Audio Research PH6 Phono Stage - How is it?

I know most of Audio Research stuff is top end with little complaints about anything they make. I like tube gear and have more of a preference for the tube sound but looking for a phono stage with little noise. I know the PH8 reference phono stage is a true reference standard but way out of my price range. So that brings me to the PH6, which retails for around $3,500. Not too many reviews on this one and hasn't been compared to other phono stages at a similar price point. There are some good competition at this price, especially the Herron VTPH2, which is also a great phono stage. Does anyone have any information about the PH6?

My current system is Primaluna Dialogue HP Integrated Amp, VPI Prime turntable, Ortofon Quintet Black MC cartridge, Sonus Faber Olympica III speakers. Much appreciation!
I used to have the 834p. It was a great phono pre-amp for the money. The only thing is when I owned it, it cost 1295.00. At the 2000.00 range you might find something better.
What are ARC PH-7's and 7-SE's going for these days on the used market? I've had both in my system for lengthy periods of time. The "SE" is better than the non-upgraded one, but both were very musical. Using the PH-8 now, and its killer. these phono stages work best with cartridge outputs of between .4 Mv and .8 Mv.
I hope my answer will give you the answer that you are seeking. First I would like to say that lots of people will tell you that magazines and peoples personal opinions that are not based on statistic data are baseless and useless. This is not entirely true. This thread goes on to give you a baseline point of reference to eliminate or narrow down choices. I use dealers, magazines, forums, YouTube and what ever reference point that is available to me, but yes the final decision is yours and I don’t believe you are asking anyone to make that one for you. I have had the Audio Research PH6 and currently own the Audio Research PH8.

My equipment: VPI HW-19 MK IV with Van den Hul Frog Gold, and a SME 309 Tone Arm, Vandersteen 2ce Signatures II, Vandersteen 2wq sub and Vandersteen 5hp Crossovers, Marantz NA-7005 Streamer, Audio Research Vt100 MKIII, Audio Research LS-17se, Audio Research DAC-8, Audio Research CD2 and yes the Audio Research PH8. My local dealer allowed me to use his PH6, which was a demo with no hours on it and I racked up 320 hours in a two week period, a lot of that was leaving it on all day and night. The PH6 is a very good phono stage with very little noise and the only way to hear the noise is to crank up the system over 75 percent and put your ears next to the speakers. The PH6 is a very detailed phono preamp allowing you to hear a lot more than you think is on the record. The PH6 doesn’t get hot and has a mono button and is the same size as a PH8 and LS-17se. The PH6 uses two 6h30s and the PH8 uses three 6h30 and a 6550.

The PH8 is even more detailed than the PH6. My dealer allowed me to use his personal PH8 that had 1700 hours on the tubes and I was blown away when I returned the PH6 to him. The dealer told me that mine, which would be new wouldn’t sound as good due to burn in, but upon receiving it, I thought it sounded very good and better that the PH6. As you go up the ARC line at least with the phono preamps, you get more and more detail. I have about 115 hours in and ARC says on the box to allow 600 hours before doing any serious listening. Here are the negatives after doing research and using two sources: ARC and Bobs Devices maker of Step-up Transformers. The 58db of fixed gain rears it’s ugly head when you use a Moving Magnet cartridge, which normally has at least 5mv of output, which could (I haven’t tried this) overload the phono preamp, but most people spending this kind of money probably won't be using moving magnet, but it is a limiting factor.  According to ARC the PH8 and PH6 are meant to be used with .5mv to 2.5mv and anything at .4mv and under will require you raising your volume and introducing distortion and anything over 2.5mv could overload the phono preamp.  This eliminates Moving Magnet. (My words not theirs).

Bob’s Devices stated that the PH8 was difficult to work with on this and none of his step-up Transformers would work and probably other manufacturers as well because he had tried several combinations and kept overloading the phono preamp. I am coming from a Musical Surroundings Nova Phomenia (Battery Operated) with a gain of 60db and the ability to use any cartridge I wanted, which included four moving magnets, which will be useless on the PH8. Does this mean, that I’m depress and would sell the PH8, no, no, no. I am currently using a VPI HW-19 MkIV with a Van den Hul Frog Gold, which is .6mv a medium output cartridge which works just fine, but does require that the volume come up to at least three quarters depending on how loud the record was recorded at, which requires the Amp to work harder.

I could have minimized this at first by going with the LS-27, which has at least 12 db of gain on it’s own and selectable gain of 24, 18 12 for each individual input, which would have boosted the gain and kept my volume dial lower, but remember whenever you add gain, you introduce distortion so there is no free lunch. Will I get rid of the PH8, no, but I will have to work within the parameters afforded to me as you only get more features with the Ref 2SE, which has more selectable gain options and balanced inputs at almost double the price. The PH6, LS17se and PH8 are being discontinued by ARC and you can get them from a dealer for a great price and even on Audiogon at a great price.
I bought a  used PH-7, about $3k.  Noise is a non issue, even with a .28 mv cart like the DV XX2 MKII, although I did feel the dynamics were a bit restrained. It works great with a Cadenza Bronze .4 mv cart, no reservations.  Maybe try it, resell if you need to.
My PH-8 worked very well with the AT OC9 III that has .4mv output. It works even better with the AT ART-9 that has .5mv output.