First phono stage upgrade

Hi everyone,

Looking for some perspective on upgrading my phono stage.

I got a Rega RP8 and a Vincent PHO 8 as a first step into analog a few years ago.

My Exact cartridge got damaged during a recent move so I sought out advice here on a replacement.

I traded in my Exact for the Ania Pro and arranged to sample some phono stages at a local shop.

After replacing the cartridge, they demoed my table with Musical Surrounding Nova III and a Black Ice Audio F159.

After several hours, the sales guy says they're closing up in a few minutes and asks if I would like to try these units at home.

I ended up taking just the Nova III with both the stock Wall Wart and optional ($650 ish) power supply.

I wanted to A/B test the power supplies first.

Then A/B test against the F159.

Are these units (or this "range") a good next step?

Am I shooting too high or low?

Still very new at this.




@lalitk I agree 100% and wish others would give this kind of advise instead of wholesale endorsements.

Let your ears decide. 

There is no substitute for the ability to audition gear within your system. Let your ears decide what’s sounds best in your budget. 


Thanks! IME, the phono stage is a very critical component in analog chain. Not saying cart, tonearm or TT is any less important but man, finding a ‘right’ phono stage may take few trials. Been there :-)

@dayglow Rega Aura best under $10,000. That’s some serious claim. I personally have a soft spot for those made by Whest - I have their first one and assume the later ones are better still. If you can get hold of one - find a second hand Vendetta scp2a. I will say that phono stages vary hugely - most good dealers will lend you one so take that up and trust ur ears

@hleeid You have done well to adopt the method of receiving a Home Demo' of items if interest.

This in itself will prove to be very beneficial in your learning the Sonic Signature and Performance on offer from a certain Topology used within a Certain Design within a Certain Price range. I say this, as my experiences have shown on occasions, where I have been in the Company of quite a few Phonostages, that the Sonic Signatures is perceivable, and it is reasonably easy to detect when a Topology for a schematic is a similar arrangement and a design that is not too far adrift from others being used at the time. It is not usual for a certain design, and topology to be offered within a certain price range that are closely related in their asking prices. There comes a point when a particular design, one that is not the 'off the shelf' commonly found designs, is able to show a clear difference between other Phons', especially for the better.   

Do set yourself up for a success in preparation for these demos at home and allow the items to have a pre-warm.

Phonostages all seem to benefit from a period of warming. If the Models to be tried are quite new, they will certainly benefit from a run time and possibly many more than is able to be used during your demo' period. 

When I have home trialled Phon's in the Past, to save on the Stylus Life, I have used a CDP with a Hagerman Inverted / Reverse RIAA between the CDP and Phonostage.

This is left on Repeat Play in earshot for multiple hours at a time, it soon becomes apparent the Phonostage has made a change and the impression being made is very different for the previous in front of the speaker visits to assess the presentation.

There comes a point the Phonostage is begging to be used with the LP Source, as it just sounds so ready for the occasion.   

@lohanimal    Yes, it is a bold statement. You can't hear everything! I have not heard a Whest product in over 10 years. I plan on attending the 2023 Florida Audio Expo and will be on the lookout for Whest. There could be some unknown very small company that's here today gone tomorrow that currently holds the < $10k phono crown. Since I own a Rega P9/RB1000 I respect the flagship Rega sound. Yes, Rega can be somewhat forward/aggressive but it lets you engage in your music regardless of genre. Many Audiophile speakers are overly polite adding a Rega P10 or an Aura phono stage could be the perfect balance. Just recently heard a Burmester Phono 100 in a >$200k system which was nearly perfect but lacked that bite and drive when vinyl was played. The Burmester 100 implemented in a different system might be sublime and destroy the Aura? Bottomline is the Aura($6695) might not win any beauty contest but is tough to beat in a low/mid true hi-end system.