Do they make a quiet great sounding phono pre amp??

Hi, I have purchased and listened to 3 phono preamps which are: A musical surroundings phonomena, musical surroundings Nova II, and a Manley labs Chinook. The Manely labs Chinook is by far bettter sounding then the first two (double the cost too). But, All three have given me nothing but trouble (noise,noise,noise even terrible clipped signals!), and 2 of them basically failed on me. So before I go DIGITAL, can someone please tell me who makes a phono preamp in the $2,000-$3,000 range (tube or solid state) that I can rely on, and sounds as good or better than the Chinook?? Thanks.

Matt M                                             
Herron vtph2 is just over 3k
Graham Slee from the U.K.. His best stuff is thousands less than anything comparable. Avid, Luxman,Sutherland, and many others make good, reliable and quiet gear.
Tom Evans Micro Groove +
I know the Zesto Andros is really quiet, which I own and is fantastic in terms of noise for a tube phono pre.  But even a used one will probably be around $3500 (retail is $4700).  I can give you my dealer's name to see if he can give you a good price, but have no idea how low he can go.  Feel free to message me if interested.  Best of luck.
Conrad Johnson EF-1.
Adjustable Gain and Adjustable loading (resistance).
Works well on MC cartridges down to ~ 0.4 mV.
Dead quiet.  Uses FET's in lieu of Vacuum tubes.
You might find a used one right here on the Gon.....
In alphabetical order:
Allnic H1201
Herron VTPH2
used Klyne 7PX(3/4/5).

Google for plenty of reviews too.

From it maker

I third the Herron VTPH2. 
If you want silent backgrounds like that of digital go solid state. Tubes have an allure, but at a cost. Many reviews are done by tube aficionados that blithely over look reduced (poor) bass and tube noise. Many of them are also in the late stages of middle age or can honestly be called old. Hearing does diminish over the years. The Manley Chinook is just one such example. I have read rave reviews about this tubed wonder. When I heard it, I heard tubes.  The ParaSound JC3+ is a better unit without tube hiss and tube cost. It will cost hundreds of dollars to retube a Chinook every few years. Especially if you go with exotic tubes.

This is not an anti-tube rant. I have heard excellent examples of tubed gear. None of it was cheap. It costs more to do it with tubes than with solid state, especially with a phono stage. 

If the original poster wants a decent phono stage that is very quiet below a 2500$ price point, solid state is probably the way to go.

I’ll fourth the Herron VTPH-2. I can’t imagine that you’d be disappointed in it, Matt, although at a list price of $3650 buying it new would exceed your stated budget somewhat. I’m pretty sure that the lower of the two gain configurations it is offered in (64 db) would be fine for your 0.3 mv cartridge, but you would want to confirm that via a call to Keith Herron (who is completely wonderful to deal with, btw). Most people purchase it in that configuration, rather than the 69 db configuration that is offered for use with cartridges having extremely low output.

Also, spec-wise it would be a fine match for your Jumbo Shrimp preamp.

Regarding noise, it has a FET-based (solid state) input stage, with the rest of its signal path in the 64 db configuration using two 12AX7 and three 12AT7 tubes (some of those tubes also serving the signal path for the separate moving magnet input). I have the originally supplied tubes in mine, and it is absolutely quiet even when heard via my Stax electrostatic headphones with the volume control at max, which is far higher than the control would ever be set with my 0.5 mv cartridge.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al

It seems to me you have enough tubes in your system to experiment with some solid state options within your price range and quite possibly find a great all around over balance along the quiet attribute your looking for. I have tried Peter's Liberty b2b-1 phono stage and loved it especially the stereo separation it provided. And it was very quiet. At the time I had a solid state amp so it was a presentation that for me was needing some tubes at the time. 

I was looking at your system, and it's very nice, I was looking to see what you had a couple things plugged into and I could not quite make it out but It looks like just a basic sorta small multi outlet deal. If so that might be a weak spot source for some noise issues in a system. 
Simaudio makes some great phono amps that are basically - silent.

Even their entry level phono's are amazing value

All are very configurable and can match pretty much any cart

Made in Canada - so currently they are a lot cheaper in the US


The Herron VTPH-2, as several other members with impeccable pedigree have already mentioned, is a terrific unit. I had one and loved it. I foolishly sold it a few years ago and have regretted it ever since.

Recently, I found a great deal on an Allnic H1201, and I can say with confidence that it is, at least to me, right there neck and neck with the Herron. I've tried it with both MM and MC cartridges, and it sounds tremendous with either. I honestly cannot believe how quiet this thing is. They seem to go for a bit less than the VTPH-2, but not only could I be happy with either, I actually have been. I'd love to get another Herron to compare them side by side in the same system, but for now I am more than satisfied with the Allnic.

"noise,noise,noise even terrible clipped signals!"

Undortunate you're having such a bad experience with the Chinook. You must listen at very LOUD levels. When I demoed a Chinook, I didn't hear tube hiss until 1:00 o'clock.  That's an unrealistic, everyday level(IMO) so not an issue. 

I would contact the dealer. Perhaps he can swap it for another unit?

The all tubed Decware looks promising, but you still need a step up for LOMC.
Sorry, not in your price range but I purchased a second hand Allnic H-3000 - 8 tubes plus 1 large power rectifier tube-absolutely quiet, no noise, hum etc and it sounds great. Allnic makes a lower price tube phono that you might find used. Best wishes.
I also use the Herron VTPH-2 and I am very pleased with it; very quiet and resolute.

Again, the Herron. It replaced a very quiet solid state unit (Whest PS30RDT) which is well regarded sonically. The Herron is as quiet and sonically far superior.
Based on the responses thus far it is clear that the Herron VTPH-2 and Allnic 1201 would be a very compelling/competitive comparison.
While I would agree with the Herron (especially) and other suggestions above, clipping with the Manley sounds like something is wrong somewhere, either in the unit or somewhere else.  Just to confirm, you are using the MC input, mot the MM input, right?  I would have the unit checked out by your dealer before giving up on it.
RCM sensor II. its a solid state Phono but dead quiet. Interestingly RCM is known for tube amps, hence my intrigue as i was investigating a new Phono stage. ALso had experience with a ZYX artisan which i really liked. Battery operation and very quiet. I would still be using except my new cartridge needed a little more gain than what the ZXY provided
There is an Einstein Balance Turntables Choice phono pre for sale here for $3995, new they are $10,000. Slightly over of your budget but you would never need to upgrade again. I have no affiliation with seller but use a lower model Einstein phono with Aesthetix tube pre and amps and love the combination.
If the choice comes down to the Allnic H-1201 vs. the Herron or one of the other phono stages that have been suggested, a point that may be worth considering is that the design of the H-1201’s transformer-based input stage (for LOMCs) does not provide much flexibility in terms of resistive loading.

The H-1201 manual indicates that each of the four gain settings it provides for LOMC cartridges presents the cartridge with a specific load impedance that is not adjustable by the user. From the information provided I calculate those values to be approximately as follows:

62 db overall gain: 280 ohms
66 db overall gain: 120 ohms
68 db overall gain: 70 ohms
72 db overall gain: 30 ohms

(The overall gain numbers might each be 2 db lower than those values, as the specs appear to be a bit inconsistent).

The Herron provides a pair of RCA jacks on its rear panel for connection of external loading plugs, which Keith can supply in any value. Although he suggests that connecting nothing to those jacks, which will result in its FET-based input stage presenting a nearly infinite number of ohms to the cartridge (i.e., no load), is often optimal in the case of the VTPH-2.

In past threads Jonathan Carr (Lyra cartridge designer), Atmasphere, and perhaps others have stated that light loading of an LOMC cartridge (i.e., a high number of ohms) will generally tend to enhance dynamics and provide other sonic benefits, UNLESS a lower value is necessary as a result of phono stage sensitivity to energy at RF frequencies that an LOMC can generate. The Herron apparently has no such sensitivity, that would have audible consequences.

Hope that helps. Regards,
-- Al

What kind of noise? RF? 
The quietest phone-pre I've used has been the Sutherland battery powered units.
Good luck.

Here's a SS unit that's well reviewed and within your budget:  I looked at it very hard and was favorably impressed before I decided to go with an integral rig.  Might be worth an audition for you.

Good luck & happy listening!

Dear @mattmiller: From some years now tubes are not the right, precise and best technology for Phono Stages. That technology has several limitations to make the cartridge shines.

SS technology improved a lot in all those years and today is the best way to go with LOMC cartridges.

The Klyne @jmcgrogan2 advice outperforms any other single PS name it in this thread but it's not easy to find out second hand and new is very expensive.
So, the other SS options as Simm Audio, Parasound, Liberty, etc. could be better for you regarding $$$ but the Klyne is very hard to beat.

I hope you own enough LPs and the time, know-how and patience to fine tune your audio system to the analog experience and if not then is better to go for the digital one that today has nothing to envy to the  LP.

Regards and enjoy the music,
I don't want to argue with Raul too much, because I do agree that a solid state phono stage has a better chance to be really dead quiet with very low output MCs (let's define that as 0.3mV and below), but it is also possible to get there with tubes and especially with hybrid devices employing both transistors and tubes in the signal path.  Typically in the latter case, a transistor is used at the input as voltage amplifier.  Apparently the Herron using its MC input is one such device.  With MM or MI cartridges, any really good tube phono stage ought to be very quiet; if it's not, there's a problem either with the design or the tubes or with grounding.  My vintage Quicksilver full function preamplifier, old as it is, is as quiet as any CDP, when driven either by my Grace Ruby or my Acutex LPM320.

Hell Raul,
Back when my audio system was analog dominant both the Klyne and Herron were consistently regarded as excellent Phono stages. Is your preference for the Klyne the result of direct listening  comparison to the Herron or based on the former’s design/specifications?
I had a Rhea and a Chinook before the current Steelhead.  While the Rhea had significant tube rush, even with a new set of Aesthetix tubes, The Chinook was absolutely DEAD quiet so, while I don't know what you're doing with tubes, you should not hear anything from that phono stage except music. I would contact Manley.  And if you swapped out the stock tubes that came with it, shame on you.
Pass Labs Xono!
The K&K Maxxed-Out phono-stage will fit the bill nicely.  Designed to use cheap Russian tubes (fancy ones detract from the sound), utilizes step-up transformers as part of the design.  Has mute and reverse polarity switch.  Can handle lowest output carts.  Very, very quiet.

What noise? I use Acoustech phono designed by Ron Sutherland and Goldring 1042 MM cartridge. There is no noise. Now that I added PS Audio PPP regenerator, the sound became so much better.
Herron would take you midway. What you really want is either Gryphon or top of the line Sutherland or Lamm. Dream big.
That's the point. Never get LOMC unless you can afford megabuck phono. And HOMC makes little sense to me.
Inna, keep in mind that it’s far more challenging for a phono stage to provide quiet performance with a 0.3 mv cartridge such as the OP’s than with a high output cartridge such as your 6.5 mv Goldring.

-- Al

Edit:  Looks like you responded to my post before I even submitted it :-)
Yes, Al, I am of course aware of that.
I am sure that a low output MC has specific advantages over HOMC. Nonetheless I really like my Dynevector HO cart, it has too many positive attributes andeffects  to mention here.  It has put the MM carts I used previously to shame.  To be blunt it makes beautiful  sound that no MM has ever given m\e. 
+1 jmcgrogan2

Dear @charles1dad : I owned Klyne products and are excelent with very good design, it’s almost nothing to ask for in the Klyne. I heard the Herron but not in my system and certainly not " face to face " to the Klyne.

In the other suide the price differences in between is really high.

The real issue is that overall where each one of us want to " arrive " to which quality level performance. Phono stage is part of that but only a link in the system audio chain. Maybe the Klyne is to much for the @mattmiller cartridge and system, Klyne is in a different " league ".

regards and enjoy the music,
Raul, You've stimulated me to take my Klyne 6LX out of mothballs and give it a listen on my Beveridge speakers.  I built a mega-oversize outboard PS for it, and Stan Klyne massaged the phono section only a few years ago.  The only difference between a 6LX and a 7 is the balanced output option on the latter, which I would prefer if it were available.  However, the 6LX is indeed dead quiet. When last I did listen to its phono section, I found it just a little "dry" sounding, compared, of course, to tubes. After that, I ran a Silvaweld SWH550 tube phono stage into the Klyne, feeding the Bevs. That was a great combo.
Just thinking out loud here, but you have used a solid state, a tubed, and a battery-powered phono stage and had noise and clipped signals with all of them?  It is likely that the problem is somewhere else in your set-up.  All three of those phono stages are well respected and should perform reasonably well in most rigs.  You might consider things like an EMI/RFI issue, some type of impedance mismatch problem somewhere in the system, noisy power line, etc.

Just my two cents - good luck!
I agree with the others that your problem probably lies elsewhere.  I have used the phono stage in my previous CAT preamp, a Michael Yee (designer of the Musical Surroundings Phenomena) Audio solid-state phono stage, an Aesthetix Rhea (very important to use low-noise tubes since they use tubes for all of the gain), and my current Manley Steelhead.  Only when using noisy tubes have they been a problem.  In fact, the surface noise on many LP's completely overwhelms any phono stage noise.  I use a Lyra Titan i cartridge with 0.45mV output.
Hello Raul,
I appreciate your  reply. You did not directly compare the Klyne and the Herron phono stages ( or hear the Herron in your system).  It is clear that you hold the Klyne in very high regard. These two units very likely have different sonic characteristics and choice will be determined by taste and system synergy concerns.
"Quiet sound" is a result of the complete system amplification, not just the phono stage.
The Tech at Manley is trying to say that I am experiencing "static discharge" from my turntable. I have 3 turntables a Thornes TD160 w/Grado prestige woodbody, Rega P3 w/Dynavector 10X5 and groovetracer upgrades, Project Xtension 10 w/Dynavector 20X2, never have I had a problem in the past. My system has been in the same room for 5 years. All I know is that anytime I play vinyl I have major problems to the point where I cant even listen to the system. The Chinook was sent to Manley a couple months ago and they ripped the guts out of it and replaced almost everything...I cant even listen to it now because its sending dangerous clipping signals through my system. As far as the Musical surroundings are concerned they both injected electrical grungy noise that is very loud during soft passages and between tracks. I agree that the Chinook should be dead quiet and for a little while it was! Something is going on. When I change source to CD my system is dead quiet and plays wonderfully. These phono pre amps are killing me!! I really thought I was past all this gear stuff and wanted to just sit and enjoy some vinyl but Nooooo! I'll work it out and let you guys know what happens.  Thanks all for the great advice.

Matt M
Another tube phono stage to consider might be the Baby TRON Convergence. I listened to it with my Avantgarde Duos (104 dB/W) horns, which will reveal any intrusive circuit noise. I ran an Allaerts MC1B through TRON Meteor preamp and TRON Voyager 6W SET power amp. No circuit noise from the horns, even with the volume cranked up.

It sound very good too :)
..just want to mention that I am using a low output m/c with Ayre, and it is dead quiet.  If I put my ear to the speaker, I hear nothing  unless the stylus hits the groove.
raul, when you did your side-by-side comparison between the Klyne and the Herron VTPH-2, what were your specific observations?  I'm very interested.  
I've heard both and have my own personal opinions.  
Raul explained that he did not do a direct comparison nor did he hear the Herron in his system.  See his post from this morning. 
Matt, You really ought to take one or both of your troublesome phono stages to the home of an audiophile friend or to a local dealer, and listen to them on a completely different system.  That way, you may figure out that the problem lies downstream from the phono stage, which very well could be the case.  Likewise, you might borrow a known good working phono stage from a friend or dealer and see how that goes in your system.

That said, I have to agree with you that the fact you are having no problems with digital sources is puzzling.  For a shot in the dark, you might check out what is going on with the interconnect cables you use between the phono stages and your linestage.  Swap in some completely different cables, and try switching to a different pair of input jacks on your linestage; you may have a bad solder joint somewhere on the linestage side. Also, check whether said cables are passing near a source of EMI or RFI.  

Further, if all else fails, based on the rave review of it by Michael Fremer, which I just read on-line, you might consider the iFi iPhono2 for only $499.  You can tell when Fremer REALLY likes something, and I think that is the case with this unit.

Pursuant to checking out the Klyne 6LX, I did install it into my Beveridge system last night and listen to it for about 2 hours.  It had been completely out of service for many months, so it took a while to "bloom", but when it did, the sound was excellent, as Raul predicted.  It has the expected virtues of solid state: very low noise (actually no audible noise at all, even between tracks of an LP with stylus in groove), very good clean bass response, very good articulation of separate instruments.  Plus it had virtues of good tube gear: huge sound stage, very good sense of depth, good retrieval of decay.  Compared to the best tube phono I have heard on this system, there was a very teeny tiny slight bit of dry-ness.  Not offensive, just different.  But the trade-off was in favor of the virtues.

Dear @mattmiller : Re-reading again it's really " funny " what is happening in your system with 3 different PS. It's almost imposible that the 3 PS were " damaged "/out of specs.

I know that for every one of us is to difficult to stay in " focus "(right with your system sympthoms and only can " figure " it.

If you can try to bring to your place ( from a friend or an audio distributor. ) a line preamp and make tests with looking how things goes.
I give you this advise because for an unknow reason the Manley line preamp could ahs a problem with the signal coming from the Chinnok. Sounds ridiculous but you have to try it. It sounds ridiculous too but you have to test connecting the PS signal to the CD input and through the AUX one too.

Other thing that could happen is that in all those PS ( almost imposible it can happen in the 3 units. ) exist extremely high/low frequency oscilations that can produce different kind of anomalies. These kind of oscilations are not easy to detect even for manufacturers.

Btw, """  noise,noise,noise even terrible clipped signals! """.

which kind of noise and how do you know are " clipped signals "?

Regards and enjoy the music,

Hello everyone, After much snarling and growling and talking to different people I was able to place two 3to2 adapters on all components EXCEPT the main amplifier, I think by doing this the system is now funneling the grounds down to the one outlet, and now its quiet as a mouse!! So, I take back what I said earlier in this post about the phono preamps being noisy, it was a problem in my system. Thanks to all for posting! Really... there are too many of you too list, all of you made great points!! :-)

Matt M