Separate Phono Pre - $$ before I will hear a SIGNIFICANT difference vs. integrated?

In my search for a new Pre-Amp - one of the factors that I am considering is the "Line-Stage" vs. "Built-In Phono Stage" factor.

If I opt for a Line-Stage type - I will probably want to add a separate Phono Pre. I presently do like to spin some vinyl, but I only do it occasionally at the moment because I do not have a permanent place to place the TT. (I store it carefully when not in use)

TT = AR "The Turntable" with Straight (Jelco) Tonearm and Shure MX-V VMR Cart

Q1. How likely is it that something affordable (Like Schiit Mani around $130 USD or Mofi Studio?) will sound equal to or better than the phono stage of the NAD 7220PE Receiver that I am presently using?

Q2. How far up does one need to go in order to note a SIGNIFICANT step-up in Audio Performance?
(Maybe something with Balanced Outputs that is easy to locate CLOSE to the TT?)
So you're using the NAD 7220PE right now just for it's phono stage?  What are you using as your amp?   There isn't much performance differences among phono preamps in the $150 range.  Tough to give ideas of which ones at higher price points may add improvement to your system without knowing your amp (and preferably speakers too).  
I’m using the 7220PE as my Pre-Amp at the moment. Power Amp section bypassed. This supposedly also lets the Pre section work better, because the single internal power supply should never "break a sweat" driving the pre-amp section.

Supposedly - the Phono Section of these older NADs is "near legendary" (at least for one that is built-into an integrated amp) PLUS it was designed in the days when Vinyl still reigned...

Augmented with Goldenear Amplified Sub

POWER AMP = Emotiva XPA-2 Gen 3
Has Balanced Inputs (although granted, NOT a "fully-balanced" Circuit Design)
I’ve got enough relatively clean power on-tap to drive almost anything
[Some claim that this amp leans a tad to the "bright" side of neutral, so maybe a Pre that lands a hair to the "warm" side may be a good match?]
Without knowing anything about your particular NAD, what I have heard from all receivers anywhere and at any price point, they are crap compared to what you can get for the same money in any integrated. Its simple math and economics. Any time you try and do so many different things in one box you are forced to use only the absolute cheapest parts. No surprise, like everything else in life, you get what you pay for. 

So yes any outboard phono stage is just about guaranteed to be a very big and easily noticeable improvement. It will also open up a whole new range of upgrades. Because whatever phono stage you get can be made to sound a whole lot better with the right power cord, interconnect, and fuse. 

With a budget of only $150 however how likely is it you'll be dropping another $300-500 on wire and fuses any time soon?

A much more cost effective upgrade would be to go from the reciever to an integrated amp with a good built-in phono stage. This is your best shot at what you want, a SIGNIFICANT step up. 

I’m NOT a big believer in "exotic" Wire and Fuses. I AM a FIRM believer in solid, quality connections.

My Unbalanced Interconnects (ALL current interconnects) are presently Mogami Bulk types and Speaker Cables are #12AWG Belden.

If I go with the PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell (Line Stage with decent built-in DACT), I may add their new Stellar Phono Amp later. [It sounds like they "sweated the details" for a good product at a less-than-insane price.]

My guess is that in the meantime - something like the Stellar Gain Cell with a Schiit Mani will probably STILL sound better than what I am currently using. [For CERTAIN with Line-Level / Digital Sources with room to further improve Phono source later if I so choose.]

Or, I could go with the Emotiva XSP-1, which has a "Decent" built-in phono stage that could be abandoned and upgrated later with a Separate for that part.
For ~$375 USD you're not going to do much better than this phono stage if you're set on getting a separate.  No affiliation.

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Many options for a phono pre. Don't rule out the used market. I got a Graham Slee phono amp to use with my NAD integrated. But, the big difference is that I also got the Slee power supply. The power supply is important as one previous poster stated.

Anyway, you have plenty of options.
Maybe this can help. I say go for the schiit, the schiit is good.  Phonostages (below $900):
I'm pleased with my musical fidelity lx lps. Bought for only 199 on sale from 500 bucks 199 I ever spent. 
I’ll 2nd the Musical Fidelity lx lps. Very good for the money.
MF lx lps at $199 is a steal.  I will give that a 3rd!  Regarding interconnects, an entry level .5M cable from Kimber or Audioquest is more than adequate for what you need.  

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phono eq is very simple, standardized for all manufacturers since RIAA Industry Standard agreed to (right after or before most of us were born).

boost lows, cut highs, a simple known slope. absolutely nothing tricky, any quality manufacturer can do it integrated or separate, internal removes need for external cables.

separate takes more space, you are space limited. I would go with a modern integrated Amp/preamp with built in Moving Magnet input, and remote volume and remote balance (you can walk forward for power and input selection if needed.

Limiting space to one unit hopefully will allow you to leave your TT in position, carefully leveled first, then arm height/cartridge alignment refined and left in place.

Readily availavle, TT will sound infinitely better because you will use it more often. 
How big listening space, what volumes desired?

In your limited space, I would go for Solid State, and  enough but not too much power (reduced heat the goal, also keeps price down). 

That way, you have options to place integrated on a shelf, perhaps freeing space for the TT which would be my primary goal.
remote balance, not common, is a feature I find quite important, for some individual songs on CDs and/or LP, especially best of, compilations.

I make very slight tweaks left/right to specific songs, it is amazing how much everything (not just the primary artist) 'opens up', spacial cues, depth ... can be revealed.

phono eq is very simple, standardized for all manufacturers since RIAA Industry Standard agreed to (right after or before most of us were born).
This is mistaken. There have been a variety of EQ curves for the LP. In the US, RCA and Columbia used different curves for years, in part as a way to distinguish their products from each other. The IEC RIAA spec wasn't introduced until the mid-'70s. It uses a different LF roll-off and while some labels observe it, some don't. (Which may be a good thing.) Some European labels were using the CCIR curve well into the 1980s.
Elliott -

If one is a COLLECTOR and/or into "Vintage" recordings [Pre-1950's mono etc.] - that's where I would be looking for a restored (or restore it myself) H-K Citation I tube pre-amp.  THAT baby incorporated a switch to let you select about 5 different EQ Curves [RIAA, LP, COLUMBIA, RCA Roll-Off : 0/RCA, 4/FFRR, 10.5/OLD LON, 12/COLUMBIA, 14/RIAA, 16/LP]  It's on my list..

HOWEVER - For now; I am looking for something more modern and weighing the option of a Pre-Amp with built-in Phono vs. Line-Stage and separate Phono Pre (start with an affordable one and upgrade later because if I go this route - I cannot "bite-off" the funding of two relatively expensive units at once.)
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Thanks, "elizabeth7" -

I never really thought of that.
But if I were to go the "Tubey" route - then, SEPARATE Line Stage and Phono REALLY makes sense, so as to save hours on the Phono Tubes when they are not being used (I currently listen to CD / other Digital sources most of the time and Phono is occasional use when I'm "In the mood" [when wife is out-of-town and I set-up the phono....])  ;-)

Solid State = not such a big deal, as the idle power used by a S.S. phono stage is "bupkis"
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"Q1. How likely is it that something affordable (Like Schiit Mani around $130 USD or Mofi Studio?) will sound equal to or better than the phono stage of the NAD 7220PE Receiver that I am presently using?"

Funny you mention NAD and Schiit. I own 7225PE and Mani. NAD is good for what it is but just for casual background music. Everything about it is entry level. You can do much better today.

The Mani is simply an amazing phono preamp for the price.
Before that I had the $25 Behringer PP400 with a modern tube amp. While very good for $25, switching to the Mani was a significant upgrade in every way, using the same tube amp.

My suggestion is relinquish the NAD to a 2nd system and upgrade your amp and the Mani.

If budget is tight look at the Cambridge Audio Topaz AM5 Stereo Integrated Amplifier and Behringer PP400 phono or Onkyo A-9110 w/ built in phono.

For a better system add the Mani to a better amp.

I believe, in the context of either separate or integrated, my comments were 'true enough'.


Ultimately the New Orthophonic curve was disclosed in a publication by R. C. Moyer of RCA Victor in 1953.[6] He traced RCA Victor characteristics back to the Western Electric "rubber line" recorder in 1925 up to the early 1950s laying claim to long-held recording practices and reasons for major changes in the intervening years. The RCA Victor New Orthophonic curve was within the tolerances for the NAB/NARTB, Columbia LP, and AES curves. It eventually became the technical predecessor to the RIAA curve.

Between 1953 and 1956 (before the stereo LP in 1958) several standards bodies around the world adopted the same playback curve—identical to the RCA Victor New Orthophonic curve—which became standard throughout the national and international record markets.[7] However, although these standards were all identical, no universal name was used. One of the standard was called simply "RIAA", and it is likely that this name was eventually adopted because it was memorable.

It is possible that some niche record cutters were still using EQ curves other than the RIAA well into the 1970s. As a result, some audio manufacturers today produce Phono Equalizers with selectable EQ curves, including options for Columbia, Decca, CCIR, and TELDEC's Direct Metal Mastering.


You would love the center control panel of the Fisher President II Console I inherited.

In one drawer was a Garrard Record Changer, a couple of headshells, and a switch for Ceramic/Magnetic.

Other Drawer a Viking 75 Stereo Tape Deck. A switch for both types of tapes: Staggered or Stacked (In-Line). Staggered came first, a second mono head was added, about 1-1/4" away, upside down, for 2 track stereo tapes. In-Line was a single 2 track head like today.

It was made in 1958, Tape was Stereo, FM was not yet Stereo, LP went Stereo in 1958. Fisher came to my uncle's apartment and added a Multiplex Decoder on site for Armstrong's FM Stereo.

Selector Knob: AM; FM; Stereo Radio (Live Binaural Broadcasts); AES; RIAA; LP; NAB; 78; Tape; Stereo Tape

Radio had a brief Live Binaural Broadcast period, it was set up for that:
Selector: AM, tune it's AM tuner to NBC AM (live mic left side of stage). Selector: FM. Tune it's FM tuner to NBC FM (live mic right side of the stage) Selector: move to Stereo Radio. (I'm guessing which was left and which was right).

My current speakers are the horns, crossovers, and 15" woofers pulled from that console, in my new enclosure. Woofers re-coned twice, 1 set spare drivers downstairs.
Well, if you think you might want to upgrade your vinyl system, via cartridge or phonostage, then I would start with the Mani and a line level integrated. You can test the value of the Mani over the phonostage within the NAD receiver prior to purchase of a new amp.
Depends on what music you listen to. Does most for jazz .