In that price range, I'd seriously consider a Ray Samuels Audio F-117 Nighthawk. I've owned one and only recently replaced it with a Manley Chinook.
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Just curious, what is your TT sitting on? It's true that the MC's lose a little bit of warmth. You need to go up in price to get more warmth. However, there are a lot of classical vinyl junkies out there who would not give up their Clearaudio cartridges. I certainly wouldn't give mine up. When I upgraded my TT support, increase in bass depth and warmth blew my mind. Just my 2 cents.
Why would you change your pre-amp and not the cartridge? If the PS Audio (GCPH???) sounded fine with the mm cart, perhaps a HO mc might be a better compromise?
Also, seems like your budget would better fit a cartridge change vs a pre-amp change as to move up from a GCPH may require a bit more than $500-1000.
Interesting. I also lost most of my LP collection (in 1979) to a flood.
After 3 years with a Cambridge 640P I upgraded 3/11 to the Jolida JD9A. I happened to have some NOS Sylvania Gold 5751s and replaced the stock 12AX7s with those. I also put Herbies tube dampers on them, placed Vibrapods under the feet, and swapped in a Zu BoK power cord. I'm really happy with this preamp. As some have pointed out to me, the tubes in this preamp power the buffer stage. Gain is supplied by op amps. Even so, the phono stage is on a full-sized chassis and has a nice big power supply compared to the wall warts that often accompany phono stages in this price range. Furthermore, possibly the best feature of the JD9A is its high level of configurability, with three gain levels, two output levels, and a wide range of capacitance settings for MM/MI carts and resistance settings for MC carts.
Now, if you liked the Rega MM cart better than the MC but still want an improvement, upgrade to an Audio Technica AT150MLX. This cart is *easily* the equal of the Rega Exact, but is available for less (check lpgear.com) and has a replaceable stylus. Set the capacitance on the JD9A to 147 pF for this cart and you're good to go.
Sound has definitely improved. At the time of my original post, I only had 5 hours listening time on the cartridge. Now after about 15 hours it is much more lively, if still a bit dry.
This is my first experience with an mc cart. My previous two tables were mm--Pro-Ject Debut and Rega P-5. I don't remember any particular break in issues.They both retained the same sound from the get go.
Are mcs more prone to slow break in, or does it depend on the individual cartridge?
Hello Richard - It might not be the cartridge that needs break in so much as the phono cable. Keep in mind that your cartridge is now only putting out mV level signal and the cable is going to take a LONG time to become conditioned fully due to the signal level of the cartridge. Be patient and things WILL sound better!