I expect everyone will recommend their own Phono stage and I'm going to as well. I have listened to a good view and even had a 5 phono stage shoot out at my home. I really can't fault the K&K stage from Kevin Carter, a JFet/tube hybrid with Lundahl step up transformers for MC cartridges.
It is excellent anyway, but Kevin keeps on producing upgrades, which he seems to insist on selling at cost. The only stage that has bested it was a Tron unit and that at nearly twice the price. It comes in Kit form, but Kevin can arrange to have it built for you, or used to anyway
I'd consider a used Pass Labs Xono. It is very versatile with a lot of gain and many loading options and it has the dynamics and liveliness you seek. I also find it quite transparent.
Allnic H1201. Get the used one in the marketplace, if it's not already gone. It will mop the floor with the Manley.
I really liked the Avid Pulsus at that price point. Music Direct sells them so you can try it out without too much stress thanks to their excellent return policy.
Found it to be significantly better than the SimAudio 5.3LP with optional external power supply. A big surprise. Better quality and amount of bass, and less bright up top. Maybe run balanced the SimAudio would have performed better, but it was outclassed via RCAs.
I'd recommend a Herron VTPH-2 Phono Preamplifier, you should be able to get one for around $2K on the used market.
I have not heard the Herron, but yes based on its reputation it would be near the top of my list to audition for used at this price point.
Used Herron VTPH-2 is the best possible phono stage in that price range. Nothing close, arguably at any price. Second choice would be a used Herron VTPH-1, especially if it is at the current mod level.
HI-FI News did a comparison of 6 phono preamps under $2k pounds (roughly your budget)in its November 12, 2012 issue:
Bel Canto Phono 3VB
Pathos Inthegroove MKII
Simaudio Moon 310LP
They liked all for various reasons. The overall winner was the Simaudio Moon 310LP. I wound up buying the 310P and later bought the separate power supply. I really like the sound. The review said the Avid was hands down the best value.
The article is now a year old but it can still give some good research info.
How about the Nagra BPS ? Isnt it a benchmark phonostage ?
I would recommend the Sutherland 20/20.
Ditto on the Herron, even if you have to stretch the budget a little. It will likely be the last phono stage you will buy.
Dear Pani: ++++ " How about the Nagra BPS ? Isnt it a benchmark phonostage ? " +++++
a benchmark?, maybe because its price or why?, please explain.
Regards and enjoy the music,
Most used high-end electronic equipment has been very well cared for. Manufacturers typically stand behind their products at this level. They can't afford to have any customer service issues or less than great product reliability.
Some manufacturers take selected older models in on trade for newer units or units that have significant upgrade or modification.
I say that because there are a LOT of really great used phono stages available used around that price point. They may have a few years on them but would be a real bargain.
Calling manufacturers to see if they have older used stock or trade-ins available for sale can provide some really great equipment for a fraction of the cost of new.
And yes I do make them
Ditch the Blue Point #2! It is crap!
David12, the K&K phono pre now sports a MOSFET/tube cascode front end and a current source fed shunt regulator for the B+ supply. Having recently modified a buddy's unit I can testify that the changes are not at all subtle, but very compelling. If you haven't upgraded yet you shouldn't wait. For anyone sitting on the fence over purchasing one, these changes should tip them in favor of the K&K.
I also recommend the Sutherland 20/20 which I've owned for about 2 years. It's very quiet with a true black background, has tremendous adjustability from both a gain settings and loading perspective and best of all both vocals and instruments sound like listening to the real thing in concert from jazz, rock, blues and classical music it makes the performers come alive in my room.I really can not find any fault with it and has been bullet proof for me; it continues to reproduce beautiful music that does not sound reproduced.
Try the Fosgate Signature Phono Stage.
I decided on the Parasound JC3.
Interesting no one mentioned EAR 834P.
Is the EAR now old news compared to ones you guys mentioned.
I am in the same boat vinyl wise as the OP, and am currently auditioning the EAR, my first phono preamp.