Ear 834P or Decware ZP3 or other tube phono stage

Slowly working up my system from components I've used for some years to better sounding stuff. I'd like some recommendations.

I have a collection of 7000 to 10000 records in it that span all kinds of styles and pressings and condition. I have used a VPI HW19 with a Rega 250 and a bunch of different cartridges over the years. It lives at work.

At home I drive either JBL 4311B or Klipsch KG4 with an NAD 3020 or an NAD 1020 into an NAD 2200. There is an old Scott 299 floating around that gets some use but it needs some help.

Front end stuff is VPI Scoutmaster with a Benz Micro Glider HO, Elac table with some generic Technics cartridge for 78's. I've also been using an NAD PP2 for the second table. I intend on getting a good mono catridge, perhaps one of the Lyras and another armwand to play the monos.

I'd like to get a good phono stage first then some form of tube amp to drive the speakers with instead of the NAD stuff.

Most of the Decware phono pres are set-up for high output.If you move to a low-output cartridge,you are forced to use a custom Decware transformer to increase the gain.Change again-new transformer.
I've been an EAR 834p owner for a long time and I think very highly of it. One of its limitations, however, is adjustability. You can do MM or MC cartridge (there is also a MM only model), but you cannot adjust gain, loading, capacitance, etc. If you are planning on doing multiple armwands and different cartridge types, you may find yourself needing that adjustability.
Also, when I saw how many records you have, my first thought was that you might have very old records in your collection with pre-RIAA curves. If so, you might check the Graham Slee phono stages that support multiple equalization curves.


Take a look at the VAS 1 pre-amp, all tubes, it has multi phono capactity with many curves. I have one, so I know its sound. I did have an ARC PH 3SE and PH5 and felt the VAS sounded better in my system. Try to get a dealer to loan you one so you can try it in your systems.
If you can get by with MM carts look at the Bottlehead Seduction w/CS4 board.

It is so sweet with my hw-19 mkiv.
The Aqvox 2CI/PrimaLuna PL2 is a killer combo.SS phono with adj. gain,cap and loading (up to 75db in balanced operation) and tube integrated (40W via kt-88s).

You should also look at a Modwright tube phono stage (9.0 SE).
I am using one after trying out other ones like Graham Slee, and SAP phono stages. I also have a VPI Scout with a Denon DL-S1 MC cartridge.
Most of this stuff is pretty much beyond my stretch dollar wise. It's also a good distance away from my comparably modest speakers and power. Is there anything worth auditioning under $2000? That's where the Ear and the Decware came from...bang for the buck.

I pretty much have $2500 in my table and cartridge but maybe $800 in amp and speakers. Obviously I have no idea how much I have in records, but I'd imagine it's not as much as you'd think. Many were bought in collections for next to nothing and of course it stretches over 37 years.

Regardless, I'm fond of my JBL 4311's because I'm very used to them. I had intended on replacing the power however I wanted to do the phono stage first. I think besides my table it's the most significant part of my upward move.
A couple of months ago I would have advised you to look at the George Wright WPP200C - IMHO a great unit for the price, under $900 as I recall. Unfortunately George passed away recently so you can't get a new one, but they (and the older but still very good WPP100C) are available here and sometimes on craigslist.

You certainly couldn't go wrong with a good pre-loved Audio Research PH-3 or better yet an SE model. They're seriously good units (for the price) and if not your cup of tea you can resell it for what you paid for it. Some folks rave about the Jolida JD 9A- it's said to be another very good tube phono stage in it's price range ($450 or so).

Finally, I would suggest that you take a look at the Soundsmith mono cartridges. They are true dual coil mono units, so you can use the mono cartridge with a normal stereo phono stage. According to Peter "Doing so gives added dimensionality, while not detracting in any way from the advantages that mono reproduction has over stereo. This makes switching between VPI arms to go from mono to stereo a breeze. No changes required at the preamp. Swap arms, and youÂ’re done." The last comment is assuming that you are also using a Soundsmith stero cartridge.
The monolithic ps 2 is a steal at around $600. great adjustability and clean clear sound. I have a high resolution system with several expensive tube and ss phono stages and keep coming back to the monolithic. Later if you wish you can upgrade to an outboard power supply.
I have a modded 834P and love it. It replaced a McCormack phono, Pro-ject tube box II, and a Bellari vp-somethingorother. Haven't heard anything else in this price range, well, not in my system.
It's challenging to get gear like this where I live. The high end audio stores have all gone out of business or turned to video surround sound dealers and don't mess with analog.

I usually buy stuff off the Gon here and probably will in this case as well. I guess I just pick something and try it with my stuff and if it's not right sell it on here and get something else. Is that the drill or are there other things I could do to make good guesses?