Phono preamp advice.

Hi all, I am a new convert to the beauties of LPs. I recently got a MMF7 TT and a Phonomena phonopre. Reading some of the posts here I have noticed that some "in-the'know" folks mention that the phonopre is pretty important. I am meditating a move to the Audio Research PH line and am wondering whether it would be a significant upgrade from my Phonomena. The rest of my gear is a Pass X1 pre to Brystons 7bsst. Feeding B&W 802 S3s. I was hoping for something under 2K if possible. I listen, mostly, to classical and jazz. Any other phonopre recommendations would be welcomed also.
Although I do listen to CDs I am a bit amazed at the musicality I hear from analog.
Thank you.
If you have a low to medium powered MC cartridge, you should snap up a used Sonic Frontiers Phono One. One showed up on the net in the past few days. They were $2000 list, class A rated in Stereophile, powerful and very clean and lovely sounding tube/ss hybrid. The EAR 834p units are also excellent if you have the parts upgraded, otherwise they are still very nice. Either of these should stomp the Phonomena (which is well regarded at it's price and no doubt a great value, but below the minimial standards of some fussy people like yours truly.)

(TIA: I've owned SF Phono One for several years - loving it! - and am now deciding whether to downgrade to the rather smallish modified EAR in order to reduce the footprint of my stereo. I've already gone from pre with monoblocks to a tube integrated amp. Trying to restore my living room to civilian use!)

Art, thanks for the response. I have the Goldring Eroica cartridge which is a high output MC (it came with MMF7). How would the SF do with it?
You should look into the Hagerman Trumpet. Check out Jim's website (I think). I own one and it is simply unbelievable.
I'm not sure, but you might be considering spending more than you should for your TT and cartridge. I'm not sure if it makes too much sense to upgrade the phono stage, when the money might be better spent on upgrading the TT, arm, and cartridge instead? Maybe others can chime in on that subject??
There is, or was, on Audiogon, an EAR 834P with extra tubes for a very good price--under $800. I have one and prefer it to an AHT DM-P phono preamp that cost more than three times as much retail. IMHO you couldn't go wrong with this choice, and could easily resell it for more if necessary.
I have a Phenomena with the BPS that I was using with a Teres 265/Graham 2.2/Lyra Helikon set up. I moved "up" to a Tom Evans Groove about a month ago. To be honest I don't hear any difference or improvement and the Tom Evans gets pretty good reveiws from all that use it. The point is I think that the Phenomena is way under rated. If you don't have the BPS, you might consider getting that instead of a new phono pre.
I'm unfamiliar with the Phonomena but I agree with PhilD. That TT (arm? cart?) is well below the rest of your system.

The best phono stage in the world won't improve a signal that isn't reaching it in the first place. Upgrading your source first helps control results and - very important - the cartridge may determine which phono stage to choose. Choosing a phono stage first often limits your cartridge selections.
I am beginning to see that the "front" is more important (for now) and that maybe the MMF7 is ok but not remarkable. I was a bit afraid when I bought the TT that my craze with LPs would pass when the realities I remembered (from olden days) of cleaning, dealing with less-than-perfect surfaces, and storing would again dampen my enthusiasm. Well...unfortunately...the sound is so bloody good (even with my humble TT and pre) that the PIA quotient doesn't really matter. Maybe my next move is to go to local shops that have analog setups and just listen using some LPs from my collection.
I can't tell all of you how much I appreciate your input and am happy that Audiogon has these various forums to be able to learn from the experience of others.
Lachobba, it was perfectly sensible to test the waters before diving in. Before buying a new TT/arm/cart I plugged my 25 year old low-fi rig into my new, higher end system. Just as for you, enough of the magic came through that there was no turning back. As for what the new rig does, don't get me started... :)

There's no denying the PIA factor. Sunday evening I spent three hours at the kitchen sink scrubbing my latest acquisitions. But as you say, "the sound is so bloody good..."

Check out the recent 'Analog under $2K' thread for some ideas. Local shops and vinyl-philes are valuable too, if you can find them. Don't forget to enjoy the music while you hunt!
PIA factor? That's exactly why I have the creature on steroids*. Quartz locked direct drive, electric brake, simple to set up, on the fly VTA adjustment, service manual & parts availability, stylus illuminating light, 33/45 RPM at the touch of a button, solid construction & reliability, FUN TO USE. Its excellent sonic performance is just a fringe benefit...

* Technics SL-1200MKII with KAB modifications.

Wow, Psychicanimal, I fear that the Olympic committee will be comin'-a-'nocking on your door soon. Could you post bicep circumference of tonearm (delicacy prevents me from asking any other intimate details) afraid that my dear MMF7 needs a gym membership! Congratulations on the 1200 w/mods.

My PIA reference was more for what Dougdeacon did for his Sunday evening and I do when I have the time. Having discovered A'gon member 4yanx's LP cleaning ritual in one of the threads (I do think it should be required reading), I was delighted to learn that some LPs can be saved and even made to sound better. Although I am not nearly quite as thorough, I did invest in a Nitty Gritty 1.5 and do some prewashing.

Yesterday, as I watched an LP doing laps on the table it came to me that some of the gratification of a record is that you have to "physically deal with it." Well, I could go into a long discourse here about other visual and/or tactile felicities of handling an LP as opposed to a CD but will let the more experienced users among us share their thoughts.

Oh, by the way, I am using HT Pro-Silway IC from TT to pre and also from phonopre to the Pass X1. Is this IC okay? Thank you.
I have an MMF7. I recently upgraded the cartridge to a Benz Glider HO and love it. After considering several different pres, I settled on a Conrad Johnson EV1 and noticed a WORLD of difference. Soundstage is deeper, playback is quieter and more detailed. The CJ has 5 catridge loading settings, changeable from a dipstick, and outputs 49db of gain. It got an A rating from Michael Fremer in Stereophile, and at its price point is a bargain.
Lachobba, :)!

BTW, most people prefer a shielded phono cable between TT and phono stage. That very low level signal needs protection. If you're happy with the clarity of low level details already, don't bother, but it's difficult to judge without hearing another cable. This is one of those areas where you'll never know what you're missing until you hear it. That happened to me when I upgraded TT/arm/cart - there's information in those grooves that my old rig never dreamed of playing.
Dougdeacon, thanks for the tip on the cable. Did you mean that the Pro-Silway is not shielded? If not, and you think I should experiment with others (I abstained in connecting the "Wadio Whack-looking" stock cables that came with the MMF7), which rca/rca would you recommend. I have a Wireworld-Equinox III somewhere around here I could also try.
Thanks again to all of you for tolerating my "low-fi" questions and quips until I upgrade and get to play in the BIG sandbox.
Arafel, I am sorry I forgot in my last post to ask...what were the significant differences you noted between the Eroica that came with the MMF7 and your new Benz? Also, did your CJ phonopre work well with the HO of your cartridge? Any noise,etc.?
Thanks, N.
The Olympic committee? No-the belt drive committee! You will see rt over and over and over: someone buying a belt drive TT and then spending MORE money on upgrading cartridge, tonearm wires, phono preamp. Truth is their platters are *uncapable* of delivering the goods. Fifty percent of the music is in the record--the other 50% (the time domain axis) is the platter's responsibility.

One of the KAB 1200 mods is an outboard power supply. The change has been so dramatic that I wonder how those flimsy belt drives that rely on house AC power to regulate the speed perform at all! If the motor is not servo driven the speed will change as the belt stretches. It's a real mess--don't let anyone fool you. The music will not sound crisp and alive.
Lachobba, I don't know if the Pro-Silway or Wireworld are shielded. Many interconnects are not. I'm sure their websites would say, but this is actually a red herring.

My system doesn't even require a phono cable. Many high end tonearms include a hard-wired cable, so don't spend big money on one until you're sure you're going to need it.

The source-first argument applies here too: the world's best phono cable can't improve a signal. I doubt either of your existing cables would hinder the music as much as your present source components. This is also what Psychicanimal is saying, in his inimitable way. :)
Got it, Dougdeacon, as my husband says, "what matters is what's up-front!" (Can you believe I let him get away with that bs. after 25 years?) Anyway, he's the digital gargoyle in the household (Mr. Papa's-Got-A- Brand-New-Wadia), although he does admit that there is "something" to this LP thingy.
Wadia gonna do? Thanks again.
Dougdeacon, you have NO idea what I just did this past weekend: I installed a $300 cartridge on a belt drive TT that's not worth $20. The cartridge was picked by Audiogon's analog--and Teres--guru! That Fritz Geiger knife is going to carve those records pretty good--and in the process get dull *real* fast! Hey, what can I do--this person has heard my creature on steroids several times and hasn't learned from me. I'll wait till he complains about record wear. I'll have some extra strength Advil gelcaps ready...
Lachobba, with the Benz I noticed a much richer sound. The bass was more extended and had a better punch to it, and the midrange was smoother. The soundstage was also tremendously extended, and the the overall sound was quieter. Same with the CJ, which added that gorgeous liquid midrange that only tubes can convey. After experimenting a lot, I chose 500 ohns for a catridge load; that seemed to strike the best balance in my system. At 47k, the sound seemed a little too bright and forward. Try the CJ; it's an incredible bargain!!!!!
PA, seems like another person doing things backwards. We all know the hierarchy should be TT/arm/cart. I admit I ran my $1500 MC on a 25-year old POS TT/arm, but only for a couple of weeks until my Teres/OL showed up.

Arafel, totally agree about c-j (check my system). But Lachobba needs to improve her front-end more. From what she just said, maybe a lot more! ;)
Dougdeacon, you rascal, you! I guess improving my TTs should definitely be my first objective. ;>)
Have a date with the gargoyle (the one with the big smile on his face) this week to audition "big-girl" turntables, among them your Cocobolo Teres. Will report back.
If purchasing doesn't work out, I'll upgrade the MMF7 with a Glider cartridge, get a CJ or ARC pre... and spend the rest on plastic surgery. (I am glad the only wrinkles that are shown here on Audiogon are the ones on our Nordost cables.)
On the topic of cables for the MMF-7 check out this link: