Problem with phono stage

Hello Fellow Audiogoners,

I need help with my Phono stage. It is Lehman Audio Black Cube from Germany.  It was recommended from Simao, a very respected Audiogon member who helped me a lot when I was building my stereo. It costs 450$ brand new which I bought used from this site. Michael Fremer considers it one of the best steals in phono stages. I get a little bit better detail and bass extension BUT it also much noisier. I can hear the pops and any other noises  on the records much more then with the phono stage of my Arcam FMJ 28 which turned out to be a surprisingly good one considering it is an integrated one.
I also switched the cables but the noise is still there.
Is this a common problem with added phono stages as opposed to integrated ones or something is wrong with my phono and needs to be checked.

All help will be greatly appreciated.


Showing 24 responses by rauliruegas

Dear @emilm : Very good news for you and in indirect way very good news for every one to know that capacitance was not the intruder.

Every single day is a learning one for the ones that are willing to do it.

Enjoy it ! !.
That gives: 17khz, no problem at all.

Dear @lewm  : "  I suspect Jose' has an EE background. "

Of course but not only that because he has studies ( 5 University years. ) too as: physicist and Mathematics. Additional he is an expert in digital systems/computers.

In the same way that the Essential was designed and builded to fulfill the cartridge needs and my self demanding targets in the same manner I was and am in the tonearm design and build process ( not with José. ).

As the Essential the tonearm is a true statement of audio item a true instrument level to satisfy any single cartridge needs and obviously my self needs.

Rigth now this unique tonearm ( it's copy of nothing. Is designed starting from Zero as the Essential. ) is finished and I have 3 samples working in my TTs with 3 way different cartridges. I can say it's fabulous, outstanding, unimaginable and a " dream come true " of quality level performance for say the least and again not because I did it again but .... 

In the other side, when we finished the Essential 3150 we write by hand the targets of an amplifier and the most important issue is that the amplifier is absed/founded in an all " new " output technology never used in the audio history. We don't go a head yet because my modified  monoblocks are stunning units.

I already has too ( my self with no other gentleman to my side. ) a cartridge targets design, I can mention two of those targets: output 0.05mv ( maybe even lower. ) and 30cu.

Btw, I don't know if you really know what you own in your 3160 when phonolinepreamps as: Dartzeel, Vitus, FM Acoustics, CH, D'angostino and the like can't overall beats/outperforms it.
I already listen the CH and can't do it but I don't listen the 4 chasis version of CH that could performs in different way due tha the power supply units were improved. The Vitus set you back over 70K ( phono stage plus line unit. ) and the CH 90+K and the 4 chasis over 140K prices ! !  That's what you own and nothing less.

Power supply design is critical, your 3160 unit has a more " hefty " PS than my 3180 that in reality is the same 3150 chasis and Power Supply with several improvements/up-grades in the main circuit boards.

@mijostyn , come on: is it so critical that issue? . I know is my fault.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
@lewm  : Btw, yes after a half a hour the class A bias settle down and the RIAA bass range too due that those teflon caps needs some time to.

The Esential ""  It's excellent from the get-go but ...." as you said/experienced it.

In the other sideSET tube designs has feedback, it does not exist no-feedback as some tube designers say.

This issue was explained to me by José and no I don't go to do it. If a designer of tube electronics wants to know about it has to learn by him self.

Dear @lewm  : I don't hate you in any way, for me you are one of my close Agon true friends. That many times we can be in disagreement means nothing about our friendship/relationship. I love you man.

Yes, the tube subject today is just out of my mindn as you know I was a tube lover too for at least 10 tears: no way to come back no matters what. 

Yes, you are rigth about José and that's why you can read in the circuit boards: J&R.

You own the two MC stages version and just looking the circuit boards so kind cared of each single soldered part you know that " there " is something special. Everything was made it by us but the blank circuit boards that we bougth from Silicon Valley company.

Mijostyn could think about ego but no I'm not that kind of person, of course that as a human been I'm proud to own " something " builded by " my self " and that performs so good and addirtional to that I'm happy that exist other 7 proudly owners of our units.
This fact was really a fortuit one because the Essential was designed for my way demanding needs even Jos'e has not the Essential.

We really take care on the overall design and execution to that design even the logic " card " works excellent and it the circuit that starts to works when you switch-on the unit and for around 12 seconds one led is blinking and stops at the end of the check-upprocess that the Essential does it and if the unit has any single parameter out of our really tigth specs/tolerances the Essential just does not works.

The people that do not seen the Essential could think it's a " garage " item but yyyou know that is far away from there, that unit weigth around 27kg that at the end could means almost nothing.

Btw, do you already used the Neumann pole option in your unit?  I have to say that normally that 3.18us pole develops several problems of phase and other issues in the RIAA eq. when it's not well designed and I want to tell you that we really take care about.

That pole is way important to any LP lover because the inverse RIAA eq curve goes down/fall to infinitum after 20khz but during the recording process the RIAA emphasis that goes around 20db at 20khz and up does not goes at " infinitum " due that the cutter head at around 50khz it will be burn-in so exist a filter to stop process ( DMM can goes to 60khz. ) and it's this way as the LP comes to us and that's why all well recorded LPs does not have the rigth response over 20khz but only if we re-integrated the frequencies that goes losting/lowering leves through the inverse phono stages RIAA eq. curve. Anyway you have the option to test it.

The gentleman that always try to hit me but to increment his frustration never has success one time that I posted somewhere about the necessity that a phonolinepream has a wide frequency response over 1Mhz  like the Essential or Spectral and other units he asked why and been he a tube phono stage designer I thinked why is asking for when he must knew about and my answer was that ask that issue to K.Johnson of Spectral. It's way interesting.

Finally, the op-amps main issue. Which the real problem with: high feedback to lower distortion levels.

Feedback is a phenomenon created by mother's nature, Universe function with feedback, and is part of Newton laws. Our day by day life is full of feedback, even our brain works with.

Today op-amps improved a lot over the last 10-15 years. Analog Devices or Ti and other manufacturers improves about each single day. Even the ones I lnked here that we used many years ago in my first PLP and that cames from National ( out of market. ) and B&B whom was bougth by Ti performed really good.

The today op-amps are using NFB? yes but there are several ways to use NFB and depemnding of the skilled and knowledge levels of the designers that NFB " devil " could be not any more the way terrible " devil " of the past.
No one knows more about and how to use NFB that the expert ( true experts. ) engeneers from AD or Ti and other companies dedicated to.

Here what N.Pass says about and even that we could think that NFB is not what we want it read carefully the conclusion at the last sentence ( and this is only one audio gentleman amp designer. I will try to bring here to talk about to Wyn whom colaborated for years and designed for Analog Devices and now retired and working as a free-lance expert advisor. ):

those information comes from 2008, maybe NP could has news about and certainly he has because his First Watt amps use NFB and many people love it !.  Everything is related to the design the rigth way to use feedback. If we are totally afraid of it and I mean amp designers then could be because those amp designers just do not know yet how to " handle " it.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
Btw, I posted this in other forum regarding phono stages:

"""  I like many phonolinepreamp in the market some of them already mentioned here: FM Acoustics, Gryphon, Spectral, CH, D'angostino, etc, etc. Yes only SS because tubes in this specific function can't do it and I owmned from humble to top design tubes electronics by around 10 years so I'm not speaking of my preferences but audio devices that its technology can in true be nearest to those targets.. This is only an opinion and I think is valid as any of your opinions.

I don't like very much to talk about tubes in phono stages but I will put an example through Aesthetix IO ( I listened the first time at A.Porter house and latter on 3 more times in other systems. ) where they say the unit has active high gain with low noise and yes it has 80db of gain that's a tribute for an all tube design but unfortunatelly failed on noise level that was measured a poor A-weigthed 57db and where the RIAA eq. deviation has ( by manufacturer spec. ) a high 0.5db swing deviation. That frequency response goes even worst because it depends of the control volumen that at different volume position different frequency response. The Lamm ones are not better but only way more expensive.

RIAA eq. frequency deviation levels is critical because in theory must be to mimic in inverse way the recording RIAA eq. to we can have a flat frequency response.
Not an easy task even for SS designs because that eq. is not a " delicated " one but goes from around -20db to +20db, this is a huge equalization with several problems not only about frequency response but phase and other issues.

Here I give you measured SS inverse RIAA eq. deviation frequency charts on very well know top SS active high gain phono stages and then we can understand my words about:

this last one of the 3 links came from the Vitus top of the line ( 60K+ ). You can look that starting at 500hz and below it the Vitus has a really high 20hz RIAA deviaTION OF -1.5db !! Even that J.Atkinson posted there:

"" This massive, beautifully built, two-box phono preamplifier offers almost unrivaled versatility, excellent channel matching, and almost zero RIAA error, but is not as quiet as I would have wished so expensive a product to be. ""

and more critical than that is what MF reviewed with that unit:

"" Its bass extension, control, and weight were granitic. "" how is that when in the bass range the Vitus is really poor performer ! ? ? ? !

Even JA made a comment about on that review:

"" Unfortunately, while the Vitus MP-P201 Masterpiece is well engineered, there is nothing in its measured performance that would indicate why Michael Fremer was so taken by its sound quality. ""

This next one comes from my room/system active high gain low noise phonolinepreamp:     """""

that is the/my unit with " op-amps "  ! ! !  

Dear @ejb 14 and friends: From where comes " stupidity ", normally from ignorance/low knowledge levels and skills.

Between 20+ years from today we made our first intent to design and build a phonolinepreamp due that what been in the market were not satisfied not only my LP reproduction demans in quality overall performance levels. My audio items that were my references in those times were units from FM Acoustics, Gryphon, ML Reference and the like.

So we started with a battery powered design with a single layer boards and using op-amps in two different ways.
We used these ones:   ( in the plastic not metal package )  and this one: and the opa 2604 too.

passive inverse RIAA eq. using teflon caps and Caddock resistors.

I still have this unit and ( believe or not. ) performs really great with no regrets/compliants about and even today can compete with some good " names " units.

After this successfully intent ( because we had to know first if our design could works and it did it ! ! ) we put on paper the targets for a more definitive phonolinepreamp that not only worked but that could outperforms the best of the best phonolinepreamps in the market and that fulufill all the cartridge needs of any cartridge and from here born the Essential 3150 followed by the 3160 and my today unit 3180.

My first phonolinepreamp targets I still have and were writed in plain paper by hand/pen and is dated: 26-11-96 ! !

several of the original targets can't be ( yet ) achieved and some of them are almost " crazy " and for other gentlemans/designers maybe utopic ones.

Anyway here some of the acomplished targets:

The Essential 3160 is an active high gain/low noise fully discrete design that use bipolar transistors in two gain stages for MC phono stage and FETs for MM phono stage.

In reality this phonolinepreamp have three preamps instead of only one: it has a MC phono stage, it has a MM phono stage and a line level stage preamp. All this three stages are totally independent from each other.
 Each phono stage ( MC and MM. ) is designed for its self precise and specific needs.

Our design is a discrete Non-feedback, direct coupled, pure class A , current mode, true balanced ( differential ) input to output, dual mono design and fully regulated input to output.

The dual mono design only share the chasis but both channels are totally independent from each other even in the dual mono external power supply ( that use too a pure silver Kimber Kable power cord. ) that is so important to the performance on this phonolinepreamp, it has separate attenuator volume control ( that been an attenuator design that when is attenuating the SPL at the same time is lowering/attenuating the noise levels. We work with the input signal 100% SPL, no attenuation at all. ) and separate phono/line switch, impedance changes by solder resistors.

Inside parts: teflon Cu capacitors, " naked " Vishay resistors,matched transistors , hand selected parts, no internal wires ( every part, including input/output RCA/XLR connectors, are soldered directly to the four layers circuit boards. ), etc....., only the best neutral non-sound parts ( no step-up transformers, no head amps, etc.. ) and in the critical stages with tolerances at 0.001%. All parts working at no more of its 50% efficiency. A unit impossible to overload it.

A developed proprietary technique guarantee an accurate RIAA de-emphasis accuracy of +/- 0.011 dB from 20 Hz to 20 kHz ( Both channels ), resulting in a neutral phono stage that reproduces exactly what the cartridge generates that are in the recording.  

The result is a preamplifier combining the purity and transparency of a passive preamplifier with the speed, dynamics and drive of an active preamplifier ( Truer to the recording. )

To round off the preamplifier's RIAA capabilities, its has a switchable 3.18 us turnover point Neumann pole. ) to compensate for the cutting head preemphasis HF roll-off during the recording.

The op-amps that mentioned that gentleman were used not to amplify the cartridge signal in no single way, this signal is touched only by passive/active discrete parts. The output buffer is a metal encapsulated fully discrete design that looks as an op-amp but certainly it's not.

Due that my ML 20.6 monoblocks use in the signal input gain stages these metal encapsulated fully discrete devices ( that looks too as an op-amp ):

we were thinking to use it because it has a first rate design but at the end we decided to make our own fully discrete bipolar discrete high gain design that was and still is a fenomenal challenge for any electronics SS designer/manufacturer..

I know that that low knowledge level ( that was the only reason he asked on those op-amps. I think? ) gentleman would like to know more about our design but this is not possible to him or any one else..

You know we in 1996 was thinking/targetting in a current mode design that today is the fashion. Yes welike what we did it and not because we did it but because is well worth our effort: very high rewards.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,


@lewm  : You can't stop your self in the same " boring " subject:

""  MP110 has inductance of ~800mH, as per VE discussion groups.."""

I told you your sources are wrong, I stated that cartridge inductance and is lower than half your figure. Please stop to post the same or at least don't name me any more in this thread in that capacitance issue.

@mijostyn : ""  ego discussing issues that have very little relevance to 90% of us...."""

not was you in your very first post in the thread who asked for and even shouited by your " friend " from you are a follower?

What are you claiming for?

@lewm  : every body know about the today extremely humble MM Audio Technica AT-95E ( 49.00 ) where its inductance is 400mH that inside the AT load capacitance specs its resonance frequency is over 20khz.

This is my last post about load capacitance.

Dear @lewm : Nagaoka today ( the OP cartridge. ) does not gives any load capacitance value in its specs.

""" analysis of where the resonant peak might fall and effect the audio band ... "

the true analysis belongs to Hagerman and I don't know before him.

In the MM thread that calculator was showed for the first time in this forum and not for me ( I think. ). Go there and you will find out several posts about capacitance and load impedances other than 47k.

Enough, jjss has reason: we have to help the OP and not post information that increment the mix-up to him.

 Give him a real and true advise other than capacitance issue to help him, just do it.


Btw, no insults per sé, read my post here:

and he follows posting the same " tale ". Good that you and mijo support him. As him both of you even worst because are followers.
Dear @lewm : Sorry but you are totally wrong. The only kind of cartridges Nagaoka manufacture are IM design not MM. Here you can open the Nagaoka instruction manual and at the very first two sentences states is a IM not MM ( yes you are to lazy. ):

You can confirm as I did it ( several years ago. ) through the Japanese official audio bible that specified IM not MM.
As you your information sources are totally wrong, no matters what. Remember that I not only was a Nagaoka owner but owned the very hard to find top of the line: MP50-Super, way superior to the today 500. Btw, I think that still own the 200 or 300 model, I own to many cartridges and can’t remember exactly about.

In the other side it’s not true that almost all the cartridges I listed about its inductance value are MI/IM because down there are very good know names even if you never own it or don’t have it:

Technics, Audio Technica, Signet, Pickering, Shure, Stanton. In all those models the resonant frequency is way over 20khz. So, what are you talking about?

""  made that very clear in his analysis. """  , could be but useless today. My opinion I respect yours.

lew, I always make my job, at least before you post make yours. Don’t you think?

Btw, those 500mH in the calculator is the default value choosed by Hagerman .

Lew, ceratinly I’m not an expert in any audio subject but in reference to cartridges but LOMC ones I learned through several years all what any audiophile/gentleman could want to learn here:

and I learned from several gentleamns that participated and participates there.


Dear @ejb 14 : "" you leave the personal attacks out of your posts. """

I’m really worried that you think what I posted with that gentleman is a personal attack even if look like that because is far away from there, not only with him but with no one else any where.

Things are that when I read that some one is spreading every where in the audio world forums again and again information that in the last times almost never happenned/happens I think that not only me but any one with the rigth information needs to post about because is each of us responsability to really help in between us increasing our each one audio overall subjects knowledge levels and the only way to do it is taking facts that can be proved that it really happens.

Your post appreciated and sorry that’s my way of thinking: share true today experiences, nothing else. I’m married with MUSIC not hardware or software or " imagination "/illusions but true live MUSIC.

Dear @emilm :  ""   but talk nonsense  ""  ? ? well maybe could be nonsense to you and other gentlemans too but you can be sure that that " talk " has true and real foundation.

Now,  ""   to match this entry level Phono?  "" you are rigth that the Lehmann because its price level is an entry level phono stage but when was introduced in the analog market and even today and due to its very good and wise design outperforms easily units in the 3K price range, please read all the reviews on that " entry level ".

In the other side I already gone in deep with your Arcam and sorry to disturb you about but has not the quality level than the Lehmann. Just an opinion.

I'm still learning but everything I learned came mainly doing several mistakes taking bad decisions and choices and taking advises that came from gentlemans that had not the rigth knowledge levels but I did not knew they had not because I was even worst than they.

Anyway your post was welcomed.

Dear @jjss49  : Thank's for that but I'm still learning and willing to each single day, far away to be an expert by my self.

The problem with that gentleman is that he likes to be the " salt " in every single audio subject even that in almost all audio subjects his knowledge levels are really low like the one in this thread.
Additional problem is that newcomers to Agon forums think that because he is a manufacturer he is an expert in everything when his true day by day expertise belongs to tubes technology.

Btw, congratulation for your Townshend, well the Harbeth's and Rel's too.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
@atmasphere :  "  it is a mistaken idea to assume that the peak has an influence at only one frequency....""

wrong you are and if you understand it then a misunderstood because I even talked/posted about harmonics developed but in the Nagaoka case it does not has any real " disturb " to what the OP is hearing.

Incredible that you want to have protagonism and even that you do not know that the OP cartridge is not a MM design. 
It's useless to follow you about those clicks/pops .

"""   opamp-based preamps """.

October 16 of 2020 year and are you talking in a high end analog forum of op-amps? really? when several years ago no one use op-amps in any decent today SS electronics: decent unit design.

"""   so willing to attack me... """

attack you? I don't need it because you are the only one that attack your self with that so low knowledge levels in this specific regards.
You need a new mentor/advisor with analog.

perhaps the only audio subject where you really have the rigth knowledge level is about that archaic electronics you promotes.

Btw, you always make my day, thank's for that. Be happy and try to learn


Weird/curious that you choosed in Nagaoka IM design 500 and not 300mH. Why did you do that?

300mh is way nearest to the real Nagaoka value than 500mh and with 300mh the resonace frequency is at 24.6khz Way different and as we can see through the Lehmann specs it is designed with very high overload levels.
So, that’s not the trouble.

What if you take the MM AT25 85mh along say those 600pf? even with that extremely high capacitance the resonance is over 22khz. At normal 200pf the resonance is 38.6khz ( fundamental frequency. harmonics that goes inmmediatly to 77.2khz. )

"" its going to be audible. The slope of the peak is there at 15KHz and there will be phase shift elements easily down to 10KHz, which will be perceived as brightness. ""

A surface LP click certainly is audible as a " click " sound not as brigthness and I’m talking of clicks and pops because that’s what reports the OP not brigthness: he said: pops and other noises and never mentioned brigthness.

So what’s all about? and of course that you can’t perceive as a click or defined kind of sound 17khz-18khz ( you can’t aisle it. ), you just can’t do it.

In the other side the harmonics of that resonance at 19khz ( the fundamental. ) goes to 38khz almost at once. My information is not false.

Why is false? proved it is false not only post it. You are the one whom say is faklse then: proved not talk, we need facts. I know as usual with you: you have no facts at all. Pity.

A gentleman with deep knowledge levels way higher than you and ovbiously than me says about:

" Clicks don’t inherently have a frequency because there is no repetition in the signal. That would be like asking "what is the frequency of an impulse? ""

The Hagerman calculator gives an " idea " of what could happens but exist other parameters around it that certainly changes the calculator values. Exist a very complex relationship between several electrical and mechanical parameters to try to aisle one of them.

Your " terrorism " has no limits because you want and like the " protagonism " but unfortunatelly you have not the rigth knowledge levels and skills to has it. Sorry for that. Try again.


Btw, a few days ago you posted:

""" With regards to surface noise I agree most of that is in the groove..................................................
The surface noise is mostly an artifact of the pressing plant ""

You said:

"""  I get a little bit better detail and bass extension BUT it also much noisier. """

Why the Lehmann? it's a true up-grade over what you own.

If you are not willing to invest what your overall system needs and " crying " for then put on sale the Lehmann and stay as you was before the Lehmann.

Good analog quality performance level is way demanding.

Dear @emilm : Normally when we make a true up grade in any room/system the new item comer will disclose several hidden " problems/distortions " that due to inferior design/quality of the other items in the system can't disclose it.

That " humble "  Lehmann phono stage is way superior to your discontinued integrated Arcam. You need at least a line preamp with similar quality design and quality excecution to the design as the Lehmann you own.
Sorry to tell you but your Arcam is really a " poor " quality performer and the Lehmann quality showed that Arcam low quality level.

Anyway, you need to make the rigth Lehmann set up with the cartridge in use.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
Astatic 2500 : 105mH
Glanz Mf-71 : 100 mH
Audio Technica AT-25 : 85mH
Acutex M315 : 160mH
Nagaoka/Jeweltone : 280mH.

So, @emilm the frequency resonance of your cartridge is: 25.4khz , end of the " distress ".

Btw,, the gentleman that runned his MM/MI cartridges at around 20k loading is Halcro in his DM10 phonolinepreamp that comes with loading selector from 10k to 60k.


Dear friends: Some very well know MM/MI/IM cartridge inductance values:

Stanton Series 100: 270mH
AKG P25MD :  170mH
P100LE ( fabolous/unique.): 90mH
Technics EPC100CMK4:  33mH
Audio Technica ATML-180: 210mH
Audio Technica ATML-170: 380mh
Sonus Gold: 150mH
Shure Ultra500: 330mH
Shure V15 typeV: 330mH
Pickering XSV5000: 290mH
Astatic MF-200: 90mH
ADC 26/27 : 150mH
Signet TK10 MLMK2: 180mH

@atmasphere  : No one approach 500mH. In the other side all those cartridges and any MM/MI/IM can be loaded at 20k, 47k, 100k or 150k , I intented all these values and stay with 100k. I know of audiophiles that loaded their cartridges at 15k with good results too. The Hagerman calculator use only 47k that's one of multiple options about.

As I said, you don't have the rigth knowledge levels, you need as urgent learn about. Do it and come back, till then: bye bye / chao ! ! 


Dear @emilm and friends : first than all Nagaoka is not MM design but IM similar to MI and the like where normally internal inductance is not really high ( say over 600. ) so with that 150/200 capacitance in the Lehmann and due that has a high overload design seems to me that that is not the problem but Lehmann overall set up.

It's obvious that if you change your cable for a better one or just different the sound you will experience with will be different but before you take that choice contact Lehmann and if after that you want to invest in your analog rig then could be better to go with the MP-300 from Nagaoka.

With MM cartridges always is better to have a low capacitance cable but almost any today decent cable are low capacitamnce designs in the other side there are MM cartridges as the AT25 that comes with low inductance, in this model only 85 more in the MI/IM territory.

Today phono stages are not like in the past an almost all comes with really good overload margin.

Don't worry about clicks and pops because there are more critical issues for the cartridges shows it at the best.

Look, this is what any one can read in the latest Original Master Recording LPs from MoFi ( Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs. ):


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,

Btw, problems with capacitance normally will be at a frequency range that even stays says at 17-18khz can't we perceived and again today phono stages comes with pretty decent designs.
Dear @emilm : Do it you a favor and forgeret about that IC cable capacitabnce for the moment.

First than all the Lehmann must be perfectly set up for the Nagaoka 5mv. MP-110 cartridge. Your phono stage comes with several alternatives for set up and for what I read in this thread you still are not an " expert " about.

So my advise is the same as other gentleman in this thread: put in direct contact with Lehmann explain it your system issues with that cartridge and follow his instructions. With out the rigth Lehmann set up with that cartridge all other advises here are useless and futile.

Don't waist your time or money in cables till you make the Lehmann advises. Only my opinion.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,