Advice/Warnings for a newbie


I've had way too much free time and gone down a few rabbit holes purchasing some older gear, some of which I've got a little experience with and some none... but was curious, because I am not the best technically, if any of the more seasoned audiophiles might have any advice regarding my chain. I'm replacing my 30w Pioneer receiver with separates (put all my specs in the below list) – I got the preamp as a family hand-me-down and I've just bought the monoblocks (having service done now) so I've not heard it all together yet. The player and speakers I've been using forever. But will I OK in terms of matching impedances, gain, etc? Oh, and I'm installing a dedicated line for the monoblocks and was looking at a Niagara 1200 as power conditioner for the rest.... any tips greatly appreciated!

Technics SL1200M3D
Tonearm: Jelco 750D
External PSU: Paul Hynes SR4
Cart: Nagaoka MP150
Type: Moving Iron
Output voltage: 1kHz, 5cm/sec:4.5mV
Frequency range: 20-20kHz
Material: diamond, nude
Stylus type: elliptical 0.4 x 0.7 mil
Tracking force range: 1.5–2g
Tracking force, recommended: 1.8g
Recommended load capacitance: 150-200pF


Phono Stage: RCM Sensor 2 
Input: RCA – Balanced and Unbalanced (selectable via switch)
Output: Balanced XLR / Unbalanced (single ended)
Input sensitivity: 0.3–5mV (selectable in 7 steps)
Gain: 52–76dB (2 VRMS output at 1 kHz)
Input impedance: 20–47kΩ (selectable in 8 steps)
Input capacitance: 150 pF
THD: 0,01% (1kHz)
RIAA linearity: +/-0,3dB (20Hz–20kHz)
Nominal output: 2V rms
Max. output level: 8V rms
Output impedance: 70 ohm
S/N: 85dB (lowest gain settings)
RIAA linearity: +/- 0,3dB (20Hz–20kHz)


Cello Palette Preamplifier
Maximum output: 8V RMS (single-ended), 16V RMS (balanced)
Line Gain (Switchable): 0dB, 6dB, 9dB, 12dB, 18dB
THD (ref. 6V): 0.084%
Input impedance (Unbalanced): 1MΩ
Output Impedance: 150Ω

Running Balanced into >>

Pass Labs Aleph 2 (Monoblocks)
Topology: Class A, single-ended
Power Output: 100W into 8Ω / 200W into 4Ω
Maximum Output: 10A, 40V (Peak)
Gain (Balanced): 20dB
Gain (Unbalanced): 20dB
Gain (Unbalanced, XLR Jumpered): 26dB
Distortion (100W, 8Ω, 20Hz-20kHz): 0.5%
Input Impedance (Balanced): 25kΩ
Input Impedance (Unbalanced): 10kΩ
Output Impedance: 0.1Ω
Damping Factor: 100
Common Mode Rejection: 60dB
Power Consumption: 300w
Output Noise: 600μV
DC Offset: <100mV


A/D/S L1290 Loudspeakers
Frequency responce: 40hz–27khz,
Impedance: 8Ω nominal
Efficiency: 90dB SPL from 2.8 VRMS (1W)
Crossovers: 500hz and 5khz, 12dB/Octave slopes

Forget about the Niagra - nothing wrong with the AC (contrary to what the neurotic and gullible say)! Since you are into LPs I recommend you get a better cartridge. A Hana SL (Shibata low-output) mc would be a significant upgrade over the Nagaoka! Your phono stage has enough gain. About $750 (money saved by not buying a power conditioner).
Don't waste money on power cords! From my long experience they have nada, zilch, zero effect on sound quality (contrary to what the neurotic and gullible claim). But if you absolutely must have new power cords then the Pangeas from Audio Advisor are a sane choice. I bought one for my BEL 1001 amp (didn't come with one).
Regarding ICs and speaker wire: the least-costly offerings from Kimber are again sane and cost-effective choices (the neurotic and gullible will claim otherwise!).
At the risk of being "neurotic and gullible"  ;-), the gear you mentioned would certainly benefit with upgraded power cords. I do, however suggest that you get everything setup, working and some time listening to the system before you change anything. Get a feel for the system sound, then if you want, experiment with power cords, interconnects and speaker cable. Actually, I have found that power cords make very good changes to the sound of the overall system. IMO, Pangea and Signal cables are not good choices as they have produced a dull or muffled effect on the gear I have tried them with. There are many choices out there and one does not have to spend a fortune to get good results. Kimber, Zu and VH Audio have good value/performance offerings.
roberjerman cannot hear these differences, so he makes claims, these differences do no exist. They do exist, just listen for yourself, and with the system you put together, it will not be hard to hear. 
Thank you all, very much appreciated.

Should have mentioned cartridge is next on my list to move up with, had actually been looking at Hana as well, thank you for the recommendation. I had been reluctant to jump from MM to MC just yet, (I did buy that phonostage in particular for its gain versatility) but was going to edge up toward the top of Nagaoka MP500 line (which does drop voltage from 4.5mv to 3mv and extends high frequency response from 20k to 25k). Thankfully being a lifelong DJ I have a second identical player at my disposal so I plan to have a vinyl buddy over and shoot out some carts A/B. I don’t want to overstep my player with a cart.

I didn’t mention ICs or power cords yet, just because wanted to see if anyone saw any red flags elsewhere like the 100w class A with that 90db speaker efficiency (that’s middle of the road in terms of efficiency, right?).

IC’s - I tried not to break the bank while finding my footing in that world. I had to get some Fischer > XLR ICs made (was repeatedly advised Cello String were not worth my time, and I don’t want to mod the Cello for XLR outputs in case it doesn’t stay in my chain, rather keep it original) so I have Steve Huang at AudioSensibility make those using his Statement SE cables. He also made Phonostage > Preamp ICs with the same. Was planning on sticking with him for power cords for the turntable power and Preamp (need both regardless) but for the Alephs I read from Nelson Pass that they don’t need anything fancy:

“The power draw of this system is constant regardless of the music playing through the amplifier. As such, it does not depend on a high quality AC outlet or special power cords, since the dynamic performance does not create a variation in AC line draw. If the AC line is running low, the output stage will bias to a higher current level by way of compensation.”

Of course it’s a 30 year old amp, but I figured as long as I get them onto their own dedicated circuit and off the default circuit that shares with my fridge and stove (can actually hear disruptions in the sound when the stove ignites) then that’s at least a start.

Speaker cables, I’m currently using Kimber (gift from a friend when I got the speakers).

As for the Niagara, after lurking on these forums for a while now, I expected these reactions. Was also looking at the Shunyata Hydras, but again, not a priority.
hook the system up first as-is and take some serious time to listen and enjoy.  Then start listening for anything you feel may be missing or off, if that exist at all.  I don't think it will be much.

Then, and only then, start playing around with the tweak/upgrade path if you feel it's necessary. 

Don't upgrade/tweak willie-nillie.  If, after some time and experience, you feel you aren't quite "there" yet, then start with the tweaks/upgrades.

Very nice system.


It would be interesting to hear your impressions. It may not be the system of today, but there's little obviously wrong with the turntable/arm/cart or the speakers. 90db is a walk in the park for almost any amp.

Of all the cartridges I used (about 6/7 in total - mainly budget designs and a few Linn's), the Nagoaka MP 11 boron as it was then was my favourite. Just a solid no nonsense design. Loved the square shape for alignment purposes and it sounded so well balanced. 

I'd also suggest be very wary of any power cord / conditioner rabbit holes. 
Logic 101, pop quiz, (courtesy of roberjerman):

1. All components come with free power cords included. Free.

2. Don't waste money on power cords! From my long experience they have nada, zilch, zero effect on sound quality

3. Regarding ICs and speaker wire: the least-costly offerings from Kimber are again sane and cost-effective choices

True or false: It is cost-effective to pay money for something that has nada, zilch, zero effect on sound quality.
That Cello Palette Preamp is a choice piece of gear -- as you probably know. I owned one for about 10 years, and I’d consider it one of the top preamps ever made. I’ve never got anything like that as a hand-me-down. Give thanks!

Most Cello preamps use Fischer connectors for their balanced outputs, which means special interconnects are needed. If you plan to run balanced and didn’t receive compatible cables with the unit, you can buy the connectors from Fischer in Switzerland and have Blue Jeans or another vendor make up cables for you. I generally buy balanced cables from a pro audio shop that will make them with Mogami W2549 cabling. There are many good ones.

It’s a lovely system. I agree in this case with @millercarbon, that power cords are not worth the cost. I have found line conditioning can help, but as @minorl said, the best bet is to hook up the system and get it optimized before tweaking. Then, you could TRY a power conditioner at home. Results are quite system dependent, so I advise against buying anything you can’t return, no matter what a good bargain it seems to be, nor how great the reviews or recommendations. Manufacturers have their fanboys, and that’s fine, but YOU, not THEY, will be listening to your system.
mike_in_nc....I think you misunderstood millercarbon. He does believe in upgraded power cords, and does believe, in isolating them, mechanically, and electrically. Look at his system photos. Sometimes I misunderstand his posts, but he believes EVERYTHING matters, and makes a difference, and I agree, especially, if it is audible, and for the better. A fortune does not need to be spent on power cords, ICs, or speaker cables, but, again, worth an upgrade. To the OP : Take advantage of a trial period many manufacturers offer, once the system is set up and everything has settled in.
Thanks for the insights @minorl - yes there are about 10,000 records in my room I'm about to RE-discover! Going to cool it on the buying for a bit.

@cd318 - I too love the Nagaoka designs, unlike most people. I may just step 1 or 2 models up in their offering and grab a comparable Hana cart, live with both for a while. I listen to so much variety of music, extreme contrasts in dynamics. I'm also digitizing records as I go (for my use in the DJ world - unfortunately vinyl capabilities are scarce these days) using a pretty nice Prism Sound Lyra ADC.

@mike_in_nc I'm fortunate in that way I know, the Palette outlived its original owner. I found some Fischer connectors domestically Percy audio in Maine and have the Fischer > XLR being made by AudioSensibility in Toronto (to match a couple of their other ICs I already own).

Very excited to sink in now for some years!
@mrdecibel Unless I pull from my box of random power cords, I do need to purchase 2x for my amps (that idle at 300w), 1 for my pre, and 1 for my turntable PSU. So, I will be buying SOMETHING. Was going to start here (keeping it a one-stop shop):!/Impact-SE-Power-Cable/p/11455990/category=2595837 about $130 and Steve over there has been a real joy to deal with. Thanks for the trial period tip, will def take advantage!

Sounds like you’re having fun. Good to see because that’s what this hobby should be about. And the small matter of the music of course

It’s always sensible to ask around first but as mike_in_nc said,

"Manufacturers have their fanboys, and that’s fine, but YOU, not THEY, will be listening to your system."

Wise words, well worth keeping in mind along your road of audio self discovery. 

The best any of us here can do is to warn you of the various pitfalls and rabbit holes we have encountered.
I’m just at the end of a complete re-cabling of my system. It’s not as big as yours, but plenty good enough to hear the gear.
Don’t spend a lot on cables until you have settled on the major components. I’d love to have most any of your stuff. Then do a round of listening tests with whichever cable leads to your least satisfactory sound. Etc.
This is what makes this so damn fun! Don’t get in a hurry!
Pity is--you’ll have to listen to all those old cuts! WOW!

Sorry, forgot to say that my advice is based upon long experience.
start using your gear, with what you have availiable. I understand that there is plenty of gain match between your pre/power/speakers. When accustomed to your system of how it behaves find and trust a good dealer and borrow sets of cables if possible so you can hear yourself the changes in sound. All cabling in the chain is important, power or signal. You will figure out where to improve by adding the better cables as to bring out the most of it. MP-150 is a fine mm cartridge but your arm and phono stage can accept better ones, this can happen at a later stage.

Do you love your speakers? What qualities do you value in sound reproduction? If the speakers you own don’t deliver those qualities then don’t chase tweaks. A great amp or preamp may not be a great match to a speaker. In brief, my order is find speaker you love, find a great amp match, refine your sources, then tweak with power conditioning and cables. My two cents. 
Thanks mrdecibel he did misunderstand and yes everything matters. The problem in situations like this where the OP doesn't know and if I was there and could see and hear it would be easy but going by partial info its impossible. So my default is replace any and all freebie patch cords, rubber power cords, and ordinary speaker wire. 

In this case the OP is so far off base- dedicated lines, a zillion meaningless specifications but not one word how it sounds or what he is after- it seemed a waste to try and say anything beyond yes power cords do make a difference.

When you do hook all that up au_lait very likely you will find its pretty good but awful lean, excessively detailed and hifi sounding. That's just what you have. Some of that stuff is very well regarded but taken all together inappropriate and could probably be sold for enough to buy a much better sounding integrated amp. This will save you a lot of money because power cords do make a difference and the same $1200 that will buy you three $400 power cords for the pre/monoblocks will buy you one insanely good $1200 power cord. By insanely good I mean so freaking good even the near deaf boobs who think power cords are zero zilch nada will have no choice but to crap their drawers and slink off in shame.

Separates can be wonderful but only if you are made of money.
I must be very gullible as I own the Niagara 1200 as well as many semi expensive AQ power chords. To me they have made a difference...a radical difference? NO! but a difference none the less in a decrease in the noise floor and or more of a silent backdrop. Again its what I hear & your results and or opinion may differ, to each their own I guess. To me, my investment in equipment justified, in my gullible mind🙄, the further investment in AC accessories. I for one won’t go back to not using the power conditioner and upscale power chords. I think everything matters and can collectively increase the performance of your system to a certain extent if one takes the time to experiment and listen. You can always return or sell something that you find made no difference. That being said, ultimately no two persons will hear the same thing. Only you can know if these things matter, as the results obtained are subjective.
@millercarbon Apologies, it was obnoxious to post all those specs, I just had it all noted in 1 file for quick reference and copy/pasted here. I appreciate the advice. I’m a touring DJ, used to large systems in large rooms for large crowds, so I’m coming into this from a different angle perhaps. As for the lean, detailed and hifi – there are some things I can’t really part with, the Cello being one of them (sentimental reasons) and the 1200s (I know they’re a bit beneath most of you but they are my axe, if you will). So, that’s the main reason I’m trying separates, I’m basing the system around the Palette for now, as I won’t be swapping that out. I also digitize a lot of my records for use as a DJ (which is now mostly digital) but to play a lot of older music alongside modern productions, I have to EQ ever so slightly, usually with the low end, another reason the Palette is staying. As for the clinical sounding system, I am constantly evaluating masters and test pressings for a record label, so I would prefer less color and less high frequency roll off. But, my speakers, I know, are not that. Reason I mentioned a dedicated AC line, is that the current outlet in my room shares with kitchen appliances, and the sound literally drops here and there when my wife lights the stove (and she is English which means that’s 200 times per day for tea). This is regardless of any noise issues, it feels simply unsafe. Do you think running a new 20amp line into my music room is overkill?

@austinbob I do love these speakers, smooth, sweet, feels appropriate for much of the music I listen to. I’ve run them at 30w for years but heard another pair at a friends with much higher wattage and it was it made me really jealous. I decided I wanted to replace my amp. They can lack bass depending on what genre I’m listening to, I’ve heard a pair of A/D/S L1530s elsewhere which did pull out some more bottom end. I've yet to hear the L1290s with the Palette.

I’ve not talked about how it sounds yet is I’m awaiting a voltage conversion before I can listen at all, just anxious. I guess I was mostly looking for some confirmation that I hadn’t GROSSLY mismatched anything, hence the numbers.
I just looked at Chuck Miller's system photos, and will now keep my mouth shut for some time.
I picked up a pair of L1290s this year for my living room system and have been loving them. Extra power improves them greatly. I initially had the run with a Dynaco ST70, but it was far to boomy. Then I bought an ATI 1506...

At first, because why not, I was running 2 of the 3 separate amps in the 1506 bridged, which is 450 watts per channel at 8 ohms. The L1290s are 4 ohm speakers so I’ll guess that was something like 900 watts per channel! The sound was like being at a live concert with a really nice system. The power emanating from the speakers was thrilling. I guess I like that type of distortion, but I kept blowing fuses in the speakers. Go figure.

So I switched off the bridge on the ATI 1506 and ran the L1290s at a mere 325 watts per channel for 4 ohm speakers. The speakers say 250 watts max so I thought I’d still hear some of that thrilling distortion but it was gone. What was heard just clean sound. I can’t complain but it is very different from overdriven. What this did let me do was add a sub. From one DJ to another, let me confirm that you definitely want the sub. I want a second one and now that the 1506 isn’t bridged for the L1290s I have an extra 2 channels to bridge, but then I think I need that dedicated circuit too. 
From your list, you have amazing gear, you don’t need help!
enjoy what you have!

 Good stuff
Especially if you reside in a major urban power grid, there is no question as to the poor quality of the A.C. cumming into your residence. All manner of noise elements riding the AC "wave". Unless you have very expensive and sophisticated equipment that contain power supply circuitry capable of filtering out all, or at least the majority of these said elements, any set of audio electronics will benefit sonically from the use and incorporation of power management devices; ie. Scientifically designed power cords and connectors, and if you can afford it, a noise filtering power plant. There are several good ones on the market. Some that even completely regenerate the sine wave feeding your audio electronics. Simple truth. The purer and unaltered the characteristics of the AC waveform, the better your audio reproduction will sound. 
Unfortunately, there are many products available on the market that claim that their design will filter and significantly reduce noise elements "riding" the AC power to your home. Some work, and some are just a scam. Same thing applies to "power plants". They all claim to be the the "end all" of your power issues, but only a few really do a superior job of what they claim. Again, like many pieces of audio equipment, it's pretty much of a "crap shoot", unless you are fortunate enough to have some place to actually obtain a honest demo. That doesn't mean that anyone interested in improving the sonic performance of their system, shouldn't try to make some educated choices to improve the quality of their A.C.
I live Los Angeles. Power grid from hell. My experience with conditioners is limited to the rackmount Furmans I used to use in all my live situations, but this was in the 90s, I have however read loads in the last month of quarantine about the offerings new from Shunyata, AudioQuest, Equitech, IsoTek, PS, etc etc etc... but also considered just installing the new line from the power box with some of those Furutech wall sockets and starting there, seeing how much noise I can reduce. I can do the electrical myself and me out the door for a couple hundred.

roberjerman cannot hear these differences, so he makes claims, these differences do no exist. They do exist, just listen for yourself, and with the system you put together, it will not be hard to hear.

Obviously roberjerkman's system or equipment is not good enough to hear differences, or he has not learned how to listen for differences.For years i was in the same situation, It was my equipment.
I promise you there are differences in the sound of cables . It may not always be easily discernible and obvious. You also have to learn how to listen for differences. Your brain cannot always listen to or pick up all differences  at the same time soundstage depth, height, imaging ...
Then you have dynamics , Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release.   Then you have to listen at all the different freq Ranges.Some cables present a more laid back presentation... Some are more of a front row , up close  presentation . Some have extra energy in the upper mids. or some in the mid bass. some have a much more prominent Bass  Some are more detailed..etc..etc.etc.
It does take some education or experience  as to what to listen for. 
this can help

One 20A line is not overkill, and may help. The reason I say "may" is its hard to know how the house and panel is wired. Often times systems are plugged into ordinary wall outlets, which because houses are wired for average use and to save money this could mean the AC goes from one outlet to another with maybe a half a dozen outlets on the same circuit. Worst case the system is the last one. In this case the line will probably be a big improvement. If you DIY. The minute you have to pay an electrician then there's usually half a dozen things you could do for less and hear a lot more improvement.

The reason I know, I've actually done this stuff, run the lines- and more than once- myself.

You have good reasons for keeping what you have, so what I would do is avoid anything similar to the analytical sound you have in favor of more neutral (in the true sense of the word) wire like Synergistic. This will feel warm relative to the sterile gear you have now but since you do listen to actual music then I think that in time you will come to realize what you now think of as color and rolloff is actually a more natural sound and what you are hearing is not less detail but less etch and glare. 

Take your time, try and listen and when reading pay attention to how things sound not how things measure. Here are the specs that matter: speaker sensitivity, you want 90dB or more. Amp power is almost irrelevant, since if you got at least 90dB speakers then anything over 20 or so watts is good. Cartridge output, a little more complicated but similar to speakers a medium output greatly simplifies amp selection. That's about it for specs! And yes my system really does reflect that philosophy.
Yes, definitely put it together and listen for an extended time (weeks) before you buy more stuff.  The extra power from the amps should make a substantial difference in the sound.  I would have some kind of protection from power spikes (whether the Niagara or something else, maybe a power regenerator instead - make sure you have enough outlets, and not all of them are filtered on most units), and the isolated line is a good idea.  I have my equipment on a dedicated line and the voltage still fluctuates.  Looks like you upgraded the turntable where people mostly suggest (the tonearm), but you might want to look at a cartridge upgrade in the future.  Depending on what you listen to, a subwoofer (or 2) would fill out the bottom.  Do your tweaks one at a time to see if they make a difference you can hear, but have fun and enjoy your system, most of all!
I have a very good friend who is a serious stereophile. He confessed to me that he has spend at least $50,000 over the years, buying, selling, trading, trading up, etc. Of course his present system is terrific. He added that if he could start fresh he could put together an excellent system for about $15,000.  My advice, if I may...Take your time, learn from this excellent site and choose wisely.  
@millercarbon Greatly appreciate your advice. I understand your note on compensating for the analytical with neutral, that’s extremely helpful. And for the speaker sensitivity, this type of fundamental guidance is exactly what I was after. Cheers!

Thanks everyone. I’m definitely in no rush, (still only window shopping regarding power) but as long as I’m not going to blow anything up I’ll be enjoying the music!
Post removed