Review: Music Hall mmf - phono pack Preamplifier

Category: Preamps

Well Christmas has long since come and gone and having this as a gift finally got around to listening to the Music Hall MMF Phono Preamp.

A true no frills phono preamp. Unassuming black box with a rather bright red LED on the front to show it is on. No on/off switch power it on and forget about it. Tiffany plated RCAs on the back panel for in/out. Rotary selection knob for MC or MM 1 or MM 2. Difference being the MM 1 has 100 pf of capacitance while MM 2 has 300 pf of capacitance. Moving Coil set at 100 ohms with 100 pf of capacitance. Input sensitivity for MC is 0.45mV while MM is 4 mV. RIAA equalization is 20Hz to 20kHz and is with in 0.5dB. Distortion is a vanishing low of 0.0005 percent. Voltage supply is typical wall wart type 15-16 V/50mA AC. Signal to noise ratio in MM is 88dB while MC is 79 dB.

Set up is as dirt simple as it gets. Plug in the RCA Cables from turntable and connect the outs to an auxiliary on the preamp, plug in the power supply and your done. Set the rotary switch for MC or MM 1 or MM 2.

Turntable used was my Oracle with Sumiko Premier FT 3 tonearm with Grado Platinum phono cartridge. Now to spin some vinyl.

Straight out threw one of my toughest test at the MOFI LP of Joe Samples "Rainbow Seeker" MFSL 1-016. To put it very blunt this unassuming black box can play vinyl, that belies its price point. The musical registers of the piano came through crystal and with depth and transparency, sound stage was right on. Cymbal splashes had that just right shimmer and bass was well defined and controlled without the sometimes usual boom associated at this price range.

Next up was another tough LP, that being the Frederick Fennel and the Cleveland Symphonic Winds. Telarc 5038. This is a real time disc without compression or limiting of any kind. Selection was the Holst Suite No1 in E Flat and Suite No.2 in F. This is clearly one of the most demanding LPs one will ever put on a turntable. The Music Hall MMF did very well on this disc and all but the most demanding passages were handled with aplomb. Even with the demanding passages it did not fall apart, but managed to keep the music flowing although it was being tested very hard indeed. The snare drum parts were at times frightening,needless to say of the kettle drum explosions. Anvil strikes were sharp and defined and the overall presentation was very good as you could pick out each instrument, such as French Horns ,Oboe , and the like. Not the best I have heard this album played, but most impressive nonetheless.

On to something more mainstream and far less demanding. Larry Carltons "Last Night" MCA - 5866. This album was recorded live in 1986 at The Baked Potato in North Hollywood, California. The overall presentation of this live session of Larry Carlton was just a joy to listen to.Definition and sound stage was amazing and the pin point accuarcy was uncanny. Keyboards,Bass,Drums and percusssion were right on and sounded oh so sweet. The layering of the instruments were truly amazing. And Larry Carltons guitar playing was more than faithfully reproduced.

Okay, so what do we have here, a $120.00 phono preamp that thinks it can play with the more esoteric? I would have to say no not quite. But clearly this phono preamp can more than hold its own up to the $500.00 price range and produce sonics that are very easy to live with.

Would I have gone out and bought this on my own. Probably not after all it is only $120.00 and what can you expect from a $120.00 phono preamp? Well in this case you receive a great deal more than you pay for.

In my opinion this is one of the great budget products, such as the NAD 3020 was some 25 years ago.

Music Hall as produced one very fine phono preamp, that is very easy to live with, plus you will have a lot of money left over to buy more vinyl with. And thats what this is really all about - the music we all love.

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Nice review, I agree with your findings. I bought this by accident. The internal phono stage in my preamp had died. I bought it as something to fill the void while I found a seperate phono stage. I was surprised at how good it sounded for the price. I have not used it in a couple years, but I keep it as a spare. I'd have no problem popping it in to replace my mega-buck phono stage, if the need arose.

Thanks for the review. I also bought this one on a lark after I got back into vinyl with a MMF-7. It really lets the turntable speak without any coloration that I can hear. I'm sure there are better ones and if I start to buy more LPs again, I would look at replacing this one, but if I do that I would have to upgrade other components to hear a big difference. Sometimes we don't have to spend that much money to acheive great sound!
I would dare say more of us are using this phono preamp, than will admit to. For overall sonics and performance there is little to fault with the Music Hall up to the $500.00 price range. Without doubt this little black cube is an over achiever in the world of analog audio. I am more than impressed beyond my wildest expectations and I am more than happy to have received this as a gift, for surely I would not have bought on my own,and would have missed out on a truly fine phono preamp. Now what to do with my mega buck phono preamp when I get it back from service. The Music Hall has not been a let down to switch to. I think I can live with the Music Hall quite nicely.
I find it looks out of place in my mega-buck rack. Doesn't look quite right sitting between $5000 and $7000 components. LOL!

It seems silly running $2000 and $3000 cartridges through this little phono preamp. I do have to admit that it sounded pretty darn good. It doesn't beat my reference in absolute terms, but comes closer than I'd like to admit, especially when considering the price difference. The law of diminishing returns is alive and well.
It didn't have much flexibility for loading options though.
Have recently got into vinyl. More or less testing the waters so to speak. Using a Music Hall MMF5 with the Music Hall phono preamp. Listen to the other phono preamps at the dealer they were the Creek OBH15 Sumiko Project SE and Project Tube Box and the Ortofon T20.

I found that the Music Hall delivered great sound and was less money than the others. There was just not a major difference between them and when price is considered, there is only one choice. The Music Hall Phono Box is a hands down winner and in the weeks I have had it the signature has improved each week.