Question Do I need a Phono Stage..

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by waspy, Jul 3, 2018.

  1. waspy

    waspy
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    Hi Chaps,

    Very new to the world of Vinyl, I picked up a Clearaudio Concept. I set everything up today and plugged the phono RCA to my Roksan K3 MM input and the sound is clear and crisp, but very very quiet. Compared to my usual listening volume of 9 o clock, I have to put it at 2 o clock to get the same volume. Even then the bass seems particularly muted and the overall slam seems to be held back. Vocals sound infinitely better, but everything else feels held back. I have measured the tracking force and ensured it matches that of the cartridge.

    However.. do I need an external phono stage to have better resolvability? or am I doing something wrong?
     
  2. Ugg10

    Ugg10
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    What cartridge is it, if it is a moving coil then it will be quiet, if moving magnet then something is wrong.
     
  3. waspy

    waspy
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    It is indeed an MM cartridge!
     
  4. Rachel H

    Rachel H
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    There isn't an awful lot to get wrong, Clearaudio set the thing up, as far as I remember you just set the counterbalance. Turning it up to 2 o clock doesn't sound like its healthy.

    The best advice I can give you is to get your hands on a mm phono stage, even a cheap one off Amazon will give you your answer, plug your phono leads into that and then connect that into a line level input and see if theres a difference. If there is, you have a faulty phono stage on your amp. If everything is the same there might well be a fault with your tonearm cable, but this is the easiest thing to check.

    Rach'
     
  5. waspy

    waspy
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    Cheers, a project phono stage ordered!
     
  6. Rachel H

    Rachel H
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    I think you'll probably be okay, let me know if everything goes well, i always have time for anyone getting to grips with a turntable :D
     
  7. Cornish Dave

    Cornish Dave
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    This may be silly but my Yamaha has a switch on the back to change from MM to MC. There isn't a switch on the Roksan is there?
     
  8. dannnielll

    dannnielll
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    You have just spent about 1300 on a quality amplifier with moving magnet phono input.. if the moving magnetic cartridge is not generating enoughvolume, I would send it back pronto. .. however, I would read the rocksan manual carefully and insure that I was using the correct inputs and that the correct buttons have been pushed.
    Please ensure that that it is infact a moving magnet cartridge and not a moving coil one. .. the difference being the bit that moves, when the stylus wiggles. With a moving magnet, there are bigger coils and it can generate a bigger voltage to go into the phonostage amplifer built into the Rocksan. In a moving coil, the magnets are static and a tiny coil moves . Tiny coil =lower voltage.

    Buying a third party phonostage amplifer is a bad call at this stage, except as a test.
     
  9. Ugg10

    Ugg10
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    Can you post the cartridge make/model as it looks like the clearaudio concept can be ordered with MM and MC cartridges, then I am sure someone can look at the specs for the cartridge and the amp and see if this is the cause of the issue.
     
  10. Rachel H

    Rachel H
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    Waspy already confirmed it was a MM cartridge, they're made in house as far as I know using a fixed cantilever design which means you can't replace the stylus itself, the whole cartridge has to go, which is no real issue as you can upgrade for far less than the replacement cost.

    No there isn't :)

    1. Waspy didn't say he spent 1300 on a new amplifier, he didn't say how long he had it, he only said he was new to vinyl, the amp may not be under warranty to send back.

    2. Waspy's question was; 'do I need an external phono stage to have better resolvability? or am I doing something wrong?'. Answer: No, he isn't doing anything wrong, if he has sound, albeit low sound then all the switches on the amp and connections are correct. Additionally yes he may need an external phono stage.

    :D
     
  11. waspy

    waspy
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    Thanks for all your help everyone.

    The Roksan is only 3 weeks old :)

    Anyway.. the new phono stage arrived from Pro-ject and it was far worse sound quality wise. The volume was the same though if not a bit louder on the Roksan.

    I will be returning the pro-ject phono stage.

    Now.. the only thing that I can imagine messing my listening experience is as follows. On my Chord Qutest I have it connected out to RCA to my amp, the DAC is the hub for my CD, streaming and all my music. The output Voltage is 3V RMS - so is this naturally loud?

    Because when I didn't have a base for comparison the Vinyl sound was clear and well defined, its only when I compare it to my DAC things seem less loud and punchy!

    Have I made my digital system loud to start off with, thus affecting everything? I can comfortably listen to Jack White's blunderbus on vinyl at 9 o clock
     
  12. Ugg10

    Ugg10
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    The usual base line for line in connections is 2v rms so 3v rms is on the high side. If you want to equal them out you can put in line attenuators in the dac signal so you don’t have to keep remembering to reset the volume.

    Will the qutest work in a variable output mode (like a preamp) if so you could try balancing the volume with the phono and see if the two sources sound similar/different/ok like when that is done.

    Edit - Based on the manual you can set it to 1, 2 or 3v https://chordelectronics.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Qutest-Manual.pdf, I would give each a try and see which best matches the phono volume.
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2018
  13. waspy

    waspy
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    Cheers, will amend to 2v and do some side by side. Just a side bar.. vocals are so darn different on Vinyl :O
     
  14. dannnielll

    dannnielll
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    There are a few standards for so called line input levels.. the older standard was 0.775v RMS giving peak voltage values of 1 v. , With CDs some outputted at 2 V RMS ,but a device outputting at 3 volts as a line output seems very high to me, on what is a domestic product. .. but certainly it is listed as such in the Chord specification.
    The line input voltage is the maximum signal voltage which should be applied ,to ensure full power, at maximum volume control settings into you speaker. Larger input voltages will generate overload distortion in the internal circuits. In the case of a phono stage, this takes in the minute voltages from the cartridge,and amplifies them up to the normal line input level for that amplifier, and then makes this available by a switch to the same power stage as the external line inputs if required..
    Would I be correct in saying that you can alter the output level from the RCA terminal of the Chord? . If so could I suggest that you throttle back to the 2 volt level or maybe even the 1v level ,. I would be concerned about the power amplifier pre amp stages clipping, and most domestic, as opposed to professional amplifiers use the lower voltage line input standard. ... What you describe as "punchy" might be overload distortion or even clipping!!!. .
    The Chord is capable of superb performance ,.. ( according to its specs. ) and it is possible that you are inadvertently degrading its performance by running it through your amplifer at an excessive level. It might sound sweeter if the peak level is reduced.
    Provided the vinyl input allows for good volume at full output power from the amplifer and speakers, it is not at fault.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2018
  15. dannnielll

    dannnielll
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    Update. The last page of the Rocksan manual specifies a line input level of 0.5 V into 47kohm . So you should be using the 1v setting on the Chord. . This will give you the minimum distortion through your system.

    My comment about ensuring that the correct buttons were pressed is that in some amplifiers, there can be crosstalk between channels and if the inputs to a voltage amplifier are disconnected, capacitive coupling can transmit a small level of signal.
    I am not surprised that a cheap phono preamp would sound worse than the premium components in the Rocksan.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2018
  16. waspy

    waspy
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    Thanks Dannielll, I have now sorted it I think!
    So couple of issues identified, one was the line level from the Chord Qutest.

    Second was the tracking force.. when I tried again the scale showed 2.78! so that was way too much since its a 2.25 suggested force. That seemed to immediately brighten up the "punchy" aspect of the records.

    With all that being said, the Vinyl of Nirvana unplugged is much worse than the CD still. I put it down to a bad master! - Other records sound brilliant. I tried Cocteau Twins best of, and The Can - Monster Movie both were gorgeous.

    Thanks so much for your help guys.. now I am addicted
     
  17. waspy

    waspy
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    I took a gamble and bought the Rega Fono MM. Crikey it is much better than the stage on the Roksan K3. I guess Rega make a good phono stage maybe!
     
  18. jonno73

    jonno73
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    Just ordered the Pro-ject Tube Box DS phono stage, to connect in to my Roksan K3!
    The roksan internal one was good, but I had to move the room around so the devices are 4m apart now and a separate phono stage was needed.
    Looking forward to picking it up this afternoon! :)
     
  19. dannnielll

    dannnielll
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    Slippery Slope!!!. . Ask yourself the simple question. If two amplifers have zero noise and zero distortion and similar power rating , how can one have the distinctive Tube sound?. Not saying you won't find it pleasant or even more enjoyable than others.
     
  20. jonno73

    jonno73
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    Who knows, is this the same as’ if a tree falls in a forest and no one is listening’, etc... ;-)

    It’s not coming until tomorrow anyway now, so the proof of the pudding is delayed.

    I had to make a quick decision, and I won’t be able to upgrade for some time again now, so despite wrestling with the reletative merits, I just decided to make a decision and just throw some money at it! Figured the tube version can’t be worse, can it!!? :-D
     
  21. dannnielll

    dannnielll
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    ... I will continue to endear myself to other contributors, by saying that vinyl is such a snakepit that it is the last refuge of the snake oil salesmen,and mixing it with tubes is just iceing on their cake.. it is possible to make superb Amplifiers using tubes,and maybe the pro ject product is one. It certainly costs enough.. but it is not superb because it uses tubes, but because it is a good design.
     
  22. jonno73

    jonno73
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    Good design and an ‘appropriate amount of spend’ from myself makes me very happy tbh.
    This is just a side project for me really, and I’m enjoying the various nuances of the vinyl world again.
    By bypassing salesman however, I do feel I’ve avoided the snake oil. I actually first looked into tubes as I literally thought ‘darn, they do look cool’! So, this purchase is about needing a phono stage, investing in hopefully a suitable sweet spot of spend to gain sufficient build quality etc, but without going too over board.

    The tubes? Well, that was just because I thought what the hell! You have to take your fun where you can nowadays, and I’ve spent an amount I’m entirely happy to write off. (If I solely wanted a return, I’d be best adding these funds to my SIPP!)
    :)
     
  23. Rachel H

    Rachel H
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    I'm not familiar with the tube box, but the Ecc 83's have the ability to add dimension to music.
    I use a mechanical system and a mechanical/transistor system in fact I've had all kinds of combinations and while I won't get bogged down in 'valve sound' arguments, a term I don't like, there is a distinct difference with valves, to me they are better and there is a profoundly enhanced enjoyment/presentation/detail factor.
    Like anything hi-fi, you have to let your ears decide but while I think that valves are more effort I do think at least for me they are vastly superior to any transistorized amp I ever heard, but that's just me and it also has a lot to do with matching, I learned that along the way too.

    I'd love to hear how you like the tube box, please post. :D
     
  24. waspy

    waspy
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    The tube sound is different, I have a Valhalla 2 for my Sennheiser HD800s, and though a lot of the "warmth" is probably distortion it does make certain music sound superb!
     
  25. jonno73

    jonno73
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    Absolutely, will do! :)

    I’ve also added the acrylic platter and also upgraded to the Ortofon bronze cartridge though, so any perceive gains will be hard to isolate.

    Collection also delayed until at least next week now though, due to birth of a baby daughter this afternoon!!! :-D
     
  26. waspy

    waspy
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    Congrats on the new baby, also on your daughter ;)

    Which Acrylic Platter did you get? I found one on Juno and have gone with that.

    2 weeks into the hobby and I am running out of space for my records lol. I am going to empty out my expedit of books and use for it for Vinyl - One cubby is already filled!

    Gosh the Third Man Records are something else arent they? - I am listening to Parquet Courts live - It is stunning!
     
  27. deantown

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    Congratulations on your newborn. :clap:
     
  28. jonno73

    jonno73
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  29. Rachel H

    Rachel H
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    Oh wow, congrats babes! :smashin:
     
  30. dannnielll

    dannnielll
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    ... Can you not get your priorities right, the baby aiain't going anywhere...
     

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