Help me spend 600

Hello All,

I want to get more out of my Rega Planar 3. I've got $600 at the most to spend. I'm not sure if I should first spend money on the cartridge, a phone preamplifier, or a better integrated amp (eventually everything will be upgraded). And I'd be grateful for any suggestions you have for each category. Here's my current system:

Rega Planar 3, RB300 tonearm, Express Machining Heavyweight and VTA adjuster, Shure V15VxMR (got it for a song from a friend who works at Shure; I also have a Rega Elys w/ about 200 hours on it)
Cambridge Audio A3i (built in MM stage, 50wpc)
PSB Image 4T (biwired w/ DIY cable)

I listen to roots blues (Fred McDowell, Son House, etc.) and a mixture of modern pop. My listening room is approx 12'x24'.

The Shure has an output of 3mV and a recommended load of 47k ohms in parallel w/ 250pF. The Cambridge phone stage has a input sensitivity of 1.75mV and an impedence of 47k ohms.

Due to space considerations, I'd like to stick w/ an integrated (tho' this is not a firm commitment), and I need an integrated (or pre amp) with at least five inputs (six would be better).

Cartridge (would prefer to purchase new)
Rega Exact
Phone Stage (used would be fine, and I'd like one that's switchable between MM and MC)
Black Cube
Monolithic PS-1
Rega EOS
Gold Aero DB45
Integrated (used is just fine, a switchable MM/MC phono stage would be a necessity)
There seems to be a lot available at this price, things like Carver, Arcam, Rega, etc.
for phono suggestion is EAR 834p which you can get new directly from UK for less than $600
I would sell the Shure and Rega cartridges, and the Cambridge integrated amplifier. Add these funds to your existing $600 cash and purchase a new/sealed Benz Micro MC Gold ($350 retail), a used Musical Surroundings Phonomena for $300, and a used Audio Innovations Alto integrated for $200.

Then, sell the PSB speakers and buy a pair of used Acoustic Energy Aegis One monitors for $150.

You'll be amazed...
What sonic characteristic does your system present that annoys you or lack that bothers you???.... or do you just want to spend $600.00?

If it's just the bucks, buy some concert tickets and create some memories with loved ones. It's a REAL investment, and will last as long as your collective memories. Just a thought.
You should consider the Incognito rewire offered by the importer Lauerman Imports. I think it's $250 and it's supposed to make a huge difference.
A very cost effective upgrade would be a set of Final Daruma 3 II ball bearing isolation devices for $ 99.00. Put them under your turntable.

Don Kenney
So can you swing $800? At Alternative Audio in Toronto they have a used YBA Integre (not DT version) integrated amp with phono for CA$1250., which at current exchange rates is about US$775., so $800 with shipping. The DT (dual transformer) is Stereophile Class A, and this single transformer version is between it and YBA's Audio Refinement Complete. The link is:

If you ever plan to have a secondary system, keep the Cambridge A3i even if you get a better amp. It was designed top to bottom by Michael Creek including the phono stage. It is better than the current crop of Cambridge Amps. You will never be able to replace it for the $200 to $250 it is worth used. Even used, you will have to spend at least $600 to get something as good. I still used by A3i in my home office in a smaller system; and later upgrades will move it to my work office. It is the best bargain in a cheap integrated because people don't know it is a Creek in other clothes.

Thanks for the responses so far. I knew that when I listed my current set up that I was opening myself up for suggestions that I sell everything except the turntable (or maybe except just the arm) and get "better" gear. Fair enough. And if Furry Lewis was still alive, I would go see him play. I guess I was just wondering what would be the best first step to take in my upgrade path (cartridge, phono stage, or integrated amp). I prefer to add to my system one piece at a time and live with something for a while before I decide what to do next. If I spend less than 600, that's great--more money for records (or my "loved ones" for that matter). I'm pretty happy with my current system, but I'd like to get more "presence" from my Rega--you know what kind of presence I'm talking about, the palpable, visceral sound of a plucked or scrapped steel guitar string, etc. At this point, I'm leaning towards a MM/MC phono preamp which would enable me to step up to a good MC for my next upgrade. Thanks again.
You are smart to upgrade a piece at a time. I also think you should upgrade the phono pre. Sonically, your MM pre (is) will pining back any upstream upgrade and you already have a couple carts that are well suited to the Planar 3. And it has been my experience that the Exact is a bit overkill, and not the best value for your TT. With your budget and need of a MM/MC pre, I'd get the Monolithic and pocket the change. Good luck