Decide on what cartridge you will you first and then match a phono stage to the cartridge's requirements. Doing it this way has the potential of lowering your cost by eliminating phono functions that you don't need. You'll want to match the gain and impedance between the cartridge and the phono stage. I believe BAT makes an internal phono board(s) that will plug into your preamp. Alternatively, there are any number of outboard phono stages starting out $150 up to your budget limit. Just be sure to include the cost of additional interconnects, power cords and isolation devices as part of the outboard stage's cost.
prehistoric. The only number I can find on the cartridge is 401. I assume I will be changing that first. So, it looks like I need a cartridge and a phono stage. This is unchartered territory for me.
Sorry, I didn't enter the above response correctly. I meant that my cartridge is a prehistoric (15-year-old) Audioquest that I haven't used in years.
Contact Lloyd Walker at 610-666-6087.He has a modified AHT unit.Very quiet,throws a huge soundstage.It will accept cartridges down to .2mv.His reputation for good sound proceeds him and he is very helpful.
FYI, the VK50 won't take BAT's phono cards. It's only for their other preamps, not the 50, 50se or 51se.
I had a VK50se now it's a 51se. I've used a BAT VKp5, p10, p10se (have now) as well as a Aestheitix Rhea. For the money, the BAT VKp5 is a steal. It's the price performer in the phono stage lineup from BAT. You can find them used for around 1200. Slightly more than your budget. Most medium output moving coils (.5 mv or so) will do awesome. Of course, so will MM. The BAT will have a super midrange, pretty much shares every trait you likely love about your vk50.
If you cartridge is that old, it's time for a new one.
WARNING. Be prepared. With your table, a new cartridge and a VKp5, you might seriously get into vinyl. If you can somehow swing the p5 and good cartrdge-you'll be in heaven.
How would you compare the P10se to the Rhea? Which one do you like best?
Jfrech and Dennisb,
I will second Jfrech's statement about there not being a phono card available for the vk50's and 51's. I also have VK50se and I am currently using an EAR 834P phono stage and they work very well together, however I am starting to look at upgrading the phono stage for reasons I will explain below.
Another point to consider is that the 50's and 51's are balanced inputs only, so it might be worth limiting your choices to phono stages that have balanced outputs, assuming that the phono stage in question is truly balanced. I am having to use a balanced-to-s/e adapter with the 834 and I do wonder how much potential there is waiting to be tapped by moving to an all balanced system. Of course, balanced equipment will drive the price up a bit.
Sidssp: The Rhea has much wider stage, little better depth, better detail. Everything else equal. I could go on, but that's the net. I think I like the Rhea better, but I think I'll hold off and go for a Io Sig one day soon (I hope)! If I go with a Koetsu, I think the Rhea or Io is a must...the Rhea does have more gain (w/o using transformers)...however my Lyra Helicon at .5mv works super with the BAT directs to the tubes.
Dennisb, if you are committed to looking for a lower cost option just to play your existing LPs (about 100?) and if you're not planning to buy more vinyl (and even if you are), consider some of these lower cost options that will allow you to make a low cost re-entry into vinyl:
...Tom Evans Microgroove $950 new
...Grado PH1 $500 new
...Clearaudio Basic $600 new
...Creek OBH-8 SE $290
All of these are readily available from the usual mail order suppliers, many of whom will allow you a 30-day return privilege if you don't like how the unit sounds in your system. Also, any of these are available on the used market for 40% less, if you look around.
There are better units available, but the price goes up. I agree with the recommendation of the EAR 834 or BAT VKp5 in the under $2000 category, and I'd add the Herron VTPH-1 (used) to that list.
Also, keep to moving magnet or high output moving coil cartridges (1.5mv output or above) to keep your phonostage needs simpler. Easily done with a wide range of choices for $250-500. One of the Grado cartridges would work well if your tastes are more towards acoustic music. Or, for more snap and sizzle (no slight intended), a Sumiko or Dynavector.
These are all great responses. Thanks very much. Even though my priorities are just to play my existing LP's right now, I'm sure venturing into this area will whet my appetite for vinyl. I'm aware that the VK-50 doesn't permit a phono card; my unfamiliarity with this area of audio caused me to ask in my initial post if the stage is something that would be embedded or is it external; it seems like the latter. Whenever I've asked a dealer to recommend a phono stage for this wonderful pre-amp, they've only mentioned a couple of options including BAT's for $2000 or so.
BTW, I would tend to play acoustic like Brazilian or guitar, opera, jazz and classical on vinyl other than anything else. I would prefer the warmer, more natural sound for this type of music. Which leads me to another question; Should the phono stage be tube or SS? The preamp is tube, and my next amp will be tube again, as my CJ finally succumbed to old age, so I'm using an old SS back-up amp for now.
Again, thanks for all your help.
For the type of music that you're interested in playing I would recommend tubes all the way through, unless your speakers are inefficient. The next best option is to have all tubes in the front end, pre and phono, and a good, clear SS amp.
> Should the phono stage be tube or SS? <
This is a matter of preference and cost; no absolutes. My preference is for tube, but a good quality low noise tube unit puts you at the upper end (or over) of your target price limit. The advantage of the lower cost solid state units is that they will allow you to enjoy the music you have on LP without a major investment, you can take some of your budget and put it towards a better cartridge (a worthwhile thing to do), and you can always sell it and upgrade later if you find you're listening to more vinly. On the flip side, a higher quality tube phonostage, like a used EAR, BAT, CJ, or Herron, will give you a better sense of the potential for vinyl playback.
> I would tend to play acoustic... I would prefer the warmer, more natural sound for this type of music. <
Any of the tube units mentioned will serve you well; but they are different in their sonic signatures. Of the solid state units, consider Grado and Tom Evans.
For cartridges, a Grado Sonata at $500 will do justice to your music preference and give you very natural midrange reproduction.
I'll chime in cuz I own a VK30 and I'm an analog junkie. I would encourage you to buy the aforementioned Grado Sonata cartridge and give a Lehmann Black Cube phono pre-preamp a try. Very good SS phono stage and affordable to boot (generally ~$300 used); I really doubt you'll regret the Lehmann and can always move up as money allows and the "upgrade itch" sneaks up on you. Welcome to the dark side my friend. Jeff