Upgrade from my internal Primaluna phono stage... Audio Alchemy PPA-1? What else?


So I am currently using the built in phono stage in my Primaluna Dialogue Premium Integrated (along with an Audio Interface CTS-80 SUT). The other gear is a VPI Classic 2 w/ 3D arm, Dynavector DV20X w/ Soundsmith Ruby retip, Devore Gibbon Super 8s. Musical taste is all over the place but is generally 60's to 80's underground rock, soul/funk, jazz, reggae. Not really any Classical or much modern stuff.

The Primaluna phono stage is better than I thought it might be but not sure just how good as I haven't heard this amp with anything else. Can't really tell how far I need to go to get a noticeable improvement. Can't really spend more than $1k if that (really should be less), but am happy to buy used gear.

Anyone else have the Primaluna phono board and upgraded? How much better can I do for under $1k?
Been scanning the ads here and the other usual places and doing plenty of research but I just keep going in circles. Too many options and no clear winner. Hopefully you guys can help narrow things down with experience with some of the same particular gear I am using.

I like tubes but don't feel it is 100% necessary as I have tubes in the rest of the path. I like the idea of MC capable especially with loading options but I have a quality SUT so it is also not necessary. A small chassis is nice as space is limited but a full size component is ok if it isn't too tall. No space for some big Audio Research type piece of gear. I am in NYC and in a 100 year old house with some wacky wiring so a good power supply and noise rejection is a plus, too.

I am Intrigued by the Audio Alchemy PPA-1 since Audio Advisor has them on sale for $799 ($1795 MSRP) but there is surprisingly little info on them out there beyond a positive Michael Fremer review and some other passing mentions which are also all positive. Seems odd for something that appears to have been out for a couple years now. Anyone actually have one or at least heard it? What else should I be looking at?










delay1968
I own one & really like it. I run mine with the optional power supply. If you want another professional review (other than MF), check out the Jan. 2017 Hi-Fi News & record review. I ran a Sonic Frontiers prior to this. The AA is beautifully natural, open, & detailed, without being sterile or anywhere near etched.   
Thanks for the reply. Good to hear. Wasn't able to find that review (think you need to buy a subscription) but I feel like real people reviews like yours are probably even more helpful.
Did you compare the ppa to any others when shopping? If so what did you feel it beat out?
I had a Primaluna PL2 with phono stage and I took it out and got a Hagerman Cornet II  the III is now out  great tube stage
I had a Primaluna PL2 with phono stage and I took it out and got a Hagerman Cornet II the III is now out great tube stage

Yeah, the Cornet is on my list. A version 1 just went real cheap but I passed because the older ones are a bulky odd shape that I would have trouble placing though they do look better than the newer plastic ones. At least the newer ones are small enough so they can be tucked behind other gear.

I just wonder how they compare to something that was like $1500 and I can get used for like $800.
I really enjoyed my PS Audio GCPH with my Cayin Integrated. They can be found for $500 to $600 used. They retailed for $1000.
Delay,
I was using a parasound zdac prior to this. That is a very inexpensive dac but good for the money. I also tried the Peachtree Nova & the AA was much better all the way around. It was also a bit more expensive so may not have been fair. I listen to a very good analog set-up mostly but will say the AA dac is shockingly close to that. It is that good. 
Delay,
I was using a parasound zdac prior to this. That is a very inexpensive dac but good for the money. I also tried the Peachtree Nova & the AA was much better all the way around. It was also a bit more expensive so may not have been fair. I listen to a very good analog set-up mostly but will say the AA dac is shockingly close to that. It is that good.
Hmm. Now we are onto DACs? Not worrying about that for now since I never really listen to digital stuff on my main system. My Oppo is good enough for now. But good to know that the AA stuff is quality all around.
Check out the Croft RIAA. You can return it if you don’t like it!
https://www.needledoctor.com/Croft-RIAA-Phono-Preamp
Check out the Croft RIAA. You can return it if you don’t like it!
https://www.needledoctor.com/Croft-RIAA-Phono-Preamp

Nice. Seen Croft mentioned before but had only seen the full preamp and not the RIAA Phono. Good option.

Sorry about that delay. The only serious phono amp I used prior to the PPA-1 is the Sonic Frontiers. They are both very good but the AA is better in my system. It has a lot more detail and still has a glorious mid-range, stage width & depth. It really beats the SF on the top end. I would say the SF is slightly better on the bottom. The AA just sounds more natural in my system where the SF is a little darker.  
Sorry about that delay. The only serious phono amp I used prior to the PPA-1 is the Sonic Frontiers. They are both very good but the AA is better in my system. It has a lot more detail and still has a glorious mid-range, stage width & depth. It really beats the SF on the top end. I would say the SF is slightly better on the bottom. The AA just sounds more natural in my system where the SF is a little darker.
 

More detail and bigger soundstage is certainly good, but I am a little worried about bass. The Devores tend toward the lean side in my system/room so I don't want to lose any low end and was hoping to gain some actually.
Are you running an MC? How much experimenting did you do with the loading and how much difference did it make?
I had heard that Primaluna might be coming out with a stand alone tube phono preamp. This would be perfect for you , if they do indeed decide to design one. I prefer a tube phono preamp myself. I really enjoy being able to adjust the sound with different NOS/New Issue tubes.
I had heard that Primaluna might be coming out with a stand alone tube phono preamp. This would be perfect for you , if they do indeed decide to design one. I prefer a tube phono preamp myself. I really enjoy being able to adjust the sound with different NOS/New Issue tubes.
Ooh, I will look into that. Thanks. I like tube rolling but tend to drive myself a little crazy with it, too, though. Still trying different combos in my PL after having it for like 6 months.
Don't get me wrong, with the optional power supply it has plenty of bass. It's just that the SF had a little more. I have 2 arms set up, one for MM and the other for MC. The AA has 2 inputs. The MC is set up at a load of 900 & the MM at 47K. I've experimented with different setting's and that is what sounds the best for me. IME the preamp itself has more influence on bass than the Phono, so I'm not sure how it will sound with yours.   
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There is no way I would get away from tubes, because you can change, or upgrade in unbelievable ways by simply getting new and different tubes.

I took my tube phono to another level with NOS Telefunkin tubes.
There is no way I would get away from tubes, because you can change, or upgrade in unbelievable ways by simply getting new and different tubes.

I took my tube phono to another level with NOS Telefunkin tubes.


Yeah, I am no stranger to tube rolling. I might end up back with a tube phono stage at some point but I am fine trying something else for now for a couple reasons. One is that most of the tube stages I have been eyeing are on the bigger/bulkier side of things and I don't really have the room (or the desire to start that fight with my wife). Another being it is hot as hell in my house and will be for a few more months. I need to turn the loud window unit AC off to listen to music and the room already starts to noticeably heat up after the PL is on for 20-30 minutes so I am not dying to add more hot tubes in the room. Though a couple more pre tubes wouldn't be as bad as the 10 in my PL.Also there just seem to be a huge amount of SS options these days that people really love for the money. Not quite as many tube options under $1k that I feel would be a definite improvement and I don't have time to build a kit. But if a good deal on a second hand PH16, Croft or Hagerman came my way I wouldn't hesitate to try it. Just didn't find any in the past few weeks of looking.
I do have a nice assortment of 12au7's,12ax7's and some 6dj8 types so I am ready if I do go that route eventually.
have the same preamp. if its within your budget, would suggest the EAR 834P, or for a little less, the Clone of the EAR which is a direct copy.

how would the audio PPA-1 stack up to the Phenomona II+? Price difference


have a Dual CS 5000 TT with a
grado stylus and a Hegel 160 integrated amp. Thank you.

First of all, I have not heard the Primaluna phono stage, so can't say whether an external stage would be "better", however this is from Primaluna's web site:

"Built in phonostages are “throw in” and are rarely good quality because manufacturers assume 90% of buyers won’t use them. The external phonostage market is very competitive. You can get something much better for as little as $200, and buy one that actually meets your cartridges needs and YOUR budget."

If you search, you'll find comments about the built in phono stage on some other forums.

Some of the phono stages I've used within your budget are the Jolida JD9 and the Musical Surroundings Nova Phonomena.  I like them both.  The Jolida has a lot of loading and gain options and is very dynamic.  It's a tube / solid state hybrid and gives you the option of rolling tubes while not putting out a lot of heat.  It's not as quiet as some phono stages, but I have not had any issues with noise in any of my setups.  The Phonomena has even more gain and loading options and is very quiet and neutral. 

My latest phono stage is the $400 Parks Puffin.  It's very quiet and to my ears more dynamic than the Phonomena.  It doesn't have as many loading options, but offers numerous options for customizing the sound.  I think it's  a better value and better sounding phono stage than the others I have, except for the Manley Chinook which is fully tubed and out of your budget.

I'd give the Puffin a try.  You should be able to flip it for close to what you paid for it if you don't like it.
I did quite a lot of comparisons last year with phono stages.  I have a PL HP Integrated.  I definitely agree that a tube phono stage is the way to go.  I had a JD9 for quite a while, but ultimately found it to be a little too noisy.  I had a ProJect PhonoBox RS that I really liked for about 6 months.  When I picked that one, I tried several other SS phono stages, and also the ProJect TubeBox DS.  The DS I liked too, but chose the RS. 

After living with the RS, I ended up taking the big plunge and got a Manley Chinook.  The difference is really surprising, and I'm sticking with this one for the long term.  I know it's over your budget, and I'm not trying to convince you to spend more money.  But, I am saying I would definitely stick with a tube phono stage, based on my experience.  

And, for the record, the step from JD9 to TubeBox DS is a good step, but the step to Manley was really significant.  Major improvement. 
I have a Norwegian Mystere IA-11 EL34 integrated amp. It is designed by Prima Luna (their sister company) and built to the same incredibly high standards of workmanship and uses PL's adaptive auto-bias circuitry. I have it matched to the Schiit Mani phono preamp and find the combination quite amazing. The Mani is dynamic, rhythmic, and detailed and compliments the Mystere which is quite a quick paced and detailed sounding amp. The combination does not have that romantic lush vintage tube sound, but a very modern sound. I love the combo.
Just stumbled across this thread. Did you make a decision delay? 

I just wanted to say I LOVE my PPA-1 & PS-5 power supply. I had a Sutherland Insight prior and I like the AA more. It is DEAD quiet and sounds like it fits all the requirements you're asking for: cool, relatively small, two inputs, good power supply.

When I purchased mine, the PS-5 wasn't in stock, so I had to wait a couple of weeks for it. It actually worked out nice because once it arrived, I was really able to hear its effect!

Audio Advisor does get them off & on, and they offer the 30-day trial as well just in case.

Thumbs up for the AA here....