Add the Marchand to your list. Jallen
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I have 2 suggestions. I've used both in my system with great results.
Ray Samuels Audio F-117 Nighthawk is a battery powered phono stage that's wonderful for about $775. Getting the phono stage off the grid is valuable. The silence allows phenomenal detail without being "hyped up".
In addition, EAR 834 phono stages are commonly for sale used at about $1000. Also a classic good value that can be improved with NOS tubes. Both high value solutions.
I have found the Sutherland PH3D to be a very good SS phono preamp. It is extremely neutral and honest, and has absolutely no background noise whatsoever. By honest I mean that well recorded LPs sound great, and poorly recorded LPs sound like crap.
Yes, all of those D cells were a concern when I received the unit, but they work well and have a long life. They also weigh the unit down nicely so that it sits securely on a rack shelf. Inside, it's a well-built unit made with high quality components.
I haven't heard the Heed. The PS Audio gets rave reviews but I tried one for a couple of weeks and din't find it special - neither good or bad. The Nova Phonomena is another great unit. Michael Yee designs great phono stages. The Phonomena is a very good amp, but IMHO not as quiet or neutral as the PH3D. But are smply my impressions in my system. YMMV
Thank you all for great suggestions and advice.
213cobra, do you have the Jasmine? If you read on Musical Surroundings website, they rather strongly criticize preamps that offer too much gain for the job. Apparently, the unit works much harder than it needs to at the cost of sound neutrality. The Delos needs only 55 dB of gain according to the KAB calculator. 70 dB sounds way too much and it's not adjustable on the Jasmine; 55 dB for MM carts apparently didn't work too well for a Lyra MC cart a reviewer was using. I'd also prefer to have a 47k Ohms load setting for the cart since Jon Carr suggests experimenting with a wide range of load settings for Lyra carts. What cartridge are you using, if you are, to be so confident the Jasmine outperforms the other preamps? Considering how many positive reviews the other units have got, that's quite a ballsy statement!
It's hard to argue with 834P reviews, which are all stellar, but one thing that kind of bothers me with this preamp is the fact that it has a load of 6 Ohms for MC carts, only. I've been told by owners that the Delos works best at around 200 Ohm setting, and I would ideally like to have an option to experiment with load settings. That said, I've never heard this being an issue with the 834P, so I wonder what's really going on with the resistive loading of moving coil cartridges. Is this some sort of a myth or illusion?
EAR 834P is a safe bet. Love mine with various NOS MMs I play.
Nova Phonomena ( I have a Supernova which is much and much the same in sound) is a bit more neutral and less euphonic, had various loading and gain option but I still prefer the EAR for MM or Allnic H1500SE for LOMC in general.
I also had the stock GCPH in the past and it's a well built unit but mediocre sound at best. Wonder what the reviewers were on.
Where as I think Ray Samuel Nighthawk F117 is much better for less money. This thing is very, very good for the money.
>>213cobra, do you have the Jasmine?<<
I do own the Jasmine. It is switchable for 55db or 70db gain. Who cares what Musical Surroundings says? They sell a lower-gain unit. Sure, if you design a circuit to deliver more gain using inferior methods or parts, sound will suffer. But the Jasmine is very carefully designed and executed. It's quiet, too. It sounds better than the majority of phono preamps, regardless of price. You can use the 55db gain position for the Delos.
On the Jasmine, you get 47Kohms impedance on the MM 55db gain setting and choices of 50/100/250/1k ohms on the MC 70db gain setting. What more do you need? Use a transformer into 47k, which is what you should be doing anyway.
>>What cartridge are you using, if you are, to be so confident the Jasmine outperforms the other preamps?<<
Let's see....Right now, I variously use Denon DL103D, 103R, DL305, DL103M, 103FL, 103Gold, Zu103, Ortofon SPU Synergy, SPU Meister Silver, Signet TK9LC, and I've listened to Koetsu Urushi Vermillion and Black Goldline through the Jasmine. I use some of these cartridges with MC SUTs into the 55db gain position, which is preferable in general for MC carts, but straight into the 70db gain position, they all sound magnificent as well. I use Koetsu, EAR MC3 and Cinemag transformers.
The Jasmine isn't the only phono stage I have. I also use Audion Premier, Wright WPP100C, the MM phono section of an Audion Premier full preamp and a Bel Canto Phono1. I put the Jasmine up against a Manley Steelhead and the Manley was left crying in a corner, but that wasn't surprising. It humiliated a K&K.
>>Considering how many positive reviews the other units have got, that's quite a ballsy statement!<<
I've been spending my own money on serious audio for 40 years, going back to the time when you didn't buy a separate phono stage because full preamps with great phono sections were routinely offered. I don't need reviews to validate my choices and I hear a LOT of gear. I've had much more expensive and cheaper phono preamplifiers and while I'm not saying there aren't better phono preamps available, this one is a genuine gem, a sleeper in the best tradition, and it will make better, higher-fidelity music than any competing item on your original list.
But understand I think every phono stage on your list is fully credible. These are all good phono stages. It's just that the Jasmine is better. It would cost far more if it were made in Europe or the US, instead of China, but its Chinese origins do not reflect *any* lessening of design or execution. The designer is seriously talented, he knows good sound and how to get it and his build quality, parts selection and general execution are beyond reproach.
If you like reviews, here's one worth reading:
Hey Phil, thanks for a thorough reply. A lot of good information there. One of the problems I had with my previous setup was rumble, even though the system looked good on paper. I bought a KAB rumble filter that took care of the problem. I'm still waiting for my Classic and the Delos so I don't know if the system will need a rumble filter. If it does, anything over 65 dB of gain with a moving coil will apparently overload the KAB, which actually happened to a member here who was using it with the Steelhead. That's one of the reasons I'd prefer something with adjustable gain as the Delos apparently needs less then 60dB of gain. Ideally, I'd like to try all these amp first but it's not realistic. Either way, think we've compiled a nice list here and I want to thank all of those who posted in this thread. Thank you!
>> I'm still waiting for my Classic and the Delos so I don't know if the system will need a rumble filter.<<
Yikes...you'd put a KAB active filter in a moving coil signal chain?
>>the Delos apparently needs less then 60dB of gain<<
Then use the 55db gain position and if you want to alter resistive load, use a DB Systems DBP-6MC passive loading kit.
Anyway, you have a handful of capable phono stages to consider. I'll add that if a Bel Canto Phono1 shows up here, snap it up as an alternative to Jasmine. Also an overachiever. 40/60db gain switchable, with variable loading. One more - The Wright Sound WPP100C has continuously variable gain to something like 63db (can't find the spec offhand), and sounds quite objective, unlike many tube phono preamps. It's a buy on the used market, too.
Thanks for the suggestions. Yes, I would put a filter in the signal chain if I experienced rumble with my setup and couldn't fix it mechanically. I believe, if unaddressed, excessive woofer pumping does more harm to the sound (and equipment) than a good quality subsonic filter. I'm just hoping my new analog front won't be as susceptible to the problem as my previous setup.
I've heard good things about the Wright preamp, but it appears the website has been suspended so I'm not sure what to make of it. Do you know whether he's still in business, or only used units can be had at this point?
George Wright passed away last year. There is no more new Wright Sound product. But you can find the Wpp100C and Wpp200C on the used market, here, from time to time.
You're right to see subsonic woofer excursion as a problem worth avoiding. Best to avoid it at the source rather than via a filter, and if you have to use a filter, use one with more signal headroom.
Has anyone had any experience with the Trigon Vanguard 2 phono preamp? It can be upgraded to be powered by a battery unit (Volcano 2), which apparently elevates it to another level. Used could actually fit my budget.
On a different note, I'm sorry to hear about George Wright. It is always very sad to hear about such a loss, in addition to the personal tragedy his family experienced. RIP George.