questionsanyone know about phono preamps?


It also depends on what else is in the chain, too. Like, if you buy a $90,000 tube amp and use it to play scratched up punk 45s on a Fisher Price turntable, what's even the point? Or if you live in an apartment and can't ever turn the knob above a 2, why make everything high-end? In a lot of cases, putting that money into very good speakers/headphones and getting a reasonably priced used amp might be all you need to get the sound you want, and then you can spend the rest of the money on new records.

If you've never done vinyl before (you say you're young, so maybe that's the case) I'd say buy entry level/midrange and see if you actually enjoy the madness. Just bank the money you were going to use for an expensive amp and come back to it a year from now if you decide you want to commit to hauling crates with you for the rest of your life. Plus, if you wait, the record fairy might lead you to an even better amp for less!


@slydon: Thanks for the advice. I had considered the fact that this is only one component in a chain.

Honestly I care more about the overall experience than too many of the technical details. I decided to do this because I am tired of just putting on any old album or playlist on my phone or computer. I like the idea of putting in some effort to listen to an album, kind of like the old days when I had to choose a CD and put it in the cd player. It's not a lot of effort, but it makes the whole experience more involved. As long as I am doing this, I would like it to be an interesting and enjoyable experience.

I think the use of tubes would accomplish the "interesting" aspect of this. Also the amp I am looking at is still under $200 which is not the most obscene price and well under the $1000+ preamps available.

Just curious if anyone would actually claim SS was superior to Tubes in this application (factoring everything else out, other components in chain, etc...).


@slydon: I have done vinyl before, I think you could say. I set up this same turntable before with a matching receiver that was purchased with the turntable back in the day and had a phono preamp. That receiver has since broken though.

The turntable is an old Harmon Kardon with a new cart (can't remember what, something mid range but nothing fancy most likely). It's not the nicest turntable, so I know I am hoping to upgrade this component soon too, but I wanted to do the preamp first (since I don't have ANY preamp right now).


@countdown: I have a nice old mono radio from the 1940s, all wood, and it's got tubes in it. I also have a normal 1970s receiver without tubes. When I listen to same radio station with both, there is a noticeably warmer sound from the tube radio, but the speakers on my non-tube receiver are much better so the non-tube wins for sound. There is an actual difference that I can hear, though, and it's fun to use the old one now and then.

I'd personally say to invest in a used receiver and some good speakers and a nice cart/stylus before buying new tube stuff, but ultimately you're right, it is all about the experience for YOU. It really seems like you're arguing FOR tubes here, so why not take the jump if you can afford it?

As long as it makes you happy, it's a good system. The rest is just debates about who's got the biggest number.


@countdown: Solid state preamps will have very neutral sounds, generally speaking. They are designed to amplify the audio linearly, aside from applying the RIAA curve. Tube preamps can be linear devices as well, but most pres you'll find on the market are not designed for linearity. Instead, they focus on driving the tubes (a little or a lot, depending on the model and settings) to achieve the classic "tube" sound of harmonic distortion. It's usually described as "warm" or "buttery" or some other synesthetic phrase, but basically you'll notice that the tube is making additional audio data (the harmonics) and is responding to input at slightly different times based on frequency. This is sort of like the BBE Sonic Exciter, but less pronounced and a good deal more listenable. Tube gear sounds good, and I use some of it in my studio. The main question is whether you want as accurate a representation as possible, or a unique listening experience.


@countdown: There's also a substantial psychoacoustic effect involved: if you know that a piece costs more than another one, you think that the more expensive model sounds better. You pay attention to the nuances that you hear from it, but discard the nuances from cheaper units as flaws. If you buy something that you know is about the best your system will support, you'll hear it differently than a piece you picked up for $5. This is why all serious audio testing has to be done in a double blind; even seasoned professionals are vulnerable to this effect. If your goal is putting effort into listening, tricking yourself into it may enhance your experience.


@slydon: truth. indeed I do have my mind pretty much made up. I wanted to give someone an opportunity to convince me otherwise though in case I missed something. I've been researching for a week or so now though.

From what you just said about your experience with tubes, sounds like I am working along the right path for a good listening experience.

I have a modern receiver and speakers that are decent (at least I don't plan on upgrading them until I am much much much richer) and the tubes would just be on the pre-amp plugging into this modern receiver, so I do not have the same issue of having to choose between tubes or good stereo equipment I don't think. Cart is the only thing remaining from your recommended list of upgrades but I plan on doing that after (I need a phono pre-amp first so I can listen to something).

Thanks very much for your input, it's always good just to talk about things and know I am not doing something completely bonkers stupid.


@jsfs: Thanks for the info! That is generally how I understood things, as far as SS being just a more linear/accurate reproduction (which is not a bad thing).

As for the main question, I think I am definitely going for a unique listening experience when it comes to my turntable. If I wanted accuracy, I think entirely digital media (and Lossless) would be better for that (unless I wanted to "accurately" play the imperfections in vinyl?).

I appreciate the input. Psychoacoustic is also worth considering. Maybe I like the idea of having a nice piece of equipment (I do like nice new shiny stuff), but right now I am pretty sure my only reasoning is that it seems to be the general consensus that tubes are better for this specific application of turntable pre-amps, and also for my desire to have a unique listening experience. And this is the cheapest tube phono preamp on the market (that I could find that wasn't iffy or DIY).


I just bought a used Yaqin MS-22B (same internal electronics as the MS-23B, just different external cosmetics) and it's a killer little unit.

I did put a set of tubes in it that are worth way more than the unit itself, but it performs really well.

I was in the high-end business for 25 years and have a massive LP collection, (well over 30,000) and have a very expensive high-end system. So I kinda know a lot about it.

Vinyl rules! Welcome aboard.


My name is Emily Litella, and while I don't like porno, I think pre-op's should have the same rights as anyone else to earn a living!

Thank you, Cheddar.


@mraudioguru: Thanks, those sound like adequate credentials to me. I'm feeling really good about this now.

Just pulled the trigger. I am excited. Thanks everyone.


What jsfs said...

Specifically, tubes will often give you extra 2nd harmonics and a rolled off top end. The extra harmonics may sound pleasing to the ear, but are far from accurate. The rolled off top end will generally appeal to many males who, compared to the general population, are somewhat biased in preferring less high frequencies especially as they get older. I've run high end tube amps and high end solid state and although the tube amp was alway nice to listen to eventually the inaccuracies got to me and I traded it in. I may be an aging male, but I like a flatter response curve than most tube equipment seems to give these days....

If you're going to spend any significant amount of money on any of this make sure you can either return / resell the equipment or you have plenty of opportunity to do comparison listening first.