Cost of Turntable vs. cost of Phono Stage

Is there such a thing as keeping the costs relative to one another? I'm sure there will be some variance because not all equally priced Turntables are of same quality as each other and the same will go for comparatively priced Phono Stages, but generally speaking I'm curious about this. 

I just ordered an EAT C MAjor and I am looking for a comparatively equal quality Phono Stage. Thoughts?


I have had really good turntables for about 30 years. VPI Aries (Van den Hull Frog) and now a contemporary Linn LP12 with a Koetsu Rosewood Signature cartridge. Over that time I had well chosen phonostages that ran from20% to a bit over 100%... I definitely recommend 100%. Depending on the exact setup. The gains I got from Phonostage upgrades were huge. I can’t tell you how many times I tried highly rated "cost effective" phonostages that sounded terrible... I mean even at thousands of dollars.


We are talking in cost... this is why I added "well chosen"... meaning within that price category I chose the best and most compatible with my system, just not anything, since that is a recipe for mediocre performance. If well chosen you are getting the most for your money.


Right now I am running an Audio Research Reference 3 Phono-stage ($17K) with my Linn rig, about the same cost... I think they are well matched. While all of Audio Research products are audiophile, they are most known for Phono-stages and Preamps.


Assuming  you are planning on improving your system over time:

Given what you are buying, I would go for the best you can afford... maybe a used Audio Research Phono-stage. See if you can get a used PH8... you will not have to worry about this getting in the way of anything you attach to it (you might have to settle for earlier versions). I think this is the real sweet spot in the ARC line. You get better spending more, but the slope of the line between cost and performance flattens.


Right. My first phono stage was the ARC PH3SE. It was $2500, almost exactly what I paid for the Basis turntable, and Graham arm. Each. Back then I was already into budgeting but people misunderstand budgeting. The right way to do it is like ghdprentice says above. It never once crossed my mind, "You have a $5k turntable you must find a $5k phono stage" or anything like that. Wrong way of seeing it.

A better more sophisticated view is with an aim to building the whole system. I must have auditioned a dozen phono stages. All highly recommended by the way. Everything from Lehman Black Cube to EAR843 and all the way up to an even more expensive Linn. I thought the PH3SE would be the pick based on reviews but was hoping and praying to not have to spend that kind of money.

In the end, because I did get the right one (and not the "budgeted" one) I was happy with it for nearly 20 years! So long what I paid so long ago hardly matters. If I had followed the budget guide the way a lot of guys do I would have settled and upgraded, settled and upgraded, in the end spending easily more money while going with mediocre sound almost the whole time only getting there at the end.

The phono stage is easily the most demanding hardest job in all of audio. Get the right one and it will last you a very long time. Mine lasted me through 2 turntables, 2 arms, 3 cartridges. So budgeting is much more a guideline than a rule. Where it shows its true value is when people use it to put as much into wire as other components. But that is another one for another time.

Get the best possible turntable, tonearm, and cartridge.  Then get the best possible phono stage.  Or you can do it in reverse order; it doesn't matter.  How you define "best" is a personal and financial issue. Ignore the cost relationship between these two parts of your system. Worrying about that is pointless. (I wanted to write "ridiculous", but I don't want to be insulting.) 

Cost is nothing, for a single turntable you can easily find great mm/mc phono stage for very modest cost, it will be a box with one input and mm/mc switch. A phono stage like this will cost no more than $700-1000 (like JLTi with RCA plug load resistors on the back), used always cheaper.

If you want a fancy box with more than one input and many additional features you can look for Gold Note PH-10 (still reasonably priced used).

So many phono stages for astonishing high prices available for those who can pay more, because some people are crazy about numbers, if they have $5k cartridge then for some reason they want a phono stage for higher price, same about turntables. This logic is nonsense, but this principle promoted by retailers/dealers who are happy to push more expensive gear, but they are living in the world of latest new gear only, and their buyers are slaves of numbers.

I decided that the first upgrade will be the phono stage because I got a deal on a not very used Black Ice Audio F159 with upgrades. Should be happy with that for a long time as it should be good enough to realize upgrades in my turntable and hopefully even speaker upgrades. Thanks again to the good advice.

 "Black Ice Audio F159 with upgrades"

Since it was developed by Fosgate, it should be decent performer. What's interesting is the cross talk feature. What is the "upgrade?" Different tubes?

I use a 10 year old Fosgate Signature. True all tube-Rectifier/gain

I have had the misfortune of choosing one mediocre phono stage after another. The only upside finally clearing above the clouds and getting one that I will keep. It is designed by John Broskie of Glassware Audio. The Aikido model that uses 8 12ax7 tubes. Overbuilt but quiet power supply. The footprint is much larger than I wanted, and right now it is not finished. In the meantime, here I am with less than what I would like.

Everybody knows that MC cartridges have different outputs. I own  

Ortofon MC 2000 with 0.05 mV output , EMT with 1 mV and many

between 0,2 - 0,4 mV. In such case there is no ''one phono-pre suits

all''. But there are phono-pres with different amplification stages.

Both my phono-pres; Basis Exlusive and Klyne 7PX3 .5  have 4

amplification stages. The ''rule'' is ''the higher  amplification =

the higher distortions''. So one should choose the lowest amplification

for the given cartridge. 

Try EAT's own phono stage - i've heard great things about it. That aside think about the cartridges you have at your disposal when you get a phono stage and the kind of sound you want. In terms of budget I agree with the sentiment of several posters - don't think it must be XXX of your budget. In the high end world stages can and often are the same price as anything else in the chain. Keep an eye out for a dream component - i did with my favourite of 2 stages i have (Vendetta SCP2A) - if you buy second-hand send it to a tech to replace all the electrolytic capacitors - (I have the scars for not doing so)

I should have just said upgrade. I was thinking that I would probably change to different tubes so I said upgrades.


If you want a musical phono stage and ultra resolution ain't your goal consider an EAR 834P - they have a musicality and delivery that in many ways transcends price in many ways you avoid the box-swap game. Also Tron (convergent) is a really good sounding stage. Many good shops will lend you a phono stage - i did some reviews about 15 years ago in which I tested a load of similar priced phono stages - there was a great variety in terms of sound, build, and features. Goin on recommendations can take you only so far - for instance i could not love the Tom Evans Groove, Pathos, or Klimo Viv - i could hear what they did. Whereas i loved the Whest, Graham Slee and Paul Hynes - all for different reasons.