Where is BPoletti now that you need him? He is "Mr. Herron" around here.
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As to your question about use of a separate tube phono stage with the PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium Integrated, I've owned that integrated amp for about a year now and have it paired with an old (2006) Eastern Electric tube phono stage. Other equipment: Rega P9/RB 1000 arm/Ortofon Jubilee cart. The sound is marvelous.
I didn't want to have to pay for the MC section of a VTPH-2 (I'm a "committed" Decca/London user; some people think "we" should be committed!), so I contacted Keith. He told me he had a PH-1mc trade-in that he could convert into a custom PH-1mm, and I took him up on his offer. He went way beyond what could be expected of him, lowering the gain a couple dB (which simultaneously increases the amp's headroom, a good thing with a 5mV output cartridge like the Decca) by using 12AT7's in place of two of the 12AX7's, putting in the 15k resistance and 220pF capacitance the London Reference calls for (although Harvey Rosenburg suggested years ago that I start with 1000pF!), and some updates to the original PH-1 circuit. Keith was at last weekends T.H.E. Show in Irvine, and his system (with Audio Physic speakers) sounded great!
Spend as much as you want, try all the phono stages you'd like in your system. Broken record or not, I'm here to tell you the VTPH-2 is the very best phono stage I've ever heard. I haven't heard anything better.
I don't mind taking criticism about my choice or my descriptions of Herron phono stages (VTPH-2 or VTPH-1mc). If there are those that are tired of my continuous praises for the Herron, convince me otherwise and I'll change my tune.
Bring on the competition. I'd love to hear something that betters the VTPH-2. But I don't there there's anything that can compete. Got something better, bring it over and let's compare.
Most of the difference between the VTPH-1 and VTPH-2 is in the mc section, which was one reason I didn't want to spend so much more for the 2. I have no doubt the 2 is worth the extra $ for mc use, but I don't need the extra gain of the 2---in fact, quite the opposite. Decca/Londons put out 5mV at 1000Hz! ALL phono amps sacrifice their overhead characteristics to get the higher gain needed by low-output mc cartridges. The Decca/London is not for everyone, any more than electrostatic loudspeakers are. But they have a characteristic NO other cartridge has, no matter the cost; the immediacy and dynamics of a Decca/London cartridge are unmatched by any other. A D/L cartridge compared to any other is just like the difference between a direct-to-disc LP and any LP made from a tape recording---the difference is that dramatic. A lot of people had a Decca in the 60's and early 70's, but many eventually tired of it's shortcomings, and with the improvements in moving coil designs and head amps in the mid-70's, gladly gave up the immediacy to get better tracking, less microphonics, etc. But John Wright at Decca didn't stop working on it's design either, and with the Super Gold remedied many of the older Decca's failings. Then the Deccapod cured the weak mounting system, as did the Jubilee model. Now the Reference brings the D/L into the 21st Century, and solves all of it's problems. But they're still not for everyone! I got a call from Harvey Rosenburg in the mid-80's, and he passed on to me a small amount of his vast Decca knowledge and wisdom. The resistance and capacitance loading of the Decca provides electrical damping to the cartridge (Harvey recommended starting with 1000pF of capacitance!), and mechanical damping does the rest. A Decca was used in the development of the Cransfield turntable, manufactured by Max Townshend as the "Rock". I can't imagine having a D/L and not a Townshend Rock TT, but people do. Yeah, it's a little more work to play an LP on a Rock than a normal table, but to me it's worth it!
"Another concern is that I have a Primaluna Dialogue Premium HP Integrated Amp and was wondering how another tube phono stage would sound with the tube phono stage? Is it better to Mix solid state phono stage with a Tube Amp or keep it all the same (all tubes or all solid state?)."
I have a PL HP and have a Fosagate tubed phono. There isn't any "better" regarding mixing a SS or tubed unit. Subjective as everything else audio.
With a nice clean record, the presentation can be surreal.The nice thing about a tubed unit is it can be further "tuned" to your liking.
Chuck, Do you prefer the VTPH2 to your solid state phono stage, the one we've both heard?
BPoletti, I do not in any way begrudge you your love of the Herron phono stage. Was just pointing out to the OP that you are obviously the most knowledgeable person on the subject of all things Herron. I'd love to compare the Herron VTPH2 to either my own highly tweaked Silvaweld SWH550 or to a K&K Maxxed Out.
Bdp24, In the good old days of Harvey et al, I owned a Decca SC4E and then a Decca London. I did like the London a lot, but I cannot recall what I thought of the SC4E back then. A few years ago, I resurrected the SC4E and gave it a listen; the results were to say the least not favorable. I am still open-minded on Decca, because of my fond memories of their wide open sound and midrange clarity. Can you say more about Harvey's recommendations for loading, besides adding 1000pF? Did he use 47K or some other resistance? I also feared that the older high mass designs like the SC4E could do damage to LPs. Maybe heavy viscous damping, as with the Townsend, ameliorates that issue.
Lew, Harvey recommended 10k to 15k resistance, and 1000pF to 1mF (!) capacitance, using .33mF himself. But every Decca was different. There was a device named the "Decade Capacitance Box" that would allow capacitance to be adjusted; with it you found the sound you wanted, and you would then install capacitors in your pre-amp of the value you decided upon.
A Decca/London is never going to be as refined or delicate as some, but, just like everything else in Hi-Fi, each listener has to determine what aspects of reproduced sound are most responsible for a satisfying musical experience. To me, there is the Decca, and then there is everything else. My friend Brooks Berdan would just shake his head and smile when the subject came up! They can sound rather brash, but part of that is because they put so much mechanical energy back into the arm, they reveal any weakness in an arm's bearings or the arm tubes stiffness and resonance. That's true of all low-compliance cartridges, though. The change to a line-contact stylus profile starting with the Super Gold helped with tracking, but that is still a concern. I completely understand a person's misgivings and apprehensions about Decca/Londons, and they really aren't for everyone. But they make music sound so much more like live music (which IS brash!) than anything else, I just can't quit her!
I've directly compared the Herron vtph2 against the zesto and the asthetix signature with a premium tube set.
The Herron was preferred by all 3 present by no small margin.
Likewise I have nothing but praise for Keith as well.
I was waiting for mine to be delivered and I got a call from Keith saying it was supposed to be there. I said no not yet but then I went upstairs and it was waiting on my step!
Another indication is the fact that there is never any on the used market. I don't even look at phono stages anymore and that is the only component I can say that about.
I've posted before about the Herron VTPH-2 but will chime in again with nothing but praise. Thoughtfully designed, well-made, beautiful sounding and comes with great support from Keith. When I went to a separate phonostage my first choice was solid state--a Whest PS30R. Nice unit for sure but when I decided I wanted to try a tube unit I did some research and thought I'd give the Herron a go. Spoke to Keith several times and was really blown away by his knowledge, demeanor and commitment to my audio quest. I ran the Herron against the Whest and it was no contest--a far more musical, effortless and tonally correct presentation. Is it the best phonostage out there? Who knows, everything is system dependent. But for my listening tastes and in my system the Herron is incredibly satisfying. I've owned it for something like five years and have never thought about replacing it and probably never will, even if I somehow had lots of found money to dump into my system--I'd spend it elsewhere. The best advice I can give to anyone considering the VTPH-2 is to give Keith a call and talk to him about what you are trying to achieve. If he thinks the VTPH-2 will get you there he will say so. If not, he will say that as well. As always, trying a component in your system is the only/best way to know if it is the right product. Good luck!
Think about what Keith Herron did in my case: He took a used pre-amp that was discontinued ten years ago and reengineered it to meet my specific and unusual needs. Knowing I would want as much headroom as his design was capable of, and that I would forfeit some un-needed gain to get it, he replaced two of the stock phono amp's 12AX7 tubes with 12AT7's, listened to the amp, substituted some parts to maximize it's sound quality, burned in the amp, and sent along the unused 12AX7's incase I wanted to try the amp with them installed. All for $1225 shipped! He then emailed to verify that the PH-1mm had arrived safely!! I can't imagine anyone else going to all that trouble for what is chump change---his time is surely worth far more than the hours he put into my amp. I made sure to go to his room at last weekends T.H.E. Show in Irvine (wherein he was getting great sound, one of the couple of best systems I heard all weekend), and he couldn't have been nicer. He talked about tube swapping, the sound of passive parts, etc., and I'm telling you he is a happy, non-egocentric, down-to-earth guy. Maybe it's being from and in the Midwest, 'cause another guy I spent some time talking with was a very similar kinda guy---Bill Johnson.
Getting back to the OP question, I think it depends on the signature of the individual components and the component matching.
Your integrated amp has an input of 100k ohms. That is sufficiently high to allow upstream components to drive it without problems. OTOH, some solid state components might have a low input impedance which could present problems for some high output impedance tube equipment.
I have to echo the other comments about the Herron phono stage as well as Keith Herron. I have had my VTPH-2 for just over a year, and it is fantastic. Keith Herron provides great support and customer service. This product is, in my opinion, an outstanding value. Rest of my system: VPI Scoutmaster/Soundsmith Paua, Herron VTPH-2, Musical Fidelity NuVista 800, MF TriVista DAC, MF A3.2 CDP, Wilson Audio Sashas, Transparent Reference cables and power.
If I go with the Herron VTPH2, how much benefit (if at all) would I get going with a Step up Transformer, such as a Bob's Device? My low output Ortofon Black Quintent is 0.3mv. I have a VPI Prime turntable and know that Bob's makes one for the VPI's. I am an audiophile newbie so have no idea what exactly it will do or how to tell. Thanks!
I would buy the used VTPH-2 and not look back. I have the regular gain model and have had no problems with gain while using low output cartridges: Dynavector mkiii and Ortofon Windfeld to name two. The unit sounds great. I bought it over a Pass Xp-15 which was also excellent. Rest of system: Basis 2500 Signature, Esoteric C03 preamp, Krell Evo 302e amp, Magico V3's, transparent cabling.
Just a technical note that will be obvious to most: I take it from reading these posts that the VTPH2 is set up for medium output MC cartridges (e.g., >0.4mV output). As such, the phono load resistance is probably set for some low value (compared to the 47K ohm standard used for 99% of MM cartridges and sometimes even with MCs), probably between 100 and 1000 ohms. (I gather also that Keith Herron will alter the load R to satisfy his customers.) But if the built-in load resistor is in the 100 to 1000 ohm range, then you cannot just add a SUT in order to use an MC with "low output" (<0.4mV, for example). The best course of action, if you think you want or need to use a SUT would be to inform Keith Herron regarding your choice of cartridge, and let him tell you what works best. You'd definitely have to use a 47K or similar load R at the input of the phono stage, if you couple the VTPH2 with a SUT.
For whoever asked, I am in Bethesda, MD, not on the West Coast.
From what I remember, the VTPH2 has 2 sets of inputs - 1 for mm and 1 for mc. You can tie an external SUT into the MM (47K) input without issue. Also, regarding the MC impedance, Keith is an advocate of "infinite" loading. I believe the natural input impedance of the MC stage is 1Meg. As such, adding any load resistance 47K or lower will result is an input impedance that is essentially the value of the load resistor.
Bpoletti and Rsrex, I stand corrected. I went to the Herron website, and I do see that the VTPH2 sports separate MM and MC inputs, plus the load at the MC input can be easily varied by using plug-in resistor modules. FWIW, I recently was rather surprised to find that my Ortofon MC2000 "likes" a 47K load (vs 1000R or 100R) into my Atma-sphere MP1 phono stage, which has enough gain to deal with its very very low output without the aid of a SUT. I may be a convert to "infinite loading".
No one asked, but the Atma MP1 phono is world class, too.
Bdp24, OK, but Mr Herron did not originate the notion of un-loading MCs (by using a high value load resistor). Far from it. I doubt he would claim this idea for himself in the first place. Allen Wright (of Vacuum State), JCarr (Lyra), and Ralph Karsten (Atma-sphere) are just 3 others who advocate this approach. And I am sure none of them would claim to be the first to think of it, either. This is not to say that Keith Herron is not a smart guy.
Shows what I know! It's the first I heard of it, but I don't follow developments in the world of MC's. ALL those guys named are brilliant, glad every one of them is working in the field of our passion. Music in our homes at our whim---how fortunate are we to live in such times! When I listen to Bach and the others whose manuscripts have survived through the centuries, I always marvel at the fact that only the privileged wealthy heard their music when it was new, and often only once. We peasants (speaking for myself ;-) can hear their masterpieces any time we want, in our own homes. Not even a King could do that!
I agree. We're very fortunate in that regard.
I recently found and purchased an Ortofon MC2000 cartridge. When I first auditioned it, I neglected to note that my Atma-sphere MP1 was set for a 47K load on the cartridge, which would never have been my first choice for the MC2000, since it has 3 ohms internal resistance. However, I was blown away by the sound; it was very very "open" and wide in bandwidth and very dynamic. After playing 2 or 3 LPs, I realized my "error", and I re-set the load to 100R. The MC2000 still sounded excellent, but much of the magic was gone. Prior to this experience, I had not even investigated the possibility of loading LOMCs in this manner; now I cannot wait to try it with some others I own.
The PH2 is in my stable, and I consider its MM input to be extremely good. My preference is to run a step-up into the MM stage (bypassing the MC input).
I've heard only one phono stage with s-s in the signal path that I could live with, and it is not a production unit. I mention this, to lay out my biases, and because I suspect others would have a kinder evaluation of the Heron's MC input.
For me, taken as an MM phono stage, it is a very good sonic value. For those who warm up to the MC input, it's even better.
Thom @ Galibier
I agree that good SUT going to MM input is better choice than going directly to MC.. More $$$ though. I use Ypsilon MC 16 L step up, Stealth Dream V10 PC, Stealth Hyperphono and Audioquest Well IC with Herron - it is that good. I tried quite a few much more expensive phono preamps than Herron but I always have stayed with it.. Very rare in today's market..
I ended up purchasing the Zesto Andros 1.2 phono stage over the Herron. I got a demo of the Zesto for $3100 (retails for $4700) which is less than the Herron at $3650. Very pleased with the Zesto - offers more loading options and awesome gain options as well. Tube Rolling is much easier and to me, it looks a lot nicer as well. Tube vs. Solid State phono amps will different, in my opinion, as to their inherent characteristics that cannot be changed. Though the Zesto is a tube, it is really quiet and the sound stage, detail, imaging is quite nice, yet remains a warmer to neutral sound. Not sure how the Herron compares to this. I know Zesto just made some recent updates to the Andros in the past year or two. Seems like the Herron has a been a similar unit for years now (not that this is a bad thing). To me, it came down to value and finding the Zesto at a great price was a no brainer. Don't think you could go wrong with either the Herron or the Zesto. Can't speak for the other manufacturer's you listed though. Others will have to chime in.
Again, really happy owner of a VTPH-2. Compared it to a Whest PS30R which I owned for some time and found the Herron to be as quiet and detailed but MUCH more musically correct. No experience with the Zesto but for the sake of clarity the Herron is a tube unit (Keith does not recommend rolling tubes though some owners have reported on their experiences), has multiple cartridge loading options via resistor plugs which are inserted to the rear panel (Keith favors running the unit "wide open" in most cases--I've never used any loading in either cartridge I've used with the unit finding his "infinite loading" to be quite satisfying) and gain is adjustable at two levels via the use of a different tube compliment. I'm a big Modwright fan so the PH150 intrigues but I doubt anything will tempt me away from my VTPH-2.
I previously owned the first generation Zesto phono, it was a good all around performer and I did like it, ultimately I found it a little soft and lacking dynamics (especially in comparison to the Pass Xono I had at the time), I felt it could use a little more gain also, I ended up selling it. Not sure if the 1.2 has improved these aspects.
The Herron offers infinite loading which appears quite appealing. Based on a few user reviews I have read, it sounds as though this is the preferred loading method. It seems I may need to purchase one to see for myself...
Speaking of the Zesto phono stage (and the Decca cartridge as I did above), at the last Irvine T.H.E. Show I asked George about the 47K/15K resistance switch incorporated in the amp, thinking the choice of 15K could be for only one reason---the Decca/London cartridges (some models specify 22K, the Reference 15K). George confirmed my suspicion, saying he had friends whose favorite cartridge is the Decca/London (as is mine, two of them). In his column in the new Stereophile (December), Art Dudley discovers (about time!) why we Decca lovers prefer it to all others.
What is "infinite loading"? Surely there has to be a load resistor between the grid of the input voltage amplifier tube and ground; in the absence of any other resistors in parallel, and in the absence of a SUT, that resistor is the load seen by the cartridge. It can be higher in value than 47K but not infinite.