How much ya wanna spend, tops?
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What cartridge you are going to run seems to be more to the point, MM, MI, MC? Output voltage and preferred input impedance matter a lot. As well, what speakers. I SAF wouldn't buy any phono preamp that didn't have an infrasonic filter if I had a ported or passive radiator speaker. Woofer flap anyone?
Right now I'm looking at a Zephyr MK3 ES. The speakers have a port on the front and the bottom
@mattmiller Most of the records I have collected are from pretty good sources. There's one off of ebay that I regret. I'd love to try the Manley Chinook but so far they're all in the mid to upper $2ks so it will have to be an upgrade in the future. I'm going to look into the Nova as well as a few others before committing.
I would suggest a different approach. Since you are just stepping into the water, I think you might consider purchasing something like a Pro-ject Tube Box2 for $400 and listen to it for a year or so to get a better handle on analog in general. Then you will be better educated as far as knowing what's better or worse when you hear it later. It's like buying your first computer - you don't really know what you expect it to do until you play with it for a while and then say - I wish I could do this, that and the other.
Then you know what to buy on your next computer. The Tube Box is not a bad piece at all at the level of gear you're buying. And if you want to sell it in a year, you'll lose $200,
As mentioned earlier, used will get something more for your money.
If you can up your game, consider tube
Ignore the listing price in the adds, and negotiate.
Well, you did a smart thing. Start modestly and establish a baseline for your ears so you can better judge things going forward. I do remember when I had my tube box, changing the tubes to Black Sables from Tube Depot made a substantial improvement. Also, on my Music Hall turntable, which is a Pro-ject the Herbie's mat was a great upgrade. Hope your new phono stage works out well for you. Be safe.
@frozentundra I expected it to sound better but not this much. Quite a significant change. Some of these records sound like whole new recordings. At the moment I'm listening to the Dead's Ripple and the guitar and mandolin sound beautiful. And I haven't even switched the TT yet. I am still listening to the Ortofon Red 2M on the Project Debut Carbon.