Without a doubt the finest phono preamp that I have ever heard is the
Transcendent Sound Phono Preamp,
You have to know which end of a soldering iron to hold if you want to
buy the kit version for $699. The assembled version is $999. It's a
simple kit to build.
Accurate RIAA curve, low noise, high gain, and all the head room
you'll ever need are features inherent in the design. I love
listening to vinyl through mine. It has the best stereo soundstage
of any that I have ever heard.
Phono preamps are about the hardest thing in the audio world to
design. So much gain is required to deal with the de-emphasis curve
that noise is always ready to rear it's ugly head, and headroom
becomes difficult. Power supply design is paramount, and the
selection of amplifying devices is incredibly important.
IC Op Amps are inherently limited because of their generally plus and
minus fifteen volt limits. Much improvement can be gained by raising
the rails to 18 volts, but long term reliability suffers.
Instrumentation amplifier designs with their higher supply voltages
are a significant step up. Unfortunately they never caught on as LPs
were on their way out hwen the first good instrumentation ICs were
Supply voltage swing is why discrete transistor designs , generally
with at least plus and minus 24 volt rails beat out the even the best
IC designs. Tubes with their higher supply voltages come into their
own in this application. The Transcendent Preamp is a recent tube
design, not a rehas of '50s tube designs.
BTW, I believe it was back in the '70s that an extended RIAA playback
curve was implemented, but as it was optional few manufacturers went
with the new one. The only one that I remember was Hafler.
>I have the Cambridge and it's not bad at all. That's for a turntable
>in the workshop. I think the NAD is right in line with that, as is
>Audio Fidelity. You can only do so much different at that price
>point. Would I use any of these with a cartridge that costs more
>than a couple hundred bucks? Probably not since you'd probably not
>hear any differences that exist between that cartridge and a
>lower-priced one. There comes a point in phono playback where I'm
>sure there are very subtle improvements but the cost is outrageous
>and what you get for far less sounds just fine 90+% of the time on
>90+% of what you'd listen to. I would say the class of "good enough
>for almost any listening or transfer uses" comes in the mid-price
>range of everything. The low-end stuff gets junky when it gets
>really low priced. Like with everything else in life, you get what
>you pay for.
>-- Tom Fine
>----- Original Message ----- From: "Carl Pultz" <[log in to unmask]>
>To: <[log in to unmask]>
>Sent: Thursday, February 16, 2012 2:42 PM
>Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Phono Preamps
>I try to urge perspective to someone (including myself) who is tempted to
>get something for almost nothing. Since Phillip Holmes' Rek-O-Kut article
>talked about the Mac C20, check out what a $70 device would cost in 1960:
>$9.62. What kind of phono preamp could you get in 1960 for $10? That you can
>even get one today for that value is amazing, but not necessarily a good
>Of the several units I've had at home in the past decade, the best value was
>the Dynavector p75. I had the first version, and it was really very good
>sonically, unperturbed by RFI or in any obvious way by overload. It has
>gotten pricy - $850 - which in 1960 dollars is $116 - but you can find them
>second hand for around $350.
>Occupying the budget realm $150 - $200 is Cambridge Audio and Musical
>Fidelity, companies that have a reputation for not making junk. I'd like to
>hear one of Soundsmith's units, which are also reasonably priced. Man, there
>are a LOT of attractive possibilities for not much dough.
>Just suggestions. It's worth spending a little money on something important.
>How often does one buy a phono preamp?
>From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
>[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Dan Nelson
>Sent: Thursday, February 16, 2012 1:01 PM
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Phono Preamps
>How accurate will the playback curve be when 10%/20% off the shelf
>components in the feedback loop be ?
>I have 4 RIAA Preamps from Op-Amp labs here in LA, that track within a
>couple db off test records with Shure 55 cartridges in each turntable. They
>cost like $40 each. Op-amp labs made a lot of plug and play building
>blocks with good results for those who didnt want to hand build stuff.
>I would suspect that with 1% components the typical data sheet preamp
>would track pretty close to calculated values with off the shelf audio
>Beautiful Music you will never forget, at;