What is a great preamplifier to pair with a Rega RP1?
May 31, 2014 9:32 PM   Subscribe

I've decided I'm going to purchase a Rega RP1 because I so desperately miss having a turntable in the house. I need recommendations for a good, appropriately priced preamp. By appropriately priced I mean I think it'd be just as silly to put a $400 turntable on a $2000 preamp as it would be to put it on a $50 preamp. I would be interested in preamps in the $200 to $600 range I think. Oh, and it needs to have banana jack outputs.
posted by matt_od to Shopping (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You want this phono preamp. The improvement over the built-in phono preamp on my Denon receiver was literally revelatory. I'm using it with a Pro-Ject turntable in the same price range as yours. I love that thing as much as I love these speakers. I have deleted much gushing from this answer because I don't want to sound nuts but I kind of want everybody to at least hear these things.
posted by bigbigdog at 10:37 PM on May 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Banana jack outputs for line level would be very unusual, and even more unusual if you actually mean the phono input into the pre-amp. Do you mean RCA sockets?
posted by deadwax at 10:49 PM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

My guess is that what you're actually looking for is a 'receiver' or an amplifier that has a phono preamp inside of it. A preamp alone won't get you very far, and since you mentioned banana jack outputs, I presume you've got speakers you want to hook it into. Again, a preamp alone will not do this, and don't worry about limiting yourself to a receiver with banana jack outputs because you can buy/make cables that have whatever they need on either end.

As for recommendations, a restored marantz receiver is always nice! It might be a good idea to post what speakers you plan to hook it up to for some more specific responses.
posted by destructive cactus at 11:07 PM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The RP1 is a *fantastic* choice. I am a very happy RP3 owner (including the gear I suggested below).

It goes like this:

Turntable -> phono stage -> preamp -> amp -> speakers.

The phono stage and preamp and amp are all rolled into one with an older receiver. Modern receivers don't have phono stages. You can get a nice one for about $50.

All of these things combined into a Rega Brio ($800-900 new) will drive a substantial sound out of most speakers. It is literallythe simplest gear I've seen and does one thing well - amplify a record player or or line in device into speakers. Really, really well. You can also get something used, if you learn some more. If you live in Seattle, go to Hawthorne.

Also, if the receiver doesn't have a tuner (FM/AM/SAT Radio) in it, it is referred to as an integrated amp. Rega, Music Hall, Cambridge audio all make good ones.

I don't know what banana plugs have to do with any of this - the RP1 (and every other turntable I've seen) has RCA plugs. Banana plugs are for speaker cables. Most speakers and amps that take them have a five way binding post (where you connect the cables), which can be used with almost any cable end (called a terminator).

Arguments about gear are never fruitful once you get past good equipment. Good gear won't have any obvious defects. "Great" equipment will vary, but it will all be preference.

And never ever forget that you are doing this for the love of the music and not the gear.
posted by bensherman at 11:32 PM on May 31, 2014 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far!
I'm running a pair of KEF Q Series loudspeakers.
posted by matt_od at 12:28 AM on June 1, 2014

Are you looking to bring the TT up to line levels? Do you already have a receiver or integrated amp with no phono stage? Then this is the sort of thing you want.

Or do you have just a power amp with no preamp at all?
posted by persona au gratin at 2:50 AM on June 1, 2014

Response by poster: I am currently amp/receiver-less. So bensherman's recomendation for the Rega Brio is looking pretty solid. I just have no need for some massive 12 input receiver where all I'm doing is building a vinyl reference setup.
posted by matt_od at 8:35 AM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might be able to pick up a nice used integrated amp with a phono stage at Audiogon.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:33 PM on June 1, 2014

I forgot to mention the Brio has an incredibly good phono stage in it already (it sells separately for $350).

It will drive those speakers perfectly.

Enjoy your new records (and check out discogs.com to catalog your collection!)
posted by bensherman at 1:35 PM on June 1, 2014

I am currently amp/receiver-less.


Buy something like an 80s nakamichi stasis amp, an older ADS, NAD, or a 70s harmon kardon(citation separates, etc). A lot of older higher end integrated amps or pre amps have EXTREMELY good phono stages.

I used to have a set of citation gear, and i still own a harmon kardon 505. they're very well regarded all over the place online as having exceptionally good phono stages. The citation stuff only cost like... $275? And the 505 was $150. It's not that hard to get stuff that was literally thousands of dollars new(in the case of the citation stuff) and just be set indefinitely. Spend the extra cash on getting everything cleaned up and recapped at a local stereo shop.

Yea, i'm a vintage audio guy. But honestly the better old stuff just gets you a lot more bang for your buck than you get out of any of the new stuff i've seen or auditioned. You can spend tons of time assembling a phono stage>amp or even phono stage>pre>power amp setup when an old integrated amp, or pre-power set would impress you for a lot less.

I've tried the phono stages on newer receivers, and a couple separate pre amps. I'd personally rather have the phono stage in an old higher end integrated or separate pre amp than anything i've tried that wasn't something similar to the brio that cost the better part of a grand.

There's also a whole other argument to be made for buying older stuff, in that you'll be able to afford something with truly massive transformers, abundant power, and the headroom that comes with that. The only bigger difference i've gotten in presence-in-the-room from records i'd heard many times was getting really heavy gauge speaker cables(which you should also be doing now while your at it). The amount of sonic information, especially below say 50hz that added to the experience left me completely speechless.

A good phono stage matters and makes an instantly noticeable difference. But i've been more impressed personally with a high quality power amp than i have with anything else. You're already buying a good source, and a good phono stage is a good next step... but get a good amp while you're at it. There's plenty of decently priced used older gear out there that will give you all of that at once, too.
posted by emptythought at 3:39 PM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: This past weekend I finally purchased the Rega RP-1 AND a Brio-R.
Love it and I'm so happy.
posted by matt_od at 3:54 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

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