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Some of those olde-timey phono stages weren't so bad - but "horses for courses".

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  • Some of those olde-timey phono stages weren't so bad - but "horses for courses".

    I've had my Rek-O-Kut B-12H/Nottingham Ace/Benz Glider combo sitting around gathering dust for awhile while waiting for the new idler to come in, but given the HK ST-6 is apart getting some upgrades and there wasn't another table handy I felt like using I decided to install the R-O-K in my loft system with the Accuphase E-202 and B&W DM-14 speakers to see how it would get on. One note on the phono stage in the E-202 - since I had the thing rebuilt it is absolutely the quietest phono stage/pre I've ever met. With a table attached I can crank the gain as far as it goes, stick my ear to a tweeter and hear - nothing. Absolutely like the amp is shut off. Uncanny.

    So I got things set up and went through a few of my usual test LPs. All sounded really good until I got to Linda Ronstadt's Nelson Riddle LPs. They sound absolutely ecstatic on the main system, but just "really nice" in the loft. So, on to some 70s "classic rock" - it is summer vacation, right? Generally they sound underwhelming on main system, a bit flat, dull and short on the bottom end. Not with this combination. Pink Floyd's "The Wall" has never sounded so good in any system anywhere I've lived, actually can't say as I've heard it sound so good anywhere for that matter (no, I haven't been to your house yet). Not is the tonality potent, but every tiny little detail the album is plastered with came through as well. I have to say (have said already) how much I enjoy the Accuphase with the B&Ws. Neither is exactly the ultimate in any way, but they seem to bring out the best in each other somehow.

    Classical LPs also sound really fine as well, but as a system for classic rock I'm thrilled! "How I spent my summer vacation"....


  • #2
    System synergy is truly a wonderful thing.
    Turntables, Tonearms, MC & MM Phono Cartridges, SUTs, Tubes All the Way (SET, SEP and PP), Some Digital Stuff, Big Horns, Electrostats and Stand Mount Monitors, Assorted Cable and Wire.

    "To thine own ears be true....."

    "Audiophiles Just Want to Have Fun....."

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    • #3
      Excellent! Some of the Classic Rock recordings from the 70's were not that great. I have a lot of them. Glad you found the magic!
      Bugle 2A3 Mono Blocks/GPA 604, JELabs OB's

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      • #4
        Originally posted by opa1 View Post
        Excellent! Some of the Classic Rock recordings from the 70's were not that great. I have a lot of them. Glad you found the magic!
        There certainly are a lot of them that don't sound all that involving on my main system, though every other genre sounds wonderful. I was so taken with how "The Wall" was sounding I played all four sides at about as loud as I can happily handle.

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        • #5
          Interesting. I've been thinking a lot in this issue, as again, I've been disappointed by a a 70's phono stage. This time it's in the Citation Receiver, and oddly, as phono was the most high end source of its time (we will leave reel to reel out of the discussion for now), it just sounds terrible. Just like almost every 70's phono stage I've heard. I checked with the gent who did the service on it, and he did confirm that it was a single IC phono of no particular merit.

          I will agree that the E-202 was a special piece, and though it's been a few years since I last had one, I do recall it sounding nice.

          So gents, why is it that in the golden age of turntables (the late 70's) did phono stages generally sound so bad? The phono in my Scott 299 C's and D's was lovely. In all of them. Yet, 15 years later, even in expensive gear, phono stage sound had generally gone done the terlet.
          Kenwood KD-750 with Fidelity Research FR-24 MK II and Nagaoka MP500, Rega Planet CD, Restored Sansui AU-717, EAR 834p Replica Phono, Spendor SP1/2eR2 Speakers

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Prime Minister View Post
            Interesting. I've been thinking a lot in this issue, as again, I've been disappointed by a a 70's phono stage. This time it's in the Citation Receiver, and oddly, as phono was the most high end source of its time (we will leave reel to reel out of the discussion for now), it just sounds terrible. Just like almost every 70's phono stage I've heard. I checked with the gent who did the service on it, and he did confirm that it was a single IC phono of no particular merit.

            I will agree that the E-202 was a special piece, and though it's been a few years since I last had one, I do recall it sounding nice.

            So gents, why is it that in the golden age of turntables (the late 70's) did phono stages generally sound so bad? The phono in my Scott 299 C's and D's was lovely. In all of them. Yet, 15 years later, even in expensive gear, phono stage sound had generally gone done the terlet.
            Good point and I am in complete agreement. I would guess that the reason why so many 70s phono stages sound bad is because they were done on IC and most of them just weren't very good at that stage in their development?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Prime Minister View Post
              Interesting. I've been thinking a lot in this issue, as again, I've been disappointed by a a 70's phono stage. This time it's in the Citation Receiver, and oddly, as phono was the most high end source of its time (we will leave reel to reel out of the discussion for now), it just sounds terrible. Just like almost every 70's phono stage I've heard. I checked with the gent who did the service on it, and he did confirm that it was a single IC phono of no particular merit.

              I will agree that the E-202 was a special piece, and though it's been a few years since I last had one, I do recall it sounding nice.

              So gents, why is it that in the golden age of turntables (the late 70's) did phono stages generally sound so bad? The phono in my Scott 299 C's and D's was lovely. In all of them. Yet, 15 years later, even in expensive gear, phono stage sound had generally gone done the terlet.
              Maybe they designed using ICs because you can get great specs at a much lower cost?

              And maybe they forgot to listen after doing so?

              If it measures great, it simply HAS to sound great.....
              Turntables, Tonearms, MC & MM Phono Cartridges, SUTs, Tubes All the Way (SET, SEP and PP), Some Digital Stuff, Big Horns, Electrostats and Stand Mount Monitors, Assorted Cable and Wire.

              "To thine own ears be true....."

              "Audiophiles Just Want to Have Fun....."

              Comment


              • #8
                I liked some of the phono stages in my tube gear, but as far as '70s/early '80s solid state was concerned, I'm pretty well shocked how bad some of the phono stages sound compared to even cheap aftermarket stand alone ones you can buy now. Of all of the pre-1984 (pre CD era, roughly) gear I had the Sony Esprit TA-n86b preamp had a nice phono stage, as did the Yamaha A-1. Many were just ok, and just as many were flat out terrible. I don't know if age was more harsh to something dealing with such a low signal level or what. Some of my gear sounded so bad with records that I couldn't even stand to listen to it without using an external phono stage.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by JohnVF View Post
                  I liked some of the phono stages in my tube gear, but as far as '70s/early '80s solid state was concerned, I'm pretty well shocked how bad some of the phono stages sound compared to even cheap aftermarket stand alone ones you can buy now. Of all of the pre-1984 (pre CD era, roughly) gear I had the Sony Esprit TA-n86b preamp had a nice phono stage, as did the Yamaha A-1. Many were just ok, and just as many were flat out terrible. I don't know if age was more harsh to something dealing with such a low signal level or what. Some of my gear sounded so bad with records that I couldn't even stand to listen to it without using an external phono stage.
                  Yamaha's phono stages were generally decent at the least. I remember when I was choosing my first (inexpensive) system as a student back in the 70s I went with the CA-400 because the phono stage sounded considerably better to my ears than the alternatives of the time. The stage in my CA-1010 and C-4 pre are both quite nice, better than a number of stand-alone phono pres I've had pass through. The E-202 stage is of a very different flavour than the Yamahas.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I remembered another one that was nice, or two actually. The Onkyo receivers I had had very nice phono stages, and I later read that that was a focus they made...to not go for power or number of knobs or buttons, but to have the nicest phono stages in their respective classes. I had a TX-2500 and TX-4500, both mkIIs.

                    Now wondering why I can remember the model numbers of those receivers, neither of which I used much, and yet can't remember the names of half the people I meet.

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                    • #11
                      I should have the stage in my E303x looked at. Everything in it was recapped EXCEPT for the phono, and the phono is the part of it that I don't care for. Though I'm going to be finding myself with a few random external phono stages so maybe its a moot point.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The best phono stage in a 1970s/1980s receiver I'm familiar with is the venerable Advent 300 (designed by Tomlinson Holman).
                        Turntables, Tonearms, MC & MM Phono Cartridges, SUTs, Tubes All the Way (SET, SEP and PP), Some Digital Stuff, Big Horns, Electrostats and Stand Mount Monitors, Assorted Cable and Wire.

                        "To thine own ears be true....."

                        "Audiophiles Just Want to Have Fun....."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Getting into the '80s I liked things a bit more. The cynic in me suggests its because they now had to actually try harder, because CD was such an easy to get right promise.

                          The Yamaha C-85 I had had a great phono stage. Speaking of Yamaha, I actually don't remember the phono stage in the CA-1010 I had, maybe I never even used it with a turntable? That's entirely possible. That was at the height of my gear hoarding.

                          The Sansui Au-x901 I had from the mid '80s also had a nice phono stage. The Sony Ta-F808es in the basement here has a great phono stage, and that's from the early 1990's, when you'd think they'd be more apt to phone it in.

                          Also, getting into seperate pres in the '80s/'90s, my Audire Legato had a fantastic phono stage, as did the Klyne SK-6. But that's away from the focus of this thread, as they're not old-timey at that point.

                          Comment


                          • fiddlefye
                            fiddlefye commented
                            Editing a comment
                            The CA-1010 stage was quite good. For a time in the early 90s I used mine as a pre/phono stage when I got fed up with the muddiness of the Dynaco PAS pre. That thing got everything we could think of thrown at it and I still was never happy. The CA-1010 was much better.

                        • #14
                          Originally posted by JohnVF View Post
                          I remembered another one that was nice, or two actually. The Onkyo receivers I had had very nice phono stages, and I later read that that was a focus they made...to not go for power or number of knobs or buttons, but to have the nicest phono stages in their respective classes. I had a TX-2500 and TX-4500, both mkIIs.

                          Now wondering why I can remember the model numbers of those receivers, neither of which I used much, and yet can't remember the names of half the people I meet.
                          The stage in the TX-4500 MkII is quite good as well and so is the one in the Advent 300 (I own both). Neither is as enjoyable as the one in the E-202 to my ears, though. Having said that, I was disappointed i the sound when I ran my Grado woodie with it, but then the HK ST-6 needed some better leads and the cart wasn't even vaguely broken in, either.

                          I'm with you on the name thing, same problem here as well!

                          Comment


                          • #15
                            My accuphase sounds better with LOMC, maybe it was meant more to be used with that. But then the head amp lost a channel and I haven't figured out what happened with it. I do use it for turntable use all the time, though, with a Signet MM. It is the main stereo amp in my apartment in Chicago.

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