Mcintosh MA9000 Phono Stage

Hi guys,

I'll try to make it short. I have a Mcintosh MA9000 integrated amp, Mcintosh XR100 speakers and VPI Prime Scout w/Ortofon Black LVB cartridge. I have been pretty happy with the phono stage in my MA9000, but I am curious if I would benefit from having an external phono preamp. I could probably set a side 2K for it but I do not want to waste my money. I am also considering upgrading to VPI Signature 21. Any advice you guys can give me. I appreciate your time.


The internal phono stage is good not great. 

if you are looking to improve your system- I would start with phono stage then consider  a cartridge  upgrade then upgrading your table. 

 Consider contacting the folks at VPI for their thoughts as well if you like your table. 

There is no benefit per se to having an outboard phono stage. What I mean is that the phono section in your Mac should be judged for what it is, not for whether it is outboard or onboard. I have no idea of the performance of the phono section of your Mac or how it stacks up to other candidates, but having the phono and linestages on the same chassis does have the advantage that you do not have the signal traversing an output connection, an interconnect, and an input connection, in order to get from the phono to the linestage. These links in the chain inevitably degrade performance, no matter how miniscule that effect may be. Moreover, when designers have to create a stand alone phono stage, they have to include an output circuit to properly drive the downstream linestage. When the phono and line stages are on the same chassis, the connection can be vastly simplified by a good engineer. This potentially confers another sonic advantage to an all in one unit. So, think twice before you leap. Or maybe consider stepping up to a better full function preamplifier.

@lewm I agree with your statements and the internal phono stage is good not great. And I'm suggesting it will quickly become the weakest point in the chain for vinyl. 

If you can find one a Herron, I or II. His last version is one the best bang for the bucks made EVER.. 2-3k Rogers PA-2 is almost 3 times the cost and still the Herron will better it.. They just don’t make it any more..

I have a ZP3 Decware it’s at 12-1500.00 and a 6 month wait. You’ll never find one used.

Puffin will make you real happy for the 4-600.00 price tag too. That is a fun phono preamp.. LOTs of features..

BTW I have 10-12 Mac pre amps here. It takes a little work BUT you can make the older Macs like the C11, 20, 22 or a MX110z a lot better.  They will match a pretty expensive phono pre amp....The newer stuff. MX120,121, C2500, are OK.. They work. The better the cart match and setup the better they sound.. Good valves in the C2500 phono section don't hurt either. Telefunken Valves always in a Mac..


with an Ortofon Black the Croft RIAA is a close second to the Herron. Saves you a reacts well to tube rolling...

I appreciate all the feedback. I think what lewm said makes sense to me. I guess same argument can be made for integrated vs seperates. I may still try a phono stage, just to see if it makes a difference. Thanks again for all the feedback.



In days of yore, there were some really fabulous full function preamplifiers, both tube and solid state. Seems that type may be coming back into vogue, but you could also go vintage, which in this case means going back to the 1990s, so still "modern" in the design sense. Klyne, Luxman, Mac, etc.  Also consider the Atma-sphere MP3 in your price range.  MP1 if you want to go all out.  Pass stuff is excellent too.