Do I need an upgraded phono stage?

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Deleted member 108165

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Gents, my Marantz amp has an MM stage built-in but I'm just wondering if this can be bettered by an external stage?

I'm not venturing into the realms of MC yet as I'm happy with MM at the mo, but of course it would be good to future-proof so a MM/MC stage would possibly be a better option. I read good things about the Trichord Dino and the Rega Aria, would these be overkill for my system and if so what would you recommend accordingly?

Currently running MP300 in the Marantz with the possibility of upgrading to the MP500 in the not too distant future.
 
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Deleted member 108165

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Was hoping that you would reply Mark as I have been an avid follower of your vinyl playback upgrade path, you're an honest guy and I admire that. Thank you. Would you say that your move from MM to MC has been night-day difference for you or more of a subtle change.

Just to add: As my phono stage is currently occupied if I wanted to connect an additional TT to line-level input would a cheap MM stage be good enough to match the one in the Marantz, (eg. Project Phonobox)? I've tried a splitter but it didn't work - just introduced an unwanted hum and interfered with the signal strength.
 
DougK said:
Was hoping that you would reply Mark as I have been an avid follower of your vinyl playback upgrade path, you're an honest guy and I admire that. Thank you. Would you say that your move from MM to MC has been night-day difference for you or more of a subtle change.

Just to add: As my phono stage is currently occupied if I wanted to connect an additional TT to line-level input would a cheap MM stage be good enough to match the one in the Marantz, (eg. Project Phonobox)? I've tried a splitter but it didn't work - just introduced an unwanted hum and interfered with the signal strength.
Mark talks sense. The only other reason you might need an external phono stage is if you ever decide to upgrade your amp. Many don't come with inbuilt phono stages these days so it would give you far greater choice in amplifiers.

The Project Phonobox or a Cambridge Preamp may be equivalent to that found in the Marantz but I couldn't be positive about this.
 
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Cheers, Al, much appreciated as always *smile*
 

BigH

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I would not buy a new one at around £600-£800, Dinos come up fairly often used on ebay for around £300. If you want one for a 2nd TT then a used Camb can be had for about £40. Or if you want an upgrade for around £140 you could look into Angle Audio, they will be made to suit your cartridge, gets good reviews. Anyway not much to lose, if they do not suit you can sell them with little loss.
 
BigH said:
I would not buy a new one at around £600-£800, Dinos come up fairly often used on ebay for around £300. If you want one for a 2nd TT then a used Camb can be had for about £40. Or if you want an upgrade for around £140 you could look into Angle Audio, they will be made to suit your cartridge, gets good reviews. Anyway not much to lose, if they do not suit you can sell them with little loss.
True. If you're sort of experimenting and not sure exactly what you're getting then second-hand is the way to go. There's not a lot to go wrong with these devices so a well known and regarded make would be easy to move on if it doesn't do exactly what you want.
 

knaithrover

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I've just upgraded from a basic Pro-ject Phono Box to a Pro-ject Tube Box (my amp doesn't have a built in phono stage) and the difference is significant - much wider and deeper sound and a lot more refined.
 
Feb 18, 2015
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Hi Doug.I would say the move from mm to mc was a worthwhile path to take...I wouldn't say it's night and day different between the two carts I have experience of but they're is a bit more of everything although my 2m blue did sound a bit more open and it took time to for me to appreciate the benefits of the at 33ptg2...also I went through these changes rather more quickly than I maybe should have.and didn't fully get used to each incremental upgrade ..from new turntable to cartridge to new stage then another cart(mc)and then the never connected psu for the trichord dino...but each step has let me hear further into the recording and I love the absolute silence when a piece of music has space in it,also placement of certain instruments and vocals (on some records)seem to have changed slightly and the extra detail retrieval is another plus.I have not heard the nags but they're notoriety is second to none regarding mm carts within this site.So I'm not sure how far up the ladder with a moving coil you'd need to go to better that mp 300 plus the outlay for a decent stage...you could /will be looking at North of £1000 for sure.But once you have a decent stage the door opens up to a whole new world of options for cartridges.

I reckon just about any phono stage over £60 will be the equal of the on board stage in your amp but if you can find a used project phono box se...that'll do nicely as it also has dip switches that'll let you dip your toe into mc territory...although how competent it would be is another issue but it's a great little mm stage.unfortunatley I sold mine and ended up getting more cash than what I paid for it new.that says it all really.

Also re the upgrade ladder..it seems to me over the last year or so reading various threads...some people's expectations of any upgrade are a bit high and only dissatisfaction is the end result...I knew when I started from the beginning of last year with my whole system that it would be only incremental changes to the overall sound quality and I know for sure that it's my lovely little pmc's holding everything back...not that they're bad.they're excellent but a 23 or 24 would give me so much more depth and scale...but alas I live in a flat with neighbours so this is not an option for me at the moment.lol.
 
Mark Rose-Smith said:
Hi Doug.I would say the move from mm to mc was a worthwhile path to take...I wouldn't say it's night and day different between the two carts I have experience of but they're is a bit more of everything although my 2m blue did sound a bit more open and it took time to for me to appreciate the benefits of the at 33ptg2...also I went through these changes rather more quickly than I maybe should have.and didn't fully get used to each incremental upgrade ..from new turntable to cartridge to new stage then another cart(mc)and then the never connected psu for the trichord dino...but each step has let me hear further into the recording and I love the absolute silence when a piece of music has space in it,also placement of certain instruments and vocals (on some records)seem to have changed slightly and the extra detail retrieval is another plus.I have not heard the nags but they're notoriety is second to none regarding mm carts within this site.So I'm not sure how far up the ladder with a moving coil you'd need to go to better that mp 300 plus the outlay for a decent stage...you could /will be looking at North of £1000 for sure.But once you have a decent stage the door opens up to a whole new world of options for cartridges.

I reckon just about any phono stage over £60 will be the equal of the on board stage in your amp but if you can find a used project phono box se...that'll do nicely as it also has dip switches that'll let you dip your toe into mc territory...although how competent it would be is another issue but it's a great little mm stage.unfortunatley I sold mine and ended up getting more cash than what I paid for it new.that says it all really.

Also re the upgrade ladder..it seems to me over the last year or so reading various threads...some people's expectations of any upgrade are a bit high and only dissatisfaction is the end result...I knew when I started from the beginning of last year with my whole system that it would be only incremental changes to the overall sound quality and I know for sure that it's my lovely little pmc's holding everything back...not that they're bad.they're excellent but a 23 or 24 would give me so much more depth and scale...but alas I live in a flat with neighbours so this is not an option for me at the moment.lol.
Way to go. I can only applaud your acknowledgement that changes will be gradual and not a giant step that tends to demoralize some people. Progressive, planned, upgrades, like you have made is the way to go without an initial outlay of silly money.

Would you agree the cartridge upgrade is the biggest step you can make, whether moving from a moving coil at that price range was beneficial or do you think it might have been the phono stage itself?

Just curious, as my original advice might need revising.
 
Feb 18, 2015
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I would concur with that Al..the Cartridge does make the most difference...I could have saved a bit of cash with keeping my project phono box se and bought a very good mm cart (nagaoka mp500).Although I would have been forever stuck to mm's but now I can decide whichever way I choose and now I believe maybe my next cart could be a good mm as the stylus is so much less expensive to replace...but you already know that and have advised me so in the not so distant past.lol.but you live,you buy and you learn.ps my trichord with it's ncpsu does look more impressive than the project phono box se.lol.

also just noticed that bit at the end of your post Al about revised way of thinking.....It all depends on ones end goal and overall budget wheather they stay with moving magnet or go on to moving coil,I've still got much to learn and carts to listen to that I doubt I'd be the one to ask such a question but I definitely did get a better sound from the trichord with the 2m blue than the project..but at £400 price difference I wouldn't expect anything less.but keeping the project with a £500 mm cart I'm sure would have been the way to go if I had no desire to try mc's in the future.I think I've answered your question.lol.
 
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Big H, Al, knaithrover, and Mark, thank you all so much for your input. Mark, thank you kindly for your precious time spent on writing your detailed explanation of your upgrade. It is all very much appreciated I can assure you *good*

The PMC's may be holding you back but I'm sure it's with a rather large grin on your face *biggrin* The small PMC's may have their faults but their payback is in spades of pleasure. Mine never cease to amaze me *man_in_love*
 

Waxy

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Mark Rose-Smith said:
Only worth getting a dedicated stage if you're going to go for mc,you might get a subtle upgrade with a change just now but not worth the outlay if your keeping with moving magnet cartridges for a while yet.
My pre/power amps are solid state, with a decent internal MM stage. I wanted to try a valve phono, so bought a dedicated stage. It was definitely worth it. I haven't gone to an MC cartridge, and I don't feel the need to.
 
Waxy said:
Mark Rose-Smith said:
Only worth getting a dedicated stage if you're going to go for mc,you might get a subtle upgrade with a change just now but not worth the outlay if your keeping with moving magnet cartridges for a while yet.
My pre/power amps are solid state, with a decent internal MM stage. I wanted to try a valve phono, so bought a dedicated stage. It was definitely worth it. I haven't gone to an MC cartridge, and I don't feel the need to.
My thanks to all for responses. It's as I thought, each to their own, but then again it always was. All I can do is offer my advise and hopefully some will not fall into the very expensive trap this hobby (?) can become. These sort of items are extremely difficult to audition and obtain. Hopefully some advice from someone that has been there will be listened to by a few.
 
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The MP500 sourced from Japan is becoming as rare as rocking horse sh*t, all the usual suppliers don't have it for sale at the moment and there's no way I would pay UK prices. Fortunately I already have the cart so it's just a stylus swap, but even they're becoming hard to find from Japan.

On the discussion of upgrades the two most resounding successes I've had have been with cartridges and speakers. Of course you need the right kit to connect them to but once they're on it's game over as far as I'm concerned. I was totally underwhelmed with my upgrade from an entry level Marantz system to the Pearl Lites until I put PMC's on the end of it. I was an Ortofon fanboy until I bought the Marantz TT which enabled me to fit the Nagaoka. There is no looking back on either fronts for me, nor any real nagging dissatisfaction to make me want to look any further forward either. Quite a contented and happy bunny at the mo, just tinkering around the edges now and enjoying the music.
 

ifor

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Mark Rose-Smith said:
Only worth getting a dedicated stage if you're going to go for mc,you might get a subtle upgrade with a change just now but not worth the outlay if your keeping with moving magnet cartridges for a while yet.
I disagree hugely.
 
Feb 18, 2015
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That is probably one of the reasons I opted for trying a moving coil . those damn nags are hard to get and pretty expensive.And yes Doug the 21's sound damn fine and give me great pleasure and I can't really complain about their depth and scale for their size it's quite amazing really.they just don't do bass extension very well..my previous b&w cm5's were very good at that for standmounts but they can't hold a candle to the pmc's high frequency response and transparency,oh and the b&w's sounded like they had a wet cloth over them compared to the 21's.lol
 
Feb 18, 2015
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Ifor..Err.why do you HUGELY disagree.I'm going from my experience and it definitely isn't worth shelling out £500 or more on a phono stage if you're amp already has a mm stage on board,unless you are going to spend a good chunk of cash on moving coil carts...I'm not saying there is no improvement using moving magnet carts With a dedicated stage...there is....but imhe it's just not good enough to warrant such an outlay.Although everyone's setup is different and I'm sure my turntable,pre amp and amp /speakers will perform differently to others....making it all subjective at the end of the day.
 

ifor

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I say it because I use MM and have no intention of ever moving to MC. My integrated amp has what others have described as "a very good phono stage". People on this forum, and in this thread, suggested it wasn't worth investing in a better off-board phono stage. They were wrong. Without a doubt, the best bit of HiFi kit I have ever bought is my current MM phono stage. I had a two week home loan prior to taking the plunge and the smile never left my face. Absolutely superb!
 
Feb 18, 2015
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OK.thats cool and my experience is different although I came from a dedicated phono stage all be it a budget unit and was/am assuming that it is the equivalent of a decent mm unit on board the average integrated amp.Maybe onboard stages aren't so decent after all.
 
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Deleted member 108165

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Many thanks to all contributors. I have time on my side so I'll keep my eye open for a used one on the usual sites and report back with my findings.
 

ifor

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DougK said:
Many thanks to all contributors. I have time on my side so I'll keep my eye open for a used one on the usual sites and report back with my findings.
... keeping an eye on the Graham Slee forum. Quite a few Reflex M owners have upgraded to the new Accession phono stage and others will no doubt do the same. It's one of the few places you're likely to see a second hand Reflex M for sale. People tend to hang on to them. While you're watching and waiting you could arrange a two week home loan of any of the Slee phono stages.
 
Ivor's comments may be valid, he is known to be a Graham Slee fanboy. ;-)

However the point has been made that if you were to spend as much upgrading your cartridge as you would buying a new Reflex M then you'd have a much better system.

It sort of makes sense if you buy second-hand, if you can get a really good deal, but then again there are better options. A Tom Evans Microgroove will knock the Reflex M into a cocked-hat both measured spec and sonically. Before you ask I have owned both.

Perhaps the OP could try one or the other to decide for himself, neither should prove too difficult to sell on.
 

BigH

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The 2 week home trial with the Slee is probably a good idea to see the difference. Slee, Dino and Dynavector all have their fans. There are sites such as VinylEngine where these things are debated.
 

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