Best Phono Stage within 2000 $

Hello Guys,

I'm thinking to buy a MC cartridge (low output like AT33PTG for example) but my Grado PH1 Phono Stage doesn't have any other setup apart the fixed 47kohm so I need to buy another Phono Stage
I don't want to spend more than 2000 $USD
I read good things about Acoustech PH1P (1500 $USD retail) and about PS Audio GCPH l-1 (Underwood mod.) , Art Audio Vinyl1 , Sutherland PHD (2000 $ on used market) .. etc...
Other ideas about tube or SS good Phono Stages?
Preowned are welcomed .. less money for best value/quality

What's the best choice for you?

Thanks in advance for your Suggestions/Opinions

ps: Merry Christas to EveryOne
I am very happy with a Benz Lukashek T9 PP1 phono stage i use a Dynavector 17D MK 2 and a Benz Ruby . The price for a used one is is well within your range save a little money and buy records. Marc
If you can find a ASR mini basis that would be the one to get..
While there is not necessarily a "best", I would consider the following:

- Vacuumstate JLTI
- Pass XOno

I preferred both to the Sutherland Ph.D., EAR 834R and some much more
expensive stages. Some others that look interesting:

- K&K Maxxed out Kit (=Art Audio Vinyl Reference)

Also, you could get a step-up for your Cary MM phono stage to use with a
MC cartridge.
Thanks Guys

Today someone offered me to trade my phono board with a Whest PS30R and the money difference stays inside my budget
Does someone here know this Whest?
I don't know this brand
I think there is no way to judge the best phono stage without listening to a few for yourself. I went through the process and I like the Modwright 9.0 SE phono stage. I like it because of the sound stage it produces with the right amount of "tight" and thumping bass for the genre of music that I listen to: Reggae, R&B, soft rock, and Jazz. If you are listening to classical music I would try something else. I compared the Modwright to: Graham Slee Era Gold V, SAP, and the built in phono stage on my McIntosh C2200 preamp. The Graham Slee and the SAP are great units and I enjoyed listening to them, but they did not have the bottom end that I like. For under $1K the Graham Slee is highly recommended. The SAP cost $4K, and the Modwright $3500 but a used on would be in your $2K range.
Used Pass Labs XONO. Extremely neutral, balanced (XLR) outputs and over 200 cartridge loading options. Also very reliable.
I heard good things about the Whest PS30R but no chance to listen to one yet. There have been excellent reviews on some German forums comparing it closely to a Pass Xono which seems to fall in a similar direction sonically.

For the US$ used price the Xono is one of the best recommendation - for some reason the Xono is still more popular on German forums than here. And that is despite the new US$4200 vs. 5300 Euro !! pricetag.

Both, XOno and Whest would go in a very different direction sonically compared the Cary though. The XOno is much more detailed, quick, and neutral. Maybe not the richest tonal colors or texture. The XOno has the best low-end of any phono I heard to date.
Audiomat Phono 1.5, NEW; Cad 1,990.00 (price new Cad 2,990.00).
See Mutine site....special offers for new stock. can run MM and MC at same time and switch on faceplate. (Assuming you are inclined to have 2 tables in one set up) Would get this myself but Phono 1.0 makes me happy. Have no affiliation... just appreciation.
The Pro-Ject Tube Box 11 SE was recently reviewed in HIFICRITIC and tied for the highest rating out of 8 tested , some of which cost as much as 2500 pounds. It is $695. The PS Audio and Graham Slee were well behind it.
I can't say enough about my experiences with the Aqvox 2CI MKII.It falls in your range at $1999.Expect at least a 10% discount.Happy hunting!
Keep an eye out for an Ayre P-5XE, (used $1,600-$1,800 I think). They show up for sale a few times a year but they go fast. It has plenty of (adjustable) gain, optional balanced operation (which I like and is recomended) and good flexibilty.

I will be looking at spending a lot more upgrading my phono pre in 2009 but I will keep my P-5X untill I am certain that I happy with the change.
Peterayer and Restock , I have a Pass Labs X1 preamp that's two unit boxes (power supply and preamp) and I can't figure two other units for the Phono Xono
I don't have enough space on my shelf
Theorically I could feed the Xono preamp by my X1 power supply that has two power output but I don't know if this is possible
If possible .. I can add only one unit and this is interesting
Anyone here knows something about this feature?
I'm pretty sure it is possible. I am counting on this for a future upgrade from the X-1 to the XP-20 using its PS for my XONO. I would contact Pass Labs directly. They are extremely helpful via phone or e-mail.
Used Pass Xono is great value and it sounds great as well.

for tube, you cannot go past 2nd hand EAR 834P
If you like the X-1 the Xono matches up perfect, plus you will have the synergy of the Pass Labs products working together. I'd e-mail Pass and ask if you can use 1 power supply for the X-1 and Xono. I'm 90% sure you can, and I believe one of the power outlets is specificaly for this. Neither pre uses alot of power. I also have the X-1 Pre and the Xono, plus the X-600 monos. I absolutely LOVE the detail and bass of the Xono. It is a very versitile phono stage to boot.
Happy Holidays!
$1.5k to $2.5k is a tough price point for phono stages. Of course there are many units in that range, but very few not significantly bettered at the $3k-$4k range. While it seems obvious that more money will get a better product, the jump in quality seems bigger than the jump in price - at least to my ears. For what you want to spend, look at the used market.

That said, there are two sonic standouts that can be had used at your price, the already mentioned solid-state Pass Labs XONO, and the tubed Artemis Labs PH-1. The XONO has gobs of gain if you need it and this can also be adjusted downward if you don't. The Artemis is fixed at 50dB, but that should be enough to drive a .6mv LOMC, but probably not anything lower. Both are nicely configurable for impedance loading and both offer top notch build quality. The XONO has a separate power supply which you will want to keep separated from the head unit, so consider rack space.

I've had both in my system at one time or another for an extended period, and all things being equal (which they never are) I think I prefer the sonics of the PH-1 - especially if you have no other tubes in your system. Both offer an open, spacious presentation with good soundstage depth and width. As might be expected, the XONO offers slightly crisper transients on the frequency extremes and slightly more dynamic impact. The PH-1 is more resolving and lets you hear deeper into the music with more harmonic and overtone information - this yields a touch more of music's natural sweetness. For a solid-stage unit, the XONO is a wee bit on the warm side, which is probably a plus as far as distortion goes, though it doesn't offer quite the level of bloom and dimensionality as the PH-1. Either is a fine component and I could see folks having a different preference than mine. Either should be found used for under $2k. Good luck with your hunt.
Thanks Peter for your help and thanks to Srwooten & Jtimothya for your exquisite suggestions.
At this point it's clear I should choose the XOno for a optimal solid state solution and three or four interesting choices for tube units.
I 'll think about and I 'll search in the pre-owned market
If someone else has some other interesting tips about please don't be shy

Merry Christmas to EveryOne
With an X-1 pre I would not even think long about the right phono stage: Pass XOno. A friend is running one with his INT150 and it's a perfect combination.
He runs a Dynavector XX-2 cartridge into the Pass which works well too.
I am surprised that no one has mentioned the Herron. In the used market it is certainly in your price range and is extremely easy to live with considering it is a tubed unit. Gobbs of gain (66db) that can handle about any cartridge.
The Whest Ps30r is a great phono stage
When listening to phonostages I hear a lot and the PS30r is in a different class totally clean and great resolution Its will out perform anything I heard costing twice its price.
Read the review in HIFI world if you can get it in the USA
The used Klyne 7 just listed is a rare steal. A used Vendetta if you can find one was what I hunted for and eventually found. In the ss camp, these are IMO far ahead of the others mentioned.
In the tube camp, phono stages need a relatively RFI-free environment. Unless you know that's not an issue for you, I'd tread lightly. Coming from a tube lover, phono stages are the first place to consider ss over tubes. Cheers,
>>Its will out perform anything I heard costing twice its price.<<

Please list all of them.

Thanks in advance.
I went through quite a search before settling on ps30r If you want send me email and I will talk you through my experiences
Try pre owned Audio Research PH 3/5
Johnjc, we're all in the same boat here trying to learn what's the best value for our money. Would you be able to share your experiences here for all of us?
This is based in my system in another system the results may well be different
I tried about 9 phonostages I have a super scoutmaster with the rim drive I use a trans fi Terminator arm with a zxy cartridge
Here are a few I tired
Ps Audio phonostage was the first I tried just spiked a lot in my system
The Tron is really well built but felt coloured seemed to add something to the sound.
Alinic 1500 really great with acoustic music but not great with rock, felt it did not cope with elcetric bass and kick drums but on some music just creates pure magic
Noteworthy Yet again adds something to the sound
Orgin Live Great for rock but yet again adds its own colour to the music
Ayre really good but just thought the ps30r allowe more music to flow
Whest ps30r just allowed the music to come through with nothing added. Music seems really natural. dynamics are great and plenty of detail
Terrific post John.

You're very fortunate in having the opportunity to audition all of them.

Congrats on finding the product that works to your liking. Afterall, that's what it's all about.

The Aesthetix Rhea is a great sounding phono stage. It offers unusual flexibility (inputs/outputs/loading, remote, etc) and is beautifully put together. Used prices have dipped below $2500 from time to time, and (with a bit of patience) you might find one at your price. I haven't auditioned quite as many phono stage as John, but I've tried quite a few (including several extremely expensive alternatives). IMHO, the Rhea sounded as good as any - YMMV.

BTW, my analog set-up is more complicated than most. I have multiple tables and use both SE and balanced connections, swap carts occasionally and prefer a single box solution of reasonable size. For this reason, I'd choose the Rhea over any other phono stage I've heard, including Aesthetix' own stab at the bleeding edge, the IO.

Good Luck

I've taken a couple Rheas in on trade. They are extremely flexible; the remote loading and other functions are terrific. The used price right now makes they fairly good values.

Both of the units I heard, however, were far too noisy for me.

Thanks John, I've been interested in the Allnic, but am concerned about the lack of dynamics on rock. I'll definitely have to check out the Whest.
You still should heer the Allnic if you can on acoustic music it is very special but for me just not great with rock music. I heard it twice once on my system and once at the dealers and both times just did not allow the energy to come through I tried Eygptian Danza and it made the recording sound really muddy did this to a few other tracks on different LPs as well but on something like Passion by Peter Gabriel really magical.
If my music taste was different would of gone for this phono stage
John, a bunch of friends are planning to have a Phono-stage shootout soon (I just realized how geeky that sounds!) and the Allnic may be one of the pieces. I hope to report back soon.

FWIW, in last year's edition of the shootout the concensus was the Rhea was very noisy as well.

Evidently, early production Rheas (including mine) commonly had noise issues. Within a year, Aesthetix had addressed the problem with a modified version. I'm local to the company, so I drove mine over and Jim White installed the mod at a nominal cost. Since then, it's been pretty much dead silence.

I've only heard 2 and I think that was clear. I also added the "YMMV" caveat.

I'm not indicting all Rheas simply posting my experience.

For the record, there are many noisy tubed phono preamplifiers on the market.

Just explaining that you're not the only one to encounter noisy Rheas...especially if someone happens to find one from those early production runs. I'm sure some of the later units are noisy, too. Just not as many of 'em.

Mine was much quieter after Jim did his thing. But your point is taken, especially since I was recommending buying used. Your caveat is certainly appropriate.

I heard the Rhea in a shootout with several other phonostage and neither of us was impressed - we pretty much unanimously felt it was very disappointing. It was slightly noisy too.

Some short comments:
- Sutherland Ph.D. (nice balance, good flow, quiet)
- McIntosh C1000 pre (excellent flow, not the best resolution)
- Canofer S (best overall balanced and very good soundstage resolution)
- Vacuumstate JLTI (finely detailed, very wide soundstage and excellent separation between instruments, lean)
- Rhea (slightly noisy, average soundstage resolution, forward upper midrange, loose bass)

Some more phonostages I have more experience with:
- Pass XOno (excellent resolution, best bass and extension, dynamic, slightly mechanical and not the most saturated tonal colors
- Wright WPP200C (good balance, average resolution)
- Trichord Dino (dry, good resolution)

Most of the above comparisons were done using the following combinations:
- Verdier, Da Vinci, ZYX Universe
- DPS 2, Schroeder No.2 Allaerts, Lyra Argo
- Scoutmaster, JMW9 Plus, Dynavector XX-2

Of course mostly my personal impression and YMMV.

I'm surprised at your experience with the Rhea. I haven't heard any of the stages you mention, but I've directly compared the Rhea to:

Aesthetix IO
Lehman Black Cube

Putting the Io aside for a moment,

IMHO, the Rhea easily outperformed each of the above in every way meaningful to me - other than noise (some of the comparisons were done before the unit was modded). It has beautiful "bloom" and tonality, imaging is the best I've heard (except for the Io) and deep bass is astonishingly good - FOR ME, better than all of the above - including the Io. After the mod to bring the Rhea to current spec, it's pretty much dead quiet - so I doubt noise is a meaningful issue now.

The Io sounds great, maybe marginally superior to the Rhea in stage depth, but FOR ME not significantly better than the Rhea in any other way. The Io had a darker character through the mid bass that I found less convincing, and it's also bigger and obviously much more expensive.

I also had a less controlled opportunity to compare my Rhea to an ARC Ref Phono and preferred the Rhea again, but there were enough uncontrolled variables to make this conclusion less reliable. Overall, IMHO it's the best sounding phono stage I've heard. Obviousy, YMdidV.

Other than the ARC Ref audition, I mainly used an Oracle, Graham 2.2, and Transfiguration Nightingale or Lyra Dorian (on a second wand) for my comparisons, although an Acoustic Solid Table with a modded RB-300 and Clearaudio cart were also employed from time to time.

Marty's and Restock's findings just goes to show that one man's ceiling is another man's floor.

(Credit to Paul Simon.)
I find it interesting no one has mentioned the Heed Quasar.
Klyne 7 Phono.

Really good (MUCH better than Tron 7, all Whests, Aesthetix Rhea etc.)
I might suggest giving the GCPH a try. With a 30 day no risk trial period I doubt there's much to lose. You might be surprised how good it is. I've had one for three years now and will upgrade at some point but I have a lot of trouble finding any Phono stage that looks like it would potentially outperform it and has anywhere near the flexibity. I guess that says something. I bought it with the intention of upgrading to something else and can't bring myself to do it. Mine has now been upgraded by the way. It's not just a money thing, I've spent plenty elsewhere in my system(may post my system with photos soon), I'm just not sure if this is an area where spending more would be worth it.
Thomasheisig: Klyne only 66 dB gain, VLOMC cartridges excluded.
Jloveys, that's 66db plus line stage which will handle any LOMC I can think of including your .2mv MC-2!
Hello Guys,

After many "thoughts" I got the last decision and I reserved for the new Whest Audio PS30RDT and improved new version of the well known PS30R
It is already acclaimed as one of the best solid state phono stage available , I 'll tell you more when I 'll listen it into my system.
Thanks to EveryOne for the helpful suggestions/opinions

Hey Curio - Arle

Howz the PS.30RDT? Did it arrive. I love mine (as you know) and really can't get enough of it. It takes some time to warm up, between 3& 5 days but it's all worth the wait, but change the mains supplied cable. I use 'home brew' Belden sheilded cable - design found on the net.
I bet it sounds great on your TW Raven One. I think it takes the 'cheese' for best phono stage under $10000.00! That's not just me saying it either.

I just found out that TW himself recommends it and Dr Feickert (Feickert turntables) uses 3 at shows...


Hi Robm,

Mine is turned on since two days and some hours more so I can't judge it or give you a final opinion about ..
Btw it's already sounding magical compared to my previous Grado PH1 phono stage .. wide soundstage more deep more tall and an awesome resolution .. I can't imagine what's able to do later!
I already changed the stock mains cable using my Groneberg Quattro Reference power cable
I absolutely prefer the MintLP Tractor to any Feickert around .. try one and you 'll understand my "absolutely"

Cheers Robm!

I have a good friend that uses the MintLP and says exactly the same thing. He uses an Amazon Reference/ Schroder and says the MintLP made his whole system come 'alive'. The 'big' Feickert with the software is supposed to be excellent BUT at 300Euro for a 'do it once', it is quite expensive. I mainly use a Kuzma Air Line so it's no use. I looked at getting some cleaning fluid from them, do you have any experience of it? re

I looked at getting some cleaning fluid from them, do you have any experience of it? re

Nope Robm .. I haven't any record washing machine but Mr. Yip gives as gift one small bottle to try when you buy one of his Tractor
Hello Gabriel,

Is there a price difference between the Whest PS30.R and the PS30.RDT?

I totally agree on the Mint tractor. It is much more accurate than the Dr. Feickert universal protractor. IMO, it doesn't matter how much you spent on your analogue setup, the Mint tractor will bring a high level of accuracy to record playback.

The Dr. Fieckert Adjuts+ software is also amazing. It takes into account the value of level and phase angle to set up the azimuth. Before I got Adjust+, I used a test record for setting up the azimuth, by playing an azimuth dedicated tract with my phono preamp in mono, and rotating the headshell until the signal from the L and R channels get canceled.

The problem with this method is that, depending on the cartridge design, it's possible to have both L and R channels produce the same DB, but each channel could be out of phase in reference to the other. This condition produces undefined lower notes, muddy midrange and splashy highs. In other words, the sound is out of focus. With Adjust+, the phase angle of the L and R channels are set to match, even if, due to particular cartridge design, there is one channel producing +-DBs than the other channel. I went back and forth with both methods, and the sound with the Adjust+ is absolutely in focus. One I got acquainted with Adjust+, there is no going back.

Besides setting up correct azimuth, one can set the turntable speed much more accurate than with any strobe disc and light. Other measurements are wow & flutter, cartridge/tonearm resonance and cartridge frequency response.


Sorry about my misspelling, I meant to say Hello Gabriele.