Give Keith Herron a call.
84 responses Add your response
My demo Audiospecials Phonolab 1.0 is in Texas right now for a demo. Wanna hear it? What cart(s) are you using?
Since I have a commercial bias I will refrain from subjective comment. If you don't mind using a translator you can find a very thorough german magazine review including measurements on the manufacturer website...
Tubes are no more susceptible to RFI than solid state. In fact, to the degree that SS components may operate across a very wide bandwidth, up into the hundreds of thousands of Hz, some SS devices might be worse than a similar tube device. Immunity to RFI depends upon how and of what material the chassis is constructed, internal layout of parts, length of wires connecting up the circuit inside, and deliberate shielding of any other kind.
That's why I said call Keith Herron. The Herron does have tubes but its not tubes that are the problem, the problem is RFI, most of which gets in somewhere along between the cartridge and the end where the phono leads connect to the phono stage. Somewhere along in there, more often than not.
I don't know that I'd say the Herron is particularly warm, but mine sure sounds awfully good. Don't discount it just for being so cheap either. If you can have $10k performance for $3k what's not to like?
I bought a phono pream balanced audio technology and it was a headache for me, I could never remove the noise, I had zesto, ayre, parasound jc3, cary, I just want to buy something better, and keep it for a long time.Does it need to be a stand-alone phono section? Do you want it to be balanced?
@saxaudio1 One of the founders of BAT was one of our customers. He had our balanced preamp called the MP-1. It had the first and for a long time the only balanced line phono section in it. Since the cartridge is a naturally balanced source it seemed the thing to do.
We went balanced so that the interconnect cables would not make such a big difference in the system as we were hearing with single-ended cables. The phono section seemed the place where you really wanted to get it right. To that end we supported the balanced standard, also known as AES48 (Audio Engineering Society file 48). A phono cartridge driving our phono section supports that standard.
It didn't occur to us that other manufacturers might not support the standard but that is what we've been seeing. That is why there is controversy about whether balanced operation sounds better. IMO if its set up right, it sounds better and no going back.
Because building a phono section whose output supported the standard meant making as much circuitry as our entire full function preamp has already, we've never offered a phono section separately. I have real difficulty believing an outboard phono system can actually sound better; this is mostly because the the interconnect required between the phono section and the line stage. Since all the outboard phono sections I've seen don't support the standard, then it can be expected that there will be a degradation on account of the interconnects despite being balanced.
AES48 assures that everything goes right- no ground loops, little or no cable interaction (although with a phono cartridge it still helps to use a low capacitance cable).
One thing I would keep in mind is the minimum gain from the phono stage because depending on your preamp it may overdrive your preamp. This happened to my Bryston 17B cubed preamp with the Parasound JC3+ and the Pass Labs XP-17 (and likely the XP-25 which has the same minimum gain as the XP-17). I have an Ortofon 2M Black cartridge. Phono stages that have minimum gains in the 40-50dB range that works well with my Bryston are the Pass Labs Aleph Ono, Simaudio 310LP, PS Audio Stellar Phono and the Musical Fidelity NuVista Vinyl.
I’m happy with my musical surroundings phenomena 11+ at only 800 bucks, oh but I also have the linear power supply to go with it, so another 700 bucks. So for 1500 I’m happy. Tons of adjustability and it’s Herb’s reference phono stage. I like and trust Herb as he has yet to steer me wrong. Goes great with the Hana cartridges. To me, this is expensive enough. At some point you gotta stop upgrading. I'm done....I honestly do not think you necessarily have to spend thousands to get great quality sound. I'd rather buy more records.
I would try a Pass Labs XP27 or XP17, depending on where you really want to be budgetwise (close to $5k or close to $10K). I would talk to Reno HiFi and pick the one that you think will most closely meet your needs. They allow for a 30 day trial period, where you just pay the postage if you don't keep the unit. That seems like a pretty reasonable deal to me. I got my XP15 from Reno HiFi a couple of years ago and could not be happier with the service or the product. Happy listening.
Greetings from Canada. Have you tried the Icon Audio UK handmade (no circuit board) tube phono stage? We are the authorized distributor of Icon and ship pre-paid to all locations in Canada and United States. We have sold many Icon Audio PS3 and PS1 MM/MC phono stages and have experienced no problem with radio signal noise. In testing many solid state and other tube phono stage products we have never experienced a better sounding product then the Icon Audio. With a two piece design both models are particularly silent. You can order one unit for trail and if not 100% thrilled return same for refund and/or upgrade. Best regards from Warren at Audioarcan.
It is surprising that 3 pin (xlr, lemo etc) connectors for phono cables aren't more common since the cartridge is a balanced source.
Anyways just an fyi (same commercial interests caveat) the Phonolab has balanced inputs AND balanced outputs (transformer for output). The outputs support both 775mv and 1.55v reference levels...
Of course Ralphs preamps are superb, if you are considering a full preamp swap!
Sounds like you may find van den Hul’s The Grail interesting. Current mode, extremely low noise solid state phono preamplifier with external power supply. Highly regarded: Michael Fremer compared it with admiration to his ~$50k CH Precision P1+X1.
disclaimer: I’m a vdH dealer in Nashville, TN.
$10K!!!???? Oh my, there are many SS phono stages on the market that are exceptional for a lot less than $10K. I went through a few, Lehmann, Slee., Project, and settled on Gold Note. Might be better out there, but it's got fabulous reviews and for good reason. Very adjustable, and on the fly. I too have an antenna behind my house, as in right behind the wall where my system is. No interference what so ever with the Gold Note. My $0.02 worth.
I thought the major issue here was eliminating RF from the adjacent radio transmitter. I am fortunate enough that I have no such problems, living in the industry-less Washington DC area; there are some huge radio and TV station towers in town, but the closest to me is at least 5-6 miles from my house. Therefore, I have never had to tackle the problem head on. However, I am a very longstanding user of Ralph's MP1. I love that thing. Besides thinking about shielding built into the unit of choice, you also want to use shielded phono cables, and since shielding raises cable capacitance and since cables per se are antennae, keep the phono cables and all other cabling as short as possible. I'd also suggest a phono stage/linestage with a separate outboard power supply, a la the MP1 and others. Keep in mind the basic fact that tubes are no more likely to bring in RFI than are transistors, and maybe less so because of relatively foreshortened bandwidth, as I mentioned above. Eliminating RFI is mostly about careful design and build. If you're in the Herron price range, and if you want balanced (I do), I would also suggest you take a look at the fully balanced Atma-sphere MP3. It's a candy mint and a breath mint; you won't need a separate linestage.
As a designer of phonostages (both solid-state and tube), I can unequivocally state that RF interference is more of an issue with solid-state circuits. The reason being parasitic diodes inherent in opamps or transistor stages that end up rectifying (aka demodulating) radio signals. This is nowhere as bad with tubes. Yes, both can catch RF if the source is close enough (I developed the Trumpet Reference with an FM tower (94.7MHz) just up the hill, so I know), but tubes are far less susceptible.
I had a tube RIAA sold it because of hum and other noise. Afterwards I noticed that my TT cables induced the notice (no shielding). So that was a waste preamplifier switch...
So make sure that your TT interconnects and tone arm wires (the material of the tone arm tube) is shielded. Because the noise/"signal" they PICK UP is then removed later on in most of the (not all) RIAA preamps. I personally feel that outside noise that has nothing with the signal from the cartridge to do is nothing I want in to the system.
And later on in the RIAA a RF-filter is removing it.. ..it should not have been able to enter in the first place. So I consider that if we need RF-filter in the RIAA stage then you have not kept the integrity of the signal from the cartridge.
I am glad to not having a RF-filter in my RIAA today not for that I think it is something bad but because any RF that may enter between cartridge and RIAA is exposing flaws in the shield somewhere. And now I know that there is nothing else in the cables than just the signal from the cartridge.
Of course you may have a extreme situation but preventing RF to enter in the first place then if not all is stopped then the RF-filter will help you out with the rest.
If you're using low impedance cartridge (under 5 Ohm) then current injection type of the phono stage can be the best ever.
The recommendations above are all about traditional phono stages.
Search for CURRENT INJECTION instead, they are unique and most natural sounding with low impedance MC cartridges.
Mine is 47 Labs Phoncube and my LOMC never sounded so good with many traditional phono stages i have in my arsenal.
Dear @saxaudio1 : There are really good alternatives and if you want to buy you last phono stage and no matters what you have to go for SS designs and avoid the tube or hybrid alternatives that's not made it really for LOMC cartridges just can't shines or cartridge can't shows it at its best. SS alternative is the rigth move:
Pass, Gryphon, Brickmann, FM Acoustics, Boulder, Dagostino, Sutherland, Sims Audio, Spectral.
You can't go wrong with eithert of those manufacturers even if your radio station is " inside your home.
Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
This is another alternative in the SS land:
None of us are getting out alive. I have 1961 and 1965 tube gear that OEM does not support and there are excellent techs available to keep it running.
i have a Herron on order, it’s not my only Phono preamp. Keith has been an absolute joy to work with including shipping a front panel to my custom faceplate manufacturing guy. IS it SOTA ? Probably not but is it a heavyweight value? We shall see !
have fun, enjoy the music !
What might help with respect to the radio signal problem would be purchasing a pair of inexpensive ferrite clamps, that would be placed on the phono cables near their connection to the phono stage. Many such things are listed here:
The choice among them would be based on whether the radio signal is on the AM band, or the FM band, or one of the ham radio bands, and on the physical diameter of the phono cable, and on whether the phono cartridge is a low output moving coil type or a moving magnet or other high output type.
Another happy owner of a Herron phono stage here, btw. And I don’t doubt that the phono stage built into Ralph’s (Atmasphere’s) preamps is great as well. And I would feel safe in saying that no audio company in existence betters those two in terms of responsiveness to and support of their customers.
I would give the PSAudio Stellar Phono Preamp a serious consideration. Michael Fremer just gave it an amazing review in Stereophile. I was a Beta tester for PS Audio when this product came out and bought and kept it because it is the best I have ever heard. You cant go wrong because, if you buy it directly from PS Audio, you can actually have an "in-home" trial and return it if you dont like it. This company is coming out with seriously good stuff at reasonable prices.
Try Audio Horizons pre-amp wonderful value and great sound, also Manley Steelhead has been highly recomeded, it can also be used as a pre-amp. Its highly flexible and has stood the test of time.
I second the suggestion on Whest Audio phono stages.
Built with beautiful design internally, Clarity Capacitors, full suspension on the main boards to isolate the electronics from the case, hand matched discreet components, on and on.... I am on my second phono preamp from Whest with my recent upgrade and the performance is just outstanding: amazing detail pulled from the recording, a noise free black background (you would not even know it’s on if you didn’t see the two power on LED’s for each mono section).
No comparison to the PH 10 I had before, we are talking performance which is by far in another league over the PH 10; my Whest makes the Gold Note sound like the NAD PP2e entry level phono stage I first had years ago.
For under $10K, you can pick up the new PS.40 RDT SE which is just one step down from the Titan Pro. The Titan Pro will set you back around $13K and if you can stretch the budget a bit, I’d get a Titan Pro; it’s really from what I am told (I have not heard it myself) nirvana of phono preamps. But the 40 series is going to get you something which is still cuts above other offerings out there. The Titan Pro is going to be my next upgrade when funds are available.
When I picked up my first Whest, I had three other phono stages on the shelf, all in the $1500 to $2500 range and one Clear Audio Smart V2 which is around $700. My Whest Three Signature which is a $4K unit just blew all of these out of the water, I mean it was a huge difference in performance. I used the Three for the summer and ordered a custom built mid level Whest, meaning around a $6K unit, and it took things up to another notch higher. Same house sound, but the detail is just jaw dropping. FYI, the cartridge in the system is an Ortofon A90 MC. But I also used a vintage AT20ss MM (my Whest input was customized for 20 pf to match perfectly with the AT20ss). So the performance is equally as outstanding in MC as is MM.
Not much of the above is helpful to the OP, I wouldn't think, unless there is some factual information about immunity to RFI. The fact that a unit is "quiet" in one's own home is not evidence it would be quiet in the OP's high-RFI environment. But then also, the OP can do a lot to improve isolation by messing around a bit with ancillary items, like cables, AC cords, etc.