Need some preamp expertise

I’m looking into getting a Budgie Phono Premap to replace the Cambridge Azure 551p in my system. I currently have a Pro-Ject Debut III, Ortofon 2M Blue, Dali Zenor 1’s, a Jolida FX 10. Right now my set up is kind of a mess; the Dali’s don’t really pair well with the FX10; and the Cambridge 551p (@ 39dB) doesn’t really have sufficient gain for the FX10.

I would really like a tube preamp and found the Budgie Phono Preamp for $399. I emailed the owner who is extremely helpful and suggested that his Budgie Hybrid Amp for $599 would be a better fit for my integrated tube amp (which he says needs at least 42dB) since it produces 46 dB gain. However, he said if I feel that if the current gain arraignment on my system is okay, then the regular Budgie should be fine.

This is my question, does the insufficient gain level of the preamp effect the sound quality of my music; or is the gain just a function of driving more power to the amp making it more efficient in driving the speakers thus allowing the music volume to be cranked louder. As it is now I feel my set up sounds pretty good and do not need a “louder system”. My listening room is quite small so I never crank it up. If my system is turned on, no music is playing, and I turn the volume all the way up; I can hear some humming (which I’m assuming is due to the lack of gain from my preamp, my speakers being somewhat inefficient, or both) however this does not bother me as I can't really distinguish the humming when music is playing, nor do I usually have the volume control turned up that high. Basically I don’t want to pay an extra $200 is it’s not going to make a huge difference in sound quality; the $399 is already stretching my budget. Down the road I might upgrade to some more efficient speakers.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


looking at your set up I'm thinking your biggest area of concern is your speakers are not efficient enough for your power rating from your Jolida. 86.5db is not efficient enough for 10wch (you need upwards of 94db). so any extra gain specially early in the chain will add a lot to your sound quality. think dynamics. I would recommend you save your money on the Budgie and save some money for a better over all phono stage. I bet the jolida phono stage would be a good match for your jolida integrated. I know the jolida phono stage gets good reviews and has proven to be a good candidate for upgrades.

I have a Budgie and think you’ll have to spend much more to outperform it, and not sure it’s the Jolida. I do have a local Jolida dealership but have not had the urge to drag one home so I can’t comment it’s better but I’m sure it’s a fine piece. The Budgie can only be purchased directly so no middle man which keeps cost down obviously. I’d listen to Parks and if he recommends the hybrid then I’d start there. Before I had the Budgie I had a Cambridge 651P and the Budgie is a big step up. Audiioned an ARC LP1 and and really didn’t feel it bettered the Budgie, so that’s what I ended up with. I also like the flexibility of it. Again don’t let the low price fool you against models costing more, because it’s very good. Good luck.
My main concern with the hybrid is that, like the Pro-Ject Tubebox DS, it uses IC opamps for most of the gain. Are the tubes mainly just used as a buffer; and if so does the sound vary that much between the hybrid and the regular boogie? All things being equall would would the sound difference be between the Budgie and it's Hybrid, would it be nominal? Below is some math in regards to my set up the Shannon emailed me:

The 42dB gain recommendation comes from the following calculations. The Jolida needs 670mV of input voltage drive to hit 10W. The Ortofon 2M Blue puts out 5.5mV. So 670mV / 5.5mV = 122 times gain or 42dB gain. With only 38dB, the amp can only put out 4.5W as it runs out of voltage drive. As I said in the earlier email, if you feel that the current gain arrangement is OK, then the regular Budgie should be fine. It has very similar gain to your Cambridge Audio 551P (38dB vs 39dB).