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Topic: Rega Fono MM Mk3 vs Pro-Ject Tube Box DS (Read 6026 times) previous topic - next topic
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Rega Fono MM Mk3 vs Pro-Ject Tube Box DS

I got a Rega Planar 3 turntable so now I need to get a phono stage for it.
I narrowed it down to two candidates:
Rega Fono MM Mk3
Pro-Ject Tube Box DS

Which one would you go with and why?

Re: Rega Fono MM Mk3 vs Pro-Ject Tube Box DS

Reply #1
Given the choice of those two only, I'd take the solid-state one thank you very much (Rega). The only reason to use tubes (valves) nowadays, in audio gear, is for a statement. By the same token, the Rega claims to use discrete component design which, if true, is also sub-optimal. Feel free to ignore my criticisms though, at the end of the day it's your money and whatever makes you happy is best.

Re: Rega Fono MM Mk3 vs Pro-Ject Tube Box DS

Reply #2
Now that I've been away for awhile from the madness which is High End Audio, this sort of thing seems like a lot of money for not a lot in return, and it only makes sense to me if it's to be considered a luxury purchase, or you simply like the looks and features. And if that's the case, I'd probably choose the Rega. If designed with accuracy in mind, tubes, transistors and integrated circuits should pretty much sound alike. (don't waste your time/money "rolling" tubes).

But I must say I'm far more impressed with what I see with this (cheaper, but still not cheap) unit by Cambridge:
  • They publish performance specs! And very likely that performance is due in part to good circuit board design and use of surface mounted devices.
  • It appears to have a regulated dual-rail power supply, muting relays at the output, a multi-voltage onboard power supply and steel housing, which should be tops for shielding.
  • Subsonic filter
If you don't plan on using moving coil cartridges or care about the headphone jack, the $180 "Solo" might be an even better pick.

Re: Rega Fono MM Mk3 vs Pro-Ject Tube Box DS

Reply #3
Yeah...  I agree...  I wouldn't expect much difference.   There could be a difference in noise (preamps always generate some  noise).   But, the preamp noise is usually well-below the vinyl surface noise so it's usually not a big problem.     And, there could be (slight) differences/variation in the RIAA equalization.   (RIAA EQ isn't "hard" but some preamps have tighter tolerances than others.)  

The only 3 specs/characteristics that affect sound quality (for a preamp) are noise, frequency response (including RIAA EQ), and distortion.    And, you won't get any audible distortion unless something is terribly wrong so don't even worry about it..  (Distortion from the record/cartridge can sometimes be audible.)    Gain would be a consideration if you are using a low-output moving-coil  cartridge.    And, any increased gain amplifies the noise so noise can be a bigger issue with a moving-coil cartridge.    So if you are reading reviews/descriptions don't pay attention to things like "depth", "openness", "soundstage",  or any of that audiophile nonsense-terminology...  If they don't say anything about noise, frequency response (EQ accuracy), or distortion, ignore what they say! 

To me, it's silly to use 1950's vacuum tube technology.    Tubes are more expensive and WAY more expensive if you want good sound quality.     The actual "preamp electronics" in a good solid state preamp only costs a few dollars.   Most of the cost is the power supply, enclosure, and switches/controls, plus overhead, distribution and other overhead costs.   The overhead costs can be very significant with small-quantity design, manufacturing, and distribution.   "Audiophile" products are usually priced high to increase desirability in the audiophile community.

If it was me, I wouldn't buy the cheapest thing on eBay but I probably would go over $100 USD for a preamp.   (I don't play records but I occasionally digitize them and for that I use an older stereo receiver from the "analog days" that has a built-in preamp.)   Check out if you're interested in something more affordable.

The weakest link is the vinyl record itself.   Next is the phono cartridge...  You'll get frequency response differences and tracking ability difference with a different cartridge.     The preamp could make a difference.   As long as your turntable is too-cheap I wouldn't expect the turntable to have influence on "sound quality".   (And yours is obviously not cheap.)

Over a certain price range you get diminishing returns...  Spending more money may not give you better sound ad if there is a difference in sound you might not prefer the most expensive choice.   And, you're still playing analog vinyl with all of it's limitations.

What are your plans?   Just playing records or digitizing records?   If you are going to digitize you'll need a desktop/tower computer with a "regular soundcard" or a USB interface with line-inputs for your laptop.     (Most laptops only have mic-in and headphone out.)  You can also get USB interfaces with a built-in phono preamp. 

Re: Rega Fono MM Mk3 vs Pro-Ject Tube Box DS

Reply #4
As DVDdoug states, the LP and cartridge cause far worse noise, distortion and response anomalies than any competent phono preamp.

Something nobody has yet mentioned is that perhaps the most important aspect of choosing a phono preamp is making sure it loads your chosen cartridge correctly. Getting this wrong will have a serious effect on the response at the top end. For moving magnet cartridges, capacitance is the important factor, while for moving coil cartridges, input impedance is the most important. Check the specs of your cartridge and make sure the preamp you choose matches them. If you're planning to use a variety of cartridges, you need a preamp that allows you to adjust the input capacitance and/or impedance.

Re: Rega Fono MM Mk3 vs Pro-Ject Tube Box DS

Reply #5
For moving magnet cartridges, capacitance is the important factor
I might be getting "too technical" for this topic but Arny (RIP) once mentioned that lower capacitance could reduce the high-frequencies (and higher capacitance can boost high frequencies).    That was the opposite of what I would have assumed so once-again Arny taught me something...    And, I had always assumed that lower capacitance was always better (including better or shorter cables for less capacitance).   But I wasn't considering the fact that the cartridge is an inductance (not a resistance) and I never even thought about calculating the L-C resonance.     I never took any steps to alter the capacitance because the phono specs & preamp specs always seemed to match pretty-well (relying on my memory from the vinyl days...)  

Re: Rega Fono MM Mk3 vs Pro-Ject Tube Box DS

Reply #6
Actually, phono cartridge loading is kind of neat in it's own way as you're dealing with resonant circuits. Here's a simple explanation by Jim Hagerman, and a not-so-simple one by Rod Elliott:

But for the hobbyist who may not have access to suitable technical data or the means to measure it:  plug it in and if it sounds good, it's probably "close enough"!

Re: Rega Fono MM Mk3 vs Pro-Ject Tube Box DS

Reply #7
:D :DThankfully, "we" (those of use who have moved-on to digital) don't have to worry about that analog schtuff anymore!!!

Although I sometimes digitize vinyl I'm no longer trying to achieve perfection because no matter what you do or how much money you spend, you can't get CD quality.    I stopped trying to constantly-improve my analog setup when I got my 1st CD player.   If I'm digitizing a record that sounds a little "dull", (which happens frequently with older records) I'll simply boost the high frequencies with EQ.   (I don't remember ever having to reduce the highs... but maybe I just don't remember.)   


Re: Rega Fono MM Mk3 vs Pro-Ject Tube Box DS

Reply #8
In post 3 4season recommends a cambridge audio product.

I bought one of those because it looked a inexpensive way to experiment with moving coil carts and it was recommended in What HIFI (?). It had a noticable hiss using the MC input. looking on a plot I found the noise was there on MM as well, just lower level.

I took a print out of the plot and enough kit to demonstrate  the noise back to the shop. They were happy to give me another. That was just the same. The guy in the shop then said that it was therefore quite possible they were all like that so I could either lump it or take a credit note for on something else instead.

Was a while ago so maybe a new version has fixed it or it was a bad batch or something. If you buy one make sure you have a safe returns policy.

I got one of these at first ART DJPRE 11.

later on I got one of these radial J33 Bit more expensive but its what the pros use (Ive seen it at clubs and gigs) and becuse it has balamced cabling options you can use it to site you turntable where you want and not worry about long cable runs.

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