Phono pre-amplifier

Hi folks,

I'm looking for a good phono-preamp to connect my DUAL CS5000 fitted with the Ortofon OMB20 MM cartridge to my Musical Fidelity M6i integrated amplifier.

I read a lot about different pre-amps in the 300-400€ price range but it's very difficult to decide if you cannot compare them yourself. The ones that cought my attention are:
•Rega Fono MM
•Graham Slee GRAM AMP2 SE (MM)
•Clearaudio Nano Phono (MM/MC)
•Lehman Audio Black Cube (MM/MC)
•Creek OBH-18 (MM)
Does anybody have any experinece with some of these?

I owned a NAD pp2 and Muscial Surroundings Phonomena. IMO I would opt for a switchable phono stage (MC/MM). Try the Clearaudio Nano-I own a Clearaudio Concept cartridge and like it.
At this budget level, I would stick to moving magnet or moving iron cartridges. Neither cheaper moving coils, nor budget step-up devices, be they add-ons or part of a high gain option in-circuit, tend to produce very musical results in most potentially strong budget systems.

As for the the phono preamp itself, I would personally try to go with tubes. For musicality, you are asking quite a lot of lower-priced solid state devices in this application. Magazine reviews will mislead you badly here. If you are ambitious enough, there are numerous non-layout-critical tube circuits out there, including derivations of what some folks call "classics", which you can DIY -- or have someone do for you. Parts selection is key; but the circuits themselves are relatively simple -- almost always a good thing, executed properly, in cost-sensitive situations.

Though Neither I, nor those I tend to hear from, can directly vouch for the following, here are two inexpensive options on the DIY side of things that particularly catch my eye for their practicality and potential (?) to comfortably excel the choices you mentioned [Google]:

1. Joe Tritschler's phono preamp, a design with a long track record (says Joe) and fine-tuned a bit not long ago -- [2x] 6DJ8/6922/7308,, or (better, probably) [2x] 5842 (Raytheon recommended). Joe sells the audio circuit and the power supply boards -- ALREADY CONSTRUCTED -- for the better than reasonable price of $249. This isn't a profit-making venture; there are no other products. Add a chassis, a few lead wires, jacks... you're done! A couple of finished examples are displayed on the website. Kevin Carter of K & K Audio (Lundahl), in response to a query on his forum, even suggested some output transformers to replace the coupling caps. A poor man's Tim deP. goodie, perhaps? An implicit sort of endorsement? Well, I wouldn't want to put words into Kevin's mouth... I found that interesting, though.

2. My second "interesting" candidate IS solid state (with IC's for easy construction... like choices you proposed above). This is a relatively straightforward circuit from Mike Danbury, like Joe's circuit, published in the now sadly adulterated 'AudioXpress' "DIY" magazine (This was Dec. 2009, as I recall it). Here's the twist: an INDUCTOR-based circuit for RIAA EQ! Sort of like the poor man's Ypsilon or Audio Note M10? O.K., you can stop laughing now... but Mike did publish a more ambitious such design -- no caps AT ALL in the EQ circuit -- back in 1996 (in 'Audio Electronics', as it was then called) where he wrung out the details, down to the sound of different solders... for different circuit locations! Now that's a high end sensibility, is it not? Mike even has some really cheap IC's for you -- NOT the usual suspects -- which he seemed to feel integrated especially well with this design (no pun intended). Why go pedestrian, when maybe you can find a little touch of magic, that inductor being the key? This one's DIY in the raw, but it didn't look too daunting at all.

BTW, eBay is just FULL of goin' cheap solid state gear. Find a nice chassis with a suitable power supply foundation -- preamp, or more likely a bargain, small integrated amp -- and your DIY task could be very much simplified. And you could have yourself a full-function custom preamp in the bargain. I won a nearly pristine and very stylish whiteface Chicago-made Sherwood S-9500 SS amp on eBay for $51. It will some day be a nice tube amp in its reincarnation. See? Have fun!
RE: the M.S. Phonomena cited above... FYI -- I had a chance not long ago to pick up a Phenomena II at a better than Audiogon price, so I G**gled my way around the reviews and forums to get the scoop. Opinions were as positive as you could reasonably hope (a small noise issue was mentioned in SOME cases). The other big under $1K favorite of the crowd was the PS Audio. I didn't have a clear need for the Phonomena II in my upcoming No.2 (vintage-y) system, and figured that my nice #2 phono/line preamp (which I expect to upgrade in a few sensible ways) would be around here for awhile. So I passed. I just saw my tube options, if I would ever need an additional phono unit for a very modest investment -- including Joe's design, maybe with an additional twist or two -- as being likely to produce a somewhat better musical balance and more emotional satisfaction overall. It's fair to note that I can DIY and design. FWIW, and YMMV.
Add Heed to your list. It can be better than everything else you mentioned. Also, usually but not always to get the best value piece you need to stay out of mass market stuff.
Clearaudio smartphono - accomodates MM and MC
The Lehmann is very, very good. I've always kept one as a back-up to my main phono section (which was an ARC PH3 for several years, and has been an Aesthetix Rhea for the last 4ish years). Leaner sounding (and much less flexible) than the Rhea, for sure....but uncomfortably close to the ARC for anyone trying to justify the difference in purchase price.

Just my take.

I use a Cambridge 640P and it sounds amazing...its main fault is that it's not expensive enough to be taken seriously by some, but that's likely due to not having heard it.
Thank you all for the information.
Interesting about your good result with the Lehmann, Marty. Just as a matter of satisfying my perversely persistent curiosity, did you ever get to hear one of those cheap Lehmann clones from eBay?
just to throw a spanner in the works....

The Whest Audio whestTWO can be had for about 500 euros in B-graded format from their site (every now and then). This REALLY will blow away the rest of them.

I had a while back a chance to try a Cambridge 640p after a forum in the UK was 'waxing lyrical' about it... boy was I disappointed.

The little Dynavector P75 can be had cheap these days but I'm not sure whether it'll do MM.

I didn't know that there were clones.

I bought the Lehmann when I added a 'table to a second system. When the ARC in the main system went down, the Lehmann replaced it during repair. I was surprised by how little diference I heard when I made the switch. A subsequent switch to the Rhea (with its multi inputs that allowed me to move both 'tables into my main system) showed a very different sonic character.

The fact that the Lehmann and the ARC sounded so similar to me may speak to the value of the Lehmann, the lack of value in the ARC, or the lack of discrimination on the part of this listener ;-)

The P75 does do MM, and has the PE mode that can be used with suitable LOMC carts...