Musical Surroundings Phonomena I or II, they are both very good (but getthe II if you can) and can be found used.
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I have the Camelot Technologies Lancelot phono preamp that retails for $1,200 or more these days I believe. It's a battery operated, dual mono, passive RIAA, and accommodates both MM and MC cartridges. Fremer loved it when he reviewed it a few years back. I think it's a fantastic value for the money. It killed the Phonomena II in my system when I was auditioning for a new preamp. I just got a new phono preamp and would let you have the Lancelot for more or less what you're looking to spend, if you're interested. Mel Shilling custom configured it for me. Mel is a great guy and stands behind his product.
Nandric, I have an older Jasmine. I don't know if the newer MkII has upgraded capacitors. They may have taken this into account in the latest model. Nevertheless, I had a fellow audio buddy over and he remarked on the fluidity and openness of the sound when we played of couple of his Mercury pressings.
Thanks for the help. Keep the ideas coming.
Has anyone here had any experience with the Blue Circle BC23, especially compared with some of the newer phono stages ?
Actusreus, thanks for the offer. I'll look into your Camelot Technologies Lancelot . I don't know much about it.
Tbrongard, I've seen reviews on the Musical Surroundings Phonomena I and II and they seem like they'd be a good choice and are on my short list, especially after being recommended by a Gon'r.
Wescoman, I've definetely heard of Clearaudio and will check out some reviews and the forum(s).
Redglobe, thanks, but I'm not a DIY'er and can't see myself ever sitting with a soldering iron in my living room working on a phono stage. I don't have the proper knowledge or skills to be doing that (yeah,I'm jealous).
Nandric, did you order your Jasmine and have it shipped right from China ? Is yours the LP1 or 2? I went on e-bay to check them out, but I'm not sure I want to get something shipped from that far (many reasons). I guess I'll have to weigh out the +/-'s.
Keep the responses coming and someone with the Blue Circle BC23 please chime in.
The BC23 is no longer in production, so it appears you can only get it used. Was that your plan? I don't have any experience with this unit, but I know a super friendly Blue Circle Audio dealer in LA who, I'm sure, would be more than happy to give you feedback. Let me know if you'd like his info.
Also, if you're interested in the Lancelot, I'd be happy to send you a few links with information and reviews.
Kennyman, The Chinese are not such a diligent workers as
we assume. They just came back to work from some strange Holyday whith 4 free days . I made an offer on their price (ebay.uk) and they made an counter offer ($421 + $75 postage). I asked for 2 invoice bills, one of which is meant for the customs. Just transfered $500 in total. They already posted the LP 2, mk II per 'express post'. If you want 100% insusrance you will need to wait as long as I .As soon as I get my I will inform you.BTW I own an professional soldering iron which I never used. So I am still interested in those capacitors ...
Actusreus, Is it that you think local technicians cannot repair the equipment? Or are you suggesting that there might not be local warranty coverage? In the latter instance, are you suggesting that customers avoid purchasing used equipment (because most warranties are not transferable or the warranty has expired)?
Honestly, the Chinese-made Jasmine is recommended for its high value to cost, much like buying high-end used equipment. If the Chinese-made gear were comparably priced to domestic products, I would agree with you. However, that is not the case.
I'm not going to claim categorically that "local technicians" cannot repair equipment, but I personally neither know "local technicians," nor would trust anyone with equipment that is not your typical run-of-the-mill piece of electronics. I understand your point about high value vs. cost, but I'd personally feel too uncomfortable buying directly from another continent without local support. It's the pragmatic pessimist in me...
I assume that everyone who intend to buy a 'new' (other)
phono-pre will do some search before he or she decide.
We are discussing pro and contra about some of those within
a peculiar price range. Nobody can force the other to buy
whatever. BTW the usual warranty on electronic gear is one
year. The usual experience is that those 'break' after
this period of time. While the Chinese also produce rockets
I don't believe that we need some rocket scientist to repair
our phono-pre. I even have the very bold intention to improve
the Jasmine by soldering with my professional
soldering iron two (exotic)capacitors somewhere.
I have to admit I partially agree with Actusreus. I'm not as comfortable ordering something directly from China. I know they've come a long way and the quality is constantly improving, I still don't get that warm fuzzy feeling inside. In the back of my mind I would always have doubts about it's quality and longevity. I have chinese electronics, although automotive related in my store and I can tell you that the "self branded" bargain versions aren't usually in my experience the same quality as the products that are manufactured in China for popular companies where they are manufactured to the higher standards of those North American/European companies. There are exceptions, but as a rule I see it all the time. The cheap off shore (usually Asian) products are lowering our prices but at the the same time they are also lowering the overall quality, durability and reliability of most products. Again I'm not trying to offend anyone and the Chinese high end audio certainly seems to be higher quality that the general rule of thumb.
That said, Redglobe is correct in that I'm sure that there are great repair shops here who could repair or modify these units, but where do you start or for that matter stop. Where does it stop being a bargain? I simply don't have the knowledge of which internal parts need replaced or not.
For me, an average guy that enjoys audio products and mostly the music they produce I delegate that job to the manufacturers and pick the ones I like the sounds of. I don't always get it right and neither do they which makes these forums invaluable.
I wish I had the talent and ability to create these things myself. But I don't, so I can only listen and sometimes ask for the help of others who enjoy the same crazy hobby.
That said, even though I love a bargain I still don't get that warm fuzzy feeling inside about many offshore products.
If I can find a comparable Canadian, US, British or other European product for a little bit more money I generally feel better about it in virtually every respect.
This $450 list unit gives you lots of bang for your buck--low noise, wide bandwidth, speed, natural timbres, micro and macro dynamics, and the flexibility to dial in the ideal load and gain level for your cartridge.
It is also easy and relatively inexpensive to modify at various levels and intensities--tube rolling, upgraded op-amps, and/or upgraded capacitors plus increased enclosure damping and aftermarket footers.
I have NOS 5751 tubes in mine with Herbies tube dampers, situated on a set of Vibrapods, and powered through a Zu BoK power cord. Contemplating upgrading the opamps, which is a plug-in swap.
I've been too happy with it for the past year-and-a-half to want to care about getting around to the opamp swap.
Redglobe, I got the Jasmine Lp- 2 two days ago and used at
present only the MC input. The MC gain is 70 dB so no problem at all for my LOMC with 0,2 mV (Genesis 1000). The phono-pre is well made while the Power supply is not producing any heat so I intend to keep the switch ON for at least one week.
The pre sounds fantastic without any break in. To my mind no contenders for this price.
I understand the reluctance to buy whatever in China direct.
But I had this peculiar experience. My left channel
caused some trouble so I assumed that the cause was the
Jasmine main unit (the power supply was ok). So I wrote to
the manufacturer and got, to my suprise, a new unit within
10 days . No payment whatever was involved. But with the
new unit I had the same problem so I changed the tonearm
to see if the problem was caused elsewhere. This was
the case with my Lustre 801 while no problem at all occured
with my FR-64S. I am very happy with the Jasmine which
I use in my second system . Anyway there is no reason to be
sceptical reg. the warranty by this producer.
I have had my Jasmine for several years. I upgraded the output capacitors with Jantzen Superior z-Caps and I could not be happier. I like value for the dollar and hate to spend for a name.
I have had other audio listeners audition the system and they are stunned at the open and fluid sound that comes from the system.
I don't even give a thought to upgrading.
Hi Redglobe, I inspected the inside of the main unit to see if some L. connection was loose and noticed how thin the internal wires are. Anyway I intend to use (thicker) silver wire for the connectors. For the capacitors I thought about the Mica silver kind. Do you remember what values those Jantzen have? Deed you try some other Caps?
Hi Nandric, You might investigate first before increasing the gauge of wire. The voltage is very small and increasing the size may be detrimental to the performance (think in terms of voltage = water pressure and wire size = water pipe diameter).
The output capacitors are 1 uf. I only tried Superior z-caps. You could try the Silver version or even the Auricaps. Review Humble Hifi's Capacitor test page for rating of a wide range of capacitors. You might find something even better.