If you can stretch your budget a little further to just over 3K you can get one that many many users here are very very happy with, even compared to units costing much more. Ever since I purchased my Herron I have never looked at or considered even for a second another unit. I did directly compare it to the Zesto and the Aesthetixs and it was no contest. The owner of the company, Keith Herron is very approachable and accessible. Even five years later I still email him the odd question and he usually answers within a day.
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I'm with @analogluvr . I haven't heard anything better than my Herron Audio VTPH-2a. I bought it AFTER listening to other phono stages and after experiencing Herron Audio customer service. It's a slight stretch over $3K, but IMO, you shouldn't find the need to update your phono stage in the future. In my opinion.
I'll offer an enthusiastic second to Analogluvr's recommendation of the Herron phono stage. And as he alluded to if you read the comments on it that a number of other members have posted in past threads here I think you'll conclude that you can't go wrong with it in its price range, or even in comparison with phono stages that are considerably more expensive.
Also, consistent with Analogluvr's comments one could not hope to find a more wonderful designer/manufacturer to deal with than Keith Herron.
I'll mention also that like many and probably most tube-based phono stages the Herron will not perform optimally when driving low impedances. But based on Stereophile's measurements of your H160 that won't be a problem. Since the Herron only provides unbalanced outputs you would be connecting to the unbalanced inputs of the amp, which have a much higher input impedance than its balanced inputs. I would expect the very low 9.4K input impedance of the H160's balanced inputs to be problematical for many tube-based phono stages or other source components.
Good luck. Regards,
Thank you, this is really helpful info. I’ve heard of Herron but haven’t heard any of their gear. That’s a resounding recommendation for that amp. I’m looking into it. I’ve also heard very positive things about Manley and Parasound. I’ll look into those as well. I really appreciate the input, thanks again.
Since you endorse it so strongly and repeatedly, I have no doubt that the Herron phono stage is truly excellent. All I can find out about the circuit is that it is headed by a 12AX7 input tube. That by itself is not a standout feature. So, do you have any insight into the circuit topology that would explain why it is so unique in its excellence? From the outside it looks to be just another 12AX7-based MM phono stage, of which there are dozens, old and new, but I’m sure I’m wrong.
First, to be sure it’s clear the input stage of the Herron for LOMCs is FET-based, and does not use a 12AX7 or any other tube. I believe you are correct that the MM input stage uses a 12AX7, and I assume that stage is in the signal path for LOMCs as well.
Essentially all I know about its design characteristics, though, is what is stated in the description and the manual that can be seen at the website. Among other features, undoubtedly passive RIAA equalization, absence of any feedback, use of "high quality very low dielectric absorption film type" capacitors in the signal path, "four levels of high voltage regulation," use of "hand-picked components," and internal star-grounding are significant contributors to its performance.
Fundamentally, though, I believe that the most significant contributor to its performance is simply Keith Herron’s combination of technical expertise, musical sensitivity, and dedication to excellence.
@ wally1966, I might suggest saving a few dollars and taking a look at the Tavish Design Adagio Vacuum Tube Phono Stage for MM and MC.
At $1,790 this is a phenomenally good performer. I just re-tubed mine after 2.5 years of service, and am blown away with the results of a modest tube "upgrade".
Scott always seems to have a waiting list for this model, but the sound quality and the solid direct to consumer value it represents make it well worth the wait.
He's also a genuinely good guy to work with, and has been very patient and responsive to me with any questions.
Good luck in your search!
All the Best,
I’ll second the thumbs up on the Sutherland 20/20. It sounds like music, and I can offer no greater recommendation on any piece of gear than it sounds like music, not hifi. I have met Ron several times at Rocky Mtn. Audio Fest, (he co-founded Martin Logan) great guy, great stuff made in Kansas City.
I’m a K&K Trio owner.
The fact that the designer doesn’t schmooze the audio press, does not for a minute, make his product a non-contender. In fact, his products represent a great value for the money.
(Actually, one would be surprised in learning where his circuits designs are being implemented currently.)
@gloco, I ended up with the sameas stock JJ 5751 's fronting the input per Scott's recommendation to go with low-noise NS in those positions. Got these from VIVA Tubes. I also ordered Phillips Miniwatt EF86 Mesh Plates and Brimar CV4003 tubes from Upscale Audio rounding out the set. Rick @ VIVA, and Jared @ Upscale were both very helpful with selections, and the Adagio is sounding particularly good now.
Take a look at the Art Audio Vinyl One on sale now on Audiogon. I used to own one and really liked it. No relation to seller. I think it was made OEM by K&K.
Interesting the Cary PH-302 MK Il phono pre doesn’t get more love in these threads. Four 6SL7 vacuum tubes, plus vacuum tube rectification, mm and variable impedance mc settings, US made, dead quiet, very musical unit. External power supply available from the factory if desired, couple really nice reviews. A very fine phono stage.
... I thought you were going to try a Nelson Pass phono stage next. Because ss is so great. The Xono Phono is generally $1500 to $2k used, but I think his latest designs are much better.Nelson Pass doesn't design phono stages.
I have the Gold Note PH-10 and it is amazing. Versatile, very detailed with great bass, mid body, and treble. It is beautiful kit also. Plus I just added the separate power supply, the PSU-10 and it is truly amazing. It substantially lowers the noise floor, especially if you don't have a power conditioner (I measured it with SPL meter) and improves on all of the attributes of the PH-10. In particular, the PSU really allow high end clarity without harshness and casts an amazing soundstage. Highly recommended!