Answered your own question...
"maybe only 25 % or less of the buyers want phono, so the manufacturer focuses on the 75 % population that need a line pre-amp"..
Some companies will mod a preamp to add a phono board. However, most purist companies will take the stance that a separate chassis, power supply, etc. will make it sound better.
Separates do sound better. Alas.
Everyone was right so far. Most people have dumped their vinyl and listen to a poor substitute like CDs. They don't want to have to pay for a phono stage that they will never use.
Most companies that make a pre-amp are in the CDP business too. They would rather have you buy their CDP rather than someone elses TT. Having to drop several thousand more dollars will prevent many people from going with an outboard phono section. So all the way around the pre-amp company wins!
Sbank...mostly true....Gladstone mostly true... but,not necessarily so... and Nrchy..again mostly true. All this IMO of course. But companies do stand to profit from seperates as opposed to single box units. There are some Full function units (line and phono in same chassis) that can compete with the better seperates. ARC's SP-11 is a nice example. A bit dated now, but in its day there was no reason at all to find a better phono pre amp.Although its a matter of design and matching components such as cables, cartridge, and internal load and capacitance from such units to get the best from them. Then the issue of seperating the power supply from the audio circut is a major reason most high end companies ultimately go with seperates usually at the upper end of their line. Less interaction by larger transformers with emf/rfi issues especially of very low level signals means lower noise and better sound. Hey guys, Im no expert.. but just heard and lived a little audio in my day..Best to all!-Ken
the cost of not including a phono stage in a preamp saves the manufacturer money, and putting a phono pre in a separate box is a very very lucrative sideline. they win in both cases. a preamp without a built in phonostage is shameful at any retail price, but unfortunately it is the norm. if the maker offers a phono option for a few hundred bucks..get it.
What a wonderful thread. Somehow we got on this train (EG separate phono section and line stages) and can't get off it. Sbank, are you sure you're correct about only 25% of audiophiles wanting this feature in a preamp? Have you done a study on this?
The recent trend is that analog is more popular than ever, but even taking that into consideration, it was a bad idea to start with.
Your point is well taken about sonic merits for separates IF (and a big if at that) you can get past the interface problems and the added expense of cables + space requirements. Separate boxes usually translates into one more interface problem.
Dcaudio thanks for articulating for what this audiophile has been feeling for a long time.
If the line stage injects noise into the phono stage, an outboard one can sound better. When all is shielded and isolated correctly, the reverse is true, as there are no interconnects involved between phono and line stages. Such is the case with the CTC Blowtorch: those who have compared an outboard Vendetta phono stage (latest tweaked version, of which there are but a handful, including mine) going into a Blowtorch line stage against a Blowtorch with the slightly updated optional Vendetta built in universally report that the latter is better. When the Rev. II Vendetta comes out perhaps by the end of the year (uncertain) it will be as an outboard phono stage, although it will be available as an internal option for the Blowtorch, which is what I plan to do and sell my outboard unit. For what it's worth, the S/N ratio on the Vendetta is at least 40 dB better than that $29k unit MF seemed to like :) ...
Thanks for the responses so far. Let me give you some background to why I think this is an important issue. I believe (right or wrong) that the phono section is the hardest part to get right in a preamp. I am also a strong believer that analog is still better than CD and the new formats. At least my analog set-up is better than my SACD player. Maybe if I spent $ 10,000 on the SACD (which is hard to do in a technology that improves so fast)it would be at the same level as my analog setup. However, as I am looking at replacing my current pre-amp I am finding that are virually no state of the art phono/line preamps that could be my pre-am,p for the next ten years. That is at least my ambition that it will last a while when I purchase a new unit.
I am looking at replacing my current pre-amp (phono & line)for the next ten years
I've been in the same boat. Maybe a solution is, phono + volume control for the rest??? I.e. are you sure the active line's extra db are absolutely necessary??? In a similar vein, some "sota" pres such as Blowtorch mentioned above, provide 6-8 (?) db signal amplification... it's not as if their designers skimp on the issue, surely:)
OTOH as to phono being difficult: While load issues at the phono equalising stage & the various amplification stages *are* tricky, the actual riaa curve is not that difficult to implement (and I'm no "seasoned" diyer, either etc). Rather, it's an expensive undertaking. LCR phonos are very nice -- but finding the right values (think: coils, for example) & matching the components (otherwise, there goes your riaa curve) is beastly. But it's doable -- at a price! Look at the wavac, vendetta, aesthetix, etc riaa's: expensive, but probably good enough to keep one happy 10+ years!
On subject and IMO, it has been said before: there is a MARKET for separates; why not tap it??? I.e. there are TWO products to sell, where before there was only one. Unfortunately, there are also two cases ($$$) two PS instead of one beafed up one ($$), etc. And the cable people make a little extra. I'm not ranting, there are people who don't use phono hence don't want to pay for the extra circuitry. So, pro & con arguments abound!
I was in the same position as you are about two years ago. I went with a CAT Ultimate which is one of the very few choices left. If you want a pre amp with a phono stage I don't believe it gets any better than the CAT.
The CAT has three drawbacks. First, the volume control doesn't give you enough choices. You can live with it, but there is to much variation from from one step to the next. The power suppy is hard wired to the control unit. It's a major logistical pain. Finally, the CAT Ultimate isn't on the romantic side of neutral. It doesn't have excessive mid range bloom like some other tube pre amps do. This may or may not be a drawback, it simply depends on your sonic preference. In my case the CAT Ultimate, despite it's quirks, sounds so good it's going to be with me a very long time
The "25% thing" was a quote from the original post, not an assertion by me. I doubt Dcaudio did a study on it, nor would I expect him to. I certainly did not.
Nonetheless, IMHO, most folks aren't willing to pay for a phono section they won't use, and most manufacturers in their judgement think it makes sense not to include with most of their offerings.
Not that I necessarily agree, but that's another thread...
It's the $$$ for sure. Manufacture loves to seperate everything and sells for more money.
Regardless of the demand of phono stage, it's easy enough to include, good or bad is another issue. When you walk into Circuit City or Good Guys, count how many HT receivers out there that does NOT have a phono section. Here we are talking about mass market audio gears which should have less percentage of record spinner. So why would Sony or Denon include phono section to increase their cost? Because it costs so little when all you are adding is one small circuit to a big box.
Now, don't we all look foolish falling into this high end trap?
Semi, a good phono section is not a small circuit that manufacterers slap into a pre-amp. A reasonable phono section is a very complex piece of electronics, not an afterthought. A good one is much more complex.
A phono section is probably the most complex piece in most systems. Any error in that piece would be magnified by the pre-amp and the amp, making it painfully obvious when listening
My phono section would not fit inside my pre-amp, and I have a single box phono!
You can keep buying mass market junk at Good Guys or Circuit City, but don't fool yourself into thinking you are getting 'high end' electronics!
for over 30 years hi fi manufacturers included a phono section of superior quality in all stereo preamps and integrated amps. they were built to RIAA standards and fundamentally no different than the ones that are sold today which still adhere to those standards. after all they were the primary source of sound . are some better than others?..sure..but none is complex enough to warrant overcharging consumers. most high priced phono pres don't even have phono equalization, which was in high demand by audiophiles who considered vinyl their primary interest.
Jrd351 many changes and improvements have been make in turntables, arms, and cartridges, not to mention phono stages over the last 30 years.
I have had many pre-amps over the years. They continued to sound better as I bought better quality equipment. The sound of the phono stages changed a lot over the years. The RIAA curve has remained constant, but everything else has improved.
If you are content to listen to an older and inferior phono stage that's fine. More power to you! There is no reason though, to claim that the sonic improvements made in the last 30 years do not exist.
Fundimentally amps, pre-amps, and speakers are the same as they were 30 years ago. A cursory glance with however reveal that the details have changed dramatically.
the cost of the materials has actually become far less expensive,because those materials are primarily from china today. i'm not saying the quality of those materials isn't as good, i'm saying a separate phono pre of quality is one of the biggest 'margin' items in home entertainment and it shouldn't be ..it should be a fundamental part of any true high end pre,integrated or receiver. offering value in our hobby is the last thing on most manufacturers' minds .
More preamp manufacturers should offer an integral phono section at least as an option. This does occur in some instances but at an appalling low rate.
Ok, here's a basic question. (I hate being so ignorant!)
If you're only going to play vinyl, do you need a pre-amp, or are there phono stages that can operate independently of the preamp? This is the direction my playing is going, as I just can't tolerate the sound of CD's.
If so, what are the core issues I need to be aware of?
Thanks mucho. Happy weekend, all.
JRD351, good luck with anything of quality from mainland China.....