New Cartridge or New Preamp

Hi All,

I have upgradeitis. 

Here's my system:

Rogue Rp1 Preamplifier

Rogue M-120 Magnum Monoblocks

VPI Prime Scout w Ortofon Black (and Bronze)

Ohm Walsh 5 LE


So here's the thing, I just replaced the tubes in my preamp, same tubes, gold lion with gold lion, and the improvement was astounding. Everything sparkles. Happy listener.

So now I want even more and the next logical thing is that the lifespan of my cartridge is nearing the end so I need to start thinking about replacing.

My top choice is the soundsmith zephyr. I've heard it on my table, have really enjoyed it and know it would make me very happy. BUT the RP1 pre-amp is nearly the same price as the cartridge, What's the rule of thumb there, if any?

My belief is a nicer cartridge with a very well made pre-amp will still make a noticeable difference and price doesn't matter, your ears do...but I'm interested in hearing other's opinions.

Another thought would be getting a new external phono pre-amp. I do have a musical surroundings phonomena ii+ but I didn't find it to be all that much better than the onboard phono of the rogue. But open to ideas.

I'm looking for more detail in my playback at this point. I'm very satisfied with the openness and power I get from the tube monos and ohms currently.

Thanks in advance!





 Sammysharps  :It’s a Japanese company :they work together with Texas Instruments. They make only phono préamps.  Worldclass!!! Best i ever heard !

Yes, I'm with most of the above: look to improve the phono stage.

If you have the budget, listen to van den Hul The Grail SB.  You will certainly hear detail as well as truth.

Phono stage first all the way.

I cannot emphasize this enough!

I recently upgraded to a Manley Steelhead RC and what I had before I thought was as good as I could do, but this upgrade has blown my mind.  I have no doubt that you will experience something similar by upgrading to the best one you can afford right now.  And don't worry because you will probably upgrade it again in a few years, so no need to go too crazy right away.  If you can spend 2K you will find something very nice.  The Manley Chinook used as someone else mentioned would be a great choice.  

I would agree that the phono stage built into a mid price, integrated amplifier, is unlikely to be competitive with a good outboard phono stage. But there are many shades of gray in that statement. In addition, many of the very best phono stages can be found built into a phono line preamp, which we define as a phono stage and line stage on one chassis. That configuration has several advantages over a separate, standalone, phono stage, driving a separate line stage. These include the elimination of a pair of interconnects in the signal pathway, and also a possibility for having a simpler lower distortion output section in the phono stage.  so it depends on what you’re talking about, when you assert that a separate phono stage is always the best way to go. 


what are you planning to spend?   personally I can see going either way.  the 2M black is good but can easily be improved on.