best phono preamps?

I heard the Jadis JP 80 MC and I was very impressed especially by the phono part. I have seen that Jadis builds a "only phono preamp" the DPMC. Any experience wih it?
which other phono preamp do you recommand?

my system:
Kuzma Stabi (looking also for new diamond)
Jeff Rowland Capri + monoblocs 501
Infinity Renaissance 90
I heard the Manley Steelhead and was blown away. Next is the Art Audio Vinyl Reference, which is arguably a better value (as it is much cheaper).
Has anyone heard the Lyra Connoisseur 4-2L SE?
You might want to check out the Allnic-1200 or
they have 2 more higher end models.
the 1200 goes for i believe 1800.00(tubes).
Einstein Turntable's Choice is a must audition phono stage if you are after the best.
The best i have heard is Kondo Japan Phono M7 (dedicate phono only)
ASR Basis Exclusive. It belongs in the top class.
Hands down best I have heard, (do not own) is Doshi Aalps (sp?). I have not heard any of the above except the Steelhead, at a show, which is also VERY impressive.
Just bought the Art Audio Vinyl Reference. Wow what a difference that made in my system. One of the best I've heard.
Best for what? When you go for a very low output MC and you need high gain, I think, a transistor is the way to go (Klyne 7 for example, a good sounding unit, not so dead like most others out there).
Or you can live with 55-60dB gain, here you can go with tubes without any troubles (noise etc.), Lamm LP2 is uncolored and easy to live with.
This has been brought up here several times, use the search function to really see the results of the best phono preamp replies. I did a search for best phono amp and best phono preamp with varied results.

Personally I believe the Aesthetix IO Signature is the best sounding phono amp I heard, way better to me then any of the ASR's and equal quality (not sounding) to the Einstein, the Einstein has a different sound character. The Audio Research PH7, BATVK10SE and the LammLP2 seem to be the top contendors in a certain category, above or below those price ranges, there are literally dozens to choose from.
Good luck,
Atma-sphere MP1 Mk III. I don't claim it's THE BEST, because I have not heard them all, but it certainly is top rank and deserves prominent mention among those that have been listed. It's a bargain in the sense that you get a fabulous linestage for no extra cost.
I had the Alepha Ono from Pass.
Tried out the Audio Research PH7, Manley Stealhead and the Nagra VPS.
The manley stealhead has 2 MC inputs, 1 MC input & a line level input. Volume control or fixed output. It will work great for you and it sounds great when used alone as phono and preamp. If I were doing TT only I would have purchased it. The Audio research was too laid back for me but did sound very good. I need pass through for my setup and felt the Nagra VPS with the 2 MC input option sounded better in my system.
I have heard the Jadis DPMC and it is very nice, however it can only be used with medium output MC's otherwise it is too noisy. My dyna XV-1 at .38mv was too low output and too much tube noise was introduced into the system.

I think you need to give more of your personal musical bias's and what you are looking for the new phono to give you.

If you liked the Jadis phono stge, you are unlikely to like the Manley Steelhea or Einstein which are quite uncompromising or hifi-ish in their musical presentation

Given the point made by Downunder, are you seeking a phono preamp for your current cartridge or one that will get the very best out of any cartridge that you might ever own or buy? I mean here not only any MC but also any MM cartridges!

Also, I think a good point that's already been indirectly raised is about price and what you get for it. There are phono stages that offer more than those listed above and there are therefore obviously phono stages that cost more. So I suppose it would help if you could say what you want to be able to do with the phono preamp and how much you are willing and able to pay for this. If I were to choose above the options already presented I would go for the Essential 3160, which has both MC and MM phone stages and an equally state-of-the-art line stage all in one package supported by an independent power supply. Then again, I did buy it:~) If you can afford it, I believe you can find no better.
Dgob, How much does Raul charge for the 3160??

Do you miss the remote control, at least for volume?

What is the view of the 3160 now that you have livedwith it for some time? ie strenghts, weaknesses etc

I'm not certain what Raul and Jose charge now as I've had mine for quite some time. Also I do know that they were talking about a remote control option but felt this was a major challenge as introducing the necessary components could have some minor impact on the perfection that the 3160 was designed to deliver. So although they were considering ways around this, I'm not certain if it is now available. For me, there's a joy in adjusting the volume manually and I really could use the exercise (well, 1.5 yards across my listening room);~) I think it would be worthwhile asking Raul about these developments directly.

Now that I have had the 3160 for a long time I am more certain of my opinion. I have changed so many bits of equipment and the truth is that the Essential keeps asking for more. On the cartridge front, I have the Allaerts MC2 Finish Gold, the Dynavector XV1s, Spectral MCR, Nagaoka MP-50, Music Maker 3, as well as various Empire and other old cartridges and everyone of them is clearly distinguishable and never challenges the ability of the Essential to portray all that they offer. It's the same on the various speakers, tuners, CDP's and tape decks that have passed through my system. So I guess I'm honestly lost to tell you of its weaknesses. Maybe some pieces of equipment will be able to test it but nothing that I know of, at least nothing that is currently available. I really do think that this phonolinepreamp is 'THE' state-of-the-art.

Having said all that, you do need to have an independent ground, remove all earth wires from all plugs and float your system through the Essential. I am proudly non-technical but I managed to do this myself. It just needed a length of decent earth wire and a six foot copper tube that you drive into the ground outside with the wire attached. Then lead the cable through a purpose drilled hole into your listening room and link this independent ground to the back of the Essential. The rest is: sit back and enjoy.
TRON Syren pre/phono or TRON Seven phono only stage. Top class build and sound from a Boutique english designer. Jeff at Highwater Sound in NYC is the US distributor.


Also coming from England and knowing Graham, I think the Tron is one of the interesting options in its price range and for the tube based designs. It will really come back to what Clavil wants his preamp to do and how much he can afford I suppose.
I support the Tron Seven option for high quality tube phonopreamplification with very high gain ( >72 dB ) for very low output MC cartridges, but works very well with medium output ones. Benefits of tube rolling. Not sensitive to cartridge loading impedance. Great price/value . 2 RCA inputs on request. I am very satisfied with this unit and it is a step better than Manley Steelhead (more dynamic and detailled).
The best phono preamps are integrated phono/line level preamps. I've always been partial to ARC phono preamps. Try to get a listen with either a SP-8, SP-10 or SP-15. They are great for phono but not always a favorite with line level sources (digital). Could almost use 2 preamps- depending on source.
The strength of having the phono section integrated with the line section is two-fold: first, you don't have connectivity issues connecting the phono to the line section (or amplifier), which often results with the interconnect acting as a sort of tone control. Second, the phono section need not have as much gain (less noise and distortion, greater bandwidth all as a result) since the line stage will have some gain as well.
The best phono preamps are integrated phono/line level preamps.

In general, that may be true. My Doshi Audio Alaap separates sound every bit as good as the Alaap full function preamp. Just like turntables and everything else, it really depends on each individual implementation.
Dear Dan: I agree totally with Ralph about.

Please think on this for a moment, everything the same what do you prefer NO better yet what tell you your wide common sense?: that a stand alone line preamp and stand alone phoo stage connected each other through a cable could/can even the quality performance of an integrated unit ( Phonolinepreamp ) that does not needs that additional cable/veils/distortions?

and this is " everything the same " imagine when the line preamp and the phono stage comes from different manufacturar where the impedances between the units are unmatched, where you have two different " signature " sound, where you have two different quality unit performances, where..., where,....etc, etc.

Regards and enjoy the music.

when I met you at Doug and Paul's to hear your Essential, I was stopped, for whatever reason, from bringing in my Alaap separates which I had with me at the time. We stayed with Doug's preamp. At that time, I believe that my separates were still ahead of Nick's full function preamp. So, it would have been most interesting to hear side-by-side with the Essential. Nick has since found a way to tweak his FF preamp psu to meet the performance of the separates, so today there is not much difference in the sound of the Alaaps. Unless Nick has come up with another tweak he hasn't told me about. ;-)

I do understand, from both a practical and engineering standpoint, why one may think that separates cannot approach the level of a single preamp. But it can and has been done. I agree that if one is mixing and matching phonostages and preamps that it would be most difficult to achieve this.

Still, it always comes down to implementation.
Why using a linepreamp when we can use a phonopreamp direct connected to the amp ? A good gain attenuator is better than another device/cable unit.
Jloveys, the reason for that is that you have to connect the phono section to your power amp, and control the volume somehow. A passive will not suit for this as it will behave as a tone control/dynamic compressor depending on the setting of the control.

One of the purposes of a proper linestage is in fact control of the interconnect cable. If this is done properly the quality and length of the cable will not be important! Obviously then if you are going to have a stand-alone phono section, this capability ought to be included or you have lost any benefit to simplification.

What we found is that the inclusion of the circuitry to make this so meant that a stand-alone phono section would have everything a full-function preamp would have except a couple of passive switches. IOW you might as well have the whole thing.
Interesting in theory, but then why my phonopreamps sound much clearer direct connected to the MC 275 than via the ARC LS 25 MKII ? Is it a linepreamp that is not well engineerd?
If you have separates, then the phono stage will usually have to incorporate a low impedance output stage, to make the unit compatible with a variety of linestages and so it can drive the cable itself. This means adding a cathode-follower (if tubes) or an emitter-follower (if solid state), an additional active device in the pathway, not to mention the sonic effect of the cable itself that Atmasphere and Raul mention. Cathode followers are problematic devices that inevitably add a touch of coloration, unless very carefully designed and implemented with an associated constant current source, etc. Why bother, when you can have it all on one chassis so the phono signal only has to go an inch or two to reach the linestage? The main potential advantage of separates is that it is easier to implement completely separate power supplies for each section, but this can also be achieved in well conceived all-in-one preamps, by using a separate PS chassis.
Jloveys, I do not like to make statements about a competitor's gear.
Well, in theory why have any separates at all? I mean a completely integrated source/amp/speaker so there are no cables anywhere. ;-)

In all honesty, I reserve the right to change my position if I ever get a chance to spend time with a full function Alaap in my system. Then I could really pick up on any differences in topology in a very controlled situation. However, as I make more and more changes/improvements to my system I have yet to find a point where I cannot hear more from the signal coming through my components. I haven't found any limit yet.

On the flip side, there is great benefit to me to be able to leave those other 6 tubes off if I'm just spinning CDs. I also opted for dual, stepped attenuators and no remote. This is why I think we have to look at the whole picture and not just concentrate on this one aspect. The more I learn in this hobby, the fewer absolutes I accept.
Many years ago I had the priviledge of attending the CES in Chicago- not to see all the latest gadgets, although the Sony HDTV demo was very impressive (the year was 1989). The scene was at the hotel across the street- Hifi audio equipment demonstrations set-up in hotel rooms on 3-4 floors. Music floated down the halls. All of the variations of equipment and sounds were overwhelming after a while. I wish I would have had a chance to go back with a notebook. The contrasts were remarkable- some rooms with set-ups that looked impressive sounded so-so while some rooms with modest looking (but not cheap) set-ups were so incredibly musical. That toe-tapping, involved in the music sound is what I have sought ever since.

Frankly, integrated phono preamps sound best to me for records but older ones seem to color CD's as line level preamps. A no compromise system might require two seperate preamps for analog and digital. Maybe I just never heard the right combinations, but seperate phono preamps had the right sound technically, highs/lows/openess/detail, but just were sterile and uninspiring.

I lack the prose of some to describe how music sounds in a particular system. But I can say that when the system is right, my toes just start tapping.
Dear Dan: Maybe you don't read it, I posted " everything the same " on my example.

Anyway think only in that additional cable you need on separates ( everything the same ) gear that means additional " stages/veils/distortions/noises/colorations " where the cartridge signal must pass : small wire soldered between the female output phono stage to the phono stage board: three " stages/veils " here: the solder it self on circuit board, the wire interconnect and the solder at RCA female connector, then the female connector, then the male connector and the solder it self on the IC cable.
At the other end of the IC cable ( line stage input ) the additional " stages/veils/distortions/noises/colorations " are the same number: 6+6=12 !!! plus one meter of IC cable with all the IC cable self signal degradations.

Dan, IMHO the subject here is not: """" the fewer absolutes I accept. """" but common sense, easy.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Cmon guys, this is getting stupid.

There is more degredation in the musical signal before it gets onto vinyl for us to be worrying about 12 additional colorations a 1 metre cable makes.

I now have MC and MM stage inside my pre amp and the vinyl sounds wonderful. Vinyl also sounds wonderful on my seperate phono stage.

There are more sonic difference's going from LP to LP than there is comparing my internal and external phono stages.

We all tend to take subtle differences and AMPLIFY (& distort) them to the ridiculous.

Back to common sense now boys?

I see your point but I think that such small differences really do count. Obviously, to hear the differences between records initself suggests the importance of the phonolinestage: especially when you reflect on the minute mechanical impulses that are being translated from the cartridge.
Hi Raul,

why aren't you and Jose building an integrated phono/pre/amp?
Back to common sense now boys?
You are sooooooo mean, but you are on spot.
Dear Downunder: ++++ " There is more degredation in the musical signal before it gets onto vinyl " +++++

maybe but you can't do nothing about.

Certainly your music sound priorities are different from mine that between other things is to preserve ( in the best way ) the integrity of the delicate cartridge signal trying ( between other things ) to lower distotions/colorations/noises through adding the less and loosing the less on that be loved cartridge signal.

The other subject could be that you does not have yet an in deep experience with a real first rate Phonolinepreamp and of course that your ears like you posted can't discern between an external phono stage and an integrate one, well it could be many things to be sure.

Anyway, what is ridicolous for you maybe it is not to other people like me but if that is not enough then read what Atmasphere posted about and my other posts, please read carefully.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Dear Dan: Not bad idea!!

Regards and enjoy the music.
I've been involved with the design and manufacture of phono stages of both styles discussed here - standalone phono stages without line stages, and complete preamps with built-in phono stages as well as attenuators and line stages. Based on first-hand experience, it is possible to build top-notch (as in award-winning) phono stages using either approach.

Either way has its pros and cons. As is often said, it is the implementation that matters the most. Integrating everything together has the advantage of ditching the pressure-contact interconnect (via the problematic RCA/XLR connector) in favor of a superior hard-wired connection. However, keeping separate power supplies for every individual circuit nearly always sounds better (including separate transformers), and it is logistically easier to do this when the phono circuitry is unemcumbered by the line circuitry and vice versa, i.e., the circuitry being addressed is as simple as possible.

Of course, it is feasible to integrate the phono circuitry with line circuitry, keep completely separate power supplies and still stuff everything into one chassis for the signal circuitry and another for the power supplies, but to do this right would call for chasses that would normally be chosen for use with a good-sized power amp.

If I didn't have to think of the preferences and preconceptions of the audio market (but for whatever reason wanted to back away from the technically superior but commercially inferior solution of active loudspeakers), my preferred solution probably would be a minimalistic integrated power amp with built-in input selector and attenuator (with separate chasses for power supplies and signal circuitry), paired with separate phono preamp (no level control), and line buffer amps with neither level controls nor input selectors - one line buffer amp for each source (except phono). And everything built as a mono unit.

BTW, I wouldn't recommend combining the phono preamp together with the power amp. The sound of the turntable is too much affected by vibrations transmitted through the air and ground. For top performance the turntable should be in a separate room/closet isolated from the vibrations and air pressure from the loudspeakers. If you were to go with a combination phono/preamp/power amp together with the turntable in an isolated room, the speaker cables would likely need to be v-e-r-y long.

Unless you went with active loudspeakers, which would allow you to ditch the power amp and speaker cables.

regards, jonathan carr
Now that we have top designers on this thread is it possible to have a concensus how to drive our beloved phonosignal in the most accurate way ?
Dear Jloveys, I strongly doubt it.
I am disapointed
Dear Jloveys: Our unit was designed for my( our ) own priorities ( like a music lover/audiophile ) and was designed not thinking to put on the market, this commercial subject occur by " accident " a welcome one but not our main priority including today.

Over my audio years I owned several audio items and I can remember those Zenith and Telefunken " consoles " that were all purpose items that comes with everything you need to sound reproduction: TT/tonearm/cartridge/Phonolinepreamp/amplifier/tunner, everything integrated in the same " body ".

After that I remember: Pionner, Sansui, Mackintosh, Luxman, etc, where these units were integrated Phonolinepreamps ( at least ), on those years there was not " separates ".

Time goes on and appear the separate units for different reasons where maybe the most important was a commercial one: charge a price for two units instead only one.
In those times the know-how between the customers and even between the manufacturers was really low aganist today overall know-how.

At the beguining the cartridges that I use it were MM type but later appear/discover the MC alternative and things change because some of the integrated units can't handle the MC ones and appear the step-up transformers ( that I use it for several years till my know-how improve to tell me that the SUT makes a heavy degradation to the cartridge signal. ) that till today IMHO are still making damage to the quality analog performance alternative.

So, for years I was looking for an active ( no step up: internal or external. ) and integrated ( cables and connectors from my point of view are one of he worst enemy against quality performance, unfortunately we can't live with out it. )
Phonolinepreamp, then I find a good unit ( for that time ) that can handle two cartridges ( MM/MC ) the Classe DR-7 ( that over the time I modified to improve its quality performance. ).

Ater this Classe I try/test sevreal integrated and not phono/line stages: FM Acoustic, Threshold, Audio research, Conrad Johnson, Gryphon, Audio Note, Levinson, Krell, Jadis, you name it.

No one meet my " music lover " priorities so we decided ( Josè and I ) that if we really want to achieve our targets we have to go for our own design ( this was more than 12 years ago ) and we did it and build our first unit ( battery power supply ) only to show if can " sounds " in a decent way , well what we heard was not a very decent performance but at least not sounded too bad, so we were exited for our " success " , btw it is really a emotional event when you design for the first time an audio item build it then test it and voila it " sounds "!!!

After this " lucky " event we put on paper our targets choosing the best trade-offs to obtain in the best way the top quality performance that we were looking for for too many years .

To write the targets was an in deeep research to understand not only the main functions ( why a Phonolinepreamp exist. ) that a Phonolipreamp must to have but to understand too the main challenges to design, test and execution of that design.

The result is the Essential 3160 Phonolinepreamp ( integrated, no step up, separate power supplys, separate dual mono line stage and separate dual mono phono stages in two stand alone chasis/boxes. ).

This was and is our approach any trade-off here is something that we accept and choose in favor of quality performance, of course that from a different point of view like be Jcarr it self the approach could be different and cetainly the performance can/could be different too.

Jloveys, don't be disapointed because I can tell you that almost any designer choose the trade-offs that for him are the best ones: sometimes by commercial subjects.

You can read here that like Atmasphere we choose almost the same alternative that is: an integrate Phonolinepreamp.

Every designer has its own ideas ( like Manley or Lamm that choose step-up transformers and stand alone units. ) and I can asure you that everyone can explain you in deep its approach advantages and disadvantages.

So, which is the best approach? ( everything the same ), a question that has several answers as several designers exist and certainly this is not the right forum to speak in deep about, what I can say to you is that in general all those designers has more in common about that differences. As Dan point out: there are no absolutes here! and that's why many of us ( designers or not ) follow looking for the " heaven " about.

The real reward about is that the customer has several very good alternatives and I think that the very best it is for coming!

Regards and enjoy the music.

I think Jcarr has put you in your place.

Your normal condecending attitude has gone your phono and everything you do being the absolute truth to being designed for your priorities. Enough said - BTW nothing wrong with that - that is what music is all about - your musical priorities.

There is no one way to skin a cat and no one has magic ears, even you.

anhyway back to enjoying the music
Dear Downunder: I don't know what you are talking about or at least I can't understand it, sorry.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Raul said, "The real reward about is that the customer has several very good alternatives and I think that the very best it is for coming!"

As long as it meets Rauls criteria.

And he said, " I don't know what you are talking about or at least I can't understand it, sorry.

Now we have to suspect his (selective) hearing!

Raul says " At the other end of the IC cable ( line stage input ) the additional " stages/veils/distortions/noises/colorations " are the same number: 6+6=12 !!! plus one meter of IC cable with all the IC cable self signal degradations."

This suits his argument and self advertising for phono stage and line stage to be together.

On the other hand Raul luvs tonearms with removable headshells. Now how many stages/veils/distortions etc do these have compared to non removable??.

Raul - What are you trying to say, except anything you say is correct and everything else is wrong.
Unless it is a respectable hifi business person like Atmosphere or Jcarr who never peddle their own products or push their own views. They actively give their views on audio which one can absorb, then make their own minds up.

You and Audiofeil should get married.
Raul says " At the other end of the IC cable ( line stage input ) the additional " stages/veils/distortions/noises/colorations " are the same number: 6+6=12 !!! plus one meter of IC cable with all the IC cable self signal degradations."

This suits his argument and self advertising for phono stage and line stage to be together.

On the other hand Raul luvs tonearms with removable headshells. Now how many stages/veils/distortions etc do these have compared to non removable??.

Raul - What are you trying to say, except anything you say is correct and everything else is wrong.
Unless it is a respectable hifi business person like Atmosphere or Jcarr who never peddle their own products or push their own views. They actively give their views on audio which one can absorb, then make their own minds up.

You and Audiofeil should get married.
Thank you Downblunder but I'm very happy at the moment.
Returning to the Tron 7, it is very good., but I recently compared it to my K&K stage in Graham the Tron designers all Tron system. I thought the sound was very similar, very musical with a good flow and dynamics to the sound, very low noise floor. The Tron was marginally better, the K&K is much cheaper.
I am about to host a Phono stage shoot out in the UK, which will include the K&K, I hope the Alnic and hopepfully, TW Accustics new phonostage