Phono stage for my system?

I am getting back into my vinyl collection and would like some recommendations from vinyl enthusiasts. My equipment includes the following. 

Ayre K-5xe pre-amp - no phono stage
Pro-ject Debut III turntable with stock Ortofon cartridge (OM 5e I believe)
Proceed HPA2 amp
Aerial Acoustics Model 8b speakers

I am currently using the phono stage in my Integra video processor/pre-amp the signal from which passes through the Ayre pre-amp. I find it lacking in detail and soundstage even when listening to some excellent DG and Decca classical recordings. I realize my cartridge may pose some limitations, so let me know if you view that as an area for potentially greater improvement. 

Given the level of my turntable and cartridge, my budget is up to $1,000 for the phono stage, with the understanding I may choose to upgrade the cartridge or turntable in the future.  Thanks in advance for your suggestions. 

Its not the cartridge, its the crappy home theater phono stage. Plus what are you running it through? Patch cords? Even a budget stand-alone phono stage will be a massive improvement, and then if you also get a pretty decent interconnect watch out, your table will be transformed. 

You can probably find a good used ARC PH3SE for under a grand. Hardly anything new that price will be as good, and if you upgrade you will probably be able to sell and hardly lose a dime, hard to do with anything new.

Or buy a Schiit Mani for $149 and an Ortofon 2M Red for $99 for a shorter-term big upgrade.
A Parks Puffin phono stage will set you back $400 and leave you some money to invest in a better turntable and / or cartridge and sound a lot better than what you're using now.
As to cabling, the Pro-ject turntable came from the factory with RCA interconnects attached. They are likely replaceable if I open the bottom of the housing. The Integra is connected to the Ayre pre-amp with decent Transparent balanced interconnects. 

I appreciate the phono stage and cartridge recommendations. As to the turntable, my research suggests I would have to spend in excess of $1,000 for a material upgrade, plus the cost of a well-matched new cartridge. So I want to try a phono stage at home to see the extent of the improvement before contemplating the new turntable. That makes sense to me. Why run a better turntable/cartridge through a phono stage of questionable quality?
How about a pre-owned Linn Euphorik?  The reasons I'm interested is that I've had a good experience with another Linn product, Linn makes excellent turntables, and the Euphorik can be bought for $1,000 or a bit more and it is adjustable for MM and MC cartridges of varying capacitance, etc., which is an advantage should I upgrade my cartridge at a later date. 
I am using a Musical Surroundings Phonomena II phono amp.  My set up includes a Thorens TD 166 MkII turntable, Ortofon 2M Bronze cartridge, Ayre KX5 Twenty pre-amp, Ayre VX5 Twenty amp, and B&W 805D3 speakers, and MJ Acoustics sub.  It sounds great.

Consider a Gold Note PH10 phono.
Adjustment for just about everything on the fly from the front panel.
Can connect 2 separate carts if required.
Has massive gain capability so down the road you could investigate really low output MC carts.
$1600 new, a few used around at right on 1k. I sold mine for $999 and only changed as I fancied playing with a tube phono stage.
Highly recommended!
JLTI is cheaper and absolutely amazing at its price for MM or MC
I have both Gold Note PH-10 and JLTI, the last one is best buy in my opinion! 

I do not recommend any tube phono stage, you can stuck with tube rolling forever and nice NOS tubes are extremely expensive (cost more than phono stage itself). It's just waste of time and money. 
second the Gold Note ph10. 

if wanting to spend much less for a rather surprising phono stage look at the Ifi Audio Iphono2 at <$500 its a killer phono stage with surprising adjustability for future carts. 
Thanks for the additional recommendations.  From reading your responses and prior threads about phono stages, there is no clear and obvious choice.  And I want to demo at least two or three, if possible.  

Three things I've seen repeated several times are (1) need to match phono pre-amp with the cartridge, especially MC cartridges (which is not an issue for me at this time given my MM cartridge), (2) benefits of having a phono stage that allows the user to adjust to match output, capacitance, etc. of cartridge, and (3) importance of a good power supply (no surprise to me).

Anyone have any experience with the Linn Uphorik, per my prior post?  As @millercarbon pointed out, a pre-owned high end phono stage is likely to outperform a new unit at a comparable price, (especially if a solid state unit with no tubes to replace). 
Yes no clear choice but I'll 3rd the Gold Note PH10. So very versatile as others have pointed out.
Trichord Dino Mk3 and eventually the Dino+ PSU.

Works great with MM, MI and MC and will not be the
limiting factor for a long time.

I just heared it in comparison with the big Pass phono
and the difference was pretty small.
Some observations after reading manufacturer's, dealers' and reviewers' information about some of the cartridge recommendations.  

1.  The Gold Note PH10 sounds like an excellent product, but it is well above my $1,000 budget at $1,699.  Its power supply upgrade takes total cost well above $2,000.  Would have to purchase used, which may preclude the ability to listen before buying.  

2.  The Italian made Trichord Dino (now Mk3) has been around for years, also sounds like a good product, starts at $799, has two power supply upgrades (the first of which is $349, closer to my budget), and a power cable upgrade, all of which reviewers suggest make material improvements to sound reproduction.  It is designed to be upgraded in increments, which is something I appreciate.  Haven't found a U.S. dealer or way to demo and return.

3.  JLTI ships from Australia for about $1,000 U.S., with power supply upgrade about $340 more.  The dealer's description includes the following comments.  Not sure if there is a U.S. dealer with a return policy that would allow me to demo the unit before purchase.

"While it is optimised for Moving Coil cartridges (testing done with extremely low 0.22mV MC Cartridge), it will also perform its magic on majority of Moving Magnets. Low inductance and impedance cartridges will be at their best.

With MC the Signal to Noise Ratio (S/N) is superb, but with MM's higher impedances the noise rises, more than some than others, but in far majority of cases will be more than just adequate."

I have a good quality entry level turntable and MM cartridge.  This unit seems more appropriate for a higher quality MC cartridge, the least costly good ones costing at least $250 and more like $400-$500.  While I would consider a $250 cartridge upgrade budget, more than that would suggest purchasing a higher quality turntable.

4.  The Musical Surroundings Phonomena ii+ is also an upgraded design of a unit that has been in production for years.  Its price is $750 and its power supply is $650.  Again, I like the ability to upgrade.  The unit is made in the U.S. and has a wide range of adjustments, a plus.  Multiple sellers in U.S. with return policies.

5.  Parks Puffin is a lower cost option at $449 from Amazon.  It uses DSP and has lots of adjustment options, many more than I would likely use.  Would have to listen to it.  At least if purchased from Amazon, could be returned.  

Based on the above, #4 has me most interested.  And recommendation comes from someone who like me has Ayre Acoustics components, suggesting a similar taste in sound reproduction.

I will follow-up with another post of some other brands/models that seem to meet my requirements with the hope that some of you will have some comments about them.  I am also still considering a pre-owned Linn Uphorik, as I have some experience with Linn products and their "house sound."

Thanks for your interest in helping me narrow the field.

Great work on doing your homework!

Yes the ph10 new is out of your budget but used is in and you could upgrade later with the PS if you felt like it was needed.

I am long time user of Ayre amps, first a Ax7e and now the qx8 so have used the ph10 through both of those amps.

But if new and getting a demo is high on your list then the ph10 is out for sure.

The phenomena II has a great rep but it's not one I have heard.

Always tough but if you do go used your 1k will buy a LOT more phono than new.
JLTI ships from Australia for about $1,000 U.S., with power supply upgrade about $340 more. The dealer’s description includes the following comments. Not sure if there is a U.S. dealer with a return policy that would allow me to demo the unit before purchase.

Buy directly from the manufacturer, shipping included in the price and the power supply already upgraded in mk5 version (all for $1490 AUD) and this price will be lower for you if you’re not in Australia as they will have to excluded tax when it will be exported from AU. Full support from the manufacturer directly by email, return is not a problem as far as i know. I bought directly from Joe, great service. This is what i use myself. This brand has such a long history and ever phono stage from JLTi was amazing, look for reviews.

P.S. I have Gold Note PH-10 with external Power Supply too. My old upgraded WLM Phonata Reference MM/MC phono stage (with built-in SUTs for MC) appeared to be much better than my new Gold Note PH-10, but also much more expensive.

Dear chakster, the English saying ''I am not rich to buy cheap things''
my look curious but does apply for phono-pres. What you need is
Klyne 7PX 3.5 RIAA phono-pre. 4 x amplifying  stages , ''endless''
impedance possibilities, high frequency correction system and first
class production quality. Sell one of your ''Miyabi's'' (nobody needs
two) and add to your miserable and wishful thinking $1000 illusion.
The best place to find one is the German ''''. 

Dear chakster, the English saying ’’I am not rich to buy cheap things’’
my look curious but does apply for phono-pres. What you need is
Klyne 7PX 3.5 RIAA phono-pre. 4 x amplifying stages , ’’endless’’
impedance possibilities, high frequency correction system and first
class production quality.

There are many good features in the Gold Note PH-10 too and amazing reviews, so many people love it, but it does not reproduce super tight bass as my WLM phono stage, or even as the JLTi which is a champ for its price and fully adjustable for MM and MC with RCA plug load resistors on the back.

It’s cool that you like your phono stage, but how many of them did you tried, just curious ? @nandric

Sell one of your ’’Miyabi’s’’ (nobody needs
two) and add to your miserable and wishful thinking $1000 illusion.
The best place to find one is the German ’’’’.

I need two Miyabi as i’m not gonna retip any of them, i will be happy to buy even one more, also it will help me to better understand which one i like on various tonearms, i can also compare my two (virtually unknown MCA vs. classic Standard). I want to remind you that german audio mart available for german and EU citizens only.

Actually there is one very interesting current load phono stage designed especially for Miyabi by 47 Labs. Read about it! I wish i could try this one.

P.S. Just want to make it clear that i don’t need any tube phono stages. It’s an endless quest with tube rollings and new versus nos, i am so happy that i don’t use tube gear any longer (at least at the moment in my system.

Dear chakster, I called you ''our second Raul'' but had no idea
how right I was. You both don't need any advise whatever so
the question is what you ask this one? 
Addition. Dear chakster I was always wondering why Russian 
accepted Hegelian logic. I at last got the answer thanks to you.
Hegelian ''logic'' allows contradictions. You own 3 ''excellent
phono pres'' but obviously need a good one. 
Decware makes a very nice one - but $1300 so over your limit. I would still check it out. It is well worth it. Also some DIY tube stuff online if you are handy with a soldering iron. 
@chakster since you live in St. Petersburg, Russia (correct?) have you ever heard/tried a step-up from S.A. Labs? (a company out of Moscow). For years I used a Kondo KSL-SFz step-up but once I heard the S.A. Labs unit I sold my Kondo unit and have not looked back. 

(Dealer disclaimer) 

Dear chakster, I called you ’’our second Raul’’ but had no idea
how right I was. You both don’t need any advise whatever so
the question is what you ask this one?

I’ve heard this advice from you at least 5 times before, but i just want to make clear why you like that phono stage so much and how many others did you try before. It will be more interesting to read, because every owner of some phono stage admire what they have, i actually test them and my point of view is critical, based on what i actually hear in comparison (most important for myself). My old is "gold" (since it was upgraded with vishay resistors), my new were all inferior compared to my old in some way, no progress, just waste of money (only to proove that my old is better), so why do i need another that i can’t even check before purchase? This is not my thread and it’s not me who’s asking for advice, but i’m open for an opinion from others all the time. Also intuitively i have some pretenders in my mind when it’s time to check something new, i’ve mentioned one from 47 Labs because its design in unique (zero input impedance, current injection phono stage) and because it’s for Miyabi (and other low impedance MC). I have already tried and own current source power amp (not a voltage power amp like all others) and i was blew away by the quality compared to conventional amps.


have you ever heard/tried a step-up from S.A. Labs? (a company out of Moscow).

No, never heard about it and i don't even trust local manufacturers, very few things produced locally nowadays. Regarding new devices i’m happy with ZYX CPP-1 headamp, as for the vintage i got a pair of Luxman Toroidal Silver SUTs.

Dear @sameyers1 : I think that your best option could be that Linn Uphorik you mentioned.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
I like the lounge audio (silver) with Coppola for mc carts. My buddy has one, quiet, and more importantly musical. My preference is tubes in pre's but that usually comes with a cost. You can certainly look for a used rogue Ares, won't get better than that for 1k-ish.  
Some other possibilities not mentioned by anyone yet.

A.  Dynavector P75 mk4 - This device has been around for years.  The latest incarnation has a number of improvements, including better power supply and more adjustability for MM cartridges.  Available in the U.S. from multiple vendors with return policies for $895.


B.  Graham Slee Reflex M - This company has been making phono stages for a long time and has earned industry kudos for their products.  This unit is one of their better models for MM and high output MC cartridges.  It is available with three different power supplies from well under to a bit over $1,000 U.S.

C.  Lehmann Black Cube SE II - Yet another firm that has a long history of producing quality phono stages offers this model with a separate power supply for slightly over $1,000.

D.  Sutherland KC Vibe - A final candidate from a long established firm in this business.  It is their entry level product for $895.

All of these products are available in the U.S. from U.S. vendors with return policies.  All have received favorable reviews.  Does anyone have experience with any of these units?

Before pursuing the pre-owned Linn Uphorik, $2,995 new, (thanks to @rauliruegas for providing a link to a review of the Linn Uphorik from HiFi Choice), I would like to evaluate at home two or three new units to see if they provide a sufficiently engaging sound.

Thanks to all for your recommendations, but please do remember that some of us have a budget. 
Dear @sameyers1 :  Sutherland has very good desins and with very good quality excecution of those designs but the  Uphorik is not only a true dual mono design but a balanced one that's an advantage for lower noise levels when we are talking of phono stages.

Obviously that it's a personal decision.

@rauliruegas - Thx for your feedback.  You have summarized well two of the major reasons I'm interested in the Linn Uphorik.  A couple of others are worth mentioning.  The unit can be adjusted to optimize its  performance for virtually any MM or MC cartridge.  And Linn's house sound, like my Ayre Acoustics equipment, is very neutral, which is what I have grown to appreciate as someone who plays the piano (not all that well, but for my ow enjoyment) and who attends lots of classical and jazz concerts.  Linn and Ayre both make some of the best, neutral sounding electronics at their price points.  I'm not sure I can take advantage of the balanced circuitry, as I will have to explore if I can replace the tonearm cabling in my turntable to provide balanced connections.  But the improved S/N ratio of balanced connections is worth pursuing.

I'm also interested in a pre-owned Ayre Acoustics P-5xe phono stage, which is no longer made, but last sold for around $3,250 new.  They are only infrequently available on Audiogon or U.S. Audiomart, and the recent sales were in the $1,500 to $1,700 range.  But that unit is also dual mono and balanced (or RCA).  I own three other pieces of Ayre equipment (pre-amp, CD player and DAC) and find their sound even more open, clear (but not harsh) and natural than the Linn products.  And Ayre is great about repairs and upgrades at reasonable costs.

Your input is much appreciated.  
OP - Skip the KC Vibe.  Had one for a few weeks and returned it.  Everything sounded like background elevator music.  Ugh!
@hifiman5 thanks for your feedback on the KC Vibe.  It is now off the list.  Any thoughts on any of the other new or pre-owned units left on the list?  Or any others I can purchase for something close to $1,000 or a bit more?
For a quick upgrade in sound, I’d strongly recommend a Schiit Mani phono pre and a Nagaoka MP-110.
I normally use a modded/upgraded EAR 834p and a Goldring 1022, but the Mani and Nagaoka surprised me at how great the combo sounds. 
The Mani is only $129, and the Nagaoka is aprox $120-$140. 
The Ortofon OM5e is at the bottom tier of the Ortofon line of carts, and is most likely the first thing you may want to upgrade. 
I’ll second Noromance’s (and Technic, we were both writing simultaneously)  suggestion on the Schiit Mani, it’s undeniably amazing. However, I’d spend an extra $25 on a Nagaoka 110 which runs circles around my 2M Blue in an honest a/b. The Naga isn’t quite as warm as the Ortofon but the detail is more in line with a mid-range MC than a MM. You’ll have quite an amazing sounding vinyl setup on the cheap. The good part is you won’t have to make any apologies to anyone (including yourself) for having spent so little. If you are feeling too guilty about spending so little you could always step up to the Nagaoka MP200 for around $325 and have a setup that sounds more like you spent $2500 than $474! That’s what I did, although it feels really weird using $1500 worth of Synergistic ICs to connect it all, but I had them already.
I have used and owned both the Dynavector P3 mk3 and various Graham Slee models.

As you just acknowledged the Slee cater for mm carts only ( on their lower tier models) where a homc will work obviously.

Out of those pair I think the Slee was more dynamic in its presentation although the outboard PS which the P3 lacks may have accounted for some of that.

By all accounts the P3 mk4 is not a massive change over the mk3 so sonic signature should be similar.

And a huge nod yes to a Nagoaka cart, I bought the mp150 and was/ am very impressed for the cost
I got back into vinyl a yr ago & had the same feeling.  I bought a Jolida JD-9 on this sight & I love it.  I think it was $900 & purchased on this site.
Thanks for your additional recommendations and comments regarding  the Schiit Mani, Nagaoka cartridges, Graham Slee vs. Dynavector and Jolida JD-9.  
Listening to the Ayre P-5xe right now. It’s an excellent phono stage. Highly recommended. I’ll be switching to a Boulder 508, but I don’t think it’s going to be a huge difference. This Ayre seems like it punches above its weight class. 
Having used a Gold Note PH10 for about two months; I agree with one of the above posts that is was "Okay" not great, but OK.   
I have a very resolving system here and it was noisy to me.  The low end was just OK.  The upper end was lacking in sound stage and imaging.  The mid range was very good; that was its strong point.

Anyway, its out of here and replaced this summer with a Whest Three Signature... honestly the Whest is leagues ahead.   In fact it is so much nicer that I just ordered an upper level Whest.  I will report back once I get it installed and do some comparison to the Three.

@mayoradmwest thanks for the confirmation of the Ayre unit's abilities.  @slimpikins5, the Whest is way above my budget even for a pre-owned unit.  Trying to stay within $1,000 or maybe a bit more for a great pre-owned unit.
Actually there are so many phono stages available on the market, and we have some new every year. It is hard to imagine that any of us can try them all to compare. The questions like this makes no sense, we always end up with a list of different phono stages and personal opinions, but we're all have different cartridges, completely different systems and totally different musical preferences. But more important that none of us never tried all different phono stages. In my opinion this is individual path, it is not necessary that you will like what other people recommend. 

We all know you are right, but enjoy the debate anyway!
You should seriously look at the Whest Two in the used market. It’s based on the Whest Three, only it doesn’t have the fancy toroid external power supply in a dedicated chassis. But other wise, its not going to be too far off from the Three in performance. You can find these routinely for the $1000 budget you are trying to hit.  If you wanted to stretch things a bit, a nice used (if you can find one) Whest Three Signature will trade from $1800 to $2K and that is a steel as I have seen them go for more.

I have a new custom build 2019 Whest PS.30 RDT SE on the way from London shortly, it's being modified to accommodate my wonderful AT 20ss MM cartridge.  Nothing is changing on the MC side, it's just having the input capacitance trimmed from 91 pf down to 20 pf so that my total input capacitance will run at 150 pf to match the AT 20ss specification and James is adding in a second gain setting for the MM side.  It will have both 43 db and 46 db as I find the 46 db works out great for my system; those are the two gain settings available in the Whest Three Signature.
Dear @sameyers1 : Now you have 3 excellent options: Linn, Ayre ( really good designs by Ayre ) and the Whest.

You can't go wrong with either of those units. Maybe your budget will decides for you. Good that you already own Ayre electronics somewhere in your system.

I agree the Whest is a good solid choice but I would say I have NEVER seen one for sale at anywhere near 1k, usually much closer to $1500 to $1700 for the Whest Two.
But maybe I have sleeping and missed those bargains...….
I think I am talking about the older TWO, not the more Current model, but yes it may well be more.
When I get my new specially built Whest PS.30 RDT SE 2019 model in, I plan on doing a lot of a/b comparison work against my Whest Three Signature in order to really hear the differences in what it digs out.  A friend of mine may be buying the Three off of me, but if that doesn't happen, I'll be putting the Three up for sale as I don't really need two phono stages.  Although I am tempted to keep it as its so good.
@chakster  - you are right that everything is subjective and that I can't rely on other people.  I am not.  I am simply trying to narrow down the many choices that you note are available.  This forum has already helped in several ways.  It has provided feedback from people who use and presumably prefer Ayre Acoustics equipment, like most of what I own (pre-amp, CD player and DAC).  I value their impressions of the many phono stages they've owned or auditioned, since I have to assume they like the Ayre "house sound" as I do.

As someone who has not owned multiple phono stages, I have gotten some sense of the units that may be disappointing in the level of noise or detail compared to others.  That is useful in trying to narrow things down to say three options to audition.  With the number of decent audio dealers dwindling and with fewer still offering phono stages of any quality, I am likely going to have to purchase from an out-of-town dealer with a return policy, find a friend or acquaintance who will loan me his or her unit to try at home (I've already arranged that for the Ayre P-5xe), or take a risk on a pre-owned unit that is widely recommended (which I hesitate to do) or from a manufacturer with a "house sound" I like (e.g. the Linn Euphorik).

Finally, I've gotten confirmation that my cartridge is also likely part of the sound quality deficit I'm experiencing and I have found two reasonable options that I will try to audition in home before purchasing the phono stage, to see if one jumps out at me.

Your comments are true with respect to the purchase of any piece of audio equipment - pre-amp, amp, speakers, DAC, phono cartridge, etc.  There are too many choices to listen to them all.  And I may not like the same thing that others do.  But the whole point of anyone asking questions on this forum is to gain input that may help them to narrow the field as best they can.  That is a better option than just going to one or two local dealers who will try to sell you the lines they represent or relying solely on trade magazines that accept advertising from the manufacturers and who audition the products on equipment that bears no resemblance to what you own or like.     
@rauliruegas - You are right about having three pre-owned options.  The Linn Euphorik is available close to my budget.  I've found no pre-owned Ayre P-5xe's currently for sale.  Those that have sold recently were 50% or more over my budget.  But for the Ayre, I'd likely stretch.  Need to check on a pre-owned Whest.  Also, there is one new unit that has floated to the top of my list - the Musical Surroundings Phonomena II+ suggested by @jacahn, who owns an Ayre pre-amp and amp.  I read some reviews, went to the manufacturer's site and checked with an out-of-town dealer I know who carries the unit and has a return policy.  It may be a good fit as it is adjustable and an upgraded power supply can be purchased at a later date.

Again, thx to all for your input. 
The Rega Fono Mini is an outstanding phono preamp, and would be a sonic upgrade for most receivers.  This includes many vintage receivers as well.  Full disclosure here.  We are a Rega dealer.  ;-)
Just for the record; I had a Gold Note PH10, I was not too happy with it so I brought in a Musical Surroundings Nova III with the external LPS power supply.  It was much better than the PH10 in low end bass detail and power, much better in upper end imaging and sound stage, but not as good in the all important mid range.  The mid range just sounded blah, flat to me; but that is me, maybe not you.

That is what prompted me to try out a Whest Three Signature as it was so well reviewed and suggested by people I know.  The Whest just blew the Nova III and the PH10 out of the water in my system.  It had better bass detail and dynamic power, far more detailed upper end and best of all, the smoothest mid range.

That's my take on it all.  Again, I think that you can find a Whest Two.2 for around $1K, I have seen them offered.   I'd skip the other offerings and just locate a solid used Whest, you will not regret doing that.
Post removed 
Am monitoring on Audiogon, U.S. Audiomart and Hi-fi Shark.  It may be too early to make an offer on this Ayre unit.  My friend is loaning me his Ayre P-5xe to listen over a weekend.  May not be able to do it for a couple of weeks, based on our schedules.  I want to hear it first before seeking a pre-owned unit.

Also, after input from many of you and a dealer I've worked with, it would seem that an Ortofon 2m Bronze would be a suitable upgrade for my turntable, my musical tastes and the kind of sound I prefer (more neutral than warm, emphasis on resolution).  Anything more costly would be overkill given its tonearm, etc.  My turntable just could not use truly high end cartridges to best advantage, nor can my budget afford it.  And per my prior observation, I'd have to spend $1,500 or more to get a new turntable and cartridge that would be materially better once the new cartridge is installed.  Ortofon recommends the 2m Blue as an upgrade, but the dealer suggests (as have several of you) that the 2m Bronze is far superior, quieter, more resolving.  The Ortofon is also a good physical fit for my tonearm.  The dealer has a return policy so I will give it a try.