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Subject:Phono Preamp Recommendations?
Posted by: Spokaneman
Date:4/14/2008 3:10:17 PM

I'm recording old LP's to CD via SF 8 / CDA and a Sound Blaster X-Fi sound card. I'm using a low end phono preamp that I'd like to upgrade. Does anyone have experience with a preamp that they find satisfactory?

Subject:RE: Phono Preamp Recommendations?
Reply by: Geoff_Wood
Date:4/16/2008 3:59:37 PM

NAD PP3 is a reasonable quality unit, with a built-in USB interface.


Subject:RE: Phono Preamp Recommendations?
Reply by: jackn2mpu
Date:4/18/2008 3:14:58 PM

I know this is no what you want to hear, but any preamp you get will not be the limiting factor in your setup. Dump the Soundblaster (they're really only good for games) and get a real sound card with balanced inputs. Then get the Radial phono preamp box. It's a small affair that you can hook up via either balanced xlr connectors or the old style RCA connectors. It also has a power supply brick you can use if you hook it up via an interface that doesn't supply phantom power on the xlr's.
There's all kinds of esoteric phono preamps out there that you can blow serious cash on, and I'm talking in the 4 figure range (tube units).

Subject:RE: Phono Preamp Recommendations?
Reply by: Spokaneman
Date:4/24/2008 1:43:59 PM

Wow, your reply (" get a real sound card with balanced inputs...") surprises me. All this time I thought that the X-Fi card was pretty much high end. What suggestions do you have for a replacement? Please note, however, that any card I replace it with would have to be a PCI . My motherboard is too old for the PCI-Es. Would a better sound card possibly obviate the need for a better pre-amp? This link shows the unit I am now using.

Subject:RE: Phono Preamp Recommendations?
Reply by: jackn2mpu
Date:4/25/2008 4:37:13 AM

No Soundblaster card could ever be mistaken for a high end card for decent audio application. They are really only good for games. If you have USB (preferably 2.0) or firewire, there are plenty of really good soundcards available. Edirol makes some good inexpensive interfaces in both USB and Firewire. MOTU also makes really good sound cards/boxes, some being USB, firewire, and some with pci cards interfaced to an external box.
A better sound card will not obviate the need for a better preamp, although it might help if your finances are tight right now. You know, get a good soundcard, and then the preamp. The Radial box I suggested which is the J33 is the one I use. I hook it up to my Edirol UA1000 sound card (which is really a misnomer, as it's an external box hooked up to my computer by USB 2.0) with short balanced cables. That way you don't need to use an external wall wart power supply as it gets powered by phantom power on the Edirol's xlr mic inputs. Clean sound. Right now the J33 goes for $200 at American Musical Supply online. An Edirol UA25 USB sopund box goes for $239 and the FA101 firewire soundbox goes for $379. Anything from MOTU is more expensive, but still in the sub $1000 range. Decent computer audio I/O ain't cheap. Buy decent and you'll get decent sound. If you're doing anything more than just moving your vinyl collection over to CD, you owe it to yourself to have the best you can afford to get the best sound possible.

Subject:RE: Phono Preamp Recommendations?
Date:4/29/2008 6:09:29 PM

Okay, I think that guy is being a little harsh on the X-Fi cards. True, the older SB cards, including most if not all of the Audigy line, were inferior to so-called audiophile cards. The X-Fi line, with the exception of the (ironically named) Xtreme Audio versions, was a big leap forward, and gets high marks from reviewers. I use one (Xtreme Music version) at home, & use EMU & M-Audio cards at work. I like the X-Fi for recording LPs (I route a Thorens turntable thru an older Philips amp that has a built-in phono preamp, then out to X-Fi). I am skeptical that taking an unbalanced signal (e.g., RCA) & bumping it to balanced (e.g., XLR) gets you anything, anyway, since it originates as unbalanced.

Getting back to your original question, if you want to hook your turntable to your soundcard, you should invest in the preamp first, and wait on the soundcard. I don't think a better soundcard will have a PHONO preamp feature--none that I know about anyway. Aside from the low signal from the turntable, there is also the RIAA EQ issue, which specifically requires a phono preamp for conversion. I'm afraid I don't have an opinion, however, about which one to get, since I'm using a built in type.

If you feel like splurging, though, I like the idea of Firewire or USB models, as the poster mentioned. PCI models are still right up there, too, for not too much green.

Subject:RE: Phono Preamp Recommendations?
Reply by: Geoff_Wood
Date:4/30/2008 3:26:36 PM

Who was suggesting putting unbal into an XLR was going to gain you anything ? I also question the use of the term 'audiophile' wrt soundcards. "Professional" would be more appropriate.

Again, the NAD PP3 is an integrated RIAA preamp with quality ADC-USB interface built in.

I'm sure other manufacturers have similar products, and I'm sure all reputable brand outperform the vinyl playback chain by several orders of magnitude.


Message last edited on4/30/2008 3:27:14 PM byGeoff_Wood.
Subject:RE: Phono Preamp Recommendations?
Reply by: sergiob
Date:5/5/2008 5:59:14 PM

The E-mu 1616m PCI is a great sound card with a phono preamp. See some info here:

Message last edited on5/5/2008 6:00:02 PM bysergiob.
Subject:RE: Phono Preamp Recommendations?
Reply by: Phil Sayer
Date:5/13/2008 11:17:13 PM

Creative's sound cards are reliable, well-specced, and affordable. I've tried exotic expensive "top end" cards, and have gone back to the workhorse Audigy every time. Apart from anything else, they actually release drivers for their products! (Early on, the only sound card drivers available under Vista were from Creative...)

We turn out voice recordings all day long for a living, using a £2000 Neumann U87AI as our primary mike, through a Yamaha 01V mixer, so you'll appreciate I don't mind spending money on good kit.

Creative are in the same category as Dell and Microsoft - lots of folk think it's smart to take a pot shot, but contented users are very much the silent majority. If the cards were THAT bad, they wouldn't sell any - it's that simple.

For recording from a turntable, exhume an old hi-fi amp and use the line-out or "Tape" output from the mixer into the Line In on the sound card. Unless you're using a really top-end t/table and cartridge, it'll be just fine.

You are right to avoid the cheap "quick fix" USB turntables that are around - they are rumbly in the extreme.

Subject:RE: Phono Preamp Recommendations?
Reply by: RalphM
Date:6/1/2008 8:06:56 PM

Try for RIAA preamps and other phono supplies. Not high-end, but the quality is good.

The reality is that unless your records are pristine, they are going to suffer from surface noise, clicks and pops. SF has some decent tools to combat those problems. You can spend major $$$ on equipment, but unless you want to spend some serious time cleaning up the transfers in software, I doubt that you will hear the difference between decent quality hardware and the high dollar stuff.


Subject:RE: Phono Preamp Recommendations?
Reply by: Buckskin
Date:6/2/2008 2:49:39 AM

not to be off topic here, but (Spokaneman) are you from Spokane Washington?

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