Phono pre-amp discussion

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

  1. shaizada

    shaizada Friend

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    Go with the Doshi Alaap if you are considering between the two, unless the Lamm phono u r considering is their top of the line version (deluxe 2.1). Doshi offers a version 3.0 now of their phono that I do not have experience with.

    The Alaap is just more liquid. I have had both in my setup. The deluxe Lamm 2.1 pulls ahead in bass texture and quality. The Alaap still makes a case for a presentation that I prefer....the liquidness is more alluring to me.
     
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    Last edited: Jul 13, 2016
  2. Chris F

    Chris F Boyz 4 Now Fanatic - Friend

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    Awesome, thanks for the info @shaizada. I'm going to upgrade from my Seta Model L to something tubed and reference. The Seta will then go into a second system with my VPI Classic 1 which I plan to eventually upgrade into a 3 or similar. I like the VPI sound and the Kronos and VPI sound very different from each other so I think it's worth having two setups.

    Anyhow, going back to phono stages the three contenders are the Lamm 2.1 deluxe (possibly with a Ypsilon SUT as described by Fremer in his review), the Doshi 3.0 (possibly with the studio modifications) and lastly the Trulife Audio Argo which I heard in Montreal. (picture below; the phono is the bigass box with Jason and the Argonauts ship on it)

    [​IMG]

    I like the Doshi because it strikes me as the ideal execution of SS first gain stage into tubes. Tons of flexibility and studio features. Getting an audition is probably very difficult as there is only a single distributor in the US.

    I like the Lamm because it's universally praised as being a good example of SUT into tubed MM stage. It's built extremely well and by all accounts sounds "big" with lots of bass slam but no bloat. The downside is there are no loading options (400Ohms or bust!) and the built in SUT uses very generic Jensen transformers. (hence the big improvement Fremer reported when going to the Ypsilon SUT) Getting an audition should be possible. There is a distributor in Quebec City.

    I like the Trulife because design wise it's basically the Lamm on steroids and it sounded awesome when I heard it Montreal. Incredible clean bass, very natural yet detailed sound. Absolutely zero fatigue. Overall design is very similar to the Ypsilon VPS 100; both made in Greece, custom made transformers, point to point wiring etc... the parts quality takes a big step up. Louis (Kronos Audio) has kindly offered to let me audition it in my system and also Louis is partnered with Trulife so support is a phone call away and if things go bad it's only a 90 minute drive to Montreal.
     
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    Last edited: Jul 13, 2016
  3. shaizada

    shaizada Friend

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    That Truelife unit sounds very interesting!!
     
  4. Azteca

    Azteca Friend

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    Chris, I notice you have a Seta Model L. Certainly something I've considered purchasing, especially as I am pretty into ripping and archiving and have worked in that field in the past. What do you find to be its shortcomings? It seems to be incredibly clean based on specs and topology. Do you desire the tube magic? Thanks.
     
  5. Chris F

    Chris F Boyz 4 Now Fanatic - Friend

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    I've had my Seta L for 2 years now so I guess it's time for a review :)

    Exterior/Aesthetics/Construction:
    • All the money went into the box. The unit is very well made and uses very high quality parts. The + model gets you a fancy milled case which ups the price by 2K. I asked Rob Robinson if there was any difference in sound when I bought it. He indicated nope but he made the + model because there are a subset of buyers that really really need the "jewelry" effect for them to consider the product and also at shows it looks a bit better then the simple metal case. (see below for internals shot of mine when I replaced the batteries)

    Functionality/Technology:
    • Channel trim option which is fairly rare for a phono pre.
    • Many loading options up to 2K Ohms which is essentially unloaded. Good granularity where you want it at the numerically lower levels. 25, 50, 100, 150, 200 etc...
    • Both SE and balanced in/out. The unit is fully balanced front to back so the balanced is preferred. Multiple grounding options so it can accommodate potentially weird grounding issues.
    • Flat output is a unique feature among all phono preamps and is the main selling feature. The software RIAA sounds excellent, has perfect frequency response and gives you unlimited flexibility (you can pick any turnover values) to create your own custom curve if you want. There are presets for all the major historical curves.
    • While battery powered is not unique, the type of batteries used in this application (lead acid) I think is. The bigger batteries provide lots of current to accommodate big swings.
    • The output stage uses a video amplifier which I'm pretty sure is also unique to phono pre-amps. It's essentially the analog front end of a TV locked on a 5Mhz channel starting at DC. Pretty good idea.

    Sound:
    • In a single word; great. Clean output, good staging, neutral neutral neutral. Really it does nothing wrong.
    • 5Mhz bandwidth eliminates any ultrasonic issues on the input. I don't think I have ever heard any issues like slight distortion on big transients (sharp piano attack etc..) that I might attribute to the phono stage.
    • Very low noise. The noise floor of the phono stage + cartridge (not on record) + table running at 33 is -85dB at my usual recording level. I can turn my Ragnarok to maximum volume (explode equipment loud) and all you hear is a tiny bit of white noise.
    I wanted to be more colorful here but there's not much to say because basically the Seta does what all good components do. It sounds great and does so without fuss. You can read what John Atkinson (a guy who keeps his hyperbole in check) had to say about it here and also check the measurements which are pretty much impeccable:
    http://www.stereophile.com/content/seta-model-l-phono-preamplifier-john-atkinson-december-2013

    I get the impression that in direct playback the Seta stacks up well against it's peers in the same price range and of course the unique features add significant value. As a needledrop tool my impression is that it stacks up well against products up to about 10K (Pass XP-25, Allnic H3000 etc...) but falls short of the $$$ reference level stuff like Ypsilon, Lamm LP1, Pass XS, Allnic H5000 etc... This impression is reinforced by the comparisons I have done of my needledrops to Fremers. The primary difference I hear is that his have better bass presence and overall tonality though I feel my system is really starting to get there especially in terms of transient attack/decay and overall staging. I feel that upgrading my phono stage will be the biggest gap closer in moving my system towards that level of playback.

    Downsides:

    • My batteries died after a year had to replace them. Replacements were inexpensive ($50 total) but still a hassle to source in Canada. I have inlined a picture showing the innards. RIAA module is on top, underneath that is the main board with the video AFE acting as the primary/first gain stage.
    • The biggest strength of the Seta, it's flat output/software RIAA filter, is also it's biggest weakness. When doing needledrops the software RIAA sounds better then built in hardware module. Of course it would be a bit weird if it didn't since the flat output is the selling point but still, the hardware output, despite being very good is more "convenience" then "feature".
    • The video AFE is limited in gain. The flat output is limited to 52dB. My 0.5mV Kleos is OK but I am hesitant to use a 0.25mV cart like the Lyra SLs or Zyx Universe/Omega or Ortofon A95 with the flat output. Direct playback would be OK as the RIAA module adds another 12dB bringing the total to 64 at highest gain. I'm probably going to upgrade to a Zyx Universe as the Kronos Sparta + Helena + Zyx combo play very very well together. This need for more gain combined with the fact I would like my direct playback elevated to the same level as my needledrops plus the expected sound quality improvements previously mentioned are the primary motivations for the new stage.
    • The front panel buttons can finicky. Mine sometimes require a couple presses before the relay goes off properly.

    Yup, nothing is perfect but really for a hand built product this one has been very solid. Sounds great, does it's job without fuss. Would recommend especially if you do a lot of needledrops.



    IMG_1019.JPG
     
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    Last edited: Jul 14, 2016
  6. Mr.Sneis

    Mr.Sneis Friend

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  7. Scott Kramer

    Scott Kramer Friend

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    @Marvey

    Thanks!

    [​IMG]

    Did the acrylic platter, puck, & 2M blue stylus (from red)... it opened the hell up, and awesome bass! Def stick here for now, way too expensive to catch the bug :D (yep it's on the floor, still arranging).
     
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  8. Mr.Sneis

    Mr.Sneis Friend

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    Carpet turntable!!! That's some serious balls my friend.

    You should get the ps audio gcph just to matchy match.
     
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  9. Scott Kramer

    Scott Kramer Friend

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    Nah, I like the little mani.
     
  10. Doctorjazz

    Doctorjazz Rando

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    I use a Pro-Ject Phono Box S with my almost fully loaded LP12, looks like I have to go through this whole thread and get some ideas on an upgrade that doesn't break the bank.
     
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  11. JoshMorr

    JoshMorr Friend

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    @Doctorjazz what price range are you looking at? I had the phono box ds and found the tc-750 to be a big upgrade once I modded it.
     
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  12. Scott Kramer

    Scott Kramer Friend

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    Is there anything wrong running this in Decca mode, Is it the same RIAA curve? The 2M blue is 5.5uV (pretty high isn't it?). It sounds good, but have not tried the other gain settings.

    It looks like the specs are better-->

    Gain 1 = L, Gain 2 = L (Decca Mode)

    Gain: 30dB
    THD: <0.005%, A-weighted, at 1V RMS
    SNR: >90dB, A-weighted, inputs shorted
    Crosstalk: -75dB, 20-20kHz
    Sensitivity: 9mV for 300mV output
    Overload Margin: >20dB

    Gain 1 = L, Gain 2 = H (Standard MM Mode)
    Gain: 42dB
    THD: <0.008%, A-weighted, at 1V RMS
    SNR: >82dB, A-weighted, inputs shorted
    Crosstalk: -75dB, 20-20kHz
    Sensitivity: 2.3mV for 300mV output
    Overload Margin: >20dB

    Gain 1 = H, Gain 2 = L (Low Output MM/High Output MC Mode)
    Gain: 48dB
    THD: <0.01%, A-weighted, at 1V RMS
    SNR: >80dB, A-weighted, inputs shorted
    Crosstalk: -75dB, 20-20kHz
    Sensitivity: 1.3mV for 300mV output
    Overload Margin: >20dB

    Gain 1 = H, Gain 2 = H (MC Mode)
    Gain: 59dB
    THD: <0.03%, A-weighted, at 1V RMS
    SNR: >70dB, A-weighted, inputs shorted
    Crosstalk: -75dB, 20-20kHz
    Sensitivity: 0.3mV for 300mV output
    Overload Margin: >20dB
     
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  13. Scott Kramer

    Scott Kramer Friend

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    *delete this*
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2016
  14. Chris F

    Chris F Boyz 4 Now Fanatic - Friend

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    I think by "Decca mode" they mean London Decca type cartridges which all output 5mV. SNR/THD are always better at lower gain so use the lowest setting you can get away with.
     
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  15. Chris F

    Chris F Boyz 4 Now Fanatic - Friend

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    Small update: I'm going to take a trip to the Kronos factory in Montreal next week to check on the Trulife Argo phono and maybe cut a deal. @shaizada if you want me to ask Louis anything about the Kronos tables let me know :)

    Fremer has one in for review and you can hear it in action in this episode of his radio show paired with the new ($6K) Audio-Technica ART-1000 cartridge and his Continuum Calburn + SAT arm combo :
    https://soundcloud.com/michael-fremer/analogplanet-radios-wfdu-hd2-then-and-now-show
     
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  16. Chris F

    Chris F Boyz 4 Now Fanatic - Friend

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    Well, I'm officially off the deep end now... :p I cut a deal to buy the Argo. This particular Argo was a prototype for what will become the Kronos branded phono stage so it has a bit of extra special sauce in terms of parts.

    At the same time I will be switching to a Zyx Omega Premium cartridge. This was the cartridge I heard in Montreal and is one of Louis' favorite cartridges to demo with. It has spectacular bass, incredible midrange texture and tone and a slightly relaxed top end. I'm going with the Omega over the Universe for two reasons. First is that the Universe is literally double the price and the Omega Premium is already a very expensive cartridge. The second is that the presentation of the Omega will pair well with Latin music which is often too hot up top. It will also help when I play my needledrops on PA systems which usually suffer from distortion and aggressive upper frequency issues.

    Speaking of needledrops here is a little video of one of mine being played back (via CD!!) from the "house" system, a totally sweet Altec A7 "Voice of the Theater" project that Louis has been bringing back to life. Facebook badly messes up the sound (and iPhone mono camera mic...) but trust me when I tell you these things sounded like 30K+ speakers and they are only half way done:
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2016
  17. Chris F

    Chris F Boyz 4 Now Fanatic - Friend

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    Well today was the big day. Louis drove down from Montreal and delivered the Argo. At the same time we set up a brand new Zyx Omega Premium but that will be the topic of another post when it's done breaking in. Before we switched the cartridge out we played a track using the Kleos to test that everything was working. Only took about 10 seconds to hear a very obvious difference between the Argo and the Seta in terms of openess, tonality, stage etc...

    I made a needledrop of Bill Berry "For Duke" last night with the Seta L/Kleos so that I could compare setups when the Zyx is finished break in (10-50 hours) and will post some clips for you guys but in the meantime here are some shots. It's a shame to have to put a solid top on it the inside is so damn nice.

    55lbs of heavy metal:
    FullSizeRender 2.jpg

    IMG_2331.JPG

    Size on the rack with Ragnarok for comparison:
    FullSizeRender.jpg

    Mogami 2549 is the phono cable of champions! :p
    IMG_2337.JPG
     
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  18. Mikoss

    Mikoss Friend

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    Wow. Enjoy @Chris F ... Can't wait to hear your drops as well!
     
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  19. gaspasser

    gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    Back to budget phono preamps...
    I have a Mani and I am looking to upgrade to a quieter phono preamp with better SQ. Running debut carbon with acrylic platter, speedbox & 2M Blue cartridge. Max budget $500. I already have WTB up for RSA F117. I debated getting phono module installed in Jotunheim since that is my amp for listening via dynamat HD650. I just got iFi iphono 2 yesterday and it is much quieter with no hiss until turned past 2 o'clock on high gain. I like flexibility and SQ is initially better on my system.

    Any thoughts o' wise sages of the black circle? As always I appreciate any and all input :bow:
     
  20. gaspasser

    gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    I just started the initial modding of TCC-TC750 with adding the Sola HD PS that Marvey recommended. In my budget system (please see previous post above) it easily beats Mani and iFi iPhono 2. The iPhono 2 is quieter than Mani but not TC750. The sound quality on the iPhono 2 was better with deeper bass but the treble had an etchy, sharp quality that didn't combine well with the already accentuated highs of Jotunheim. I sent iPhono 2 back and moved onto TC750 and followed the mod thread. After listening for probably 6 hours to the TC750/sola hd, the most remarkable thing is the sense of openness/air that is now strikingly apparent. I am really enjoying stringed instruments so much more on vinyl. In solo acoustic guitar work like Hedges, Bensusan and Kotke, I can easily hear the sliding on the frets, finger movements and breathing that weren't apparent before.

    It seems that I will soon follow like others on this path and move up. I am finding it hard to justify spending about 4K on a table/cart/phono stage when I only have about 180 records. Now, I can easily hear that the spin-clean is not doing the best job and might look to invest in a vacuum cleaner like the Pro-ject or Okki Noki.

    I would love if @JoshMorr could weigh in on TC750 vs Pete Millett LR Phono vs ???
     
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