How much difference does a phono preamp really make?

Sorry for the noob question...

I have a Technics SL1200-GR turntable with two cartridges; a Denon DL110 and a Clearaudio Performer. I also have two phono stages; a Consonance PM6 and the internal phono stage in my Belles Aria integrated. 

To my ears, there is no discernable difference in sound between the two phono stages. 

I'm just wondering, if I went up to say a Clearaudio Smart Phono, or a Rogue, or even a GoldNote PH-10; would I be able to tell? How critical is a quality phono pre in analog sound reproduction?

years ago, used wonder about same Q. 

Short answer is pretty significant upgrade can be made with better phono stage. 
It does, but before you will buy more expensive phono stage you’d better upgrade your cartridges (especially Denon). The most significant difference is a cartridge matched to GR tonearm and your phono stages. 
If your cartridge and the rest of your system aren't revealing enough, there's not going to be much if any difference... on the other hand, if they are, the phono stage matters a lot.  It's amplifying a very small signal and how well it does that without introducing noise or distortion make a big difference.
Not only are those 2 very basic phono stages, probably with the same kind of chip based circuitry, but a 40dB MM stage (like the Consonance, and probably your Aria built-in) is going to be way underpowered for your Denon’s 1.6mV (this results in 0.16 V when a typical CD player outputs 2.0 V, a full 22 dB above the former), whereas a 60dB MC stage is going a bit too much for it (risking overload).

And though it’s an entry-level MC, which won’t garner too many fans here on audiogon for its plastic body alone, you are probably far from hearing that Denon 110 at optimal. The 110 is kind of an odd-man out for most phono stages, which typically cater either to higher output MMs or lower output MCs, and (importantly) often don’t offer 47K loading (recommended for your Denon) in MC mode. What you want, optimally, is low 50s dB gain at 47K.

Get a Hagerman Trumpet MC ($1100) and you will hear a difference! It can do 45, 55, 60, 64, or 68 dB. All loading settings available at all gains, including 47K.
Only your hairdresser knows for sure.
It is quite critical but your system, room or ears might not be up to the task. There IS only one way to find out, try it.
As everyone else has said, the Phono Pre is as important as the Turntable itself because of the delicate signal it has to amplify. The hierarchy of the vinyl chain is Turntable, arm and cartridge in that order. With that said, I'm a little surprised that you can hear no differences  between the 2 carts. There should be some subtle changes. 
Did you try both settings (MM/MC) on the PM6 with the Denon?

If so did one sound better then the other?

It can make a huge difference.

I was skeptical as were my sons. Read an article in Stereophile by Fremmer and he was exuding using a MM phone pre dedicated to MM. so I bought one he recommended. My stepson could here the difference immediately. He spent his days listening to music as he was disabled after he hit by an intoxicated motorist. He came to live his mother and I.

I miss him…
@artemus_5  I can hear a difference between the two carts. Not so much with the two phono pre's

@earlflynn  I'm very sorry to hear about your stepson. Thank for your input. 

@dekay  I did. The Denon sounded better on the MC setting although I believe the manufacturer recommends using MM. 

Thank you to everyone else so far. It seems like my carts may not be good enough for me to notice a difference between my entry phono stages. 

I posted a question to the Technics SL1200 group on Facebook about recommended cartridges. Most seemed to point to the ATVM760 SLC. Would this be a significant upgrade to my Denon and Clearaudio?

It can make a huge difference.

First fundamental step is make sure phono input specs match cart output specs ie the two are compatible. Then you are baselined optimally to assess any other differences from device to device, if it still matters enough to you.

Of course its a system so everything else downstream from pre-amp to speakers to setup in the room matters as well. The trick is to figure out the weak link and focus on that as needed. Don’t get too hung up in one place.

If that sounds hard, then consider one the many integrated solutions available today and there are many very good ones capable of competing with many high quality separates. The engineers ie the technical experts have integrated the things that matter for you there. That can help take a lot of the guessing out of the game. You still need to pick a cartridge that is compatible and in many but not all cases speakers as well.
@ audionoobie OP

I can hear a difference between the two carts. Not so much with the two phono pre's
It seems like my carts may not be good enough for me to notice a difference between my entry phono stages.

OK, that changes the answer for me. Both preamps are about equal sonically so you won't hear a difference in them. But the carts are doing their job. You can hear a difference.  Though your carts are not really high end, they will respond much better with a better phono preamp. Remember the hierarchy I posted. The cartridge was the least important. 
Atmasphere noted as much telling how a lesser cartridge sounded great on a better arm & TT. The phono pre will also give better and is where I'd spend my $$$ now. 
I have experienced many phono stages, and in general they are extremely important in the system as a whole. They are far up the signal path and dealing with a minuet signal, they must be very quiet and high quality to do it well. However, also the basic rule of thumb applies to Phonostage… “you need to double the cost of a component to get a solid very noticeable improvement” (its just a rule of thumb… but typically after you get into components over a couple grand it works pretty well).
For me, there was a rather massive improvement in going from a Schiit Mani to a Rega Aria Mk3.  
@audionoobie - I had budget phono stages for many years and the improvement from one to another was marginal - even when I tweaked power supplies - the improvements were incremental.

I then decided to invest in the analogue side of my system and purchased an LFD phono stage, but it was not a good match to my system or to my cartridge.

Fortunately I was able to switch at no cost to a Simaudio Moon LP5.3 RS and boy - what an improvement.

So much so that when I had my Denon 103 re-tipped by Soundsmith the improvements were immediately apparent.

Since then I have upgraded power cables and interconnects several times and the MOON has kept pace with all those changes by conveying far more details than I thought were possible.

  • your choice of phono stage choice is critical
  • matching the phono stage to your system is recommended
  • matching the phono too your cartridge is is recommended
  • and matching your cables to your components is recommended
  • i.e. if you want to get the very best out of your analogue components.
BUT - I consider the most important cable, is from the cartridge to the phono stage - I switched to a one piece harness many years ago - i.e. basically 4 single wires from the cartridge to the phono stage - within no RCA’s or the wires

Cardas makes a very nice one piece harness.

Once you get the cables sorted, the difference between phono stages should be more noticeable

Just another opinion - Steve


yep, my experience has been wading around the shallow end is pretty much the same. But once you get into the deep (high) end, the difference is profound.
Cartridge and its stylus profile, cantilever, coil wire, overall design is the most important in analog chain, even with very cheap preamp the difference is huge and everyone can hear it immediately (I played records with different cartridges for my non audiophile friends, everyone can hear the difference)!

In your situation it can be a difference between average cartridge and great cartridge, when you are comparing average cartridges they are all the same (aka nothing special).

I have many different cartridges (MC, MM, MI) and 4 different phono stages including Gold Note PH-10 (mentioned by you). Discovering a new cartridge is a pleasure, I do not change phono stages that often (it would be crazy) !

Better phono stage will not make your average cartridges any better. You have to start with a cartridge.

And BTW you can’t even change the stylus on your cartridges by yourself when they are worn, so you’d better think about better cartridges. Once yours are worn after 500-700 hrs, you’re done with them. Your new phono stage can’t help you with worn stylus. Sell your cartridges (before it’s too late) and buy much better cartridge.

My advice is to start your upgrade path with a cartridge (MM or MI with user replaceable stylus with advanced profile and better cantilever than aluminum), you will upgrade your phono stage later anyway.

When I bought my first serious MM cartridges for Technics turntable my phono stage was $500 Grado PH-1 and my average cartridge was Grado. My better cartridge was Technics EPC-205c mk4 and the difference between Grado MI and Technics MM was HUGE on my old Grado PH-1 phono stage, then I upgraded load resistors to Vishay Naked Foil (100k Ohm) and it was another upgrade! Later over the years I bought more turntables, cartridges and more phono stages (headamps, SUTs etc).

audionoobie, to answer your question the AT VM760SLC will make a large improvement. It is a much better tracker than your current cartridges should have better bass and be more dynamic. It is a great value!
@mijostyn Awesome!! Thanks!!

Thanks again for all the wonderful replies. I am taking in all this great information.

@chakster "Better phono stage will not make your average cartridges any better. You have to start with a cartridge."

This sounds like excellent advice and I will definitely heed it. Thanks!
IF The cartridge is the most important, then why buy a good TT & tonearm first ? Well, there is a reason why. IT AIN"T SO. IF the cart was the most important, people would build their vinyl rig around it. BUT THEY DON"T.

So, OP If you buy the hogwash of the cart being the most important, then you should sell your TT & stand alone phono preamp and buy a cheap TT and a very nice cartridge with those funds.
@artemus_5  I didn't say that the cart is the most important component. What I will say is the 1210GR is the most expensive TT I feel comfortable buying. Now it becomes a matter of optimizing and getting the best possible sound quality with what I have.

From what I understand the arm on the 1210 is pretty good. Good TT, good arm, just ok carts, and a just ok phono pre. Makes sense to me that I would get the biggest bang for buck upgrading the cart. 

But I'm still taking this all in and trying to learn.

The most important component by far is the modem. Without that I am unable to connect to pay the utility bill, without which there is no power, and no system, and the power cannot even be turned back on. So it is definitely the modem. Or any other darn thing I can think of to make the point that there is no one most important anything. 

What you do noob, is if you have something that is known to be negatively affecting the sound, or is super easy or inexpensive to upgrade, then that is what you do. Because everything matters, and sorry to offend the others who got it wrong but everything matters pretty much about the same.  

Mostly what you want to learn is not so much which things make the biggest difference, because they all do. So forget about that. What you want to learn is which things can you do that will give the biggest benefit over the time you will have them.  

So for example a really sweet cart will be a huge upgrade. But depending on how many records you play it may last only a few to maybe a handful of years, at which point your wonderful cart is just about worthless. While a turntable or arm, good ones will make about the same initial improvement but last for years and years. Mine are over 16 years now. I have gone through three carts in that time. If I had bought the Koetsu way back then it would indeed have been a wonderful improvement. No doubt about it. It would also have kept me from being able to buy the table I got instead, which is now with me and running fine all these years later.  

So to really get the most from your audiophile dollar calls for planning the likes of which few here can truly advise you on. Once you have the plan, then we can. But by then you won't need much in the way of help. So relax. There is no right. Or wrong. And you will never be done- until you are ready to be done.... for now.  
@ audionoobie OP

I didn’t say that the cart is the most important component.

My apologies for the confusion. I know you did not say that. But others have. The lack of logic in the idea that the cartridge is most important is what I was trying to expose. Nothing wrong with your TT & arm. Yes everything matters also. But unless you have very deep pockets you have to prioritize what upgrades are necessary sound better. I seriously doubt a better cart is going to be a big upgrade. It may be some better. But you are still going to be wondering about that phono preamp.
1st, a new cartridge,

I like Audio Technica, however I would go with the same body with the Shibata stylus and save $250.

both have very strong stereo separation, 30db and tight channel balance 1 db.

I am using my ancient but still near virgin AT440ML upstairs, and got my first MC, AT33PTGII, very similar specs, main system, I love it.

Any advanced stylus shape requires very careful alignment to sound great and to avoid damage, how are your mounting/alignment skills?
The phono pre makes all the difference in the world....
Regarding the limititations to the cartridge and arms strengnths and inherently their weakness’s..
As well as its own strengths and limitations in regard to the previous’s real capailities....
Think of them as one importance in how they are relevant to each other....not how one is more relevant than the other.
The thing about the phono pre it can limit the strengths of the other two, but a good phono pre will show all their capabilities and flaws...
You don’t want the phono section to be the bottleneck if you have a good cart n arm . Conversly, if your planning a better arm or cart or will you know what they can do if the pre isn’t up to it..... this all hinges on the idea you know how and do have arm n cart properly set up.....
OP, as others have said the phono preamp makes or can make a material difference. It changed the game for me. If I didn’t jump to a good stage (Manley Chinook) I would’ve thought digital had eclipsed vinyl for good. That is not so. They are different but vinyl can be seductively mesmerizing.  
IMO the phono stage is more important then the table or the cartridge. We did an experiment a few years back using a reference phono stage and a MM basic cartridge and a JC Penny TT (I believe CEC made it for JC Penny). We were all floored by the SQ yeah some noise but it was so beautiful we all laughed when we found out the TT was labeled JC Penny. I still pull it out on occasion just to prove it to people. That was using a reference quality phono stage. Never tried it with any other one.

We also just modified a Manley Steelhead preamp/phono and the new parts we installed also made a big improvement using the same mid-level TT. So the phono to us was a much bigger improvement then the TT would have been.

Our experiences, others may feel differently.

Happy Listening.
An amazing MM cartridge can be found for $700-1000, this is the price for a basic phono stage, better phono stage normally cost $1500-2500 and what it can make for an average cartridge is to show all the flaws of such cart.

JLTi mk5 from Australia is great new phono stage for reasonable price. Highly competitive with higher priced Gold Note PH-10. I have both.

phono stages make a huge difference... absolutely huge

if you can't hear a difference it is likely because you don't have a good, resolving system set up properly yet (90%), or, that unluckily, you have happened upon two phono stages that sound very much alike (10% chance)...

serious analog folks view the phono stage choice as one of the most important in terms of system building

good luck on your quest
Yes AT VM 760SLC will make a big difference because of the profile but also because it's good match for your tonearm.

I had a Denon 110 on an SL1200 and it was a good jump up going to even to an AT7V. I now have a 1200G with AT VM750...another jump up in resolution.

With that cartridge, you will hear a difference with a better ($1000+) phono stage. 

The right question should be about carts ouput. Not so much relevenant for MM kinds but well for MC kinds. By those
there are: low output , mid output and high output kinds.
In order to reduce the moving mass the real possibility
is to reduce windings of coil wire. Cantilevers and styli are
in general pretty light. Not much to ''reduce'' this way.
The low output kinds are phono-pre  sensitive. Either
 (expensive) phono- pres ( + 69 dB) or SUT's. There is
 no 3th posibility. 
If your cartridge is NOT good enough, it will not make a difference.

If your cartridge IS good enough, any phono amp over $1000 will NOT make a difference.  You will not hear any difference. 

Spend about $1000 MAX for a cartridge and maybe at most another $500 MAX for your phono amp and you will be set.

I think what most are trying to say is that it’s a matter of limiting factors. Look at your signal path and identify the weakest link. Figure out where you want to land for the system (usually budget driven decision) and upgrade the weakest link first. Any sort of smear in the signal chain can break up the soundstage - and no equipment can put it back together.  We have the same TT and I’ve had success with a 103R, a 1:40 SUT (Bob’s Devices) and a Decware tube phono preamp. I’ve since moved on from the 103, but it’s a great performer for the cost. Like most have said already the phono pre is important because it is responsible for more gain that any other equipment. Combine the high gain with the only tone control typically used in analog (RIAA correction) and you have the easiest piece of equipment to get wrong. 
A good phono stage with loadings correctly matched to the cart (or to your taste if you prefer) will make a big difference, more so with a moving coil, more so at the high end.

Miller, please send me your 'worthless' used carts so I can get them re-tipped with replacement suspension and they will be like new.  Whilst some robbers, like Koetsu, charge obscene amounts for re-tipping (but still less than half the new cartridge ticket), reasonable people like van den Hul and the Garrott Brothers work at sensible charges.
Noob, maybe try a tubed phono pre.
Dont hear a difference you like?
Roll some tubes. One like the Manley Chinook for example, one that's offers many gain and loading settings to possibly be a good mach for a number of cartridges down the road.

A manufactures settings are a suggestion, use your ears.

I run a moving coil Lyra. It's a lively detailed cartridge but I wanted to run my phono pre at a lower gain to lower tube rush (noise).

Enter Bobs Devices SUT. A SKY 30 set at 1:30 per Bobs recommendation
(as mentioned above)

Wow, he was right. More of what I already enjoying and quieter. Love it.

Good luck in your hunt

I'd buy a Tavish Design the classic or the vintage tubed phono preamp, or maybe even the EAR 834 p. You will hear a difference with either.
The question is what phono stage, not all phono stages are good, not every higher priced phono stage is better than lower priced phono stage. Sometimes they charge for usability, but not for the quality. 

Tube phono stages are more problematic, because tubes are noisy, especially for low output MC cartridges. 

Solid State phono stages are different too, but they last forever, tubes are like cartridges - you can use them only for certain amount of time. 

Here's my take.  In a vinyl reproduction system, the phono preamp system, which could be simply a built in phono stage, a separate phono preamp or those in combination with an SUT, is the most critical part of a system's amplification chain.  This is because it's tasked with taking a miniscule output signal from a phono cartridge and amplifying it up to line level, while trying to act as a straight wire with gain.  This is a difficult task.

Phono stages in preamps may be good, but their mostly good for a built in stage.  A serious quality separate phono stage under most circumstances should improve your system.

But once this is accomplished, the rest of your system has to be of sufficient sound quality and neutrality to be able to discern the  differences between the various phono stages.  No part of the reproduction chain is unimportant.

The only way to tell for sure is to listen and compare, only you can judge using your own system what improvement a piece of gear give you, and whether that improvement is worth the cost of the component.

Good luck. 

First, in any chain of events the first stage is the most effectual in performance, all errors are magnified from that stage on.

Second, the relationship between the cartridge and the phono electronics is as tricky as that of the amplifier to speaker, each involves the interface between two energy converting transducers, mechanical to electronic for the phone, electronic to mechanical for the speaker.  There is little that is linear in either process.  

Cartridge loading sets the cartridge performance and is not a fixed issue, It effects the entire electro-mechanical relationship.

I would suggest that you read Austin Audio Works paper on cartridge loading (on the web site) to expand your understanding of this reality of this relationship, no fluff, just raw data delivered in graphs.  You have to decide whether the timbre of the cartridge is effected by what loads it.

Resolution of audio information starts at the beginning, and each record is different - check out the Black Swan.


Spend about $1000 MAX for a cartridge and maybe at most another $500 MAX for your phono amp and you will be set.

sorry but i don’t agree with this, just far too broad a generality, esp. re $500 for a phono stage

depends so much on the system and demands of the listener/user
It’s impossible to "read" the groove correctly with a conical stylus (and elliptical stylus is not the best), if you can’t pick up the information (music) from the groove correctly then no phono stage will help you, no matter what price.

1) Vinyl Record is the source of music.

2) Cartridge (stylus tip) is the one and only device that actually touch the record and "read the groove" (read the source).

Everyone should have a great cartridge first and then everything else on equal level.

Always start with a cartridge, not vise versa. This is the first and most important component in analog chain.

** read and watch this and that at least.
"Always start with a cartridge, not vise versa. This is the first and most important component in analog chain."

Sorry , no offence but I don't see that as sage advice . You don't buy expensive racing tires for a Lada and expect it to compete with something purpose built through and through. The cart is important, not most but equally.
 Its beginning to end . ALL AS ONE. The phono pre is the bottleneck. It must be up to task or everything now ,or upgraded later is at its mercy.

The fact the cartridge is the only contact in the groove makes EVERYTHING after it that much more important to not harm such a tiny signal.
A signal requiring extreme amplification where even the wire matters more than any where else.
Its not about generalities or biased ownership , its simple common sense. They all matter equally,  they can all diminish the improvements playing before them . Starting with a good cart will only show real gains with an arm that lets it do its job with no added noise or distortion to a tiny signal created at contact. Now if that signal is as good as it can be when set up properly, how could a pre that doesnt play quietly and effectively to amplify all the details retreived be good enough ? Vinyl is the one source that everything matters, as any faulty , weak or neglected stage drasticaly reduces the real benefits of what you hear right down to the feet and what they sit on.

Its not just about more dollars making it better. Its about the balance and synergy and set up of the parts. The Phono pre is important to many, that understand ,  the better it is and the more versatile its settings are....relate directly to better sounding cartridges now and upgrades down the line fully realized,  or multiple arms and carts (types) on one or more tables used . 

As well, tube based phono stages are not all noisy or substandard. Thats a gross generalization thats patently false. Some of the better mid to higher end stages are dead quiet and tube based. Its wonderful to have choice,  its foolish for some to think they know only the best choices based on nothing more than biased ownership and their own cost bias. Choice is a good thing, it keeps everyone included. Unlike deriding everyone elses choice indifferent to their ownership bias'.  Choice is a great teacher, we learn from our own,  and when open minded we learn not just about our choices from others experience.
But their different choices and why's expanding our  possible choices further . All that said , nothing will change the fact the phono pre is the make or break piece at just how good that start with the cart choice thinking will work let alone the arm its married to as in better or worse...
Why spend good money and effort to dig as much out of the groove to have it ruined by the phono section seems counter intuitive ....

It's a little comforting to me that there are disagreements on this topic from those that know far more than I do! 
The fact the cartridge is the only contact in the groove makes EVERYTHING after it that much more important to not harm such a tiny signal.

This is irrelevant for MM and MI cartridges with output from 1.5 to 5 mV.

Stylus profile and overall cartridge design is the most important. OP’s turntable is TECHNICS GR with fully adjustable tonearm , you know, It’s perfect turntable/tonearm to mount and use a better MM/MI cartridge with advanced stylys profile and cantilever (and more involving sound). Next step is everything else (can take entire life).

All MC cartridges must be avoided by newbies (they can only cause more problems). Great MM/MI are far better than average MC. Denon 110 is average MC, ClearAudio is rebadged cheap Audio-Technica. 
Try Allnic H1202. 
It will work quite well with $500 ~ $1000 MM or MC cartridges.
I’ll be able to give you some idea, in a couple of days, what a Bob’ Devices SUT, the SKY 20, sounds like through my cheap ass Musical Fidelity V-Phono, it has a good power supply, so punches slightly above its weight.

The SKY 20 is about the step up my fairly cheap AT MC cartridge needs, and that through the MM section of my V-Phono, should make a substantial difference.

I have a kit for one of the 2 phono sections Bob likes, yes there are just 2, and one of those does not respond. ;} Then things should improve enough for anew cartridge.
You just said the pre is not a concern with Mm or Mi . Thats BS. Pure BS....regardless of output..nonsense.  A better phono pre makes any cartridge sound better that can be better. 
Trouble is you only and always push your ownership bias on all others here. 
The Technics is your idea of best,  not mine and many many others agree. Its just a subjective choice that to many doesnt sound right. The arm...Ive heard better on that exact table. Reason why many swap it out...they know..not opine blindly. How many do you own ? Im guessing none. I kept one for 6 months . Good table not my sense of natural analog sound.
Please stop with the imperialistic opinions that if you dont own it or approve its bad and everyone else shouldnt either. 
Surprirised your not ranting about belts too.
Whats wrong with Newbes and MC's. I know plenty who started there with no problem...
More generalizations n bs....  once again choice is good . Its inclusive and lets everyone have their choice of sound and use. Talking down anything you dont own or approve is not inclusive. It turns off the eager and the experienced to take part.
cog cog cog cog  cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog cog

What's that?

A Technics turntable and all its ilk.
You just said the pre is not a concern with Mm or Mi . Thats BS. Pure BS....regardless of output..nonsense. A better phono pre makes any cartridge sound better that can be better.

You are free to start from the other side, if you’re using average cartridge you can upgrade your phono preamp, but your limit is a cartridge (limit in frequency response, distortion, channel separation, clarity, resolution, tracking ability etc). You can’t do anything about it upgdaring a phono stage!

It’s like trying to play badly recorded vinyl and blame your phono stage, but the problem is SOURCE.
If the vinyl is OK next step is CARTRIDGE (not phono stage).

When we have a decent phono cartridge then a phonostage is definitely very important, because a decent cartridge reproduce what’s on the record correct.

Look at OPs cartridges first!

Trouble is you only and always push your ownership bias on all others here.

This is a common sense, nothing else.

The Technics is your idea of best, not mine and many many others agree. Its just a subjective choice that to many doesnt sound right. The arm...Ive heard better on that exact table. Reason why many swap it out...they know..not opine blindly. How many do you own ? Im guessing none. I kept one for 6 months . Good table not my sense of natural analog sound.

I don’t care about it at all, BECAUSE THE OP’S TURNTABLE IS TECHNICS and he asked for a phono stage, not for another turntable, try to understand it (my personal choice doesn’t matter, and my turntables are two Luxman PD-444, not Technics).

If Technics is red flag for you then try to understand that OP is already the owner of Technics.

Please stop with the imperialistic opinions that if you dont own it or approve its bad and everyone else shouldnt either. Surprirised your not ranting about belts too. Whats wrong with Newbes and MC’s. I know plenty who started there with no problem...

I only post about something I own (or owned in the past 7 years). I posted many times why an MC is not good for a newbie, first problem is low output and as a result there is a noise, second problem is re-tipping process and very short life span of such cartridge in general (especially with average stylus profile). Main problem for a newbie is that he can accidentally damage the cantilever or stylus and then it’s over. It happens.

All these problems are irrelevant for MM or MI cartridges, because the stylus is user replaceable and available separately, no hum or noise with an average phono stage, and the sound is just like master tape with a decent MM or MI.

Personally I like LOMC cartridges too, but I am not a newbie and I have tried and owned over 50 different cartridges in the last 7 years (new high-end and vintage high-end), including some of the best LOMC, MM, MI.

Regarding Technics turntables: I know them very well, using them for over 25 years, the last one was SP-10mkII. But I still have two upgraded SL1200mkII in my second system and I test my cartridges using those decks with headphones. In my main system I have much better turntables and tonearms (Reed 3p, FR64s and FR66fx, Lustere 801, Denon, Ikeda ... ).

But when a person (who own Technics) asking for advice I believe I know what I’m talking about.

The OP cartridges like Denon 110 MC is the worst part in his analog chain, not his phono stages! Logically it’s nice to start with a better cartridge in this situation (it’s also cheaper start with more noticeable results). Because if you will start with a phono stage the cartridge will be like a bad filter between the source and phono stage and a lot of information will be missing and will not be delivered to the phono stage (even if it will be a top phono stage on earch)! This is why upgrading a phono stage (if necessary) is next step after upgrading a cartridge!

If you brain work different it’s not my problem @has2be


Sorry for the noob question...

I have a Technics SL1200-GR turntable with two cartridges; a Denon DL110 and a Clearaudio Performer. I also have two phono stages; a Consonance PM6 and the internal phono stage in my Belles Aria integrated.

I see a weak link and it’s Denon DL110 MC cartridge.
I see another weak link and it’s ClearAudio MM cartridge with unprotected aluminum cantilever with Elliptical tip without ability to change the stylus by user, cartridge generator made by Audio-Technica, but the output of this cartridge is not a problem for OP’s phono stages!

Better cartridge will change everything in his system in my opinion, without upgdading of the phono pre.

Nothing changes the fact the phono pre will always be a bottleneck to everything before it if it isnt up to task and flexible enough like an open tap to let it flow uninpeded.
Clearly you can’t read or your bias guilds you. I said EVERTHING MATTERS equally and to think of the cart arm and pre as one for synergy.

We all are well aware of your Luxman tables. I told you 2 years ago, I had one over 4 decades ago when current and in spec. Found it more digital and hollow sounding then and now as do others.
Thats subjective , its what choice allows us.

The OP asked....How much difference does a phono preamp really make?

It makes plenty of difference. It can ruin a well set up cart and arm. It has more control over both arm and cart ,able to bottleneck like a half open faucet. Get the best you can afford so every drop of energy from contact gets through. Lesser priced carts suddenly dont sound lesser at all.
Better carts , well getting out of what you paid dearly for is a better value again. This is common sense. NO matter how good your cart is , it will ALWAYS be at the mercy of the electronics that interpret that tiny signal and amplify it. The cart cant fix that, its job is done.
It’s not about seeing it from one end or the other. It’s about seeing it as one from beginning to end and budgeting to acheive it with no bottlenecks at the users own price point. Once again , choice is good.
As well, bias ownership and ranting on about it is far from common sense espescially when you shout down anyone elses choices as toys if they arent what you own. Thats narrow minded living in a box with blinders that retards your learning and others. Not inclusive at all.
Your gripes about MC carts. Those appear more as obstacles to you, you personally, or you wouldnt be whining about them...again n again.....many others dont seem to be so incapable to get past it and hear what they are capable of....with a better phono section....
Just like many like their MM or MI even more...with a better phono pre

In my experience not just opinion, a better phono pre in anyones system allows wider choice of carts, types, output , flexability and far better sound out of all choices. Lesser priced carts become far better value. Expensive carts really shine. Win win..... long term...not short sighted ignoring the room new cart change and upgrade that usually follow us all with carts that wear.
Versatility and choice keeps one from being trapped and boxed in....