New to Vinyl - Built-in or External Phono Pre-amp for new TT? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 28 Old 01-03-2012, 12:09 PM - Thread Starter
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My mom wants to get back into her vinyl collection, and she usually comes to me with all of her AV-related questions. I know next to nothing about vinyl and TTs, but after doing some research here and elsewhere I pointed her to a Denon DP300F TT with Ortofon 2M Red cartridge at needledoctor.com. The Denon has a built-in phono pre-amp, however I've read conflicting information on whether it will be adequate.

She'll be using a pair of Dunlavy SC-III loudspeakers that I gave to her with a Pioneer VSX-1121 receiver (which does not have a phono input) - the Dunlavys are incredibly neutral and sensitive so they're quite capable resolving very fine audio detail. Given that, would using an external pre-amp from say phonopreamps.com yield a percievable increase in AQ or will the one built into the Denon be sufficient?

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post #2 of 28 Old 01-03-2012, 03:21 PM
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Given that, would using an external pre-amp from say phonopreamps.com yield a percievable increase in AQ or will the one built into the Denon be sufficient?

My guess (and it's only that) is that the built-in preamp won't be appreciably worse what you can buy at phonopreamps.com. The cartridge is going to be the weak point in the system no matter what, simply because carts have much wider FR variations than even budget preamps do.

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post #3 of 28 Old 01-03-2012, 03:30 PM
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Keep the internal phono and invest an extra $100 for a Ortofon 2M Blue. Much better detail than the Red.
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post #4 of 28 Old 01-03-2012, 04:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks to both of you for the information - it seems that you're both in agreement that any extra money would be better spent in a better cartridge rather than in an external pre-amp.

What about one cartridge makes it better than another? Are there any places where I can go to look at the measured FR differences between various cartridges? Thanks for helping me increase my (currently zero) knowledge on this subject - it's making me consider looking into vinyl for myself as a lot of the music I like is available in that format.\\

**Edit: How long should I expect a cartridge to last with good care and light to moderate usage?

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post #5 of 28 Old 01-03-2012, 07:44 PM
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What about one cartridge makes it better than another? Are there any places where I can go to look at the measured FR differences between various cartridges?

I don't know of anyone who systematically measures cartridge performance. There are spec sheets, but they probably aren't comparable from one cart to another. You're left to Internet lore and the opinions of so-called reviewers whose only expertise may consist of reading pricetags.

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post #6 of 28 Old 01-03-2012, 10:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

I don't know of anyone who systematically measures cartridge performance. There are spec sheets, but they probably aren't comparable from one cart to another. You're left to Internet lore and the opinions of so-called reviewers whose only expertise may consist of reading pricetags.

That's what I was worried about. From looking at the spec sheets, there seems to be little that separates the Ortofon 2M Red from Blue (or Bronze or Black for that matter). I'll freely admit that I may not recognize seemingly insignificant differences as being significant due to my lack of TT-related knowledge.

I'll be up front in that I don't buy into a lot of the esoteric audiophile stuff that lacks some sort of measurements (or at least sound audio science) to keep their claimed performance grounded in reality. I'm not saying that more expensive cartridges can't be better, but I'd like to know why they're better before shelling more money out (or convincing my mom to do so) for a "better" one.

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post #7 of 28 Old 01-04-2012, 07:27 AM
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Hog I personally have no experience with the denon but i do not like fully automatic tables as the mechanism can fail. I like the project or the Music hall models.

Not sure how much you want to spend but the sumiko pearl cartridge is
a better cartridge IMO and have since done their upgrade program from that cartridge to the blue point special and now finally the Blue point evo III over the past 4 years.

When the sound starts to loose detail I follow the upgrade path with cartridges in that line.

I listen mostly to vinyl.

Athanasios
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post #8 of 28 Old 01-04-2012, 07:27 AM
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First off the the stylus tips on the Red & Blue are different. The Red has a an eliptical diamond tip. It is a smaller diamond and it's adhered to a tube(or shank). The Blue is a nude eliptical which has a larger diamond and is punched through the cantilever. This allows the Blue to track better and give you less distortion at the higher frequencies. Vinyl is a physical medium in that the stylus must interact w/the record. The better your cart tracks you will get more detail from those grooves. Don't get me wrong the Red is a top notch entry level cart but the Blue will give you smoother highs better bottom end and a wider soundstage. Unlike the arguement about CD players and amps sounding the same if you did a double blind test between a Ortofon red, blue or black you would know the difference between all of them.
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post #9 of 28 Old 01-04-2012, 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by HogPilot View Post


That's what I was worried about. From looking at the spec sheets, there seems to be little that separates the Ortofon 2M Red from Blue (or Bronze or Black for that matter). I'll freely admit that I may not recognize seemingly insignificant differences as being significant due to my lack of TT-related knowledge.

I'll be up front in that I don't buy into a lot of the esoteric audiophile stuff that lacks some sort of measurements (or at least sound audio science) to keep their claimed performance grounded in reality. I'm not saying that more expensive cartridges can't be better, but I'd like to know why they're better before shelling more money out (or convincing my mom to do so) for a "better" one.

You will hear differences. There are many catridge parameters which influence sound. Some cartridges work better on one TT than another. I recommend to use something that is known to work well, later when you get more familiar with art (yes, there is more art than science) of vinyl playback, you can start tweeking and upgrading your system.
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post #10 of 28 Old 01-04-2012, 07:42 AM
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I think this project with the pearl cartridge is also a good buy if automatic feature doesn't matter.

http://www.needledoctor.com/Pro-Ject...&category=1143

Athanasios
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post #11 of 28 Old 01-04-2012, 07:52 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nashou66 View Post

Hog I personally have no experience with the denon but i do not like fully automatic tables as the mechanism can fail. I like the project or the Music hall models.

Not sure how much you want to spend but the sumiko pearl cartridge is
a better cartridge IMO and have since done their upgrade program from that cartridge to the blue point special and now finally the Blue point evo III over the past 4 years.

When the sound starts to loose detail I follow the upgrade path with cartridges in that line.

I listen mostly to vinyl.

Athanasios

Thanks much for the feedback - and good luck if you ever decide to jump the upgrade gap to the Blackbird, that's a pretty penny! What kind of upgrade program does Sumiko offer?

The reason I chose the automatic table was mostly for ease-of-use for my mom. She wears glasses (or should, she rarely does) and I figured it would be easier for her to have an auto table than to try to fumble with finding the starting point on an LP in low light or whatnot. Plus she wouldn't have to worry about moving the tonearm after the album is over - i.e. it would give her more life on her cartridge. However needledoctor.com mentions the added mechanisms required for an auto-table can potentially increase vibration and/or decrease sound quality. I guess I'll have to try to do a little more reading on reliability and impact on sound - and of course any comments here would be appreciated. Plus I could always ask my mom if she'd mind a manual vs. auto TT.

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First off the the stylus tips on the Red & Blue are different. The Red has a an eliptical diamond tip. It is a smaller diamond and it's adhered to a tube(or shank). The Blue is a nude eliptical which has a larger diamond and is punched through the cantilever. This allows the Blue to track better and give you less distortion at the higher frequencies. Vinyl is a physical medium in that the stylus must interact w/the record. The better your cart tracks you will get more detail from those grooves. Don't get me wrong the Red is a top notch entry level cart but the Blue will give you smoother highs better bottom end and a wider soundstage. Unlike the arguement about CD players and amps sounding the same if you did a double blind test between a Ortofon red, blue or black you would know the difference between all of them.

I did some more poking around and found some documentation from another company that explained a little of what you explained above. I certainly understand how the shape of the stylus tip can allow it to trace the groove of the record in a particular way, thus affecting the resulting sound. I really wish I could sit down and listen to different cartridges on the same system to listen to the difference for myself to see which I prefer. I'm sure I'd be far more discerning than my mom, but at this point I'm more curious than anything else.

Thanks again for the great info so far from everyone, please keep it coming! You guys have been incredibly helpful

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post #12 of 28 Old 01-04-2012, 08:10 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by nashou66 View Post

I think this project with the pearl cartridge is also a good buy if automatic feature doesn't matter.

http://www.needledoctor.com/Pro-Ject...&category=1143

Athanasios

Thanks for the suggestion! Again, being that this is my mom, she probably wouldn't like the "look" of that one (even though I think it's cool). I'll run it by her and see what she says though, it seems like a great value.

For manual TTs, I was also looking at the Music Hall MMF-2.2 - anyone have any experience with that one?

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post #13 of 28 Old 01-04-2012, 08:36 AM
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Very solid TT. But don't forget you'll need a phono. The Cambridge Audio
540P for $99 would make a nice sounding unit. I don't know how your mom feels about color but consider the red, for the TT, it really looks sharp.
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post #14 of 28 Old 01-04-2012, 09:05 AM
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You don't say how old your mother is, but I'd strongly urge you to go with an automatic table. If it's not easy to use, she won't use it. And a so-so table in use sounds better than a good table idle.

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post #15 of 28 Old 01-04-2012, 05:05 PM - Thread Starter
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My mom is 52 (and often acts 20 years younger than that!) sorry to be vague on that part. My concern for the manual TT was more regarding her eyesight than anything else - I had a chance to talk to her for a bit today and she said manual would be just fine given that she grew up with manual TT and only had a brief stint with automatic tables.

I found a lightly used Music Hall MMF-5 (with a Goldring 1012GX cartridge) locally for $425 (shipping/PayPal included), I'm going to see if I can give it a listen/take a look in person. I know it's not the 5.1, but for the price do you guys think it represents a good value compared to similarly priced new TT's (assuming the owner has taken good care of it)?

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post #16 of 28 Old 01-04-2012, 07:57 PM
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Thats a nice setup Hog, give it a listen and bring a magnifying glass to look close at the needle. But ND can sometimes upgrade the cartridge.

For the sumiko upgrade its really the needle doctor 's upgrade. what they do is take trade ins and re condition the cartridges and use them as trade ups, I think they will do cross brands too, at least thats how think it works.

Id grab that TT!!!

Nice!!

Athanasios
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post #17 of 28 Old 01-04-2012, 09:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nashou66 View Post

Thats a nice setup Hog, give it a listen and bring a magnifying glass to look close at the needle. But ND can sometimes upgrade the cartridge.

For the sumiko upgrade its really the needle doctor 's upgrade. what they do is take trade ins and re condition the cartridges and use them as trade ups, I think they will do cross brands too, at least thats how think it works.

Id grab that TT!!!

Nice!!

Athanasios

I decided to go with the Music Hall MMF-5 on Audiogon - for the price I got a lot more than what I'd get new. The TT alone is probably as nice or nicer than what I'd get for the same money new; the cartridge on there goes for $500, and it's in very good condition so it's a great deal overall. I'll have to get an external phono amp but that won't be expensive.

Thanks again for all the help and advice from everyone, I greatly appreciate it. I'm sure I'll be back with more setup-related questions later

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post #18 of 28 Old 01-06-2012, 01:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Since the MMF-5 needs a phono preamp, I picked one of these up as well for my mom:

http://www.phonopreamps.com/tc750lcpp.html

Lots of good reviews, and for the price hard to beat. I'm getting excited to help her set this up and give her vinyl a listen. Most of her albums were purchased in the 60's and 70's (some older than that) but have been in storage for most of the time and are in exceptional condition!

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post #19 of 28 Old 01-06-2012, 04:15 PM
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Don't forget some cleaning supplies, a carbon brush and liquid cleaner for the records. Looks like a fine system that you put together. Have fun.
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post #20 of 28 Old 01-17-2012, 06:09 AM - Thread Starter
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Don't forget some cleaning supplies, a carbon brush and liquid cleaner for the records. Looks like a fine system that you put together. Have fun.

Thanks for the reminder, I passed that along to my mom so she could go to needledoctor.com to get everything.

Quick question - the TT arrived in great shape, it looks essentially new, so my mom and I are super excited to get it set up to listen to some of her LP's. Do I need to check the alignment/tracking/balance on the tonearm/cartridge before playing an LP? I'm confident the previous owner had it set up correctly, however I don't know if the alignment could have been disturbed by the shipping process, and I don't want to excessively damage any of my mom's LPs due to any of those parameters being off. I also don't want to mess with any of it if it doesn't need to be messed with. Suggestions?

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post #21 of 28 Old 01-17-2012, 07:15 AM
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Definitely check the tracking weight. The rest probably won't have been disturbed by shipping.

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post #22 of 28 Old 01-17-2012, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by HogPilot View Post

Thanks for the reminder, I passed that along to my mom so she could go to needledoctor.com to get everything.

Quick question - the TT arrived in great shape, it looks essentially new, so my mom and I are super excited to get it set up to listen to some of her LP's. Do I need to check the alignment/tracking/balance on the tonearm/cartridge before playing an LP? I'm confident the previous owner had it set up correctly, however I don't know if the alignment could have been disturbed by the shipping process, and I don't want to excessively damage any of my mom's LPs due to any of those parameters being off. I also don't want to mess with any of it if it doesn't need to be messed with. Suggestions?

What, shipper didn't pull out counterweight from tonearm? Did he at least took off platter and packed it separately? If not, you can expect bigger problems there, like loose bearings etc. Turntables require very careful packing for shipping, as delicate mechanical parts get damaged easily.
Make sure that there is no any play in tonearm, when you pull or twist it slightly. Do the same with platter. If there is any sense of loosness, send it back for refund, as it is damaged. I would put a new cartridge right away too.
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post #23 of 28 Old 01-17-2012, 11:26 AM - Thread Starter
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What, shipper didn't pull out counterweight from tonearm? Did he at least took off platter and packed it separately? If not, you can expect bigger problems there, like loose bearings etc. Turntables require very careful packing for shipping, as delicate mechanical parts get damaged easily.
Make sure that there is no any play in tonearm, when you pull or twist it slightly. Do the same with platter. If there is any sense of loosness, send it back for refund, as it is damaged. I would put a new cartridge right away too.

To be honest I haven't seen how it was shipped yet. I know for a fact he did pack the platter separately, and he secured the tonearm so it wouldn't move during shipping. I can ask my mom whether the counterweight was removed - given the care that the previous owner took to pack everything securely, I wouldn't be surprised if he did. When I re-attach the counterweight will I have to use one of the scales I've seen to make sure the tracking weight is correct? And I'm assuming I'll want to check the cartridge alignment with one of the protractors I've read about as well? I know this is probably all very basic stuff but I'm starting from scratch here, so you really can't get too basic with your replies

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post #24 of 28 Old 01-17-2012, 11:50 AM
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To be honest I haven't seen how it was shipped yet. I know for a fact he did pack the platter separately, and he secured the tonearm so it wouldn't move during shipping. I can ask my mom whether the counterweight was removed - given the care that the previous owner took to pack everything securely, I wouldn't be surprised if he did. When I re-attach the counterweight will I have to use one of the scales I've seen to make sure the tracking weight is correct? And I'm assuming I'll want to check the cartridge alignment with one of the protractors I've read about as well? I know this is probably all very basic stuff but I'm starting from scratch here, so you really can't get too basic with your replies

Yes you have to set proper weight and make sure that cartridge is installed correctly. Download user manual for the table. It should have all instructions. Try to find specification for cartridge too, you need to know correct tracking force and height (you need it to set VTA) of the cartridge. Protractor helps too if table didn't come with tool to set needle position. for table of MMF-5 range you might decide to do fine tuning. You need test record (like this one http://www.needledoctor.com/Ultimate-Analogue-Test-LP ), and computer with audio analysis software (http://www.trueaudio.com/rta_abt1.htm is a good example). You can significantly improve sound that way. But it will take several hours of your time.
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post #25 of 28 Old 01-17-2012, 12:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Yes you have to set proper weight and make sure that cartridge is installed correctly. Download user manual for the table. It should have all instructions. Try to find specification for cartridge too, you need to know correct tracking force and height (you need it to set VTA) of the cartridge. Protractor helps too if table didn't come with tool to set needle position. for table of MMF-5 range you might decide to do fine tuning. You need test record (like this one http://www.needledoctor.com/Ultimate-Analogue-Test-LP ), and computer with audio analysis software (http://www.trueaudio.com/rta_abt1.htm is a good example). You can significantly improve sound that way. But it will take several hours of your time.

Very useful info! I'll take a look at the user manual for the info above, which sounds pretty straight forward. I'm assuming one would use an RCA -> 1/8" stereo phono plug adapter to port the output from the phono preamp directly to the computer's sound card for use with the analysis software?

I don't mind taking the extra time to do this, I'll spend just as much time calibrating my video chain with the requisite gear, so doing the same for the TT makes clear and reasonable sense.

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post #26 of 28 Old 01-17-2012, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by HogPilot View Post

Very useful info! I'll take a look at the user manual for the info above, which sounds pretty straight forward. I'm assuming one would use an RCA -> 1/8" stereo phono plug adapter to port the output from the phono preamp directly to the computer's sound card for use with the analysis software?

I don't mind taking the extra time to do this, I'll spend just as much time calibrating my video chain with the requisite gear, so doing the same for the TT makes clear and reasonable sense.

You've gotten some good advice here. If you care to delve much deeper into setup and TT use and vinyl care, there is plenty to read about (and a specialized set of posters devoted to vinyl and TTs to ask) at the forums at vinylengine. Good luck and hope your mom loves it.
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post #27 of 28 Old 01-17-2012, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by HogPilot View Post

I'm assuming one would use an RCA -> 1/8" stereo phono plug adapter to port the output from the phono preamp directly to the computer's sound card for use with the analysis software?

Yes, connect output of phono preamp into the input of computer audio interface. Just make sure that computer has "line in" input (some only have mono microphone input). I suggest to use laptop on battery power while you do measurements, to reduce noise.
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post #28 of 28 Old 01-17-2012, 03:16 PM - Thread Starter
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You've gotten some good advice here. If you care to delve much deeper into setup and TT use and vinyl care, there is plenty to read about (and a specialized set of posters devoted to vinyl and TTs to ask) at the forums at vinylengine. Good luck and hope your mom loves it.

I will definitely head over that way and take a look, thanks for the suggestion!

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Originally Posted by ap1 View Post

Yes, connect output of phono preamp into the input of computer audio interface. Just make sure that computer has "line in" input (some only have mono microphone input). I suggest to use laptop on battery power while you do measurements, to reduce noise.

Easy enough. Using the test tones and taking measurements will be familiar to me; how to affect changes by making adjustments to the TT will be the new part, so I'm sure I'll have more questions as that time comes.

There are 10 types of people: those who understand binary, and those who don't.

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