How does one choose a phono stage.

Sometime in the future I would like to buy a seperate phono stage. Currently I am using the phono stage of my Symphonic Line La Musica integrated amp. But when I take a look at what is available is just dazzles me. There are some many brands, models and versions etc etc. Even when I limited my budget to say max $1500 there are still dozens of even hundereds I could shoose from. But before we set a budget, how do I even know how high I should make my budget. I mean my old Clearaudio basic isn't better then the build in stage of my Symphonic Line. So I should look for something of better quality, so more expensive. My turntable is a VPI Scout with Lyra Dorian cart. So even if I had the money a $5000 phono pre would be overkill.

So back to the original question, how doe one start to narrow the field. I can listen to some stages but before I need say 5 to 10 stage I would consider. So how do I narrow it down to that number.

When I think of phono stages around $1500 budget I think Nagra BPS, Whest two, Lehmann black cube with PWX, Goldenote Phono 2, Acoustech PH1, EAR 834MC, array PH3 etc etc.

So how do I narrow my search. When buying 2nd hand it become an even bigger problem, since you cannot always try before you buy. Often you have just have to buy and hope it works out.

I realy would like to buy the Nagra BPS, why? Because I like Nagra CD players, not a very sound reason but that is how it is now.

So please help me, what should I do.
I search and search and one stood out:

Jlti Vacuum State phono preamp (Just Listen To it)

I tried both tube and solid state (Jolida, Graham Slee, Belles,Cary, PS Audio (modified), etc.) before I kept the JLTI.

Do an internet search for JLTI Phono from Vacuum State, an Aussie company.

Also there is a used one for sale on Audiogon, but I am not sure about the price.
Audio Research PH-5. Around $1500 used here on Audiogon.
I had the same dilemma, Def get tubes and be careful not to overspend!
I usually stay away from tube phono stages especially when I use only low-output moving coils. Dead quiet phono stages that can take low output moving coils usually don't come cheap. I do love using tube preamp though to mix up with solid state phono.

Based upon my experience, phono stages that have separate power supply from the main chasis usually have better dynamics and headrooms thatn thos that don't. Of course, there are exceptions.

I also like those with lots of loading and gain adjustments to fine tune the sound of a particular cartridge. So far Manley Steelhead is the most user friendly as you can make adjustments on the fly.

Hope this helps. Good luck searching.
For your Dorian I really do recommend a solid state phono. The one I really liked
with my Lyra Argo (i) was the Vacuumstate JLTI and Pass Xono (there is a
disclaimer here somewhere). I preferred both the JLTI and XOno to Aesthetix,
EAR, and Sutherland. The Nagra BPS sounds like an interesting option as well.

The best way is get some used ones at a good price and live with one or two
different stages for a while. Not only does that allow you to optimize each stage
better (optimal loading and settings are very important), but it also helps in
developing your taste and discover what you like and what trade-offs you can
live with.
Thank you all for the information and replies. Someone told be that the Nagra might be to analytical for a Lyra Dorian, since the Dorian is also rather bright/analytical. I have not heard the Nagra myself so I cannot comment ont that.

Tube phono amps can work I think but not in this price range. When I look are EAR all I read is how good it is when they modified it, I'm not looking to modify things.

As I live in the Netherlands most equipment sold on here at Audiogon won't work in the Netherlands wich is a shame since prices here are far more reasonable then in the Netherlands or Europe.

The Manley Steelhead is more then triple my budget, but it is indeed a very nice phono/pre amp.
I am pretty familiar with the Dorian sound --- and SS phono-pre with this cart is a NO, NO.
I heard it with a few, in and above your price range.

I also heard it with a tube (in my son's EAR 864 which has a EAR 834 phono inside, the one you mentioned as being modded a lot). Mind, if it was no good in the first place no one would even bother to mod it, right?

That Dorian sound like a different cart, absolutely great. You may argue that the EAR 864 is also a tube pre-amp to boot. True, but... don't underestimate what a EAR 834 can do with a Dorian. (Dorian a bit on the bright side, the EAR 834 a little bit on the dark side = synergy)
I chucked it out, because it got on my nerves - at my son's place I just want to keep listening to it.
I am new to this and I have recently auditioned many phono sections. I would have to say, a couple of the attributes that I liked would be:
1. Tubed for sure
2. Dual Power supply (heating/power)
3. Dual Mono with independent gain controls
4. Low Noise floor

Additionally you will have to put some thought into loading if you wish to use a low output moving coil design. I have not gotten into this yet but some thought should certainly be devoted to slecting a step up device to match the cartridge.

Lastly, I agree with the Grahm Slee philosophy regarding noise floor. It should no be noisy, but going to crazy on noise floor will end up giving you a system that sounds dead quite when there is no signal hence great, but perhaps not so great when signal starts to pass through and your listening to music.

$1500, well I would say Audio Research PH-5!

I have listened to one see post 1245019180.

I thought the BPS was OK and only OK. I put it down to the 9v battery and very basic electronics. It's not as flexible as the whestTWO. The whestTWO like many others at this price range has at least 3 gain options and 3 load options. Also the BPS is not very dynamic at all! It's also quite noisy if you are using a low output MC. The design is really nice though BUT I don't think that is enough at this price range and just because it says NAGRA on it isn't enough to justify the price. I think there are far better sounding units out there at the price and all are much more flexible.

I've been using the ARC PH3 SE for about 6 or 7 years now. This is my first phonostage. Based on my experience, these would be some of the things that I look for (besides sound quality) in a new phonostage:

1/ Low noise floor
- Typically tube would be noisier than SS, but more natural sounding. And this would also be dependent on the quality of the tubes.
- I've heard the PH7, and it is dead quiet. I believe this has to do with the 6H30 supertube used in this design (vs. the 6922s in my PH3)

2/ Enough gain for low output MC cartridges
- The PH3, like most of tube-based phonostages, does not have enough gain for low output carts.
- I am currently using a Step-Up Transformer(SUT) to compensate for that. And the cartridges I am using have 0.5mV and 0.6mV output. I would not use anything with output lower than that straight into the PH3.

3/ Ability to change cartridge loading on the fly
- For the PH3, you have to solder resistors to change loading. Soldering them was a pain in the rear. I just found out that removing them was even worse.
- On my SUT, you just unscrew some knobs, and place the resistors in between, then screw tight. You can even do it on the fly. Now that's nice. On some of the phonostages, you can do this by pushing buttons.
4/ Multiple inputs
- Nice to have, but not necessary. (If you have multiple arms)