Valve phono pre-amp recommendations

zombionicdoom

Active Member
Hi, for a bit of fun recently I bought a cheap valve phono pre-amp off Amazon just out of curiosity to see how it compared to my Rega phono mm. As I suspected the valve amp sounded more open with warmer bass, a better top end but it was pretty wafty and all over the place in the mid-range! Whilst the Rega sounds more compressed it draws out a lot more detail. I left the valve amp on the system to get the tubes a bit more run in and it’s been a lot of fun. Indeed when I popped the Rega back on recently whilst I liked the detail overall it just felt less fun.

So, my question to you good folks of the forum is this…do you have any recommendations for a decent valve based phono pre-amp? Probably looking at around £500 at the most realistically.
 

bluedroog

Well-known Member
If you can sacrifice on features then the Croft 25 is an excellent valve phono preamp. I used one for years, all hand made by Glenn Croft. New is a bit over budget but you’d certainly have the budget for a preowned example. I don’t think you’d find a better sounding phone valve preamp for the money.



Otherwise Project is another option with happy customers.


Another great option and very flexible unit is Schiit Freya. Not heard this myself but it’s got a solid reputation. Although over budget.


 

zombionicdoom

Active Member
If you can sacrifice on features then the Croft 25 is an excellent valve phono preamp. I used one for years, all hand made by Glenn Croft. New is a bit over budget but you’d certainly have the budget for a preowned example. I don’t think you’d find a better sounding phone valve preamp for the money.



Otherwise Project is another option with happy customers.


Another great option and very flexible unit is Schiit Freya. Not heard this myself but it’s got a solid reputation. Although over budget.


Great tips, thank you. I’ll check them out.
 

bluedroog

Well-known Member
You’re welcome. Another option would be looking at the increasing Chinese hifi market, although I’d advice serious research before taking a plunge. Particularly looking at voltages etc for safety reasons.
 

andycc72

Active Member
I'm also totally intrigued by Valves. I've never even heard a valve amp and I have just bought a new integrated so I won't be upgrading the amp anytime soon but would definitely consider a valve phono stage.

I shall follow this thread with interest. Please let us know how you get on if you buy a new one in the price range you specified which is pretty much where I would be looking at.
 

zombionicdoom

Active Member
I'm also totally intrigued by Valves. I've never even heard a valve amp and I have just bought a new integrated so I won't be upgrading the amp anytime soon but would definitely consider a valve phono stage.

I shall follow this thread with interest. Please let us know how you get on if you buy a new one in the price range you specified which is pretty much where I would be looking at.
I certainly will do. I’m in no great hurry myself as I’m waiting on a Marantz receiver and 2 channel power amp to arrive. But the valve pre-amp is definitely next on the list so I thought I’d put the feelers out.

The Croft Acoustics ones sound really interesting, I may have to track one down to have a demo.
 

bluedroog

Well-known Member
Yeah the Crofts are beautiful sounding. Proper cottage industry Hi-Fi, bit of an eccentric is our Glenn. Doesn’t believe in circuit boards for hifi so does all point to point wiring, prefers dual mono volume pots (although you can custom order single stereo pot), units arrive in a generic box with absolutely no product literature and he downs tools and stops producing during the cricket season.

It just him on his own I believe, but he’s a proper enthusiast and knows his stuff. Can’t imagine he’ll go on working too many more years but once he retires, I’m assuming the brand does too. The resale price I got on my 6 yo unit was nearly 80% retail I paid, I imagine they’ll be quite collectible one day.

I used mine with a Quad 909. I did need the gain reduced slightly in the Croft for a better match (something the dealer did gratis) but boy what an amp pairing.

Like I said, if you can forgo the bells and whistles and don’t mind the rather utilitarian looks, you are not likely to be disappointed with the performance.

Only got rid of mine to find a streamer and I’m all digital sources using a DAC to attenuate volume.
 

Jampot90

Active Member
By any sensible measure valve phono stages at budget prices shouldn't work:) The input voltage is tiny and the gain stages may very well amplify noise in the circuit along with the signal.

Niche items like the Croft recommended do seem to overcome the issue despite the odds as does the Haden Boardman 331/3 I have, another example of -
proper cottage industry Hi-Fi
Pound for pound a decent solid state phono stage should beat a valve phono stage but the ultimate arbiter (as in all things hifi) is your ears, if you like it, all is good.

By buying used and carefully, you should be able to move a piece of equipment on with little loss and try something else until you achieve nirvana.

Jim
 

zombionicdoom

Active Member
By any sensible measure valve phono stages at budget prices shouldn't work:) The input voltage is tiny and the gain stages may very well amplify noise in the circuit along with the signal.

Niche items like the Croft recommended do seem to overcome the issue despite the odds as does the Haden Boardman 331/3 I have, another example of -

Pound for pound a decent solid state phono stage should beat a valve phono stage but the ultimate arbiter (as in all things hifi) is your ears, if you like it, all is good.

By buying used and carefully, you should be able to move a piece of equipment on with little loss and try something else until you achieve nirvana.

Jim
You make a very good point about solid state vs valve and how it sounds to you personally and that’s what’s got me to where I’m at. My Rega is certainly a better pre-amp but it’s just not as exciting.

This is also why I’d be intrigued to hear a much better valve pre-amp than my ‘Fosi Audio’ which was £69.00 from Amazon!
 

Chalklands

Active Member
I bought a Fosi Audio pre-amp about a week ago. Very impressed with it. However, as I have until the end of Jan to return it (I bought it off Amazon). Just intrigued if the Pro-Ject Box S2 would take the sound to another level? Any thoughts?
 

zombionicdoom

Active Member
I bought a Fosi Audio pre-amp about a week ago. Very impressed with it. However, as I have until the end of Jan to return it (I bought it off Amazon). Just intrigued if the Pro-Ject Box S2 would take the sound to another level? Any thoughts?
This is also something that I’d be interested in finding out. I have to say though after a brief fling with the Fosi I’ve now gone back to my trusty Rega. I tested them across a variety of different albums back to back and also against the built in phono pre-amp on the Audiolab and the Rega was definitely the best and most consistent choice across the board with a lot more clarity, nuance and depth.
 

andycc72

Active Member
I’ve just finished trialing a valve phono stage in my set up. Absolutely loved it so i bought it. It’s definitely better than the one in the Lyngdorf 1120 which in turn was better then the built-in one in my Technics SL1500C.

It added a slight touch of warmth without being at all syrupy, improved on what I thought was already very good imaging and added timbre across the full range.

It was built by one of the people behind the Bigbottle phono stages. A really good addition to my set-up and my first foray into tubes/valves.
 

simon194

Well-known Member
I bought a Fosi Audio pre-amp about a week ago. Very impressed with it. However, as I have until the end of Jan to return it (I bought it off Amazon). Just intrigued if the Pro-Ject Box S2 would take the sound to another level? Any thoughts?
I've got a Pro-Ject Tubebox S2 and love the sound of it.

Unlike it's predecessor, rolling the tubes alters the sound you get from it. I think I must have tested it with at least 6 pairs of tubes before settling on some Genalex Gold Lions because they produced a flatter response compared to the original tubes supplied with it.
 

Chalklands

Active Member
I'm pretty new to the whole phono pre-amp thing. I've got a NAD PP1 which I've had for years, although I only started playing vinyl again a few months ago after over 10 years of just playing CDs. Earlier in the summer I bought an internal phono board for my Arcam Alpha 10, but I'm keen to try different alternatives. Had the Fosi for over a week now and pleased with it so far. however I'd like to do a proper test with different options.

My problem is, if I play something through, say the Fosi, and then compare it with the internal Arcam phono board, by the time I've swapped the cables around, my ears have forgotten what the previous amp sounded like! Last week I ordered a 4 in 2 out switcher box from amazon, which should be here by early Dec according to amazon. So hopefully I'll be able to test two amps side by side and through elimination decide what sounds better.

I've also heard that the iFi Zen is worth a listen to. So many options! Any opinions on that?

Re Tubes for tube amps. How do you tell how many 'prongs' a tube has from the description/model number. The tubes on the Fosi have 7, is the Pro-ject the same?

I was also hoping there might be some Black Friday deals over here in the UK for the Pro-ject, but I haven't seen any so far.
 
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DT79

Well-known Member
I'm pretty new to the whole phono pre-amp thing. I've got a NAD PP1 which I've had for years, although I only started playing vinyl again a few months ago after over 10 years of just playing CDs. Earlier in the summer I bought an internal phono board for my Arcam Alpha 10, but I'm keen to try different alternatives. Had the Fosi for over a week now and pleased with it so far. however I'd like to do a proper test with different options.

My problem is, if I play something through, say the Fosi, and then compare it with the internal Arcam phono board, by the time I've swapped the cables around, my ears have forgotten what the previous amp sounded like! Last week I ordered a 4 in 2 out switcher box from amazon, which should be here by early Dec according to amazon. So hopefully I'll be able to test two amps side by side and through elimination decide what sounds better.

I've also heard that the iFi Zen is worth a listen to. So many options! Any opinions on that?

Re Tubes for tube amps. How do you tell how many 'prongs' a tube has from the description/model number. The tubes on the Fosi have 7, is the Pro-ject the same?

I was also hoping there might be some Black Friday deals over here in the UK for the Pro-ject, but I haven't seen any so far.
I have the same issue with comparisons because of the time it takes to switch between things. I think it’s just as valid (necessary even) to take your time a spend a good period of time listening to each option and let a longer term opinion form.

You need to find out what specific valves are required for each position in each piece of valve gear, it’s not just about it having the right number of prongs.
 

Chalklands

Active Member
I have the same issue with comparisons because of the time it takes to switch between things. I think it’s just as valid (necessary even) to take your time a spend a good period of time listening to each option and let a longer term opinion form.

You need to find out what specific valves are required for each position in each piece of valve gear, it’s not just about it having the right number of prongs.
Thanks for the reply.
How does one find the specific valves required for a particular amp? Sorry if this is a basic question!
 

musicphil

Active Member
I'm pretty new to the whole phono pre-amp thing. I've got a NAD PP1 which I've had for years, although I only started playing vinyl again a few months ago after over 10 years of just playing CDs. Earlier in the summer I bought an internal phono board for my Arcam Alpha 10, but I'm keen to try different alternatives. Had the Fosi for over a week now and pleased with it so far. however I'd like to do a proper test with different options.

My problem is, if I play something through, say the Fosi, and then compare it with the internal Arcam phono board, by the time I've swapped the cables around, my ears have forgotten what the previous amp sounded like! Last week I ordered a 4 in 2 out switcher box from amazon, which should be here by early Dec according to amazon. So hopefully I'll be able to test two amps side by side and through elimination decide what sounds better.

I've also heard that the iFi Zen is worth a listen to. So many options! Any opinions on that?

Re Tubes for tube amps. How do you tell how many 'prongs' a tube has from the description/model number. The tubes on the Fosi have 7, is the Pro-ject the same?

I was also hoping there might be some Black Friday deals over here in the UK for the Pro-ject, but I haven't seen any so far.
The Fosi will have a certain tube fitted( I have no idea which but it should in the manual)
There will be alternative tubes available so you could try rolling.
As for the iFi Zen, it is extremely good and at a silly price, as I said elsewhere it has sat in a $100,000 system and not been embarrassed.
As for getting experience on Tubes, PM me, I might be able to give you some insights of truly great tube amps.
 

DT79

Well-known Member
Thanks for the reply.
How does one find the specific valves required for a particular amp? Sorry if this is a basic question!
As said by @musicphil the valve type will be listed in the spec
 

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