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Which Preamp: Mani, Pluto or Phono Box DC?

Discussion in 'New Gear - Performance' started by cubdukat, Jan 17, 2017.

  1. cubdukat

    cubdukat Member

    Messages:
    52
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    I have finally decided that my ART phono preamp has to go, and I am currently eyeing three models: the Schiit Mani, the U-Turn Pluto and the Pro-Ject Phono Box DC.

    Admittedly I am leaning heavily towards the Mani, but it's out of stock at both Amazon and Schiit's website. Amazon has the Pluto, but I don't know what their return policy is if I don't like the sound. Out of all three, the Phono Box DC is something I can pick up locally, but I haven't been able to find any reviews on it. I haven't even found any mention of it on Pro-Ject's website.

    Basically what I'm looking for is something that sounds good and that I can get up and running with a minimum of fiddling with. Specs-wise, it seems that at least both the Pluto and the Mani come close to what I have now, but I can't help but think that both models will sound much better than the ART for the simple fact that they're both at least 10 years newer. I will also be glad to be rid of the level control. I have never liked using it because the instructions ART gave me were always a little vague (not to mention the plastic knob got lost and I had to use an engraving tool to mark the pot shaft so that I can set levels with it)

    The cartridge the preamp's going to be matched up with is a Music Hall Tracker, but I will probably be upgrading that to either an Ortofon 2M Blue or a Nagaoka MP-110.
     

     

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  2. Ilikevinyl

    Ilikevinyl Cool Breeze Subscriber

    Yaqin MS-23B tubed preamp! I just bought one of these and can't believe the sound it has for under $200! Was using a Cambridge 640P phono preamp before. The Yaqin is a HUGE step up in performance! Both cost the same! The Yaqin has a wide 3D sound stage. The Chinese tubes sound nice but I just bought some Sovtek 12AX7-LPS that will be here at the end of this week. Those tubes are a nice upgrade! The Yaqin sounds better than some $500+ phono preamps! The build quality of the Yaqin MS-23B is top-notch! It has some weight to it, much heavier than my Cambridge 640P! Tubed is the way to go!

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Poultrygeist

    Poultrygeist Lunatic Member

    I have a Mani. Love the sound and small footprint. Since it allows for use with MC carts it's really a better value than the others. It's basic and requires no fiddling to get the sound you like. Can't say that for my JD9 which sounds better but requires some tinkering to get it right.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2017
    musicman95 likes this.
  4. ictwoody

    ictwoody I like vintage gear — my preamp is from 2007. Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,702
    Location:
    Wichita, Kansas
    I was looking for a high-value phono preamp for my 2nd system where I was going to run a Denon DL103 LOMC cartridge. After a LOT of research and reading online, a lot of which surrounded the Mani, I chose to go with the Emotive XPS-1 phono pre. It has a ton of flexibility for a multitude of cartridges and is really really well built. It's form factor is a teeny bit strange, but overall I'm VERY happy with my decision. The S/N Ratio in MM mode is crazy low. Unfortunately they've recently raised the price to $179... this thing started out at $129. But even at the new price I think it's an excellent deal. It's an excellent sounding preamp and I don't think you can do much better new under $200.

    - Woody

    https://emotiva.com/products/pres-and-pros/xps-1

    Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 9.34.58 AM.png
     
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  5. daveg3588

    daveg3588 Toy addict Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,371
    Location:
    Hamburg, NY
    I'll second the recommendation for the XPS-1, I too was running the DJ Art until a month ago with a Sony ps-x7, I have both MM/MC and wanted the option of using both, the Shure VI sounds good, the Ortofon MC 20 is smooth and better. I also have a second TT, a Denon DP-1250 with a Grace 707 and a Denon DL300, so now I have switched tables and the Denon is just the next step beyond the last 2. Enjoying the Music!
     
  6. sqlsavior

    sqlsavior AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,529
    Location:
    Española NM
    So, what did you get, and how do you like it?
     
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  7. cubdukat

    cubdukat Member

    Messages:
    52
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Had a couple financial hiccups, so I'm still with the DJPre II, and still dithering over the Pluto and the Mani. I'm leaning more towards the Pluto because there seem to be a lot more examples of it on Youtube that I can hear than the Mani.

    The PhonoBox DC is out; the reviews aren't that great on it.

    It seems that Amazon has a fairly liberal return policy. so I might get, say, the Pluto first. and try that out for a spell, then the Mani, and once I've heard both for myself, I'll make my final decision. Hopefully Amazon will have the Mani in stock for a while...
     
  8. vrm71

    vrm71 New Member

    Messages:
    45
    Location:
    Sacramento
    I was in the same boat as you, looking for a phono preamp and went with the Mani myself. hopefully you get a chance to try them both and give us your impressions.
     
  9. cubdukat

    cubdukat Member

    Messages:
    52
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    I think I will. I finally ordered the Pluto from Amazon yesterday. In a couple weeks I'll order the Mani, and whichever one I get rid of I'll probably sell on eBay. It'll probably be past the return date for either of them, so I probably won't have that option, but we'll see.

    It's a shame neither one of them is sold here locally.
     
  10. freQ(*)Oddio

    freQ(*)Oddio Super Member

    Messages:
    2,787
    Location:
    Adirondacks
    Good luck on the Pluto, i read some great reviews on it. The mani I have is also beautiful sounding, was not great until I switched the gain options from the factory settings that were too hot, it has a nice clean low gain sound with headroom now. I have really compared for days at a time, and finally the mani, after gain changes, is better sounding than my previous choice Sansui stock pre. Now I have the option of having this nice phono pre sound with any receiver I want to use.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017
  11. cubdukat

    cubdukat Member

    Messages:
    52
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    The Pluto's supposed to arrive today, but now I have to get a new stylus. I learned the lesson about not using alcohol as a stylus cleaner too late, and it looks like the tip just fell out of the shank.

    Truth be known, though, it was for the best. It was going to be replaced within the next couple weeks anyway. It was only eight months old, but constantly letting it sit in the inside lead-out groove for hours on end because you went to sleep apparently kills Tracker styli. Things like hard piano notes tended to sound a little gritty.

    I'll have a report later on today, once I've set it up...
     

     

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  12. cubdukat

    cubdukat Member

    Messages:
    52
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Well, the Pluto's in place now, and as with everything else, it's a classic case of good news/bad news.

    The good news is that it's a quantum improvement over the ART.

    The bad news is that I have a ground loop somewhere with my computer, but that's easy enough to deal with.

    As it stands right now, getting the Mani seems less urgent. It'll still happen, but I'm very happy with the Pluto right now.
     
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  13. cubdukat

    cubdukat Member

    Messages:
    52
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Day three with the Pluto, and all's well. I've been able to make a couple needle drops so far, and I'm wondering why I didn't get rid of the ART sooner. I transfer a lot of classical albums, and I've started to notice the ambiance of the chamber where they were recorded, something the ART seems to be mostly incapable of rendering. I wonder if it's because I'm reading more into the Pluto's sound because it's newer, or whether the ART really is that outdated. I bought it about ten years ago, and from what I gather, it was never meant to be an audiophile preamp.

    At any rate, I love this thing!
     
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  14. ScooterMcTav

    ScooterMcTav I know less than I think

    Messages:
    582
    Location:
    Manitoba
    Good thread, and I really like the look of the Emotiva, especially it's loading options.

    Unfortunately, I had already acquired a Phono Box II by this time to use with a LOMC cartridge.

    Although it may not be as refined as the Pluto or the Emotiva, it is still a step up from the ART, and I am pleased with its cost to performance ratio. So if someone is stuck in the $100 schekel range, the Phono Box is not that bad. There was some complaint about the noise with an MC cartridge, but personally, I don't hear it. Real world performance was much better than the reviews led me to believe.
     
  15. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Messages:
    29,310
    Location:
    In FLUX currently......
    How much are you willing to spend? If spending a grand - I would look at this one.....

    http://sutherlandengineering.com/ The Vibe - I talked to the designer at AXPONA and he believes in the shortest possible route with a clean layout. A real down to earth guy.
     
  16. cubdukat

    cubdukat Member

    Messages:
    52
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Well, I'm finally settling in for the long haul with the Pluto, and I have to say that I'm incredibly satisfied with the quality. I managed to do an end-run around the ground loop issue by running the Pluto directly into the computer instead of splitting the outputs between the computer and the receiver. I was doing that because I couldn't hear the Pluto any other way, but then I found a buried setting in Windows 10's Sound preferences that solved that problem, so I am now able to monitor my needle drops on the fly without switching my receiver to a different input.

    It's amazing to hear things I've never heard before. With the ART, I was getting music that sounded piano-like, or cello strokes that sounded like a cello, but were missing that extra something. Now with the Pluto, piano notes have definition to them, cello strokes have a more involving feel to them, and triangle hits are actually separated during a trill.

    Unfortunately, it's now set off the age-old story of how a new piece of gear reveals the shortcomings of another, and I am now debating to replace the Music Hall Tracker cartridge I'm using now with something else for the turntable's third birthday...But that's another story for later :)
     
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  17. Pennywhistle

    Pennywhistle Member

    Messages:
    58
    "I wonder if it's because I'm reading more into the Pluto's sound because it's newer, or whether the ART really is that outdated."

    Yes.

    "I bought it about ten years ago, and from what I gather, it was never meant to be an audiophile preamp."

    Yes.
     
  18. Pennywhistle

    Pennywhistle Member

    Messages:
    58
    What was the "buried setting in Windows 10's Sound preferences"?
     

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