Get the Project Tube-box. They come up sporadically and have wide flexibility handling both MM and MC. A very nice product and half of what you want to spend!
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Given that you have a Dynavector cartridge, you might want to consider the Dynavector P75 mkII.
I admit, I personally have not heard it, but Jeff Dorgay, publisher and active reviewer of Tone Audio, and a major vinyl enthusiast, considers the Dynavector P75 the standout anywhere near its price range. You might want to read some of his reviews to see if his tastes in sound and music are compatible with your own.
One of his reviewers, Marc Phillips, reviews it in issue 16.
The Dynavector is very good. In a completely different league and around $1k used (if you are lucky) is the Vacuumstate JLTI. Way more resolution than almost any phono stage up to $6k - I directly compared the Rhea, Sutherland Ph.D., Slee, Wright, ARC PH3SE. Also, the JLTI has more flow and a more solid foundation than the Dynavector.
A good friend has both, the Aqvox and the JLTI and he thought the Aqvox is good but not close to the JLTI. IMO the only phono stages that are close in resolution are the Pass Xono, Rossner & Sohn Canfofer ($8k). Haven't heard the Xanden or Boulder yet.
The EAR 834P is admired by a lot of tube-lovers (including me), and 2nd hand is usually under $1000. Benefits from tube rolling. I preferred it over a Musical Fidelity phone pre that I had (forget the model, but it cost about $500) and thought it was night and day better. And, frankly, thought it held up respectably against the Rhea, at around $5,000.
Years ago I was loaned a Phenomenon while I waited for the phono pre I had ordered. I had this for a couple of weeks and liked it, neutral sound, quiet, got the job done. Good value for the money as is the Musical Fidelity pre. But now I have two EAR 834Ps, one in each system, and they are very satisfying. If ever I upgrade it will be to a Manley Steelhead or equivalent, the EARs are that good. I second Eweedhome's recommendation on this one.
If you didn't edginess and lots of detail I would stay away from the JLTI. It is a very detailed and accurate phonostage with great pacing and drive as restock says, but it also has some harshness to it (almost like a digital glare) that ,in my opinion, would make it hard to live with for an extended period (the XONO is similar in quality, but is much more musical).
The Dynavector is okay, but not when compared to others at the same price level.
I have the ARC PH3SE and love it - it has a great balance between detail retrieval, soundstaging (very deep!) and musicality.
Audiofeil, I didn't think the JLTI is at all grainy or edgy on top. However, the JLTI is high bandwidth and appears much more extended than most phono stages at first listen. It opens the soundstage deep into the corners reproducing a lot of the acoustics of the recording studio/hall. Also, the power supply is pretty sensitive and the sound changes quite a bit depending on where it is plugged in. The main shortcoming I find with the JLTI is that it doesn't quite have the strong tonal colors you get with top tube phono stages or even the Xono. Tonal colors could seem a little bleached at times. In terms of spatial resolution and image separation it is difficult to beat.
We tried the Graham Slee Era Gold Mark V and is fairly average in resolution for it's price and not quite in the league of the JLTI or some of the other we tried. One comparison was using the Graham Slee Era Gold Mark V with a Lundahl step-up and a Lyra Argo cartridge. The other was MM only with a Dynavector 10x5 cartridge. On the MC with Lundahls the Slee did not have the spatial resolution, dynamics or to end extension that make the Lyra cartridge special. Using the Dynavector the Gram Slee was pretty average sounding, not that great resolution and average soundstage width/depth. The JLTI added a lot more life, extension, and resolution to that system. In fact. the person owning the Slee sold it pretty quickly after that.
Part of the negative experience with the Slee could have been that we didn't have the Elevator around, but then in MM mode it didn't do much better.
Also some more comments for Zeal: If you are looking for a less dry sound a tube phono would be a good alternative:
ARC PH3SE has good flow and is pretty solid performer overall, although quite a bit more expensive than some of the other suggestions. It doesn't come close to the resolution, dynamics and separation between instruments off some of the solid state stages though.
A good alternative to the EAR834 is the Wright WPP200CC at $800.Both have a very tubelike sound. The Wright is more dynamic and detailed with slightly better imaging. The Arc PH3 betters both, but also sacrifices some of the tube bloom and midrange of the Wright.
You can try a home trial of the JLTi.
New it's a little over your budget but used it should be close.
I auditioned the Graham Slee and the P75 before trying the JLTi. The first two I heard at my dealer and the second at my home so it may not be a fair comparison but I bought the JLTi.
I found it a very easy decision. I'm using a 20XH on a Scout.
Good listening, Jerry
Having compared the Eastern Electric Mini Max against EAR834p in my system. I have to admit that the Eastern Electric completely trounced the EAR834p. The EAR834p sounded relatively flat and the image size is much smaller than the EE. I also agree that the JLTI is a little too dry for my taste, I much prefer Graham Slee Era Gold. I have also auditioned Conrad Johnson Premier-15.
But then the Dodd Phono ($1200) is in another league. I match it with none-other-than Dynavector 20XH. I have a very transparent/clean sounding speakers just like Martin Logan. I compared my system against three other very expensive rigs (I am talking about a system with BAT VK-P10SE, another system with Messenger preamp/phono, another system with ARC PH7 with all ARC Refs electronics), and I preferred the sound of my vinyl setup by a big margin.
The Dodd phono has similar tonality to the Graham Slee Era Gold, but the Dodd is more liquid and juicy, which instantly draws me into the music. The designer of the Dodd phono - Gary Dodd - he owns a Project TT too.
For a picture of how the Dodd phono looks like, see here:
OK so far I have auditioned the PS Audio GCPH and the Musical Surrounding Nova Phonomena . And I most say the Nova sounded better to my ears. Less noise. Even My Musical Fidelity X-LPS v3 sounded warmer and less brittle then the PS Audio. But I'm still missing a tubes golden glow.
I think a tube amp that can handle my high output Dynavector MC cartridge might be my best bet. Any ideas? Any more suggestions?
Zeal >> Your question: Can anyone recommend a phono preamp ?
The answer is yes.Everyone can recommend at least one as you are finding out.What cant be answered is the sound that you would like.Only you can an answer that.Your Electronics are Rogue.Have you looked into their phono amp? Its fits your price range and with four gain settings should handle your cartridge.
Zeal. I own PS Audio Phono, and concur with you finding on this phono. It sounds flat, liveless, lack of mid range warmth. I recently purchased a K&K SUT to be used with my Zu103DL cartridge, and found the whole sonic change, not only increasing gain. This combination gives me sweeter, juicier, more musical, and warmth like tube preamp. Image and sound stage are also improved dramatically by using K&K SUT. I also owned EAR 834 Deluxe early for 4-5 months with my previous TT, and feel that K&K + PS Audio reveal more details, more dynamic and lower level bass than EAR 834.
Now I am sitting on 2 dilemmas for upgrading my phono stag set up, whether to replace the SUT with a better one like EAR MC3/MC4 / Auditorium, or to replace the PS Audio with tube phono stage. However, a few of the great features of PS audio phono that I will miss are its flexibility, allowing gain and loading choices and gain control knob to be used as volume. My PS audio (which is latest version) also comes with remote control function.
My current TT set up includes Nottingham 294 and Benz Micro Wood L2 cartridge.
I found the SUT is worthwhile option to explore although a lot of people dislike it.
I second the Heed Quasar. I'm using one right now with my Rega P25 / Dynavector 17D3. Excellent phono stage, easily competes with everything at $1,000 and under and some in the know say to units costing twice that much. Got mine for $680 here on Audiogon about a month ago. If and when I upgrade it will only be to something at the very top level like the Manley Steelhead.