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Difference between phono stage and phono preamp?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I already have a TT, and from what I gather I need an amp and a phono stage or preamp. The way I understand it, I could get this and this and be good to listen through headphones/speakers? If I were to use, say, a LD MKIII for an amp through a Dual CS604, would I need a stage or preamp? And can you recommend a decent one for less than $150? Thanks a bunch, I'm still very new to vinyl.
post #2 of 19
AFAIK a phono preamp is a phono stage in a separate box.
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
I just read that a phono stage applies the RIAA curve and a phono preamp boosts the low end signal... I still have no idea what I need Are there tube amps out there that do double duty as an amp and preamp around the $250 range? Thanks for the help.

EDIT: So the LD MKIII. It's an amp and a preamp. Assuming I don't have $400+ to drop on a dedicated preamp/amp setup, can I get this and be ready to go with the TT and my headphones?
post #4 of 19
A phono pre-amp, besides boosting the cartridge signal, also applies the required RIAA curve, necessary for proper vinyl playback. You could get a phono pre-amp, plug it into your headphone amp (using rca cables) and then plug your Dual TT into the phono pre-amp. That should (will) work. Good luck.
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
^Oh, seriously? So the LD MKIII. Does that have a phono preamp or just a preamp? I'm guessing there's a difference, and that the LD MKIII does not have a phono preamp. Do you know of a nice one under $150?
post #6 of 19
Do you want a combination or just the preamp? A non phono preamp will not work. Turntables need a different amount of power than everything else. I think a decimal to the left, from the top of my head.

Correct me if I'm wrong, of course.
post #7 of 19
You need:
tt --> phono preamp --> headphone amp (e.g., LDMKIII) --> headphones

The phono preamp (phono stage) can be a stand alone unit or built-in to a preamplifier, integrated amplifier, receiver or even the turntable itself (e.g., one of the Pro-Ject Debut III models has a built-in phono preamp).

I use a vintage Kenwood preamp as my phono preamp and route one of the line out signals from a tape loop to my headphone amplifier. It works perfectly and sounds great. Better yet, I found the Kenwood on eBay for $50 and it can accommodate both moving magnet (more common) and moving coil cartridges. I also route my other sources (iPod, computer) through the Kenwood so that I can switch between sources without unplugging cables. It does a lot for $50. There are many older preamps that can perform these functions. As long as they have phono inputs that match your cartridge, you're all set.

Some headphones can act as 'preamps' (typically not phono preamps) because they have a separate line out signal that can be routed to a power amplifier and the signal is affected by the headphone amp's volume control.

In these cases:

source --> headphone amp --> headphones


source --> headphone amp (line out with volume control) --> power amp --> loudspeakers

Looking at this picture:

I believe this is the case with the LDMKIII. It does not have phono input capabilities on its own. You need a phono preamp between your tt and the line input of the LDMKIII.

You might also do some research on the these:
Phonopreamps.com Home Page

I haven't used one, but they have received favorable reviews on Head-Fi and elsewhere.

Separate phono preamps are also manufactured by NAD, Audio Technica, Pro-ject and Cambridge Audio - to name just a few.
post #8 of 19
A phono preamp and a phono stage are almost the same thing. They both apply the RIAA (yes, them. Way back when they were good for something) curve to the record. Here is the Wikipedia entry that explains it.

Semantically, I think that a phono preamp is a standalone box that applies the RIAA curve and a phono stage refers to that circuit inside of a preamp. But the terms are used interchangably and both do the same thing to a record.

For $150 or less, take a look at the NAD PP2. I had one of these when I got my first vinyl setup. It sounds quite good and works flawlessly. In the end, I went with an all-tube setup, but I still think highly of the PP2. I'd buy another one for a second or third system.
post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 
^Thank you very much Erik and other contributors. I am strongly considering the NAD, as well as a TCC TC-750.
post #10 of 19
I got my Cambridge 540P for $99 and it's been a real winner with my Debut III. Crisp and natural playback after 100 hours burn-in with inverse-RIAA equalized pink noise from my soundcard.
post #11 of 19
Pro-Ject, the makers of the Debut III turntable, also offer a budget phono preamp/stage. I haven't used them, but I do have a Speed Box Mk II, which makes it easier to change the Debut III's speed from 33 to 45pm.

There're currently a couple of Phono Boxes on eBay:

Pro-Ject Phono Box II MM/MC Stage Turntable Preamp Nice - eBay (item 120398401071 end time Apr-06-09 19:37:05 PDT)

ProJect Phono Box II MM/MC Stage Turntable Preamp - eBay (item 300303930431 end time Apr-04-09 17:00:58 PDT)
post #12 of 19
I am kinda interested in give the vinyl a try. Does the vinyl sound a lot different from CD through a headphone?
post #13 of 19

sounds good to me


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Edited by bradsmokes - 2/28/11 at 10:58pm
post #14 of 19
Originally Posted by sunseeker888 View Post

I got my Cambridge 540P for $99 and it's been a real winner.


I have a CA 640P - it features moving coil as well as moving magnet.


It turned out to be noisy - (~2dB variable freq. > 150hz). Once I managed to convince them CA support told me to exchange it at the dealers.

I did but the replacement is simiarly noisy.....


Of course all companies have some failures and we are all unlucky sometimes. Even low cost gear can sound fairly decent these days.

What you pay for is QA, build quality, durability and after sales support.


Good luck in your search. I'm still on the lookout for a similar product.

post #15 of 19

Hi guys!


I apologize for resurrecting this thread from the grave but I didn't see the case in opening a new one since the question is related.


I just got a Schiit Valhalla (just placed the order :D). And I also own an Audio GD Fun (DAC / AMP)


For digital sources I was thinking


Source -> Fun (As Dac and Preamp) -> Valhalla (Amp) -> Cans


For my Marantz TT-4000 I'm considering two scenarios:


 a) Turn table -> DJPREII (Phono amp) ->  Fun (Preamp) -> Valhalla (Amp) -> Cans




b) Turn table -> DJPREII (Phono amp) ->  Valhalla (As Amp) -> Cans


I'm wondering if a) is not too long to degrade sound?


I'd preffer using a) since then I can just use the Fun as an input selector for everything (Coax is CD/DVD/BR/SACD, Optical is apple tv, Analog is TT, And there's USB for spare).  :rolleyes: Oh boy I love my FUN! Otherwise I must put splitters or a switch  just before the Valhalla.


I'm using good (but not rich people) interconects: http://www.snapav.com/p-183-b7-aud-1-r.aspx , the lenght is 1 meter.


Cans are: Beyer T70 (250ohms), Senn HD650 (300ohms) and Grado SR225i(32 ohms).


So what do you guys think? Thanks!

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