The consensus here seems to be that the Herron is the best.
42 responses Add your response
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.
I have heard numerous phono stages including the 2 on your list and thought the Herron was better. Then I listened to the Zesto Andros Deluxe and was smitten. I highly encourage you to audition this or any of the phono preamps in their line.
Disclaimer: We are a Zesto Dealer located in the Upper Midwest.
Audition_Audio, the Zesto has a very high output impedance compared to the Herron. Zesto: 10k ohms. Herron: 400 ohms (or 500 depending on the tube choice). That may be an issue depending on the input impedance of OP’s preamp. I believe I’ve read you want the ratio to be at least 1:10 (output impedance: input impedance) but correct me if I’m wrong.
What is the Herron solution to switching? I've never seen a Herron product in person. Thanks.
Us end users complain when products do not provide enough optional settings. Then we complain again about switches, when the component offers a high degree of flexibility. It's a cake we would all like to have and also eat at the same time. I feel for the designers.
In other words, the Herron eschews convenient changes of settings and provision for more then one pair of phono inputs in order to avoid use of switches. Yes? That's a valid option. But for those who use more than one turntable or more than one tonearm mounted on a single turntable, it is an inconvenience. If I eat that cake, I don't also have it.
Actually, the Herron uses external male rca plugs each with a specified loading resistance that get inserted into the circuit. The Herron also has a mechanical switch to change from MC to MM. Gain adjustment is done by changing the output/gain tubes. I believe that the previous poster was referring to inexpensive dip switches.
I happen to own both the Manley Chinook SE as well as the Herron VTPH-2A. I picked up the Chinook a couple of years ago from UA and, interestingly enough, at the time they had a lightly used Herron unit for sale for $2,595 which I also considered. After speaking with Kevin, I ultimately went with the Chinook, which he felt strongly would be a better performer vs. the Herron.
Having lived with the Chinook for some time, I can say that it has many virtues. It’s dead silent, has a very organic presentation and pretty good resolution. It’s not a highly analytical phono preamp but it’s very accurate and I’ve definitely enjoyed my time with it (using it with an SME 10 and Sumiko Palos Santos Presentation cartridge).
Mind you, in direct comparisons with streamed MQA files at 24bits/96kHZ resolution, there were times that I felt the Chinook wasn’t as distinguished in its performance as I would have hoped (I found myself at times preferring the digital file via my Brooklyn Bridge streamer/DAC). Also, I was always curious what I might have missed WRT the Herron. After recently picking up a new VPI for my second system, I ended up purchasing a lightly used VTPH-2A last month, which has allowed me to make direct comparisons with the Chinook in my main (SME-based) system.
In summary and from my vantage point, the Herron is measurably superior to the Chinook in pretty much every way. It’s equally as silent, with the music emerging from a truly black background, but it has a much better soundstage presentation with more layers of dimensionality. It has airier highs without sounding stringent, a more dynamic articulation, more base punch and a spooky dimensionality that the Chinook lacks. I find myself raising my head all the time admiring how the music is being presented on material that I’m totally familiar with - - I seldom found myself having the same reaction with the Chinook, and to me that was the biggest proof point of the Herron’s superiority.
While I know that Keith Herron discourages tube rolling, I also have experimented with some NOS tubes as the prior owner had swapped out the original tubes with a set of Genalex Gold Lion reissues. I’m now running Telefunken 12AX7 Red Tips in the 1st gain stage, Brimar 6060 / CV4024 Yellow-Ts in the 2nd gain stage and a Telefunken ECC801S in the output stage. This tube complement definitely improved much of the above, particularly as it relates to soundstage dimensionality and the spookiness factor. It also improved treble articulation.
In any case, I hope this provides some perspectives on my experience with each phono preamp.
Haven't heard the Chinook, but that description of the Herron, dynamic, punchy, airy without being stringent, spooky layered dimensionality, is spot on. It also nails instrumental tone and timbre so that each instrument sounds so much more its true individual character. For comparison I had a ARC PH3SE for many years that seemed very neutral until the Herron showed it to be downright colored to a degree I never would have imagined.
We just sold a Zesto Audio Andros Deluxe phono stage that replaced a Manley Chinook. This customer said that the Zesto was significantly better in every way. To be far there is a significant difference in retail price. He immediately sold the Chinook after he took delivery of the Deluxe. I hope to be able to compare the Zesto offerings to the Herron in the near future. The Herron is very good.
Corucia, You say the Herron was "measurably" superior to the Chinook. I take your assessment of the two units seriously, because you heard them both in your own system over an extended period of time, but in fact, unless you neglected to report it, you didn't "measure" anything. Best just to say you like the Herron better than the Chinook. Also, beware the provenance of sexy 12AX7/ECC83s that claim to be Telefunken or Mullard or etc. There are probably more fakes than real ones of those available in the marketplace these days, especially the TFK ECC801S's.
I dont know where you get your information from, but fake Telefunkens and Mullards and relatively rare and nearly impossible to fake correctly. I have never known any fakes that can duplicate the Tele "diamond" or the characteristic internal structure of these tubes. Same with the internal structure of Philips Europe tubes as well as the acid etched codes which are present. Differentiating Matsushita 9 pins from Philips Europe is a bit more difficult but still no complicated. A bit of quick research and you can spot fakes from some distance.
lewm, the comment I made re: measurably better was intended to be read as a synonym for significantly, materially, etc. I thought it was clear from my write-up that the only insights I shared were derived from my listening experience and not measurement equipment (and as those of us with tube-based systems will know, analytical measurements aren’t always indicative of sound quality).