiki BL-51
  • Ariston Icon
However, my limited knowledge makes it extremely hard to compare a 35 years old mid-range table to a new entry-level one...

nat
long player
long player
Posts: 4257
Joined: 07 Nov 2002 19:05

Re: RIAA pre-amps: Integrated vs. low-cost external

Post by nat » 25 Jun 2019 23:20

Those used tables are pretty attractive, though all might be problematic to find parts for if needed. So only consider them if they are fully working.
I have a BL 51, and its a very good looking, capable table. Systemdeks tend to be solid performers. I lust after ERA tables, but have never seen one in the flesh. Apparently if you take them apart, there are unshielded electrical parts, so don't open it up while plugged in - that is sensible for any table of course. My dim memory of the Ariston Icon is that is has a simpler suspension than the full sized ones, but still is a good sounding table.

Agrippa
member
member
Norway
Posts: 204
Joined: 17 Oct 2003 01:07

Re: RIAA pre-amps: Integrated vs. low-cost external

Post by Agrippa » 26 Jun 2019 00:47

dr_jones wrote:
25 Jun 2019 21:18
As for your suggestions on alternate tables: I am actually also looking at previously owned older models like -
  • Systemdek IIX
  • Systemdek II
  • Era mk6
  • Micro Seiki BL-51
  • Ariston Icon
However, my limited knowledge makes it extremely hard to compare a 35 years old mid-range table to a new entry-level one...
I know the Systemdeks and the Micro Seiki, all of which are excellent decks when in excellent condition. However, and to echo nat above, I wouldn't consider buying any deck from the list (or any other) unless I was sure it is in top condition. In other words unless I could either inspect it myself or it came from a dealer I knew could be trusted to check and test his/her wares properly and also trusted to take it back and provide a refund if things go tits-up.

After all, I've seen many, many more of these sold which turned out to require service and/or repair, sometimes extensive, than those which have been in great condition on arrival.

patient_ot
senior member
senior member
Posts: 820
Joined: 03 Dec 2013 19:32

Re: RIAA pre-amps: Integrated vs. low-cost external

Post by patient_ot » 26 Jun 2019 18:55

If OP is buying one of the entry-level new TTs in the first post, I'll say it doesn't really matter because if you stick with vinyl you'll likely end up with a completely different TT/cart/preamp system than you started with in 2-3 years. That's how things usually go, and the cheap stuff is probably "good enough" to get you started if you're not too critical. If I was forced to buy one of these decks, I'd choose the one with the best resale value that is the least hassle to use according to your intended use.

Echoing what others said, I also think a used/vintage deck is a much better value overall, but will require more legwork and research on your end. I don't recommend buying a used TT online, as most sellers don't have a clue how to pack them properly.

Post Reply