So I recently performed some tweaks on my analog system such as cartridge alignment, VTA, and adding some Rega white belts to my Rega P7 TT and all of these made slight improvements. However what really made me hear the difference was my Herron VTPH-2 phono stage, hence why I made the tweaks. It has about one month on it and it has slowly opened up to now where the music is transparently intimate especially with good recordings. What I love about this phono stage is that it allows me to hear the music differently, allowing subtle notes in the background that I have heard before become a little more alive. So I am not hearing new things but hearing them differently for the better as well as the main instrumentation. So high ratings go to Keith and this phono stage especially at the price point.
Glad to hear you are enjoying your VTPH-2. I've had mine for years now and I never grow tired of listening to my LPs. I went through a few different well regarded phono stages, both solid state and tube, before trying and falling in love with the Herron. I've recently made some changes to my system and each move has only confirmed my respect for Keith. A few months back I upgraded from an AT OC9MLII to an AT ART 9--an amazing cartridge whose potential is fully realized by the Herron. FWIW, Keith's VTSP-3A linestage has received some very worthwhile improvements and is now offered as an R03 version. Last month I sent mine back to Keith for the upgrades and am VERY pleased with the results. I have long been a fan of this unit, finding it far superior to a variety of other tube line stages that I've heard/had in my system. The R03 upgrades take it to the next level in terms of staging, detail and dynamics. Together the VTPH-2 and VTSP-3A make a fantastic team and I would encourage anyone in the market for a line stage to give one a try.
@dodgealum thanks for the informative post. Overall I am happy with my system but I am looking to take the amplification up to another level to better compliment my speakers. Perhaps the VTSP-3A should be next...I see that you are using a Modwright for
Without a doubt, the TFK ECC83 is one of the truly great tubes of audio. It transformed my vintage Quicksilver preamplifier, too. I have four of them in my stash since the 1970s. I use one each in the phono and linestages. (The Q uses one half of each dual triode per channel, for stereo.) You guys have me just about convinced that I need to try a VTPH2. The circuit and the construction look like nothing special, but this may be a case where the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. (Actually, the Quicksilver full function preamplifier that I am using in my second system also fits that description.)
I'm not at all active in these forums, but it's miserably hot outside and I stumbled onto this. I have owned a VTPH-2 for nine years and am very happy with it. Keith is great to work with. My configuration may be of some use. I use Keith's interconnect, phono to pre-amp. Current tube configuration: 4 Mullard 12ax7's, JJ 12at7 all new, not NOS or vintage. The Mullards are the warmest of anything I've tried, and I've tried EI's Ruby's and others. That being said, the Mullards are not soft or syrupy, just a good match for the rest of my system. The JJ 12at7 is a great value for the money. I've tried fancy NOS Mullards and a cryo Gold Lion in the 12at7 slot and always go back to the JJ. Most notable is it's bass reproduction. Much tighter. My VTPH-2 sits on three original Stillpoints, two with points down, one with points up. The last tweak I've made, and one that really stabilized the presentation was a rack mod. I have a VPI rack, sand filled. The phono stage sat on a 1" thick maple shelf that rested on the second rack, held down by gravity with two VPI bricks resting on the shelf. Seemed less than state of the art given all the attention racks are getting these days. So, I cut eight slots in the shelf and looped metal hose clamps through them, looping them them around the racks front to back struts. I put a strip of fo.Q tape between the shelf and the rack bars and then tightened down the hose clamps, hard, squeezing the shelf down onto the rack/fo.Q tape. Imaging went from acceptable to nearly rock solid. That was confirmed when I had some guys over to play pool, which I do about once a month. I had to run them out at 2:00 AM, they were still making requests. That had never happened before. Cartridge/tonearm/TT Lyra Delos, ET II ,VPI TNT jr. Oh yeah, I use Herbie's tube dampers too.
Great post! Have you heard of roller bearings (or perhaps Geoffrey’s springs)? They’re good under tube phono stages---isolation from micro-vibrations. Townshend’s Seismic Pod Isolators too, but they’re a little over-priced imo. Not in terms of cost-effectiveness, but in terms of cost-to-manufacture (it’s just a spring in a rubber sleeve, for God’s sake) to price ratio.
I've heard nothing better than the Herron and the et2 and Delos are a wicked combo as well. I have those on a tnt. The odd time that bit of sweetness on the Delos annoys me a touch tho. I think the cart is the weak link there.
It's just my nature to want to understand "why". I am well aware that this unit has its diehard devotees, and I do respect the love affair. But can anyone communicate why technically this unit should be so exceptional? There are oodles of phono stages that use 12AX7s and 12AT7s, and many of them are excellent indeed, but why would the Herron be so special? The power supply is on-board, which has its pluses and minuses, and does not look to be superior to most in its topology. (Is it choke-loaded, for example?) Inquiring minds, especially those who might purchase the product, want to know. The Herron website, apart from affording some photos, is not very informative on circuit design, parts used, etc. Thanks, and please don't take this as a negative.
I myself don't know Lew, but I do know he worked on it for years, trying different RIAA circuits and gain topologies, before calling it "finished" and offering it for sale. If he has some spare time, I'll bet he wouldn't mind telling you all about it in a phone call. But don't quote me!
As someone who is also desirous of having an understanding of the "why" of things, I believe I can identify precisely the technical factor that is responsible for the excellence of the VTPH-2, that sets it apart from the competition: It was designed and developed by Keith Herron :-)
As I and others have said here many times in the past, what usually
matters most is how well a chosen design approach is implemented, and
not which approach is chosen. And when it comes to good implementation, the devil is in the details.
As a matter of fact, Al, if YOU like the thing, that alone raises it up in my estimation. And I quite agree with you; I tend to buy the designer rather than the product, so long as the product passes my own personal smell test. If you so respect Keith Herron, then that is a point on the positive side of the tally sheet.
A case in point is my vintage Quicksilver full function preamplifier. I bought it originally because of reasonable cost as a used item, and a long standing "positive" vote of end users. But at the time, I just wanted something to allow me to start to listen to my Beveridge 2SW speakers, in a second system where I wanted to keep costs down. Mike Saunders seems to be a lot like Keith Herron in his open-ness and willingness to help his customers, even those using a product he made and sold 30 years ago. So Mike sent me a schematic of both the PS and the audio circuit. There are some things about the audio circuit, particularly the line stage section that would not fly today; he used NFB, for one thing. But this does result in a very low output impedance that actually is helpful because I am driving a solid stage electronic crossover which feeds a woofer amplifier AND the Beveridge amplifiers, which have a solid state input stage preceded by a high pass filter, in parallel. After falling in love with the Bevs, I decided they merited a "better" preamplifier and took the Q out of service to be used as a spare. I was even going to sell it. But for fun I replaced the RIAA capacitors with Russian SSG silver mica types and the output coupling capacitors with really good polystyrenes that I had lying around. This made a huge improvement. So did Telefunkens, and finally, once I saw where this was going, so did Vcap CuTfs as couplers between the two stages of the linestage. I also replaced a few electrolytics that were showing their age, but I decided not to touch the basic topology, even though I was tempted to remove the NFB loop, on the premise that Mike Saunders knows what he is doing better than I do. All of this made for great sound, superior to either of two preamplifiers that were purchased to supplant the Q.