Running an External Phono with a Hovland HP-100

Since the Hovland HP-100 already has a MC Phono built-in, is it possible to add an external phono, maybe one of the better Audio Research models?

I'd like to do a valid compare, say the internal Hovland v.s. the new Audio Research Reference Phono; is this possible?
Just plug the phono stage into the aux input of the Hovland.
Thanks. Hovland confirmed that this is the way to add a second phono; they recommend the 'tape monitor' input since it is straight in by-passing the selector knob.

Has anyone attempted this comparison? Wonder how the internal Hovland would stand-up against something like the new AR Ref 2 Phono?
The internal phono section of the Hovland is very very good. Don't assume the Audio Research will sound better. It will sound different for sure but not necessary better. It will be a matter of taste so make sure you audition it yourself. Don't rush into buying based on others opinion.
I agree. I've heard the internal phono stage of the Hovland as well. It is fantastic and you will have to spend several $$$$ to top it.
Yeah.Unless you want all the bells and whistles on a big buck section (EAR 324.Aesthetixs Rhea,Manley Steelhead,AR PH&) etc you have a really good section according to Fremmer et al one of the best out there.If not cart swapping or using second deck and using something that matches it's gain why spend the money?I like to swap out stereo mono and use cheap cart for thrashed discs so a single section with adjustments or a multiple input make sense.But if I had one dcent L.O. MC I probaly would stick with what in there.
I have the Hovland HP-100 with MC Phono Stage. Early this year I returned it to Hovland to have their new volume pot installed. They also modified and added updates to the unit, the phono stage in particular. The result was fantanstic with blacker backgrounds, much more open and transparent. If you overlook the fact that there is no loading or gain variability with the Hovland, it has a great integrated phono stage and world class after mods. Several audiophile friends were very impressed by the mods as well. Too bad they are now out of buiness.
I thought that both the HP-100 and HP-200 had decent phono sections. I would look to trying different tubes in the unit as a first step upgrade. Like all modern production units with tubes, the manufacturer must utilize readily available current production tubes. These are FAR from sounding as good as older tubes.

A friend substituted some Amperex bugle boy 12AX7s in his HP-200 and it sounded MUCH better than running with stock tubes.
My thoughts are a direct opposite of everyone else. I had the HP 100 with mc phono and I wasnt impressed at all. The linestage was ok, but the phono was pretty sad imho. At the time, I had a few phonos lying around. The Haggerman Trumpet, Manley Steelhead, Sutherland PHD and all of these blew the hovland phono out of the water. No comparison at all. I felt the hovland phono was overly warm laid back, just colored as all get out.
Thanks for the feedback. I'm pretty happy with the Hovland and especially happy with the phono. (I had the latest updates installed last year too)..

It is a shame that they are out of business; I'm hoping someone else will pick them up and continue the lines.

Has anyone compared their HP-100 to the HP-200? Is the 200 better or just 'different.' It is tempting since it has the remote and I bet that there will be many of them up for sale on the used market.
I would agree to a point on that; the Hovland definitely falls on the warm side, but that is why I like it so much; it is the antithesis of 'analytical.'
I wouldn't characterize the Hovland HP-100 as warm, but certainly it is musical and detailed to beat the band, at least with the cartridge I use which is a Transfiguration Orpheus LO in a new Tri-Planar Arm and set up with a Wally Tractor. I can't imagine wanting more detail or a cooler sound, but of course, I haven't put a Walker Phono Pre or a Manley in the chain, so maybe I would change my opinion if I did and had more loading capabilities. BTW, the Hovland HP-200 is a solid state phono section, not tube. It is a different animal altogether. Before Hovland went out, I had some conversation with them about swapping out the tube section in mine for the solid state, but we never quite got to fruition on that one. The ss has loading options and the tube does not.
Did not know that the phono in the 200 is SS. I still want to compare the internal phono and a couple of externals including the AR Ref 2. Hope to do that sometime after attending the RMAF this Oct.
As happy as I am with the Hovland, I agree, I'd like to hear one of the top contenders. I assume you understand that the phono stage runs thru the line stage so that to a certain extent, the phono stage will always be limited by the quality of the line stage.
Yes; interesting that you mention that. I actually asked Alex that exact question just the other day. I use horn speakers so I had the line stage gain reduction done on my HP-100 (down to 6 db). Manufactures always claim that gain reductions do-no-harm but I thought that it took away just a very, very, small amount of the 100's magic. Anyway, he did tell me that the phono ultimately passes through the line stage.
I have used the HP-100 with a wide range of step-up transformers and active units. In my opinion the sound varies just as much with change of step-up device as with a different phonostage. I bought the MM-section for greater flexibility with an outboard step-up.
I spent the last few hours this evening comparing the excellent Ayre P-5x phono running through the Hovland's tape monitor v.s. the internal phono. No comparison actually; I like the sound of the Hovland's internal much better. I will say that the Ayre is quieter overall, but it does not have the magic of the Hovland. It's not bad, just not nearly as good as the Hovland.
Stickman, Was this a P5xe or a P5x? You left out the "e", so I am wondering. What you have to remember is that all of these bits of expensive gear consist of tubes, resistors, capacitors, etc, on the inside. There is no magic in brand names. If you do a little reading on tube circuits, you will learn to appreciate design and implementation (triode vs solid state, single-ended vs balanced, etc, etc). Ultimately, these are the things that determine sound quality. For example, many, many tube preamps use the 12AX7 as the first amplification stage in a single-ended topology. This occurs before the signal is RIAA equalized. You can expect any such units, no matter who makes them, to be altered in sonics by altering the brand of 12AX7. Most such units will have the 12AX7 family sound, to one degree or another. It's all in the parts and circuit topology. If you did not know that the phono stage output was passing thru the linestage circuit or how to hook-up an outboard phono section, it indicates to me that you might want to educate yourself further before buying a second phono stage according to brand or hype or hearsay. Just my $.02.
That is correct, it is the P5xe. I'm not quite as ignorant as it may seem; I couldn't layout or interpret a tube or a solid state circuit if my life depended upon it but I do know what sounds good...I'm definitely not a technician so before I plug something new into my $6,700 Hovland (the very best preamp that I have owned in 30 years) I want to be positive that I am not missing something important...

You're right, variances in the 12AX7 (and all tubes in general) can make a huge difference in the quality of sound. I've tried several sets of Mullard's with varying success. The first set I tried was a definite improvement over the stock factory tubes; the second set of Mullards were terrible (very noisy after a few months and both sets came from UpScale Audio). I'm back to the stock tubes and they sound great.

I educate myself with my ear :), and through interactive mediums like Audiogon. If I like the way it sounds I go for it. The purpose of the exercise is to compare several external phono's to the Hovland's internal realizing that ultimately they all pass through the line stage. Next up is probably the Audio Research PH7. The new Ref 2 phono will follow. And then , a combo of the Ref 5 preamp with the Ref 2 phono. It will be interesting (for me at least) to hear how the Hovland compares to these other combos...
I did not mean to belittle you in any way. For many years, my audiophilia took the same path that you are on. I am just saying that in the long run you will benefit (i.e., save a lot of money) by acquiring some basic knowledge of the circuit's design. What I also meant to imply is that there are a plethora of cookie-cutter products out there that all in the end use the 12AX7 in some sort of single-ended topology. If you want to try something that is likely to have a "different" sonic character, you might want to investigate balanced phono stages or phono stages that use a different sort of input gain stage, etc, etc. Specifically, if the Audio Research and the Hovland utilize similar topologies, I would look elsewhere for variety, rather than to purchase the AR. This is no knock on the AR taken by itself.

Did you use the Ayre in unbalanced or balanced mode? That device has a true balanced circuit, so you are not hearing it at its best if you use the "unbal" input and output. I have read elsewhere that its performance is subpar if used in that manner.
The Hovland is unbalanced only. I believe that all the Audio Research pieces have both balanced and unbalanced. That would be an interesting trial too; use the Ref 5 and the Phono Ref or the PH7 in balanced mode.
So I don't think you can use the bal inputs on the Ayre and the unbal outputs, both at the same time. I think the switches at the rear of the Ayre require you to choose between all bal (inputs and outputs) or all unbal. But if you can mix and match, I recommend you try the Ayre with bal input from the cartridge and the unbal output to your Hovland. The latter will be a necessary evil, because as you say the Hovland is unbal or single-ended. (In this case, the two terms mean the same thing.) If you used the Ayre in unbal mode throughout, you really did not hear it at its best. The same will probably apply if you try to run any of the balanced tube phono stages thru the Hovland linestage section. In that regard, try to find out whether the AR units are true balanced circuits or just provide a balanced XLR output for convenience. If the latter is true, then you are better off using the unbalanced or single-ended mode from cartridge thru to the amplifier. (The XLR or balanced output derived from an unbalanced circuit may introduce an extra buffer stage which often colors the sound and robs detail.)