I'd keep my eye open for reviews on the PhD as they come out.
27 responses Add your response
I'd go for the Herron VTSP-1mc. The musical involvement, sense of scale, dynamics, and flexibility with cart matching is excellent. I'm currently using it with the Dyna Te Kaitora with excellent results at 47k ohm. I've also heard it with the Koetsu Urushi, Jan Allaerts MC-1B at 47k and they are NOT bright. Loading down to 100ohms can constipate the music.
It can only be used for low output MCs, though with your selection of carts, that should not pose any problems.
Thank you Alanmkafton. Very interesting.
I'll look into the EAR 324 as well. It reminds me of the Steelhead in some ways except solid state. I like the input for two turntables because I want to keep my VPI MKIV/SME309/Grado Reference for comparisons and later, with a change in cartridges, dedicated to mono.
Not to be simple, but are you asking about a phono stage or a step-up transformer/pre pre-amp? If you are really looking for versatility and the best sound, you have to consider these items seperately. And you don't have to spend more than $300 for a passive step-up and around the same amount for a tube-based phono with power supply that will sound as good as anything else out there, even price no object. That will let you spend more money on the TT itself. Keep visiting DIY horn/tube guys in whatever town you are in, or whenever you travel. You'll find the best stuff with these guys.
Thanks for the feedback RonyW.
I have a Cary SLP-98P and I have considered a step-up for it, but I was told by several audiophiles that this approach would not be ideal in comparison with a new, high quality phono preamp like a Rhea, Hagerman (plus step-up), the Ear suggested above or idealy a used Manley or Aesthetix IO.
As soon as I can get through remodeling in my house, now extending through Sept according to the contractor, I plan on stepping up my efforts to investigate and purchase a State-of-the-art Turntable (VPI HR-X, SME20/2A performance package, or the like (Maybe even a Teres is in the running with a Graham Arm).
I would like a top end cartridge like a transfiguration or a maybe even a Koetsu if the sound is right, but I will try to be open-minded, recognizing the great sound of Shelter and many others.
I am trying to get all I can from my records without busting my budget. Currently my VPI/MKIV/SME309/Grado Ref sound better than CDs on my Nuvista to me (which I think is a killer CD player). I can only imagine how much better vinyl could be. I feel that I am limited by my current set-up against using very high-end MC cartridges or low output MI Grados. I plan to dedicate the VPI to mono in the expanded system.
Obviously, I will spend a long time making these decisions. But, that will be at least half of the fun - both listening and learning.
By the way, I have tried to get a local, retired RF engineer to help me build a new pre-amp but he said it was too complicated a task. If my Cary is not limiting, maybe he would help me build a step-up with some Jensens. Again, I am open.
It is quite complex question. I am quite familiar with the majority of the phonostages was proposed here and unfortunately I personally do not find them all worth to peruse. Those phonostages are just plane bad phonostages and they MUST NOT COST as much as they do. In fact, there IS NO commercially available phonostage that performs well. If you want to get ANY phonostage then do not go for what commonly consider good because it is just waste of money. The 3K-12K phonostages DO NOT SOUND better then 1K phonostages. If you cant build your own phonostages or to commission somebody to build it for you then get for $400 (direct from UK) EAR 834P and update it according to Torthen specification (+$120). This unit with a good step-up will waste ANY high price phonostages. Unfortunately, as I said, there is no good MC phonocorrector out there. Good luck in your search for a good step-up.
Romy the Cat
certainly, although I never had youre your phonostage. (This is why I said majority but not the all).
Instead of asking me the questions that have the obvious answers (I do not thinks anyone hear me taking about something that I have no familiarity) it would be nice if you (as a designer) would explain to me how came that we today, after so many years of our progress, have completely screwed-up our analog culture. He have NO SERIOUSLY PERFORMING contemporary TT, no good modern arms, not good contemporary magnetics for out MC stages, no good contemporary vinyl pressing . and yes, no good park of the currently manufactured phonostages. Unfortunately looking at the variety of contemporary elements in the todays system the phonocorrectors are the MOST under-performing elements in a chain of reproduction.
Romy the Cat
Thank you for your answer. It's a very bold statement that there are no good phono stages being made today. Same with turntables, arms, and magnetics.
As a designer, I'd be happy to explain why our analog culture is screwed up and that products have digressed over time - if I actually believed it. And I don't. So we differ on opinion here.
Perhaps you could suggest a few examples of vintage products that are better than anything sold today?
*** It's a very bold statement that there are no good phono stages being made today.
Yes, it is unfortunat it is a sad fact. I have tried the majority of them and can testify that none of them can do what I consider accentual. That is why, I am being very much not DIY person, run all my 3 phonostages that are NOT commercial phonostages. Whatever I have seen/heard heard commercially available was good enough only for TT with 3 ponds acrylic platter TT, plastic tonearms with coca-cola needles, little ported fart-machine speakers and Patrica Barber screaming from a wide soundstage.
Romy the Cat
Thank you all - very interesting discourse. Clearly there is a lot of controversy surrounding phonostage preamplification and the current state of the analog art.
Regardless of whether one considers a commerical or DIY endeavor, what are the key design decisions that impact on phono preamp sound.
Secondly, how closely matched or restricted must the cartridge selection be to given a specific phono preamp selection.
A very low output cartridge needs 60 or more dB of amplification. How does one assess how much strain on the preamp this entails, how does that strain affect speed, resolution, transparency, and noise?.
Basically, how does one objectively break down the merits of a phono preamp design or upgrade and select candidates to listen to and purchase?
I have few different phono setups in the past and I have heard over a dozen. I have not heard anything over $5K on phono preamp since no one I know is that crazy.
Three setups with same table setup.
TT setup: VPI HW19MKIV/graham 1.5T/VDH Bk Beauty
Marantz 7c/Counterpoint SA-2
Out of all, ARC SP-11 is most dynamic/punch
Marantz 7c/Counterpoint SA-2 is nice and bold and smooth
Counterpoint SA-5000 is elegant and evolving
It's really depends on what you like.
For large critical listening ( orchestra ),
I would choose ARC because it seems to have better resolution.
For everyday listening, Marantz 7c/Counterpoint SA-2 is produces and fuzz and relax sound.
For a more elegant female voice, string instruments, and jazz, I would pick SA-5000.
I have not found a clear winner in all catagory but I enjoy them all.
I really think the phono stage requires your own judgement rather than other's opinion. However, the gain and noise level requirement has to meet. That part is very critical.
Just my 2 cents