Best tube-based phono stage?

I'm asking for a friend. I'm a digital guy. Don't be haters!
Need more info. Is there a budget? Does he have a moving magnet or moving coil cartridge (or both)? What other equipment will he be using it with? What kind of sound is he looking for?

The more you can provide the more specific other folks here can be on their recommendations.
MM or MC or both?
Price range?
Full active gain or SUT + gain for LOMC?
There is no definitive "best" of anything. There are way too many variables involved. The "best" you can hope for is to find something that works well in your system. You can then say it's the "best" for you until you find something you think is better !!!!
My friend likes the Tron; I am SS myself. Agree that there is no "best".
Experience Music Kahn LCR phono stage is the best I've heard. Feel free to PM.
My friend is thinking about buying a Pro-Ject debut III turntable with USB, so he can get his rare vinyl cuts into iTunes. This deck comes with an Ortofon OM5e cart. Does that help? Has anyone got any experience porting vinyl into iTunes?
He mentioned that if he liked the Project deck, he'd probably upgrade in the future and pair that upgraded deck with a phono stage; he mentioned Jolida and Project phono stages.
A budget would help. At under $1000 and MM only, I liked the Quicksilver.

At near $4k, it seems that the Zesto Audio Andros PS1 has been very well reviewed.
I would say that the Aesthetix Io Eclipse has to be among the very best, if it is not the best.
I'll try to pry some more info out of him, thanks.
It sounds like your pal is not into very expensive gear and I think the OM5 cart is MM. I would not go with tube and I love tubes for everything else. The permissible noise level for a phono stage is miniscule the best sounding tubes in terms of tone tend to be old stock which are getting very scarce as truly unused. Used tubes get noisier with some age or so it seems. My whole hearted suggestion from this all tube guy otherwise for about $450 is the Graham Slee Gram Amp 2SE. It is appropriate for MM or high output MC. the sound is far better than its relatively low cost would suggest.
Best? Aesthetix Io Eclipse

Outrageously Excellent? Atma-Sphere MP-1

Would be helpful to know a price range your friend may be willing to work within.
The delay in post response now makes this site terribly inefficient.
I'm posting as quick as I can! But I agree this site sux now.
I have info from my friend: $1000 or less (preferably under $800) for both the deck and the phono stage, definitely MM, will be using the venerable NAD 3020 for amplification at first, will be going with headphones until he can afford some standmounts. Don't know which cans he uses, but I know he has a pair of Grado SR80i's.
Thanks guys.
I believe Jarobertson is refering to the excessive moderation that has been in place since the A'gon "upgrade" was put in place. It ruins the flow of the conversations, IMHO.
well I'll have to be patient I guess. I enjoy looking at everyone's recommendations. I found several brands here that I would have otherwise never discovered: HSU, Wireworld, Lifatec, blue jeans cable, Musical Fidelity, and PS Audio. My college roommate is the one seeking ideas, now he'll benefit too. He's not much of a forum guy, or he'd be on here.
I think given the cost constraints that a "good" tube phono stage will be hard to do. However there is another thread discussing the delight a couple of posters have with their Jolidas. New I think your still bumping up on your ceiling. Perhaps a used Jolida but no fancy tube rolling which is expensive and in my mind usually optimizes tube gear. (That thread likes the cheap tubes so it may not allways be needed.)
Thus again, for the money, I am telling you that you can't beat the Graham Amp Gram Amp 2SE. It is where to go and it is for MM.
I agree with Mechans, the cost constraints will make getting a good phono stage unlikely at best. Maybe you could pick up and older, used Audible Illusions 2D, which is a full function preamp with built in phono stage for around $400-500. That leaves you another $400-500 for a turntable/arm/cart. Probably a Rega or Project starter table.

Far from what the title of this thread would lead most people to believe. You gotta be careful when talking about "the best". You won't find it for under a kilo-buck, that's for sure.
In that price point you might want to also check out the Hagerman Coronet II. You can also save a bunch and have some fun if you are somewhat handy and can build it yourself from the half kit Jim Hagerman sells. There are several "mods - parts substitutions" that pay off in spades too.
I guess I should have started the thread with "best deck/tubed-phono-stage combo for $1000 or less?" But then no one would have responded, because the "Best Of" forum is not the right place for affordable pursuits. I'll re-post in Analog. Thanks.
Best of, for a specific price is usually readily discussed. I wouldn't be discouraged , and you have gottten some suggestions, but for clarity you might want to repost. You can be very specific as you already know the table costs about $500- $600. Thus all you need ask is for suggestions for a tubed phono stage for less than $500. I still think you'll get much more bang for your buck with SS, but there are many other choices. Good luck.