Phono stage can minimize tics and pops on vinyl

Recently @atmasphere  made an interesting statement twice on a thread about CD vs. LPs where he posited that one phono stage can minimize the sound of pops and tics over others.  

I recently upgraded from my 25 year old Aragon 47k phono stage to a Luxman E-250.  After sufficient break-in time, which was considerable, as I pulled out my old, though well kept vinyl, it became very clear that I was experiencing this effect with the Luxman.  The pops and tics were still there, but they were much lower in volume relative to the music and thus made all of my vinyl quieter in the sense of surface noise.

Interestingly, the treble was clear and open.  Well recorded jazz cymbals had that burnished brass sound with a natural airy decay.  You can readily tell the wood tipped sticks from the plastic ones!  Good hall sound and open, expansive soundspace!

So...have any of you ever experienced this kind of change, and if so, what might you attribute it to?

Back in 1980 Robert Grodinski (of RGDynamics) identified phono stage overload margin as a major factor in SQ. His own designs surpassed all competitors of that time in SQ! So he was on to something!
Right now I have his RGR Model 4 preamp in use for my phono playback. Excellent sound, no compelling urge to remove it!
It's more than just circuit topology, at least that's what my experiments show.

I built two examples of a phono/pre based on the same schematic. The first used some premium parts, but not all. The second was an all-out assault on the state of the art, with vacuum and air-gap caps in the signal path, aerospace transistors, etc.

Power supply remained the same, +/- 6V batteries. Overload margin, etc. was pretty much identical. But sound is not. The improvement is not subtle.

There is no substitute for premium parts. In my experience.
Transient response rise time and decay, and power supply stability contribute to superior recovery from vinyl damage noise.
It seems that there is some agreement here about the importance of a robust, well executed power supply allowing for an overload margin that minimizes the sound of vinyl surface imperfections.

I wonder if any of the "budget" phono stages can accomplish this?

There are so many very inexpensive phono stages on Music Direct.  Can any of them be robust enough to minimize surface noise?
Dunno but don’t fall into the trap of giving up detail ands inner resolution for a filtered sound with a cheaper phono amp. I’ve been so happy with my phono-pre that I’ve never felt the need to experiment with suppressing vinyl noise. However the cartridge/stylus might be a better way of helping with that trade off. My Decca is unforgiving but I don’t care as the music shines through. I also run an older Ortofon when I need quieter vinyl.
A couple of things to add about the E-250 is it also has a vg sut. And a cart demagnetizer. I have a Luxman CL-38U-SE and the tube phono is the best phono I ever owned. Very quiet as it has 4 step up transformers 2 for MC High and 2 for MC Low. The E-250 is $100 less than the Parasound JC3+ and having heard both is far superior.
To maximize its performance, I like to play a pink noise band from the Cardas Series 2 Burn-in LP for about 15 minutes then use the "Articulator" on the E-250 which thoroughly demagnetizes the coils of my MC cartridge.
Here are the things that allow for less ticks and pops. As far as I can tell, price isn't one of them:
1) good overload margin. (our phono sections are making nearly 100V peak to peak at overload...)
2) low RFI susceptibility. This also means that LOMC cartridges will not have to be loaded to sound right
3) good circuit stability. In this regard, stopping resistors employed at the inputs of all active devices at the very least.
It does not matter if the circuit is balanced or single ended- we've built both that are perfectly immune to excess ticks and pops. Also equalization built into the feedback loop is not a factor; we've done that too (although our MP-3 and MP-1 employ passive differential EQ). Its also not a matter of tube or solid state, although it does appear that more solid state phono sections are prone to ticks and pops than tube. Finally, bandwidth is not an issue, although there is a pretty good argument for wider bandwidth (we spec our MP-3 and MP-1 phono sections to 100KHz). IOW its a matter of engineering the circuit right, which does not have to have much bearing on the cost. Absolute premium parts aren't needed- the above parameters are.

If the phono section has its ducks in a row, you might be surprised at how few ticks and pops really exist; how few of them you hear over an entire album side, from album to album! This is way better than trying to treat the signal with stuff to get around the problem.
Absolute premium parts aren't needed- the above parameters are.

I agree that those three factors are necessary. But, with respect for your considerable expertise, I think not sufficient for the best sound.
@terry9 You are correct. If you want the best sound, you need the best parts. But design is what minimizes ticks and pops; I am saying there is a distinction.
@atmasphere Somewhat ironic that you say cost isn’t a factor while using your amps as examples to support that point. :-)
Our UV-1 does not have problems with ticks or pops and its not particularly pricey.

Our MP-3 and MP-1 are not that expensive as high end preamps go- cheaper than ARC, cj and many others. Are others charging more for ticks and pops? 

As Foghorn Leghorn once said 'Ah say there that's a joke, son' :)

Its all a matter of if the designer took all the variables into account- adding stopping resistors to a circuit isn't expensive; making sure its resistant to RFI after that isn't either. After that the big deal is overload margin and as long as you aren't too precious about power supply voltages that can be solved easily too.

This tic and pop issue is a big frickin' deal.  I had no idea how clean my vinyl really was until upgrading the phono amplifier.  For some, this is probably old news that the phono stage can so radically alter the audibility of surface noise but it is a revelation to me.  If I had known, I would have upgraded long before now.  Just finished listening to Dan Fogelberg's "Souvenirs" LP.  Wow!

I did always take care of my vinyl...I had a "Rec O Vac" as a young buck.  Glad I had the good sense to care for my LPs at the beginning of the journey.  Rediscovering my collection and loving' it!😀😀
When I got back to vinyl I started with prepackaged deal, TT, inexpensive phono stage and cartridge. Pretty easy to get started but not very rewarding. The surface noise almost made me sell the rig and stick with digital. Yet, I hung in there and started the phono stage and TT rotation. I can’t remember how many have run thru my system but maybe 7 devices each. All the TT’s, cartridges and phono stages were well below a grand. Then I purchased a full function pre amp with MM and MC stages that cost over grand used, I don’t believe there was a major reduction in P&C but with better resolution, it was just less noticeable. Getting rid of some of the P&C was long process of finding the right synergy between my cartridge (s) and pre amp.

Side note. My Wife and I listen together, she’s not a vinyl person and hates the P&C. Recently I switched to a Shibata stylus and She has became a believer. So for the last few months we’ve listened to nothing but vinyl. My ears have adapted and I now even enjoy some of my more poppy LP’s and notice the noise less and just enjoy the performance.

Cleaning: I have an old manual Nitty Gritty, carbon fiber brush and microfiber cloths
'P&C' I'm guessing means 'ticks and pops'...
The stylus might helps as it might track a different portion of the groove that has less noise, but if your vinyl is undamaged the real benefit comes when you use a stable phono section.
 @atmasphere   Thanks for explaining so much about what is going on with the audibility or lack thereof of Pops and Ticks.  The point you made above about having a stylus that rides in a different portion of the groove is spot on.  My 70's and 80's vinyl was subject to an elliptical stylus.  My current cartridge has a micro ridge stylus which is riding deeper in the grooves.  But, your info. about the phono amp. explains why I am hearing much less surface noise than with the previous phono pre.

It is a very pleasant surprise to rediscover the musical beauty in those older LP's.
@atmasphere yes, thank you for the great explanation!

@hifiman5 yes, I experienced the same phenomenon when I added the Manley Chinook into my rig.  Due to an unfortunate incident, I ended up also changing the cartridge to the AT ART9 with a Line Contact stylus around the same time.  Clicks and pops are virtually gone, even with less than stellar albums.  
a good system won’t minimize the clicks.pops, but neither will it emphasize them. I hear the noise on a different plane than the music. In life, if someone sneezes from the 2nd balcony, it sounds from a different place than the orchestra.
@stringreen   Interesting way of expressing your experience with surface noise.  It's as if the pops and tics are detached from the fabric of the music allowing your brain to focus on the music not extraneous noises.
I hear the noise on a different plane than the music. In life, if someone sneezes from the 2nd balcony, it sounds from a different place than the orchestra.
@stringreen I understand this bit very well- its why I prefer vinyl, as any surface artifacts are in a different plane from the music, while the colorations (brightness and hardness) of digital are part of the music itself.
However, this statement suggests to me a misunderstanding, I'd like to clear it up:
a good system won’t minimize the clicks.pops, but neither will it emphasize them.
The idea here is that indeed a phono section can affect how many ticks and pops you hear, because they originate due to phono section design issues which is triggered by something on the LP surface. And I hate to say it, but many high end phono sections do have this problem- in fact they emphasize ticks and pops, and people thing they are part of 'a good system'. I think this is because as I pointed out earlier, many people grew up with unstable phono sections and simply thing that ticks and pops just come with the media, which they don't. 

Put another way, if you really do have 'a good system', you will hear less ticks and pops- it will minimize them, without other coloration, such as a loss of highs.
@atmasphere   You said: " Put another way, if you really do have 'a good system', you will hear less ticks and pops- it will minimize them, without other coloration, such as a loss of highs."

The loss of highs issue was a real concern for me when the Luxman E-250 entered the system.  Initially the sound was "muted" and "slow".  Honestly, it took a good 300 hours or so to open up and for the highs to come into their own.  That was a great relief as I then felt I had the whole package.  So your mentioning that the phono stage needs to be of sufficient quality to minimize surface noise but not roll off or accentuate any part of the frequency spectrum is the overall goal.
Even if your vinyl is very well kept, I would buy a simple ultrasonic cleaner outfit and clean it will be surprised how many clicks and pops are eliminated. If that doesn’t do it, then think about electronic solutions.
I've not used my Discwasher in 20 years. I don't need it- a simple dust brush is all I use and that is to prevent dust buildup on the stylus. IOW I'm playing LPs free of ticks and pops with no need to clean them.