Anyone know Phono Preamps?

Discussion in 'Electronics' started by moostapha, Dec 26, 2017.

  1. moostapha

    moostapha
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    I went and got my records from my dad's house. I'd like to be able to listen to them.

    When I got the bug in my head to do that, I bought a random preamp off amazon based on reviews. Well...apparently the amazon reviewers don't have a clue how things are supposed to sound. I'd probably be okay with it if I listened to music I didn't know well, but...it sucks. A lot.

    Among other things, the high's are rolled off more than they should be, it's hot as hell (even with the gains turned all the way down, it's clipping inputs on some records), everything sounds "warm" to the point of being muddy (super loud low-mids), bass extension sucks...it sounds like it's putting a frown EQ on everything. And there are literally no adjustments.

    The cartridge I'm using isn't particularly nice, and it is fairly hot. But, it's not this bad.

    I'm used to the sound of records (with these cartridges, turntables, speakers, and room) through my Rane DJ Mixer, but I don't want to DJ with them anymore, and I don't want to set up all that stuff just to listen to records. I just want to listen and maybe digitize some of my dance records that I don't have digitally.

    I also destroyed one of my styli by fumbling with it...man, I'd forgotten how much of a PITA records are.

    Anyway...anyone have any recommendations in the $35-50 price range...I'm looking for something that's as close to dead-flat as possible in the price range, maybe with a gain control. I'm not opposed to digital or class-D hardware (at all), but I'd have to look into how that will change the rest of the setup.
     
    #1 moostapha, Dec 26, 2017
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2017
  2. Sharaz_Jek

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    I like crisp digital sound but you may look into a vintage graphic equalizer. I stole a Sansui RG-7 out the door at a thrift shop a few years ago. Not my vid but it illustrates what you can do with vintage gear.

     
  3. EZDog

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    Without having even the slightest clue exactly what you are referring to about your system it is impossible to just guess what gear may help you?

    We talk about Audio as a "System" because it is all inter related and without any knowledge of what you already have no one could really help in a meaningful way.

    So what exactly are you trying to find a pre-amp for?

    Turnatable?
    Cartridge?
    MC or MM ?
    Entire rest of electronics?
    Which input on your Amplifier/Receiver are you connected to?

    Turntables require an added stage of EQ unique just to them to make them work with every system.
    Usually this stage is built into the Amp but only if using the Phono input and if there is no dedicated Phono input on your Amp then you need one kind of unit in specific.

    If on the other hand you are thinking of the Pre-Amp as just the Volume Control Section of your system then you may not have a Phono Stage at all and the sound will be EXACTLY as you describe in general?

    Likewise if you connect a table to any non-phono input on anything it will sound like you describe.

    So more details are needed to try to help.
     
    #3 EZDog, Dec 28, 2017
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2017
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  4. moostapha

    moostapha
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    Phono preamps have a RIAA curve built in. I don't use separate EQ on any source except as an effect in my DJ setup. I really don't need anything except a RIAA Phono preamp that actually follows the spec with a flat/transparent sound.

    I am not an audiophile in the popular sense. I use gear to listen to music, not the other way around. I have no particular affection for vintage or analog, and I've based that on using some of the best vintage and analog gear anywhere near here (I used to work in a recording studio that, among other things, had the only working ssl 4000 G in the state). I want things to sound flat and transparent so I can hear what the musicians and engineers intended.

    Right now, the speakers are Rokit RP5s, which I don't like. Some time next year, I'm upgrading and looking seriously at the dynaudio 3-way monitors or B&W 683 S2s (with an appropriate, flat/transparent amp) and a matching sub. The room is treated with around 3 grand in GiK Accoustics traps and diffusers, designed by one of their engineers.

    Since most normal people haven't heard them and have insane misconceptions about studio monitors...the rokits are "okay" and sound like mid-scooped bookshelf speakers with a bit more bass extension than you'd think. They're not particularly detailed. I have them on heavy stands and iso-acoustics isolators to tame that a little bit, but the scooped mids sound remains to a degree. The highs are a little harsh and forward, and the mids are still a little low. Setup like this, they sound a lot like how people describe Klipsch bookshelf speakers.

    They're fed from a Focusrite Scarlett. Sources other than the computer run into line inputs with direct monitoring. Set up like that, the Scarlett is pretty transparent and just gives a cut-only gain stage (unity gain is all the way up on the analog output control). Other than setting input gain appropriately, I listen to my DJ gear the same way and have zero problems....good levels and plenty of headroom throughout.

    The turntable is an sl-1200 mk2, currently with an m-44G, which is a slightly bass heavy, fairly hot DJ cartridge. But, I've been listening to these carts since 2005 (obviously I've replaced the styli). I know what they're supposed to sound like too. And I've never had problems like this with them.

    The cartridge is going to be replaced at some point with the same goal...transparency. But I want to figure out the preamp first.

    I've been listening to this setup (other than the preamp), in this room for a couple years. I know how it's supposed to sound. And when I run the TT through my rane DJ mixer, vinyl sounds like I expect (the flaws I hear are from known problems...the speakers, the DJ cartridge, and the internal transformer on the TT). The records that sound "wrong" are singles that I've been hearing on various systems for over a decade and through my DJ mixer in this room a few times. I know what they're supposed to sound like.

    The frequency response issues were from the fact that it's a tube preamp and needed to warm up for a lot longer than any guitar amp I've had. That part of it sounds okay after 15 minutes or so of just sitting there.

    The biggest problem now is that the phono preamp I have is INSANELY hot. Older vinyl mostly sounds okay, but modern records (pressed louder but not loudness wars squashed) definitely clip the ADC, so recording them is out of the question. Many of them clip the analog voltage rails in the Scarlett and cause distortion at the input gain stage even with the gains at -21dB. Those rails clip at +20dBu. That's freaking retarded...the RIAA specs for Phono preamps have them outputting at -10dBu nominal, and there is no way in hell these records have a crest factor of 30dB. And, again, running them through DJ mixers over the last 10-12 years (for some of them), I've never had to set input gains that low to keep them from clipping.

    The preamp is the biggest problem. But, it was well reviewed on amazon. And, the audiophile forums and what not I've checked seem to think you absolutely have to run through a hifi receiver, which is a huge waste of space and money in this setup.

    From asking on another forum, it seems like the best course might be to sell the 1200s and get a TT with a line level output. I'm not opposed to that, but I wanted to see if there was a decent preamp first just because technics have gotten so damn expensive that if I sell these, I'll never own another pair.


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  5. EZDog

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    OK then,like I said a little more information would have gone a long way towards helping in the first place without me ending up seeming to sound so condescending?

    Old School like me obviously.

    Everything else aside if as you say the crappy sounding records are recorded so hot in the first place there is likely not too much you can do to make it better,
    Crap In=Crap Out.

    You might try running the pre-amp signal through a nice mild compression but I have little confidence that if the groove are so over cut it will help too much.

    Padding the input after passing the crap will just end up with too much gain somewhere else like it always has and always will.

    You could also obviously just digitize everything and try to "Edit Out" the crap but I wouldn't waste much time with that myself.

    The real problem seems to be the trend these days for new people to the business to think the phone speaker is a standard bearer of audio quality to strive for and everything in the chain suffers directly as a result.

    Mastering from digital at best yields digital sounding masters and there is little hope for any traditional analogue sweetness which should really be what drives any return to vinyl in the first place.

    I imagine that you already know this though?

     
  6. moostapha

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    Yeah...I disagree with almost everything you said.

    Records being cut a little hot does NOT cause problems unless something down the line clips, which in this case is caused by a fixed gain stage that's too loud. My guess is that they set this preamp loud to fool people into thinking it was good, since people's ears think louder is better up to a point. I'm not convinced it isn't distorting internally, but I can't really test that because it's smashing the hell out of the next gain stage.

    I am not adding compression. That will just make things worse, and if it's this hot, I'll clip the input to the compressor anyway. Adding compression to a distorted signal is the absolute last thing you want to do.

    Padding the input would work. You think it doesn't because you apparently don't understand gain staging. But, it's more crap in the signal path I don't want and don't need, and it would reduce the (already comparatively tiny) signal to noise ratio of vinyl.

    I obviously can't digitize from where I am right now. It's clipping the analog stage of my interface before the DAC, at which point the signal is unrecoverable. You cannot edit out distortion in analog or digital, no matter how much liars in various marketing departments say you can.

    No one masters for phone speakers. Literally no one. If they did, there would be no bass in any song.

    There is no digital sound. There used to be, back before people figured out how to create good anti-aliasing filters. Now, there are a few specific pitfalls in the mixing (and to a lesser degree mastering) stages that mostly boil down to digital being so much more accurate at reproducing extreme highs and lows (which takes up dynamic range and causes over-compression), amateurs not understanding reference levels (and hitting their digital processors way too hot, when there's no reason to since the digital noise floor at that stage only exists in an academic context), and intersample modulation distortion, which also comes from people not understanding what digital full scale meters actually mean and doing things that would sound even worse on analog gear if they did the same thing.

    Analog sweetness isn't really a thing. People convince themselves it is because the inaccuracy, loud noise floor, and distortion inherent to any analog system (especially one with a lot of processing) cover up flaws that digital reproduction and processing doesn't, and literally no one in the audiophile world understands loudness matching.


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  7. EZDog

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    Just glad I could help.

    Don't worry though I promise it will not happen again.
     
  8. moostapha

    moostapha
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    So, if anyone cares, I figured out the issue.

    Apparently there's an internal switch for high or low gain that comes set to high by default. I'm not sure why this control exists...the preamp sounds fine set to low, but set to high, all it does is clip everything you run it into.
     
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