What to buy and why. This video also includes a hardware overview based upon varying price points
Paul Rigby looks at broad issues regarding buying a Phono Amplifier. A guide for all price points.
Then examines a range of Phono Amplifiers from differing price points.
Mainly aimed at the beginner, hopefully everyone can take something away from this one. You can also read a host of in-depth phono amplifier reviews on this site, of course. Examples include the Huei from Chord, the Blue Horizon Profono, the intriguing Median from Iota, Moon’s 110LP V2 and many more!
[Check out my Patreon Page at www.patreon.com/audiophileman, for exclusive postings! I publish regular update on this site. Check out this example.]
To see the video guide, click:
john keenan23rd January 2021 at 12:13 pm
i think now and do not envision going after a new amp dedicated for phono now i have hit the sweet spot with an amazing purchase last year a vintage amp JVC JA-S222, i have always been a Yamaha guy, i had the Yamaha as-301 with the Wharfedale d330 floor standers now they sounded good but i was at first in the thinking why has Wharfedale got a great name as they did not really excite the senses, that changed hugely with the jvc amp they were elevated to a high warm pleasing level beyond expectations
Rorie23rd January 2021 at 4:45 pm
Way tooo long ! But I suppose the beginners really need to know this stuff first. Thanks for doing this.
Christopher Simmonds23rd January 2021 at 10:50 pm
Great review Paul and very useful, but I have a question, about transformers. I currently have an Ortofon MC Quintet Blue which I bought under Ortofon’s exchange scheme. For years I have used MC cartridges and in the last century I laid out the princely sum of about £75 for a Dynavector DV6A silver wound stepup transformer with balanced or unbalanced output It still sounds fine but has to be sited carefully to avoid hum. I’ve only ever used built in phono stages and now have a Quad Artera Pre, but I’d like your opinion of whether to buy a good phono MM amp or, sell the transformer and get a dedicated MC phono amp to replace it, thankyou.
Paul Rigby26th January 2021 at 2:26 pm
Thanks Christopher – what would be your budget for a proposed phono amp?
Chris Simmonds27th January 2021 at 8:45 am
Well I am enjoying my new Quad Altera Pre, pure analogue preamp and it’s rather good phono stage. The Quad phono input easily beats my old Pro-Ject Phono box and it’s created a bit of a dilemma. I think I’d have to spend a fair lump of cash to get a better one. If I could better it considerably (maybe you can review the Quad Altera Pre) I think my budget would be £500 – £750
Paul Rigby27th January 2021 at 1:23 pm
Hi Chris – I think this model offers great value and sound. Well worth a look: https://theaudiophileman.com/110-phono-amplifier-review-moon/
Chris Simmonds27th January 2021 at 4:44 pm
Hi Paul, thanks for the recommendation. Will let you know how it goes. I believe Noel Keyword had reviewed the Quad Altera Pre and found that the phono stage was very good but not definitive. Let’s see how the Moon compares, thanks.
steve murrell25th January 2021 at 1:44 am
Too many words mate…..if you go into a store and ask for a phono pre amp, you will be shown a phono amp. What a rave! Also, I don’t believe you mentioned once that vintage amps will have a phono input, so a phono amp won’t be needed. You assume that all your viewers have modern amps bereft of this input. Mistake…..many people still have vintage gear and prefer it over newer ‘digital only’ gear.
This vid could have been half the length it ended up being…..but it was still good. Can’t knock anyone who promotes the playing of LP’s too much!
Paul Rigby26th January 2021 at 12:09 pm
Hi Steve – that’s not what I was referring to. Many people approach me with advice on a ‘pre amp’. Not a ‘phono pre amp’.
Also, all of my introductory Buyer’s Guide videos are long because I try to be thorough and address the salient points. Especially as these video are principally aimed at beginners – as stated in the description. There’s nothing so worthless as a Buyer’s Guide that skimps on (what I would stand by as) essential information for the sake of trying to keep to a standard 10 minutes or so: form over function. We’re also then into chocolate tea pot territory. I did include a Time Stamp if all you required was a hardware overview while, for those who are not beginners, the fast forward button is readily available.
steve murrell25th January 2021 at 1:47 am
Oop’s, should have watched the whole thing before my above comment. 🙂
Ian Barber25th January 2021 at 1:34 pm
Love your Buyer’s Guide to phono amplifiers, both the first part and the hardware part. It’s taken me a while to get through it all ( too many interuptions0, but I got there in the end just now.
I noticed that there is an awful lot of editing in the first part, anyway, so it must have taken an age to complete getting it just right, but you did. I am borrowing a used Primare R32 tomorrow, for a few days to see how it goes with my replay system, and I hope to post my thoughts on this full-sized and weighty unit, whether I decide to buy it , or not. It is a very heavy ( 8.6kg ) bulky unit, and I will have to re-arrange my 8 tier rack to get it to fit-in. I am looking forward to hearing a high-end phono amplifier and seeing what effect it has on the sound quality( hoping for chalk & cheese ) in my middle ground system. Cheers Ian
Paul Rigby26th January 2021 at 11:59 am
That’s just my style, Ian – the chopping thing. It maintains a pace. Some like it, others don’t but that’s the way I prefer to produce my vids. And sure, please let us know how you get on.
Rob30th March 2021 at 11:39 am
Another excellent video. I think you are becoming more like the “Rick Stein” of the Audiophile world!
I must say valves are the way to go with phonostages. The latter part of last year I traded in my Goldnote PH10 for a Modwright ph9. As good as the Goldnote is , the move to valves is a leap and the first for me. The Modwright ph9 needs reviewing here. It’s simply stunning.
Paul Rigby30th March 2021 at 7:15 pm
Thanks Rob – quite a compliment 🙂 Agreed on valves.
Manny27th September 2021 at 6:36 pm
I was looking into 3 phono amps:
-Schiit Mani Phono Amp for MC and MM
-Pro-ject Phono Box
-Rega Fono Mini A2D
The Rega Fono Mini is what I originally intended on buying with my set up of Rega P1, Q Acoustic 3020i Speakers and Cambridge Audio AXA35. However, it has been sold out for a while now and I can’t get my hands on one.
Which would you choose between the Schiit Mani and the Pro-ject box? And is the Schiit Mani better than the Rega?
Paul Rigby28th September 2021 at 10:49 pm
The Mani is a great design and would be my design of choice, Manny.
Ashley23rd March 2022 at 11:47 am
I have an old (80’s) Linn LP12 running on a Valhalla supply an Ittok arm and a Hanna SHL cartridge. But, my phono amp is a bog standard Project and seems to be holding everything back. I’m reluctant (well my Wife is) to spend much over £200 and am therefore looking at Cambridge Audio Alva Duo and the Rega Fono MC. On paper rather similar, so which one should I choose and why? Thanks in advance
Paul Rigby23rd March 2022 at 2:22 pm
Probably the Rega in terms of overall performance but also look at the iFi Zen Phono and Graham Slee’s Communicator too. All are recommended. I don’t think you’d be disappointed with any of them. There’s some slight variance in price there in case your budget is tight.
Ashley23rd March 2022 at 2:55 pm
Excellent, thanks. I did watch an American review of the iFi Zen and heard of GS’s reputation. The problem for me is getting in front of them. I only really want to review them at home attached to my set up. I wouldn’t trust myself to make a choice listening to them in different places with different setups to make even a subjective decision. I will go with your recommendation. After all, there’s always next years budget. 🙂
Paul Rigby23rd March 2022 at 3:28 pm
Talk to a friendly dealer. In these pandemic days, home demos are far more common than they ever were. Ask a dealer for such a thing. If he wants you as a long-term customer and he has his head screwed on then he’ll discuss it.
Ashley24th March 2022 at 12:54 pm
Have the Raga turning up tomorrow. But it has the “dreaded” dip switches. Any tips on matching it to the Hana SH?
Paul Rigby24th March 2022 at 3:56 pm
Initially, have a look at the Hana’s spec sheet and see if you can match it to the DIP switches. Once you’ve had a go, if you have any issues from there, give me a shout.
Ashley24th March 2022 at 5:46 pm
OK Much appreciated.
Ashley25th March 2022 at 11:15 am
OK, it’s arrived. I have the Hana specs and the dip switch settings and haven’t the first clue how the two marry up.
This is the Rega specs:
1 and 2 off = 400Ω
1 on = 100Ω
2 on = 150Ω
1 and 2 on = 70Ω
3 off = 1000pF
3 on = 4300pF
4 off = 63.5dB
4 on = 69.5dB
And the Hana SH specs:
Output Level 2mv/1kHz
Output Balance <1.5dB/1 KHz
Vertical Tracking Force 2g
Trackability 70 µm/2g
Channel Separation 28dB/1kHz
Frequency Response 15-32,000Hz
Suggested Load Impedance 47kΩ
Cartridge Weight 5g
From that where would you start?
Thanks in advance.
Paul Rigby25th March 2022 at 12:08 pm
I always set up phono amps by ear. I only use the spec sheet as a rough guide so I’d start with 100 Ohms, 63.5 gain and 1000pf and then experiment from there with each setting to see how you like it. A lot of people can become animated by the ‘correct’ settings but the only ‘correct’ settings are the numbers your ear likes. So spend a day listening to the settings. A-B each one. Take time to get to know each setting then flip to the next one along and see if that makes any difference, then go the next one, etc.
Mr Ashley Carr25th March 2022 at 3:46 pm
Thanks Paul, good advice. I read this starting point as 1 on the other 3 off, correct? Is it OK to switch whilst the record is playing?
Paul Rigby25th March 2022 at 4:34 pm
That’s right and no, switch off your main amp before you flick the phono amp switches.
Ashley & Jacqui Carr25th March 2022 at 5:19 pm
Phew, glad I waited for your response. Rega advise turning on the phono amp before the main amp, I guess for similar reasons. I was immediately impressed with this setting after listening to the default. What direction do you recommend for next steps?
One silly question. Have you ever used different settings for left & right just to see what happens? 🙂
Paul Rigby26th March 2022 at 2:42 pm
What I meant was that, if you are going to throw switches on your phono amp, don’t do it while the main amp is on or you risk sending spikes to your speakers which might damage them. That’s different from a general ‘switch on’ sequence as advocated by Rega.
And no, I haven’t done the left/right thing. Not sure what the benefit would be, to be honest.
Ashley25th March 2022 at 11:19 am
Forgot to mention the default settings are Left 1 and 4 on 2 and 3 off. Right is the same.
john keenan25th March 2022 at 1:00 pm
got myself a pretty neat set up, think i got it sussed real neat, jvc QL-A2 turntable (Goldring elan cartridge), jvc T-X1L tuner, Yamaha ax-9 amp, jvc XL-V241 cd player, Dali zensor 3 speakers, qed xt40i speaker cables qed performance rca leads, norstone esse hi-fi rack & norstone stylum speaker stands
Ashley26th March 2022 at 7:25 am
I love and loathe Forums in equal measure. The latter happens when just a day after your new bit of kit arrives you read, “The Rega Fono MC is not designed for high output MC’s, just low output ones. It simply has too much gain and too low ohm-settings, and the capacitance settings is far off too. Clearly not a suitable phono pre-amp for a high output MC cartridge.” Does this Swedish gentlemen, writing in 2019, know what he’s talking about? Buyers remorse is a horrible thing. 🙂