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post #1 of 6 Old 03-19-14, 07:27 AM Thread Starter
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Question Phono preamp - digital?

Hello all,

I currently have an Onkyo TX-SR876 which I use for both movies and music. One of the sources connected to it is a pro-ject xpressionIII comfort turntable (somewhat comparable to the current debut carbon, I think: carbon tonearm, ortofon 2m red). It is currently connected to the phono stage of the onkyo, but this seems to be somewhat noisy (when nothing is playing, and volume control around -15db, the noise floor is markedly higher on the phono input then on other inputs, seemingly even with some low level hum), so I was thinking of adding an external phono preamp.

Now, because this receiver has Audyssey etc (which I like) I suppose it does all that kind of processing in the digital domain, so I think all analog sources are at a certain point converted to digital? Therefore, I was thinking it might make sense to try to find a preamp which is actually an ADC, so to input digitally via either optical or coax from the preamp into the receiver to get a higher quality.

However, it seems difficult to find such a beasty: almost all digital preamps output to usb exclusively it seems, or are quite expensive...

Does what I am looking for exist for a budget of say 500€? Does it make sense? Or is the ADC conversion in the Onkyo good enough, and should I put the money towards a better analog preamp then an preamp with digital out? I have little experience with the (quality of the) analog inputs on the Onkyo, as most is connected digitally (tv box, squeezebox,...) or only "listened" to uncritically (wii)...
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post #2 of 6 Old 03-19-14, 06:18 PM
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Re: Phono preamp - digital?

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post #3 of 6 Old 03-20-14, 11:52 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Phono preamp - digital?

thanks for that - looks interesting!

According to this article:

. Although there are both line- and phono-level inputs, Scott Rust of MSB warned me that the phono facilities are vestigial and shouldn’t be used.
though the phono stage isn't very good, so as far as quality upgrade that would limit me to using this as an ADC with another "normal" phonostage...

I might then buy a phonostage first and connect it to the Onkyo ADC, and look for a better ADC later (allowing the total budget for both to grow ;-) ). I know there exist some which contain a headphone amp, so that would allow me to compare the "pure analog" output of the TT/phonostage to the digitized output for the receiver, possibly allowing me already to better judge wether an extra ADC would be useful.

I also found the M2tech Joplin which can do the phono-to-digital, but it's a bit too expensive (> 2500 )for my tastes, and I don't really need all the eq curves etc.

Then there's the - around 2000€. Already more in the "might be able to save up for it" territory...

Last edited by TRiSS; 03-20-14 at 12:11 PM.
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post #4 of 6 Old 03-26-14, 11:30 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Phono preamp - digital?

In case anyone cares: :-)

I decided to go with a Musical Fidelity V90-LPS for the phono stage, and a Behringer src2496 to do the ADC conversion, both units that according to what I read (no chance to audition) are better then what their price might make you think. The behringer also has a headphone out, which could come in handy, and can also be used as dac, sample rate convertor, etc. This also allows me to upgrade either component should upgrade-itis strike :-)

Now just wait till it all arrives and listen :-)
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post #5 of 6 Old 03-26-14, 02:36 PM
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Re: Phono preamp - digital?

It will be good to hear your impressions of the devices. Please keep us posted.

Silence is golden but duct tape is silver.

DIY completed:
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post #6 of 6 Old 03-28-14, 11:18 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Phono preamp - digital?

Ok, so I have the turntable output to the musical fidelity v90-lps, and that outputs into the analog in of the src2496 (rca to xlr). The src in turn is connected via coax to the onkyo, and outputs 24/96 (dither off). Only the behringer has a gain control, so I use that to get the analog input as hot as possible without the 0db (clipping point) led coming on. Cables are "procab" ref or classic, if anyone cares :-) Procab is a studio/pa cable brand, so quality should be decent enough (which is all I personally care about in a cable - not trying to start a cable debate here).

I did have a small problem with the Behringer when I turned it first on: I couldn't get the digital input or output to work, and couldn't control any of the settings on the digital out side. I was thinking it was defective and I would have to send it back, but then I found how to do a factory reset (if I remember correctly: keep pushed emphasis and dither, and turn the power on). This solved the problem. I don't get why they couldn't put that in the manual though - but I guess up to some point you do get what you pay for!

The src2496 isn't the nicest looker, but if you can put it so that you only see the front panel (aluminum, with a lot of leds), it is doable imho :-). I do like watching the level meter flicker up and down though :-)

After listening to a record or 4-5 (Hotel California, The Doors, Channel zero's Unsafe, Alabama Shakes), as far far as sound goes (warning: I'm not very good at audio-speak ;-) ): there definitely is an improvement over connecting the turntable directly to the onkyo phono stage. The noise floor is definitely lower, for example - with something connected to the onkyo phono stage a slight "hum" was audible when no music was playing. Volume is also higher: I have to set the volume control a lot lower.

I also find this setup to be an improvement as far as imaging /soundstage goes: it is much easier to place instruments/singers, and sound seems to become more "loose" from the speakers. The fact that bass seems to be a bit tighter and more controlled may help that fact.
There is more "room" ("more airy"?) in the playback, a bit more detail in the background things.

The result might not be considered earth shattering (eg it does not make me rave about hearing flecks of spit from the singer ;-) ), but all in all I'm happy in light of what this improvement has cost me. I enjoy how it sounds, and isn't that the most important?

I am a little bit curious as to how much of the improvement is the phono stage, and how much is the better ADC by the behringer. If curiosity wins it (temporarily, for sure) from just enjoying I may well try to connect the V90-lps directly to a line-in on the onkyo to compare. I may also try to compare the headphone output of the Onkyo to the one on the Behringer, time permitting.

I'm not really interested in the dac (Onkyo builtin should be good enough) or upsampler at the moment.

If anyone wants to know anything specific, shoot!
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