Best Phono You've Heard Under $2200


Tube or SS, doesn't matter. Just want to know the best you've heard/owned.

gochurchgo

Robert Grodinsky Research RGR 4. Both its phono and high level stages are exemplary in sonic quality. His former company was RG Dynamics - pro audio. An earlier version of this preamp was called the Dimension 3. The Model 4 is even better! 

Musical Surroundings nova III and Parasound JC3 jr.  Auditioned both before really streching my budget and getting the Herron VTPH-2A.  I would have been happy with either, but much happier with the Herron.

 

Gold Note PH-10. Very musical and extremely flexible. Great piece.

Just a little over your budget new - Manley Chinook.

The Nova is quite good, super quiet and hyper linear. The mentioned Manley and Gold Note are great. The Gold Note makes loading and EQ changes dope simple. Stretch and find a Herron IF you can.Also IF you don't need a ton of gain, a Croft RIAA is a fantastic tube unit from the UK. A sleeper SS unit is the Chord....also easy top/front panel changes...

I have an SPL Phonos that I like but I'm interested in the ones mentioned above.I wonder how much better it can get going into my Octave V70 Class A?

Lindemann Limetree Phono.

There are several units-tube/SS listed  in your price range. Even if a unit is a couple bucks more, you can always negotiate.  Pick a few models and research 

A new $5K unit 3+ years old, now used is only worth HALF

Goldnote, Parasound, Rogue, Aurorasound, Manley,Cyrus Icon Audio... plenty of choices 

In that price range I would look for a used Aesthetix Rhea

Allnic H1201 or H1202

I owned both and felt either was pretty much on par with the much-beloved (and rightfully so) Herron VTPH-2, which I also owned for a good while. It will be difficult to find the Herron at your price point, but you should be able to find one of the Allnics with a little patience.

 

Keep an eye out for a used Fosgate Signature preamp. I have one and compared it to a K&K Maxxed Out and an Allnic 1201 and it beat em both.

 

Oz

I mean, if I can find a Herron at $2200 I would probably go for it. I really only need the MM section anyway. There's one on the 'bay for $2k but it looks kind of rough and the seller can't guarantee it works.

A friend has a Darlington MP-7 and really likes it.  US made with user specific options.  Probably in the 1K range.

 

Anyone heard the Aurorasound Vida? Rothwell Rialto?

 

just curious

My current Hagerman Trumpet MC tube phono pre with two 1960’s NOS Brimar au7’s and four Dynaco/Telefunken smooth plate ax7’s. 
 

Very well under the $2,200 mark. 

Sun Valley SV-EQ1616D. Very vivid and energetic sounding. Good tube rolling options and excellent EQ options for people who like to collect older records. 

Ear 834P, Graham Slee Era Gold V, pro-ject Tube Box DS2, Tavish Design The Classic (NOS tubes installed), and lastly, the Musical Fidelity Lx Lps...amazing sound for what it costs, even comes with loading plugs....I own all of the above in my current stable/stash...

I've heard great things about the Tavish Adagio

phono. I admit I haven't heard it but I almost 

bought one. 

Tavish Classic with Swagman external PSU 

Post removed 

I had the musical surroundings nova 3 with the linear power supply. That runs just about 2200. I wanted to go tube so I moved to a Rogers PA-2 which I'm very happy with but is much more expensive. The Nova 3 sounds ded way better that the Pro-ject tube box DS I have in my second system.

Black Ice Audio F159. Includes electronic azimuth adjustment for for arms that don't allow for that (Rega, SME).

The tube EAR Phono Box/Phono Classic (at $1800) could satisfy for a lifetime 

@herbreichert  I've heard the bass is soft and its an overly fast amp. DO you agree with this? I had looked into this earlier and something turned me off to it but I don't recall what it was exactly. Possibly the gain.

I've done a bit of research on this segment. And I've put an order in for a Hagerman Trumpet MC.

Will report back. Current phono stage is a Project Phono Box RS with outboard power supply. It's great with MM but just too noisy with MC.

Was thinking of getting the battery power supply but decided to go for the Hagerman instead. 

 

@sandthemall  please do. I have been eyeing that one but the gain and cap is high for me and I don't know if it matters that much

@gochurchgo have to agree the EAR was light in the bass not my cup of coffee

In that price category the Tavish Adagio definitely worth an attention. The Rogue Audio Ares is great too and if you can stretch to $500 more you could consider Magnum version of Ares which is truly excellent, I’m very happy with my.

I won’t part with my Vintage McIntosh Tube Tuner/Preamp mx110z, I love it’s MM phono, and use a SUT for my MC cartridges to keep using the mx110z’s Phono.

If it died, I would get another one without hesitation. You get terrific sounding phono (2 inputs), and everything else, the very helpful mode switch, a loudness contour if you listen at low volume, balance, terrific FM tuner (I listen to only one Jazz station). Most people have never heard really good FM.

Regrettably, they are getting more costly.

This one is in Canada, around $1,900. USD (seller would accept a bit less I suspect).

Seller will not ship, there is a solution for any ’local pickup only’ item:

You find the closest UPS to seller, pre-arrange with UPS, ask seller to simply drop un-boxed unit in your name, UPS packs and ships to you. You pay UPS directly.

I used my mx110z as-is for over a year, loved it, decided to have Audio Classics overhaul it. The most important thing they did, aside from replacing small stuff no longer in spec, was replace the rca jack panels with new gold plated ones. Prior to that, I cleaned the original corroded rca jacks up (not easy, they are close together), and used locking rca connectors as the old rca jacks are a spec undersized.

this convinced me to take a chance on one

https://positive-feedback.com/Issue77/vintage_mcintosh_experience.htm

features

http://www.berners.ch/McIntosh/en/MX110.htm

 

+1 on the McIntosh MX110Z, I use it with a Dynavector SUT and a Dynavector XXII cartridge. Beautiful!

@sandthemall

I’ve done a bit of research on this segment. And I’ve put an order in for a Hagerman Trumpet MC.

Congrats. I’m really enjoying mine, and is incredibly flexible for various carts lo to hi. Run with the stock tubes, but don’t be afaraid to use others. Before I stumbled accross the Dynaco/Telefunken snooth plates at a good price, I was using Gold Lion gold pin ax7’s, and for new tubes, those are pretty darn good. Very similar to the Tele’s, but the Telefunken's have a bit more smoothness. But both provided a bit more detail and definition over the stock Mullards. That said, it all dependes on the rest of your equipment, and what your ears prefer.

From some (@mulveling here provided some great insight and convinced me), whom have had many more and much higher end phono pre’s than I, a great pre and performance for the money. And can easily compete with pre’s twice it’s cost+.

 

I can probably stretch my budget a bit if its wirth it. I freely admit the Herron would be a great pickup. Decware ZP3 but thats like a year + wait. My research on the ZP3 seems like a no brainer. MM only, and the reviews and such all point to a sound I am looking for. I didn't at first but am warming to the "Frankenstein's lab" aesthetic.

 

If anyone is selling a Herron hit me up wink wink nudge nudge.

Thanks @bkeske,

It’s scheduled to arrive today so very excited to listen to it in my system. Yes I do respect Mr. Mulveling’s input and this was a large part of me looking into the this phono stage as his posts are always well-reasoned and thoughtful. And the more I looked into it, the more I liked. My system is already on the warm side so this should be interesting. I will be first testing it with a MM cart (AT740ML...which prefers a 100pF capacitance setting but seems to sound fine at 200pF) and then on a MC (AT33PTGII).

I certainly will look into some nos 12ax7 as I have a good stash of 12au7 already.

 

@sandthemall

Mr. Mulveling’s input and this was a large part of me looking into the this phono stage as his posts are always well-reasoned and thoughtful.

Same. I think you will enjoy it. And it seems it can take just about any cart you can throw at it. Although it is helped by a fet to drive lo carts (because of the power supply choice to keep the cost low), I do like my lo Soundsmith MIMC vs my hi Zephyr. Both sound great, and I was a bit hestiant on the fet helping to drive lo carts, but again, it sounds great.

Space Tech Labs P-103-Mk3 with the outboard super rectifier. Very nice indeed.

Manley Chinook SE, It’s a little bit above your budget but you can find one used. I use mine 10-20 hours per week since 2018 and still use the same tubes it came with.

still use the same tubes it came with.
 

I'm sure. Their stock of NOS tubes is incredible.

Sutherland 20 20.  So clean and detailed it doesn't sound like vinyl.  Does everything well.  

What is the difference between the Insight and 20/20 and PHD? I know the 20/20 is a higher end model vut I can’t see what the upgrades are.

Gold Note PH10, and I also have the matching PSU10 external power supply to go with it, love it. 

The Modwright PH 9.0 is quite good. Separate MC and MM inputs; on the fly loading; selectable gain; tubed with Lundahl step ups. Even has a mono switch, which is surprisingly uncommon but useful. MSRP is a bit above your budget but you might be able to find a dealer to discount it. Used is squarely in your wheelhouse.

@tim_p  There’s a few used easily in budget but the computers worry me. Also the cap might be too high for my cart but I see many with 220pf. I run MM/MI only (at least for the forseeable future) and so it seems like I would be wasting most of this thing’s functionality.

@gochurchgo 

rs worry me. Also the cap might be too high for my cart but I see many with 220pf. I run MM/MI only (at least for the forseeable future) and so it seems like I would be wasting most of this thing’s functionality.

As do I, but it is nice to have options for the future without needing a SUT. As example my 'new' Soundsmith MIMC Lo cart, which I am quite enjoying. In addition, I still have my eyes on an MC cart at some point in the future, just to have/try one. The line of Benz are looking quite attractive to me lately.

Initial impressions of Hagerman Trumpet MC with an AT740ML (mm) cartridge:

Wow!!! Ballsy. Bass Supreme. Simply better in every dimension from top to bottom than the Phono Box RS with an outboard power supply. First off, it’s much louder than the Phono Box RS...this with a quieter noise floor. My AT740ML never sounded better. Lot’s of nice detail/timbre.

Jim Hagerman was able to make a wall wart PS quiet. Brilliant. I suppose you can get an outboard powersupply...but he basically solved the problem with the circuit topology.

I’ve always hated fussing with the load settings at the back. That’s another pain point gone (the first being noise).

I will post more detailed impressions after it settles in and I can get the AT33PTGII cart in there to see how quiet the MC settings are. But for now...so very happy. Can’t believe this thing costs about a grand. Ordered it on the 12th...so fairly expeditious shipping.

I think this phono preamp is going to change the performance/cost landscape.

Technics 1200G>Hagerman Trumpet MC>Don Sachs Preamp>Primaluna Evo 400>Tannoy Turnberry GR

@sandthemall 

 

The loading at 220pf wasn't an issue? Its one of the things that has me concerned with Trumpet and a few others.

@gochurchgo 

 

The 20/20 is a dual mono design and has more filtering caps than the Insight.  Look at the chassis pice. 

The Duo is a dual chassis dual power supply design with yet even more filtering caps.  

Ron Sutherlae would be happy to explain the diffrences via call or e-mail.  

I love the sound of my 20/20- with optional LPS.   

@gochurchgo

YES, I was also concerned about loading issues as I had the AT740ML loaded at 100pF on the Phono Box RS. But at 200pF on the RS it sounded about the same.

This cart now sounds simply ’more detailed’ with no sibilance issues at all. The detail is coming from the Trumpet MC. So loading was not an issue.

This is definitely a game changer. You may find better at a higher cost, but you’ll probably keep this in rotation because it’s so clean and big sounding.

Also love the looks of this thing.