Phono Set-Up Options - AVS Forum
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Old 07-24-2013, 10:39 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello. I'm getting ready to add a turntable (used Pioneer PL-512 w/ new cart) to my low-budget, 2-channel, basement, system and would like to get thoughts/ideas/recommendations/confirmations on my set-up options.

I'm using an AVR (refurbed Marantz NR 1402) - it's what I had at the time, but I'm not committed to keeping it (see option 3). This AVR does not have phono inputs. My budget is $300, but lower is better. My only other source device is a CD player (which I got for free). My speakers are yard sale finds totaling under $25 for 4 speakers (Advent's and RCA's). I'm currently running "multi channel audio" so front and rear speakers fire like mains.

Option 1: Buy a dedicated phono pre-amp. Connect turntable to phono pre-amp; then connect pre-amp to amp using one of the analog inputs (i.e. Blu-Ray analogue input jack). I'm assuming this is the most typical setup. Options range from $80 up. There is a Parasound zPhono available for $125 on the local used market. The well regarded Cambridge Azur 640p is just under $200. There are also some extremely cheap, and tiny, phono preamps available on the internet for under $20 - if these are even "okay", they could fit into this budget system fine. Anyone have any experience with cheap phono preamps? Are the higher level pre-amps overkill for my yard sale speakers?

Option 2: Buy a vintage pre-amp that has on-board phono inputs, and use it only as a phono pre-amp. The well regarded NAD 1020, for example, locally available for $110. Can I even use a preamp in this configuration? Can I use a connection from the pre-outs on the pre-amp to the analogue inputs on the AVR (similar to the dedicated phono pre-amp setup)?

Option 3: Replace the modern AVR with a well regarded vintage Reciever that already has phono inputs (ie Pioneer SX-D7000 - others to look for?). This would tend to lock me into a 2-channel set up but I think I'm okay with that. Many of these still would allow me to run 4 speakers in unison - and have AUX jacks for a CD player or other source device.

Can someone tell me if Option 2 is even possible? Can I use a pre-amp as a phono pre-amp only?

Does anyone have any opinions on what the best "budget" option might be?

Recommendations on phono pre-amps or vintage receivers is also welcomed! biggrin.gif

Got thoughts?
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Old 07-24-2013, 11:21 AM
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Given the speakers you are using, it would be insane to spend $300, or even $100, on a phono preamp, in whatever configuration. (And don't replace a perfectly good AVR with something old and less capable.) For a bit under $50, you can get a quite decent phono preamp at www.phonopreamps.com. That's the way to go. Save your money for some decent speakers.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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Old 07-24-2013, 11:57 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks mcnarus!

I've had my eye on the TC-760LC from PhonoPreamps.com which runs around $75. Which gives me MM/MC switching. I'm not sure if I'll need it, but the added flexibility seems to be a bonus.

Then there is the "Little Bear" for $25 (on ebay). The Little Bear also has a tube amp option for around $50. Crazy cheap.

Using existing equipment, and just grabbing a cheap phono amp would certainly be an easy way to go.

The Pioneer SX-D7000 does intrigue me. It has more power than my Marantz. The HDMI's of the Marantz will probably forever be untouched. The video processing power will be unused. And it's not even one of the "cool" Marantz AVR's - it's a slim line with an annoying remote. biggrin.gif
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Old 07-24-2013, 04:00 PM
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Given where you are right now, I think it's highly unlikely that you will be buying a MC cart anytime soon. And if you do, you should probably think about a better phono stage anyway.

As for your AVR, I don't know why you're dissing it. It's a perfectly fine performer, with enough power for your needs, and advanced features like room correction if you should ever choose to take advantage of them. It's certainly a lot more future-proof than a vintage Pioneer. You're much more likely to need an HDMI input someday than a moving coil phono amp.

My basic advice remains: Save your pennies for speakers.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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Old 07-24-2013, 04:39 PM - Thread Starter
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And it's good advice; I do appreciate it. Speakers and room treatments will take most of the pennies in time, that is for sure. Heck right now I have a bare concrete floor and nothing but studs for ceilings and walls. I have a long way to go, and could change my mind several times along the way.

Right now I think I'm content with a vintage/budget 2.0 system, but I can see a day where that could change. As soon as I get rid of a modern AVR, I'll miss it. smile.gif

So you are probably right. Step-by-Step, and that would seem to indicate an inexpensive phono amp just to get the vinyl spinning.

But my day dreams of an all-vintage 2.0 system will still churn in the back of my mind.
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Old 07-25-2013, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by CubicleCrusher View Post

And it's good advice; I do appreciate it. Speakers and room treatments will take most of the pennies in time, that is for sure. Heck right now I have a bare concrete floor and nothing but studs for ceilings and walls. I have a long way to go, and could change my mind several times along the way.

Right now I think I'm content with a vintage/budget 2.0 system, but I can see a day where that could change. As soon as I get rid of a modern AVR, I'll miss it. smile.gif

So you are probably right. Step-by-Step, and that would seem to indicate an inexpensive phono amp just to get the vinyl spinning.

But my day dreams of an all-vintage 2.0 system will still churn in the back of my mind.

Keep in mind that "vintage" does not equal "budget". If sound quality is important for you, vintage gear will be as expensive as a new modern one.
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Old 07-25-2013, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by CubicleCrusher View Post

And it's good advice; I do appreciate it. Speakers and room treatments will take most of the pennies in time, that is for sure. Heck right now I have a bare concrete floor and nothing but studs for ceilings and walls. I have a long way to go, and could change my mind several times along the way.

Right now I think I'm content with a vintage/budget 2.0 system, but I can see a day where that could change. As soon as I get rid of a modern AVR, I'll miss it. smile.gif

So you are probably right. Step-by-Step, and that would seem to indicate an inexpensive phono amp just to get the vinyl spinning.

But my day dreams of an all-vintage 2.0 system will still churn in the back of my mind.

Keep in mind that "vintage" does not equal "budget". If sound quality is important for you, vintage gear will be as expensive as a new modern one.
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Old 07-25-2013, 11:50 AM - Thread Starter
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True again.

But I have a high opinion of the Pioneer SX-D7000, and at $300 it's "budget" compared to modern hi-fi with the same power output and quality of phono stage. I happen to think that for 2-channel, analog, applications it is probably better in sound quality (or just as good) as the much more expensive modern AVR offerings. However, I've never been able to do a DBT on it.

It does seem to me that some of the most highly regarded vintage gear can be had for "hundreds" where-as comparable modern hi-fi is "thousands". There are certainly exceptions to this. But if an analog application is what you have in mind, then I do think the biggest bang for the buck is in vintage gear.

There are certainly some modern high-end, hi-fi, analogue kits that will demonstrate the progress of technology even in analogue transmission. I can't afford them, so I've never heard them, but I believe it to be true. The top end VPI tables, with similarly rated processors and amps, will probably show their worth against the best vintage gear. This does not, however, convince me that dollar-for-dollar, good vintage gear isn't better than entry level modern gear.

Couple that Pioneer D7000 with a restored $500 table of solid quality, and compare it to a $300 AVR and $500 worth of modern pre-amps and entry-level tables - and I think the vintage set up will make you much happier for your $800.

As long as you don't want to switch to a Blu-Ray as soon as the vinyl stops spinning, anyway. biggrin.gif

However, even with my affinity for the vintage analogue set-up, I'm heavily leaning towards Option 1 where I simply add a phono preamp to my existing AVR. This is because I don't have confidence in this kit remaining a 2.0 system and I can envision it being (hi-jacked) morphed into a multi-function set. Although I think it would be cool to hook an Oppo up through the Aux inputs of a vintage receiver and let the Oppo do all the video processing/TV-interfacing, I still won't get 5.1 surround sound out of that Pioneer.

I'll probably have to turn the page on that Pioneer classified ad, and not look back. cool.gif
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Old 07-27-2013, 11:37 AM
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Option 1 is where I would go in your shoes.

The Musical Fidelity V-LPS, at $199, is a phono preamp that would serve you well even if you invested thousands of dollars in a turntable and cartridge; it is that good. Buy it and you won't have to ever buy another one.

I would suggest that you consider whether the old turntable is in good condition. Old turntables can have problems with stiffness and bad spots in the arm bearings, and this can ruin all of your records before you know it.

How much are your records worth to you?

I find that old turntables are almost always a mistake, especially if they have been out of use a long time. Most do not age all that well, and most people do not have the skill or knowledge to properly tear down and relubricate the spindle and arm bearings.

A Pro-ject Debut turntable or a Music Hall MMF-2.2 might be a wise investment if you value your records.
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