Q: I am looking for a new phono preamp, priced up to $1,500. What do you recommend in this price range? I have the LP Gear The Vessel R3SM cartridge (the one that won the 11-cartridge shootout on your website) mounted on a Technics SL-1200GR turntable. I figure it is time to add a phono preamp that matches the quality of the other components.
A: You practically have my vinyl playback system duplicated already, so you may as well finish the job with the Graham Slee Accession phono preamp (pictured). It sells for $1,498, so it's in your price range. The Accession is handmade in England and probably the most critically acclaimed phono preamp in its price range. It has some unique circuitry and design parameters that make the sound and performance stand out in its class. The Accession has an output control so it also can be used as a preamp in a stereo system, connecting it directly to the amplifier to drive the speakers.
It is hard for me to describe how it works without taking up more space than this column has, so it is probably best that you read up on it online. There is an excellent description of it at lpgear.com, the same place where you got your cartridge.
Easy speaker connection
Q: I purchased one of the Cambridge Audio Bluetone speakers you wrote about recently. I like it very much and would like to use it with a CD player from a stereo system. Is this possible?
A: Yes. You can connect a CD player to any speaker that has an auxiliary input. All you need is an RCA-to-miniplug cable. Connect the red and white connections of the cable to the matching connections on the CD player, then connect the miniplug end to the matching input on the speaker. Most speakers will select the input automatically when the cable is connected, but with some you have to toggle an input selector button to get the proper input.
Unplug costly cables
I can't stand scams, and one of the biggest ones in the audio world involves cables. Don't fall prey to it. There is absolutely no benefit to buying expensive connection cables and speaker wire. Copper is copper, and electrons are electrons.
Consider HDMI cables. HDMI is a digital connection. That means that you either get perfect results or you get nothing at all. There's no gradation of quality in between. Many stores want you to believe that you have to spend from $40 to $200 to buy a decent HDMI cable. In truth, you can get a perfectly good one for under $10.
I've had excellent results buying cables online from Amazon.com and Monoprice.com. Another source I recommend is My Cable Mart (mycablemart.com), which is based in the Twin Cities and has a retail store in Eden Prairie.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.