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Phono pre-amp question

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Initial post: Jan 20, 2013 6:25:45 AM PST
DKPete says:
I'm looking for a way to enhance the sound of my LP's without the use of a graphic equalizer.

For years, I've been using one in order to "beef up" the sound coming from my receiver (Yamaha RX-496) and particularly my turntable. While I know that pre-amps are used as "go-betweens" between a turntable and a reciever which DOES NOT HAVE ready-made phono inputs, can they also be used in conjunction with receivers (such as mine) which DO?


In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2013 6:50:49 AM PST
Grandpa Tom says:
Good morning, Pete:

My understanding is that, yes you can. I believe you'll need to utilize an AUX or other line input and NOT your PHONO jacks. I have never done so, but have considered the same move.

Phono preamps vary widely in construction (solid-state, tube, etc.) and price. There's quite a selection on the Needle Doctor's website below, also.

Have you considered changing the cartridge in your turntable? Changing the cart can dramatically alter the sound. I have experienced same many time over my lifetime. Right now, I'm blessed to be using a PICKERING XV-15 cart I bought in 1975 with a new replacement stylus, even has the brush on it! It's sonic characteristics are exactly what I like and remember. I also have an additional nos stylus for installation after the current one is done.

I am fortunate to live close to The Needle Doctor, link below, which is (IMO only) THE authority on all things vinyl and turntable related.

On another somewhat related topic, I recently scored Please Please Me and Abbey Road on the new 180g vinyl. I've auditioned PPM, and was more impressed than I thought I'd be. Haven't opened AR yet, and likely will keep sealed as collector's item. Scored NEW at my Half-Price Books for about $17 + tax, so was worthwhile.

Anyway, hope this helps. Hope 2013 is as kind to you and your family as possible, Pete.

As always, all the best to you and everyone,

Posted on Jan 20, 2013 6:53:58 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 20, 2013 7:03:13 AM PST
Could you explain what you mean by "enhance" or "'beef up' the sound"? Is the volume not loud enough? Or do you want to change the sound of part(s) of the spectrum, i.e. bass, treble or midrange?

Posted on Jan 20, 2013 6:58:43 AM PST
DKPete says:
GT, thanks. I have also read that if one is to be used with this older type of receiver is shouldn't be plugged into the "Phono" inputs. I'm going to continue looking into this.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2013 7:12:39 AM PST
DKPete says:
SH, when I first got my receiver and used it without the EQ, I was, for all intents and purposes, happy with what I was hearing.

..then I was introduced to the world of graphic equalizers. Suddenly, the drums sounded more dynamic (not simply "louder"), the vocals and guitars richer (both deeper and crisper)..everything seemed to come to life.

As I've done some major vinyl rediscovering over the last five or six years (including the purchase of a Music Hall mmf 2LE turntable), I've been doing increased reading on turntable/vinyl sound, etc. A general consensus seems to be that a graphic equalizer is, to put it mildly, not the best of choices for good, natural sound. While I agree that it isn't "natural", I have to argue on the "good" part because I happen think it's a huge improvement from the flat sound of the turntable on it's own.

That said, I was wondering if there was anything else I could use (along the lines of a pre-amp) inbetween the turntable and the receiver to give me the best of both worlds: a richer sound yet closer to the natural sound of the recording as opposed to the greatly altered "enhancement" of the equalizer.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2013 7:24:20 AM PST
DKPete says:
hello again GT...ahhhhhh...deep breath...on those new Beatle vinyls.

Big disappointment for me, my friend. As you may or may not have read on other threads, I actually bought the box set (it was actually a greatly anticipated birthday gift) and returned it for a full refund. The pressings on these things is, to put it mildly, not great. Not just lots of scratch/pop noise, but a very audible "hiss" noise on the vinyl itself inbetween tracks on many of the albums.

I have, since, re-bought them all individually in hopes of better results. PPM was actually one of the better ones in the box set as it is as such per the individuals. Although I did "land" some better ones than in the box, overall, these are far from what I would call good vinyl pressings. Yellow Submarine is the very worst of the bunch containing clicks, pops and scratch sounds throughout-during the music and all. And the mastering of this particular album is so bad that I actually thought something was wrong with my joke!! I put on my seventies U.K. pressing immediately after and was shocked (and relieved) at the difference.

Also, do not buy RS and Help! The George Martin eighties remixes of these combined with the '09 remastering process did not transfer well to vinyl at all. They both sound very high ended and almost shrilly in spots.

All that aside, my very best to you for a reasonably happy and very healthy new year.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2013 7:26:18 AM PST
onsenkuma says:
If what you're looking to do is enhance 'flat sounding' recordings you might want to look into something like the dbx 3bx Dynamic Range Expander. This is vintage electronics and can be found on eBay. I have this model, and used it a lot with vinyl and some CDs. It had a variable 'Impact Restoration' control which really did what you're looking for. I had this in series with a Vector Research VQ-100 graphic equalizer in the Tape Monitor loop of my old NAD receiver and the sound was clean and warm. As with any signal processor, you get the best results with subtle adjustments.

Alternatively, try googling the Musical Fidelity VL-PSII Phono Stage. A little closer to 'straight wire with gain' than other processors.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2013 7:33:41 AM PST
DKPete says:
Thanks onsekuma. I will look into that Range Expander. You actually use this IN CONJUNCTION with the graphic equalizer??

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2013 8:11:18 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 20, 2013 8:13:25 AM PST
onsenkuma says:
I had these in an older receiver; my newer replacement (7.1 surround from the early '00s) is less accommodating of outboard processors. In the old system (NAD receiver), I had the EQ and dbx connected 'in series' to one of two tape monitor loops, and a Carver C-9 Sonic Hologram Generator between the 'pre-amp out' and 'power amp in' jacks. I later added a Yamaha E300 outboard surround sound processor/amp to the configuration. Headphone listening was like floating in space. I'd never heard anything like it before and haven't since...

That system was a lot of fun, sounded great, and served me well until I went with a high Yamaha surround receiver and moth-balled the older electronics. I recently bought a new NAD integrated amp and phono pre-amp, and plan to revive some approximation of the old system purely for vinyl listening. What can I say? I really miss toying around with and tweaking separate components! Back in the day I loved component audio...

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2013 9:49:22 AM PST
DKPete says:
onsekuma, I looked at the unit on ebay really looks like a different version of an equalizer to use both simultaneously, I think, would be overkill.

Up until a few months ago, I was under the impression that "they" didn't make integrated recievers/amps that included the specific inputs for a turntable. Thankfully, after some investigation, I found that I was wrong. I've seen, at least, a version of the NAD you're talking about (maybe the same one....??) along with a couple of others that include phono inputs. That said, rather than add to my system with older stuff, I prefer to see what I can see with new additions/replacements.

My present Yamaha unit, though, shows no signs of packing it in so I wanted to see if I could get something (new) relatively inexpensive to add to my vinyl "experience" as they say. Like you, I am very much into tweaking...making the highs just a bit brighter, the lows a bit "thicker"; it's all part of the fun for me...but in terms of turntable output (as oppose to CD's), I-personally-consider the "enhancement" that much more necessary (I stress, "personally"; all of this stuff, I fully realize, gets down to what each individual listener prefers or is satisfied with).

As any rate, thanks for your input.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2013 10:56:19 AM PST
onsenkuma says:
Actually the dbx is a different beast altogether, although it bears some similarity to a parametric type of equalizer. The idea behind the product was that what makes recorded music sound more 'realistic' is dynamic range - the difference between the loudest and softest passages in a recording. You'll note right away that this is the OPPOSITE of the thinking behind all the compression now used in the so-called 'loudness wars'. With proper adjusting the dbx puts more 'punch' back into flat recordings without affecting frequency bands the way a graphic EQ does. So, the two devices aren't redundant and can be quite complementary.

Unfortunately, this is a lot easier to HEAR than it is to explain in words!

BTW, the presence of phono inputs on contemporary receivers or integrated amps does not necessarily mean that they contain the requisite phono pre-amp for MM and MC cartridges, so check on this if you're upgrading. When I chose the NAD C 375BEE integrated amp I was quite surprised to learn that it needed an outboard phono pre-amp at about $100.00.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2013 11:37:52 AM PST
DKPete says:
onsekuma...almost reminds me of the olden days when 'we" were buying our very first little stereos....if you bought a cheaper receiver and went to hook up a turntable with a magnetic cartridge you were in for a surprising letdown. Thanks for letting me know that, though.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2013 11:47:01 AM PST
Or....just ditch the vinyl and stick with CD's or High resolution file formats ;-)

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2013 12:26:40 PM PST
DKPete says:
Music, high likely am I to do such a thing??? In all seriousness, though...I've been a big fan of CD's since they came to be and that's not coming to an end anytime soon. The only thing i don't do is download and make copies off the computer unless it's strictly for car listening.

Posted on Jan 20, 2013 3:20:31 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 20, 2013 3:22:14 PM PST
MC Zaptone says:
DKPete, firstly I'm glad you are looking to ditch the graphic equaliser, never really good a thing altering the true sound of recordings! I expect you are experiencing that old problem of vinyl not sounding as loud or beefy as CDs, a common problem. You could if your receiver had the right input run a Phono Stage Pre or power amp through it but in all fairness to the machine that wasn't what it was built for and a separate dedicated integral stereo amp would do a better job and given the age of your receiver it will undoubtably need an upgrade in the DAC (Digital to Analogue) conversion, which would give an all round better sound for music and film.
So if you were to buy a decent phono stage such as the NAD PP2 and an external DAC such as the Cambridge Audio - Azur DacMagic 100 - Digital-to Analogue Converter - Black you would undoubtably have an all round improvement but for that money you could buy a really decent, up-to-date stereo amp and switch between the two.
Remember, because of the different recording techniques and formats, whatever you do they will never reach parity. Occasionally I want to mix Cd tracks and vinyl onto the same CD-R (I'm a commercial DJ) without a drop or variation in sound quality, the only way I can achieve it is to use a top end cassette deck and record the vinyl tracks, then record them in analogue to a dedicated hard-drive/Cd recorder via an external DAC. It is a complete hassle but works very well. Obviously I have tried USB vinyl decks but it doesn't help with the problem of sound differentials.
Good luck

Posted on Jan 20, 2013 6:47:45 PM PST
Most of those USB turntables have crummy tonearms. Not good for your vinyl.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2013 11:22:31 PM PST
It may be helpful to know what cartridge you have installed in your turntable.

A receiver consists of three components built into one chassis; each of these components can be purchased as separate products: tuner (the AM/FM "radio" section), preamplifier (includes source switching, tone controls, volume control, etc.), and power amplifier (boosts the signal enough to drive loudspeakers). A phono preamplifier is a separate stage within a preamplifier/receiver (if it includes a phono stage) and is also available as a separate component. It is sort of a pre-preamplifer and performs two important functions. The output from a moving magnet phono cartridge is very low (significantly less than the output level from CD players, tape decks, tuners, etc.), so the phono stage boosts the signal level. Without getting into the physics of making records, suffice it to say that records are pressed with the low end reduced and the high end boosted. To hear the album correctly, an opposite equalization must be applied (i.e. boost the lows and cut the highs). Performing this equalization (google RIAA equalization curve for more details) is the other task of the phono preamp.

As a previous poster asked, what exactly do you mean by "beef up"? Describe the equalization you typically apply with your graphic equalizer and is it generally consistently applied from record to record (or do you have to make significant changes with different records)?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 21, 2013 5:03:28 AM PST
I think we all have to trust our own ears. If you prefer the sound you get when using the graphic EQ, then use it. Maybe your graphic compensates for the uneven response of your listening room and that's why you prefer the sound. You have gotten some good suggestions of things to try. Most require additional expense, of course. Only you can decide how important this quest is. Using some or all of them may get you closer to a flat response. You may even be able to hear a difference, hopefully for the good. I'm all for trying to improve one's listening setup if one has the money. I wouldn't do it just because you read or heard that your preferred choice isn't "natural".

Posted on Jan 21, 2013 7:11:15 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 21, 2013 7:12:52 AM PST
Steelers fan says:
As I understand the OP, you want to know whether a pre-amplifier will benefit a receiver with phono inputs built in.

I would say, no. Integrated receivers, especially those with phono inputs, render separate pre-amplifiers redundant. Separate pre-amps are meant for use with separate power amplifiers, which are high-end equipment; many pre-amp manufacturers also manufacture matching separate amplifiers for use with specific pre-amps. Plugging a separate pre-amplifier into line-in input jacks on an integrated receiver means that the audio signal still travels through the receiver's own pre-amplification stage, which sort of defeats the purpose of a separate pre-amp.

Posted on Jan 21, 2013 7:18:31 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 21, 2013 7:19:35 AM PST
Steelers fan says:
Now, some powerful high-end vintage receivers back in the "monster receiver" era did have separate inputs for external pre-amps, which cut out the receiver's own pre-amp stage and utilized it as a power-amp only. In those units, the pre-amp and amp stages were normally coupled together for use as a receiver, without the separate pre-amplifier. But those aren't made anymore. That wasn't the same thing as merely plugging a pre-amplifier into a receiver's line inputs.

Posted on Jan 21, 2013 7:23:55 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 21, 2013 7:29:47 AM PST
Steelers fan says:
Back in the day, there were also high-end separate pre-amplifiers which were combined with equalizers in the same unit. But those were also meant to be used in conjunction with separate power amplifiers.

Posted on Jan 21, 2013 7:33:40 AM PST
Steelers fan says:
But, your music, your ears; whatever sounds best for you is right for you.

Posted on Jan 22, 2013 10:03:12 PM PST
I don't think the OP was referring to the pre amp, power amp separate component setup, but more the phono preamp that is used to plug a turntable with a magnetic cartridge into a receiver that does not have a phono input or one that only supported ceramic (cheapo) cartridges.

Posted on Jan 22, 2013 10:12:58 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 22, 2013 10:15:32 PM PST
The only true way your going to hear a recording the way it was "intended" is to be in the control room with the people that are mixing/producing it.
None of us have the equipment or the environment to exactly reproduce that sound.

So we use devices that allow us to tweak the sound to what sounds good to us. Any of them can be over used, EQ's, DRE's.

They even used to sell reverberation units to attach to stereos. A friend had one and you could create your own Wall of Sound, but it got old after a while.

Home theatre receivers have that stuff built in to "recreate" the theatre enviroment, but is still doesn't sound like the Cinemark.

Posted on Jan 23, 2013 4:42:46 AM PST
ravager814 says:
I spent over 400 dollars for a graphic equalizer in the early 90s, and when it was stolen out of my house in England, I never replaced it. To me, a DRE and graphic equalizer is just masking what the shortcomings of your system is. I've since ditched the Bose (awful) AM-5 speakers for a nice B&W bookshelf on stands, NAD amp, Onkyo SACD, and my old DP-47F with Shure Vx-15, preamp, and leave my source direct switch on. For my limited budget, it sounds divine. There is a reason why you stopped seeing so many graphic equalizers being sold for the home audio market.
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Discussion in:  Music forum
Participants:  11
Total posts:  35
Initial post:  Jan 20, 2013
Latest post:  Jan 23, 2013

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