Phono Preamp Suggestions?

I have a Sota Star table, with SME IV-VI arm, and a Shelter 90X cartridge. I would like to upgrade my current phono preamp (Music Fidelity X-LPSv3).

I am using the Denon Prepro as my Preamp, Classe CA-M400 amps, and B&W 802D speakers.

I would like to get something nice that is a good match for the rest of my system, for $1000-$1800. Used or new is fine. Do you have some suggestions?

Additional Info:
- The Shelter cartridge has an output of .65mv
- I am open to SS or Tubes.
- Currently, I think my system is pretty neutral. I would prefer a neutral phono preamp, or maybe something with just a very slight hint of warmth.


Thank you all for the responses so far.

I have considered upgrading the preamp to a 2-ch preamp with HT bypass, but the Denon prepro actually has a very clean preamp. While this may be my 2nd weakest link, I have thusfar assumed my current phono preamp is the weakest link.

Now, if I found a 2-ch preamp with HT bypass and a very good phono preamp, that would be an option.

But, at this point, I don't want to by any "compromise" pieces. I want to buy something now that I can be with happy for several years.

So far there have been some good suggestions on phono preamps. Where would the Pass Ono (used), compare to the current suggestions?

Are there any Preamp with included phono stage, and HT bypass, that campare with the EAR or Pass for example, in the $1000-$1800 range?

IMO. The path you are on is full of compromises. I don't care what any HT guru tells you, HT gear is not going to do 2 channel as well and especially not vinyl.

But, it is your system and your budget and you are the one who needs to be happy with the sound in the end. I suggest you stay with SS as you'll not really get the full benefit of tubes. IMO.

Thanks for the inputs. So do you have any suggestions along the 2-ch pre that is within my price range?

My original plan was to spend $1000-$1800 now and get a phono pre that will last for several years.

Later, if I decide my Prepro needs to be replaced, I planned to scrape up money and do that. If the Prepro is indeed my weak link, of course I will upgrade that before my phono pre.

For those that are recommending that I buy a 2-ch first, is this because you assume the Denon Prepro does not have a good preamp, or because all Prepros have subpar preamps?

Hi Dmccombs,

While your Denon HT preamp may be pretty good, it is most likely the weakest link in your system. It was designed with home theater and convenience in mind, first, and 2-channel audio as a secondary priority. Whereas, the rest of your system was specifically designed for 2-channel reproduction. You have really great components, just that the Denon is not in their league.

You can find yourself a much better used preamp for ~$1.3k range and still have money left over for a better phono pre, if necessary.

There's a VTL 2.5 line stage with MM/MC phono stage($1.2K) made in 2002. It is the current version of the preamp.

- 6 line inputs, 2 pairs of outputs, 1 record out, 1 tape loop, 1 external processor loop, currently set to MM

Supposedly, this later version of VTL 2.5 can be switched to MC cartridge loading(and gain) by simply switching an internal jumper.

Some other good used choices (and keep your phono), would be:

Balanced Audio (BAT)
Audio Research
Bel Canto
EAR linestage

Anyway, try a nice tube preamp and see what it does for your system, overall. Might be just what you are looking for, and more.
What Darkmoebius said. I have owned BAT, EAR, and Classe. I would add to his list Hagtech and K&K Audio. Even if you are not into DIY. You can have the preamp built for you, or build it yourself if you are able.

Even so, since you are searching for your right components you may also consider watching the used preamp listing here. Most often you can pick up a good used item, use it for several months and resell it for little to no loss. It is a pretty good way to sample what's out there.

Either way I would vote for starting with the preamp.