Stellar Phono Pre Amp or wait

I am just transitioning to 2 channel music. For years the main importance has been Home Theater. It has really just been during COVID that I have spent time really listening to music. As such I have been transitioning my listening room these last few months. Actually I just bought my first turn table Monday, but I am hooked. I’m hooked on the sound, the process of caring for the records, and holding the media in my hands. My equipment is as follows. Remember my room does still perform a dual purpose as we still have teenagers in our home.

Equipment for 2 channel
Anthem AVM 60 - Cambridge 851N - VPI Player - OPPO 105 - PS Audio M700’s - Focal Sopra-3

I know I will need a new table. I am actually impressed with the VPI Player for what it is with its built in Pre Amp. When I up-grade tables I will have to purchase a Phono stage anyways. My question is do you think I would be better off upgrading the table now and getting a less expensive Phono Stage or purchasing the Stellar Phono now, bypassing the internal phono stage in the VPI, and up-grade the table when funds come available? This might seem a silly question to some, but as I am new to turn tables I am just looking for guidance. Thanks in advance.

1 Like

We all LOVE new gear.

But if it were me, I would live with that table for a while, and do a bunch of research on turntables and phono stages while you listen to your records. What’s your budget?

Back when I was getting back into playing my records after years of CDs (and then streaming), I bought a Rega Planar 2 brand new. But while it was still in the box, I happened upon a vintage Thorens. Fell in love, and knew right then and there I was a vintage table guy. Returned the Rega unopened. Not suggesting vintage is better than new, but much of the fun is in the research, and the hunt, and learning what you like.

Learn what you love and hate about the VPI. Learn about cartridges. Learn about setting up a turntable the right way.

I don’t know that I’d get a lesser phono stage at this point. The VPI’s preamp is equivalent to that. But I suppose if you did, you’d be able to have another point of comparison, to see how a modest external phono pre compares with the built-in one. Is there much of a difference? Who knows… Then if you get a new turntable, you’d be ready to play right off the bat. Could probably get a decent used phono preamp for $150 or so. NAD, Pro-Ject, Cambridge Audio, to name a few.

(And then you could save for the SPP, if you needed to.)

But the other side of the coin is that the Stellar Phono is a great-sounding preamp, no doubt. Pretty much end game for most of us. So, hell, if you have that coin, why not?

Thank you for listening to my TED talk


terzinator thank for trying to grounding me. I tend to be a impulsive jumper with equipment and need to learn to slow down, and enjoy. If I do go this route it will give me time to learn more about setting up my future table properly.

My budget as of now would be the price of the Phono Stage with trade-in. then in a couple of months would look to spend $2-3K on a new table.

Hello and welcome clrvlewis! The VPI looks like a fine turntable, and I would hang on to it for a while. If it were me I would over time.

  1. Buy records! After all it’s about the music first.
  2. Get some kind of record cleaning machine and when things open up start going to thrift stores and garage sales. I bought a VPI 16.5 soon after getting a bottom of the line music hall turntable – the RCM cost twice what the table did. Today I would be looking at kits that work with ultrasonic baths you can get on ebay.
  3. Play with a different / better cart. I went something like bundled goldring to grado to rega to denon dl103 to hanna sl. Maybe move up the ortofon 2m line. If you want to look into MCs that will determine that you change phono preamps or maybe fit a SUT.

It’s a fun journey - as above, take your time and enjoy it.



1 Like

Thanks Dan! I will do just that. Set back and learn while enjoying :slight_smile:

1 Like

I happened to be selling my Stellar Phono Pre as I have spent thousands more for a tube phono stage of my dreams.
Let me know.
Tom - NJ - twabltatoptonlinedotnet

1 Like

Tough question, but as you are thinking of upping both TT and pre within a few months, and you’re good with $2-3k for each, I’d get the pre, get your head around it with your current TT/cart, maybe try a better cart on your current TT, then upgrade the table if you feel it necessary.

The reason I’m thinking this, is the window the pre opens allows you to clearly hear what is going on upstream of it. That may reinforce your liking of the current TT/cart, but may not. If you got a new TT and cart first with a cheap pre, you won’t be able to hear what they are capable of, and you may change your mind about the cart when you get the new pre.

Having said all that - which may or may not make things easier - I agree with a lot of the advice above. OK to take your time.


Replacing the phono preamp first does open up the possibility of trying a MC cart. I would guess that the VIP tonearm is good enough to take a much better cart than the $99 ortofon. The risk is that you will create a mullet system, with the SPP highlighting everything bad about the VPI and you won’t actually enjoy playing records.

Hey y’all - whut’s wrong with Business in the Front and Party in the Back?! I kin rock that shiz all day long :metal:t2:

1 Like


It’s my flat-earth/source first/Linnie upbringing kicking in. Sometimes ignorance is bliss!

:laughing: Thanks guys!

Basics first. I’ll get to the Stellar later.

Cartridges come in generally low output (up to about 0.6mV) and high output (typically 3 -4 mV). The reason being the signal is generated by moving a magnet and coil relative to each other (electromagnetic induction). When this was first done 189 years go, the magnet and coil were each the size of your fist. In a cartridge one is on the end of a cantilever and the other is attached to box in which the cantilever is suspended and are microscopically small. It is easier and cheaper to put the magnet on the end of the cantilever and the coils in the box. It’s called moving magnet because the magnet moves (MM). It’s much harder to put the coils on the cantilever, and more expensive. That type is called moving coil (MC).

With the magnet on the cantilever (MM) makes it heavy and less sensitive, so generally does not pick up as much information as a lighter cantilever with coils attached (MC).

However, because you can get far fewer coils when on the cantilever than when in the box, because in an MC you are trying to keep the cantilever light, you get less induction, so less voltage.

So MC cartridges are usually more detailed, more expensive to make and low output. MM are less detailed, cheaper and high output.

There is a massive price to pay for that extra detail of an MC cartridge. The phono stage has to be able to provide up to about 70dB of gain without producing noise, and the noise can come from the circuits, the power supply or externally. MC phono stages are designed for signals as low as 0.15mV. Secondly, the load impedance of the cartridge has to be matched to the phone amplifier. That usually makes MC phono amplifiers expensive.

Finally, cables from the cartridge are very thin and are carrying a minute voltage. Many people use solid silver cables because it is one cable that really does make a difference. In your case that would require a re-wire. People do it.

High output (MM) cartridges are easily amplified with a cheap phono amplifier. Load impedance is not an issue.

The VPI deck has an Ortofon 2M Red fitted, a decent cheap cartridge that outputs a massive 5.5mV. So there are two factors:

  • The built in phono stage is probably designed to provide minimum gain.
  • It will sound perfectly OK because the 2M is perfectly OK and popular.

It does seem that VPI have put most of the money in the deck and saved on the cartridge and phono stage.

So I suspect your first upgrade will be a better MM cartridge together with an external MM phono stage. You would probably be spending $600 to $1,000.

Before you will get any benefit from the Stellar phono you will have bought a better turntable, an endgame turntable is the Rega P8 with Alpheta 3 MC at $4,400. It’s brilliant and incredibly popular. You would then need a good phono amp like the Stellar.

There are a million and one options, from moving iron cartridges (lightweight and medium output), step-up transformers instead of MC phono, MC-only phono amps, medium output MC cartridges, it’s all great fun and easy to go wrong and waste money!


p.s. The VPI is not an entry-level machine. It’s a very fine MM turntable. Very well regarded in the UK, where the competition is very hot.


Thank you for the detailed walk though and guidance. Its was Immensely helpful.

1 Like

HERE HERE for the Rega Planar 8 which I own and LOVE !!!
Plus everyone looks at it with awe.

1 Like