Taters, I have the PH5 at home at the moment. It is very nice, musical, has that tube bloom and quite transparent and able to drive my low output dyna XV-1 with minimimal noise.
I had the Aesthetix rhea at home last mnth for a week. It was more clinical than the PH5, not as musical, was more transparent however at higher volumes had signficantly more tube rush which at this price is unacceptable.
I even like the PH5 better than the Manley steelhead in my system - manley was too forward and a little hifi sounding.
It looks like having a jfet at the first gain b4 the tube gain stage is a great way of getting that tube sound without the normal tube rush. quite bizzare as I have never liked ARC products but the PH5 is a peach.
BTW, the sutherland phd is out of this world as far as being quiet and transparent, just does not seem to boogie enuf for me in the macrodynamics - opinions may differ for someone else. Since you are in the US you might like to try the 30 day demo you get from acoustic sounds.
Finally the ear834 - I have not heard it but Ken kessler reviewer from hi fi news in the UK owns the 834P and just bought the PH5 and feels the PH5 is significantly better and a natural upgrade from the ear834P.
cheers good luck, plenty of good sounding phono stages around at reasonable prices, but try and get a demo at home as they will all sound different in different systems.