Anyone compare budget phono oft recomended?

In most threads there are a handful of budget phono stages that get a lot of praise. The common thread seems that most times there is a recommendation without an A/B comparison.

The question is, what have been your experiences with the sub $500 used or new phono stage/preamps if you have compared them head to head. Looking for flexibility and for musicality.

The usual suspects (Cambridge, Rega, Lehmam, Slee, Musical Surroundings, Billari, Grado) or others would be strong consideration. How they compared to others on the list or at higher price/performance range would be very helpful. Lastly, can you share a little why you chose your favorite and what set it apart?
Go for an Adcom GFP 565 pre and you get the flexibility and excellent sound with built that's much better then the Cambridge, Rega, Lehmam, Slee, Musical Surroundings, Billari, opinion only. Might not be as sexy looking but the sound is what counts.

I have the Graham Slee Amp2 with PSU 1. It is very musical and covers the frequency spectrum very well. I purchased it based on the reviews online, and it has held it's own very well. In the price range you specified - other than the Graham Slee I have experienced the Clearaudio Basic, Rogue, and NAD.

Of all phograph preamplifiers that I have experienced over the years at any price I would go for the Clearaudio Basic (the Basic Plus is out now) for bang for the dollar.

There was a audio store called "Sound Images" here in Northern, VA that I used to frequent. They had a Cledaraudio TT ($1200) with a Clearaudio Aurum Beta cartridge($450), and a Clearaudio Basic phonograph ($600) preamplifier. This was feeding a Ayre preamplifier and a Tag McLauren Amplifier. The loudspeakers were JM Lab Utopia ($20K).

The salesman was playing a jazz album with a 128 stop Organ note (Deepest of any instrument) on one of the tracks. When the Organ solo kicked in - the note was so deep that it could only be experienced by the loudspeaker vibrating the floor!!!!

Now, while it is easy to say "wow...that amplifier is sweet..or..the interconnect is this or that..etc" I started with the source. First thing the grooves on the record sees is the cartridge. Then the TT has an effect. And finally the phonograph preamplifier before being sent to the preamplifier and amplifier.

I eventually ordered a Clearaudio Aurum Beta S cartridge and have been very happy with it feeding the Graham Slee. Perhaps at some point I will grab the Clearaudio Basic Plus.
I have owned the Gram Amp 2SE, Black Cube, MF XLP with MF XPSU and Ault power supplies, Creek OBH8 and OBH8SE, Cambridge 640P, Acurus P10, Shure M64, Bottlehead Seduction, AES/Cary PH1 and a few others (thankfully not all at the same time).

But it really doesn't matter which I like, what are you looking for?

It is easy for me to say that the underachievers in the group are the Cambridge, Black Cube, Acurus and Creek OBH8. YMMV and probably will.
HIFICRITIC does comparison tests and in a recent issue tested the Lehmann Black Cube Statement, which got a rating of 37 on their scale, the Musical Fidelity V-LPS, which got 34 [higher with upgraded PS] , and the Sutherland 20/20, which scored 40. The last is out of the budget range but I include it for comparison purposes. These are quite good scores, better than 2 of the Slee units did in an earlier test and considerably higher than the PS Audio [15]. Complete ratings can be seen on their web site.
I have a PS Audio GCPH in one room,and a Steelhead in another. Have A/B'd them side by side numerous times. What you pay for in the Manley is superior enunciation of individual instruments. It rocks with violins, sax, voices etc. Imaging is near equal, the Manley has better depth, the PS Audio more concise and stable horizontal placement. The Manley has a more liquid mid and high range with a flatter bass response. The PS Audio sounds like it has a db or two less around 110hz. Very slight edge to the Manley for punch/dynamics, but it's pretty close.

That said there have been plenty of times I've been perfectly happy listening to the PS Audio. It's pretty remarkable for the price.

As some may remember from other threads, I too have a GCPH. I have heard many phono pre's and I would concur with Duaneadam that the GCPH is quite something at it's price point and I got it on sale so it was even cheaper. The reticence at 110 idea is interesting. I am currently listening/modding a JD9 because the GCPH is not as warm as I would like. I will say that in my setup the GCPH is very detailed yet not harsh in the upper highs. Probably in some systems that may tip negatively as my NAD M3 is not the fastest/most detailed integrated. But I knew that when I bought it.

I wonder if the HIFICRITIC guy got a bad sample or they made him mad.

Take it EZ,
The standard project phono box is a very good performer for less than 2 bills...behaved like a much more pricey pre....transparent, fast, with punchy bass...a touch lean and a bit clinical for some....but one could do far it out
I was able to get a rega mm and a project phono box for less than $200 shipped for the pair. I am pleased to play with these till my budget will allow for an upgrade or preamp change.
I also have a GCPH that I purchased new for 499. It has been used alongside a Simaudio lp5.3 and what little difference there might be is not noticeable to me as one being better than the other.