For the money, the little EAR is very good. Works for either MM or MC. Benefits greatly from NOS tubes.
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I used to have the Project table you have. While I was very happy with it (and it is a very good table) Two years ago I bought a Clearaudio Concept with thier most expensive MM cart.
The difference was outstanding.
I agree with jsautter, I am going through a EAR 834p preamp and am extremely happy with that. It is then into a EAR 834 amp.
I will not change this part of my setup. Next though will be some new speakers.
No end to suggestions here. If you don't mind checking into the used market Graham Slee may be an option. I went down that road and have been satisfied with the results. Major factor is the cartridge you plan to use? Whether MM, MC, or hi output MC, that makes a big difference.
If you do look into the Slee line there are many configurations of his phono pres suited to perform with any cartridges. Most important factor about the Slee amps is to get the dedicated power supply. Just my opinion.
The EAR 834 P is an excellent choice if you like classic tube sound. If you like leaning more towards SS sound but want just a little of that tube glow a used ARC PH-3 or PH-3 SE would be the way to go. Funny thing is that both phono amps use the same three 6922 tubes. The EAR uses step up transformers the ARC does not. When it comes turntable time I would go for broke on the table and tonearm cheeping out on the cartridge to start. My logic is that cartridges wear out rather quickly in comparison to a good TT and tonearm so next cartridge down the line go for broke on that. I don't mean getting a bad cartridge just getting a less expensive one of which there are many sonically competent ones on the market. Turntables, tonearms and cartridges are rather delicate devices easily damaged so I never recommend getting used ones unless it is a single owner unit and you know the owner very well.
In my opinion, you should not base your purchases on how good your total system is. You should try to buy the most of a turntable and phono stage that you are willing or able to spend. The better the front end is, the more detail and information you will pull out of your vinyl.
The better the phono stage, the better your overall experience will be.
The main issue with purchasing a phono preamp is that pretty much anything you install will most likely sound pretty good to you. The only way to truly hear the differences is to have two or three different phono stages on hand so that you can swap them out to make comparisons; if you do this, the really great phono stages will immediately jump out of the pack.
I was lucky enough to be able to do this kind of side by side comparison and the differences were dramatic. I had a Clear Audio, Gold Note PH10, Musical Surroundings Nova III, Musical Surroundings LPS, Whest Three Signature and a Whest PS.30 RDT SE 2019 with the PS.40 RDT front end/suspension chassis/Titan Pro Wire Loom/PS.40 toroid core power supply. It was shocking at how much better the two Whest phono preamps are over the group I was testing. This all started based on a friend of mine who who had told me last year that a Whest Titan Pro was the finest phono stage he had ever heard (he had one on loan for a few months); he has used many phono stages over the years.
What is important to my listening is first how quiet the electronics are. I do not like to put the system on with no material playing and hear noise or low level hum. If you have any noise, that impacts the signal to noise ratio and it muddies up things. The other things which are very important to me is how much detail the phono stage pulls out of the recording, the presence of a good detailed sound stage and the imaging. With the two Whest phono stages, I lose the speakers; its as if the speakers are not even in the room as the music surrounds me. I hear small details in the recordings the other phono stages don't present.
I suggest you spend the most you can on a phono stage as it will display information to the rest of your system. And if you'd like to read some good comparisons, You can do what I did early on; go to the Whest website and look under customer testimonials. There are hundreds of small write ups sent in from all types of users speaking of their observations of whatever model Whest they purchased against what they had been using (most of these guys had been using a lot of very expensive offerings from other manufactures). It's interesting material to read and I concur with what all of these guys are saying.
I’ve been amazed by how much difference a good TT (w separate power supply, and tone arm ) can really make in SQ. Lower noise floor = more detail. If the TT is getting there, no phono pre is going to make that better. Just like it cannot improve the capabilities of the cartridge. Save the money of the preamp and more cables and go to the source. The trick is getting the most bang for the buck. my experience is once you get past the $8,000 range for a TT setup w cartridge, its diminishing marginal utility. Only my opinion
With all due respect, I could not disagree more strongly. I am using a an extremely resolving system with a VPI Ares3 TT, super platter option and a wonderful SME Series IV tone arm. That is a pretty nice set up, its in the $9K range in cost and if you think that a good phono stage is not going to make any differences, then why not just buy a cheap $150 phono stage? Save the money and just expect the TT with the fancy tone arm to do all of the heavy lifting.
I can hear huge differences in phono stages as noted above. My brother who is a professional video/audio engineer was shocked at the performance of the high end phono stages when we swapped around the gear. This is not subtle changes, its immense changes. If my high end front end was doing all of the work, then we should not be hearing the improvements, but that is certainly not the case and it is certainly why so many guys tie up more and more money in upper level phono preamps.
High quality phono preamps just do it better. They amplify very low level signals with the minimal amount of noise possible. And based on what the designer put into it circuitry, dictates how well it all plays.
@slimpikins5 has given good advice. Any system is only as good as its weakest link. The phono preamp handles the most delicate signal in the chain. A good phono stage is imperative and will make a big difference. I have a JLTi which is made in Australia only now. (use to be Austria& sold in USA)I think You may still order it but not sure. Supposedly upgraded. Herron gets good reviews but is more expensive than the JLTi which was highly favored 10-15 yrs ago. VPI get the nod from me on TT’s
I agree the Herron VTPH 2A. Finally, after hearing the same advice over & over, from audiophiles who I trust, I just upgraded to the VTPH-2A, from a Parasound JC-3 Jr., and I am extremely happy. Keith (Herron) will build one just for you, you couldn’t ask for a better company to deal with, nor a better phono preamp, IMHO. Good luck!!
Yep, my thoughts exactly.... a company that listens to the customer needs and is willing to modify ’stock’ designs to meet certain needs.
James Henriot at Whest did the same for me with my new PS.30 RDT SE 2019; I have a custom gain setting and input capacitance to match my Vintage Audio Technica AT-20ss. I am very pleased not only with the service, but how this thing performs!
My opinion is that an upper level phono stage will still extract far more information than a low level unit. Granted a medium quality turntable is not going to give you all that you can expect, but the capabilities of the phono stage will not choke out what you do extract.
If I recall, the OP here was willing to spend a decent amount on a turntable. Assuming he purchases something pre owned and in nice shape, he can get a lot of bang for his buck with his budget. If I were doing the same thing, I'd put as much as possible into the phono stage and not be saving money there.
I'm not sure the JLTi has to take a back seat to the Herron. The thread which got me looking at the JLTi was a shootout conducted and attended by several other audiophiles, including Jay @ Audio Revelation. They all concluded that the JLTi was the best of the several they tried...all much more expensive than the JLTi. Jay subsequently began to sell the JLTi because of it. That thread is at least 10 yrs old now. That said, I have not heard the Herron nor do I know if it was included in the shootout. IIRC, it beat a Whest which was all the rave in a stereophile review that year. But again, I'm going from memory.
The interesting thing about the Whest line up is that the units James built 10 years ago are far different than the latest designs. If you look up threads on them, a guy named DCarol had several versions and kept moving up the line. He got to the Whest PS.30 RDT SE and was floored at how good it was and in fact he did an evening with two other friends who brought over very expensive units from Boulder and if I recall, Avid? The two friends sold their preamps and bought PS.30 RDT SE's. DCarol ordered the Mark V Reference dual independent chassis mono phono stages from Whest (like around $18K) and later posted that those units took things up to some unheard of new level. He would not sell his PS.30 RDT SE, he held on to it.
That was a few years ago. James told me that the 2019 build of the PS.30 RDT SE is multiple steps up from the earlier one DCarol is using. This latest version uses the fully discreet front end of the PS.40 RDT, the same dual toroid transformers of the 40 with an elevated voltage rail, a full suspension chassis for the main boards as used in the 40 and Titan, the Titan wire harness and zero floating voltage boards (if I got that part right).
All of the capacitors are Clarity Caps, which are very high end hand made (Bryston uses the Clarity Caps in their amps too).
If you want to see beautifully laid out circuit boards, the best I have seen anyway, do some Google images on Whest phono stages.... gorgeous stuff.
I cannot get back into tubes myself at all. I grew up on tubes and have used many tube high power transmitters and receivers over the years. Love em; but they are in my opinion too noisy and subject to degradation due to poor vacuum or internal break down. In other words, variations in specifications ; it’s 100 year old technology. In fact a few years ago I had the US importer and distributor of a very high end amateur radio/military linear amplifier over to my place in order to swap out the final output tube pair in the amp. We went through at least a dozen pairs of NOS 4CX800 ceramic tetrode tubes before we were able to match two which were close in specification. Nope, not for my audio gear. High power transmitters with lower spec audio requirements are fine, but in my audio gear I am more interested in the latest technology.
^ precisely; I prefer not to be using tubes in audio gear. A 2500 watt transmitter is fine with low fidelity SSB or CW signals which are only dealing with a frequency range of 300 to 2000 hz; fidelity really isn't an issue.
Years ago when I had a really nice Fischer receiver which ran all tubes, it was nice to turn it on, wait for the warm up and then listen. But I just prefer the modern low noise solid state devices today.
2channel8"Can't make a statement about a phono-pre without knowing the cartridge your using"
That is a silly response the best preamps for Music Reproduction Systems are versatile enough to successfully and faithfully accommodate a variety of phono cartridges after all if you thoroughly consider the matter most listenwrs will own they're phono preamp for many years as they're phono cartridges wear out and are replaced with new cartridges yes a phono preamp and cartridge do need to be matched but I would always suggest and recommend that the preamp be purchased first.
For $500, I bought a used EAR 834P a few years ago from someone who didn’t realize that its sub par performance was do to internal problems,which made him sell it. It had been modified by using a separate power supply, which is a good thing but what really made it great was to send the unit to Walt D’Ascenzo, a brilliant audio modifier in Baltimore.
His audio philosophy, of which everyone should remind themselves, is that the holy grail of audio is the "absolute sound", which is live music. That must be the audiophile’s standard, and that requires going out to live musical concerts, whether it’s classical, jazz, rock, Tibetan, or whatever, this attunes your ear to what’s real. It’ll make the search for the perfect system much easier, but ironically harder to achieve.
"If you like leaning more towards SS sound but want just a little of that tube glow a used ARC PH-3 or PH-3 SE would be the way to go. Funny thing is that both phono amps use the same three 6922 tubes."
The PH-3SE had the next generation of resistors, so it was an upgrade from the PH-3. I have the SE and have replaced the 3 Sovtek 6922s with 3 Philips 7308 SQs the improvement in sound is amazing!
My thoughts are that I still cannot ’warm up’ to tubes any longer..... lived with them for so many years in radio gear and I just don’t want to deal with the changes due to aging and going out of spec, losing vacuum, getting ’gassy’, trying to match them, etc..... Very old technology, to me anyway. I only use tubes now in high power linear amplifier transmitters as they are able to make a lot of output power.
I really don’t know what the fascination is with tubes otherwise.