I run a Denon DL-304 MC which has a .2mv output into a Pass XONO phono preamp. There is plenty of gain and no noise.
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No noise (at all) from my Modwright SWLP (separate power supply).
No noise from my Lehmann SE. Through Audio Mirror PP1 linestage side or through Crimson Electric 510.
Slight background buzz at relatively high levels with Audio Mirror PP1 noticeable between tracks. Power supply on chassis with tubes, etc. Price compromise on a good sounding line stage tube pre.
Lesson - watch out for placement of power supply with tube pre's and phono stages. On that latter PP1 the overall benefits of the pre make the compromise acceptable...
Using DL103 and GAS Sleeping Beauty alternately, both relatively low output.
BTW XONO's freekin awesome too.
For an output that low, I would go solid state and look for a gain structure around 65dB (or more).
That's not to say a tubed phono stage can't work but you'll need to be careful with your choice.
Regarding your cartridge, if you take any 10 solid state phono stages there's a good chance they will be quieter than their 10 tubed counterparts.
It depends. The preamp gain, speaker and amplifier sensitivity all come into play. I have a 0.24mV cartridge playing through a 66 db gain SS phono stage, which used to be enough. Then I sold my ARC preamp and BAT amp and bought an VAC integrated amp.....now, it's not enough gain.
Same catridge, same phono stage and speakers, different results. When considering noise free listening, it's not just the cartridge and phono stage, but the entire system that comes into play.
I'm now listening to the following setup:
cartridge: Allaerts MC2 Finish
phono: Blue Amp model 42
amplifier: Marlk Levionson 383
speakers: Sonus Faber Amati
This setup generates quit a lot of noise. At a fair, but firm listening level the system noise is much larger than vinyl noise.
Is it the phono or the sytem that generates this noise?
i use two relatively low output cartridges, a Lyra Olympos with .17mv output and a Ortofon MC A90 with .24mv output. i have owned a few others in that output range.
these cartridges do require a good deal of gain; which typically adds noise unless serious design and build quality are applied (read $$$$'s).
10-15 years ago low noise phono stages that could handle a .2mv cartridge with no problem were relatively scarce and one was forced to accept a bit of noise and veiling to use the best Moving Coil cartridges. the laws of physics do mean that the cartridges which reveal the most information from the grooves tend to have low outputs.
nowadays there are quite a few good choices; although the best are quite expensive.
i use 3 different low noise phono stages; the Allnic H3000, which has 2 high gain/low noise inputs and 2 MM low gain inputs. i also have a Battery powered darTZeel NHB-18NS preamp with 2 internal phono stages. my experience is that neither of these phono stages has any apparent added noise during playback. even when turning the volume up to full with the stylus not on the Lp there is typically almost no noise at all. they are not inexpensive.
as far as a low noise phono stage at a reasonable price; Allnic's lowest price phono stage, the H1200 (around $1500) is pretty darn good and relatively low noise. at that price it would be hard to beat. i have had one in my room and compared it directly to the H3000 and while it was not as good it was close enough that i would highly recommend it.
Noise free LOMC phono source is possible if you divide the phono gain between transformer and phono stage.
I do have the worst case scenario in my set-up: very low output MC with tubed phono stage and high sensitivity (really high - aside from horns) speakers.
I am running a 0.15 mV cartridge on one end and a 99.5 dB sensitivity speaker on the other. Phono amplification with 22 dB gain step-up transformer feeding a 54 dB phono (tubed...) stage.
The very same phono stage can be "pimped" to 70 dB alone. Using this generates more noise with less gain.
The SUT does a great job.
Dear Mikelavigne, - just as a further information: the Lyra Olympos running in Syntax' system has far more output than 0.17mV.
More likely 0.3 mV.
Does the Olympos you own indeed feature less gain than your A90 ?
I am really curious, as the 2 Olympos' I am familiar with (both serial # higher than 50 ), are much higher output ("louder"...) than the FR-7fc with its 0.2 mV.
Are there different versions of the Olympos around ?
I have a Transfiguration Temper that puts out .2mv. I'm running it into a Hagerman Piccolo step up that boosts it by 26db, which then feeds a Hagerman Trumpet boosting another 44db gain. I find that the Piccolo is extremely quiet and that I get no more noise from my Temper than I did using my old Dynavector with 2.5mv output.
As long as you have a quiet step up device you should not have any more noise than you would with a higher output cartridge, but all things considered a solid state phono stage will be quieter than tubes, and may also provide enough gain to let you avoid a separate step up alltogether.
But then you would be missing that tube magic :-)
My experience has been that low noise is possible with tubes as well as transistors. You can do it by going fully differential. Contrary to Herman's comment balanced operation in fact offers you lower noise and immunity to artifacts in the interconnect cables (the real myth is 'balanced only benefits you if you want to run long cables'- the truth is it was devised to eliminate cable artifacts, which led to its being handy for long distances as well).
The thing that I keep running into is that noise is not the last word in reproduction. It can mask detail, so you want to keep it down, but I find that the quieter systems often lack detail for other reasons. There are a lot of things that can mess up a phono signal, so keep in mind that no single thing is a panacea that will work in all cases. Its the same as it ever was: YMMV...