Equalization for vinyl nirvana

Hi all,

I have a question for the Audiogon and vinyl community: do you think equalization is helpful for getting good results with vinyl playback? I ask because I'm a vinyl newbie. Recently added a nice turntable and phono preamp to my rig and have slowly been collecting the recommended audiophile jazz, blues and rock albums that I like. But with few exceptions, most of the time I'm underwhelmed by the results. Lack of bass and midrange fullness is usually the problem. Sure, I could look for another amplifier, subwoofer, better cables... but I think a simpler, more affordable solution would be to get some Eq in the loop. So I just put an order in for a Schitt Loki+ 4-band equalizer. Figure it's a low-cost way to test the theory. 

Do any of you have similar experiences or related wisdom to share?

I'm also curious about the Sunvalley All Purpose Phono Eq that Herb Reichert loves, that has adjustable eq curves (https://www.stereophile.com/content/gramophone-dreams-42-sunvalley-audio-sv-eq1616d-phono-equalizer), as well as the Decware ZRock2 eq (https://www.decware.com/newsite/ZROCK.html).

Thanks for your help!
Only the RIAA curve is used for stereo LPs. The LP mastering electronics do not have a provision for changing the curve- they are pretty picky about it- my electronics are matched to my cutter head.

The OP asked for EQ and if someone looking for this option then with GoldNote PH-10 phono stage...

"You can choose one of three standard EQ curves (RIAA, DECCA-LONDON e AMERICAN COLUMBIA), all with optional “Enhanced” function." -GoldNote 

... Enhaced option for each as stated above if some OLD VINYL is too dark. 

Personally I never used anything but standard RIAA for all my vintage vinyl. 

Nice list of equipment, you should be in Vinyl Nirvana without additional EQ.

I like adjustable preamps. I am still suspicious of your preamp settings, and now also wondering about your amp settings. Options are terrific, UNTIL they aren't.

It is easy to check and verify correct or adjust them on both pieces.

Your phono preamp has internal adjustable settings: 5 optional load settings; 5 optional gain settings. Note: separate settings for each channel, verify they are set identically.


they don't say what the factory defaults are.

For MM cartridges, like your Clearaudio Virtuoso,

the preamp setting recommendations are: Load: 47k; gain: start with 45db (see if enough volume, more gain if needed). I suspect you need more gain, see below.

Sidebar 1: Specifications

Description: Moving-magnet phono cartridge. Stylus profile: Not specified.  

Output voltage (1kHz, 5cm/s): 3.6mV. 

Frequency range: 20Hz-20kHz. Channel separation (1kHz): >30dB. Channel balance (1kHz): <0.2dB. Trackability: >90µm. Recommended tracking force: 2.0-2.5gm. Electrical impedance (1kHz): 660 ohms. Coil inductivity: 0.42mH. Load resistance 47k ohms. Load capacitance: 100pF. Cantilever: aluminum.
Weight: 6.0gm.
Serial number of unit reviewed: V00873.
Price: $750. Approximate number of dealers: 160.
Manufacturer: Clearaudio International, Weberackerweg 10, D-8520 Erlangen, Germany. Tel: (49) 9131-57702. US distributor: Musical Surroundings, 5856 College Ave., Suite 146, Oakland, CA 94618. Tel: (510) 420-0379. Web: www.musicalsurroundings.com.

Note: Your cartridge output: 3.6mV is lower than many/most MM. I suspect, after you verify correct load settings: a higher gain setting in the preamp will improve things. Not enough phono gain requires more gain down the line, perhaps a boost in the preamp gain will move another component back into a more compatible setting.

Your Integrated Amp is like an identical twin of my Cayin A88T


You have the advantage of rear switch for KT88 or EL34 tube types, AND Bias meter and bias adjustment screw (they even provide a screwdriver).

You also have optional Triode or Ultra-Linear. I much prefer the sound of KT88's to my optional 6550's; and much prefer the fuller and more impactful sound of ultra-linear mode. Note: you can change modes while playing. You don't hear/have a volume jump when switching (as I expected); you hear the differences of frequency presentation. I realized, the power difference shows up at the far end, the speakers ask for the same amount of juice at mid volume.

The review has a video showing the bias procedure, but first verify the rear switch is in the EL34 position.

PS: that stylus


has a LONG cantilever. Rarely, but worth checking: that can lead to trouble if it gets 'bent', as my friends high priced Grado is (and a prior stylus of mine was). His plays, he never checked. I had a good look, found it bent. To keep using it 'bent', I had to make a big adjustment to his arm height, raising it to adjust the stylus VTA properly. The darn thing sounds pretty good, certainly better, but it is time to get a new cartridge.

I stand firm: you should have Vinyl Nirvana with your current equipment.

One last thought: the 6SL7 and 6SN7. We think the Power tubes make the big difference, but when I changed a set of my 6SL7's the amp sounded thin, cold, thank god it sounded great before so I knew it was the 6SL7's. Brent Jesse let me finish breaking them in then return them for a pair I love the sound of.

Tube rolling is a rabbit hole to go down. Do you have the factory KT88's? I would suggest using KT88's, rear switch in KT88 position, warm up, adjust bias, change to Ultra-Linear mode. 

After I first checked/adjusted the preamp.

@atmasphere Only the RIAA curve is used for stereo LPs. The LP mastering electronics do not have a provision for changing the curve- they are pretty picky about it- my electronics are matched to my cutter head.  
Yes but what about mono records from late 50,s through the 60,s , I have found that there are a few records that do need a different eq other than RIAA, I think their is still a debate whether the few phono preamps  (for ex. gold note , sun valley, ifi) who provide different eq choices are valid for those of us with mono records.  I have encountered a few 60,s london mono records that you  can  hear that RIAA eq is not used but i can,t be sure of that because I have no eq curve choices in my phono preamps that i own. I know M Fremer has already adressed the issue and says that by mid 50,s Riaa was the standard everybody was using, but my ears tell me it was not always the case.
@cardani Yes, if you are talking about pre-1958/stereo era mono recordings, its a bit of the Wild West just like it was with 78s.
A good number of mono LPs mastered in the US were done with the RCA Orthophonic curve which is where the RIAA curve came from. But not everyone used that curve and I don't think any from Europe did.

All mono releases after 1958 are on the RIAA curve.
@atmasphere ¨All mono releases after 1958 are on the RIAA curve¨
Interesting, i was thinking of a particular mid 60,s mono recording of Istvan Kertez Dvorak,s symp #2 on london FFRR, it sounds extremely bright as if a different eq was needed.