How much difference does a phono stage make?

I am using a NAD PP2 phono stage right now and I am interested in upgrading. I am really interested in the Audio Research PH3. It can be found for around 700-750 used. How much difference can I expect? 700-750 worth?

Table- VPI Scout

Cartridge- Benz Micro ACE 2.5mv

Going from a NAD to a really nice unit should be very worthwhile... I have a Benz Ref. Silver going into a Benz Lukascheck phono pre unit and it sounds wonderful.. your Benz is high output it looks like so you will have to find a phono unit to work with that... and you might be able to do better than the Audio Research ph3 which I think is their lowest end unit (?)
From an NAD PP2 to an ARC PH3?!...I think you'll notice a huge difference. I had an Acurus P10 with my ACE HO which I thought was really good if not awesome, until I traded it in with my current Conrad Johnson EV-1... I was and I'm still blown away by the difference. BTW, not that it should mean anything but, Michael Fremer of Stereophile gave the C-J EV-1 a class A rating while the ARC PH-3 -I believe got class B. And BTW again, if you haven't already, I still think you should research the Primare R20 -it's in you're budget -new!
PLENTY! Go for it and you will be amazed. IMHO, the difference can be more obvious than any other change in a system. Cheers.
For analog Playback the Phonostage is THE Key component. No other unit can win or decrease the signal more.
Based on that, I always spent the most money for that. Even when going back to
my beginning when I started, I had a top Phonostage even with cheap turntables
(for example, even when using a RB 300 and a 250$ cartridge, I had a Phonostage from Jeff Rowland)
Most do the other way, expensive Analog rigs with inferior and overpriced Phonostages....
The phono stage is the weak link in most analogue chains. Get the best you can stretch to afford.
Agree with all the above.

I've owned $150 cartridges and $5,000 cartridges. I also own an $1,800 preamp and a $12,000 one. Like Syntax, if I had to pair the lesser of one with the greater of the other - and could only keep one combo - I'd keep the good preamp + a cheap cartridge, not the cheap preamp + a good cartridge.

The same is true of turntables and tonearms vs. cartridges. If I had to choose between my $1K rig + a $5K cartridge or my $11K rig + a $150 cartridge, I'd choose the latter every time. $150 cartridges play better than you'd think possible on a good rig. $5K cartridges on a cheap rig just reveal its flaws and shortcomings.

In general, the expenditure or upgrade order should be:
1. phono stage
2. turntable
3. tonearm
4. cartridge

In your case, your next upgrade after the phono stage should be speed control for the Scout, which will also make a nice improvement.
The PH-3 is a very good phono preamp. It is an older model(not the lowest end model) It was at one point ARC's top of the line model.(model years 1995-1998) You will notice a significant difference in performance from what you have now!
For those who don't know, the line of progression of ARC phono preamps: PH-1 and the Reference models: Reference 1
PH-2 Reference model 2
Totally agree w all posters above.
Look for the PH3SE, it is worth the $150 more difference. I had the PH3 and then the PH3SE. Plenty of difference. Great value. The 5 and 7 are also good but not good values.
the difference will be night and day, entirely worthwhile. However, it may reveal the limitations of other parts of the chain that you were not aware of.
Thanks guys for your feedback. Would I have to change a resistor inside to give me the correct gain for my Micro 2.5mv? What gain would I need, or is this something you have to just try out and experiment with?
The PH3 has a FIXED gain of 54db, you can't change it. You can change both input impedance and input capacitance by changing the resistor and capacitor inside.

Your cartridge at 2.5mv, will work fine with the 54db of gain of the PH3.
Everything above makes good sense. What does your Scout sit on? When I had my Scout I definitely noticed performance differences depending upon the table/stand. I like the 4" solid maple platforms from MapleShade.
Interesting thread.

Phono amps are a bit of a mystery tp me. But I found Dougdeacon post very helpfull. Now I'm using me intergrated amplifiers phono stage. But sometimes I wonder wether it would be a good idea to buy a seperate phono amp. However with my current financial state a nice phono amp is out of the question.
I'm slowly clawing my way back into Vinyl LP's after 30 years having received a well preserved collection of albums from an estate sale. Now my collection is about six or seven feet wide (most discs are in pristine condition).

My original "plan" was to transcribe the Vinyl LP's (via PC) to CompactDisc's through an external Edirol/Roland USB soundcard at high sample rates for "archiving" onto hard drives and possible audio CD creation. I did some research and bought a Bellari VP130 phono amp which I tube rolled with a Tesla 12AX7 TE-ECC803S and hooked everything together using a five year old Gemini SA6000 "DJ" turntable (yikes!) with a Boston Audio Mat1 and a record weight with the carefully protractor aligned and balanced stock Audio Technica AT92E cart.

I plugged a set of (exremely modest)Sony MDR-V6 cans into the little Bellari phono stage and was actually quite impressed at the sound of several of the cleaner LP's that I dusted off with a moistened 25 year old Parastatik "Disc Preener" (a foam backed velvet cleaner tool).

I sat about thinking that dumping the output of good vinyl through a mediocre turntable into a computer that is only designed to create a 44.1Khz digital reproduction of audio that's being "cut off at the knees" by the very technology that lead mankind away from superior analogue, I figured I was quickly headed down the wrong path.

In a few weeks I bought a contemprary European belt drive turn table (not Thorens) with all the design upgrades to minimize vibration issues and a decent cartridge. The next logical step in my mind would be a tube integrated amp to replace the Sony home theatre receiver, though this brings me to the next question: will I experience a dramatic improvement in the subjective characteristics of the sound of vinyl LP playback if I replace the Bellari phono stage with another "high-end" phono stage?

I've already actually experienced the benefit of hearing a big improvement in the sound of vinyl LP playback by using the Bellari phono stage through my amp's "aux" input(instead of simply using my Sony solid state receiver's "phono" input connection), the graphite turntable mat and the record weight. But I guess I'm asking where the "cieling" is in the quest for better audio as it relates to improving the output of the MM cartridge by using a phono stage with perhaps more capability than the Bellari VP130 model?

Thanx in advance. (audio neophyte)
Frankleech-you were wise to pull in the reins on the lp 'archive' project while still using low-res digital storage. Copying LPs is a lot of work, and you really only want to do it once. Saying that, unless you have a really compelling reason to do this, you could take the simple, yet completely satisfying route-just play, and enjoy, the actual vinyl as needed. With decent care, they'll last forever.

As far as a PS upgrade, any move up must be considered along with the quality of the entire system, but I'd recommend doing some research, then buying used-you'll be able to do a long term audition of as many different models as you like, with re-selling as your road to little financial stress.
Thanx John,

You are right. I'm an experienced AstroMart-er and have gone thought quite an inventory of amatuer astronomy hardware in the past six years . . .


Frank L.