Looking for a Phono Pre-amp as an upgrade to my Rotel RA02 stage
Nov 26, 2008 at 3:16 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 13

Ymer

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Would just about anything be a vast upgrade to it?

I think it's rather thin and harsh sounding.

Looking at Cambridge Azur 640P, Yaqin 12Mb, Bellari, Haggerman Buggle, Bottlehead Seduction... etc.

Obviously, the easier to get, the better. But I still want to make sure I have a downright good sounding pre-amp.

Any input will be appreciated
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Nov 26, 2008 at 3:56 PM Post #2 of 13

nikongod

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I dont have QUITE as much experience as others, but thats ok:
I have a seduction (with C4S), I like it quite a bit.

Reports from the field say that the haggerman gear is all good.

I have been considering building an EAR 834 clone (with some personal touches) though. Mostly because Im bored.

I would steer clear from the bellari, RIAA +/-1dB is deplorable, even for a tube stage.
 
Nov 26, 2008 at 4:09 PM Post #3 of 13

Sherwood

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Quote:

Originally Posted by nikongod /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I would steer clear from the bellari, RIAA +/-1dB is deplorable, even for a tube stage.



I'll second that. I own the Bellari and have rolled a few tubes through it, and I can't say I'm thrilled. What it gives you sounds pretty good, but there's little way to tell if what it gives you mirrors reality in any way. Despite the critical praise, I think for the price most solid-state is better.

I'll be piggybacking this thread, since I too am looking for an upgrade beyond this guy.
 
Nov 26, 2008 at 6:01 PM Post #4 of 13

memepool

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Ymer /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Would just about anything be a vast upgrade to it?

I think it's rather thin and harsh sounding.

Looking at Cambridge Azur 640P, Yaqin 12Mb, Bellari, Haggerman Buggle, Bottlehead Seduction... etc.



What is your front end? turntable/arm/cart? Thin and harsh is the last thing I'd expect from a Rotel.

Their phonostages are usually pretty good quality. The Cambridge is a real star at the price but depending on what you are feeding the Rotel I'd be inclined to look at the phonostage last.
 
Nov 26, 2008 at 6:06 PM Post #5 of 13

Ymer

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Quote:

Originally Posted by memepool /img/forum/go_quote.gif
What is your front end? turntable/arm/cart? Thin and harsh is the last thing I'd expect from a Rotel.

Their phonostages are usually pretty good quality. The Cambridge is a real star at the price but depending on what you are feeding the Rotel I'd be inclined to look at the phonostage last.



Well, I get the idea that the Rotel is thin and harsh sounding because that's the way it sounds in comparison to the old Marantz PM44SE I used to own.

Right now, I'm using a Dual 714Q with Ortofon Super OM40. Used it with Shure M97xE and Pickering XV-15/625 before.

Soon I'll have a second TD in the system, a very beautiful wooden table with Jelco arm and most likely Denon DL160 or Grado Sonata.

Thanks
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Nov 26, 2008 at 6:23 PM Post #6 of 13

memepool

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Odd. I would expect a Rotel stage to sound broadly similar to a Marantz one from previous experience. It could just be that they've stopped making as much effort with phonostages I guess. The PM44SE was a nice amp alright. I'm still running a PM-94 which has an amazing phonostage.

Dual turntables with Ortofon carts usually sound very smooth to the extent that many would find them too well mannered and laid back. I suppose that depends on what kind of music you are into. Your new deck sounds intriguing and the Denon will probably be your cup of tea.

Depending on how good your new deck is then it's probably worth upgrading the phonostage. I'd check out a Graham Slee.
 
Nov 26, 2008 at 7:28 PM Post #7 of 13

Uncle Erik

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I don't have a huge amount of experience with phono stages, but have been happy with the ones I've owned. The first was a NAD PP2 which was accurate and good, but I wanted to move to an all tube system. Next was a Conrad-Johnson PV2 preamp. That is sweet sounding and very good. The older CJ preamps are a very good value - you will get a tube phono stage, preamp, multiple inputs, and a couple of tape loops out (very handy for headphone amps) for $300-$500 USD. CJ is still around, too. They service everything they've made and offer tube sets for everything, too. My current phono stage is a Don Garber Fi Yph. Found a good deal on a used one and I love it. I recommend it, but they don't turn up used very often and Garber has a waiting list for new gear.

If you're open to kits, I've heard good things about the Bottlehead and Hagerman. Another kit is available from Bruce Rozenblit at Transcendent. I think it's about $600 and comes with a nice aluminum case. If you want to roll your own, you can buy "Audio Reality" from Bruce, which has the phono schematic as well as a preamp and a few power amps. I admire his designs and will probably build his phono circuit sooner or later.
 
Nov 26, 2008 at 8:07 PM Post #8 of 13

Ymer

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Quote:

Originally Posted by memepool /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Odd. I would expect a Rotel stage to sound broadly similar to a Marantz one from previous experience. It could just be that they've stopped making as much effort with phonostages I guess. The PM44SE was a nice amp alright. I'm still running a PM-94 which has an amazing phonostage.

Dual turntables with Ortofon carts usually sound very smooth to the extent that many would find them too well mannered and laid back. I suppose that depends on what kind of music you are into. Your new deck sounds intriguing and the Denon will probably be your cup of tea.

Depending on how good your new deck is then it's probably worth upgrading the phonostage. I'd check out a Graham Slee.



This review makes the Azure 640 sound very good in comparison to a Graham Slee Graham Slee Fanfare, Cambridge Audio 640P and Parasound Zphono phono stages [English] . Opinions?

Also... would the Graham Slee and the MC input on the Azure support a HOMC like the Denon? If so, the Azure would fit very well into my setup, as I'd be able to keep both the Denon DL-160 and Ortofon OM40 connected to it and just switch back and forth. I'm keeping both turntables. :X

Thanks everybody for all the feedback
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Nov 26, 2008 at 8:37 PM Post #9 of 13

memepool

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Ymer /img/forum/go_quote.gif
This review makes the Azure 640 sound very good in comparison to a Graham Slee Graham Slee Fanfare, Cambridge Audio 640P and Parasound Zphono phono stages [English] . Opinions?

Also... would the Graham Slee and the MC input on the Azure support a HOMC like the Denon? If so, the Azure would fit very well into my setup, as I'd be able to keep both the Denon DL-160 and Ortofon OM40 connected to it and just switch back and forth. I'm keeping both turntables. :X



Given the equipment you have and how you have described the sound you like/dislike I think personally you might prefer the the Graham Slee stuff over the Cambridge stuff.

There is a very telling remark on their website GPSAudio about their philosophy of trying to make analogue equipment sound like it used to but better rather than the modern tendency to boost the treble and make it sound more CD-like.

Don't get me wrong the Cambridge is a brilliant performer but it's more in the Naim mold than a Marantz phonostage which leans more towards the pure class A / valve topography.

The closest thing to a Marantz phonostage I've heard is an E.A.R but these arn't cheap and valves arn't generally unless there are compromises in the power supply, which makes them noisey like the Bellari.

Graham Slee makes a range of stages to suit all carts and budgets. Another contender since you are in Europe is Trafomatic Audio from Serbia who are pretty reasonably priced but still very good by all accounts.
 
Nov 26, 2008 at 8:46 PM Post #10 of 13

Ymer

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Quote:

Originally Posted by memepool /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Given the equipment you have and how you have described the sound you like/dislike I think personally you might prefer the the Graham Slee stuff over the Cambridge stuff.

There is a very telling remark on their website GPSAudio about their philosophy of trying to make analogue equipment sound like it used to but better rather than the modern tendency to boost the treble and make it sound more CD-like.

Don't get me wrong the Cambridge is a brilliant performer but it's more in the Naim mold than a Marantz phonostage which leans more towards the pure class A / valve topography.

The closest thing to a Marantz phonostage I've heard is an E.A.R but these arn't cheap and valves arn't generally unless there are compromises in the power supply, which makes them noisey like the Bellari.

Graham Slee makes a range of stages to suit all carts and budgets. Another contender since you are in Europe is Trafomatic Audio from Serbia who are pretty reasonably priced but still very good by all accounts.



Makes sense. I love the weight and warmth of the Marantz sound.

Out of the Graham Slee models... should I get the Gram Amp 2 or 3? The 3 is moving coil, but it says maximum input 4.4mv... I don't have any MM that have higher output than that.

Thanks
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Nov 26, 2008 at 8:59 PM Post #11 of 13

memepool

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Ymer /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Makes sense. I love the weight and warmth of the Marantz sound.

Out of the Graham Slee models... should I get the Gram Amp 2 or 3? The 3 is moving coil, but it says maximum input 4.4mv... I don't have any MM that have higher output than that.

Thanks
wink.gif



You will love the Denon then for sure it's bass is legend. Why not get the Era V and then you can add the Elevator stage at a later date if you get a LOMC.
the DL-160 is designed to work fine with MM phonostages
 
Nov 28, 2008 at 7:35 AM Post #12 of 13

Ymer

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Geez, I intended to spend half that, but it is very tempting indeed. Sounds like what I've been looking for all this time.

I've e-mailed Rotel and they told me the phono stage in my integrated is a dual-IC RIAA stage, does that say anything?
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Thanks
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Nov 28, 2008 at 1:35 PM Post #13 of 13

memepool

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Ymer /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Geez, I intended to spend half that, but it is very tempting indeed. Sounds like what I've been looking for all this time.

I've e-mailed Rotel and they told me the phono stage in my integrated is a dual-IC RIAA stage, does that say anything?
ph34r.gif



Well the basic Era V isn't all that much more expensive than the Gram Amps in basic form but it can be upgraded with a better PSU and the LOMC stage if you decide to go in this direction. As your current carts are all high end MMs and the Denon is a HOMC then this would be good for now.


The Rotel amps I know best are the RA-820 series which preceded the RA-01/02/03 and were around in various forms for about 20 years. These were class A/AB hybrids like the Marantz amps so have that very smooth almost valvy sound with loads of detail. The newer series on their website are Class D which will sound completely different so they have obviously decided to change their 'house sound' in recent years.

You could also just look out for one of these Marantz Quarter-A Reference Site on ebay. The PM-94 goes for around 500Euro but you should be able to find the 84 for half that and the phono stage is just as good.

It depends on how good your new deck is whether it's worth spending that much on a phonostage. I am assuming from the way you've described it that it's going to be in the VPI Scout / Michell Gyro league.
 

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