Best tubed pre-amp w/phono stage for ss amps?

Looking for recommendations for a tubed pre-amp to march my Edge NL12.1.

I am looking for lots of detail inner detail, black background, air, capable of huge(both depth and width), natural soundstage. I want to be able to "feel" the performance...for it to have a materialness to it..

And, it must have the same qualities in the phono amp, as I listen to records more than any other format. I use both MC and MM cartridges, mostly MC.

Your suggestions are greatly appreciated
Ag insider logo xs@2xrich121
The Aesthetix Janus is a great piece that would meet your needs. I use a Rhea (Aesthetix phono stage) with ARC and Joule line stages, but I've heard the Janus (full function pre) extensively. It's worth checking out.

BTW, if you're looking for a used piece, you should know that some early production Aesthetix Rhea units (including mine) had some noise issues - don't know if the Janus was similarly affected. My unit was modded and is now silent. My understanding is that this mod was applied to all later production. If you're buying new, it shouldn't be a concern, but I thought I'd mention it for your benefit.

It's tough enough to find a top-performing line stage with the requirements as stated by Rich121. But to find it all in a full-function preamp rapidly narrows the field. There is no consensus on how to handle the MC gain stage. Some use step-up transformers (SUTs) or FET input stages with the remaining (MM) stage with tubes. Trying to find a design today that uses tubes in the MC stage is really tough....and for good reason as tubes here need to be ultra-low-noise. For the perfectionist MC-stage designer, you just don't see this. But for those of us who use a tube MC stage, we scale the highest mountains to locate the pair or quad of tubes that has lower noise than much of the tubes out there. We put up with any added noise to achieve a level of dimensionality that is simply not there with solid state devices or SUTs.

John makes some excellent recommendations. Each of these is pushing the $12-15k and much more with the Messenger if you want to go with a tubed PS. Do some research and notice the differences in the MC input design and the tubes used in the line and MM phono stages.

Another product to investigate is the Aria WV. It is the work of Michael Elliot, the designer of the famed Counterpoint SA-2/9/11 products of the 80s/90s. The WV uses SUTs as a first stage and then a pair of 6922 for the MM stage. The line stage is unique in that it can use a pair of 6922/6DJ8 OR (with a flip of an internal switch), it can use tubes in the 12AU7 family. What made the Counterpoint products so exceptional was their tube regulated/rectified PS designs. The WV follows this path. It is amazing how significant a tube PS can affect the line and phono stages' performances.

For the value, the WV is a killer performer. And the SUTs in it are a great starting point for MC phono. There is a separate MM input to bypass the SUTs.

For the ultimate performance, I use a highly modified (by Michael Elliot) SA-2 into the Aria's WV MM phono stage with spectacular results. Both of these have the tube PS's which puts musicians behind the speakers like no other preamp products I have had in my home before. Having the SA-2's tube PS driving the 4 tubes for the MC stage and the WV's tube PS driving the MM and line stages no doubt gives me this added edge. Coming off the Aesthetix Callisto and Io Signature, the SA-2/WV are in a whole new level of low-level resolution and dimensionality, particularly, depth.

On a budget, the Janus might be a good place to start. But with the solid state PS, you simply are not going to get the dimensionality. I heard the Calypso vs Callisto numerous times, and the Calypso sounded two-dimensional; the instrument bloom and soundstage were quite small. I always attributed this to the Callisto's tube PS.


Not fancy but Bruce's OTL amps have won Stereophile class A ratings. The grounded grid and matching phono preamp would meet your sonic requirements. May not meet your aesthetic or single box requirements.


PS Moderators - please add Stereophile, phono, and OTL to the AudiogoN dictionary. And add AudiogoN while you're at it :)
McIntosh c2300--has MM & MC
Where is the AudiogoN dictionary hiding?
I have not heard either of these but both are on my short list: Hovland HP 100(or 200), CAT Ultimate.
Joule Electra LAP-150 or LAP-100... Killer combo with Edge amps! MM-MC and loading options gallore ...remote too.

"I am looking for lots of detail inner detail, black background, air, capable of huge(both depth and width), natural soundstage. I want to be able to "feel" the performance...for it to have a materialness to it.." Pretty much sums up how I would describe my LA150 with OPS1 phono stage (the LAP-150 has the OPS-1 phono inside it)
You need to audition the Mcintosh C2300.... the phono stage is top notch. I had a Manley steelhead w/ NOS tubes that I sold after using the C2300. My Tron 7 Reference is (perhaps) only slightly better....
I use a Counterpoint SA 3000 pre amp modified by Michael Elliot at alta vista audio. It is actually a hybrid, but uses tubes in the phono stage. It is both MM and MC capable.
Wonderful soundstage and very quiet
I second the Atma Sphere. Not only is it perhaps the best tubed preamp out there, but the phono stage is as good as any I've owned.
Try a Nagra PL-P, very open and detailed preamp and same for the internal phono state. You can also try one of the ARC preamp w/phono. There are some of these on the used market also.