Btstrg, I have yet to hear a cd player sound better without a preamp. You will need an equal performing pre, which may kill your budget, but what's new. I can't wait for you to hear what you've been missing with the Aries. Any double digit ARC LS piece should work. Krell has been using great volume controls for ten years, that would work too. Hurry! Z.
I guess part of this will depend on what is "NOT very expensive"... I will make a quick assumption at the "less than $1000" mark and go from there (a little over that price, the number of possibilities of "good" rises quite quickly when considering used equipment).
One way to get into a great preamp with phono stage built-in would probably be to buy an older AudioResearch (SP-6, -8, -10, -11), Conrad Johnson, or Counterpoint (SA-3 or SA-5 series) preamp. You'll get a more-than-respectable preamp with decent gain and a phono stage to boot. You should check before buying any of these whether the phono stage can handle low-output MC cartridges. Some likely won't (and therefore will need a step-up). More recent possibilities might include Audible Illusions Modulus or a VTL 2.5 with phono board. All of these should be less than $1k used.
Another possibility, and one which I have never heard but have read about quite a few Agoners' and Asylum inmates' experiences with is the WrightSound WPP200C phono stage with volume pots. You can buy new, direct from the mfr, for something on the order of $850. You might find one used. I might also dig around archives of the AudioAsylum Vinyl board. Lots of interesting commentary there too.
Even cheaper (for the soldering DIYer) might be the Bottlehead Seduction phono pre with some volume pots attached.
Disclaimer in the interests of full disclosure: I own none of these, have bought none of these, nor have any relation to anyone selling any of these, though I have listened to several (and would love to try my hand at DIY-ing).
Ear 834 or 88 with volume control.
Do you still have the placette? If not that's too bad. In my opinion you can't skimp on a preamp. I am a CAT lover. There is one available at http://cls.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/cls.pl?preatube&1159761267
This one also has the built in phono pre. At the level of system you have I think this is a good choice. The built in phono section is very good. I do not know the person selling this. I do own this preamp. I have owned various Krell (including the KCT which in mt opinion is not very good), McIntosh and Canary preamps. The CAT is my favorite. The Canary 903 was also very good. You can pick up a Canary for a good price.
GOOD LUCK and enjoy the music.
One option would be an EAR 834p with volume control. There is one for sale right now. I don't know the seller, but getting one used might be the most cost effective way to try analog. You will be able to sell the 834p easily if you decide analog is not for you or if you decide to move up. Also, there are several reputable places to have these modified.
I have an Aragon 47K. This phono amp has a separate power supply and can be set up for MC or MM. I went to a very expensive tube pre-amp. I have the original box and manual. I ran this straight into my amp using stepped attenuators. If you are interested you can have the amp and attenuators for $315.00 and if you don't like the amp you send it back and I will refund your money.
I would choose the table/arm/cartridge first. Then match that with a phono pre that's compatible. You certainly don't want to end up with a pre that isn't adjustable if your cartridge requires it! First decide what you want to run then add the pre amp accordingly. I've seen this mistake made numerous times...
I used to own Prodigy's and an ARC VT200/LS25II......... Very nice. My CD player (Theta Miles) will run direct, like yours. Without doubt, no question, absolutely, for sure, you are better off running through a nice preamp.
OK, off my soapbox.......... I would really try to expand your budget a little and get the best pre you can. A couple that I have heard and would recommend are the Hovland HP100 w/phono stage and the Aesthetix Janus. Run everything through it and IMHO this would take your system to another level.
There is currently on Audiogon a $350 asking price Sound Valves VTP-101 full function preamp with phono section, uses three 12AX7 tubes in the phono section, and three of the same tubes in the phono section.
This is very good as a budget preamp which mates well with tube amps.
Your CD could go through the exernal processor loop input on the preamp, which has superior transparency, since you're coming from the CDP direct into amp way of life.
This will please you, and be way better than its used price prepares you for, giving time to think more about an expensive decision regarding higher end preamps with phono capability.
I have one of these in one of my systems, and have no relation to the current Audiogon seller, but this unit has surprised a number of audiophiles with their much more upscale units.
Otherwise, Bachtovinyl's offer, above, is another budget way to get into vinyl, although I am not sure if his unit lets you conveniently play through the single pair of amps, unless you're willing to hook and un-hook interconnects for the respective CDP output or vinyl output interconnects.
Whatever you purchase for analog reproduction, you want to get a phono pre that has enough gain to support any MC output cartridge you buy and adequate options for load as well. Without these options, anything you get will be less than what analog is capable of delivering. The Ear 834 mentioned earlier has the gain, but I don't know about its load function. Check with the seller if interested.
Hi thanks for the response. I am looking at a Audio research SP-14, or LS-15.
Any thoughts on these??
With the 834p, I believe that the load is fixed a 500 ohms for the MC input but I'm going on questionable memory here. (For MC you really don't care about the capacitance.) Pretty good value for most cartridges. It is easy to place load resistors across the input jacks if you calculate what the proper values are, that is if you want to fine tune the load. But by then you'll be long past the decision of whether or not vinyl is what you want to do.
Good luck in your search,
I agree with "Zenieth" and would also recommend the Lehmann phono. It has plenty of "adjustabilty" and has good sound. I used one with a BAT preamp + a VPI Scout TT and it worked great for the money. Of course there is better stuff out there but the rule of diminishing returns....
AR stuff used you can find all the time and also would be a good place to start.
The fun will start once you get your vinyl portion of the system dialed-in and you start the hunt for LP's.
Btstrg, from what I know (and I could be wrong), the LS-15 does not have a phono stage built-in. The SP-14 is one of the "hybrid" models. At least one commentary I've seen disparages the power supply but I would do a search of the archives to find users' experiences. An SP-14 would likely be more money than any of the lower 'even-numbered' SPs (SP-6, -8, -10) or the SP-11 because the lower numbered ones are 10+yrs older. I'd personally prefer a -10/-11/-8/-6 in that order if all the same price. These will be especially good deals if they have been 'refreshed' (capacitors replaced, etc) by the factory or modder recently. A similarly "scary-good-for-the-price" old preamp with phono, IMHO, would be a "refreshed" Counterpoint pre with separate power supply. Every now and then they come up on Audiogon and if I didn't already have something which needed refreshing, I'd definitely consider one myself.
The other route would be to go for something which was 'just a phono stage' (which means that if you ever wanted to put a preamp between your CDP and amp, you'd be outtaluck), in which case you might get something with a smaller footprint and good dedicated phono stage for similar money or up to 30-50% more.
Biggest problem with any of these older choices is that it would be tough to demo before buying used unless at a b&m dealer...
To get back into vinyl, I purchased a Supratek Chenin. Until that time, I was running my Wadia 861 direct into my CAT amps.
The Chenin's line stage was an improvement over running direct. So, if you haven't tried a "good" pre-amp with your Wadia, you may be pleasantly surprised if/when you do.