My digital front end outdoes my analog.....

For the first time ever my analog setup is being outdone by my digital front end. The equipment: digital-MF Trivista SACD
analog-Thorens TD-125 w/Rabco SL8E linear tracking arm/Grado Master reference (4.0mv) YS Audio Concerto plus with Telefunken smooth plate 12AX7's. The sound: Overall fairly similar with that usual superior analog HF response. The image and seperation are way better on the CDP, this is my biggest issue. Better, but less so, are bass response and dynamics on the CDP as well. I love vinyl and always have and will. The tonearm is set up great and the thing tracks perfect. VTA perfect. I have it only two feet from the left speaker and it doesn't even think of feeding back. I can jump on the floor and the woofers don't move so it is so well isolated. The table/arm seem fine. Here are problems I see:
1)Lower end phono pre (so what do I need to spend)
2)Rewire TT from cart to interconnect as the tonearm is 30 years old
3)As a passive line stage user I need a very low Z ballsier phono stage. The current unit is 54db gain with an output impedence of 1000 ohms. The Trivista CDP's output impedence is 50 ohms (this could be the bass issue since I use a passive linestage)

Vinyl will never have the place for me it once did since so few new releases are on LP. I have most of the vinyl and out of print vinyl not on or never released on CD that I desire to own (based on what I like)
I do love playing with vinyl and shopping and finding it as well. Thoughts welcome-thanks in advance

Welcome to the club. I gave up on vinyl in 1985. I never bought another LP.

You are happy - good for you.
One less vinyl buyer - good for me.

Well, it's profound to me... ;-)
Hmmm, lack of image and space sound like the table to me. Then again, sometimes it is hard to pinpoint these things.

Well, you could go to an active line stage to improve the dynamics and bass of the phono. Then again, if the phono is musical and you like the sound of it, who says it has to beat your digital overall???
Your analogue phono is way outdated. A used Sota or VPI with an SME4 or 5 or Graham 1.5 and decent phono cable such as Kimber would be a huge improvement. An active preamp would get you better frequency response. If you continue to use a tube phono try switching to Mullard box plates which are way more extended top to bottom than the Telefunkens which have a narrower bandwidth.
You are comparing a great digital player to a very average analog rig (the YS Audio Concerto excepted.) So it's apples to oranges. With all due respect, the Rabco SL8E was easily outclassed by the best pivoting arms of its own era. The cartridge is a hi-output, moving iron device hardly in the same league as your MF player, and God-knows what kind of ancient tonearm cable is coming out of your Thorens, which is no doubt badly in need of a new idler wheel to keep wow and flutter within bounds.

You didn't say how many LPs are in your collection, but if they number 1000 or more, you could discover a whole new world of listening magic with a new analog rig (including a new record cleaning machine) for the same $6500 you paid for the MF Trivista SACD.

Of course, then you'd be jones-ing for a new Meitner or Wadia. It just never ends. . . . . . . .

I believe you BUT, and that's a big BUT. Like Nsgarch said: "apples and oranges." Spend the comparable amount on an analog front end and then let us know. You'll be hearing a different tune...
I have to agree with Nsgarch, especially about the Rabco. IIRC an SME III beat it handily back in the seventies.
I am not a proponent of either. Now, saying that, I do have an analogue set-up and a digital set-up. Usually, for ease, I listen to CD's. Some sound great. For fun I spin an album every now and then. And, guess what? Some albums sound MUCH better then their CD versions. (And visa versa). BUT last nights listening to the 1st side of Tracy Chapmans 1st album proved that the low end can be tremendous with just a Rega P25/RB600 Super Elys set-up. My Vandy 2W was humming (not 60Hz) perfectly. I have never heard such perfect low end from vinyl.
Definitely agree with Nsgarch's post.

But also for me, it's not a question of comparing "image and separation" or "dynamics". I don't think there's really a valid argument that even the highest end TT can equal digital's measurements in those respects - because you just can't cut into vinyl without using compression and radical equalization, nor can you play vinyl back without encountering crosstalk or some amount of mistracking in complex passages.

Obversely - the most expensive digital rig can't possibly add back in the resolution that was lost in digital encoding.

To some people, the "magic" of ultra-holographic imaging or blow-your-hats-off dynamics are the cat's meows - which is fine, and Digital is great for them.

But for me, the bottom line is sitting there listening to the music, and I just physically can't stand listening to the vast majority of CD's anymore - don't know why and don't really care. If they upgrade the resolution of digital media significantly, perhaps it may start working for me.

But of course, let's not forget that lp's will always be more fun.
To Nsgarch -thanks for the reply. You wrote: The cartridge is a hi-output, moving iron device hardly in the same league as your MF player, and God-knows what kind of ancient tonearm cable is coming out of your Thorens, which is no doubt badly in need of a new idler wheel to keep wow and flutter within bounds.

The tonearm has RCA outs of its own which are not part of the Thorens which is belt drive with a new belt. As you can see in my post my issue is mostly image and soudstage and less so the bass. The passive linestage is probably the reason on the bass issue. I have a VPI cleaner and about 800 records. I guess there is no majic pre for $2K and a cable upgrade from cart to pre that will make me happy. The wood body Grado is $800 retail but from a former MC rig I know thats where I want to be. I just couldn't find a pre with enough gain and output to support my passive linestage which is the best thing with my Trivista. Maybe I should try the Trivista phono pre.... anybody have one?

It takes so much more investment to get great Analog then it does to get a great digital, alot of folks fall out of vinyl for this very reason phono stage and re-wire may do the trick.
ET, sorry, I guess I was thinking you had a 124. Anyway, here's what I'd recommend:

1.) First, check the capacitance spec. for your cartridge and make sure you have it correct by adding the default YS capacitance to the cable capacitance and then adding additional capacitance to the phono preamp if necessary to achieve the specified capacitance for that cartridge. (This is very important for MM carts., and I think it applies to moving iron as well -- double check. It does not apply to MC carts.) If you want to keep the Rabco and TT, you might want to consider some new improved phono cables for the Rabco. Also, you'll get better bass (with that light platter) if you replace the springs with sorbothane pucks or domes (which is what they would have used in the first place if sorbothane had been available.)

2.) Keep the cartridge and sell the arm/TT together. I suspect however that your negative experience w/ MC cart. had to do with the (possibly incorrect) selection of the MC cartridge itself and/or its setup (i.e. proper cartridge loading -- you absolutely can't use 47K ohms with .2mv - .85mv MC cartridges!) Your YS with 54dB of gain has more than enough gain for any MC cartridge between .6mV and .85mV (like a van den Hul Frog for instance) But you'd have to have YS install the proper loading since the Concerto apparently doesn't provide for user adjustments.

If you want to try a quick fix (for the bass and image) lose the springs and replace them w/ sorbothane. And if you don't have one, get a good record weight to add mass to the platter and couple the record to it better. I'll bet those two things alone would make a big difference.

If you have a significant investment in vinyl, both emotionally and financially, you should upgrade your analog set-up. The TT, cartridge and pre is inadequate. I can see why you feel your analog is laggging behind your digital playback.
It takes so much more investment to get great Analog then it does to get a great digital, ....

That may very well be your opinion, but it is not a fact.
Thanks everyone. I need to reclearify some points: I didn't use good grammer but MC is where I want to be, I prefer it to MM. With a passive linestage I need 2.5v out of the phono pre and couldn't find one with enough gain to give me that. My current 4.0mv + 54db gain gets me close. Still looking for recs on how to achieve my needed output(esp w/MC). I got my Trivista new for $2682 as an accomodation while in the biz otherwise I couldn't afford it.

ET, according to, your Grado puts out 5.0mV which means you would only need around 22dB of gain to blow the roof off. So your figures are off somewhere. As I said above, 54-62 dB gain is for low-to-medium output MC cartidges (0.25 to 0.85 mV)

If you really are running your Grado through 54dB of gain, my guess is that you are overdriving your Concerto (to clipping!) which may be why you find the sound less than thrilling.

I think your Concerto would be perfect for a MC cartridge just as it is (with proper input loading installed to match your MC cartridge.)

ok so if you really feel that you could get great analog, table, tone arm, phono stage, cartridge all for the same investment it would take to get a pretty good digital wich can be had for a grand or so, then you know something I dont.
I gather from this thread that if Digital sounds as good as Analog, then the Analog system must have a problem. (Analog inherently should sound better...only a lot more expensive right?)

Perhaps my analog system in 1985 was not very good when I made the switch (Thorens, grado MM, belt drive etc. no more than $500 for the source)....although the Walkman D-50 CDP (1984 model) I compared it to was not exactly the cats whiskers either....but the difference, although subtle, was enough to give CD the edge (S/N and LF response seemed slightly better with the CD to me even if the ultra HF had a harshness that I was not used to hearing on vinyl. Not bad, IMHO, considering the recording industry and equipment designs of that period were all intended to make Analog sound optimum) I used the Jackson Thriller and Dire Straits Brother in Arms vinyl/CD to compare and that was enough for me to make the switch. ( I deliberately chose to compare recent recordings as I did not think the conversion of old mix/masters made specifically to sound great on Vinyl would necessarily do justice to a new medium like CD. )

Over the last 20 years I believe the recording industry has improved a lot on how to get good sound from CD's to play on systems that give optimum sound for CD's....much as the industry had already learnt (in the 70's) how to make vinyl sound optimum. Frankly, I could live with either but CD is significantly more convenient and more brushes, fluids, isolation pads, pre-preamps, clicks and pops etc.
Analog is an imperfect approximation, but it's a real approximation, vulnerable, and messy -- just like life. Digital isn't real, it's an encryption (code) for something real. It's an approximation too, but it's an approximation of an approximation. It's clean, repeatable, precise and pristine -- not at all like real life, and you know it when you hear it. It's a little like the old Technicolor -- just a little TOO REAL to be real.

There's no point comparing the two. With analog you get "real" but "imperfect." With digital, you get "perfect" but "artificial."

My Grado is 4.0 mv (its a wood body hi output master) as the tag that came with it states. It does not overdrive the Concerto. In fact as my original post states fidelity overall is similar w/ a slight edge in the HF area going to the vinyl rig. The CDP output is higher and has a bit more slam (better dynamics and bass which I attribute to its 50 ohm output impedence and slightly higher output overall) I would be happy if the image and soundstage were even almost as good, it's not. I think I will rewire the Rabco and bypass its tonearm connector as another Rabco owner did w/good result and then try better phono stages. I used someone I know and respect to help with the math between cart out & phono stage gain to get my desired final out before my passive linestage. He suggested 60db gain, I came close at 54 because I couldn't find something with 60 (other than a Wright) that I could afford at the time. Thanks again to everyone. I would like to add this was never meant to be a vinyl vs digital thread, rather I was soliciting tips for improved results with my vinyl setup. Clearly there is a gap in total retail dollars between the two in my system. I still haven't heard anyone suggest a particular phono stage with high gain/output for me to try.
ET, don't take my word for it; just look up the MC vs. MM gain specifications for any preamp with a built-in MM/MC phono section, or any phono preamp that accomodates both MM and MC, and you will see what I'm talking about.

All the ones I can find specify around 34dB for cartridges with outputs of 2.0 mV or higher (MM), ~58dB for (MC) cartridges between 0.2mV-0.6mV, and 68dB for the really low output MC cartridges <0.2mV. FWIW
Analog is no more real then digital. They are both reproductions...the only "real" is live music.
DNA (the Double Helix) is inherently of digital-like construction. It may not use ones and zeros but it has a very limited set of exact states that are strung out in an almost endless string (rather like bits on a CD). DNA is an extremely robust way to maintain accuracy...each cell has an exact copy and there are millions of cells in each ear alone...does that make our auditory system perfect but artificial too?
Chad 'n Shad, what I meant by "imperfect" with respect to analog is that when storing analog information, any damage to the storage medium (the groove, the tape) also damages the information itself.

With storage of binary code, that is not true. As long as you can read the binary info AT ALL, you will be able to digitally reconstruct a "perfect facsimile" of the original sound. However, the resulting sound wave that gets to your ear, did not originate from an analog source (a wiggly groove), rather it was "reconstructed" using a code that can at best only "approximate" the analog equivalent, albeit without any pops and scratches.

The example of the DNA molecule would make a brilliant argument, except that it is not a digital (binary) storage system, and like the record groove, is vulnerable to all kinds of degradation and damage, and consequently, so is the information it stores. When this "damage" happens, we call it a mutation. Essential for evolution, but probably not so good for music reproduction.

I think another consideration that has not been discussed here is the software as opposed to hardware issues. You have not told us what you listen to or have compared CD to vinyl. Not that the stlye of music matters but I have found that my excellent condition original issue 1950's jazz LP's are completely magical compared to even the best audiophile cd reissues sold today. On the other hand, many LP reissues (and new issues) don't necessarily beat or equal their cd equivalents. There are far too many gross generalizations about the whole issue of cd vs. vinyl. I will show anyone specific examples of where one format blows away the other or vica versa so be sure you aren't reaching your conclusions from too narrow a set of software comparisons.
Nothing in nature is digital. The helix only looks digital to us today because we don't have the technology to "look" even closer. Guaranteed those edges are rounded over and science will eventually find even more there, there.

I don't really care about the digital/analog debate. I do use both in my system. However, I have found very little to justify an investment in SACD. To my ears DVD-A has a much better potential. I choose not to go beyond CD because I'd rather wait and see where the digital world settles. There have been great strides in SS and digital components in the last few years. But there have also been great strides in analog components as well.

I still see this as a dollar for dollar comparison. I don't subscribe to the thinking that a $1k analog investment will outperform any digital. Might have been true a little while ago, but it's not a given any more. So, if someone chooses to invest more in digital than analog (or the other way around) then fine. Electroid posts that vinyl will never have the same place in his system while telling us about the performance of his $6K player. So he feels the need to tell us that his expediture makes him happy. Ok, but what's the point?

This really is pretty simple as I see it. If you do want to improve your analog source, invest in it to the same extent that you have invested in SACD. If you don't want to spend anymore on analog then that's fine as well, but why do you ask the obvious? I believe that for the same $6K one can have an analog front end that will better whatever SACD you want to bring to the table.
In response to Jyprez thanks for bringing up that point. I did a lot of comparing. I used the same title on vinyl and CD as well as other recordings and one thing is always the same. The image is inferior on the vinyl rig and the HF is slightly nicer(more natural) on the vinyl rig. My other point holds true too in terms of bass and dynamic range being better on the CD rig.

To Dan Ed - I got the Trivista for $2682 brand new as an accomodation whilst in the business. As a music lover how can vinyl hold the same place in anyones heart since only 1% or so of new releases are on vinyl. I love old and new stuff but I have almost every vinyl recording that I want or will ever want(except those not yet made) . I have two friends that own record stores and I have been collecting for over 25 years. I asked for phono pre recommendations and have yet to recieve one. It has to have a ton of gain as I will not every use an active linestage again(famous last words)I am starting the rewire project for tha arm which terminates with its own RCS'a on the arm. I like you don't care about the digital analog debate either.

NsGarch- you wrote: ET, don't take my word for it; just look up the MC vs. MM gain specifications for any preamp with a built-in MM/MC phono section, or any phono preamp that accomodates both MM and MC, and you will see what I'm talking about.

But I'm using a passive linestage! This changes everything. I do need tons of gain even with my high output MM.

'troid, I do understand you're position. I just think your thread title doesn't accurately describe your situation. I still think for the ~$3K investment you have made in SACD that you can better/equal it. But I don't think it is worth futzing with the table/arm/cart (as a combo) that you have now. The passive pre you have chosen could be an impediment to a better analog front end, but I'll admit to a biased thinking here. I understand passive as a better solution for digital sources. I'll also admit that I don't have extensive hands-on exerience with passive and digital. It just seems that you've chosen a solution that works pretty well for digital but that may work against getting enjoyment from analog. Hopefully, someone with more experience in this area will chime in.

I am in agreement with trying to keep up with new releases and the available formats. Again, this is a different issue than what the thread title would have the reader believe. Myself, I would look to CD first and then DVD-A. I have heard some very good SACD but nothing that improves on redbook to even the slightest degree.

You're asking how can I still love vinyl because I can't get all new releases in that format. No disrespect, but to even ask that question proves you don't appreciate that which is available now on vinyl, even used vinyl. If this is the point you're after then I accuse you of falsely stating your premise for this thread. For example, I could ask you how can you genuinely love SACD since there is so much beautiful music available not that format?
I don't care much for SACD and have only 15-20 discs. Don't get me wrong it does sound better than the same title on redbook its just that so little of it appeals to me titlewise. I bought the player for its superior redbook playback. My favorite sonding recordings on CD have a top ten where there are only 2 SACD's. I prefer good/creative engineering to slighlty better fidelity anyday. I tried the buy some of the same releases I have in vinyl/redbook etc. on SACD, Mostly a waste IMO, Kind of Blue is still best on vinyl by a mile to my ears. I got a rec for a phono pre with appropriate gain but its a $500 pre. I have always auditioned gear before buying and will start that soon. I do want to improve my vinyl playback, especially image/soundstage.....this is why I started the post. Thanks for your input!

I do want to improve my vinyl playback, especially image/soundstage.....this is why I started the post.
Matching or beating CD for imaging, soundstaging (and bass) is possible. This is true whether your CDP cost $1K, $5K or even $15K.

As has been posted already, starting with Nsgarch, your TT, arm and cartridge are inadequate to meet these goals. No phono stage in the world will change this. Even new, the TD125 was not one of Thorens best tables. The SL8E was nobody's idea of a great arm (I owned two of them, and still own an ST-8). I could name a hundred modern cartridges that will image and soundstage better than any Grado.

I prefer good/creative engineering to slighlty better fidelity anyday.
A lot of good, creative engineering has been applied to LP playback components since yours were designed. The result is not "slightly" better fidelity, it is massively better fidelity.

Visit someone with a decent high end rig of recent manufacture. Assuming proper component matching and setup, what you will hear is a level of performance that no amount of tweaking, wire upgrading or phono stage matching will ever pull from your existing rig.

You do have some difficult decisions to make. Hopefully you won't make too many wrong turns as you try to find a path that works for you.
It has to have a ton of gain as I will not every use an active linestage again(famous last words)

My 100% solid state system uses a CI Audio passive, CI Audio DAC and Monolithic Sound PS-1 phono stage. No more active line stage pre's for me either. However, I use very short runs specialty naturally insulated silver cabling. A Dan Wright modded Marchand X9 Deluxe electronic x-over serves as a source of constant output impedance for the power amps and to counteract any other of the passive's inherent weaknesses.

Like Doug told you, I also suggest you start listening to really good vinyl rigs. You are thinking too much...

From a 1200 modder,
Thanks everyone, the truth hurts sometimes. I don't have a limitless budget or even $5K. I shoulda bought a VPI or a Clearaudio when I was a dealer. As to this :

my words: I prefer good/creative engineering to slighlty better fidelity anyday.

reply: A lot of good, creative engineering has been applied to LP playback components since yours were designed. The result is not "slightly" better fidelity, it is massively better fidelity.

I meant this regarding comparing any given recording to another one-nothing related to gear.

Soooo thanks everyone again for your input. I will report on using a better phono pre as I can borrow these from where I worked.

That's one less gent elbowing me out at the used record store: )

Your loss is my gain!
No, I have all the "old" vinyl I want. I had two friends with stores. I can't think of an "old" title I want. I will buy new vinyl I like/want when it is released but we won't have any need to "fight" or compete for that(hopefully). No loss or gain for anyone. I wish everyone the best of luck in trying to find their favorite old out of print vinyl. I'm suprised how adversarial this thread has been to some people when I was only looking to solicit help to improve my analog fidelity.


Last nights vinyl playlist:

Gateway - "II" - ECM
Big Brother & The Holding Company- "S/T" - Vanguard
Steve Khan- "Blades" -Passport
"Where Fortune Smiles"-McLaughlin,Holland,Surman et al-Dawn
Philip Catherine - "Nairam" - WB
Bill Connors - "Of Mist and Melting" -ECM
Miles Davis - "Water Babies" -Col
CCR- "Cosmos Factory" - Fantasy