Looking for a new phono preamp


Long time lurker, first time poster.

Here's the deal. I'd like to find a new phono preamp. I'd prefer solid state, tubes get noisy too fast. My latest cartridge is an AT-ART9XA. I'm currently running thru a sut into a cj pv10a with phono stage, but I have just got my hands on a Bel Canto pre5 that the new phono pre will be paired with.

I've got a hard upper limit of $2.5k, less is OK for the right unit. I'm looking to buy new. Dealers around me aren't really set up to demo vinyl, so I'm hoping the collective experience in here can at least point me in the right direction. Hopefully, it would have a one month return policy so I can try out the preamp.


The Gold Note PH-10 with the matching PSU-10 power supply is lovely in that budget class.

Industry disclosure: I'm a dealer.
No direct experience, but at that price range I've only heard great things about the Sutherland 20/20 and the PS Audio Stellar.

The Gold Note looks interesting, I like the balanced outputs. Also the sutherland 20/20. I will also have a close look at the PS Audio.

I don’t see many mainstream reviews for the RCM. Also, it’s over my budget, and is essentially a used item with no original box.

Keep em coming :).

The best phono stage for that money is handily the Channel D Lino C 2.0.
It has no competition, none. Unfortunately, you would have to change cartridges. Your AT's impedance is 12 ohms which is too high for a current mode phono stage. It has to be less than 10 ohms, the lower the better. Read about it!  http://www.channld.com/seta/linoC2.html
While I was shopping for my latest speaker acquisition, I heard a Musical Surroundings Nova III phono pre. I was impressed with the overall sound of the system. It might be worth a look.
Whatever you choose pay attention to impedance match between the phono stage and the preamp. Sutherland has high output impedance, I think, so it won't match well with many preamps.
i run an art 9 (among other lomc’s), feel same way as you that i prefer ss phono stage for low noise, drive and linearity, and i put tubes downstream in the chain to get that goodness

for ss phono stages, i have been through 10-12 in my time, my favorites are the ayre p5xe, and the upper lehmann audio units... great great sound for (fairly) reasonable $

tried chord huei, musical surroundings, sutherlands, tom evans, rega, ps audio among others... kept the ayre and lehmann

I would not want to buy a phono stage that severely limits the cartridges I could use with it in the way your suggestion would.  For me, the  Channel D Lino C 2.0 would be a total waste of my time and my money.
Gold Note is very nice, indeed. Flexible with gain and loading impedance settings. PSU is a nice bonus. I like this combo, but I think it’s a bit bass shy. 
I love it when a member says that something is the best with no competition as if they have heard every product available. 

Most humans have a need to justify the money they spend by telling themselves and others that what they got in return was not only the best for them, but for everyone else too.

It,'s a modern version of The Emperor's New Clothes.
The PS Audio Stellar Phono has created lots of buzz lately. You might want to check it out.
Can’t compare to other stuff in the thread but I got the Stellar last year and have been thrilled with it.
With a low output cartridge, solid state phono stages can get noisier than tubes, than hybrids.  It has to do with how the current crop of semiconductors are manufactured.  

Under any circumstances, I would recommend a Herron VTPH-2A.  It is dead quiet.  With a little luck, you could find one used that meet your budget.  I've had one for years without ANY noise from tubes or the SS front end.  
I know you said new, but a used Pass Labs XP15 would be within your budget. I have one and it sounds great and is very quiet. If you do not have easy access to the back, the dip switches can be a bit of a pain. 
Dude if your experience with tubes have been "too noisy too quick" then you REALLY need to ask yourself why they were over biased in the first place. I have designed tube phono preamps that disappear audibly from the signal path. If you are looking for a consumer solid state phono pre....good luck with that. Stick with the conrad johnson that you have and use NOS 12au7 tubes. You will not get that from solid state.
I'd recommend the new Hagerman Trumpet. It has a utilitarian look, but the content is worth gold. Jim improved the sound on the old Trumpet (Stereophile Class A), this is the 3rd generation version, and decreased the price a LOT at the same time. It is a 10K$+ category tube phono with MC step up (solid state) for 1.1K$.
Don't let the meager price tag scare you away. It is a giant step up over the CJ.
Trumpet is a fantastic match for lomc Audio Technica cartridges.

Parasound JC 3 + easy to adjust, very versatile and under 3K in price, many positive reviews.Or you can cut that price in half and go with a JC 3 Jr.I currently have both of these in my systems and also a Parasound ZPhono XRM pre in my 3rd system.
Go for the win and get a new Luxman E-250. No tubes but has that beautiful and detailed sound that will honor your vinyl collection. Luxman just has a way of delivering the goods with no downside. Because of its robust power supply, pops, ticks and basic vinyl noise is diminished significantly. Built like a, well, tank!
PS. It highlights a moving coil demagnetizer called the “articulator”.
It is the best until you get to much more expensive phono stages like the CH or the Channel D L20. Also current mode units. Current mode phono stages are more dynamic and have a gain of about 80 dB. Yes, you have to use a cartridge with a low impedance which happen to be among the best moving coil cartridges out there like the Lyra's, the Air Tights, many Ortofons, My Sonic Labs, Koetsu and so forth. The performance exceeds anything you will get from a normal voltage mode phono stage. You get the dynamics of a good moving magnet cartridge and the sparkle of a moving coil and because a current mode phono stage electrically dampens the cartridge they track even better. Read the reviews and other people's comments. If you do not want the best sound you can get even if you have the money to do so....I find that odd but it is a free country. I do not have a Lino 2.0 but I have my eye on the L20 which stands a good chance of being the best phono stage made. It is certainly the quietest. 
I do not have to listen to all the phone stages mentioned above and I do not care what other people except trusted friends hear. It does not take a genius to now that a modern jet liner is a much better and safer plane than an old DC 4. Occasionally people smarter than I am come up with a better way of doing things. This is one of those instances. 
+1 on the Herron. Ran mine with an ART 9 and it worked out nicely. All Keith’s designs are dead quiet and super reliable.
Vertere Acoustics Phono-1. Versatile and punches way above its weight.
Hardly anyone in North America has heard of Vertere Acoustics.
I would go for a rogue triton two or a parasound jc3 jr or if you can stretch to 3k the parasound jc3+ and you might find a jc3+ for around the 2.5k if you do not mind used or demo models.
I have heard or owned most of these listed.  The Channel D is similar to the BMC phono I owned and the others are correct do not limit yourself on what cartridges your phono preamp can use.  In my opinion there is only 1 listed here to look at and that’s the Herron VTPH 2.  His preamp is super quiet and extremely musical.
Keith is a fantastic audio designer/builder and his customer service is second to none.  You should easily be able to find a used one for under $2500 and if you give Keith a ring he may have a trade or demo piece he can hook you up with.
Good luck with your search....
+1 on the Parasound JC3+, I’ve been using one for almost a year and I really like it. The one negative is that it doesn’t really offer much gain control. Wasn’t really an issue until I got a high output MC cartridge. I’m still trying to decide if it’s going to work well with it. 
Too bad, could of sold you my phenomena 11+ with linear power supply...sold on ebay. It was a great sounding set up. However, I’d have to disagree about tubes becoming noisy too quickly, as we are not talking power tubes, but tiny preamp tubes. They will literally last thousands of hours. To be honest, the Tavish the classic with NOS vintage tubes sounds better than any solid state phono stage I’ve heard in my system. Tubes are the RCA 7025 12ax7, GE 12au7, and a Sylvania disc getter 5751. Using Jensen MC-2RR-L SUT and the Hana EL. Seemingly a very good combo to my ears. Warm, lush, 3d ish, wide Soundstage, tubey magical. Paired with a ss Sugden A21se pure class A and the Tannoys, simply wonderful. For the money your willing to spend, I’d give tubes a go one more time and try a Tavish adagio. Step up transformers (Jensen) built in, everything in one chassis. Tavish gets the tube phono stage right in my opinion.
You can pick up a new Parasound JC 3+ for about $2499 if you look around.  Check the reviews; it seems to be worth it to bypass the Jr and the original JC3 if you're going to spend the extra money.  I haven't seen much about the PS Audio Stellar phono even though it's been out quite a while.  I had the Nuwave phono preamp and wasn't impressed with it.
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I too am new to the forum.  I have been busy assembling my ultimate system.  It all gets delivered next week and I hope that I can report back with my impressions shortly after that.  I have chosen the VTL TP-6.5 II phono pre amp that is slightly used (under 50 hours) that cost me $5,750.00. The main components are the D'Agostino integrated momentum and Sasha DAW's with an Ovation clear audio TT and DCS Bartok DAC.
How do you like your D’Agostino ? Did you compare it to other integrateds or separates before getting it ?

$2.5k new phono stage is tough. I don’t know what I would choose without trying out at least a dozen. I mean, receiving and shipping boxes for a month or two on a regular basis.
You have to listen to them for yourself.
The only phono that I have any experience with so far is the Sim Audio Moon 110lp V2, which is in my system and been doing me well so far over a year.

And so I would recommend the big brother, 310lp.

I have read good reviews.

Never had any issues or noise from my phono and so I would imagine the 310lp would be much better. 
The PS Audio is fantastic.  I owned one.  Moved up recently, but I made a huge leap.  For $2.5k, and I say this after 8 different phonostages in as many years, I think it’s a no-brainer.  They do have the 30 day return policy you mention.  
@mijostyn   Dogmatic as ever.  Now you can choose phono amps without listening.  Worse you advise others on that basis.  No worry, they are sure to see through you.

As to airplanes, lucky you weren't on the two Boeing 737 Maxes that crashed, killing all their passengers.  Modern designs are very complicated and not always clever.  They were brought down by idiot software programmers.  Give me the DC4 with pilots any day if I want to stay alive.  Worse, Boeing would have carried on flying them if governments hadn't stopped them.  No doubt Boeing thought they were better because they were modern.  Ho hum.
+1 Herron 
love love love mine
handle any cartridge
built well
Keith is a gem
Thanks everyone for the responses.  I am looking into all your suggestions. 

As for the life of tubes, I listen to the system roughly 10 hours a day, a bit less on weekends.  My listening room doubles as an office, and I work from home almost exclusively.  This puts over 2000 hours a year on the tubes.  I have not completely ruled out tubes, but I would prefer ss.

One other thing I'd like to add is that I'm getting more interested in finding a unit with balanced outputs. 

Right now, the way my listening room is set up, the turntable is behind one of the Maggies.  I'd like to be able to locate the turntable in another area of the room.  That would involve moving it approximately 15 feet from where it is now.

That also means a cable run of approximately 35 feet (thru the wall, over the ceiling, and down to the equipment rack.  I'm thinking that balanced is the way to go if I decide to make that happen.
If your parameters for a phono preamp are solid state and budget $2500, then I can’t say enough great accolades about Logan “Ron” Sutherland and his designs which at that price point would be the 20/20 with the upgraded separate LPS.  
No bs, no fancy lights or other LED screens (it doesn’t even have a power on/off switch), just great engineering according to the experts and my experience- the quietest phonostage I've ever owned  which is his main focus.  And he is always a phone call away almost 24/7. Btw, he’s the Logan in Martin Logan but that was another life and all he does now is design and build phonostages.  
@clearthinker, nice of you to follow me around. I suppose you need the exercise.
I was at a demonstration Where the Lino C was being compared with the Herron VTPA-2, a tube phonostage $1000 more expensive than the LinoC. The cartridge being used was a Lyra Kleos a medium low impedance cartridge at 5 ohms. It was being used because it was not ultra low (the lower the better) and it is medium priced. It was loaded with 100 ohms. This was not mentioned but I drifted behind the setup and checked out the Herrons load jacks. I do not know what tubes were being used but I suspect whatever is supplied by Herron. The Lino C made it seem like there was something wrong with the Herron. Not kidding.
If I were to recommend a voltage mode phono stage in this price range it would be the Parasound JC3+. John Curl is the master of voltage mode phono stages. This unit would cost $9K if made by any one else. 
As for airplanes you must be pretty young. You don't remember the older planes. They had 10 times as many problems as new planes. I would get in a 737 Max long before I would get in a DC 4. American pilots had no problem managing the Max. It was only foreign pilots that crashed. All they had to do was turn the auto pilot off. This is not an excuse for Boing.
They will pay dearly for this one and should. The FAA should have been notified of the problem. Instead it was covered up. I also said modern jet liners. There are always anecdotes. Nice of you to pick one out. Would you like me to tell you which thread I'm going to next?
i have the ART9XA and it sounds excellent with my Sutherland 20 20.  64db gain, 200 ohms.  
i was previously running a much higher output .5mv mc.  the low output ART9XA .2mv is no sweat for the 20 20 and it's clean transparent dynamic capabilities.  it really proved itself with the XA.  very happy i do not need to think about SUTs and extra cables.  
peace and good luck with your choice.  
In the case of phono preamps, I would definitely at least look into the possibility of tube based ones. That’s not to say there aren’t some great solid state options out there. If you’re looking into a tube based unit, Tavish Designs makes some great sounding well thought out designs, which is why I own one. The owner, Scott Reynolds “holds a PhD in electrical engineering and has more than 25 years of industry experience in design engineering and engineering management, and he has more than 30 US patents.” That’s someone I trust designing and building a phono preamp. I hope that’s of at least some help to you, and good luck on your quest for a new phono pre! ✌️🎶

As for a phono stage recommendation,I would look into the line up from Whest.They are manufactured in the U.K.and only build high quality s.s. phono stages.Since they only concentrate on phonos,all their models are built to a very high standard,are dead quiet,and will probably last you a lifetime.I use the MC Ref V,but all the models,regardless of price,sound wonderful,and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone.I believe the lower priced ones start around 2k,but you would be hard pressed to find a better,more musical phono stage at any price point.Best of luck in your search for a phono that makes you happy,it can be a rough journey,buckle up! John
I've had a good experience with tube phono stages.   I recently upgraded my solid state phono stage to an Icon Audio valve unit and there is much greater clarity and a darker (noise free) background.    
+1 with the Herron.  I tried several (SS and tubes) and decided from the comments in this group to give it a try.  I bought a used one that Keith upgraded to 2a status.  Dead quiet and Keith is a resource. Anytime I have called, Keith has personally answered (even on a weekend) and his advice has been spot on.  My unit, is dead quiet and even with attenuation at 12 o’clock I can’t tell if my phono is on, it’s that quiet.  I was waiting for the right Aesthetix Io to become available but am so pleased, I think my search is over.  Could not recommend more