The consensus here seems to be that the Herron is the best.
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What “consensus”? How many Herron fans have also heard the Chinook in their home systems? Not many, I’d guess.In my opinion, these are two very fine phono stages, and you would have to audition them both and make your own choice. There is no clear evidence for a separation in their performance. Or you can decide based on the features (gain, number of inputs, tube complement, etc) that one offers versus the other.
I owned a Chinook but ended up selling as I replaced it with the Musical Surrounding Nova 3 which in my system bested it quite handily.
However I think a lot of it was the ability to run 100k loading which opened up everything.
I gather the Herron has wide open loading option so that may actually have the edge but I have not tried one.
All you can Garner are opinions as you will ultimately need to try them in your system as what I get may well react totally different in your system .
Good luck diving deep into this rabbit hole!
I have had both...preferred Herron ran wide open. Both are very good phono’s. But it is all about preferences. I am currently using a SUT into my Audio Tekne preamp with built in phono. I would pass on the VPI but I am biased to the Garrard 301 and Thorens TD-124 tables. 3k would buy me a Technics SL-1200g but I am also a fan of detachable Headshells as well....if you go with the VPI try and secure one with the 3D arm. I can speak to VPI as I owned a Prime Signature and kept it a short time as it just wasn’t for me.
Good Luck in your search:)
If you really want to get a one and done phono pre then you might want to try the Whest Audio line, I have had a Whest audio Three Signature and you cannot really compare the sound quality until you can demo or listen to one of their products.Once you here what they can do for your TT you will not go anywhere else. Phonostage | Phono Pre-Amp - from Whest Audio
I won't be much help, as I haven't tried both. I had both on my short list when looking for a tube phono pre to join with my RP10/Aphelion, but after a call to Keith I decided on the VTPH2A. I've never experienced such personal customer service, and he really does care about us audio nuts. The special edition Chinook that Upscale offers looks darn nice as well. Another to add to the list would be a used Allnic or Zestos to further the choices.
They are all excellent.
Haven’t compared but another Herron fan here. Also, if you are thinking turntable check out the new Sempersonus TE-2. Just ordered mine after selling my VPI. If you are at all interested in a modern idler/type drive TT that will take any arm up to 12” and is super well engineered but traditional in appearance the TE-2 may be the ticket. I’ll be running a 12” TW Raven arm and Charisma Signature One cart but you can go with a nice Origin Live Silver (there is one for sale here for $400) and pop you MIMC star on that for a sweet setup that is well within your budget.