Replacing components, Please weigh in!

Hi Audiogoners! I’ve been a member here for a long time and lurked in the forums on and off over the years, but this is my first query here so hopefully you’ll go easy on me!

I want to improve the sound quality of my relatively modest stereo analog system. I have two components that I think are weak links in my system and I’d love to hear recommendations on replacement components that will complement what I already have (i.e., I don’t want to make new purchases that outperform the components I am satisfied with). 

Here’s what I’ve got:

  1. Project 2 Xperience — turntable
  2. Dynavector P-75 — phono pre
  3. Dynavector 17D3 — cartridge
  4. Meadowlark Audio Kestrel (first generation) — speakers
  5. Nakamichi RE10 — receiver
  6. Audioquest King Cobra & MIT cables

I think the weakest links in my chain are the Nakamichi RE10 receiver and the Dynavector p-75 phono preamp. Both these components have either a fan or an audible hum that annoy the heck out of me. I want a system that is QUIET. 

First Question — I’ve been seeing a lot of love here for the Herron VTPH-2A, Stanley Chinook, and Allnic H1202. My question is: I want to squeeze the most performance out of my speakers and cart as possible without overshooting — are these preamps going to outperform my speakers and turntable? If you think one of them is a good fit, which one do you think is the best for me?

Second Question — I get really overwhelmed reading about amps b/c I really don’t understand the technology and for me it’s like being an English major in a room full of engineers (I’m the former English major — Audiogon is the room full of engineers)! I am truly a low-information junior audiophile. Can anyone point me in the right direction for amps I should be looking at that will be a good fit for my Meadowlark Kestrels? 

I listen to mostly rock and pop from the 70’s and 80’s on clean, original vinyl. My room is 12.5’ wide x 18.5’ long, with a large archway to another room interrupting the long side (sad space, I know). Ceiling is 7’10”. Does this info help you weigh in? Maybe? 

Thanks for your thoughts, this junior audiophile appreciates them! 

D0f93b43 0e60 44a3 9a9f 68555e863a37amy_oneshanti
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Hi Elizabeth, 
I didn’t include price because I honestly don’t know what price point is most in line with the components I want to keep. Let’s say no more than 5k for both components together. But will 5k worth of phono pre and integrated amp outperform the components I want to keep? What do you think?
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Keep the Dynavector phono stage. No need to replace it! Just add a ground wire from your turntable to it. This should. eliminate him! All turntables need to be grounded to the phono/preamp. Any old wire will do - no effect on sound quality!
Don't waste your money! Get a nice vintage NAD integrated amp, like a 3020 or later model. A few hundred dollars will do! NAD (and its cousin Proton) made some of the best sounding hi-fi gear. Competitive with today's four-figure stuff! I own both NAD and Proton gear! Superb sound for low, low cost! 
As an addition to the grounding SOME turntables need the motor grounding to the phono stage as well, my Nottingham TT I have to run two separate ground wires from it to the phono to make sure no ground loop hum.

Now I used to own and run a Dynavector P75 mk3 which was deathly quiet, never heard any hum from it at all so I might agree that you still have some type of ground loop somewhere.

You did not say which version of the P75 you have but I found it was a very fair phono with a lot of loading and gain options by way of internal jumpers.

However if you just also feel it is time for a change ( as a lot of us do after a while) then I can recommend the Manley Chinook which I have been enjoying for the past week now.

There are a LOT of great integrated amps out there to choose from, are you looking for new or used?

Ayre AX7E springs to mind, any of the Hegel integrateds are great bang for the buck and very solid performers. No phono in these but as at present your amp does not have a phono and you are used to a separate phono amp I figure that should not be an issue.

There are some great choices out there and it can be overwhelming indeed.
How about this NAD 3125 integrated amp for $98.99 + $28.12 shipping from Maryland? Ebay seller is "filippie" with very good feedback and lots of electronic gear for sale.
Amy, all you need is a Parasound Hint 6. It is complete with a built in phono stage and everything you could possibly want in the future. You can read reviews on it. At $3000.00 it is a 180 watt per channel bargain.
I promise you will love it!
What I see mentioned twice is a concern about one thing outperforming another. Rest assured one thing will always outperform another.

Its true there’s a strong tendency to get the best results from a good balance rather than spending too much on one thing or having one component that is way better than another.

This is mostly true in the end however.

Along the way, which is where you seem to be, you shouldn’t shy away from buying one thing that is a lot better than everything else. Assuming of course you really love it. And will be doing the same with something else a year or so down the line. Then this is a great way to eventually have a really impressive system. While enjoying it all along the way.

I am one of those Herron fans. My opinion, the Herron phono stage is so good its one of a very few things you can say one and done. Its gonna outlast you. And if anything better comes along it will be so slightly better and for so much more you’ll merely smile smugly and congratulate yourself on your wisdom and go and look at something else.

That’s the kind of thing you want to be looking at. That’s what I do.

But you want to be flexible too. In your case, that receiver, doesn’t matter what it is, there are no good receivers. Period. They are all so bad that if you go looking for say an integrated amp it really doesn’t matter what you do, it will be a lot better. Then if instead of throwing a dart you actually do a little work and audition and find something really good like say Prima Luna well then that is gonna be night and day. That is gonna be like the Herron something to keep and enjoy and build a system around and never a second thought.

That’s what you want: Outperform. You want exactly what will be a lot better than what you have. So when you get done replacing all your underperfomers your whole system will be an outperformer.

Got it?
Now would be a great time to start checking out acoustic treatments. Done right, it's an effort that will always pay off. Plenty of threads here on the subject.
I would agree that receiver is very much the weak link in your system. But good news your speakers are very easy to drive which opens up a world of choices tube and SS. Are you able to get out and listen to anything? Don't get too caught up in specs or technology just take your time and get what sounds good to you.
Oh and in case you had not worked it out for every ten audiophools who reply , you are likely to get ten totally different opinions and suggestions.

I would be looking at a good integrated first, if it has a built in phono just dandy because that way you can also compare that to your existing P75.

And if still you are dissatisfied then maybe move on up through the phono stage food chain.
Suggest that you treat it as an opportunity for some fun!

Go to a few good retailers and tell them that you are looking for a good phono and pre and amp for 5K or less, new or used. When you hear a demo you like, ask to try the equipment at home. Live with it over a weekend. Take your time - it’s your money, it’s your decision. Wait until you fall in love.

I suggest solid state, just because tubes fail eventually, and it’s a hassle. I would guess, that’s too much hassle for someone who isn’t a dedicated audio freak like most of us here.

Good luck! And good hunting!
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Thanks for all the responses, lots of things for me to consider!

@Elizabeth (and others discussing the hum from my phono pre) — It does not hum through the speakers, the hum emanates from the component itself. I just read something on another thread here that made me wonder if it’s a broken transistor inside the unit. The unit is definitely grounded to the turntable.

I have been careful in my set up to keep AC power cords separate from everything else. 

@Uberwaltz — I do feel that I have outgrown the Dynavector phono stage. I think I have the mk3 but the little manual that came with it doesn’t say mk3, so ?? I bought it here on Audiogon in 2008. I am definitely open to purchasing used gear. 

I like your idea of getting a good integrated first, comparing to my existing phono pre, and then moving on up through the food chain if I want to keep upgrading. 

I do remember reading here in the forums that people thought plenty of vintage amps had really good phono stages, but that most modern amps failed in that department, even if they included a phono stage. That’s why at this point I’m still partial to the idea of getting a separate phono pre.

Obviously serious audiophiles feel there is a lot of benefit to separating components out (integrated vs. separates). I can’t help but wonder if it’s a benefit  I will notice, given my less than ideal room and also lack of discretionary income. Would anyone care to explain their thoughts on what is sacrificed when you choose an integrated amp? 

@Mijostyn — I was really surprised to see that there’s only one dealer for Parasound in my area. It’s a place more geared toward home theater. I will look into that amp, as I’ve read a lot of praise for Parasound here in the forums. 

@Millercarbon & @Jond & @Terry9 — Thanks for your insights. Also glad to hear from a Herron owner.

I appreciate the advice to take my time and to ask for home demos. There are way too many variables for me to get a good feel for something in the store. Do most dealers let customers audition things in their homes for a limited time before purchase? No one has ever offered that as an option to me. 

I am interested in tubes! I’ve only had SS systems and am really curious about tubes. As with everything in high end audio, it seems like you can really go down the rabbit hole with tubes, which is not a good thing for me, as I am easily overwhelmed. I can learn some basics though, especially if I can find a dealer who is willing to walk me though what I need to know (I’m much better at ‘hands on’ learning). If I can get good sounds with plug and play tubes I’d be interested in getting into tubes.

@Elizabeth — You called it, I would place myself in the 10 hours a week listening category. 

I am kind of an ‘audio freak’ in my own way — for instance my husband is not allowed to touch my turntable, and I am a perfectionist about cleaning and handling my records. I did all my cabling very carefully to separate out the AC power. So what I do know about I am strict about.   But I am kind of a numb nuts about techie stuff that no one has shown me or told me about. 

I am lucky to live in an area with multiple hifi shops and dealers. I never really recovered from my favorite salesman leaving back in 2010, so I haven’t had a ‘go to’ guy for a long time. 

Sounds like there is a consensus that the very first thing I should replace is the receiver. Let’s all take a moment to enjoy this moment of agreement here in the forums, ha ha! 

 If the hum is coming from the unit itself and not over the speakers, then it probably has nothing to do with grounding. In fact, it is not electrical in nature. It most likely comes from a power transformer directly. Power transformers can vibrate when AC is applied. Sometimes that problem can be cured by isolating the power transformer from the chassis, typically using rubber grommets, or by tightening the screws that hold the laminations together, assuming it’s not a toroidal type. If you are lucky, the cheap and dirty cure is to put a weight on top of the transformer. You can use lead for that. The hum condition itself has no negative effect on performance; it’s only annoying.

 My thought when I saw your equipment list was that your cartridge is in another league from that of your turntable. So at some point in time, I would recommend upgrading your turntable. Apart from that, I agree with the others that your receiver is probably the weak link right now. 
If the hum is coming from the unit itself and not over the speakers, then it probably has nothing to do with grounding. In fact, it is not electrical in nature.
Not necessarily. For example, the presence of DC on the AC line can cause hum in some transformers, and some transformers are more sensitive to this than others.

Then it is definitely time for a change!
Now another aspect that springs to mind that could possibly effect your choice of integrated.

What other sources do you have if any or are considering apart from vinyl?
No point going for an amp that has 8 inputs, tape and pre outs, built in DAC etc if all you are looking at is best possible vinyl reproduction.

That way you would be spending your money on best amp possible rather than most options possible.

I can now join the club of heartedly recommending a tube phono stage after years of ss units.

My recently acquired Manley Chinook is rewarding me immensely. It is possible the Herron could be better still.

If you go the way of a tube phono and all you are doing is playing vinyl then a very good ss integrated might be the best call.

Options, options!

Always a tough choice as to which way to go without disappointment or financial hiccups.
Hi Lewm, thank you for that info - I bet you are right! I will take a look inside.
You are not the first person to tell me that my cartridge is outperforming my turntable. Getting a new turntable is on my wish list, but at this point it’s a far future event. I do love that cartridge!
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Another thing to add to the wish list, if I may.

I cleaned my records carefully with a VPI 16.5, and then moved up to an ultrasonic unit. Night and day! It was like doubling the cost of a major component. There are a few threads here on US cleaning, which you may wish to consider. Guilty secret: I use the US cleaner for jewelry and stemware as well. 
Amy, I have found that the better dealers do permit the loan of robust  equipment, like electronics or speakers. That is, if the customer is known and local, and prepared to put down a deposit. Otherwise you might have to buy with the option of return within a few days.

It doesn't hurt to ask!

Room Treatment was mentioned earlier and I would second that if your room's decorating can accommodate it and if you and your husband (or not) have some basic skills and the inclination.

Based on my experience, getting after the bass suck-outs is number one. I built my own bass traps and they look good. Plus you get to meet nice people at Joanne Fabrics and Home Depot (who cut your wood for the frames for free). 

At that point, you would know better how your current systems sounds and what you think it lacks.

Thanks for listening,

Bookcases work well too. For room treatment.
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Why anyone would believe book cases, books, DVDs, LPs, CDs would be good for the sound is beyond me. No offense to anyone. The truth is that all of those things are bad for the sound, the more of them the worse the sound.

If it doesn’t make sense, it’s not true. - Judge Judy
cleeds, I was not aware that DC on the AC power line could cause a transformer to hum.  What would be the mechanism of that, I wonder?  In any case, even if DC is the cause, the end result is a hum caused by mechanical vibration of the transformer the energy of which is transmitted to the chassis resulting in its amplification to the point of being audible.  So, it is not necessary to search for an electrical grounding problem per se.
I did a very quick websearch.  Apparently there are products on the market that can block DC on the AC line.  One was made by PS Audio and is now discontinued, the "Humbuster III".  One other is still made by Emotiva.  I suppose that one transformer can be more sensitive to this phenomenon than another, because rarely does anyone with a multi-component system report that ALL his or her transformers have a mechanical hum.  For example, me.  Each monoblock in one of my systems has two massive power transformers, one for the input stage and the other for the output stage and tube filaments.  Only one of the total of 4 transformers has a faint mechanical hum, which is not audible at my listening position.  Yet both amplifiers, my phono stage, and my preamplifiers, turntables, etc, are supplied by the same dedicated AC line.  This has been going on for 20 years, at least. I've never measured DC offset.

There was a dissenting opinion stemming from a thread here on Audiogon Forums.  One guy claimed that DC on the AC does not cause hum but IS not a good thing, can cause the transformer to overheat. 

If DC is on your AC, it is probably coming from some contaminating source in your house. You can identify the source by closing circuit breakers until you find the circuit that is producing DC on the line. The hum will vanish when that breaker is thrown. This cannot be applicable to my system, because it runs on a single dedicated AC line. Nothing else is plugged into it.

Still, you don't NEED to have DC on your AC if you have transformer hum.  It can be simply a consequence of poor mechanical isolation or loose transformer laminations or loose coil, in the case of a toroid.

If DC is on your AC, it is probably coming from some contaminating source in your house ...
Oh no, it's almost always the utility that is the source. I'm not sure what leads you to think otherwise.
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You mean you DONT need a new engine when you run out of gas

Well you learn something new every day!
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Take a look at the musical fidelity m6si integrated and then look at the musical fidelity nu Vista vinyl phono pre.  I have these 2 components and I think I may be buried with them cuz I enjoy them that much. I say this cause the music u play is similar to mine.
Creeds, First of all, I don’t necessarily concede that DC on the AC line causes hum.  But I am open-minded to any evidence you can provide.  Second, your original post on the subject caused me to do a net search, and the sources I found claimed that any of several home appliances may be the source of DC contaminating the AC line.  That makes some sense.  I don’t know how DC generated by the power company would necessarily make it all the way to one’s home, because DC currents would be diminished along the way by the inherent resistance of the wires in the pathway, even assuming the power company makes significant DC and sends it to us.