Lehmann Black Cubes are a pretty good deal (especially used). They're versatile, small, and they sound very good too.
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I'll second the Black Cube recommendation of Deana. Sold one and kinda wish I'd kept it - given that the price IS right, it sounds terrific, and it will offer the versatility you seek. Of course, they do require either a line preamp, a passive unit, or an integrated amp to function (no controls on the Cube).
I have had a Lehmann Audio Black Cube SE (the version with the much larger power supply) and can recommend it without hesitation -- particularly at its price range. You can buy a used standard Black Cube for around $400, and send it to Leo Massi at HyendAudio and get it upgraded for $275 -- an upgrade that I found to be worth every cent. IMO, the larger power supply transformed a good phono stage amp into an excellent one.
I did not get the power supply upgrade for my Black Cube and would certainly defer to sdcampbell's experience in this matter with regard to improved performance. However, the Cube I used sounded terrific in its original configuration. If you DO get a Black Cube without the upgrade, I would suggest a careful listen before spending the extra. The person to whom I sold the Cube (here on the "Gon) was well pleased, as well. Of course, this depends on your budget and other equipment "in the chain".
I've got far more reasonable choice(s) than Black Cube.
1. You can get Monolithic demo for $359...399. It doesn't have as large gain as Black Cube but it definitely more resolving and wormer sounding unit. Better imaging as well. It's suitable to the cartridges upto .8mV or lower depending on further preamplification.
2. Check out Trichord Dino phono that is more expencive and have a superb performance for its price. If you order directly from UK you'll save arround 20%.
3. EAR834p(not neccessarily have to be the signature model with chrome face plate)
IMHO listening to these three above broght me to an idea that Black Cube is standing a level bellow.
I certainly did not mean to imply that the Cube was "end all". However, I have also listened to the Monolithic and the EAR, but NOT the Trichord. IMHO, the Cube beats the Monolithic by a healthy marign - I actually found the imaging to be much better than the with the Monolithic and did not notice the Monolithic to be all that much "warmer". Plus, the Cube may be one of the most flexible units around in terms of different cartridge outputs. I agree, though, that the Monolithic IS cheaper. I, too, liked the EAR and found it a bit better than the Cube, but at a higher price (even direct from the UK). Of course, all this applies only to how the three performed in MY system. Others may find different results.
It would be informative if you listed your other components, plus your current TT set-up. Also would be interesting to read another post once you've gotten your phono pre & experienced vinyl again. And I'm wondering what all those mint LP's would sound like with a newer TT & cartridge.......
Thanks for the additional recommendations. The EAR does look like a very nice amp, but I'm going to stick with solid state.
Actually, I won't be hooking up the turntable to my Luxman L-117. I going to set the turntable up in my home office using my Maxed Out Home headphone amp. That is why I need the phono amp. My turntable is over 15 years old as well, so it will also need upgrading. But since it looks like the phono amp will cost more than I thought, I'm going to take this one step at a time. If, after I get the amp, I decide I like LPs again, I'll come back and ask for turntable recommendations as well.
If you're interested in the Black Cube, I recommend buying it used and saving yourself $300-$400. You can probably find one of the original versions for $350-ish (they are often listed on this site). They're very basic inside and there isn't much that can be damaged. It's not much of a risk if you can find a respectable seller with good feedback. You can always sell it for what you paid if you discover that vinyl isn't for you. And I agree with 4yanx...they sound quite good "as is"...you can always upgrade later if you fall in love with vinyl. Good luck.
From the research I have been able to do, it seems as if the phono sections in many used preamps are superior the the current outboard mid-priced variety. The used MFA Magus, early Audible Illusions, Counterpoint, and Audio Research preamps all offer high quality tube phono sections at similar prices or cheaper than the standalone units above. You also get the flexibility to have several inputs for easy switching of sources. All the brands I listed above are currently on the Audiogon classified sites for under $700. IMHO they are all better phono sections than any of the mid-priced new outboard boxes. Some are suitable only for MM or high output MC carts however.
I want to add one more vote for the Monolithic Sound PS-1.
I'm in situation similar to yours - have well above 200
vinyl albums in better than average condition - but did not
have a decent turntable or preamp for transfers to CD.
I recently got a very good deal on a demo Musci Hall MMF-5
turntable; and bought the Monolithic PS-1 to use for my
preamp. So far I really like the combination.
The nice thing about the PS-1, of course, is that it can
be easily set up to use with just about any type of phono
cartridge - MM or MC.
I recommend you give the Camelot Lancelot Pro a shot. It is practically never available used, but Audio Advisor sells them for a little under $900 new. Handles MM and MC, and has a separate battery power supply.
Very nice unit and a Fremer favorite. I own one and enjoy it greatly. Just my $0.02 worth.