Decware ZP3 https://www.decware.com/newsite/ZP3.htm Please note- depending on cartridge output you may need the optional SUT. If you do that will put you a little over budget. Read the info, search comments, take your time. Might as well. Wait list according to oldhvymec (who just ordered one) is six months.
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@luxmancl38 I had not thought of the e-250. That seems solid if I ccan get one used. thanks.
@rsf507 I keep looking at that one but the screen and software part worries me. When the screen craps out then a functioning unit is rendered useless. I will look at it again. I have never seen it with PS for $2k or under though.
@avanti1960 heresy for sure but my concern with the Sutherland is that its so transparent that its not really there. I don't mind imparting on the sound a little, its the spice that makes the dish tasty. The 2 power cord/IC's 18 feet apart is a distant second concern.
Its really only my list as many, like you, absolutely love the thing so its has to be good.
Its still up for consideration of course. I'm just not as interested in absolute fidelity as I am in a pleasing sound.
@goldprintaudio yes. I am currently running mm carts and will someday get into MC so I figure I can just go with a matched SUT and cart when that time comes.
I love the thought of tubes but there's a strain of thinking where I keep returning to solid state for convenience and silence. Always on and ready to go. Always quiet. Like a ninja!
I really never know when I'll get a chance to spin a couple sides so warm up time could be a factor. Plus in my mind solid state = slam and dynamics (which I know isnt true). So theres that. So for those reasons the Suspiso and 20/20 keep finding their way into my psyche.
I really never know when I'll get a chance to spin a couple sides so warm up time could be a factor.Most tubes in a preamp take 20 seconds. And then about 1/3 hour to an hour to sound their best. By contrast most solid state preamps don't sound right for about a day; I found I had to leave my solid state preamp on 24/7...
As far as 'dynamics'... IME when audiophiles talk about 'dynamics' they are most often (about 90% of the time) actually talking about distortion, and if you swap the word 'distortion' for that of 'dynamics' the meaning of the conversation is unchanged. The brightness of solid state is caused by distortion, since the ear assigns a tonality to any form of distortion- its literally the difference between tube and solid state. But FWIW, the dynamic character of the music comes from the recording, not the playback circuit. If it appears to come from the latter, in all cases its because distortion is masquerading as 'dynamics'. If you want lower distortion, seek 'smooth and detailed'. Smoothness is a lack of higher ordered harmonics, detail is often associated with brightness but it really doesn't work that way! When its **both** smooth **and** detailed that's when you are really making progress.
I agree about 'slam' but seriously, 'dynamics' usually means distortion. This is because the ear uses the higher ordered harmonics in order to sense how loud a sound is. When the electronics is adding higher ordered harmonics even in very small amounts, the ear interprets this as both brightness and 'dynamics'.
Real musical contrasts (dynamic contrast) can only come from the recording. It really isn't a property of electronics unless those electronics have problems with higher ordered harmonic distortion. This has fueled the tubes/transistors debate for 60 years. Its why tubes are still around decades after they should have been obsolete.
If you want a solid state preamp that isn't bright, you'll want one that is op-amp based and probably doesn't has less than 20dB of gain for any opamp in the circuit. To do this requires quite a lot of feedback (over 40dB) and this allows the opamp to not generate the higher ordered harmonics. But it won't sound 'dynamic' either because its not making distortion- it will simply sound like the music its reproducing.
The problem you are up against with a phono section is that the cartridge and tonearm cable have an electrical resonance that can really mess with the front end of a phono section. The resonance can easily overload the input section of the preamp, generating a tick or a pop that sounds for all the world as if its on the LP surface!
The first time I experienced this was about 33 years ago with an employee’s preamp using a Grado cartridge. To be clear, with a MM cartridge that peak can be about 20dB, which with a MM cartridge can be about 5 Volts! Many MM phono sections can’t handle that sort of level, so they make distortion. The thing is, the peak is ultrasonic, so most of the time you can’t hear it (unless you have a tonearm cable that has high capacitance- the higher the capacitance, the lower the frequency of the peak). The distortion is heard as a tick or a pop.
Its far easier to design a phono section using tubes to get a nice high overload margin. With opamps and discreet transistors it can be difficult. So if an opamp is used, its gain must be kept low so it won’t be overloaded. Many designers just don’t think about the implications of this electrical peak, so many inexpensive solid state designs have this problem. It seems that Pass Labs has built good phono sections that have good overload margins- I don’t know if they have one in your price range but its worth a look. 47 Labs makes a very competent phono section that features a current-mode input, and its gotten good reviews. I mention that one becaase it appears that the current mode input has some advantages with reducing the effect of the electrical peak.
If you google ’current mode phono preamp’ you’ll find that 47 Labs is by no means the only manufacturer using current mode inputs. If I were going solid state that kind of phono section is what I would look at first!
You might want to have a look at the Musical Surroundings Nova Iii Phono Stage with the Linear Charging Power Supply. Just over your budget at $2150 but you might be able to get a discount from your dealer.
It's very flexible and easy to use and works for both MM and MC cartridges. Sounds great with the Hana ML or my AMG Teatro. I don't think you mentioned your turntable or cartridge or the rest of your system so I am shooting blind but this is a great phono stage in this price range.
I entered the tube phono stage world with a Rhea Asthetix a few years ago and it blew my mind. I just upgraded to an Allnic H3000 and am thrilled. Used Rhea's should be available for what your looking to spend and I don't think you can find much better. Good luck with your search. Its definitely fun.
PS Audio just came out with a new Phono Stage but its $2.5K But they will take your current stage in on trade and do have a well regarded audition program.
I have really been enjoying my ELAC PPA-2. Fremer had a nice review on Analog Planet a few weeks back. The price has dropped to $999 at most retailers. https://www.analogplanet.com/content/easy-warm-elac-alchemy%E2%80%99s-1250-ppa-2-phono-preamp
i agree about the 20 20. for me the fact that it is so neutral is a positive. i want my phono preamp to be completely neutral, clean and dynamic.
this lets the character of the recording and mastering shine through. i add character elesewhere, in the cartridge for example.
the 20 20 lets the character of the cartridge be heard in full bloom.
Musical Fidelity M6 vinyl phono pre. I have had it over a year. Two tables. Marantz TT-15 with Sumiko Blackbird MC cartridge and Music Hall MMF-5.3 with Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood MM cartridge. I can keep both turntables hooked up and change them with a flick of a switch. The M6 has a great sound for $1,800. Here is a link: