Does EAR324 phono stage sound like tubes ?

i like the idea of being able to adjust the loadings of the phono stage... but does ear 324 sound anything close to being tubes ?
anyone who has would appreciate it- also considering the 834p or 88pb but the tube swapping is a bit hassle for finding good nos tubes...
the different load settings seems a good idea.
thanks !
The EAR324 isn't warm like a tube phono nor does it have the bloom around the notes that a good tube phono will have but it is still very musical and extremely dynamic and revealing. I owned mine for years and was very satisfied with it, but decided to try a ARC PH-7 to go with my ARC Ref 5. The ARC is a little more musical, but I could give it up for the EAR324; it was that good. Don't be confused by all the loading choices on the EAR324 as most of those are for a MM cartridge input. The choices for MC are few; three loading choices and volume control option on knob on far right and that is it.
has anyone compared this to the Aestethix Rhea ?
Check out this thread:
I was able to compare EAR 324(all solid state) and 88PB(a hybrid JET and tubes)in my system. It was rather close in overall tonality, detail retrieval... of course, they have some major differences and my findings are as follows:
1) without internal SUTs(I believe it's the major source of EAR's sonic signature), the MM sections are surprisingly "rather neutral" in tonality(on the contrary, if someone gets used to tube warm of EAR 834), not overly warm or colored(the MM section only), able to reveal the subtle details of different recordings, in respect of transparency(only the MM sections) they goes hand in hand.
2) 88PB is as a whole lower in hum level and very stable for prolonged use as a tubed phono with more than 70dB.
3) 88PB can offer a bit more real-life body of the acoustic instruments with a thin touch of tube warm.
4) 324 is never harsh or thin sounding.
5) 324 is the better choice for someone who owns a lot of MM carts.
6) 88PB is the best if we want to drive the power amp directly from phono with limited budget.
7) PCC88 proves to be much more stable, much quieter(in hybrid design)than ordinary 6DJ8/6922.

I heard ARC PH-7, Rhea & Janus, Audio Valve Sunilda, EAR 912, Nagra VPS, and many others. Each design approach has its strengths and weaknesses and also pretty much depend upon our budget.

I wish this may help...
For me, the strength of EAR324 is the MM section.

Having the adjustment for PF & Capacitance of the MM section, anybody tried a low output cartridge with SUT and used the MM section of EAR324????
Analog soul,

I have gone to that route with my MC cartridge but not with the EAR324's MM section. I like the overall sound more than going direct from MC phono stage. The sound is more neutral, pure and much quieter background.
Agiaccio, you've highlighted the wrong EAR phono in your link. The 324 isn't a tube phono.
I agree with Audiomax. Using external SUT for LOMC carts is not without disadvantages as we inevitably alter the minute capacitance and, especially, impedance loadings.

In brief, we have to use ultra low impedance cables/wires in order to minimize any negative effects on signal transmission. The ICs(I had to DIY one) to and from the SUTs also need to be as short as possible to maintain signal purity closer to the source.

Unfortunately, there are not much ultra low impedance cables/wires available for this choices bring limited fun for this hobby:)

When SUTs and phono are placed close to TT, interferences from motors and electronics may arise too...

I had an EAR 324 for a a few months. It was initially quite impressive - very quiet, great detail, dynamic. But after a while I found it unsatisfying - to my ears, it had a cold, metallic sound which I found rather un-musical, so I sold it. I also borrowed an 88PB which I found to have a similar tonal quality, although with a little more bloom. Again, though, I found it too cold sounding for my tastes. I have gone back to using my Exposure 13 phono stage (which has not been manufactured for about a decade), although it was much cheaper and perhaps less quiet, and certainly less flexible than the 324. It is, however, far more musical.
"...88PB is as a whole lower in hum level and very stable for prolonged use as a tubed phono with more than 70dB. "

It must be stressed that it was tested with maximum output level without pick-up signal. The noise and hum level of 324 and 88PB are, in practice, still regarded as "very low" and no problem at all in normal sound pressure and listening position.

BTW, a monitor grade phono amp, I believe, should be able to reveal any subtle details and information picked up by the carts. Such as any inherent pre-echoes, whether the master is an analog or a digital one, any TT/arm/cart resonances affecting the reproductions, the conditions of the TT/arm/carts, any misalignment of arm/cart, the cart rebuild causing any change of sonic signature, etc.

Sometimes when we upgrade to a better phono, we need to upgrade the TT/arm/cart simultaneously with no guarantee of success(to one's ear). "Hear more" doen't necessarily mean "sound better". Hear less may be more acceptable.

Spend more money for sonic's a cruel story but sometimes it's true.

Agree, the more we spend especially for higher models, the more revealing it becomes... sometimes too revealing to the point that it becomes somewhat analytical-revealing the flaws of your cart, arm, table , alignment,etc...
I don't believe in "too revealing".

what tubes have you guys used in your 88PB ? How are the stock tubes ? are they listenable ?
thanks guys!
Nolitan: I think the Svetlana tubes that come stock with the 88pb are really pretty good sounding, but here are two fine alternatives that might satisfy: 1)The JJ Tesla 7DJ8s(my current favorites), which are balanced sounding and nicely detailed. Happily, they're also inexpensive and plentiful. 2)The Tungsram 7DJ8s, available from Tubemonger but over twice the price, are a bit more lively and dynamic than the Teslas, however, I personally find the Teslas somewhat smoother sounding and more naturally musical. I recommend you try both to see what suits your taste. Another possibility is the the Telefunken PC88/7DJ8. Very clean and detailed, but not my cup of tea. I don't hear music presented this way in the concert hall. I've also tried Mullard 6922s. They're at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Telefunkens---a bit too warm/rich. Finally, Amperex Bugle Boy 6DJ8s, but I didn't care for their slightly treble-ish personality in my system. Good luck, and I'd be curious to know what you settle on once you've tried any of these.
OPuss88- thanks! i haven't nailed down with which phono stage I'll end up with but those are my shortlist.
I'm sure all are good and it boils down to preference on one's system.
You're welcome, but a slight correction in the designation of the Telefunken: It's not PC88, but PCC88(aka 7DJ8 as I indicated above).
Tim de Paravicini don't recommend us to use 6DJ8/6922 in PCC88/7DJ8 positions or vice versa. For details, please see another post "Interview with Tim de Paravicini at High End Audio Show"

I had tried to put E88CC in my EAR 88PB after the interview. The higher voltage lighted up the tubes with abnormal brightness and sounded strange. I had also tried to put PCC88 in 6922 positions and the sound was just twisted. I wouldn't dare to keep it that way for too long.

Is anyone here using a external step up on the 324 on the mm mode ?
Lundahl, altec , hashimoto and Bob's Cinemag are what comes to my mind. Any experience with any of these on the 324 ?
Would it be too much gain if the cart had an output of .4mv to .6mv along w/ an external step up ?
Dan: I'm not sure I follow you when you refer the higher voltage of the E88CC. That tube has less voltage than the PCC88(7 volts). You also say you tried the PCC88 in 6922 positions. Are you referring to 6922 positions in the EAR 88pb? Do you mean there are clearly designated separate 6922 positions as distinguished from 7DJ8/PC88 positions in the 88pb? I've neither seen nor heard anything that mentions this. All four tube sockets in the 88pb can be used with either 7DJ8/PCC88 tubes OR E88CC/6922/6DJ8 tubes. I've not had nor have I noticed any problems either way. I've also read that Tim Paravicini has indeed used 6922s in the 88pb. Personally, I prefer the 7DJ8s.
Opus88, I was referring to the higher voltage of all four PCC88/7DJ8 positions in EAR 88PB lighted up the 6922s with abnormal brightness and it sounded a bit strange(comparing to stock PCC88). I truly believe E88CC/6922s will shorten their lives in PCC88 positions as ascertained by Tim. Exotic NOS E88CCs generally cost much more than same brand of's simply not worth the try for prolonged use!!!

Please see another upcoming post here in A'gon "Interview with Tim de Paravicini" last year in which I talked to Tim face to face. Check the photo of my virtual system when I asked him whether we should use 6922 in PCC88/7DJ8 positions...his answer with his gesture!!!

I have never heard Tim uses 6922/6DJ8s in his top of the line products(912, 88PB, etc)which are only designed for PCC88/7DJ8, what is the source of your knowing? Please also read the above interview and let's clarify the issue.


What phono stages have you guys compared the EAR88pb with ?
Okay Dan, thanks very much for clarifying, and your comment on shortened life for E88CC/6922s in the 7DJ8 sockets makes sense. Based on listening, I also determined in short order that I didn't much care for the sound of 6922/6DJ8/E88CC tubes compared with the 7DJ8s...Mention of Tim's using 6922s in the 88pb is found in an Audiogon thread by Tompoodie titled "6922 6DJ8 or 12ax7 tubes better for preamp?" dated 05/31/10. He indicates this in his opening statements. Of course, there could be a question regarding its veracity, so you might want to e-mail him on this...After you first commented on the "Interview with Tim..." prior to my remarks, I seached for that article but could not find it. You just indicated however that it will be available in an upcoming post. Will this appear in this analog forum as well? Thanks for the info.
Nolitan: In response to your question about other phono stages in comparison with the EAR 88pb, check out my experiences in the Amps Preamps forum thread titled "EAR Preamp" by Gabeharty, dated 03/27/08. I should add that I preferred and stayed with the sound of my trusty VPI HW19 Mk.3 'table with SME IV.Vi tonearm and specially made brass/aluminum armboard. Cartridge is the Dynavector XV-1S. My current cables of choice are the Purist Proteus Provectus tonearm cable(the most recent revised incarnation that preceded the current Praesto version), the Silkworm+ interconnect with copper Eichmann bullet plugs and the JPS Superconductor 3 speaker cable. I still use and enjoy the Wegrzyn Copper Slam power cord for my 88pb. My Air Tight ATM-3 monoblock amps have long been wired with the original Synergistic Research Master Coupler power cords.
Opus88: you may search threads under my account(Danwkw). But I found the post has been edited by someone...I gonna post another one in AA under the topic of tubes.

Dan, I had already checked your threads. I'll wait for your post to appear in Audio Asylum. Thanks.
Opus88, it's already been posted in Tubes Asylum...
An entertaining interview to say the least. He doesn't mince words, does he? An interesting point too about FETs having the same measurement curve as 12ax7 tubes. Does he feel FETs sound similar to the 12ax7s? I'd like to mention something about his manual for the 88pb. Beyond simply stating the unit has phono one and phono two buttons on the front panel, there is no explanation that while phono one allows for moving magnet and low output moving coil performance, phono two provides settings for only moving magnet output(52db or so)or perhaps moving magnet and high output moving coil. An owner may eventually come to realize this, but these things should be explained in the owner's manual. I've already mentioned this to Dan Meinwald and Mitch Singerman, but the people at EAR/Yoshino need to generate a printed revision.
I understand both the 88pb and 324 has international step up for use of low output mc carts.
Has anyone compared the internal step up of these two units with an external step up transformer available ?
Is the external better or worst than the internal step up ?

THis is getting interesting thread.
To me, the 324 is very revealing and never sounds analytical. I've yet to discover any tube bloom. The spatial distribution of notes is incredible - Music is never messy or compressed together. Compared to my previous Pass Xono, the 324 thrashes it left right center making the Xono sounds amateurish and unrefined. By the way, the 324 is far more queiter. My current cart is the Lyra Helikon SL.
Opus88: Yes, the user's manual is in lack of some useful information usually provided by other manufacturers.

Nolitan: the internal SUT proves to be a decent one. I used it for MY Sonic Lab Ultra Eminent BC, ZYX Omega-S Low, Shelter 901, Denon DL-103SA,etc, with rather satisfactory results. Comparing to other exotic SUTs (may cost more or less another 88PB now!!)and to be very very picky, the internal SUTs in 324/88PB is marginally weaker in bandwidth, detail retrieval, micro-dynamics, soundstaging...but, pls remember, it's NOT fair to compare this way. EAR's internal SUTs "usually" delivers a tad of transformer's warmth, a bit more body of instruments, particularly suitable for LOMC carts which sound just a little bit cool or thin, IMHO.

Shsohis: Agree. 324 is definitely a solid state phono, revealing but never analytical and harsh in the systems I heard. I believe Lyra Helikon with 324 should be a very happy marriage;)


Many thanks for the post. I think you answered most of my concern. Its really now a matter of going w/ either the tube or solid state counterpart of the EAR.
You are welcome. But remember my opinion is just another opinion. There are a lot of decent phono amps on the market. As long as you understand their strengths and weaknesses, sonic signatures or compatibilities(no matter how you call it), I believe you will soon get what you are looking for.

Good luck
i agree dan-i think it boils down to synergy
I came across this thread because I have been interested in the EAR 324 for use with a myriad of vintage MM and MI cartridges that I want to audition. The front panel controls for capacitance and resistive loading would be very useful in that regard. In reviewing published reviews of the 324, I came across two "disturbing" comments: (1) John Atkinson measured rather poor overload characteristics for the inputs at frequencies below 100Hz (distortion went sky high at inputs above 5mV, which would easily be reached by any MM cartridge), and he suggested that an MM cartridge might well overload the stage and induce such distortion, and (2) after praising his demo unit, Ken Kessler let it drop at the end of his review that he thought the 324 was a tad "grainy". Have any of you guys experienced either phenomenon, or do you know whether or how TdP addressed the overload "problem"? Thanks.

By the way, a 7DJ8 is naught but a 6DJ8/6922 with a different filament voltage requirement (7V instead of 6V), as far as I know.
Lewm, after reading your post, I browsed for Art Dudley's...

As mentioned in previous posts, I also experienced some hum problem with the 324 that I couldn't possibly get rid of during audition. The hum and overall noise level was NOT really annoying when listening. But it seems to coincide with AD's measurements of hum at 120Hz.

Unfortunately I didn't try a wide variety of MM/MI to prove if AD's concerns on higher THD at low frequency was valid. "Grainy" wasn't enough to describe the 324 I auditioned in my system. "Definitely a solid state" were.

88PB didn't have this hum problem at all. In fact, it is still being extremely stable and, up to this moment, among the quietest tube phono(actually a hybrid design) I have heard in respect of hum level, tube rush and background noise for any phono with more than 70dB of gain, though without much flexibility in capacitance choices and impedance loadings like 324.

In a nutshell, I prefer 88PB to 324 in my system.

Best regards
i heard the 324 at my AD and did find it a bit grainy compared to tube phono stages.
88pb is next on the list.
Dan, so far, what carts have you used w/ the 88pb ?
Mostly using MY Sonic Lab Ultra Eminent, ZYX Omega-S, Shelter 901, Denon DL-103SA & Shelter 201(MM).

Thanks.. So far, all of them works well with the 88PB ?
Another phono stage that someone recommended is the K&K Maxx out phono stage... Its a kit though.
The synergy is so ideal with 88PB in the combo, always offers the magic of tubes and neutrality, stability of hybrid design using JET, PCC88s and output transformers.

With Ultra Eminent, the presentations being so dynamic, transparent, full of natural decays with authentic transient speed(provided playing the best analogue recordings from 60's and 70's). Poor recordings are still poor, though.(mainly using 1-6 ohm ext. SUT)

With Omega-S, being smooth, lush sounding, so energetic, full of body & emotions with a tad midrange sweetness. (using 1-6 ohm ext. SUT and 4-ohm built-in SUT in EAR 88PB)

With Shelter 901, a bit in lack of the details and natural decays comparing to Ultra Eminent and Omega-S. But the overall tonal balance still regarded as "very good". $1,200 is a steal(using 20-ohm ext. SUT)

With Denon DL-103SA, in comparisons, in lack of micro-dynamics and details, bit unnatural vocal siblings, "relatively" inferior in high/low extensions, exciting mid-low punch. But still regarded as one of the best MC carts, within $500, with excellent trackability and being so sturdy and stable on old-worn records. (using 40-ohm built-in SUT within EAR 88PB)

88PB has done its job well by always revealing the subtle sonic differences the carts and unleashing their potentials. The best phono within $5,000 I heard in my system and may compare to much pricey phono products.


Thanks Dan,
Nice carts!
which external SUT are you using ?
Thanks, guys, for your thoughtful responses. I guess another one bites the dust, since I was interested in the 324 only for the purpose of running it with MM and MI cartridges and was salivating at all those front panel choice of capacitance and load resistance. It is very odd to read that a device that uses BOTH input and output transformer coupling could possibly sound "grainy". I would have thought that the output transformer, in particular, would ameliorate any transistor-like coloration. (At least in my mind, "grainy" = transistor.) Plus, I would have thought that TdP was incapable of designing anything that sounded grainy. Because of my particular MM and MI wants, the 88PB would not be a good choice, either.
Lewm, we should investigate what other gears and the characteristics of the listening room in which Ken Kessler auditioned for that particular review. Do you have any ideas as I couldn't find anything of it yet? Art Dudley seemed to have used one MM (Linn Adikt) without much implications on audible distortions, right?

IMHO, if 324 is mated with EAR tube amp, Audio Note pre amp, or some Class A solid state(e.g. Pass Lab XA series) power amp, its solid state personality won't be any problem at all. This may not be true if it is hooked up with VTL TL-7.5(tube), Siegfried(tube) and Rockport(ring radiator tweetors)...

To me, 324 sounds like a solid state as it really is, but it's NOT thin sounding nor harsh. But be cautious when someone uses certain ceramic or metallic speakers or maybe some high efficient horn speakers in a very "lively & spacious" listening room.

All in all, it was a versatile solid state phono amp which "still" justifies its price tag, and targeted for MM/MI die-hard fans who seem to have no other choices within the same price range.

Best regards
I have MY Sonic Lab Stage 302(for 1-6 ohm) and Phase Tech T-3(for Shelter 901, it's cheapy miracle match!)

Good points, Dan. Kessler did reveal the identity of his comparator phono stage, but I cannot now recall what that was. Possibly the Linn Linto. Also, Nolitan appeared to agree that the 324 could sound grainy. I use OTL tube amps and ESL speakers, probably a good match for the 324, which would feed into the linestage section of my Atma-sphere MP1 preamp, in balanced mode.
Compared to tube phono stages, yes the 324 did sound a tad grainy if you really listen to it carefully.
However if possibly fed thru an all tube system, i don't think you can hear it. Nonetheless i did appreciate the flexibility of its inputs (i wish more manufacturers) would adapt those kind of settings. Makes life easier if you have multiple cartridges.
I just wonder why it would sound "grainy" at all. Of course, that word may mean different things to each one of us, but it seems to me that transistor audio has evolved beyond the point where it should ever sound grainy. And I am a confirmed tube-aholic, nevertheless, for other reasons.
"Grainy" is always a sign of poor synergy which represents somehow something wrong in the system. This could be too much transistors in the chain, or a wrong choice of speakers and cables, etc.

With OTL amps and Quad ESL, I truly believe 324 should deliver a bit more transparent, extended presentation than a Linn Linto.

To lower the risk(i.e. uncertainty), Lewm may buy a used one.

Typo: ...OTL ampa and ESL speakers(Not Quad ESL).
That's OK, Dan. I take your point. Mine are Sound Lab M1s, but I love Quads, too.
Hello again Dan,

What tubes (combo) are you using with your 88PB ?
Does all 4 tubes have to be the same brand ?
Would be interested what tube combo you find "best" with the 88pb.