Back to vinyl need phono stage help!


Recently back in the vinyl game since the eighties! Sota sapphire VI>Origin Live silver>Hana EH. My backend is a Primaluna Evo 400>Pass Labs XA30.8>Ascend Acoustics towers. Musical tastes from Porcupine Tree to Loreena McKennitt!! Looking for phono stage help! Would take musical and dynamics over analytical any day of the week!! Sutherland KC vibe is what's been recommended to me. Price range would be around 1k to 1500. Of course there's always wiggle room lol!
Thanks✌️
jimfinn2112
My choice in your price range is the Decware ZP3 https://www.decware.com/newsite/ZP3.htm 
If your Hana output is high enough you might be able to get away with running it direct. They have some step-ups with a really cool infinitely adjustable loading feature that allows you to fine tune sound on the fly. Downside is ordering time is long and if you need the SUT it will blow out your budget. But from what I can tell it would be worth it. Lifetime guarantee, and they do exchanges on the SUT. oldhvymec just ordered and is waiting on his, others around here have reviews, search around and see. 
Your cartridge is an High Output cart so you will not need a step up transformer as it is not Lo Output.

So you can use the Decware or Icon tubed phono stages to achieve the Dynamics you are seeking and in that price range.


Sutherland phono stages usually have high output impedance that makes them sometimes difficult to match with preamp. Preamp's input impedance should be about ten times higher than phono preamp's output impedance, if I remember right. Or more.

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I use the Gold Note PH-10. Great flexible phono stage for around $1,500.00. You can also connect two turntables to it. No dip switches to fiddle around with and the musicality is pretty darn excellent. Add the PSU -10 separate power supply for another $1,100 and you’ve got a heck of a combination. Although, the PH- 10 sounds good on its own.
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@devildog 2nd the Gold Note PH10 but retail is 1600 although bought mine new for under 1300. At it's price or even double it can't be beat.
I also have ascend acoustics sierra towers (with raal ribbons). Just upgraded from moon 110 LP v2 phono preamp to PS audio stellar phono preamp. Did it due to Fremer's unusual all in review of that product. WOW!
The difference is startling. I got a VPI Classic 1 TT with Kleos cart and super low capacitance 3 ft blue Jeans rca phono cables (12.2 of per ft). I played with the custom ohms setting and at 400 ohms the sound is unbelievable, solid yet incredibly clear without too much brightness. I can only highly recommend the PS audio stellar phono preamp. And at $2,499, they gave me a $399 discount for trading in the moon.
+1 on the ZP3. I don’t own the other phono stages mentioned here to compare, but I have compared it against a Pro-Ject tube box DS-2 and a custom mono unit. The tube box is very analytical in comparison.  The ZP3 was the least fussy piece of equipment I ever purchased. Line in, line out, no buttons or switches required. It’s very quiet, even with my 1941 NOS tube rectifier. I test for noise at 4x listening level and there’s nothing. It’s great for tube rolling - it uses very common tubes. I believe it uses the same tubes as the inputs on your Prima Luna - 12au7 and 12ax7 - so you can save some $ and have more options. I run it with an RCA 1954 5814 3mica black plate and 2 KenRad 12ax7s from ‘51. Some may be turned off by both channels sharing the first tube. It soars through stereo test records and I listen to so much mono it never really bothered me.
Vertere Acoustic's Phono-1. Around $1000 or so. Dip switches on the underneath of the unit. Hits way above its weight. Not a presence in the U.S. or North America but it should be.

Worth a look.
PS Audio Stellar is an excellent choice in the $2,500 range new, used for maybe $500-$600 less.  
op

lehmann black cube se-2 or better yet, their decade

very musical, excellent slam, dead silent, pretty much straight wire w gain

you have the primaluna behind this, so no need for more tubey euphony

spend the extra $ saved on phono stage on records!
Thanks for all the great suggestions! Is the PH10 discontinued? Where did you purchase it from? Looks interesting to me. Does it have enough loading options for MC cart? This is new to me so I have to ask lol?
I believe there’s an ear834p for sale on audiogon right now. I thinks it’s 1050. Go jump on it. 
The PH - 10 is still in production as far as I know. I purchased mine from Safe and Sound. I’ve also seen them advertised on EBay. This phono stage can load just about any cartridge you may have. So yes, it can handle the good MC’s. You can also change the gain from -3db to +6db.
I have that same cartridge. Sounds great, but doesn't really sound its best unless you give it about 50db worth of gain. I used a Vista Audio Phono 2 and upgraded the op amps with sparkos. I hear the Bottlehead Eros is very good and that one gives a solid 50db
I run a Technics 1200G to Project Phono RS ($1000) to Evo 400.

The RS comes with a wall wart or for an additional $700 Project offers a battery powered power supply.

I bought an outboard power supply on ebay for $200 and it is much quieter than the wall wart.

The RS is dual mono (so the settings are done for each R/L channel).

It has settings for MC/MM...no step uo transformer needed. It is dead quiet. 

It is a very underated phono preamp.
Yea a lot of good reviews and happy owners on the ZP3s. Tape option too. That is the primary use. I'll get it down to a flip of a switch or two for LP use, mono or stereo.. You don't have to use Decware, but they have 10:1 L or H and 30:1 Low only SUT. Decwares point to point solder works is next to NONE.. truly art.. I had a pair of his M60s. ART....
4-6 month waiting list.. 

Read how he developed that phono stage..VERY, AudioGon (ish) to some of the great Tweakers here. Can tweak the heck out of that puppy..

I'm pretty sure it would make a heck of an adjustable tube (valve) buffer stage..Too!! Can get all tubie with a flip of a switch, COOL.

Regards
If you can find a (used) C-J EF-1 which currently sells at less than $1K, you’ll be very happy. It would outperform all the options listed above, I bet. It is old, but there is never a single electrolytic capacitor inside and it is built like a tank. Impedance (200 to 47k ohms) and gain (40, 46, 52db)are adjustable via switches inside the chassis. Your Hana EH will be happy with 500 ohms. 
ZP3 will work great for you.  It's a virtually EXACT copy of my original CORNET design (long story there), but with an 0A3 added.  For half the price you can get a CORNET3 new, but it doesn't have the fancy chassis.   
Go with a Tavish design classic or vintage for about $700 to $800. Tubed phono stages designed and built in the USA. I use one for my hana el and it sounds great. However, I am using the hana through the MM section (full tube) via a jensen step up. Another choice is the pro-ject tube box ds2. It’s a super Tubed phono preamp with more adjustments than you will know what to do with, and all right there on the front panel! It sounds fabulous and is musical, not analytical. It’s about $900, but about $1100 with your choice of real wood side panels in walnut, rosewood, or eucalyptus. It has received numerous great reviews. Don’t let the pro-jec name steer you clear, it is a well designed preamp and will sound wonderful. I still own mine and will never sell it.
https://www.project-audio.com/en/product/tube-box-ds2/

https://tavishdesign.com/products/classic-vacuum-tube-phono-stage
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I own both Gold Note PH-10 with PSU-10 and JLTi mk4.
Gold Note is good, but JLTi is better. The trade off is just one input and not fancy design.
For MM/MI the JLTi is much better because the manufacturer can make special mod (by request) to allow users load their MM at 100k Ohm.

Something interesting about JLTi emailed to me once by the manufacturer: 

“Have you noted there is a movement towards 'current mode'phono stages for MC cartridges? These are really only suitable for MC cartridges as they 
convert the higher current of MC and this only works for low impedance  cartridges. The JLTi Phono also uses 'current mode' but in a different way. Again, trying  not to be too technical, it is a transconductance circuit where even the RIAA  EQ takes place via current being dumped into the EQ components and from  here forms the voltage that we finally end up listening to after it has been buffered and converted to low output impedance of the phono.” 
Take a look for a used Ayre P 5xe great build quality and sound at that price point.
I run a pretty similar set-up. PrimaLuna, Clearaudio, Hana EH. I went with a Musical Surroundings Nova and am extremely happy. Plus, I later added the linear power supply and it might be my last phono stage. Very clean and detailed. Highly recommend
unless you are dead set on staying with Hana EH (which I also have in addition to Koetsu Black), while the  Decware ZP3 is a great phono pre-amp, if you have to start adding SUT, you will be up to $2K. For that money, you can look at a used Manley chinook phono pre-amp, tube driven. Saw one recently on eBay asking $2,200:  Manley Chinook Special Edition MKII | eBay. I enjoy the Manley because 1) its tube driven 2) it has infinite flexibility in both MM and MC settings. While I am not an expert, I would love some feedback from the community who might think otherwise...I am always looking for a better mouse trap :-)
Sutherland 20/20 with linear power supply for around $2200 
lots of gain and impedance options 
super quiet and made in
USA. Have owned one for about 6 months and have had no issues and am very pleased 
good luck
willy-T
While I currently run a PS Audio Stellar, if I wanted tubes in my phono stage, I might audition the Modwright ph9

Best,
-JP
I would also look into the rogue triton 2 or the parasound jc3 jr in that price range. They woulkd both be good dynamic musical sounding pieces or the money. The sutherland while a good unit may be a little too refined for all types of music remember he was part of martin logan and that was a speaker that was refined and would not play all types of music either.
@jimfinn2112
Seems like you should decide whether you want more tubes (warmth?) into you audio chain as you already have the tubed PrimaLuna.  If not, maybe go with a SS (solid state) phono stage.

All of the suggested phono stages mentioned by members have good/great reviews, however the PS Audio Stellar is a new modern design (2019-2020) which was designed to compete with what became before it in the market.  The PS Audio Stellar got many fantastic reviews and punches way above it’s price point.  It was designed by young engineer and vinyl enthusiast Darren Myers - I was impressed 
with his interview with Michael Fremer https://www.analogplanet.com/content/axpona-2019-encounter-ps-audio-electronics-designer-darren-myer...
If you can afford it’s a great option.


Since I have the Evo400 I'm not really interested in more tubes and that's not to say they can't be great...just a preference. I like the Gold note PH10, The Jlti MK 3 or 4 and now the 5 and the WhestTwo.2. Any of you cats have any direct comparisons, and any first hand experience of the Whest?
Thanks for all the info and suggestions! That's why this forum can be so cool!✌️
I use Cambridge Audio duo with PL Evo 400 after 1,000 hours :-) of internet searching.
Quiet, neutral, $400, sounds amazing on Dyn Evoke 50s.
Jim, you really want to stay away from all these cottage industry players. Here today, gone tomorrow. Wooden chassis on a phono stage? They have to be out of their minds.
The best inexpensive phono stage going, hands down is the Parasound JC 3 Jr. JC stands for John Curl a legendary engineer whose creations are legendary. Check out the reviews and go hear one if you can. It is an amazing piece for the money and has the sound you want. Parasound is a very well established company that will be around for a long time. You get a lot more for your money with them than with all this fly by night other stuff. The Sutherland is OK but it is not a JC 3 Jr. If John Curl signs off on it, it is going to be a great unit. 
Lots of good choices listed here.

If you really do want to stick to your $1500 price point, as mentioned above, the Parasound JC3 Jr is a fantastic option.  

Lehmann Black Cube SE is another great choice (and closer to your $1000 number).

(Parasound and Lehmann dealer disclaimer)
@goldprintaudio I respectfully disagree about the Parasound JC3. Had it and first it was a bit noisy and second sound wise it didn’t do anything special. The Gold Note PH10 was sooooo much better sonically YMMV.
+1 for the Rega Aria. Also consider the Chord Huei. Both retail for about $1.5k and can ofter be found used for less.
I had the Gold Note PH-10 with the PSU-10 power supply, but I recently switched to the Elac Alchemy PPA-2. The Gold Note is great, but I had some electrical issues with it (stopped connecting to the external power supply) and getting service in the US is really difficult. I also found the MC to be pretty noisy, but I'm not sure if that was just my unit. Couldn't get a consistent response from the US distributor, so was never able to get them to check it out. The Elac Alchemy is a steal at $1000. Two inputs, variable loading with a built in ohm meter for exact setting, and the MC setting is almost silent.
Psaudio stellar phono preamp is really good and you can get up to $750 off if you have something to trade in.  I've been using it for a few months now with my EAT c sharp and don't think I could do much better at any price 
rsf507 If the JC3 Jr was  "a bit noisy" you were doing something wrong and I have no connection to Parasound what so ever.
I have seen the Allnic H-1201 going for around $1600-1800, which may well dip a bit lower with the new H-1205 on the horizon. The Allnic would be an excellent choice. I had one for several years and loved it.
Sutherland Insight is in your price range. $1750 list with a Linear Power Supply. Should be able to get a 15% discount on a new one. Tough to find one used with the LPS, but Ron Sutherland will sell that to you as an upgrade for only $350. That's what I did and spent a total of about $1250.

Goes down to 100 ohm impedence if that will work for you. Is very high quality with shunts to move for adjustment versus cheap dip switches.

Plus Ron is the nicest guy and all he does is design phono stages.
@jimfinn2112.                          Porcupine tree to Loreena Mckinnet.
Hmmm.... Wouldn't have been my first guess.         


I would also recommend that you take a look at (listen to) the JC3 Jr. It is very flexible in terms of gain and loading and has a mute switch which can be useful. I’ve found the sound to be very clean and well-balanced with a Hana ML and Ortofon Quintet Black. Parasound, in my experience, is a great company to work with.
At this price level you will want to stick to Solid State.  There are quite a few good options.  However you can LCR network type.  Check out the Valab LCR-1.  You will not be disappointed.
Musical Surroundings Nova II-It has many multiple loadings for MC and MM and has a black  background. I love it and consider it one of the best purchases I have made in a long time. Along with all that guess what-it won't break the bank!
Croft phono. Around $1000. 
I agree with going with a Sutherland.  As someone said all he does is phonostages (after founding Martin Logan) and his focus is black backgrounds.  Stretch for the 20/20 LPS version- used or demo is not a far stretch and it’s quite remarkable.  
+1 on musical surroundings Nova III. I'm running a low output MC cartridge but it can be set for MM as well. Will allow you room to grow both with regard to cartridge as well as, as another user mentioned, by getting the linear power supply which makes it dead quiet and improved details. About 1500 new. The phenomena is a step down but also a great unit.