If your familiar with a soldering iron try k&k's phono kit. It is a close cousin to Art Audio's Reference.http://www.kandkaudio.com/phonostage.html and http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/artaudio6/vinylreference.html or have them build it for you.
I agree about the K&k, a near match to the Vinyl reference at $1500 against $4500 for the Art Audio, built by the same designer. It is quiet, detailed, excellent RFI rejection(a perpetual problem for me) and cheaper than both the units you mention. As an aside, Kevin will get the kit built for you for a total cost of about $1950
Another vote for the K&K. I have had mine for over three years now and absolutely love it. And you won't find a better person to deal with than Kevin Carter. He is a true genius and all around nice guy.
You might also look for a used Acoustech Ph-1 or Ph-1P. They are not battery powered but are designed and built by the same guy (Sutherland) that builds and markets the PhD.
I have heard a few complaints that the PhD is "not exciting" but I haven't heard it. So I don't know if that's accurate or not. I had an Acoustech Ph-1 and loved it.
The Ph-1 goes for about $650 used and the Ph-1P for about $850 used. The Ph-1P is the same design as the Ph-1 but with improved components.
If you care about those things, the Ph-1 is a Stereophile Class B rated phono stage and the Ph-1P is a Class A rated phono stage. The Ph-1P is still for sale new at $1,500.
With all due respect the K&K and Vinyl Reference are 2 different animals and far from a "near match". They share the same physical appearance but the similarities end there.
The Vinyl Reference uses a shunt regulated power supply as opposed to a generic design. The Vinyl Reference uses Caddock top of the line 1% metal film resistors throughout, top of the line Cardas caps, V-Cap teflon caps, and on and on. The K&K uses generic parts. The cost in parts of the power supply, caps, and resistors alone exceeds $1500.
I encourage you to call or email Kevin or Joe Fratus if you have any questions.
Disclaimer: Art Audio retailer
I'll chime in with a vote for the K&K as a great value and outperformer. It's dead quiet in my system and it makes beautiful music.. very unmechanical sounding. The selectable load switch is a convenient feature.
I've heard the Vinyl One and it's also very nice - exceptional soundstaging and lively dynamics.
I never said the 2 units were the same, but the circuit design is basically common to both, though the tube compliment is not. For price, you have to compare the K&K with the vinyl 1, which I have, though not side by side. In my view, though the Vinyl 1 is a very good unit, the K&K is streets ahead.
Your words were "near match" and those were the words I used. I never said "the same". Is that not correct?
In your original post you compared the K&K to the Vinyl Reference. I articulated some of the many differences.
Now based on price you are comparing the K&K to the Vinyl 1.
What precisely is your point?
Are you being deliberately obtuse, I did'nt say the Vinyl reference was the same as the K&K, nor did you. The only point of difference is the degree of difference, I think it is small, you clearly don't. I repeat the circuits are near matches though the tube compliment is different, I presume you have had the lid off both.
In no way am I comparing the K&K with the vinyl 1, the point I was trying to make is that you get a comparable performance to the Vinyl reference for the price of a Vinyl 1 and that is what my post said, I think fairly clearly.
I have the PHD and can only say that it beat the pants off of a Sonic Frontiers that I once owned and as far as pre-amps with built in phono stages it also beats the Audible Illusions and Atmasphere pre amps that I have owned.How it compares to the Art Audio I can not say, but they build very good gear,my friend has the Clarissa power amp.
David12, to be fair to audiofeil, I believe he is taking issue with your assuming that the differences between the Vinyl Reference and the K & K must be small when you haven't even compared them. Without having heard either of them, I agree with audiofeil. Having performed many parts upgrades I can personally vouch for the major transformations that generally result, usually completely changing the sonic signature as well as the overall quality. The kind of shooting from the hip judgment you're passing off as fact clouds the issue. A simple rewording with liberal use of words like "might" would be better appreciated.
Just a couple of words. I have done a side by side of the K&K kit and the Art Audio V-ref. The K&K kit was built with S&B step-up transformers instead of the Lundahls and had a few "upgraded" parts. (cost was around 3K) This was before the last upgrade (big improvement by the way and only $45!). The comparison was done on an SME 20/ V combo with a lyra helicon SL. We also had a Lamm on hand as well. The sound from the V-ref and the sound from the kit are very close. Detailed, quiet, and dynamic if just the smallest bit lean in comparison to the Lamm. The Kit and the V-ref sound so alike I would be hard pressed to know if it was the v-ref or the K&K kit that was hooked up. Both are great. I haven't seen the parts in the V-ref but it's the sound that matters to me. Having listened to the Art Audio v-1 (not side by side with the others) it is warmer and was a little less detailed in my system but a better match to the lyra than to the Shelter that repaced it. Overall, the K&K kit was a big move up. With the latest parts upgrade for the K&K the slight lean sound has been addressed. It sounds wonderful with my Shelter 90x. Bottom line is the the Kit is a bargain. Kevin is great and easy to deal with. You will need to build the kit. (don't know if that matters to you)Both Art Audio stages are good, so is the Lamm, and so is the K&K. You can't go wrong with any of them.
Never having built a single piece of audio gear, I took a chance and bought the mc/mm kandk kit. I made two simple errors during the process of making it and Kevin was very gracious about helping me. In short, it sounds wonderful and I have not found a better value in high end audio.