I own the ARC PH-8 and used to own the PH-7. I'm don't know what type of low gain MC cartridge you have in mind. But, FWIW, the PH-7/8 can do a good job with MC cartridges having as little as .5mV output. Admittedly, many of the finer low output MC cartridges may only produce as little as .25mV of gain. That is clearly too low for the PH-7/8. If you have the $$$, the ARC Ref Phono 2 (or SE version) can handle the lower output MC cartridges.
Thanks, Bifwynne, you've helped me in the past with some good advice. I don't have the budget to jump up to the ARC Ref 2, as much as I'd like. I've got a line on a Dynavector XX2, always loved Dynavectors, but the gain on the PH7 is not sufficient to handle that cartridge.
I would look into the Herron Audio VTPH-2 with 69 db of gain. It will easily be the equal of you ARC PH-7 and may even surpass it. Here is the website http://www.herronaudio.com/vtph2specs.html. Good Luck .
If you are happy with your PH-8 (mine is a "lowly" PH-5) why not consider a step-up transformer rather than an entirely new phono stage?
Main reason is $$, with the Pass XP-15, Im looking at a phono stage roughly equivalent in value to my PH7, so my overall investment stays the same. A quality SUT + another set of interconnects is not going to be cheap...plus they can add another level of coloration to the sound.
Tim, the XP15 is a wonderful phono pre. I run an XX2 with phenomenal results using the medium 66 db gain loaded at 100 ohms. I run balanced out. Very quiet and so smooth with amazing 3d soundstage. Phenomenal bass control. No grain whatsoever. I give it the highest recommendation and got a great deal from Mark at Reno HiFi which offers no risk trial other than shipping. No affiliation just a happy customer.
Awesome, Swanny, I'm ordering one from Mark and will let you know what I think!
I also give it the highest recommendation. And I also got mine from Mark at Reno HiFi. It was a superb transaction.
The XP-15 was a tremendous upgrade from my Xono. Tone and timbre both improved quite significantly. I couldn't be more pleased.
Kennyb, I completely agree about tone and timbre. I always felt the earlier Pass stuff was to the cooler side of neutral having owned an X1 pre and moving to an XP10. I have heard the Xono and agree about the increase in sound quality with the XP15. Lanetim--hope everything works out well. The directions by Wayne Colburne that come with the XP15 for setting gain and loading are really quite helpful. I tried a few settings but pretty quickly settled on where I am now. Can you tell us more about your setup, esp the preamp--what gain does that offer now? Have you decided on the dyna xx2? Keep us posted. Swanny
PS, A friend of mine was over the other day and had never heard my setup before (and probably nothing approaching high end before either). We ended up listening to a bunch of vinyl for a couple hours while our wonderful wives tended to a play date with our daughters. He was really blown away and so was I with record after record. It's a very revealing stage but also one that performs so well and so naturally that no matter the type of music it all is well presented in a very musical and non fatiguing fashion. It just gets out of the way and lets you hear deeply into the recording. That is, if everything is set up properly up the chain--tonearm, cart, clean records, etc.
I've been pretty much an ARC guy for some time. My current preamp is a Reference 5, and my power amp is a Reference 150. Turntable is a VPI Scoutmaster with a Classic 3 arm w/ the Classic platter etc.
I've decided to spend my upgrade budget this year on bringing my Ref 5 up to SE level...been on the upgrade waiting list for nearly a year. Time to try calling Kalvin at ARC again... Going to the Ref 5 made the biggest difference in my system by a big measure. It is a phenomenal preamp.
I have an XP-15/Lyra Delos/VPI Classic and really enjoy the rig. I don't have any ARC experience, but this combo plays nice together. Run balanced out to an XP-20, very very quiet.
IF you can swing it, go all the way and get the XP-25! That's what I plan on doing! :D
Unfortunately my budget won't allow for that...and if I have the $$ I would have to consider the ARC Ref Phono 2 SE!
I see, Lanetim, well it was such a mere suggestion. Good luck to you whatever you choose...
I meant "just a suggestion" lol.
I've had the XP-15 in my system for 3 days, so it is still breaking in. I can tell there is an absence of grain, and the sound is very clean. However, at this point it does not have the excitement and 'air' around percussive elements like triangles and cymbals, and the beautiful midrange which the PH7 has in spades.
Did you notice this with your XP-15, and did it develop with further break-in?
OK, I got the XP-15 in, and let it break in for a week. Initially, it seemed very detailed but also very bright and a bit hard in the treble. As it broke in, it did mellow a bit.
Relative to my PH7, it had well articulated bass...individual notes were clearly defined. And it was really quiet...the music seemed to emerge from a totally back background. And it is beautifully built, the casework is excellent. And the user has compete control over not only resistive loading, but also capacitance and gain. It would seem to let you shape the sound of any cartridge to your system.
But as my wife quickly pointed out, it seemed to really emphasize the treble over the midrange. The PH7 was simply more musical, beautiful in tone, and really fun to listen to. With the XP-15, the mind seemed to drift off, listening to an individual instrument, while with the PH7, you just soak up the really huge soundstage and absorb all of the music.
Having my wife come in, I set up the XP-15, and let her listen to a couple of records. Swapping in the PH7, it only took her 1 minute while repeating the 1st record to say 'you can stop now'.
Unfortunately, the XP-15 is not the solution to my little problem. So it went back in the box and was shipped out. A really interesting experiment!!
How much time did you spend optimizing load? That you would report that it emphasized the treble over the midrange suggests this may not have been dialed in.
My XP-15 was never ever bright. Which cartridge do you have?
Soundsmith/VPI Zephyr. I spent quite a bit of time playing around with the capacitance loading. The Zephyr doesn't like loading below 47k, so that's where I left it.
Thanks for the review, Lanetim. Much appreciated.
I think in the right system the XP-15 could be the ticket...it was interesting to see just how different these two phono stages sounded. My wife had no trouble instantly picking off the differences, and she's never picked up a Stereophile in her life!
Maybe it's not unexpected that an ARC phono stage would naturally be the synergistic match to a Ref 5 and a Ref 150. The XP-15 certainly gives the user a lot more options with all the cartridges out there, and I think it is a good value. I just couldn't give up the PH7.
I see. Yeah, that must definitely have been interesting! That's cool. It's always good to have another pair of ears, particularly of someone you trust.
Yeah, that's true. Well, that's ok. You tried it, and that's what counts. I understand totally.
Thanks to all who posted on this thread so far. In the end, you decided that with your Audio Research Pre-amp, the PH7 clearly beat the XP-15.
With my Pass Labs XA30.5 amp and Acoustic Zen Adagio speakers, the XP-15/XP-10 combo definitely beat and Audio Research LS-17 SE/PH7 combo.
The LS17 SE has a lot I like about it, but ultimately seems like a poor match with my amp - the highs can be fatiguing and the bass response doesn't seem flat or coherent. I've read about a possible impedance mismatch between the two, Regardless, I like the LS17SE.
The PH7 is a clearly an amazing phono stage. Wonderful sounding and dead quiet. However, in my system, with the right cartridge loading, the XP-15 is every bit its match, and indeed sounds in some ways like it has as much or more tube magic as the PH7. Regardless, I could live with either for the forseeable future, and indeed give a slight nod to the XP-15 for sound quality with brownie points for not needing to be retubed ever, having more gain (and of course also being dead quiet.) On the PH7's side, the remote with loading and the mono function are really fantastic.
We all read so much into these forum comments that I thought I should share my experience and encourage folks to try both of these amazing units as I think it will come down to system matching and taste more than individual quality.
Thanks for your comments, Darkj...I agree system matching is always going to be a significant issue. My preamp is a Ref 5, just upgraded to the 5SE. Impatiently waiting for it to break in.