(original thread is here: http://www.ecoustics.com/electronics/forum/home-audio/529726.html)
First, my apologies for not posting an update sooner, however I've had some issues in my personal life that demanded my full attention.
Thanks for all the great ideas, in particular thank you kindly Jan for your extensive post pointing towards affordable pre-amps within my budget.
I spent some time shopping the internet for used pre-amps. I was going to purchase a used and likely out of production unit, sight unseen (and hearing unheard). This would be my first pre-amp purchase and Jan it was made using bearing your concept of 'free audio' in mind (that which can be later resold for the purchase price). That said, I had some serious budget restraints guiding this purchase.
The search process was useful because it gave me a better underpinning (theoretical at least) regarding pre-amp design. During my research a pre-amp that particularly intrigued me was Superphon (a couple models in the Revelation series) long defunct and I believe of 1980's vintage (possibly manufactured into the early '90s as well). These are basic minimalist hair-shirt type pre-amps with some slight variations and differences in the different models (ex., dual volume controls on some of the units, some different circuit design and components). These models have a phono stage which is a necessity for me but no remote control (a remote would be nice but for my present needs it is not essential). I also found some good material written by the Stan Warren, the designer of the Superphon pre-amps on how to upgrade various components to enhance performance. I was thus torn between getting a stop gap pre-amp into my system and undertaking a modification project (my first in audio). The main problem for someone in my shoes is the age of the unit...one item I was very interested on eBay was pulled by the owner after I asked him to fire it up: he had not turned it on but was assuming it worked, he learned otherwise. I delayed and delayed and delayed too long and one on Audiogon that got no bites finally got snapped up. Maybe when I have some future funds, I'll give one of these a try just for curiosity.
I ended up purchasing a very nice used Adcom GFP 565 in pretty much mint condition (other than age) complete with box and manual. Recall, this purchase was made to in order to utilize another recent purchase, a McCormack DNA-125 amp.
I also purchased a pair of Grado SR80 headphones and they are a huge step up from the pair of gifted Sony MDR-CD666 phones I was using previously. Currently I sit close to my pre-amp, but I'll eventually need to get a longer cord for the Grados and I also want to get a padded headband cushion from Beyerdynamic that will fit on the Grado, for better fit and comfort.
I still have other obligations that are demanding my full attention, but when I have a moment I would like to post my impressions of the Adcom Pre-amp and the McCormack amp...a lot more music and sound has ben released with these two components! The reviewing difficulty is that this wasn't an incremental upgrade but both units were plugged in at the same time, so it will be difficult to tell which improvements are from the amp and which are from the pre-amp. Also, things have been moved around in my apartment recently due to recent repairs and renovations...and more are to come...so I need to reset my turntable's adjustments, level, etc.
The other components in my system (2-channel) are: Meridian 508.20 CDP, Music Hall MMF.7 (I want to write a review of this also when I have the time...it was a HUGE improvement from the toy-like TT that proceeded it), a Record Doctor LP Cleaner, Polk LSi9 speakers, Kimber Hero cables and Kimber Powercord for the McCormack amp. There's also a Philips DVD player (currently not connected) but it is feeling more and more like an afterthought and the time is coming to either make a separate HT System or more to the point, entirely drop the notion of putting together a separate 5.1 HT System and resolve to commit fully to my 2-channel music system. With 2-channel I can get superior quality components for the money spent rather than splitting my limited resources between two systems. Watching movies through my Apple G5 with a professional grade graphics LCD display along with a quality 2-channel music system should suffice.
My next project will be to upgrade my hard wired digital music server which has become my main source. A new external DAC to replace the internal DAC in my Apple G5 will be the next vertical upgrade. It's also time to start a secondary system, bringing wireless background quality music first to one, then to two additional rooms via an Apple Airport Extreme (I already have an Airport Express ready for one receiving end). The first step in the secondary wireless system will be to buy some inexpensive monitors to hook up to my decommissioned Yamaha A-700 integrated amp.
If the wireless music server works well, I'll repeat that in a third satellite room with a budget amp & speakers, then turn my focus towards the goal of moving my main system into a new room, which although will not be a true dedicated listening room, it will not be the makeshift setup I have now comprised of speakers set in my art studio/office. Once I get my main system into the new space, I'll buy a pair of full range speakers and focus on system setup, placement, and room treatments (I can't do much with my room in my current context and that is probably the weakest link in my system now). I'm very much looking forward to tuning the room, it's a factor that haunts my current setup. It may take a year or two to get there, but it will be nice to have a relaxing space with comfortable seating and see what difference a room rethink will make.
Somewhere amidst those plans, I'll refocus on upgrading the pre-amp and/or phono pre, possibly experimenting with tubes. I still feel there's quite a lot more to pull out of my vinyl, perhaps a cartridge swap may help it along.
Three and a half years ago, before I visited this site for advice, I was running a budget mid-1990's Sony boombox...
Update: 'Under $300 Pre-amp' Solved.
Silver MemberUsername: Lovegasoline
Post Number: 149
Gold MemberUsername: Dmitchell
Ottawa, Ontario Canada
Post Number: 2020
Great post LG. That's quite a step up from your Sony boombox. You must be quite pleased now.