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! 

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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!