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Pre Amp with balanced analogue inputs


zenpmd

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I am looking for something to receive a balanced phono signal from my phono box. They seem very rare! Any advice?

A very open question... what is your budget, do you just need single balanced input or multiple?

 

There's literally 100s of options out there...

 

From Arcam and Cambridge Audio, Parasound, Ayre, Musical Fidelity, Rotel, Leema, McIntosh, ARC, Bryston. Pretty much every audio company you can think of especially American brands.

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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When you say from your phono box do you mean a phono preamp or do you also need the phone preamp stage included in the preamp you are looking to purchase?

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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i already have my phono stage, its balanced, so i want my pre amp to have a balanced in too. My turntable has a balanced cable out you see.

 

having said that i would quite like to conslidate phono and pre together, so if there is a good pre to consider witrh balanced phono stage input im all ears. :)

Benchmark HGC DAC2 / Ncore NC400 / Anthony Gallo Strada 2 / Anthony Gallo TR-3D Sub / Van Damme 6mm Speaker Cable

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You should set a price point IMO. Personally I would be interested in: Aesthetix, Atma Sphere and BAT starting in alphabetical order.

i already have my phono stage, its balanced, so i want my pre amp to have a balanced in too. My turntable has a balanced cable out you see.

 

having said that i would quite like to conslidate phono and pre together, so if there is a good pre to consider witrh balanced phono stage input im all ears. :)

Forrest:

Win10 i9 9900KS/GTX1060 HQPlayer4>Win10 NAA

DSD>Pavel's DSC2.6>Bent Audio TAP>

Parasound JC1>"Naked" Quad ESL63/Tannoy PS350B subs<100Hz

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As I am such a noob with turntables, can you plug a headamp straight into a phono stage without a dedicated pre amp if I only intend to use for headphone listening?

Benchmark HGC DAC2 / Ncore NC400 / Anthony Gallo Strada 2 / Anthony Gallo TR-3D Sub / Van Damme 6mm Speaker Cable

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...what is your budget...

 

Zenpmd, what part of that question did you not understand? You can buy the Moon if you want, but responses here are worthless without this knowledge.

 

As I am such a noob with turntables, can you plug a headamp straight into a phono stage without a dedicated pre amp if I only intend to use for headphone listening?

 

Yes. But let's get the signal flow right: the phono stage signal goes *into* the headphone amp. I suggest you use that term: "headphone amp" once referred to phono preamp, only recently has it come to mean headphone amp. The terms "phone amp," "phono amp," and "amp head" all have different meanings.

Cheers

Mac Mini 2012 with 2.3 GHz i5 CPU and 16GB RAM running newest OS10.9x and Signalyst HQ Player software (occasionally JRMC), ethernet to Cisco SG100-08 GigE switch, ethernet to SOtM SMS100 Miniserver in audio room, sending via short 1/2 meter AQ Cinnamon USB to Oppo 105D, feeding balanced outputs to 2x Bel Canto S300 amps which vertically biamp ATC SCM20SL speakers, 2x Velodyne DD12+ subs. Each side is mounted vertically on 3-tiered Sound Anchor ADJ2 stands: ATC (top), amp (middle), sub (bottom), Mogami, Koala, Nordost, Mosaic cables, split at the preamp outputs with splitters. All transducers are thoroughly and lovingly time aligned for the listening position.

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Zenpmd, what part of that question did you not understand? You can buy the Moon if you want, but responses here are worthless without this knowledge.

 

 

 

Yes. But let's get the signal flow right: the phono stage signal goes *into* the headphone amp. I suggest you use that term: "headphone amp" once referred to phono preamp, only recently has it come to mean headphone amp. The terms "phone amp," "phono amp," and "amp head" all have different meanings.

Cheers

 

Thanks. My budget is up to £3000.

 

At the moment, I have the Project RS Phono as my phono stage.

 

And so I could plug it directly into either of these for direct headphone listening, right?

 

Bryston Limited: BHA-1 Balanced Headphone Amplifier

 

AURALiC Taurus MKII Headphone Amplifier – Amplifiers, Macro, Reviews | TONEAudio MAGAZINE

Benchmark HGC DAC2 / Ncore NC400 / Anthony Gallo Strada 2 / Anthony Gallo TR-3D Sub / Van Damme 6mm Speaker Cable

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A phono preamp should output line level. If your headphone amp is line level in, you should be all set and should not need a traditional line stage on paper.

Thanks. My budget is up to £3000.

 

At the moment, I have the Project RS Phono as my phono stage.

 

And so I could plug it directly into either of these for direct headphone listening, right?

 

Bryston Limited: BHA-1 Balanced Headphone Amplifier

 

AURALiC Taurus MKII Headphone Amplifier – Amplifiers, Macro, Reviews | TONEAudio MAGAZINE

Forrest:

Win10 i9 9900KS/GTX1060 HQPlayer4>Win10 NAA

DSD>Pavel's DSC2.6>Bent Audio TAP>

Parasound JC1>"Naked" Quad ESL63/Tannoy PS350B subs<100Hz

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Are you requiring to use this with speakers too or just with the headphones?

 

Are you needing to connect a DAC for digital listening as well as the phono stage? Are there any other sources to be used?

 

Both those listed can take a balanced signal direct from a source such as your Pro-ject Phono Box RS.

 

Other options for a headphone amp with Balanced input include Pro-ject Head Box RS and Musical Fidelity MX HPA. Lots of other options for single input headphone amps but its not something I know well. Amplifiers & DACs for Headphones might be of help for you too.

 

As a reference, its usually helpful for people if you list all the associated equipment you have when asking such a question as well as setting an approximate budget. In this case it may be helpful for people to know what headphones you are planning to use.

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Pass Labs has some nice pre amps (phono and line) and all feature balanced outputs. I've found the used market makes them competitively priced if the retail price is too high. Well worth looking into...

Positive emotions enhance our musical experiences.

 

Synology DS213+ NAS -> Auralic Vega w/Linear Power Supply -> Auralic Vega DAC (Symposium Jr rollerball isolation) -> XLR -> Auralic Taurus Pre -> XLR -> Pass Labs XA-30.5 power amplifier (on 4" maple and 4 Stillpoints) -> Hawthorne Audio Reference K2 Speakers in MTM configuration (Symposium Jr HD rollerball isolation) and Hawthorne Audio Bass Augmentation Baffles (Symposium Jr rollerball isolation) -> Bi-amped w/ two Rythmic OB plate amps) -> Extensive Room Treatments (x2 SRL Acoustics Prime 37 diffusion plus key absorption and extensive bass trapping) and Pi Audio Uberbuss' for the front end and amplification

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Are you requiring to use this with speakers too or just with the headphones?

 

Are you needing to connect a DAC for digital listening as well as the phono stage? Are there any other sources to be used?

 

Both those listed can take a balanced signal direct from a source such as your Pro-ject Phono Box RS.

 

Other options for a headphone amp with Balanced input include Pro-ject Head Box RS and Musical Fidelity MX HPA. Lots of other options for single input headphone amps but its not something I know well. Amplifiers & DACs for Headphones might be of help for you too.

 

As a reference, its usually helpful for people if you list all the associated equipment you have when asking such a question as well as setting an approximate budget. In this case it may be helpful for people to know what headphones you are planning to use.

 

Thanks Elf. So do most phono stages actually contain the photo bit AND a pre amp then? I had no idea.

 

No other sources to be used. What I ideally want is something that I could later add a power amp too when budget allows - but for now, just headphone listening.

Benchmark HGC DAC2 / Ncore NC400 / Anthony Gallo Strada 2 / Anthony Gallo TR-3D Sub / Van Damme 6mm Speaker Cable

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Thanks Elf. So do most phono stages actually contain the photo bit AND a pre amp then? I had no idea.

Well a phono stage is a combination of some specialised filtering (which reduces the levels of the high frequencies and increases the low frequencies) as well as boosting the levels to something similar to a line level source (such as DAC or tuner, etc).

 

Beyond that, to connect a set of headphones you need something to control what signal is selected (if you have multiple devices) and to control the volume and to amplify the signal to the level required to drive the headphones. The latter two are usually a function of a headphone amplifier and some headphone amplifier will also offer a volume controlled output to a power amp for a set of speakers.

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

Link to comment
Well a phono stage is a combination of some specialised filtering (which reduces the levels of the high frequencies and increases the low frequencies) as well as boosting the levels to something similar to a line level source (such as DAC or tuner, etc).

 

Beyond that, to connect a set of headphones you need something to control what signal is selected (if you have multiple devices) and to control the volume and to amplify the signal to the level required to drive the headphones. The latter two are usually a function of a headphone amplifier and some headphone amplifier will also offer a volume controlled output to a power amp for a set of speakers.

 

Thanks. So what is the point of a dedicated pre amp? Is it to basically control the volume of several sources? I find the distinction between the Auralic Tarus pre and headamp very confusing. The pre seems to just contain one more RCA input, but its several kg heavier!

Benchmark HGC DAC2 / Ncore NC400 / Anthony Gallo Strada 2 / Anthony Gallo TR-3D Sub / Van Damme 6mm Speaker Cable

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Thanks. So what is the point of a dedicated pre amp? Is it to basically control the volume of several sources? I find the distinction between the Auralic Tarus pre and headamp very confusing. The pre seems to just contain one more RCA input, but its several kg heavier!

As you say the distinction can be a little blurred these days. Many DACs are designed to be connected directly to a power amp these days so often a pre-amp is not required, however many people find the volume control in a preamp to be of higher (sound) quality (see your recent digital vs analogue volume thread!). Also there can be a miss match between the output of a DAC and the input of a power amp which a pre-amp can deal with.

 

In addition if you have a phono system then that is unlikely to be connected directly to a power amp so a pre-amp is needed.

 

To be honest I am unsurprised if all this is confusing as in a modern system definitions have become clouded over what is required... A classic system had a source, a pre-amp and a power amp (where the pre and power amps may be combined to create an integrated amplifier). With a modern DAC and/or headphone system there are many more possible options depending on the requirements.

 

Eloise

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

Link to comment

Eloise is correct, here is another way of looking at it.

 

The output of your turntable is in millivolts, yet most of the components you plug in (CD player, tape deck, etc) all operate at roughly 1 volt (this is often referred to as line level). So the phono preamp performs the increase in voltage from 1/1000 to 1 volt AND it adjusts the frequency response based on a curve known as RIAA (Eloise explained what this did). With the phono preamp all of your sources are plug and play and you can switch among them with your preamp.

 

Technically an amplifier can run off of line level as long as you have some sort of volume control in the system. However that isn't the same thing as having a "pre amp". The preamp also isolates the inputs, maybe adds a few features, and mostly drives the proper impedance the amplifier is looking for (you like to go higher, someone correct me if I got this backwards, so a preamp with a 250 impedance Ohm output would work well with an amplifier with a 1000 Ohm impedance input. That was old school and how most seperates work today.

 

When you buy a DAC / Headphone preamp it may or may not be suitable for driving an outboard amplifier. If it was actually designed to drive an amp the output voltage would be higher (maybe as high as 5 volts, 2.7 being fairly standard) and it will have the low impedance output mentioned earlier. How do I know if what I am looking for will act as a regular preamp? Look at the specs and literature. What if mine doesn't and I hooked it up anyway? As long as the volume control attenuates the headphones AND the output to the amp it will work, however you may not be getting the best sound you could due to the impedance mismatch.

 

Eloise mentioned how cloudy this has become and as I try to explain it myself I agree. Fact is, there are some manufacturers that tossed analog outputs onto their product to act as a preamp (adding features) but really aren't, and then of course there are legit preamps that act as headphone amps and/or DACs. Do your homework.

Analog: Koetsu Rosewood > VPI Aries 3 w/SDS > EAR 834P > EAR 834L: Audiodesk cleaner

Digital Fun: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (JRMC) SOtM USB > Lynx Hilo > EAR 834L

Digital Serious: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (HQPlayer) Ethernet > SMS-100 NAA > Lampi DSD L4 G5 > EAR 834L

Digital Disc: Oppo BDP 95 > EAR 834L

Output: EAR 834L > Xilica XP4080 DSP > Odessey Stratos Mono Extreme > Legacy Aeris

Phones: EAR 834L > Little Dot Mk ii > Senheiser HD 800

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Thanks very much to the both of you. That is really clear. My benchmark talks of attenuaton so that listening level is roughly at 11 o clock or something. Is that also changing impedance to get the right match like you mention?

Benchmark HGC DAC2 / Ncore NC400 / Anthony Gallo Strada 2 / Anthony Gallo TR-3D Sub / Van Damme 6mm Speaker Cable

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Thanks very much to the both of you. That is really clear. My benchmark talks of attenuaton so that listening level is roughly at 11 o clock or something. Is that also changing impedance to get the right match like you mention?

 

The impedance will be a rating of the output (not tied to your volume control), sort of like that way speakers are rated at 8 Ohms (as an example). What you care about is that the input impedance on your amp is much much higher than the output impedance on your pre.

Analog: Koetsu Rosewood > VPI Aries 3 w/SDS > EAR 834P > EAR 834L: Audiodesk cleaner

Digital Fun: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (JRMC) SOtM USB > Lynx Hilo > EAR 834L

Digital Serious: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (HQPlayer) Ethernet > SMS-100 NAA > Lampi DSD L4 G5 > EAR 834L

Digital Disc: Oppo BDP 95 > EAR 834L

Output: EAR 834L > Xilica XP4080 DSP > Odessey Stratos Mono Extreme > Legacy Aeris

Phones: EAR 834L > Little Dot Mk ii > Senheiser HD 800

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The impedance will be a rating of the output (not tied to your volume control), sort of like that way speakers are rated at 8 Ohms (as an example). What you care about is that the input impedance on your amp is much much higher than the output impedance on your pre.

 

Thanks Jabs. So my Benchmark's Pre output impedence is:

 

60 Ohms (Attenuator off)

425 Ohms (Attenuator = 10 dB)

135 Ohms (Attenuator = 20 dB)

 

On my Ncore it has two figures

 

DM Input Impedance 104 kohms

 

CM Input Impedance 1.5 mohms

 

Either way, that is way way off the Pres output impedence isnt it?

 

Further down the data sheet the amp says the recommended input source impedence is a max of 1 k ohm

 

http://www.hypex.nl/docs/NC400_datasheet.pdf

Benchmark HGC DAC2 / Ncore NC400 / Anthony Gallo Strada 2 / Anthony Gallo TR-3D Sub / Van Damme 6mm Speaker Cable

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Thanks Jabs. So my Benchmark's Pre output impedence is:

 

60 Ohms (Attenuator off)

425 Ohms (Attenuator = 10 dB)

135 Ohms (Attenuator = 20 dB)

 

 

Further down the data sheet the amp says the recommended input source impedence is a max of 1 k ohm

 

You're good to go, the "recommended input source impedance" is what you were looking for on the amp. And though the numbers on the pre don't make a lot of sense they are all well below 1k. BTW - one would normally expect the pre to have resistance numbers that lined up, say 60, 135, and then 425. However, everything should work fine.

 

Let's talk a moment about the attenuator switch. You want to select the position that gives you your maximum tolerable sound at more than half volume (2/3 would be about perfect). This balances the output voltage of the pre to match the gain of the amp. The result is a well behaved volume control (a bad volume control will go from 0 to as loud as you can take it with less than 10% travel of the knob - at this point your entire audio life rests in that small volume range).

 

Final note: Once you set the attenuator switch your good until you change the amp or the speakers. Remember the speakers have an efficiency rating (usually measured in decibels at 1 watt), this will change how quickly the speakers will get to your maximum tollerable volume. Which may require a different position of the switch to get that sound at more than half volume.

Analog: Koetsu Rosewood > VPI Aries 3 w/SDS > EAR 834P > EAR 834L: Audiodesk cleaner

Digital Fun: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (JRMC) SOtM USB > Lynx Hilo > EAR 834L

Digital Serious: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (HQPlayer) Ethernet > SMS-100 NAA > Lampi DSD L4 G5 > EAR 834L

Digital Disc: Oppo BDP 95 > EAR 834L

Output: EAR 834L > Xilica XP4080 DSP > Odessey Stratos Mono Extreme > Legacy Aeris

Phones: EAR 834L > Little Dot Mk ii > Senheiser HD 800

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Zenpmd, what part of that question...
Thanks. My budget is up to £3000.

 

Zenpmd, I apologize for being rude to you. Those of us who like to advise have a hard task when we lack certain facts, and sometimes blowhards like me just explode. I'm sorry.

 

I am pleased you have gotten clear explanations and advice so far: your graciousness is a big reason for that. And I commend your search for balanced gear, it has many advantages that aren't commonly stated.

Mac Mini 2012 with 2.3 GHz i5 CPU and 16GB RAM running newest OS10.9x and Signalyst HQ Player software (occasionally JRMC), ethernet to Cisco SG100-08 GigE switch, ethernet to SOtM SMS100 Miniserver in audio room, sending via short 1/2 meter AQ Cinnamon USB to Oppo 105D, feeding balanced outputs to 2x Bel Canto S300 amps which vertically biamp ATC SCM20SL speakers, 2x Velodyne DD12+ subs. Each side is mounted vertically on 3-tiered Sound Anchor ADJ2 stands: ATC (top), amp (middle), sub (bottom), Mogami, Koala, Nordost, Mosaic cables, split at the preamp outputs with splitters. All transducers are thoroughly and lovingly time aligned for the listening position.

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