Phono pre-amp discussion

Discussion in 'Vinyl Nutjob World: Turntable and Related Gear' started by JoshMorr, Jan 11, 2016.

  1. P-Car

    P-Car Rando

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    How is the comparison coming along Josh?

    I am interested to know what you think of the ECPA vs. the EAR.
     
  2. JoshMorr

    JoshMorr Friend

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    Listened to the new EC through out the week, finally had to some to swap back and forth today. System = VPI Classic with Transfiguration Axia - Phono - Aficionado - Forte. EC uses 2 12ax7's and a 6sn7, EAR uses 3 - 12ax7's.

    The additional gain with the EC makes a direct swap over a bit difficult, listening at 12 o'clock with EC is approx listening at 2 o'clock with the 834p. Easiest way I could think of was to have both phono's powered up, listen to a side of a record, swap input / output cables to other phono, listen to same side of record again.

    With a low output MC cart (.38mV) the step up transformers do a bit of work. EC uses Cinemag (red?) and EAR uses something in house. Many who are more familiar with 834 than I am say MM only version with separate SUT is the way to go. I have the version with build in SUT. When you want all the gain you can get, the bit of a boost isn't a bad thing. Separate power chassis on the EC makes it very quiet, had a blacker background than EAR.

    Stage / image - EAR 834p has a fairly wide stage which I've always liked, the EC has a better 3d effect, approximately same width - but added height and depth. Never realized how the EAR was lacking in this department. EC also excelled at separation between instruments. To test stage and image, I always listen to live albums. On Bill Evans - Sunday at Village Vanguard, La Faro is panned to the left stage with the drums, Evans on the right. With the ECPA he was clearly to the far left and in front of the drums, with the EAR is was less clear and sounded as if they were closer together / in the same spot.

    Tone - ECPA is fuller sounding, more dynamic, deeper impact on bass. Bass isn't bloomy or sloppy, just sounds appropriate. Mids stand out here too. The EAR is drier, which may be desirable depending on the system and which way you are trying to shift balance. EAR had more shimmer on cymbals, probably sharper on the top end, but ECPA wasn't far behind.

    This all comes with a caveat of tubes used. I only used the tubes which came with the EC, and have rolled several tubes in the EAR. Above impressions will hold true either way, but differences could be mitigated with rolling. Differences are smaller than I make them seem above, but the two things that really stick out to me at are the 3d sound and the fuller / deeper bass of the EC.
     
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  3. Mr.Sneis

    Mr.Sneis Friend

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    Sweet, any pics or nudes?
     
  4. jpoyarzun

    jpoyarzun Acquaintance

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    Sorry to get about one or two pages back...

    I got a Parks Audio Puffin (is getting to my country Right now). I will post my impressions back; but, I think in some way it makes a lot of sense. I mean; any MC phono preamp passes for about 3 sound degrading stages, 2 gains (one of them can be made on suts) and one riaa eq. The parks audio encodes and decodes with a lot of detail on 24bit, and all the noisy amplification is done on DSP without any degradation of sound.
    Of course, ADC and DAC can be detrimental, but this guy (Shannon Parks) discontinued his super decent sounding tube preamp (that now is selling more expensive than new) for this phono DSP.

    Prior to ordering one, I asked him on chat if he thinks that using a DSP will end in loss of holography or air or whatever tubes do to the sound. His reply was very convincing and after that, I ordered one, just out of curiosity.

    (sorry for the bad English, is not my native language :) )
     
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  5. Mystic

    Mystic Mystique's Spiritual Advisor

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    IMG_20180809_174531.jpg

    Huge thanks to @sfoclt for this pre-amp. The tubes alone would probably cost as much as what he sold the whole package to me for.

    Now I just need a Turntable to plug into this. Waiting for the Sol to release before I make any decisions on a table. I imagine most would buy a table first, but this deal was just too good to pass up.
     
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  6. Decomo

    Decomo Almost "Made"

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    If you don't mind asking... may I ask your thought on Puffin? Do you still use it? :)
     
  7. jpoyarzun

    jpoyarzun Acquaintance

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    I tried it in a very nice setup (not mine)... (VPI Classic + Lyra Delos + Custom Class A Amp (made by us)+ Tad Exclusive Speakers).
    The current phono preamp of this setup is an EAR 88PB (5k usd).

    After trying and fiddling with the DSP for about two hours, we found a very appealing and satisfying sound, plenty of detail and with a very wide soundstage so I'm quite happy. Does it sound better than the 88PB? nope. Does it sound good? totally yes. Do I recommend it? Definitively.

    Also after a time rotating the gear here in Santiago de Chile with a couple of friends we wrote a mail with feedback to Shannon Parks:

    Things we think can be improved in the firmware
    • Gain setting can be a little more granular, 4db increases are not enough.
    • After any change, the sound should stop for a little, not just in some settings like gain. It's a good feedback to someone when the settings changed (actual FW tries to appear a little more analog)
    • IMHO Tube distortion is not good enough yet; not too much noticeable, maybe a 2nd harmonics low mid and high should fit more.
    • Dim the display (or allow to set it dim in an option).
    Things we think can be improved in the experience (not about hardware or software):
    • We think that for a lot of people, fiddling with the setup of the DSP can be a little daunting. And the manual is a little basic, and we think is targeted to people who know some about how sound works. We think you should add a little more explanations about each setting, or maybe do some videos about each setting to let people know what to expect about each setting and why they need to tune it.
    • Put in the manual (or in your webpage) a list of what is your recommended settings for each cartridge; for the top 10 at least (like Grados, AT, Ortofon 2m and Denon 103x)... and maybe some mechanism for people to submit you their settings too.
    Things we think can be improved in a next release of the hardware (maybe some of this can be for a more pricier premium option):
    • There are a lot of more high-end ADCs with super studio quality going around, and they cost marginally more. Even if it is just for placebo, converting at 192/24 or even higher resolution would be a nice feature to show off.
    • Same that above goes for the DAC.
    • For people with high-end DACs, an I2S or spdif out to allow the conversion on their super expensive top dollar stuff should mean a lot.
    • Doing a class A, jfet shield/buffer for the line out should be awesome. Or at least putting some sockets for changing opamps for people who dig that kind of stuff.
    That was our feedback to Shannon parks (i understand he is taking action of this stuff).

    On my own setup with a NOS Denon 103SL (ceramic body), VPI Traveller, Custom made speakers and the same class A amp... It really shines and gives a lot of detail and holography. In this context, I like it better than the 834p. Also, I really like the look...

    I'll upload pics if someone wants to look.
     
  8. Decomo

    Decomo Almost "Made"

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    Thank you. Greatly appreciated. :)
    I found this recommended setting for each cartridge for the preamp on Amazon product page.

    [​IMG]
     
  9. jpoyarzun

    jpoyarzun Acquaintance

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    Yes, that was after our mail :)... Shanon is a great guy!
     
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  10. deniall83

    deniall83 Acquaintance

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    Really want to try a tube phono but not sure what to try.. Does anyone have any suggestions?

    I'm looking at stuff from Tavish, Decware, Bottlehead, Don Sachs and a few others. Limited to $1k so not a huge amount available. I really think Schiit should do an all tube phono. I reckon they would knock it out of the park.
     
  11. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Acquaintance

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    So I've had more phono stages than shoes in the last three years, from a Phonomena to a Chinook to a Budgie to a Herron VTPH-2 to a Puffin (not in that order), plus a few others that just didn't stay very long in my system.

    I am enamored with the Puffin. It's not perfect, but damn if ever there was a "I'm not a highend phono stage but I play one on TV" kind of device, this is it. I think the potential for this little guy is endless and while I truly enjoyed my Budgie + Parks SUT, I actually enjoy the Puffin more.

    I "replaced" my Herron with the Puffin and I don't intend to make that sound like I think it's better, it is not, but I honestly do not miss the Herron. Priorities and such. That said, the idea that taking vinyl output to a digital domain is a bridge too far is just not true for me, as evidenced by both the Puffin and a little stint with a couple phono stages outputting into an Anthem Statement D2 and using bass management.

    Particulars - running an AT Art9 at 64 db, 200 ohm load. Used the Puffin to get azimuth as close as I could in mono mode with the mono track on the AP test LP, aligned on a Mint tractor. It's engaging, dynamic, excellent soundstage precision and localization, and it's just plain fun to listen through.
     
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  12. Gallic Dweller

    Gallic Dweller Acquaintance

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    So, you have an ART 9 - what deck/arm do you use? Checked out some user reviews (the only ones worth looking at) seems you've popped for a really good piece of gear.

    I used to be valve gear only but that changed some years ago. I bought a Talk Audio MC3 at half price when it looked like the international Ponzi scheme was going to collapse aka 2009. It cost me £600. It is an SS phono stage and kevin Edwards (Talk Audio) used some components that were discontinued. By jumpers you could change all parameters of a cartridge. I use an AT 33EV and have been thinking seriously of buying an ART 9 as my next MC. There are lots of snobs in audio who look down there noses at AT cartridges - fools. I run the 33EV @ 100 Ohm might well try a higher point.

    I have recently put together a Stereo Coffee volume control/preamp - stunning, loads of gain. Only listened through a h/amp but with a h/amp there's nowhere to hide, best way to evaluate any piece of gear.

    It looks like you've made a seriously good buy for little money. A friend of mine that used to be all valve as well has morphed into an SS man with a Devialet Pro 250 @ £11.800. I'm happy with the MC3 and the Stereo Coffee or might well have tried the Puffin - enjoy. The AT 33EV and ART 9 are'nt cheap but boy do they show you how musical vinyl is.
     
  13. jpoyarzun

    jpoyarzun Acquaintance

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    This resumes pretty good my experience with the puffin. I lend this to a couple of friends that are full tube setup expensive setup and they didn't got it (it is not plug and play). However, after come and listening in my place they were very surprised.

    Did you upgrade the firmware?, any changes?
     
  14. Azteca

    Azteca Friend

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    Thanks for posting about this. I checked out the webpage for the Puffin and it is really interesting. I know it goes against a lot of people's sensibilities, particularly given his earlier work on tube gear, but I am interested as someone who has an interest in 78s. Phono pres with a lot of 78 curves are very specialized and expensive. Digital lets you sidestep all that, but what fun is transferring stuff, applying the curve, then listening to the digital files? Good for long-term but not a quick audition. Anyhow, interesting for that niche, and I'm sure it beats all the random $50-100 items out there. In a Q/A video on the page he mentioned possibly adding a digital output down the road (though not too soon) and separating out a few of the 78 settings for additional flexibility. Both would be cool, particularly for the young digital audiophile venturing into vinyl - just plug it into the DAC you already have.
     
  15. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Acquaintance

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    I've had the Art9 for a little over a year, maybe 18 months I don't recall exactly but I've used it with several phono stages now: Manley Chinook, Herron VTPH-2, Lounge LCR mk III (not in that order, mind you) and now the Puffin. At one point I owned a Budgie and Parks Audio SUT, don't remember if I mentioned that, but I've been a Parks fan for the couple of years I've known about his company.

    All told the Herron is the best phono stage I'll likely ever own, and if I can ever find a good price on his MC-only kit from a few years back, I'll buy it. But until such time, I am really enjoying the Puffin and its flexibility, even if I don't use much of it due to insufferably exacting setup practices on my part :)

    The Art9 is, to my ears and my preferences, a better cart than the Lyra Delos and the Dyna DV20XL, both of which I've owned. I'm using the Art on a Jelco SA-750L 12" arm on a George Merrill PolyTable "Super 12." It's a stunning combo that while not cheap, isn't into new-car territory. I listen to a lot of hard rock and metal which benefits greatly from vinyl playback IMO. The masters tend to not be so compressed and loud on vinyl and really get space to breathe, which for complex passages means they become more like a bunch of separate laser beams as opposed to a giant floodlight wall 'o sound like I see in the digital world for that particular material.

    That said - I'm diving back down the digital rabbit hole because I frankly can't think of any way to improve my analog side. I'm happy with it and with my vinyl collection. So, now it's time to see what's been happening in digital land. Just got a CD player delivered today, in fact :)
     
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  16. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Acquaintance

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    Yea it's a little wonderbox IMO. And lots of potential for the future. He's talking about Click Repair which I generally shy away from but I figure if it meets his standards (and it'll be free), wouldn't hurt to at least try it. If it flattens out the image or takes the breath away from a recording, I'll just turn it off, no harm no foul.

    I did update the firmware straightaway but my unit was already just .1 version old so I didn't notice much of any change to be honest. Just figured it was best practice to run the latest and greatest.
     
  17. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Acquaintance

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    I think a digital output would be good, but I also think additional analog inputs would be better. There are already users applying the Puffin to CD and Tape playback to get the para EQ and tilt functions, so this would save them from having to change connections all the time. Either way, I think it's a really interesting direction and I'm glad I took a shot on it.
     
  18. Gallic Dweller

    Gallic Dweller Acquaintance

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    Some years ago now i bought a Poject SE which I hardly used (there were good reasons for that). Even longer ago I had forgotten that i had bought very cheaply a DACmagic. It was only moving that I came across it.

    The Project CDP has a silent action and is rated as a transport. Changed the signal cable and ordered replacement caps for the DACmagic, set up the Project and found that the CD input malfunctioned as did the volume control. Well out of warranty will get in touch with Project in Austria. I only have around 100 CDs but they are like s/hand vinyl used to be, really cheap to buy. A tip - CDPs got a reputation for being bright and hard - standard i/connects are the problem - try air cored solid conductors and be surprised.
     
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  19. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    @Kernel Kurtz , this thread and the Budget Vinyl Rigs one might help you.

    A common recommendation that's cheaper than the Mani is the TC-750:

    https://www.amazon.com/Technolink-TC-750-Audiophile-Preamp-SILVER/dp/B07939F3QL/?th=1

    Not available on amazon.ca currently, but cheap enough to import. Upgrading the power supply reportedly yields benefits, and there are other mods described in this thread.
     
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  20. Kernel Kurtz

    Kernel Kurtz Almost "Made"

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    Thanks for the links. Looks like I can get one of those on eBay from a US seller for about $75 shipped and it seems like it has a good rep. Sure the Mani is only $130 US, but add shipping and exchange and taxes and it will be double that in $CDN One of those should get me connected and give me some time to make sure my vintage table works reliably without spending much. I've been spending too much on audio stuff lately.....
     

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