comparing two pre-amp/phono section buying scenarios, so weigh in!

Hi. First time poster. Based on what you know about phono stages, and assuming the cost is about identical, would you suggest (assuming the specific equipment below):
1. buy a used Conrad Johnson ET3 with the on board phono stage (assuming the correct gain setting for the cart HG or LG)
2. buy the same used Conrad Johnson ET3 (line stage only) and then buy a a $400 Moon 110 LP V2 phono stage.
again: the cost total is about identical, save the cost of interconnects.

My equipment may or may not be relevant to your answer, but I have a project Debut Carbon TT with an ortofon Blue cart, but that will eventually change with my next upgrade. I'm replacing an 80s era SS Mcintosh pre amp and I'm running Thiel 1.7s with a Rotel RB-1582MKII
Thanks for any help
Line stage (not full-function pre) is a solid idea.  Gives you a lot more flexibility when you get tired of the entry-level phono.  Maybe even start with a Schiit Mani phono for a lot less money and see how you like that.  Then later spend more dough to get a really good phono stage.
no. Not stuck to it.  Just always liked the value and the sound of the CJ stuff. What’s your idea?
For that kind of money you have a lot of options.
Do you have or are you planning a low output moving coil setup?

I know that specs aren't the same as reviews, and aren't the same as your own opinion, but what I'm getting at is: are these two phono stages in the same arena?! (The Moon is much more versatile, that much I know and I consider that in terms of upgrading upstream equipment. and it reviewed very well)

Conrad Johnson on-board phono specs:
ET3 Optional Phono Stage
  • High Gain Version
  • Low Gain Version
  • RIAA Equalization:
    +/- .25 db 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Hum and Noise:
    -80dB relative to 10mV input
  • Phase:
    phase correct
  • Tube Compliment:
    High Gain Version
    3x 12AX7
    Low Gain Version
    2x 12AX7, 1x 12AU7
Moon  110 LP V2 phono stage specs:
  • Circuit Layout: Mirror-image symmetrical circuit
  • Single-ended inputs1 pair (RCA)
  • Input Impedance - Adjustable10Ω / 100Ω / 475Ω / 47kΩ
  • Input Capacitance - Adjustable0 / 100pF / 330pF / 430pF
  • Gain Level - Adjustable40dB / 50dB / 54dB / 60dB / 66dB
  • CurveIEC / RIAA
  • Signal-to-noise Ratio (full scale @40 dB gain)104 dB
  • Signal-to-noise Ratio (full scale @60 dB gain)87 dB
  • Frequency Response20Hz - 20kHz (± 0.5dB)
  • Intermodulation Distortion0.002%
  • THD (20Hz - 20kHz)0.002%


If/When I move away from this TT (and possibly this cart, which is a high gain unit requiring a low gain setting), it's quite possible I'll move to low output. Sure. Trying to keep options open...I move slowly on these things.
atmasphere7,969 posts02-13-2020 11:07amFor that kind of money you have a lot of options.
Do you have or are you planning a low output moving coil setup?

If I were to stay with the CJ line section I'd simply have the CJ phono section installed. An internal phono section doesn't have connectivity problems (if you've ever heard how an interconnect cable can change the sound then you know what I'm talking about).