Weak Link in Vinyl Playback

Hi Everyone,

I’m looking for some input on a weak link in my system, mostly in regards to my vinyl playback chain in a 12’x11’ room.

I currently have a Technics SL-1700 MK1 with an AT-VM95ML cartridge. The turntable is connected to an iFi Zen Phono. The phono is connected to a Schiit Saga S via 3 ft. Blue Jeans BJC LC-1 cable, and the Saga runs to a single Schiit Vidar by the another set of the same cable. The Vidar is connected to Elac Debut B6.2’s via 10 ft. Belden 50000UE cable (as an aside, my digital path is Pro Ject S2 Pre Box Digital connected by the same 3ft. interconnects to the Saga>Vidar>speakers). I’ve connected a sub previously (a Martin Logan Grotto I that I inherited) to the Saga in the past, but am currently running without it.

My concern is that while the digital path sounds full to me, at least as much as can be expected, the vinyl path sounds a bit thin and weak. I guess I’d describe it as kind of lacking energy. My gut tells me the Saga S having 0 gain in both the passive and buffer mode (I run it in passive mode because it sounds more lifelike to me but I’ve used the buffer in the past as well) is the reason for this, but I’m not positive. I’m ready to upgrade to the Freya S if that’s the solution, but I didn’t want to start throwing money at a problem without really narrowing it down first. The Zen phono is set to MM and gain 1, which should be correct for my cartridge, the interconnects aren’t overly long (the speaker cable being 10’ isn’t too big a deal, I think?), the Vidar should be driving my inefficient speakers with no issue and judging by the digital path, it is. 

I’m hoping someone here can weigh in on what would make the biggest positive impact in my listening and give me the oomph I think I’m missing. For what it’s worth, I plan on doing some room treatment down the road, but that’s not what I’m looking for advice on at the moment.



I had one for years. It was good until I launched myself way down the upgrading rabbit hole. You'll definitely want to replace the stock tubes though so factor that cost in.

@nlitworld are you tube all the way? I see they offer what seems like a SS alternative with all the adjustments available as well.

@oldrooney : that's the first I've ever heard about a particular cartridge being specified for use in an S-shaped arm! Straight or curved all that matters is the proper offset angle at the headshell! Not enough offset angle means the cartridge will not align properly.

@oldrooney : back in 1977 SpectroAcoustics in Oregon sold a preamp with full capacitive and resistive loadings by switches on the front panel. I had one briefly and stupidly sold it! For MM cartridges this would be very useful!

The OP could try to find on the used marketplace a SpectroAcoustics preamp. Then get rid of the iFi and Schiit. One could probably be found for around $200 on, say, USAM.