A solid tube photo stage around 1500

Edit: Phono stage (voice to text is biased against analog)

First of all, I know this question has probably been addressed many times on this forum, and I’ve looked and sorted for relevance and date and still really can’t find anything. However, if you know of one posted in the past few years that can answer my question, please put a link and that’ll be the end of that.

I have an LFD LE phono stage right now that is superb, as all LFD components are. However, I have a beautiful line magnetic 518 integrated that is just opulent. And thus, I’m looking for a tube phono stage to feed it. I was thinking of an Allnic 1201, but was too slow on the trigger. Ultimately, my goal is a Herron phono stage, and Keith Herron literally lives right up the road for me. But I don’t have the funds for the Herron at the moment.

So what’s a good tube powered phono stage for around $1,500 to $2,000 that could better the LFD and be a good fit for the line magnetic?

Can I stay local and go with deckware? Maybe Canary? My speakers are spatial M3 Turbo s’s, and my vinyl rig is a VPI HW19 Mark 4 with a Hana ML.
Coronavirus notwithstanding, ask Keith over with his amp for a listen. Maybe you might not like it. Then that’s put to bed. Or maybe you must have it and can work a deal or decide it’s a better investment to put down the $2k and the rest on a card. Not sure this proposed intermediate step is worth the effort.
IMO in that price range and and based on my experience:
1- used K&K phono preamp. Look for one that Kevin built and not a kit.
2- Croft, either the entry or middle tier model, not the 2-box version. MM only so you will need a good SUT for LOMC.
@noromance I trust your advice and have for many years. Let’s assume I can’t swing Keith’s prices at the moment. This move I’m asking about would be a stepping stone to a Herron.

@millercarbon the ZP3 has always been of interest to me but I do not like that the RCA plugs are right next to a robust power supply. There might be a shielding system going on inside of your ZP3, have you ever pulled the top off?

OP: Ron Sutherland lives 10 blocks from my house, I would try one of his higher end stages if I could. If you can not find what you need there is a possibility of sending your current stage to Noble Electronics in Iowa or having them build a Tubes 4 HiFi kit.
Don Sachs, Hagerman, and Decware are OEM options of interest to me in that price range, if you do come across something else please post about it.

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@geof3. Yes, before I got the line magnetic, I was looking at a deck where it's in. But then Steve told me about the 6th month wait. And of course, the review and Stereophile is going to add to that. That's the first public review I've ever seen of Decware, and I wonder what brought it on?

@dweller should I go for the audible illusions and just upgrade the capacitors?
@noromance thanks man. I believe that's the one that sold here on audio gone a few days ago. Just hasn't been updated on the audiomart site yet
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No worries. A couple of review sites had suggested such a move. I kind of like doing stuff like that, so I may go for it.
I have the 2nd generation model of this listing.

The sellers price is over the original 10 year old list MSRP for some reason. Start at $1500 to agree on a price. A REAL all tube unit. Rectified, active gain-no step up transformer, unlike all the popular units.

You being drawn to the Allnic 1201 is a good thing and if you are lucky enough to find a nice clean one in your budget could prove to be your final phono stage. I spent a year buying/selling phono stages and kept the Allnic and let the Herron go, just sayin. Enjoy the music
Patience is a virtue.  Wait for another H-1201.  Hammertone looks to have one:  https://www.hammertoneaudio.com/trade-insOr, ask them to let you know when a trade-in comes in.  Bought my H-3000 used from Hammertone, A+ service.

@advanced101.  Kind of kicking myself for not accepting the counteroffer in time. It was for $500 less than the Allnic listed on Hammer tone, plus came with four extra tubes. 

Meh. As U2 says, what you don't have, you don't need it now. 
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you can’t lose what you aint got. @noromance is correct sideways move unless you can find a Croft single chassis RS and stuff it full of good tubes. A music reference RM-4/Croft RS is the equal of the Herron. i own them , never recommend gear i haven’t heard. The ML is a fantastic cart for the $, oh a yes i have heard the LFD, solid stuff.

have fun , enjoy the music.
@tomic601 glad to hear some championing of Glenn's craftsmanship. I feel they get lost in the barrage of marketing noise here stateside. 
You could also consider the best Aesthetix you can get your hands on, tube quality will be essential 
"how would you describe the Fosgate's sound?"

simao, these thread is what I read when doing my search.


Having heard some of the current tube units in and around the price point, it competes(subjectively) with a more organic sound. Among the current, I would lean toward an Allnic 1202-out of your price requirement.
Allnic H1201will be available for your price range. 
Magi Phonomenal has two MM inputs, all hand made in US with point to point connection. It will take 2~3 months go get it once ordered.
Magi is just as good as MM in my Allnic H1202.
Magi with LIve! MC-10  SUT ($1000) is just as good as MC in Allnic H1202 on my system.
An update: after flirting with several Allnic 1201's for sale and failing to buy them in time, I took a plunge on a Hagerman Trumpet - sound unheard based on several recs here and online. With a 30-day trial period, it's a worthy risk. Will update its sound compared to my LFD after it arrives and burns in for a while.

Now - how to get more bass from my Spatial M3 Turbos?
"I took a plunge on a Hagerman Trumpet - sound unheard based on several recs here and online."

Looks like a winner for the price. Maybe a future tweak is an LPS to replace the wall wart.
Look into Tavish Design Adagio ,
tube only for high output with step-up transformers for MC .
It took me 2 years to make up my mind on which phono pre
to go with and like you want and wallet doesn't always coincide .

Guess I'm to late with my advise .

other then the ones already mentioned the Manley Chinook is another option. also the Audio Note Kit phono stages are quite good for the money. you do not need to build them. 

Congrats! I hope you like it as much as I do. But, do give it some time. I probably have about 60 hours on my Trumpet, and it seems to be getting better with time.

@tablejockey It was much less than I was willing to pay, but I love this hobby inasmuch as surprises can come when you're not expecting. Like, I was firmly committed to an Allnic 1201 - until I wasn't. And of the Hagerman doesn't do it for me, I can recoup much of the cost and try something else, like @vair68robert's Tavish Design (which I've never heard of).
I learned about Tavish Designs from reading Sterophile ,
Herb Reichert uses it as his reference phono preamp .
Reviewed 6/1/2016 .
Simao, just put some cream on the itch and stick with your current phono stage which you obviously like. Put the money away and save up for the Herron. If you know what you want go right for it. Intermediate steps are a waste of money. Patience is a virtue.
A friend of mine just got a Musical Paradise all tube phono stage built in China. He says that it is a great tube phono stage for the price and sounds real nice. Priced under $1,000 with shipping.
@vinylvin Thank you for the link. What a lukewarm review for in my ears, a solid tube phono stage. I wish he would have taken the time to have poses questions to hagerman before writing the review. Anyhow, so far, what would maybe 10 hours of listening and not nearly enough time for a good break in, and I haven't rolled the tubes at all, I like what I hear. It's a definitely a different and improved sound from the LFD

Yes, an odd review.

  1. No, the preamp isn’t heavy, but I don’t know many cables you hook up to it will “flip it over”. Seriously?
  2. Yes, the instructions are brief, but not very confusing, to me. It would have been nice to have the dial markers ‘marked’, but really, I’m kind of liking the simplicity of Jim’s decision.
  3. Why does Mikey think it will mostly be hooked up to bookshelves speakers? Odd comment.
  4. I’ve played a few of my Joni albums, and I don’t hear the same thing he has. Is it full? Hell yea, but to my ears, on my system, nothing is ‘excessively’ done.
  5. I certainly wouldn’t say my SoundSmith Zephyr is lean or analytical, and my Zephyr has never sounded better. Perhaps he is speaking as it would/may be a good match to tame the AT cart sound, as example. But that doesn’t mean that’s what you need to balance out it’s ‘tubiness’.
One the good side, I do agree with the fullness (including soundstage) and weight the Trumpet provides, also it’s punch, and brings out the best in the mids, mid-bass, and bass regions. To be honest, that was lacking in my vinyl system prior, so the Trumpet pleases me a great deal. But I don’t feel the highs are as compromised as he might be stating or suggesting. Of course, ‘in general’ I prefer a softer and fuller sound throughout the range, so the Trumpet only makes the sound I prefer better, and brings more of that ‘to the table’ (pun intended).

I dunno, I get a sense he really didn’t spend much time with the Hagerman.

Mikey likes transient speed and air. Me too. Many folks like tube warmth. I prefer tube sweetness. I run tubes. But I do not like excessive warmth or thickening at all so I get Fremer's perspective in this review. I don't know what the standard tubes are but you have a whole world of rolling possibilities there which may do wonders for the sound. I'm looking forward to your journey.

Yep, I agree, that seems to be his desire, personally.

I have twitchy fingers to try some new/NOS tubes, but have not taken that leap yet. As I’m new to tubes tied so directly to sound, I will need guidance on the various tube sound signatures to make that first choice. I know one thing, I will probably spend a decent amount in my first decision, and not simply swap for swapping sake.

The main preamp tubes are the 4 of the new Mullard long plate 12ax7’s. They seem to get high marks for what they cost, but I’m sure there are better choices out there, if willing to spend a significant amount more.
@vinylvin The Hagerman is definitely a more robust, tubey sound - wider and more expansive soundstage at the cost of slightly less imaging. But I like that. Haven't rolled tubes yet.
I agree @simao 

RE: Hagerman Trumpet - have you used the tube dampers? I find, for my set-up, that imaging improved with them installed on the 12ax7's, placed down low.

I just installed four new Genalex Gold Lion (gold pin) 12ax7 tubes last week, and it was nice improvement. Better mid-high extension over the stock Mullards. Tomorrow, or the next day, I should receive two NOS Brimar 12au7's to replace the stock tubes as well. I am hoping for an additional performance increase in sound.

I'm really liking the Trumpet.