What phono preamps are balanced


Since I am looking for a phono preamp with balanced circuitry and outputs, I would like to know what are my choices. I know of these: pass xono, ear 324, aesthetix rhea and io, bat vk 10, hagerman trumpet,........................................................................................................ but am not sure of the others like: manley steelhead, arc ref., tom evans groove, asr basis, acoustech ph1p, linn linto, cary 301 or 302, clear audio, herron vtph-1, art audio, whest p.20, zyx, artemis, ayre, clearaudio reference, rowland cadence, klyne, etc etc.Thanks for the help.
pedrillo
Einstein makes a superb balanced phono preamp. I have the single ended version which is VERY good. The balanced is even better.
Think you can make safe assumptions based on price and copnfirm if really interested.It would be Accoustech or West and maybe Linn I'd check out asuuming they are NOT.Have red going from balanced to unbalnced once in chain (like say having unbalnced until pre-ouput and then needing a long run with low distortion you are not goin to screw things up (according to complete book of Hi-end written by one of Stereophiles editors.It's going back and forth that meses things up.That's why my UN-balanced McIntosh C712 pre(latter C15) had XLR out's for loing runs to power amp as does the $1K PS Audio GCPH phon I am proably going to get since not sure i want to swing a Rhea (if like the Steelhead it had even ONE line in might consider) well the PS has XLR out's almost positive it's not balanced.Might not be the achilles heal you thin it is.Hope you get more and better help.
Chazz
chazzbo
Among those I know -- Asr, Klyne, clearaudio, rowland are. But really Pedrillo, why don't you just check these peoples' web-sites?? Cheers
The Audio Research PH-2 is balanced in and out only.
I own one. Rare on the goN' Maybe once a year one shows up for sale.
$700`$800 used, but should be more...
the ps audio gcph is also balanced,
I don't believe any of the unsure ones you mentioned are balanced. The exception might be an Art Audio, which I think uses transformers on the output. That is, you get balanced outputs, but not balanced gain and eq circuitry. Same goes for Audio Note. Actually, the EAR might be in this category.

One you missed is the RTP from Allen Wright.

jh
AQVOX makes a very nice balanced phono preamp. See the review in TNT
I would suggest the Aesthetix IO. It is balanced and sounds sweet. I am not using it in balanced mode right now, however, I will when I get the Callisto preamp.
V/r
Audioquest4life
Dear Pedrillo: The Essential 3150.

regards and enjoy the music.
Raul.
I am running the GCPH balanced out to either a GCC-100 or atma-sphere MA1.

I find the GCPH doesnt have enough gain for me with a .5mv cart. It sounds quite good though.

I had a Tron Seven in for comparison - that sounded a bit more real and 3d - and had more gain- but that was single ended.
Ayre P-5XE
Are you concerned with balanced input from your cartridge or just balanced output? I would be surprised if many mentioned offer balanced input. However, FM Acoustics, Atma-sphere, and Boulder come to mind, and there must be others.
Clearaudio Balanced Reference Phono (Dual mono) stage has both balanced inuputs and outputs
Just thought you might be interested in some history:

We introduced the first balanced phono preamp in 1989- the MP-1. It is also fully differential and was the first all tube preamp that was fully differential from input to output. The EQ is handled in differential mode to prevent tube aging from affecting EQ. Although the unit has a line stage it was built with the intention as a stand-alone phono reproducer.

We devised the system of using XLRs with phono cartridges, eliminating the separate grounding wire.

One thing that the high end audio industry does not seem to get is that the balanced line system was created to eliminate interconnect cable problems. Balanced lines allow both long cable lengths without degradation and inexpensive cables to be used, also without degradation. This advantage is not available to single-ended cables. Not all balanced line preamps in high end audio support the balanced line standard, but if they do the difference between a really expensive cable and a really cheap one will be very little. Effectively the hidden cost of the interconnect is removed from the cost of the preamp/volume control system.

How does a balanced phono input work? Don't you need sum and difference from the tonearm/cartridge with some sort of differential driver interface for each channel at each end of the cable?
It is my limited understanding (correct me, someone if I'm wrong) that the signal from any MC cartridge (along with microphones) is already fully balanced. It's also my understanding that most tonearm wires (in the tonearm itself-not external phono cables connecting the arm to a phono pre) have the ground floated, so if you want to connect a MC cartridge/tonearm to a balanced phono input it is simply a matter of having the phono cable properly terminated with the appropriate balanced/XLR connectors. It was that way for me anyway, recently, when I bought an Aqvox 2CI. I'm running fully balanced from turntable right through to my integrated amp through the Aqvox, and in my opinion, it's performance in the balanced mode is superb, and quite a bit better than running it single ended. The Aqvox literature expresses some surprise that balanced configuration is not used more frequently in phono preamps; I think the combination of balanced input/output along with the current mode really provides outstanding performance at a reasonable price.
Which phono preamps have balanced in?
Hdm, you got it spot on. In fact almost all cartridges are balanced sources, not just MC. I think the old Decca that had 3 leads was the only one that was not balanced- even ceramic cartridges can be run balanced, and most of the BSRs, Garrards , Duals and other inexpensive older turntables had 5 connections (the 5th being ground) as to connect the 5th wire to the same point as the negative output of the cartridge creates a ground loop.
What dop you wan to spend?And you can get XLR terminated phono cables run into balanced Phono (if it has in's many like like the PS GCPH are out only so balanced cicutry isn't thier just ability to run long distance to amp.The thing that you don't want to do is go (according to Holt or whoever wrote the Stereophile Guide To Hi-End) is go from unbalanced to banced to un to balanced.Once say from your pre to amp is ok just you are ebtter off with RCA's only instead of converting it to many times.But with some company's like BAT (BALANCED Audio Technology) and some others everything is true balanced all the way though.When I had a Nelson Pass designed Adcom all XLR and balanced rig (CD/Pre/AMP) I thought about converting my phono cable and looking for a balanced circut phono but that limits you,costs and I sold Adcom rig before it became issue.If I had speakers far off I'd keep everything un-balanced and just get true balanced pre and amp or intgerated or just go unbalnced all the way.yes theoretically it's better and on some equipemnt l;ike krell it's all balanced but it's not necessary given how ling most IC to amp connections are.Phone company and others use because for extremely l;ong runs you must.Go for better gear and don't obsesse on balanced if it's not the sound you want or causes you to deny kids college.
Chazz
Pedrillo asked, "Which phono preamps have balanced in?"

The Aesthetix Io.
Here is a list of all the balanced phono stages which have balanced circuitry not just the xlr connectors and/or transformer coupling that I have found, please feel free to add others or make corrections:
Aesthetix io (tube)
Aesthetix Rhea (tube)
Aqvox 2ci (ss)
Arc ph2 (ss)
Arc ref2 (tube)
Asr Basis exclusive (ss)
Atma-sphere mp1 (tube)
Atma-sphere mp3 (tube)
Ayre p-5x (ss)
Bat VK-P10 (tube)
Clearaudio Balanced Reference (?)
Ear 324 (ss)
Einstein tt choice (ss)
Essential 3150
Jeff Rowland Cadence (ss)
Pass Xono (ss)
PS Audio gcph (ss)
Simaudio lp5.3 (ss)

Those that are not balanced circuit but have xlr outputs:
cary ph 302
K&K Audio (tube)
Again feel free to point out errors.
And here is a list of line stages with true balanced circuits.

** denotes balanced from input to output.
? denotes not known whether balanced throughout.

?Accuphase C-2810 (2 xlr)
?Accuphase C-2410 (2 xlr)
**Aestehtix Janus (2 xlr) 6.5
**Aesthetix Calypso (2 xlr) 4.5
**AtmaSphere Music Preamplifier MP3 (option) 4.7
**AtmaSphere New Music Preamplifier MP1 Mk. III (option) 13
Audio Horizons TP 2.1 (option) 2.0
**Audio Research LS26 (2 xlr) 6.0
**Audio Research Reference 3 (2 xlr) 10
**Audio Research Reference 5 (2 xlr) 12
Audionet Pre G2 (2 xlr)
Audiovalve Eklipse (unbalanced at 1 xlr) 4.6
**Ayre KX-R (2 xlr) 18
**BAT 51 SE (? xlr) 9
**BAT 52 SE (2 xlr) 10
**BAT REX (2 xlr) 20
?Belles 28A (No info, The 21 has 1 xlr unbalanced)
**Cary slp05 (on special order) 7.5
**Classe CP700 (2 xlr) 7
**Classe CP500 (1xlr) 3.5
?Esoteric C03 PreAmp (new)(1 xlr output)
?Jeff Rowland Capri (option? 1 Bal-XLR, 1 Unb-RCA std) 2.7
?Jeff Rowland Concerto (std) 3.9
?Jeff Rowland Criterion (std) 18
?Herron Audio (not balanced)
**Mcintosh C500 (2 xlr) c500t 12
?Music First Audio MK II Preamplifier (TVC)
?Music First Audio Reference Preamplifier (TVC, Appears to have 2 xlr)
?Pass Labs XP20 (1 xlr) 8.6
?Plinius Tautoro (2 xlr) 8.3
Promitheus Audio Reference Ccore TVC (option)
?Rogue Audio Hera (2 xlr)
**SimAudio P7 5.5
**Simaudio P8 (2 xlr) 11
?Sonic Frontiers Line3 5
?Sonic Frontiers line3 se 6
?Supratek Dual Cabernet (appears as 1 xlr)
**VAC Phi Beta (2 xlr) 15
**VTL 7.5 (2 xlr) 10
**VTL 7.5 sII 16
**?YS Audio BALANCED A2 Se (2 xlr) 1.5

This is a list with fully balanced pre's noted by the asterisk.
Please feel free to correct any mistakes, I visited the websites of these companies to assertain the fully balanced feature.
ASR Basis Exclusive , Balanced in and out. The latest version is great.
ARC Ref 2 phono does not have balanced phono inputs, only outputs.
Pedrillo et al,
I am fairly certain that the Aesthetix Rhea does NOT contain a balanced phono amplification circuit. The Io does. I am also dubious about the Aqvox (read the promos carefully) and the PS Audio GCPH. (Someone will no doubt correct me if I am wrong.) All of these offer XLR inputs or outputs or both, but they are not necessarily balanced internally. As has been written here ad nauseam, if the internal circuitry is not actually balanced, there is little to be gained by using XLR connectors. I researched the Pass Xono, but I never could figure out whether it was true balanced or not.
I think I misspoke. After further investigation it seems the Aqvox is balanced for MC inputs and single-ended for MM cartridges.
I just checked the rhea, ps audio, and bat's vk-p5, they all are fully balanced differential unless the websites are wrong which I doubt because it was consistent on a few sites. Hope this helps.
If this is inaccurate or there are others please post your findings.
BAT is balanced. I don't know who said it wasn't. AFAIK all BAT products are true balanced types.

Rhea has a single-ended phono section followed by a balanced output section. This means that you have to hook the cartridge up to the phono input in single-ended mode. In my book, this does not qualify as an all-balanced design. It may sound wonderful, and I'd like to have one, but it is not "balanced" in the sense that we are discussing. It does not even offer XLR inputs. For a lot more dough you can get the Io, which is true balanced all the way.

After reading on the PS Audio website, I certainly have to agree that they claim it is fully balanced from input to output. It is curious that they offer only RCA input jacks, no XLR inputs. This CAN work for balanced mode if the ground connection on the RCA is not in fact tied to ground but instead carries the negative phase of the audio signal. (The Hagerman Trumpet, a tubed balanced phono stage seems to do this too.) Anyway, I stand corrected pending further correction.

Most manufacturers give you just enough info to let you think what you want to think, it often seems.
ARC Ref 2 is fully balanced input to output it just has RCA connectors for the input since that is what most people will have. I bet one could special order XLRs for one or both inputs. Either way, electrically, the positive and negative of each channel from the cartridge make it to the positive and negative inputs of the balanced circutry.
TD
Thanks TD.
I thought that xlr's weren't neccessary in order for the circuit to be balanced. But I do agree that xlr terminated cables are better than rca's.
Lewm, I agree with the negative lead not being grounded being neccessary in order for it to be truly balanced.
If anyone can chime in to the next question: on the graham 2.2 arm, there are 5 pins, does the 5th pin ground to the arm and/or cartridge/body? The arm is ceramic which does not conduct well so the cartridge really doesn't get grounded, right? Would did this make it truly balanced--the 5 pins with the 5th being ground only without signal?
The VTL TP-6.5 has single ended inputs and balanced outputs.
Pedrillo, Most likely the 5th lead from the Graham 2.2 is just to ground the tonearm body to the preamp chassis. It's a toss-up whether you would even need to connect it. With my RS-A1 tonearm, I had hum until I ran a ground wire from the body to a screw on the chassis of my preamp. With the Triplanar, the accessory ground wire just waves in the breeze, and I have no hum. So, if you have hum, find a way to attach that wire to your phono stage chassis. I now re-read your post and see that you are using the word "pin". Sorry, but it's the same deal. I guess you are looking at the 5th pin on the DIN plug. This is the pin that is sort of at the apex of the formation of 5 pins. That too, is for grouding the tonearm body via the connecting cable. The connecting cable may or may not have a free wire that is not within the shield or terminated with a connector. That's your ground wire. Alternatively the 5th pin may be connecting internally to the shield of your balanced cable connection. The shield will convey the tonearm ground to your phono stage.
Pedrillo, I ran my Graham in balanced mode. Pin 3 of the tone arm connector is ground. I was able to use the same cable that I did for my SME V.
Hagerman Trumpet too is balanced.
Here is a list of all the balanced phono stages which have balanced circuitry not just the xlr connectors and/or transformer coupling that I have found, please feel free to add others or make corrections:
Aesthetix io (tube)
Aesthetix Rhea (tube)
Aqvox 2ci (ss)
Arc ph2 (ss)
Arc ref2 (tube)
Asr Basis exclusive (ss)
Atma-sphere mp1 (tube)
Atma-sphere mp3 (tube)
Ayre p-5x (ss)
Bat VK-P10 (tube)
Clearaudio Balanced Reference (?)
Ear 324 (ss)
Einstein tt choice (ss)
Essential 3150\
hagerman trumpet(tube)
Jeff Rowland Cadence (ss)
Pass Xono (ss)
PS Audio gcph (ss)
Simaudio lp5.3 (ss)
Whest ps.30r(ss)
Which of these would come on top? Within a certain price point it appears after some reading the forums that the Einstein is hard to beat, does it better the rhea, Asr, Hagerman or any of the above costing less than this group.
Sonas Veritas Venice - Kevin Carter of K&K Audio's latest effort at "State of the Art". Fully balanced differential circuitry input to output.
Boulder 2008 & 1008 both are balanced in and out. I have listened to the 2008 and it is the best I have heard. Out of my price range though for now.
You have the BAT VK-P10, but the VK-P5 is also balanced.
Here is a list of all the balanced phono stages which have balanced circuitry not just the xlr connectors and/or transformer coupling that I have found, please feel free to add others or make corrections:
Aesthetix io (tube)
Aesthetix Rhea (tube)
Aqvox 2ci (ss)
Arc ph2 (ss)
Arc ref2 (tube)
Asr Basis exclusive (ss)
Atma-sphere mp1 (tube)
Atma-sphere mp3 (tube)
Ayre p-5x (ss)
Bat VK-P10 (tube)
Bat vk-5 (tube)
Clearaudio Balanced Reference (?)
Ear 324 (ss)
Einstein tt choice (ss)
Essential 3160 (ss)
hagerman trumpet (tube)
Jeff Rowland Cadence (ss)
Pass Xono (ss)
PS Audio gcph (ss)
Simaudio lp5.3 (ss)
Whest ps.30r (ss)
Whest ps.30rdt (ss)
Wavestream phono and preamp tube products.
I have an RCM Sonsor Prelude. I don't use the balanced outputs (have to do something to the tonearm wiring don't you?) but it definitely has balanced outputs. SOunds great too.

DS
Davidsss, most tonearms are balanced sources; IOW you do **not** have to do anything with the wiring, only the interconnect cable between the arm and the preamp.

Even an old BSR or Garrard from the 1960s is a balanced source!
Tdaudio wrote, "ARC Ref 2 is fully balanced input to output it just has RCA connectors for the input since that is what most people will have. I bet one could special order XLRs for one or both inputs. Either way, electrically, the positive and negative of each channel from the cartridge make it to the positive and negative inputs of the balanced circutry".

Indeed, I clarified this prior to purchase and had Steve at GNS install a set of XLR type inputs, as an addition to the RCA sockets.
New ones keep appearing hence the new list.
Here is a list of all the balanced phono stages which have balanced circuitry not just the xlr connectors and/or transformer coupling that I have found, please feel free to add others or make corrections:
Aesthetix io (tube) Also Signature and Eklipse
Aesthetix Rhea (tube) Also now available Signature series
Aqvox 2ci (ss)
Arc Ref2(tube)
Arc Ph2 (ss)
Asr Basis exclusive (ss)
Atma-sphere mp1 (tube)
Atma-sphere mp3 (tube)
Ayre p-5x (ss)
Bat VK-P10 (tube)
Bat VK-P5 (tube)
Clearaudio Balanced Reference (ss)
Ear 324 (ss)
Einstein tt choice (ss)
Essential 3160 (ss)
hagerman trumpet (tube)
Jeff Rowland Cadence (ss)
Pass Xono (ss)
PS Audio gcph (ss)
Ray Samuels Emmeline XR-10B(ss)
RCM Sonsor Prelude(ss)
Simaudio lp5.3 (ss)
Whest ps.30r (ss)
Whest ps.30rdt (ss)
+++ If anyone conducted a shootout or has owned a few balanced phono stage please feel free to drop a comment.
I own both an ARC Ref 2 Phono stage and a Clearaudio Balanced Reference. I feel that the Clearaudio has been 'voiced' for use with their cartridges, which suits me fine, as I have both a Titanium and an Insider Reference. Plus it can be used without a pre-amp. But, it sounds slightly cold and bright compared to the ARC.
At the moment I'm enjoying the ARC/Allearts with some of my older vinyl and the Clearaudio Balance/ Titanium with Jazz on heavyweight 45 rpm vinyl.