You may be able to find a Nakamichi CA-5 in that price range. It was designed by Nelson Pass for Nak. It has a MM/MC phono stage that is very nice. 3 selectable loads. I bought one new around 1988 and still use it in my second system.
I don't know how this compares with the others mentioned above but I have a Sherwood-Newcastle AVP-9080r pre-pro that I use exclusively for Stereo (actually I blew out the digital part - but that's another story). They can be bought for $225 or so, have an acceptable MM/MC phono section (switchable), and a Tuner. It also is remote controllable for all functions.
The best part is it's a surprisingly great sounding 2 channel preamp (digital bypass).
If you are willing to reach, I very highly recommend the used Conrad Johnson Motif MC-8 preamp someone is selling here for $480. This thing sold for $2300 new back in the late 1980's. Considering the audiophile quality phono stage it has, it would easily sell for $4000+ today if it was new.
This is a real high end solid state preamp. It is not a budget piece.
It actually has two separate MM and MC stages with separate inputs. It is not some cheap thing with a a gain switch on the outside. There is a switch on the back only because there is only one output for phono. You could connect two turntables to the preamp (one MM, one MC).
I owned one for over 6 years, and would not blink to buy one again if I had the need for another high end preamp with built in phono.
Thanks for the recommendations thus far. The Nakamichi appears to be the only one within my actual price range. Also, no one has commented on the virtues (vices?) of the Yamaha (C-2, C-80, C-85, CX-800) and B&K (Pro-10MC) models that I'm looking at. Any thoughts on those? I absolutely know that for more money I can get better equipment, but I do need to keep within my modest budget. Thanks for the help, Rich
How about $150.00 for an Adcom GFP-555. Smooth sound, nice MC stage, very well built and realiable. You will even have some scratch left over to buy Sundazed's excellent mastering of Laura Cantrell's breakthrough album, "When The Roses Bloom Again" and some of their nice Dylan mono reissues as well.
Viridian, now you're talking! How does the Adcom's MC stage compare to the vintage Yamaha preamps? Over at the vintage forum on audiokarma the Yamaha C and CX models have scads of superb comments. And if I remember correctly, at least some of those comments say that the Yammies out-perform the Adcom units. Have you had a chance to compare? Thanks for the lead. By the way, is the 555 as good as the 565 for MC? If the 565's MC stage is superior I might consider it also, and save up later for those Dylan monos. Take care, Rich
the only help I can offer regarding the B&K Pro 10 is this -
I have and have had lot's of B&K gear and it's all great, especially for the $. I had the CS-117 preamp which is the same vintage, and I believe derived from the Pro-10. I didn't use the phono stage (and I know it didn't have MC), but the preamp was quite nice sonically - incredibly nuetral which is more than I can say for other pre's I tried in that same vintage and price range (Adcom, Parasound). It was also dead quiet.
I have owned three of the preamps your looking at. The Nak C-5A, Adcom GFP-555II, and the Yamaha CX-600 and CX-630. Dang I can't believe I've owned all of those myself. In order of preference, I think the Nak is far above all the rest in sound and build quality. Next was the Yamaha CX-600, it had better quality components than the newer CX-630. The thing about the two Yamahas is the outer cosmetics were quite a change but the inside layout was nearly identical with the exception of the quality. I did not care for the Adcom, it was very noisy comapred to the others with noticeable hiss when idling. Before I sold the Nakamichi I took pictures of the inside to show the quality of the parts. I could email them to you if you like (that is if they are still on my other computer hard drive.
Rich, no, no, no. The original Adcom GFP-555 has an excellent MC stage. There is a little switch on the back panel that you flip for MC. In addition to adding the gain, it changes the impedance to 100 ohms, which is good for many MC cartridges. The GFP-555 mk2, I am not sure of, but I think it does not have an MC stage, only MM. The 565 absolutely does not have an MC stage. What you want to consider is the original GFP-555 and there are a lot of them out there.
A used Audiolab 8000C would fit the bill. I used one for a while and found it excellent. It is right in the middle of your price range.
Another option would be to sell the ATI and get an integrated amp (like an excellent Cyrus 2) since you will not need anywhere near that much power for the green mountains (I own the Europas), and an integrated amp will likely give you better overall quality in the price range you're looking at.
Thanks again folks.
Viridian, thanks for the correction on my limited "research" into the Adcoms and MC.
Seantaylor99, assuming I take your advice and sell the ATI for, say, $300, that leaves me $600 for an integrated. What integrated can you recommend at that price that has an excellent MC stage and sufficient power for the C-1's? Thanks.
Timrhu, very helpful information, since you've actually heard some of these units! Just to be precise, was the Nak you had a CA-5 -- is the C-5A just a typing transposition or was that a different preamp? Thanks.
Sorry for the mmistake. Mine was the CA-5 preamp. There is one listed here on Audiogon for $125 if it's still available. That is a good price if memory serves. The unit I had was purchased off ebay and was in poor cosmetic shape. When I sold it with full disclosure it sold for more than $100. With respect to Viridian, although the Nak is a very plain looking preamp with few features, it was a much better preamp than the Adcom.
Both have an excellent reputation for MC phono stage, particularly the Mission.
I just throw them out as great amps. I suspect you'll get more for your money in the price range by staying integrated, and I think the ATI has more power than the GMAs require, but I'm not going to tell you that my suggestions WILL sound better.
The PSE Studio SL(p) is considerably more resolving than either the B&K or Adcoms. The phono stage offers two gain settings 35dB and 53dB, the higher gain setting should work with cartridges down to about .6mV output. You can also alter the phono input impedance using the resistor sockets.
If you are tied to the Denon cartridges you may find it rather difficult to locate a decent preamp with a suitable phonostage in your price range. You need a minimum of 60dB of phonostage gain.
The GFP-555 (first generation) surely has MC stage (more precisely: "MM/hi MC"/"lo MC"). It also has a switch for capacitance compensation of the cartridge, and the S/N of the phono stage is really great (85dB). Adcom has the owner's manual on their website, you can find all this information there.
Just got a GFP-555 matched with a GFA-5300 driving a pair of Thiel CS2. It's a hard to beat combination. The overall neutrality and the strength in the low frequency range, plus the easiness of driving the Thiel monsters (just burned a receiver trying to drive them) is breathtaking. Although I haven't owned them for too long (few weeks), the quality of build and sturdiness inspires a lot of confidence. I think for this price the Adcom beats hands down a lot of other manufacturer's packages (check reviews on the 555 pair, amp/preamp, on stereophile and others). Don't have a lot of experience, but this is my two cents.