On the fence about Vinyl need a good phono stage for A/B testing


Got myself Rega P6, but humm I am not so sure if I want to listen to Vinyl over lossless audio. I have SET tube amp and thinking if I have to get tube phono stage or a good SS will suffice. The speakers will be Legacy Aeris. 

I am thinking ti try out Project Tube Box DS2 but guessing if I should I go all out with Luxman EQ-500 or be rational and settle for Parasound JC3+.

The signal chain will be Rega P6 with Ortofon Bronze -> Phono Stage -> Legacy Wavelet processor -> Line Magnetic 508ia -> Legacy Aeris.

Any advice is helpful.

thanks
geek101
Which Ortofon Bronze are you using - 2m, Quintet, or Cadenza? 
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In my opinion you should also be mindful of your vinyl source for your comparison to your digital because you don’t want to just compare a digital vinyl record (reissue/new) to your lossless files for this test.

Aim for as close to original pressing as possible, of course, and I think some favorite Blue Note recording from the late 50s would reveal the most dramatic difference to your digital files of the same recording... if any.

Of course I am biased since my vinyl set up has developed to get the most out of vintage jazz that I found less than engaging from digital source but now find intoxicating on vinyl.
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photon46, I am using the 2M Ortofon Bronze
Just wanted to make sure you weren't using an Ortofon Cadenza Bronze, that would be a mismatch for sure with the Project phono stage. I agree with Elizabeth that a better phono stage would be preferable if finances allow. A quality phono stage contributes immeasurably to the enjoyment of the medium. I had to try several before finding one that pushed all my buttons and I found that several highly reviewed models were "meh" to my ears. The cartridge, table, and phono stage all work together synergistically and if one element isn't simpatico, the rest of the combo falls short of its potential. 
I never purchased any pre anything before. Wondering about the value for $ and if I can even perceive the difference audibly speaking. For example Luxman EQ-500 vs Parasound JC3+ vs Project Tube Box DS2 . Will I perceive a difference with my setup?.
I asked a similar question about 3 years ago--if my memory serves me.  Someone here told me to get a great phono preamp.  That was some of the best advice ever. 

I went from using $500 or less phono pre's  or those that were integrated in integrated amps, receivers, etc.  I made a big dive in and bought a Manley Chinook.  The phono pre made the biggest difference in improving vinyl of any move I've made (more than upgrading amps, going tube amp, using a record cleaning machine, etc).  

I'm pretty humble and reserved in giving advice here.  I would say, however, you should really try out a decent phono pre or two.  

One last thing--I think I get the most out of vinyl (phono pre/cartridge) when listening to well recorded music.  Such music sounds great on digital for sure, yet with vinyl it is intoxicating and addictive. 


Also, I should note, that after using some nice but intro level Rega and Grado carts (both under $300 or so), I first made the jump to Roksan Corus cart (really a Goldring made for Roskan), then to an Ortofon 2M Black, and then to an AudioTechnica ART9.  
jbhiller thanks for pointing me to Manley Chinook the reviews are excellent. Yes point noted about finding well recorded vinyl records. 

pbnaudio B2B-1 sounds like great value for $.
You’re welcome OP. See my latest thread asking for help in how to make my digital sound better. I used to be in the opposite camp. :)
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Be sure to give a Parks Audio phono stage a serious listen!  Many trusted individuals I know swear that this little guy hits way above its asking price!

http://parksaudiollc.com/
Of the three you mention the Luxman is the best. You should always buy the best when possible.
I am fortunate to have a Luxman EQ-500 and it is wonderful. A mix of valve and SS with the brilliance of a quality maker. Although expensive, it is a permanent part of my team.
Hi amg56, did you ever got a chance to compare the Luxman EQ-500 in the same signal chain with other phono stages?.
Don't want to confuse you geek101 but have a look at the Gold Note PH10, it's very versatile (and has many GREAT reviews).
Vinyl is a medium that requires and rewards excellent source and phono pre. Go as high as possible here because everything here is amplified, and the phono pre "wakes up" the system. I use tubes and have spent a tidy sum putting together the right combo. My other components have been tweaked but the phono pre has been worked over to the max.
You won’t wonder if it yields significant results, it will be apparent.
I don't make equipment suggestions as I've only had one setup and went all out [for me] when I purchased. My
system is on virtual systems.

Thanks rsf507, great reviews for the price.
First check the VTA on your tonearm

tube phono is the only way to go!! 
gregb63, dealer calibrated the arm for me and setup the cartridge. What phono stage do you use?.

Seems like lot of people also like Shindo Masseto or even Shindo Monbrison. How do these compare to Luxman EQ-500 / Manley Steelhead / BAT - VK-P12SE all are similarly priced.
Guru Ralph Karsten of Atma-sphere has posted extensively on this subject. His position, as I understand it, is that the phono stage is critical to vinyl listening. A better phono stage means less noise and fewer pops as well as better resolution.

I agree. When I moved from inexpensive good value phono to ARC, the difference was phenomenal. Did that twice. More recently, my previous DIY phono stage used the best component in most places - it is quite inferior to the present one, which uses the best component in every place.

One thing, though - you may miss the "high frequencies" of digital. This lack is only apparent and not real, as what is missing is the highly audible distortion masquerading as 'speed' and 'attack'. It is akin to the sound of a cheap electrolytic capacitor in the signal path.

You should find the analogue sound to be more relaxing and more conducive to long listening sessions. That's what we (analogophiles) all strive for.
Geek101:

I currently own 4 phono stages with a fifth soon on the way. The Luxman EQ 500 is one of them and it is simply one of the best I’ve heard. Change the fuses (a must) to something more ambitious than the cheap glass it comes stock with. I tried Synergistic Blue, hifi Tuning, etc. The best combination by far was one Audio Magic Ultimate Bees Wax and four AMR Mk2 Gold fuses. I also swapped out the JJ EZ81 rectifier for a NOS Mullard I purchased from Brent Jesse.

Absolutely stunning and the flexibity is right up there with the best. I usually listen to it everyday as it compliments my AMR PH 77 very well.
Oh yeah, it sounds stodgy and thick out of the box, very opaque. It will loosen up at about 100 hours and start to sing around 250 hours. I know many folks exaggerate about components being run-in after like 20-50 hours. I don’t usually have that experience with the gear I buy, it takes time. This goes fast once you pass about 100 hours as it’s more listenable and you are enjoying the component as its becoming better sounding.
If you're thinking about the Parasound JC3+, go with a slightly more costly option: Herron VTPH-2A. I've had a half dozen phono stages over the past ten years including the Parasound and Herron puts them all to shame. With a properly set up TT, the Herron will give an immediate improvement in sound quality. Another nice thing about the Herron, if you make upgrades to your system over time, your phono stage won't be one of them. It is that good.
audiofun, Thanks and how does Luxman EQ-500 compare to others you have and why should one change the fuses?. Pardon me if it is a silly question. 
Geek101:

Not silly at all, it is in the top three or four that I’ve ever heard, and I have listened to more than I can count with some of them costing FAR FAR more than the Luxman. It is quiet, flowing and has excellent timing which is important, a good number of stages completely foul up the timing. The stage is highly transparent with just a hint of lushness/beauty making itself known (you can control this with the rectifier choice as well as the signal tubes). It is not 300B lush by any stretch but it is the polar opposite of the Pass XP25, in a good way (IMHO).

I don’t want to get into the fuse thing but if one thinks about it, all the power coming into the unit is rectified and stored in caps and then released and modulated to the musical/electrical signal generated by the stylus, this is what you are listening to, the power supply. If the first choke point is a chintzy three cent fuse with a crap metal filament (slow blow, Tin, zinc or some alloy) passing the current, a signature is established. Garbage in garbage out. I can honestly tell you that changing the fuses brought about a HUGE increase in the units sonic capabilities.

Nearly all of my components have an AMR MK2 Gold or a Bees Wax Ultimate fuse installed.

@audiofun @geek101 Hi guys, Sorry for my delay and this being a short message. I Used a TE Audio Systeme phono input (from Germany) , a Yamaha 5000, and an older Onkyo. The Luxman coupled with any of my TT's (Kuzma, MS BL-91, a DDX-1500, Nakamichi and a old JVC QL-Y5F) and the Luxman beats anything hands down.

I agree with Audiofun but it changes with the cartridge and arm. I mainly use a Jan Allearts cart (I have 2) amongst others. The sound is fantastic, apart from the condition of my vinyl. They need a re-clean badly. :)

amg56:

That sounds awesome! I use an ART 1000, London Ref and Ana Mighty Sound 103.3 with the Luxman although the London belongs to the SPL Phonos :)

The ART 1000 and 103.3 sound absolutely stunning with the EQ500.
Audiofun: Love your system. Agree with you 100%
The DSP will suck some life out of your vinyl; I would try it with and without.  For me, I am willing to put up with some less than perfect resonances for the sparkling purity of a well reproduced analog signal.  There is a certain emotional thrill and sense of involvement that I get listening to records that just doesn't happen with digital sources (despite the fact that they almost assuredly measure better)).

That said, I have ploughed through a number of phono preamps over the years.  Some of the best were built in to the 60's and 70's era electronics.  If the piece of equipment has a pre-out, they are fun to audition.

Almost any modern phono-pre is going to sound pretty good.  You will get a lot more variety and "bang-for-your-buck" entertainment value messing around with different cartridges.  Before I would haul off and invest a ton of money on a phono pre, I would at least try out some different MM cartridges (Grado, AT, Rega - the Exact would be a good fit).

Moving into MC territory, it is more important to match the phono pre to the cartridge.  Your selection of a phono-pre will be more critical, especially if you are moving up the price chain.

For under $1000 MM cartridges, I would recommend the Schiit Mani, although just about any would do.  At this price point, the subtle refinements of an expensive phono pre will be barely discernible.
I have an Odyssey Audio Suspiro that I would put head-to-head with the Parasound JC3 (at least as far as sound goes, the JC3+'s variable loading is more convenient and offers a few more options for cartridge loading).  The Suspiro matches well enough to most cartridges that it is an absolute bargain considering the cost (around $1250).  I am currently running it with a Hana SL - highly recommended!
I just had Ortofon 2M Bronze installed on Rega P6. I am hoping to get some milage on this before even considering upgrading this to something else. Is this a good start?. I am happy to invest in a good long term phono stage but prefer to start with something cheaper and tube(everyone thinks tube is better!)

I am thinking Manley chinook / Herron VTPH-2A but slowly and steadily convincing myself to get a used tube amp like Shindo Monbrison /  Luxman EQ-500 / Manley Steelhead / BAT - VK-P12SE for around 5-7k. 

I really wish I could A/B them in the comfort of my home!. But reality is different.

My amp is Line Magnetic Integrated LM-805IA speakers are Legacy Aeris (on the way), will be using Wavelet room correction. Vast amount of my music is Flac. Just getting started with records!.
I love my Quicksilver Audio tubed phono stage. $1500 new.
amg56:

Much appreciated.
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Seems like Luxman CL-38u is a good deal and priced lower, what will I be missing when compared to EQ-500?. Do I really need all the bells and whistles?. Or there are fundamental difference in design in the phono input and output stages between these two?. I am a bit skeptical if I can notice audible difference between these two.
There is more adjustability in loading which will make an audible difference. Whether you hear it is a question I cannot answer. The Luxman CL-38Uc is a preamp with a phono preamp built in not a stand alone phono preamp.
jperry, lol thanks, What is this "adjustability in loading". Where do I learn more about this, how can I google it. Does  "Herron VTPH-2A" have this?. I don't see no knobs anywhere. This analogue stuff seem like more work!!, but fun!!.
 Both allow you to adjust loading impedance for moving coil cartridges. The Luxman Phono Preamp has a knob/wheel in the front. The Herron uses RCA plugs inserted in the rear of the unit.

The comments re: pF loading is applicable to MM cartridges only

From the Luxman website:
“Optimizing the cartridge load adjustment

The EQ-500 features a load capacity selection function from which 6 levels (0/50/100/150/200/300pF) can be selected according to the characteristics of the cartridge to be used. Com bined with the load impedance selection function (30k to 100k ohms continuously variable) the original potential of the cartridge can be fully exploited”


Ortofon 2M Bronze says "Recommended load capacitance - 150-300 pF" which means I have to select 150/300pF on Luxman?. I only see one set of inputs for MM on the back of Herron.
You need to adjust the capacitance so the the total falls in the 150 - 300 pF range taking into account the capacitance of your cables as well. So if your cables have a capacitance of 100 pF you would select 150 pF on the Luxman for a total of 250 pF which is in the range of 150-300 pF. 

If you are new to this and you are buying something as expensive as the Luxman you should buy from a dealer and have the dealer help you. If you are in the Phoenix, AZ area I can recommend someone.

You can also run your Luxman or other phono preamp directly into your Line Magnetic integrated instead of through your DAC/preamp which is what I would recommend.
jperry, thanks yes I live in the SF bay area. I have dealer but I am just thinking ebay for used EQ-500.

I will be running EQ-500 / CL-38Uc / Herron to Legacy Wavelet and from Wavelet to pre-in of Line Magnetic. 

Right now my signal chain is Rega P6 with 2M bronze -> phono stage of Marantz SR7005 ->  Line Magnetic.
Geek101:

Please don’t read this the wrong way. Perhaps you mentioned earlier in the thread that you are planning to eventually move to a higher end cartridge, not that there is anything at all wrong with the 2M Bronze. If you do plan to move up then ignore this post, if not, I would humbly suggest that the EQ 500 may be overkill. 
audiofun, Would an upgrade to Audio-Technica AT-ART9 be good enough?. Would Luxman CL-38uC be good, an used BAT VK-P10SE or Herron VTPH-2A?. Luxman CL-38uC seems to be more than just a phono stage seem quite a value?. EQ-500 is just a stretch.
Geeek101:

I think any any of the others you’ve named would be good choices including an iFi iPhono 2.

 Of course it’s your dime and you are free to run whatever cartridge you want with any stage you choose. I just think the EQ 500 will not yield it’s true potential with lesser cartridges therefore why spend the coin, unless you KNOW that at some time in the future you’re going to climb the cartridge ladder :)
FYI, I had a BLab phono stage, about $9k, very nice indeed and better than a number of stages but the iPhono 2 was better to my ears. They were equal in all aspects except timing. The iPhono 2 simply had better PRAT. I was using a linear supply with the IPhono, I don’t allow SMPS anywhere near my three audio rigs.

I find Bat gear a little dark, I had a Rex pre years ago, didn’t keep it long at all. That could have changed as I haven’t listened to Bat gear in years.

The Luxman CL-38uC would probably give you all you need but again if you are just looking for a great stage don’t let the low price and diminutive look fool you, the iPhono 2 has embarrassed some very expensive pieces of gear and at Music Direct you have 60 days to love it or hate it :)

That’s my take on the subject matter. Whatever you decide I really hope you enjoy the end result.

Best
Or at least I try my best to keep SMPS’s away from my systems.
audiofun, SMPS is "switch mode power supply"?. I really feel stupid asking this question what do you mean by "I try my best to keep SMPS’s away from my systems." ?.