In February's Stereophile Michael Fremer has a review of the Bellari VP 129 where he ends his review with
"The Bellari VP129 gets my highest recommendation and is the budget phono preamp I will now enthusiaticlyy ecommend for every genre of music....If you are thinking of taking the analogue plunge and you listen to a lot f classical music, get a Bellai VP129 and a budget turntable and I promise that your CD's will start to gather dust."
I have not heard it and have a much more expensive phono stage but I have found his recommendations ususally help full.
I was going to recommend the Bellari. For the money it seems like a nice phono stage. I haven't heard it myself, but reviews have been positive. Maybe you can get it on a 30 day trial and check it out.
I have a Bellari VP129 in my office system. It's a steal in its price range and it's internal components are surprisingly good at this level. It has quite good resolution, better than average bass response and compliments my Oracle Paris with Grado Reference well. I did upgrade the tube to a Siemens which further enhanced resolution and offered a bit more detail. All in all, this phono stage is going to be hard to beat for $200. Best of luck in your search....
The Bellari is quite nice at that price, really not bad even compared to the Project Tube Box which is I believe is around $500. The Bellari has the same nice rich sound, just a bit less resolution. Tube rolling may help even further, also it does have a nice look.
Creek is good at this price. Also check out Parasound and used Grado. You might want to keep your eye out for a used Lehman Cube which would be a wonderful option that your system can grow with to some point. They are often listed in great condition on A'Gon but you have to be quick to beat someone else to the sale. Alot of people believe that Lehman is the absolute best value + quality performance for one's investment. Note that you will also need to invest in an additional pair of decent interconnect cables to connect the phono stage to your "preamp". Again, lots of good used cables on A'Gon. There is alot of quality input on this subject here at the A'Gon site.
Parasound zPhono. One of the best I've heard for the price ($150).
Stay away from the NAD... I had one and it sounded on par with a transistor radio. No guts, detail or dynamics..
The new Cambridge Audio Azur 640P phono stage has been getting good comments on this board. It goes for around $198. It is MM and MC.
As regards the NAD it can be improved if you obtain a regulated power supply from Radio Shack,it then loses it's 'transistor radio' quality and has quite good resolution and a much extended bass response.
www.spearitsound.com have a few used, including Creek. I just bought a NAD PP1 from them. Said they were getting some PP2's anyday @ $129.
thanks all ....
has anyone heard both the bellari and cambridge audio?
Best one you will ever find in a small box that is very very good comes from a relatively unknown Australian company named Redgum. My friend who is a vinyl maniac with a super custom Supratek is always shocked by how good it is. You can find them at an A-Gon dealer, Quest For Sound . No affiliation just a customer.
If you have a bit of electronics experience or if you do not mind the DIY thing, I would recommend Bottleheads Seduction phono amp. It easily beats the pants of anything I have heard this side of grand and retails for under $300. ($275?) In addition, you can upgrade it over time as your finances allow.
Recently I took mine over to another 'phile who had some very serious Krell gear, and he very impressed with the sound of the Seduction. Either that or he pretended to be! ;-)
The seduction was my second build ever and proved quite easy. Mine has been 100% reliable and I have been using it on and off for almost 5 years.
The phono is really a critical piece of gear when it comes to listening to vinyl so do not skimp on it.
A friend of mine who is very well-versed in guitar amps/tubes is skeptical of the bellari:
"It's basically a tube mic pre repackaged .... this company makes 'tube' mic pres & they aren't good. It isn't a true tube design, they blend the noisy 'tube' signal with a cheap op amp signal. It's not a true clean tube amp signal. It's the wrong tube... too noisy.
Try to find another phono pre which uses 12ax7 tubes. I bet they don't use them."
Bellari Rolls VP129 Phono Preamp is a bargin and sounds way sweeter than 200USD should buy. Great tube sound.
does anyone know how the Bryston internal phono stage (same one as their preamp) would compare to something I would buy new for $200?