I recently went to a VTPH-2 from a eastern electric minimax phono. Now the mini max had about $300 worth of carefully selected NOS tubes and I continue to think the minimax is the best buy in phono amps, that being said, I like the Herron more. It is very very quiet. I can detect no noise from the pre or phono amp. I also have the Herron VTSP-3A pre amp. The phono is very musical, improved bass over the Minimax, more detail, well quiet a bit more detail. Also really helps create a large well focused sound stage, each piece easy to identify yet brings all together as a musical whole. I have compared it the the Aesthetix Rhea which I had for a few weeks. The Rhea is all about tubes, very tube like sound, airy, bloom. Also nice but not very neutral. I did compare my minimax some time ago with phono stages from Manley (steelhead, much nicer), sutherland the nicer one, prefered the mini, an ARC forget which, prefered the mini and some lesser ones. Overall I find the Herron is very very quiet, the quietest tube phono I have tried, very neutral with great detail and dynamics. Not a lot of eye candy on the front, no knobs or dials, but it really is a top piece. Also, I am demoing the herron cables and at least for herron electronics I am feeling very foolish for spending what I already have on interconnects.
Hi Dodgealum, all that I can say is I agree with everything that Davt has said in his response. I also have the Herron VTSP-3A as he does and the sound is wonderful. The VTPH-2 is so very quiet that you hear no tube noise within any listening level that I have tried.
I suggest that you go on Herron's web site and read the reviews by Roy Gregory and Martin de wolfe.
I previously owned the VTPH-1 MC plus and couldn't be more happier with its outstanding sound (stock tubes fully replaced with Telefunkens).
I do agree that his design is somewhat stuck in the 80s as far as cosmetics are concerned. That could be a minor point for some folks but I just wish he could make the unit look better with a few minor updates (thicker faceplate with choice of Silver or Black finish,MC/MM selector knob,phase switch,etc..) but not too dizzy looking like the Steelhead or EAR 324,etc..
Now that KH combined the MM and MC into one box with roughly the same price tag, that would make the VTPH-2 so appealing and outstanding value. I would put Telefunken tubes in there to make the VTPH-2 sounds like a million buck!
Just what I am looking for--thanks guys. I want to try tubes BUT want it to be super quiet and very neutral, which just a hint of bloom and dimensionality that tubes often bring. Sounds like the Herron is the ticket. As to the styling, I actually like the look of the thing--basic and purposeful with out a lot of "eye candy"!
Im thrilled with what I am getting from the Herron. It is a pleasure to work with Keith Herron as I explore the capabilities of the VTPH-2. I'll share what Keith has told me, but dont get the idea that this preamp is fussy. Keith is just thoroughgoing with his advice. Ive done nothing more than place four new 12AX7EH tubes at V1 through V4 to get most satisfying results.
There are two versions of the VTPH-2
(2 x 12AX7, 3 x 12AT7) at 64 dB gain or (4 x 12AX7, 1 x 12AT7) at 69 dB gain, MC input
A customer sent one of our VTPH-1 MC Plus phono stages in for repair (a broken RCA input connector, the unit was 12 years old) last week and they had a set of four 12AX7EH (Electro-Harmonix) tubes in the unit. I had not heard this tube before and it was quite impressive in terms of sound and low noise (much quieter than the current tube set in the VTPH-2). I have since recommended these to a few people and the word is that is quite and improvement. I had a brief listen with them and I will have to get some in myself. :-)
I did try the 12AX7EHs in a unit like yours (2AX, 3AT) and the sound was very good. (I left the 2 additional capacitors in place)
The extra gain with four 12AX7EHs may or may not be a problem for you with a 30K Ohm load. The only way to know is to give it a try.
I would not bother with getting a matched set, just buy a few extras and make and check to see that the channels are balanced after you install them.
If you need to you can switch them around to match the channels. Also you can adjust the gain and bias for channel matching. Setting the bias counter clockwise increases the harmonics and decreases the gain, going clockwise does the opposite. We usually set these around the middle (12:00 o'clock).
The twin triodes in the 12AX7s and 12AT7s are used in reverse order for left and right in the VTPH-2 so measuring the tube gain could give a different result for a given tube in opposite channels.
Leave the EI 12AT7 (V5) at the output.
Thanks for the note. The smaller plates on the 12AX7EH keep the grid-to-plate capacitance at a lower level than it would be with conventional larger plate 12AX7s (such as the EI and Telefunken tubes). The RIAA ends up being very close with the 12AX7EH tubes on both the four 12AX7 and two 12AX7 units (the 12AX7EH is in the middle capacitance wise). The 12AT7EHs in your unit have the larger plates.
The total effective grid-to-plate capacitance is a product of the gain (mu) of the tube and the actual grid-to-plate capacitance. In this case your 12AT7EHs have less gain (mu = 60), but more plate size than the 12AX7EHs (mu = 100). The effective capacitance is close enough (less than 0.2dB error at 20kHz and this can be corrected with the RIAA trim pots if you wish)
The tubes I am using are:
original EI 12AT7 at V5
Electro-Harmonix 12AX7 Gold Pin from Tube Depot
Testing : Low Noise and Microphonics
I've compared this preamp to the ARC PH7 extensively and prefer the Herron. The ARC is almost twice the price.
Glad you are enjoying the Herron. Based on the posts, reviews and talking to Keith I decided to buy one a few months ago and got to compare it with my Whest PS.30 before I sold it. First off, I'd like to second your comment about working with Keith. He is patient, willing to share his expertise and has been very supportive following the sale. I had an issue with one of the tubes and he was very responsive. As to the sound, I could not be happier. The VTPH-2 does everything I want a phonostage to do--quiet, natural, neutral, grainless, dynamic and quick with exceptional inner detail. On Keith's recommendation for a budget cartridge I'm running an AT OC9MLII (on my Scout) and cannot believe what is possible with such a relatively modest cartridge. In comparison with the Whest PS.30, it really wasn't even close. The Whest, though a very nice unit, sounds quite dry and lifeless by comparison. As to the styling, I think the piece is beautiful in an understaded way. It matches my Modwright gear perfectly right down to the blue LED's.
Yeah, Keith is great. I love the VTSP 3A and I think the cosmetics are good too. I know this thread is more about the Phono, but in case lurkers are looking for more info about Herron, there is a pretty big thread on the Herron preamps too.
Kclone: How you liking that KWA? Nice, huh?
Nice, but as I have gotten more time and experience with it and have listened to multiple tracks I know very well, the treble is a bit recessed or rolled off. For example guitars lines are more faint than the should be. That is not a compromise I am willing to live with so I am going to another amp soon.
Interesting. How do you think the Herron linestage mates with the Modwright? I have gotten best results when the preamp or linestage is matched with an amp from the same manufacturer. This was true with my old Audio Research set up as well as my Modwright stuff. Perhaps a pair of Keith's monoblocks to go with the Herron linestage?
You know, I have never had matched gear but from what I hear it is wise to use matching components. I would have looked into the Modwright preamps, but they don't have input select on the remote which is important to me. I already have my next amp selected. I am getting Aspen's flagship amp, the Maya. It just went into production and should be ready mid December. I'm buying without hearing, but I get to try it in my system and my money back if I don't like it except shipping.
You might want to check out the new Modwright LS100 which I believe has input seleet on the remote. From what I've read this is a very nice and competitively priced linestage that can be ordered with a built in phonostage. Of course, if you have the Maya coming then then that may not be the way to go. In any case, best of luck with whatever direction you go.
Well, I already ordered the Maya not to long ago. The amp hasn't hit the market yet. About another month to go. The impedance match between the Modwright and the Herron may be holding things back a little.
Just to chime in late in the game here....I had a Herron VTPH-1 MC+ and compared it to a new Fosgate Signature Phono Preamp. The Fosgate had great extension on high and lows, but for my low output MC the VTPH-1 had a more lively energetic presence and wider soundstage. Fosgate had a deeper soundstage. Biggest difference (again I was running Fosgate full on for low output MC) was the Herron was completely silent....zero tube rush. I was so impressed with the Herron that I just bought the VTPH-2. And some of the Herron interconnects (which in a blind study in my system beat out my long-term choice of Cardas Neutral Reference on a couple of dimensions). And, like others have quoted Keith Herron is a true engineer and gentleman, who is patient and committed to delivering the best and most natural sounding products. There are a handful of companies with founders in the US who have the real deal at the helm. Herron is one of them.
Podeschi, Good to hear on the VTPH 2 phono. Any chance you may be looking at Keith's preamp for your system as well?
If I wasn't using the simaudio i5.3se integrated, i would but the herron pre-amp and a really nice tube amp (eg audio research).
Oh, I have heard the original i5 back in 2003 (i think)and thought it was really good. From what I hear from others is the i5.3se is a lot better than the i5 so it looks like you are in a good shape.
Thanks! I spent some time this year assembling my 2 channel systems -- with the centerpiece being getting back into vinyl after 20+ years .... I was hoping I could go all digital but when comparing digital versus vinyl at my brother's (maggie 20.1 + ARC amps etc) via Ayre dac and/or flagship Audio Research cd player versus Linn LP12, the analogue won 8 out of 10 times. On my more humble system, differences are not as pronounced, and my Perfect Wave dac + bridge are pretty close to analogue but not quite the full distance. There is something organic and right I get with vinyl that is missing with digital, but the PS Audio setup is best I've heard anywhere.
A clarification on the ModWright. I had an impedance mismatch with the Herron that was holding back the performance on the amp. The ModWright Treble extension is fine with the right match it is indeed a great performer. My choice is to go with another amp or sell the Herron in favor a different preamp. I chose to keep the Herron and get another amp (Aspen Maya). The Herron is just to good to give up.
I could not figure out how to send you a PM on this god forsaken new Audiogon interface. As I am now using the Herron VTSP-3A with a Modwright KWA150SE I would be interested in hearing more about the impedance mismatch you experienced. If you know how to PM, please send me one. If not, a comment here would be appreciated.