best phono stage to mate with a London Decca Super Gold cart?

Greetings All!

I'm looking for recommendations for a phono stage to match with my Decca Super Gold cart.

I'm currently using the phono stage on my Doge 8 preamp which is OK, but not stellar. Table is a Roksan Xerxes with an upgraded RB300 arm (Incognito wiring and Audio Origami external cable).

I'm open to either S/S or tube.

Budget up to $1,500.


Hi Norm
while I'm not an owner of either but a friend of mine uses a Decca cart with a Croft phonostage to a great result.
I know that Glenn Croft uses Decca as his reference cart. Croft makes MM phono only btw.

What the Decca/London's need is not much gain (40dB is plenty) and lots of headroom. Their 5mV output is way too hot for lots of phono stages.

For solid state, the Liberty B2B-1 has both, John Atkinson finding it's overload margin about as high as he has ever measured. It retails for $1800 I believe.

For tube, the discontinued Herron VTPH-1mm is a great choice, providing 42-44dB gain (depending on tubes used) and pretty good headroom. Give Keith a call, as he sometimes has trade-ins available. You should be able to get one for $1500. The improved VTPH-2 will cost you more.

For the best performance from the Super Gold, you want to load the cartridge at 15k to 22k resistance, and 220pF of capacitance. The RB300 works pretty well with the cartridge, although an arm with a little higher mass and damping is preferable. 

Thanks for the replies! This is very good information. I am looking at Croft. Their RIAA Phono sells for $1200 here in Canada, so looks promising.

I take your point with respect to the RB300 arm. I do plan on upgrading it in the future.

UK reviewer Ken Kessler of Hi-Fi News is a longtime Decca devotee, and has praised Glenn Croft many times, including his phono designs for use with Deccas/Londons. And Croft, being intimately familiar with the cartridges, may have his own preferences for loading them with resistance and capacitance.
Hi  bdp24 , i was curious regarding the below in your post
For the best performance from the Super Gold, you want to load the cartridge at 15k to 22k resistance, and 220pF of capacitance.
How can this be done for MM Phonos which i believe are internally loaded at 47K. does this involve some bit of DIY ?

I have a much older decca hence the interest !
I run a Decca FFSS MkIV C4E (rebuilt by John Wright) and Garrott Brothers Gold (retipped by JW). I have been using Deccas since the late 70s. I now use a TRON Seven Reference phono stage, which was built specially for my Decca. Of course, this is way out of your budget. However, I have also tried the budget TRON Convergence tube phono stage (GBP900 = USD1300) with my Deccas. It gets maybe 90% of the SQ of my Seven Reference for a mere fraction of the cost. Graham Tricker builds his units to order, and so you can specify cartridge loading etc at the time of order.
Over the summer I built a K&K Audio "Trio" for one of Kevin's customers and was very impressed by its performance. It faired very well in comparison to Kevin's all out assault on the SOTA, the Sonus Veritas Venice, a fully balanced differential, transformer coupled unit reviewed here: http://http//

The Trio's sins were sins of omission, not commission (added colorations). I believe an assembled MM version can be had for ~$1.5K. The circuit board is arranged so different loading resistors can be easily inserted. The input capacitance of the input tube and the capacitance of your tonearm wiring should put you in the 220pF ballpark.

Yeah John, the K & K looks very interesting (as does the budget TRON). ARJ, the input resistance is easily changed with the installation of a 15k to 22k resistor on the inside of the phono amp, on the input jacks.
If you are attending RMAF I believe Dennis Fraker will be using a Trio to demo with.

If you can get a Herron VTPH-1 for $1500, nothing new or used in that price range will come anywhere close.  If you pick up a MC unit, Keith Herron will probably convert it to the proper gain as well as put in the latest mods.  Herron might even have a VTPH-1 taken as a trade that might be available.  The only way to be sure is to call.  In any case, Keith is always good for helpful conversation.

I got my VTPH-1mm directly from Keith. He had taken in a -1mc in trade on a VTPH-2, and offered to convert it to a -1mm for me. I told Keith I was using it with a London cartridge, and wanted as little gain and as much overhead as the amp was capable of. He put in two 12AX7’s and two 12AT7’s to lower the gain a couple of dB (that also provides a little more headroom in the circuit), and installed 15k resistance and 220pF capacitance at my request. He also sent along another pair of the tubes providing 2dB more gain. Whatta guy!

I got the VTPH-1mm before I heard of the K&K, but checked it out once I had. It looks real good, and if I hadn’t gotten the Herron I would have gone for a K&K. Definitely worth looking into. The TRON Convergence I investigated as well, but couldn’t get as much a "feel" for from the website. The fact that topoxforddoc (see above) has the good taste and refined sensibilities :-) of a long-time Decca devotee, and highly recommends the TRON, makes it a must-check-out imo.

No matter what phono amp you get, with your Super Gold you are getting the most dynamic, immediate, "live" sound from your LP’s as is currently possible! Is your SG mounted on a Deccapod? If not, John Wright will do it to yours if you send it to him. I ordered my London SG with the Pod already installed, and it is a HUGE improvement over the old Decca top plate and mounting system.

Thanks for all the replies everyone! There was a wealth of information shared.

For those who are still following along, I opted for a (new) Croft RIAA phono stage. This stage seems to be well suited to the Super Gold.

I'll post an update once I have it up and running.

Here's an update for anyone still following this thread.

I've had the Croft RIAA for just under 3 weeks now, so about 500 hours of burn in time.

When I initially fired it up, my immediate impression was "Hmmm. Sounds very polite."

I had read that the Super Gold's were light in the bass department. When running the cart through the MM phono stage of my Doge 8, that was certainly the case. It's not that there wasn't any bass, there was. But what was there was fairly .... weak?

On the Croft, there was initially very little bass, but after half an album (Sade - Diamond Life), all of a sudden, the bass roared to life!  But overall it still sounded 'polite'.

After one week, it had much more oomph behind it (but still 'polite').

It was only after I swapped out the stock JJ tubes and replaced them with Mazda ECC83 that this unit began to sparkle! The decay of the cymbals on Paul Simon's Graceland was now very noticeable. Instrument separation was really brought out.

If anyone is looking for a phono stage to match with a London Decca Super Gold cartridge, I can heartily recommend the Croft RIAA.

Can it be beaten? Sure. But at this price point, it's a winner!

Very good value for the money. I am very happy with this purchase.

Yeah, the stock JJs are very musical but too warm and lacking detail. I have had Croft preamps for many years. My current 25R works magically with my Decca SG (with John Wright Paratrace diamond - which takes it to a new level.) I use a Jelco 750L arm which is a ridiculous bargain and wipes the floor with the Rega. See my Virtual System for more info on both the Decca and Croft and tube rolling.

I should add that my RB300’s wiring has been upgraded with an Incognito rewire. I also use an Audio Origami SOFC external cable and a Michell techno-weight, so it is far from stock. I have also added weight to the headshell.

I’m still very much enjoying the SG + Croft combo.

I’ve since upgraded the tubes to Shuguang Custom Black Treasure 12AX7-LS which delivers slightly more detail than the Mazda’s.

Thanks for the follow up. Didn’t mean to disparage the RB300 which I like. The Jelco bearings is where it’s at. Improving the wire can improve the sound but not the performance, if you know what I mean. Thanks for the 12ax7 LS recommendation. I bought a pair. Feedback to follow when they arrive.

Against popular wisdom, I run my Decca into 47k. I tried 33k on the original Super Micro and felt it calmed the music enough for it to rob some of the air and dynamics. I believe that as long as the TT and arm provide a vibration free anchor for the Decca, electronic damping is not required.

The design of the Decca pickup creates an inherent electronic resonance. In the mid-1980’s I had a long conversation with the greatly-missed Harvey Rosenberg---a Decca fanatic and expert, during which he explained to me how an electronic damping circuit, created via resistive and capacitive loading of the pickup, was necessary to address and remedy the Decca’s electronic resonance.

Though the construction and build quality of the current London’s is a significant improvement on that of the old Decca’s, the pickup design’s inherent electronic resonance remains intact, still requiring an electronic damping circuit (resistance and capacitance) to provide anywhere near flat frequency response and non-ringing time-domain performance. The London Reference owners manual specifies 15kohms/220uF resistance/capacitance loading, the Super Gold 22k/220uF. Harvey used a lot more capacitance with his old Deccas. A LOT more.

The pickup’s mechanical requirements (arm tube and bearings, mechanical damping) are a whole ’nother matter!

Don't tell everyone that the Decca thrilling excitement is caused by ringing! 
Ha! Nope, it is due to it's "Direct Sensing" design, lack of cantilever and rubber suspension, and who knows what else. Even without an electronic damping circuit, Decca/Londons sound more "alive", immediate, dynamic, and exciting (thrilling is a good adjective too ;-) than just about any other pickup available. Damped or not, they have that character, though electronic damping cures it's relatively minor failings. The cartridge does, however, reveal the more serious weaknesses in whatever arm it is mounted upon, unless the arm is on a Townshend Rock turntable.