Audible Illusions M3 vs M3A -- Worth the extra ?

Hey folks,

I am considering trying one of one these units because I need a preamp with a phono stage. On the used market, there is roughly five hundred bucks' difference between them. Is it worth the extra dough to go with the M3A, or will the M3 suffice? Will both of these units work with a medium to high output cartridge?

I know that the Rogue 66 is also in this price range. If anyone feels that is the better way to go, I might be persuaded, even though I'm leaning toward the Audible Illusions.

Thanks for your help.
Don't bother Walter, buy the c-j PFR for sale on Audiogon instead. It is a MUCH better performer! By the way, the c-j for sale is not mine. . .however, I OWN one! Get a used ARC PH3 phono preamp for your phono section and you will be a MUCH happier listener!!!

Happy listening.
Hi Walter, Save yourself the money on the 3A. I've owned both and have had both in several systems. Both sound great!
Anyway, the rule is; Buy it at a price you can sell it for if you aren't happy. All the communication like this is'nt
worth near as much as listening for yourself. I've also
owned M3A with gold card. The phono sounded a tad better
but not enough to keep it given the $600.00 difference.
Yes, the humble M3 will provide enough output for a medium
output cartridge. I have a Benz Ruby and the M3 does fine.
also, from what I've seen on Audiogon, M3 with gold card
is VERY desirable at around $800.00. I can't remember the last time I saw one though. I picked up my original M3
( 1994 serial number )for $600. I remain impressed by it.
I've owned both as well and to me the 3A is worth the difference especially at the price I've seen some going for lately. The 3 is very musical, just not as dynamic and not as well controlled in the bottom end. You will want a phono cartridge with 1.5mv output or better. I use a low output Grado Reference (1mv)and it works, but you need to turn the volume up close to if not all the way and that gets a bit noisy. I use an EAR 834P for phono but would be very happy with the AI phono stage if my cartridge had a little more gain. The AI has a great sounding phono stage, which is one of the reasons the AI is such a bargain. With regard to Timo's comments above on the C-J PFR, keep in mind that the AI, particularly the 3A, is one of the best regarded preamps available at any price and for good reason. The PFR has never come close to the reputation of the AI and if it were a "much better performer" as Timo states you would hear a great deal more about it. All I can remember was a positive review in Stereophile many years ago. The ARC PH3 is an excellent piece and well regarded, but that will cost you more than a used AI 3 and will exceed your budget. You just cannot go wrong with the AI. You will have to spend some serious money to improve on it.
I've used an M3 for over a year now, with phono cartridge Dyna 10X4 HO MC, and it is very impressive. It easily can handle the lower ouptput of this cartridge. Bought the AI M3 used for a bargain price. It is very impressive but for the used price you see now its spectacular. Let there be no doubt, it sounds only as good as the 4 6922 tubes inside and it eats the wrong tubes. Don't just put any NOS tubes inside because they will likely blow quickly--hours sometimes. To find the right tubes, go to someone knowledgeable and reputable as Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio.
I've owned late model M3, early M3a and late model M3a. The M3a's are definitely cut from the same sonic cloth - which I feel is extremely good, detailed and natural - but in a direct comparison, the M3a has better bass control, more liquid, more extended high's and overall a bit more neutral. M3 is a little more classic tubey. I like all of these but prefer the M3a over the M3, even given the price difference. Be careful though of the volume control: units with the stepped volume may or may not work well in your system, in that the steps are sonicly very large. I found that with the stepped unit I was not able to fine tune the volume adequately.
Regarding the comparison with the CJ PF-R, it is interesting that it seems to be worth more on the used market that the M3. It seems to me that the going price on the used market is often an indication of relative sound quality.
I'd be interested in other's comments on this point.
Billimbriale....It has been my observation over the years that the used market price is more relative to supply and demand than sonics. Demand is not always based on sound quality, but rather what is currently popular. Of course there are many factors that lead to popularity and as you well know what is popular to today may be out of vogue tomorrow regardless of how good it may actually be. This is a fickle hobbie to say the least. One of the reasons I believe you can get such low prices on the Audible Illusions is due to the fact that there are so many of them out there. This is one very successful preamp design. If the supply exceeds the demand the prices go down. Most people do not have a lot of patience when it comes to selling and will often take less just to move something fast so they can move on to what's currently popular. CJ is best known for its tube designs, not so much for solid state. There are far fewer PFRs out there on the used market and that combined with CJs reputation probably has more to due with the used price than the sonics. That said, these are both really good products, but as I stated earlier there is a very good reason why Audible Illusions has sold so many preamps over the years and why they have always had such great reviews. It's because they have been, and continue to be, one of the best designs out there regardless of price.
I have enjoyed the 3A with Gold stage for the last 4 years using both SS and tube amps to drive Logans (CLS/Aerius), Celestion (Model 300 Black) and most recently 10Ts. The Ruby and lately the Koetsu cartridges bring out a wider and deeper soundstage and excellent warmth with strings.

My only hesistation is the outboard power supply "hum". I have resolved it by turning it upside down.

For service, I recommend the Analog Room in San Jose, CA.