Looking for moderate priced MC phono pre

I'm thinking of downsizing my analog system as I don't use it much any longer and can use the space. I'm looking for a moderately priced MC phono pre that offers cartridge loading options and can drive a long (15') run of IC. Tube is good, but not required. Any suggetions?
Hi Newbee,

You need to give us more information about your system, your goals, and what "moderate"means in the context of your finances. Your comments about downsizing because you don't listen to much vinyl anymore reminds me of the stereotypical purchase of a musical instrument:

"we'll get little Johnny an inexpensive guitar and if he likes it, we can consider something better".

While this may be fine from a family finance perspective, little Johnny (unless truly inspired) is likely to give up in despair, as the high fret action causes his fingers to bleed (not even mentioning the other shortcomings).

Space and family commitments can be a valid reason to phase out vinyl, but know that I've made a Dual 1229 / Denon cartridge combo sing with the angels - for approximately a $500 investment. Couple this with a Hagerman Coronet or his Bugle phono stage, and I challenge you to make better music from a digital front end costing twice (or ten times) the price. Notice that I used the word "music" and not "sound" in the previous sentence.

Thom @ Galibier

Click on 'Systems' next to my moniker and you'll find a description of my equipment. I could (and have) use the phono pre of my SP10 but I'd be happy with a small but competent box. I'm familar with the EAR unit but I'm looking for alternatives. In case I didn't say in my 'systems' I'm into jazz, classical, and vocals, all at moderate levels and my cartridge is a medium output Benz Glider. Oh, $1000 +/-.
I've been happy with the solid-state Dynavector P-75 phono stage I got recently. I use it as follows: VPI Aries Black Knight w. SDS / JMW9 arm / Dynavector 17d2 karat / Audio Research LS-3 linestage. Price is about 650 dollars for the P-75.

the jlti stage is terrific. i have one and love it. you may want to give jay at audio revelation a call to see about a tryout.

I agree that the JLTI is a great unit that over performs at its price point. However, it lists for $1,695. But, it is small and you can change the loading with loading plugs.
Hi Newbee,

The faster we go, the rounder we get ... It's difficult to understand exactly what you're running from your system description.

Do I understand you that you have relegated the ARC SP10 (a full function preamp) to phono stage duty?

This is a classic piece, which I've admittedly not heard in a long time. My gut tells me that this was the high water mark for ARC and it was all downhill from then. Your SP-10 will certainly bring a pretty penny and open up some cash for you to change directions.

If I had to shoot from the hip on this one, one recommendation I'd make would be sell it all and buy a Supratek Cortese (1 year wait).

None of this is to dismiss your PrimaLuna, which I've never heard, but looking at Upscale Audio's site, I have to wonder about the decision to spend money going dual mono with this design instead of going with some better parts. Solens are very pedestrian capacitors, and in my experience, I've always found a stereo implementation to be better than a dual mono implementation at a given price.

Had they stayed stereo (not as good from a marketing perspective) they could have used some better parts. Now, I'm not about boutique parts when they're not necessary, but I find it odd that they would brag about using Solens. If you keep the unit, you might want to investigate swapping some Teflon coupling caps in their place.

Assuming that you don't get a Supratek, and that you keep the PrimaLuna, get a Hagerman, Artemis, Ear, etc..

Another alternative might be the Monarchy M24 DAC which has a built in line stage http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue25/monarchy_m24.htm
Lynn Olson loaned me his unit for some two weeks. When we upgraded the volume pot (feeding it with an autoformer based volume control), this was a very, very good line stage.

As an analog guy who builds turntables, I've fairly well ignored digital "breakthroughs" of the past decade.

Because of this, I can't comment from a broad base of listening experience. I can tell you that every SACD I've heard has left me "musically empty", that the $15K Meitner DAC has been uninspiring at best. Other digital experiences have been similar - having from good to great "sound" but a reproduction that I considered to be musically irrelevant and uninspiring.

Lynn will tell you that I'm just not accustomed to listening "through" digital's problems. While this may be true to a large extent, my experience of the Monarchy DAC makes this a question I no longer need to wrestle with, because I will be ponying up for one of these DACs in the near future. It carries the musical load.

I need to make it clear that I have no personal interest in making the above commentary.

Following this architecture might keep your box count identical (after adding a phono stage), and may well upgrade your digital as well as your analog signal path.


Having said all of that, I have to wonder how well your turntable is set up. You should be enjoying a rig like yours (Oracle, Sumiko, Benz Glider). Perhaps you have a small record collection, a curious toddler, or a hyperactive cat that precludes playing vinyl?

Thom @ Galibier
I challenge you to make better music from a digital front end costing twice (or ten times) the price. Notice that I used the word "music" and not "sound" in the previous sentence.

It could be said that the MC will provide some spatial & HF artifacts that could be interpreted as 'more musical'. I use a modded Stanton Groovemaster DJ cartridge/modded Technics 1200 DD TT and when compared to my Ortofon X5 MC the Stanton is more musically accurate. The analog rig's sound is close (though with its own idiosyncracies) to my Dan Wright modded belt drive transport. It all depends on the sonic presentation. I know congas and string bass don't sound BIG in real life.

Newbee, I would not downgrade my rig and still keep a MC cartridge in the rig--neither use a long cantilever MM. If space is a premium then the Monolithic/CI Audio preamps are worth checking out. My unconventional opininon, of course...

Thom (and others), thanks for your thougtful response. FYI you guessed my motivation for change, in part at least. My record collection has been purged of stuff which no longer interests me all me and is down to about 500LP's.

My silver disc collection which has most of the performances that I enjoy is up to about 5000. I just don't listen to LP's that much any more. I'm much more into performance issues and am growing less interested in format issues and pursuing the 'ultimate' audio system. In fact accepting the limitations of my equipment makes for more relaxed listening. No angst! :-)

Thanks all for the recommendations.
Newbee sounds like a good spot to be in. I know that for some of us the cost no option system is just not a reality. For my "reference" system I use the Jolida JD-9 for my phono pre, with a ZYX Yatra(.24mv). It's a tube unit, and can be had for $400 new. Good overall sound with some NOS Matsushita tubes, that only set me back $30. Good slam for a tube unit beat my Monolithic PS-1. Good value for the money,;)-~
I concur with Colitas on that Jolida JD9 unit. For some reason I don't want to like it and yet whenever I listen to it I thoroughly enjoy the music. It is a great value and though I am also considering a better phono pre, this will have to be something special to beat the sound of the Jolida.
I recommended the Jolida to a friend of mine who just got into vinyl and was on a tight budget. I hooked him up with some NOS Telefunken 12AX7s and he's in love with this phono stage. I am quite curious about it myself as a result of all these comments.
I'm hearing some very good reports about the AQvox 2CI from friends in continental Europe. It's sold direct from Germany with a no-risk trial period. I'll be hearing one next week so will report back further.

Otherwise, I'd be inclined to favor the Dynavector P75 or a used EAR 834P - the Dyna is less colored but the EAR has that tube "je ne sais quoi". Both are sought after used so could be moved on if they're not to your taste.