I need help and phonostage suggestions

To my fellow Audiogon members:
I need some help. I need some members to give me some suggestions on possible phonostages to consider auditioning or purchasing. I am selling an Acurus P-10 (and I have no idea why other than the "change things bug" got me)and I have no idea what to get. I am running a Linn LP-12 with a Benz Ace (medium) cartridge. The Linn has an Ittok arm. Amplification is a pair of Lumley Signature tubed monos (150WPC/4 ohms)and the preamp is a C-J Premier 16. Speakers are Peachtree D5 (great little speakers!)and cables/wire is AP Solo Crystal or some Morrow cables as well.
So, what say you all? Budget is about $1500 or so but I will stretch up some.
Thank you. Also, I am not fussy - tubes or solid state phonos are fine.
Parasound JC-3
Manley Chinook
Linn Linto
DUDE! iwould buy the new one before sellignthe old one. What if you later decide the one you HAD was really the best one after all?
I would add the Fosgate Signature to the list (used or demo)
You really should check this one out

Liberty B2B-1

I do make them :-)

Mofi - Im sure you did not mention it because you were sure I'd plug it my self :-)

Good Listening

I didn't want to take that pleasure away from you. Every forum topic about phono stages you always chime in, so I'm trying to play by the rules :-)
C'mon pbnaudio. Your gear is reviewed well. But your chiming in on every thread asking for a phono preamp rec is tiring.

What I don't see is your customers chiming in to recommend these phono preamps of yours or offering us useful descriptions or comparisons of their sound.

True it isn't easy to promote an audio product, but I think you need to find a way that works better than lurking on Audiogon for any thread like this.
And as for a productive rec, I highly recommend the Avid Pulsus. Really a great improvement over the SimAudio Moon 5.3LP that it replaced. Especially noticeable in the bass (more defined) and the highs (less bright and fatiguing, though not rolled off).

And perhaps my best advice is to audition before you buy or to buy from somewhere with a good return policy.

If you don't have an Avid dealer locally, Music Direct sells them and they have a great return policy.

That is one thing I will give pbnaudio. There is a 14 day return option. Also props to the Liberty for using FETs, while I am handing out praise. Though pbnaudio then gets points deducted for his "Accolades" section of his website making it seem that the praise was coming from 2 people, when in fact the quotes are from the same person (the reviewer is named and then a quote is given from the reviewer's online forum moniker). But hey sound is what matters, and it is a reviewer whose opinions i quite trust.
Peter: I would be more than happy to provide an experienced, vinylophile listener experience review of your phono stage if you can provide me with a sample unit for a two month period. The phono stages I have owned ans used in the past include Krell KPE reference, Audio Research 7, Mobile Fidelity x-Cans, Parasound p-100, Musical Surroundings Phenomina One, EAR 834p, Aesthetix Rhea and most recently Manley Chinook.
Let me know if you are interested and I will evaluate and provide a review appropriate for our Audiogon readers.
I think the Linto is excellent and a great value on the used market - If you can find one. Seems that people sell tons of LP12s, but very few Lintos.

Thanks for the offer, you are on shoot me an email and we can arrange to get you one of the Liberty B2B-1 for evaluation.

Roscoe, I'm not asking our customers for reviews and directing them to go post on my behalf, that in my view would be much more shady - with my post you know where it's coming form and can take it as you wish. As I have written before I'm extremely proud of this little thing.

Audiophiles always are asking for affordable high quality components, while realizing that affordable is relative, the Liberty line is an attempt at supplying affordable high quality Audio. There will be a Power amp offered soon 110WPC bridgeable into 350WPC followed by a Line amp then a speaker. The power amp is actually in production as soon as we have ample supply it will go up on the website.

I have two of them shipping to review this week.

As Always

Good Listening

I would like to respond to Pbnaudio. With all respect I tried to gain info on your website in response to someone looking for a $ 1500.00 phono preamp, not my self . All I can say is it doesn't look like you sell $ 1500.00 phono preamps and if you did this to me I would really be pissed, like I am at the lady that phones me every two weeks to save me interest on my credit card, I pay it off every month. You had my sympathy until I couldn't find any info on your preamps, let alone a price. I am sure you are a good person, please consider a little advice.. Have some one redo your website, tell what it is you sell and what it will cost , after all you'll have to tell sometime. My best to you, David
Again addressing Pbnaudio , the website I am addressing is Pbnaudio which I would assume to be your site , as the item you are using as advertising is from 2011 and an item reviewed not a commercialy paid for add, sincerly David , and did I not see a new audiogoner jumped on because he said I.d like to buy a Pioneer *** model in these very pages, oh yes I did, but I still wish you luck David.
Have you considered a used Herron VTSP-1a? IMO, as good as it gets in your budget.

You must be looking at the PBN Audio Website which like all other manufactures websites do not have pricing on it. This is because pricing is different in the many countries we sell to, however, access to the websites are universal. Our international distributors have to cover freight cost import duties etc that our domestic dealers do not. Therefore our product is more expensive overseas and it is hard for our international customers to comprehend/accept this. Pricing on the products are displayed on our dealers and distributors website.

Now to answer you question directly, all our direct to the consumer product sales are from our Liberty Audio Division which have a different product lineup and pricing structure allowing for the very favorable pricing.

Liberty Audio

Hope this clarifies your concerns - pricing is right on the front page $1749 along with information how to place your order etc.

Stevecham I got your message Ill ship one out to you this week let us all know how it works for you.

Good Listening

Zkidd, I have noticed the good feedback on you question has stopped flowing in , my appoligies if my coments have effected this. My intensions were not to harm you, but to promote more unbiased reccomendations for you and others, again I am terriably sorry for my rudeness David.

Your Liberty B2B-1 is on its way


Hey Peter how about a phono pre tour ?
Stevecham- How did your audition of the Liberty B2B-1 go ?
I posted the review in the Reviews section for a few days but here it is again:

Liberty Audio B2B-1 Phono Preamp

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Peter Noerbaek, Liberty Audio nor PBN Audio in any way and Peter and I have spoken by phone only once.

Some members of Audiogon that have followed various equipment threads I’ve contributed to through the years will know that, occasionally, I speak as a proponent of component evaluations that are optimally performed in the context of a system, and not in isolation. Isolated components, on their own, don’t have the ability to reproduce music; even headphones plugged into a CD player is a system of at least two separate components. OK, one can always argue that a boom box is a system. So be it. But this idea is nothing new, and perhaps I am a “disciple” of the many talented HiFi/Stereo professor-designer-implementers of yore, but I raise the issue to simply underscore that, in my personal experience, I have found that some components can thrive and excite in certain system contexts, while in others, the results may be mediocre or uninspiring at best. So, if you will, hold that thought while I try to set some of the additional “stage props” for this review of Peter Noerbaek’s fine Liberty Audio B2B-1 Phono Preamp (B2B) that I have spent the last month listening to and evaluating in the context of both solid state and tubed systems, as I will describe below.

Another element I’d like to recall for this review is the term Stereo, which from the Greek, means “a solid body or figure” or “three dimensions.” So bear with me on this last point in concert with the idea of “system context” because, as I’ve listened carefully to the B2B using a wide variety of original, well cared for, and new, vinyl pressings, I’ve tried to focus on those sonic elements that bring about a “solid aural view” of the music, and what characteristics of the coherence of soundstage, ambience, dynamics and frequency response that bring forth a pleasurable and immersive “forget-the-components and system” listening experience.

Because it would be too easy to simply compare the B2B to phono stages I’ve owned in the past (Krell KPE Reference, Aesthetix Rhea, EAR 834P, Parasound PP-1, Bryston BP25 phono section) or auditioned in my systems (Audio Research PH5, Musical Fidelity X-LP, Parasound JC-3), or to my current “reference” Manley Chinook phono pre, I have tried to evaluate the B2B simply on its own merits-in-system, as well as the comparative swapping in and out with the Chinook, in both systems, both by myself and with audio (vinyloholic!) friends, whose ears and listening abilities I trust.

I noticed that over the past year or so, in some Audiogon threads, discussing the merits or attributes of various phono preamps, and members helping one another with ideas about which might be a good phono pre candidate for a fellow enthusiast, Peter would once in a while jump in with a recommendation about his Liberty phono pre. One fellow member recently asked appropriately, “has anyone actually heard this?”, which, on a spur of the moment, prompted me to write to Peter and ask for a loaner that I would be happy to evaluate and write a review about for Audiogon. Peter was kind enough to reply and take me up on the offer and he shipped a new unit to me a week later; below are my thoughts about this component, auditioned in the comfort of my home, with both solid state and tubed systems.

About twelve years ago I started building piece by piece what has become my current solid state system: VPI Aries2/JMW 10.5 arm/Lyra Helikon and Delos cartridges, Krell KCT preamp/400cx amp, and Thiel CS6 speakers. Originally, I had Krell’s KPE Reference phono pre in the system as well, and after a few years of enjoying that phono stage and learning the ins and outs of various loading settings on different moving coil cartridges, felt that perhaps a tubed stage would be best to soften the sometimes “minor midrange glare” or “shoutiness” I would sometimes hear on a few not-so-well-produced-but-music-I-like recordings. So, for the next eight years, it would only tubed stages I would consider and enjoy in this system, all the while the Krells and Thiels continued to break in, and the occasional “shout” problem was pretty much gone whether by the tubes, the components settling, ot a combination of both. My second system began with a small inexperienced interest in tubes for a modest “bedroom system” a few years ago that has now “grown” into a full blown, second system for another listening area. This is a Manley tube based system with VPI Traveler/Lyra Delos, Chinook phono pre, Jumbo Shrimp preamp and Snapper monoblocks driving Thiel CS2.4s.

Unpacking and installing the B2B was a pleasure; it is very well built and is substantially heavier than the Chinook given the extra iron in the form of not one but two power transformers, one for each channel. You can read the description, features and specs of the circuitry in Peter’s white paper and Liberty Audio website; suffice it to say the unit is very well constructed, and though I did not pull off the main cover, I did pull the small panel on top to verify the proper MC and load settings via the B2B’s jumper options; the build and component quality are top notch and it certainly looks like every effort was made to produce a robust and long lasting preamp. Peter explained his use of Toshiba JFETs, which as I recall, were what John Curl used in his famous phono stage long ago. The results are well worth listening to and sharing.

I have always been a fan of rock, jazz and classical and the albums I used for this audition ranged from Steely Dan’s “Babylon Sister“ from Gaucho, Jeff Beck Group’s 1972 “I’m Goin’ Down,” Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” from his “Best Of” compilation, Count Basie’s “Chairman of the Board“ on the reissue Classic Records, Dream Theatre’s “A Dramatic Turn of Events,” Dead Can Dance’ “Anastasis” and my clean, original copy of the Pixies’ “Doolittle” that I bought in Boston the day it came out in 1989.

My preference in listening is to hear music that is reproduced in a coherent and believable soundstage. If a system quickly makes me forget I am listening-to-a-system, then I am happy. I enjoy hearing an even frequency response with excellent dynamics and phase coherence, but also, those low level ambient details that make the music “believably played by people,” i.e., the feeling that people are standing in front of me actually playing music in four dimensions; three of space and one of time. I should know how this sounds; I am also a musician/composer/producer (guitar, bass, keyboards) and have played and recorded in bands professionally.

Right out of the gate, the B2B excels in very low level ambient retrieval due to its extremely low noise floor. I can confidently state that it is, by far, the quietest phono preamp I have ever had in my systems and with the Krell/Thiel set up in particular, this greatly contributed to a room-disappearing hall-like surround sound that had superb height and width of stage. An analog phono preamp can’t synthesize information that isn’t already there, but it could phase cancel ambient information with added noise. The low level information that is revealed by the B2B with its excellent signal to noise, along with a soundstage coherence that never lets chaotic or heavily congested tracks like the Pixies’ “Crackity Jones” or Dream Theatre’s “Breaking All Illusions” get away in a smear, lets all the musical detail remain intact, across the audible frequency range and in a proper spacial context, with a pleasant tunefulness that attests to its superb design and execution. At first I thought the midrange was somewhat reticent when compared to the Chinook, but upon further comparison and confirmation by my audio buds, these are really two different flavors of the mids. With the B2B, the midrange, which is often the hardest part of the range to reproduce accurately, falls into its own space within the greater whole, and beckons deeper attention to detail. It never shouts out inappropriately, and even the blatty, strident trumpet on Count Basie held its own timbre evenly and full bodied. Leading edges of vocals and piano, two of the most difficult instruments to reproduce well, sounded very natural; the overall mids reproduced by the B2B drew my ears toward the whole musical event without any highlighted “pinpointing” of any particular detail. This is not to say the B2B is without great dynamics; on the contrary, it punches as well as any phono stage I have had previously in my system, and begs one to crank the volume. It is just so easy on the ears in the midrange that at first I wondered if it suffered dynamically compared to the Manley (or any other phono pre I have listened to). It doesn’t.

Highs seem a little “relaxed” relative to the Manley, but to test this, when listening to the tinkly chimes on “Babylon Sister” right after the line, “…here come those Santa Ana winds again…” and then the musical phrase ends a couple of measures later with these low-level percussives, one can hear this detail equally as well with either stage. Heavy cymbal work from Count Basie, with brushes and snare, are all naturally reproduced and kick drum on every album I threw at it was tuneful, full and punched the air such that I felt the power and air movement. The attack of drumsticks on heads and the beater on the kick was also well enveloped, with appropriate attack, sustain, decay and release. Bass extension and texture on the synthesized Anastasis shook my room and the bass pedals from Dream Theatre compelled me to utter a few “wows.”

If there were any characterstics that the Chinook may have “bested” the B2B, it was in the area of the bass. The Manley provides a highly textured quality to bass notes that were somewhat smoothed out by the B2B, even though both preamps delivered a true bass note, no matter how low. There were times, especially on the Count Basie recording, where I preferred the attack of the plucked string on the Manley; it seemed a bit quicker and the transient sounded more a part of the note immediately in the aftermath of the event, with the texture bloom more of a coherent part of the pluck. Don’t get me wrong, the B2B did fine job of this as well, perhaps 90% of it, it just that the tubed phono pre seemed to have a hold on that one particular aspect over the solid state preamp. In the area of quickness, the B2B outpaced the Manley, but transistors should slew more quickly than thermionic devices.

Evenness of coherence of soundstage, extremely high signal to noise and detail are the strengths of this pre amp; some inter-track sections on very quiet vinyl were so low in noise that it was scarily like CD and I often noted that. Let me say it again, this phono pre is QUIET. The Manley has some low level tube hum, this is normal for such a design, albeit it is one of the quietest of tubed phono stages I have owned.

In the all tube system, the B2B didn’t perform as well and it could very well be that the design factor by the highly talented Mitch Margolis, who designed several of Manley’s home audio circuits, allows the Chinook, Jumbo Shrimp and Snappers to all work together in an impedance- coupled and optimized configuration. The B2B sounded good in this system, but it lacked the warmth and musical magic and coherence afforded by the Chinook in this context. With only tubes powering the analog playback, one quickly forgets they are listening to a system, a point that was suggested by my audio buddies. With the B2B in place, one “gets there” eventually, but the arrival at that “no system in place” is not as immediate as with the all Manley set up. With the tubes downstream, the dynamics seemed a little less forthcoming, especially in the midrange, and several comments about this made it worth mentioning. In the solid state system this midrange reticence was not noticeable; instead the smoothness and evenness of detail that caused ears to relax and take all the music in, no matter the volume level, was greatly appreciated.

In the end, this is a superb phono preamp that is extremely quiet (I said it again) and musical, with top to bottom coherence and an enveloping wide and deep soundstage, all of which I believe is the result of excellent low level information retrieval afforded by outstanding signal-to-noise and separation specifications. Regardless of its price ($1749 direct) it should be highly competitive with any phono pre in the $2000 to $3000 range, which is highly populated with some of the most popular offerings out there. To all those Audiogon enthusiasts that want to know if this phono preamp is any good, I wholeheartedly say, heck yeah!, So how much did I like it? It’s not going back; enough to purchase the unit Peter sent to me and it has found a home in my Krell/Thiel system. My audio buds also agree with me this is the way to go. Perhaps it’s the way solid state components work with each other from an integration or output/input impedance optimal-matching point of view, whatever the case, I know it sounds better than any phono preamp I’ve had in that system before, and I spent the day today listening again and again as I was putting the final touches to this review to try and find any more shortcomings of this fine phono preamp. So far, I can’t, and it sounds better the more it breaks in, going on a month now of almost daily listening. If anyone has questions please do not hesitate to write to me.

Do yourself, and your ears, a huge favor and check this phono stage out; I’d be interested to hear from other owners. Especially with solid state systems, those Toshiba JFETs are electronic works of art in a state-of-the-art-affordable-price-point configuration (ah all these noun trains you say!).

I am confident the B2B will bring a smile to your face and an “ahhhhh” to your lips, as it has already done to mine and my audio friends many times. And you will find yourself turning up the volume to hear a bit more of just what this outstanding phono preamp delivers.

Steve Chamberlain
April 2013

Associated gear
VPI Aries and Traveler turntables
Lyra Helikon and Delos cartridges
Krell/Manley electronics
Thiel speakers
Mapleshade, Audioquest and Harmonic Technologies interconnects and speaker cables

Similar products
Manley Chinook
Aesthetix Rhea
EAR 834P
Krell KPE reference
A quick follow up; listening to Radiohead's King of Limbs last night, the surround sound effect that the B2B provides, which I had not heard before, is simply amazing for a two channel set up. This must be due to phase coherent and low level detail retrieval. It was like hearing that album for the first time.
Thanks Stevecham, I did read that. Quite a review, glad you are enjoying it!
You may find a used Coda CP for under 3k.

Please elaborate


I have a pair of B2B-1. Each B2B-1 unit is for MONO operation to turn it into a fully differential amplification device . I could not be happier. I really have nothing to compare it to as it was a single operation at first and then I purchased another one. I also have PBN classic turntable. The turntable is simply beautiful.
Listen to rock music
My system consists
Krell Kct
Krell Kps 28 cast
Krell mono amps 450MCX cast
PBN Classic turntable vahalla balanced to B2b-1's
B2B-1 pair vahalla to kct
B&W 803 not diamond
Triton / Typhon
I would benefit from a speaker up grade But am very happy
with the set up.
I have to chime in. I am personally using the B2B Liberty in my home system. I have used a LOT of phono stages. I build Step up transformers and don't usually write in because I play by the rules. Anyway, in recent times I had used a GCPH heavily modified (Cullen) until I replaced it with a Krell KPE that sounded better, then I replaced it with a Jasmine that blew away the Krell. I still own 2 of the Jasmine's that I use for demos at audio shows. The Liberty B2B to me sounds considerably better than the Krell and I can't imagine any other phono stage sounding much better at any price. Build quality is excellent. I can't vouch for the MC section since I use Step ups.
RadFrad and Bob,

Thanks for the nice comments on the little Liberty B2B-1 I'm Very pleased that you both like it so much.

Good Listening

Bob, to be fair, I don't think "can't imagine any other phono stage sounding much better at any price" is relevant unless you've listened to the Manley Steelheads and the ASR Basis and up to things like the Allnic 3000 or Aesthetix Lo to name a few that I've heard extensively. I've heard the Liberty at a friends and it's a great sounding unit at that price point but it doesn't provide as satisfying listening experience in my opinion as some of the higher priced tube units like the ones above and the K&K Maxxed out or the Allnic 1200 or the Herrons which are sort of in the mid high priced range of $3-4k. You get a lot for your extra money above $2500. I'm not knocking the Liberty at all but trying to keep things in perspective.
Granted, I have not heard all those phono stages in my system to be able to compare them. Again, I am speaking only from the MM stage perspective. In audio, there is alway something better, and if I hear it, I will likely buy it.

Does you system allow for a balanced hookup of the phono preamp ?

Good Listening

That's a good point, Bob, about using only the MM side of these. I have one of your step-ups and it's fantastic. Makes my Hagerman Coronet really play out of it's league.
Gosh Peter, I think you're great.

Thanks Bob, I think you're great, too.


Why the cynicism? Take a load off, listen to some tunes.