You should be able to get an audible illusions[if you're lucky with the gold phono board]...you have to make sure the AI has MC, not MM,[they don't have both] another real sleeper would be the copeland 301Mk11 if the phono works with that catridge....speakers,,,,oh boy.....I'm going to suggest also newform researchR45's, a speaker that will make you love listening to your music, speakers are personable and you have listed speakers there I also like, except I haven't heard Dunlavy. Good luck, for phono, the AI will be hard to beat for the money...Cheers,
Welcome to the 'Gon! I noticed an Audio Research SP9 for sale here today, it does have a very good phono stage. It does NOT have a remote control, if that's important to you then perhaps you ought to consider another preamp, perhaps a CJ? Assuming remote control doesn't matter to you, then the AR is a great piece of gear at a reasonable price. I owned one for quite a while and enjoyed it, but eventually moved up to BAT preamp with external phono stage. All-in-all the SP9 represents a terrific value for roughly $1000, pretty hard to beat even if you spend the extra $600 on another preamp. Best, Jeff
CJ bought McCormack when it was about to go under, then put ol' Steve back in charge of his company (divorce sucks). C+J commented on the nice match that happens between the CJ preamps and McCormack amps. I have used a CJ PV11L with a DNA.5 and a DNA.5 Rev A, and it tryly was a great match. I'm using Rogue and Cary products now, but the CJ stuff was great. I wanted a remote controlled integrated amp, so I decided to give up the classic PV-11L. I hear great things about the Rogue 99 preamp, which is supposed to have a great phono stage, and has a great company behind it (I'm absolutely positive about this). I've never heard it, though. I prevously owned a CJ PV 10AL, and it wasn't as refined as the '11L but it was really nice sounding, nevertheless.
rogue audio 66 preamp with phono is respectable and within budget, about $1300 new, there is one posted used for $875, hard to beat imo, and you'd have more budget for speakers. of course, you'll likely want to step up to the bigger brother, the 99 preamp which would set you back farther than you want right now. call mark o'brien at rogue, very friendly and a pleasure to talk to when i needed customer support. also, rogue will be expanding their preamp/amp line to include two separate phono preamps soon, if not already. there will be a standard mm/mc pre at about $800, and a reference phono pre at about $1800. having lived with the 99/88 combo for about a year, i can't imagine being disappointed at this price point.
of course, there is the audible illusions 3a, about $1100 used seems to be what they go for, give or take a bit. never listened, but from what i hear one of the damn finest phono sections to be had with a linestage.
if i may recommend speakers, check out the spendor line in addition to what you've already suggested interest in, specifically the sp1/2 monitors. new with sound anchor stands about $2700, can be found used for about $1500 if patient.
welcome to the hobby
please audition all the gear you can in person, and at home if possible. remember , you must live with it.
my advice is to stretch your budget as far as you can IF you've happened across an item you are in love with. the extra $500 spent then, as painful as it may be, will often prevent some of the upgradeitis later on. upgradeitis can turn that $500 into a more painful $2500 in no time.
my 2 cents
hope it helps
cheers and regards
Rogue and Blue Circle offer tube preamps in your price range. Don't think the Blue Cirle has a phono stage.
If you only plan to build analogue system than EAR834P phono with volume control will be good enough for you under 1K. If you will order it directlyu from UK you will buy it new at the used price.
I'll second the ARC SP-9 but only the MKIII version. I have the MKII and the MKIII. The MKIII can be had for about $1000, the MKII (not bad) for $600-$800. Be forewarned that it's a warm (colored) sounding pre, ideal for taming a bright system. NOS tubes are a must. Siemens for a more detailed sound. Telefunken for a warmer presentation. Amperex is somewhere inbetween. It's a hybrid with a 6922 for line and one for phono. Good enough for McCormack gear.
Almost surprised that you haven't heard more of up an upswelling from the Rogue fanatics (which have been vocal as of late, myself happily among them, bias noted). The 99 Magnum (with phono stage) goes for about $2.9k retail, and might be had used, with a little patience, within striking distance of your price range. Also, you could always get a non-Magnum version ($2.4k with phono, retail) and upgrade it at Rogue later at your discretion (I like having an upgrade option in pocket, as it gives you a shot at a fairly dramatic makeover for a relatively minimal price). I recently picked up a used 99 Magnum (linestage only) and am really thrilled with it. Obviously, I can't attest to the phono stage they put in there, but it's meant to be swell. If you're making a list to explore more in depth, don't leave this one out (or the 66, which I can't speak to personally). As mentioned above, Mark O'Brian, Rogue's owner/designer and the fellow likely to pick up the phone if you call, is as good as they come when it comes to interest, commitment, and helpfulness regarding products that he is obviously proud of and passionate about. Knowing he's behind Rogue, and having had the pleasure of speaking with him, has made me feel even better about owning a great preamp. (Yuck, this sounds a bit like a paid testimonial, but what the hell...). CJ, AA and AR are also great, and may likely be had more easily and for less used, if nothing else, beacuse they've had the chance to make a whole lot more of them. (I almost bought a CJ10A a couple of years back, but ended up with a VTL TL 2.5 instead because it had a remote and a HT bypass loop, neither of which the CJ does, despite the fact that the CJ may sound a touch better). I see no reason to bemoan your price range, it will easily get you into the dance, and picking the partner that suits you from there is part of the fun.
i think with my 35 yrs of high end audio expenses and experiences you're putting the cart before the horse..get the speakers you like first...you won't hear the preamp difference if you're not into a good set of speakers...if you like rock and roll forget the martin logans i had monolith 3's i prefer my old but excellent snell alll'sover them more impact power for classical the martin logans are great and also if you like high db levels i'd say to stay with non electrostatic's my preamp is a audio research sp 10 mk ll but that cost alot more than your budget...
Thanks for everyone's help so far. I am settling toward an EAR 834P Signature phono stage and possibly the EAR 834L preamp or possibly another line preamp.
Doc, I appreciate your years of experience and understand from where you are coming - and I thank you for the speaker advise. My dilemna is this. The speakers will be one of the only pieces that I will likely buy new. And if I do buy used it will probably be locally to avoid hundreds of shipping pound costs (not to mention damage). As such, they will also likely be the only part of the system for which I will have the luxury of auditioning before purchase. I figure if I get a good match between the front-end, amp, and pre/phono, I will then be able to "sample" a variety of speaker sets before settling on one. Also, it seems that the number of speaker choices available to me within my price range are much larger than the number of pre/phono choices.
Plus, let me ask this. How can I determine if any speakers that I will want will be suitable (recall that I have already an amp and front end but nothing in between)? I suppose I could try to find a place that has MY existing amp AND existing turnable setup and try various speakers with different combinations of pre/phono equipment.
I imagine this brings up the question of whether it is better to find a good balance with amp/pre/phono first, and then select speakers, or to buy speakers one likes on another system's "guts" and then either match that same system or "audition" a variety of electronics component to suit the speakers. I have heard arguments both way.
One thing I have come to realize VERY quickly about this hobby: THERE IS VERY LITTLE TURE CONSENSUS. One persons dream is another's nightmare. One persons perfect approach is anothers throny path. One persons ideal amp is another's end table.... I saw one thread where someone asked people's opinionof the top 10 speakers....about 30 posts yielded 30 different answers.
Don't get me wrong, though. I sincerely appreciate your opinion - both when it does and does not square with my own!
Agree with Drw that speakers should come first & then build the rig around them. This has always been my preferred approach if at all possible. But you are admittedly approaching this differently, which is OK of course.
Ome magical combo that I stumbled upon is a Golden Tube preamp driving a McCormack amp; the staging was incredible & highs were real sweet. Try to find a Golden Tube SEP-2 or SEP-3 preamp with an internal phono stage. Even the SEP-1 would do (but has no remote) I just saw one advertised here for real cheap. The SEP-3 shouldn't run over $750 used, with phono.
The probability of finding a shop having the same lineup that you have at home & with the speakers that you want to audition is low. You'll probably have to bring speakers home (the best way to audition) but then ethically you should buy from that dealer if you like his speakers. You might also consider bringing along some of your own equipment & cables to a dealer stocking the speakers that you want to try out; that will match up everything except your listening room itself (there's still a big sonic difference between the dealers' place & your own though). Find a dealer that has used speakers available. You can get more of your investment back out of them when it comes time to upgrade.
Read the hifi press about good matches to the mccormack amp. sam tellig in stereophile has had some experience with the amp in comparison to others. also the 225 was reviewed in the absolute sound recently, you might look there for sonic impressions, and use them in picking a speaker.
however there is no sub. for listening.
i agree about the choice of a tube preamp. the basic idea is, this kind of setup will generally be more forgiving, and give benefits in soundstage depth, harmonic information, etc. than a straight ss route.
Just decide in advance, I think, how much of a fanatic you are going to be about resolution capabilities in your pre. Go for the best possible sound, without too many tradeoffs in neutrality. For example, you might grow tired with a relatively syrupy sounding product like the C-J PV-10, which might not let you get to the benefits of the mccormack amp in terms of detail. On the other hand, you might decide once you have a tube pre, that you like tubes best all around, as I have.
These days, product matching is crucial and very difficult. Every speaker designer uses a different amp to voice his product! Find out if possible how the speaker has been voiced.
Don't be afraid to go 'new underground'. Remember, people often sell things because they have upgraded, which means you might soon want to 'upgrade' on what they're selling you (ask yourself: why are they selling this if it is so great?)...of course, this goes for almost everything, new and used, on the market!
There are some amazing products on the net by little known designers, selling new, that will better the well known market brands like C-J, in terms of absolute sound quality for the price paid.
antique sound labs
bottlehead (build your own!)
avahifi (audio by van alstine)..great value w/ lots of features that never comes up used on the net (good sign, also sign of less exposure than the C-J name)
counterpoint 3.1 and 5.1 are outstanding for the price (around $500 used if you can find), though they each have their own sonic signature (5.1, tubey but spacious and a great phono stage; 3.1 solid state power supply so a little 'faster-sounding'...also these products can be upraded by the designer for great bang for the buck.)
Finally, if you are totally committed to keeping the mccormack, the best route of all is: forget about the pre for the moment (buy a cheap passive like the OBH-12 for the time being) and find the speaker that you like the best.
If you like clarity and detail, try the Thiel 1.6 or B&W NT series of ever 804. If you like more full range and a slightly softer overall sound, hard to beat Vandersteen (McCormack uses these in many of his demos, so a good bet!!)
These are highly evolved designs that are difficult to go wrong with!
(yer head spinning yet?)
I recommend passive control. I have a McCormack DNA 0.5 and am very happy with the Purest Sound Systems 500 passive control unit. Some of McCormacks early preamps could be run passive, and they were said to sound good with the power amps. Here's what I get from the passive control: No agressiveness like I have in ARC LS3. No noticable HF distortion, relative to SS ARC. Mega information. Revealing of upstream components. Funny, but with a golden tube power amp I prefer the ARC Ls3. I think the tubes roll off the ARC harshness, and they need the gain.