Phono Stage upgrade to complement Dohmann Helix One Mk 2

Thanks to the recommendations from many users on this Audiogon blog, I think I was able to make a more informed purchase of a turntable, the Dohmann Helix One Mk 2.  I've really been enjoying the turntable for the past month!  

The next phase of my system now needs attention:  the phono stage.  Currently, I'm using a Manley Steelhead v2 running into an Ypsilon PST-100 Mk2 SE pre-amplifier (into Ypsilon Hyperion monoblocks, into Sound Lab M745PX electrostatic speakers). 

I've been told that I could really improve my system by upgrading the phono stage from the Manley Steelhead (although I've also been told that the Manley Steelhead is one of the best phono stages ever made).  
Interestingly, two of the top phono stages that I'm considering require a step-up transformer (SUT).  I'm not fully informed about any inherent advantages or disadvantages of using an SUT versus connecting directly to the phono stage itself.  

I suppose my current top two considerations for a phono stage are the Ypsilon VPS-100 and the EM/IA  LR Phono Corrector, both of which utilize an SUT.  I don't have a particular price range, but I find it hard to spend $100k on stereo components, so I'm probably looking in the $15k - $70k price range. 


I've heard both the EMIA and the Ypsilon (on different days driving the same downstream components), and I own a Steelhead v2.  You can't go wrong with either of the higher priced alternatives; they both sounded great to me, also using both a Ypsilon SUT and an EMIA SUT, on different occasions.  I cannot recall any important differences with any of those combinations.  Both are probably a hair better than the Steelhead (with the caveat that I did not hear the Steelhead driving that same particular system), but the Steelhead does offer the option of selectable gain up to 65db, negating the need and added expense of any SUT.  Plus, the Steelhead is amenable to a little tweak that I performed on mine that significantly improved its transparency.  Tough call, unless cost within this wide range is no object. 

You might also want to consider other expensive phono stages that do provide gain enough for an LOMC cartridge, without requiring a SUT.  I would strongly urge you to consider a top line balanced, current-driven phono stage, if your cartridge choice is confined to LOMCs with very low internal impedance. Or buy one of those and also buy either the EMIA or the Ypsilon, for your high output cartridges; you can get a very high quality current-driven phono for very little more cost than a top line SUT.


Yes, both cartridges that I'm running are LOMC (Lyra Atlas, and Koetsu Urushi Black).  With my limited understanding of SUT, a potential disadvantage is that if I change the cartridge, then the SUT should also change, based on the internal resistance of the MC (although it seems that as long as you stay within certain parameters, the SUT might not need changing).  
What are some of the "top line balanced, current-driven" phono stages?  

Dear @drbond  : Agree, you need something better than Manley and An Ypsilon electronics.

If you really are looking for the better quality performance levels and I mean better not diffeent the you must to go for and all FM Acoustics full electronic system. This is phono stage, line stage and way superior amp that your over 90K monobloks.

This is the phono stage and please at the end of the link download critical information by pdf format ( you need to read it. ):

Nexte link for the amplifier and the measured of your monobloks where its higher than we want output impedance makes me ask: where are those 90+K ?, look for its frequency response.


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,




And yes, you can put on sale your today electronics in case that you decide to own " the best of the best " quality true performance levels. Nothing less.



In response to your question about SUTs vs different LOMC cartridges, as long as the cartridge has a low internal resistance, which nearly any good LOMC will have, i.e., less than ~20 ohms, the choice of a SUT is more linked to how much added gain you will need over and above that which is supplied by the MM phono stage to which you attach the SUT.  In this case, be aware that the Ypsilon phono stage provides only 39db of internal gain.  Most MM stages provide more like 40-50db of gain.  That can make a difference (in choosing a SUT) if your goal is to generate more than 60db of total phono gain for a typical LOMC cartridge.  Of course, linestage gain also counts in that equation.  On Raul's recommendation of the FM Acoustics, I have no comment.

Dohmann Helix One-

You've arrived, when you can say the Manley Steelhead is "just getting by."

Well done.


Yes, the Dohmann Helix One Mk 2 has space for two tonearms, which I am running two Schroder CB 11 tonearms, with the aforementioned cartridges. 


Thanks for the FM acoustic recommendation, but are there any other brands that you can also recommend, which may be your #2 and #3 choices? 

Thanks.  I realize that I probably only have 10-15 years left of good hearing, so I may as well spend my money on something I can enjoy for a while. . . 


Thanks for clarifying some details about the SUT.  What are some current driven phono stages that you would recommend?


You should put the Nagra Classic Phono on your audition list. I have heard they may be producing a High Definition Phono, which you may also want to consider.


Thanks for the recommendation, but it appears that the Nagra phono stage only has one MC input, and one MM input. To accommodate the Dohmann, I would need two MC inputs.

Just one man's opinion, but I have heard the Nagra, albeit not in a few years, and I do not think it would play in the league with Ypsilon, EMIA, and FM Acoustics.  Like I said, it's only my opinion.

drbond, I have not kept up with the latest and greatest in current-driven phono stages, but I had set my sights on the BMC MMCI Signature edition.  It's balanced and solid state.  I don't know whether it has been bettered in the last year or so. You might say it's too inexpensive for your category (~$5000).


Thanks for the recommendation, but it appears that the Nagra phono stage only has one MC input, and one MM input. To accommodate the Dohmann, I would need two MC inputs

I just got an older VPS.
It has 2x MC inputs, but I jumpered one to work as a MM.

I assume that a classic also can be gotten in 2x MC, with some extra coins.
(Just standard is 1xMM and 1xMC.)

The Classic is likely a step up, but my pockets are not as deep as I would like them to be.

You can likely have the Classic Phono customized. If not you can run a SUT into the MM phono. The Nagra Classic replaced the VPS in 2020 and is better than the VPS, which it replaced.

If Nagra releases a HD Phono, which seems likely given they just started making a turntable, I am sure it will be impressive, having heard the HD preamp and DAC.

The MC section is a SUT and loading card section, with jumpers for SUT/no-SUT, loading card/or not… etc.


The Nagra Classic replaced the VPS in 2020 and is better than the VPS, which it replaced.

How is it better?

The web site says:

Total harmonic distortion (THD + N): Please refer to the below graph


However the 2nd harmonic looks like it is 20+dB higher than the VPS.
Third harmonic looks the same,
And the noise on the Classic looks a lot lower on the Classic.


The ARC gear sound pretty good to me as well.

@drbond One thing about EM/IA is that they wind their own SUTs and are known to be pretty easy to work with if changes are needed. Just a practical note...

Nice system!

@drbond, what a difficult, yet fun decision. I happen to own a full Ypsilon and FM Acoustics systems and they are both awesome. Both systems are "buy and forget" as you focus on enjoying music and nothing else. The Ypsilon Phono requires SUTs for MC, and in my case I have 2 from Ypsilon to cover the cartridges I use. The FM has switches and modules with various resistance values (FM122, in my case), instead. Obviously, the FMA 223 mentioned above is at a higher level than mine. I have selected not to mix the two systems, as they both perform the best when matched with their in-house components. Another phono that I considered seriously prior to deciding on the Ypsilon was the Zanden Model 1200mk3. The TTs I use are Helix 2 with Ikeda arm, Thales Compact II with Simplicity II arm, and Simon Yorke S4 and S10 with their "house" S7 and Aero arms, respectively. Cartridges used are VDH Frog, multiple top IKEDA, Lyra Skala, Transfiguration Orpheus,  Shelter 901III, various EMT, Grado MM Reference and Ortofon A90. All contribute to sonic diversity and fun, as well as to prove to friends that choice of cartridge can totally transform a system, up or down!

I do not know where you live, but now with the "show season" in full swing, you maybe be able to convince distributors to bring their phono to your home for a trial. There is no other better or safer way to make the decision.

Unfortunately, I haven't auditioned the Manley or the EM/IA, thus no comparative notes there.

Good luck!


Why not use two different phono preamps?  It would allow flexibility to experiment with different sound profiles.

Dear @drbond  : " Thanks for the FM acoustic recommendation, but are there any other brands that you can also recommend, w.....""


There are a lot of phono stages to choose in between but my take is not exactly that but understand why exist a Phono Stage unit? Why not have only one electronic item with low noise/high gain where the signal goes directly to the amps, with no additional cables for a phono stage and additional electronics signal degradations?

Because that's the main point when we are talking of this or the other phono stage. Let me explain my opinion:

It's obvious, we need a phono stage because the cartridge signal that goes at the input of any phono stage needs to be proccessed in that unit with an Inverse RIAA Eq. Curve that be inverse can mimic the RIAA standard to have a flat response after the inverse RIAA was pplied to the signal and that is the main reason of the phono stage  existence.

Now, the RIAA curve is not an " easy or lower " equalization but the other way around. Its runs from 20hz to 20khz at around very high and low equalization levels around: +,- 20dbs ! !  and this means that that curve has a swing of 40dbs ! !  where any single/low deviation from the standard affects around 2 MUSIC octaves making a non-desired " colorations " work.


What all those really means? That the inverse must mimic the standard and this means: mimic accurately to stay nearer to the recording.


I'm not talking if the unit we own like it, it does not matters because that is not the main point but accuracy and today accuracy means phono stages with at least a RIAA deviation not higher than +,- 0.1db.

Ypsilon, DSA and almost all the names here but FMA are far away to acomplish an accurated inverse RIAA: your unit has a swing of 1.0 db!  To high. Where goes the money we pay for Ypsilon or other high priced electronics when are non-accurated.

Please remember that when I'm talking of accuracy this not means analythical. Far away from there, accuracy is just that: accuracy.

I like FMA but the Boulder 2108 is an option.

Again, I'm not talking of what we like I'm talking of what is wrong or rigth against what we are paid for the ps units. Some kind of critical measurements puts its finger where it hurts to the subjectivist gentlemans.


If you want something truly better of what you own then you have to think seriously on what I said here. Yes, only an opinion where the best one is your opinion along your room/system targets.



Maybe a Brinkmann Edison MK II, I have not heard one yet, but does have a complement of various settings...




Thanks for sharing your set up.  Are you able to describe any audible differences that can be attributed to the Ypsilon VPS vs the FM Acoustics 122?  Have you tried to switch one phono stage from one system to the other to listen for any changes?

I read some about the Zanden, but I'm currently not too interested; however I did read some about the Allnic H8000 DHT, which sounds intriguing, but there aren't many reviews of that item.  Superficially, what attracts my attention to the Allnic is the transformer coupled nature and no negative feedback (similar to Ypsilon), features which I seem to appreciate,  . 



I'll have to look closer at the DSA Phono III.  Have you heard it?  What can you compare it to?  Any particular attributes that you appreciate? 


I currently own the following,  DSA II, Boulder 2008, and Nagra classic with dual MC and external power supply.   The Nagra , in my system is better than the other two.  I have had the Ypsilon SE in my room for extended periods,  and preferred the Nagra.   A dear friend has both Ypsilon line stage and phono SE, together they sound sublime.  I highly recommend both Ypsilon and Nagra.  I have never listened to the FM.  Good luck. 



I own the DSA Phono2. My previous phono preamp was a VAC so they are both excellent but different. The DSA phono preamps have 3 inputs (both RCA and XLR) and each will remember the setting for that input. I have two tonearms on my table one with a Miyajima Madake and the other with an Ortofon Windfeld Ti. The Phono3 has added circuit improvements and a remote enabling adjustment of loading while seated and listening. There is adequate amplification to handle almost any cartridge and many loading options. The Phono2 starts at 25ohms and can be increased in 25 ohm increments up to 1575 ohms. The Phono3 may have ever small incremental increases available. The Phono3 I have listened to is improved over the Phono2 IMO. Micheal Fremer has done a preliminary review on the original DSA Phono3 unit and Greg Weaver from TAS (I think) and Positive Feedback owns and uses the DSA Phono2 as his reference in many reviews. There is also a review of the DSA Phono2 on the Mono and Stereo site.

@drbond I have some experience with some of the phonostages you are considering (not all though). I used to own a EMIA CR phonostage and still have the EMIA SUT in my system. I have extensively heard the FM 122Mk2 in couple of my friend's systems. I have also heard the Boulder. But I have no experience with Steelhead and Ypsilon. As you might have already figured out, there are 2 ways of doing LOMC amplification. With SUT & without SUT (all electronic). Both camps have strong followings. IME, an all electronic phonostage with high dynamic range, low noise, low electronic artefacts is not an easy act. Very difficult in fact. Even a Pass Labs XP25 sounds better when paired with a well matched SUT into its MM input than its direct MC input. So even Nelson Pass struggles with it. Hence one should be very careful of choosing a high gain all electronic MC phono. There are many one-man brands which I call "designer" audiophile brands who make such exotic designs bypassing conventional methods. I stay away from them at least when choosing such sophisticated engineering hardware.

The EMIA CR that I had was good but had some dynamic compression which bothered me. Tonally too, it was not exactly neutral. The FM 122 Mk2 is very good. It has a solid state presentation but still one of the more complete sounding SS phonos I have heard. DSA phono was outright SS sounding, bam bam thank you mam types, lacked subtlety. The really good ones which are lifetime keepers are Kondo GE-10, Technical Brain TEQ-Zero, Silbatone SQ-107 & EMT JPA66 Mk3. These are my personal all time best phonostages to buy. Incidentally they all use SUTs.

BTW, I have also heard the FM 222 Mk2 extensively in an all FM system. It is very expensive and overall very good sounding too. Neutral and dynamic. But it lacks a bit of that final finesse in flow which allows you to melt into the musical piece. It is a weak complain though.

"have 10-15 years left of good hearing, so I may as well spend my money on something I can enjoy for a while. . . "

We're only here once.


Hopefully your diagnosis ISN'T correct, and deterioration is MUCH slower. For me it's MASSIVE tinnitus/7K khz and above is all but gone for me. Compliments the rest of my medical baggage(plenty)

While this  isn't  in the upper echelon of "higher fi," it was an Agon darling 10 or so years ago. The build quality looks a little cheap, but all reports seem to say the same thing-excellent all tube phono stage.

Happy hunting.





I have heard the DSA Phono2 in my own home, demonstrated for me by its creator. I compared it to my tweaked Atma-sphere MP1.  The DSA did everything well, best of all, I thought it was not especially "solid-state" sounding compared to the MP1.  The best SS units these days should not be distinguishable SQ-wise from the best tube or hybrid phono stages.  The MP1 is another unit worth your consideration.  Drawback would be it only offers one phono input pair.  Advantage would be it has a built in linestage of very high quality.  The Phono2 was incredibly flexible; if the Phono3 sounds even better, maybe you ought to audition it.  Then there are the many megabuck full function preamplifiers and/or phono stages from Solution (Solution 750), Constellation (see their Reference Series), DarTZeel, and others.  Plebeians like those of us who inhabit these forums are unlikely to have validated opinions on those stratospherically priced units, except maybe for Mike Lavigne.

@drbond, I cannot separate one or the other systems in terms of performance. Like my two children (lol). They have different design philosophies yet they both arrive at outstanding levels of music reproduction. Both extremely dynamic, natural and engaging. In good recordings, you are certainly part of the audience in the front table. They can reproduce equally well large scale events or a duet. The FMA will provide more fine-tuning on the spot for cartridge matching but so can the Ypsilon with custom or special order SUTs, if you have difficult loads. Regarding A/B comparison of the phono, I have not done as the two systems are in different continents. Even though the FM122 is easily transportable and works in 100-240V, the turntables and cartridges would be different. Therefore, never done. I enjoy both systems equally as I have tried to maximize performance for the budget and space. Apologies for not being as concrete as you would have liked. In any case, I would recommend an audition before you buy. When I was selecting my systems, I visited both manufacturers for audition as there were no dealers near me. They were both kind enough to facilitate. Hopefully, you do not have to do so. Good luck

@drbond , I also have Sound Labs speakers, 645-8's. They are 8 foot tall speakers that are 36" wide. Yours are 40" wide. lewm also uses Sound Labs speakers. I am also waiting patiently for a Lyra Atlas Lambda SL. It seems we have similar tastes in transducers. I'll side with Lewm here. A current mode or transimpedance phono stage is the way to go. The CH Precision P1 phono stage is the one Michael Fremer uses. It is very expensive but falls within your limits. I think the finest phono stage currently available is the Channel D Seta L 20, an amazing piece of work. It is hands down the quietest phono stage ever made. It has a self charging battery power supply and will run in either current or voltage modes. I think it is $60,000. I plan on getting the Seta L plus set up for current mode operation. With an RIAA board it goes for a more reasonable $11,000. It is also battery operated but is not quite as quiet as the L20. It is not near as versatile as either the L 20 or the P1. But, I am one of those straight wire with gain people and prefer fewer switches and less wiring. Running a cartridge in current mode has one very major advantage. Cartridges are a type of generator. They produce current at a certain voltage by moving a coil in a magnetic field. Any generator can also be a motor, you just reverse the process by putting a voltage across the coils and you create a force that causes movement. Voltage across the coils of a moving coil cartridge affects the movement of the cantilever (tracking). A transimpedance phone stage has a vanishingly low input impedance thus there is very little voltage and there is little if any affect on the cantilevers movement. Tracking and the dynamic performance of the cartridge is improved. The Sutherland Phono Loco and BMC MCCI are other examples of current mode or transimpedance phono stages. The caveated is that you have to have a cartridge with a coil impedance as low as possible, certainly under 10 ohms.  Your Atlas is 7 ohms I believe. 

Dear @drbond  :  In the analog system chain I think that the phono stage perhaps is the hardest challenge for any designer/manufacturer because they have to deal with design special characterisitcs that at some time has a intrinsecal relations ship in between that is really complex to satisfy all them and the challenge is acomplish all those characteristics.

I already talked of the firs characteristic that's the inverse RIAA eq challenge the oner main phono stage characteristics are a design with high gain ( with some LOMC cartridges is need it around 80db. ) and at the same time with the third characteristic that's very low noise.


So the scenario is the worst one for all tube electronics, no one can fulfill the main phono stage targets to fulfill too the cartridge needs. No, SUT s can't do it due that are frequency bandwindth limited and develops too its own kind of " distortions ". I know that not only you but several audiophiles like the tube kind of didtortions/colorations but as with my RIAA explanation the issue is to stay truer to the recording that puts us a little near to the live MUSIC experiences. This is the target, try to mimic live MUSIC experiences, if this is not the main target of any one of you then follow doing what you did it all your life: " this is what I like it ". No problem at all.

So, the best phono stages must be SS active high gain/low noise designs. Till today no one all tube design fulfill the phono stage needs no matters what when exist some SS alternatives.

FMA and Boulder can do it even the Boulder little brother 1108. CH is an option too I listened one of its model designs and makes good job ( its top of the line goes for 90+K dollars. ).

IMHO first than all you have ( I think you already did it. with tubes.) to re-think your main system reproduction targets and go for the ones that fulfill it.


Btw, I listen the Nagra VPS in tube mode, not a unit that puts me near to the live experiences. I never had the opportunity to listen the Classic line but its measured characteristics are exactly the same as any tube phono stage:


FR: 20 Hz – 50 kHz     +0.6 dB    RIAA

Output impedance 500 ohms.


In this thread named the Audio Noote Kondo and the EMT. Both the same " history ". No one of this kind of unit designs really can honor true MUSIC. Yes, can " honor " what we like it that's a different issue.


@mijostyn  the humble BMC MCCI outperforms the Channel D at noise figures levels and its RIA deviation is beated by the FMA units and even the Boulder's. I never heard that phono stage that you like to much and I think is a good contender.

Good point from lewm, Dartzeel is other option.


No SUT's in the SS I named all high gain active designs.


@rauliruegas , I think you are thinking of the Lino C which is a more entry level unit. The Seta L Plus is quieter than the Boulder and can be had with s super accurate RIAA board or it can use even more accurate digital RIAA correction through Channel D's Pure Vinyl computer program. The Seta L 20 is a really serious piece of work. Check out the specs on it. I think you will be amazed. I would love to try it but I can't get myself to spend that much on a phono stage. 

@mijostyn  : Really? No, you are wrong. As almost always I don't post almost nothing the thread gentlemans/audiophiles can't corroborate.

The L20 weigthed S/N is 88db and you can see it in the chart where Channel D made a comparisons with older Boulder models.

The BM MCCI measured by JA STEHP figures are:

"" very quiet phono preamp: its unweighted wideband signal/noise ratio, measured with the input shorted and ref. 500µV at 1kHz, was 83.2dB in the left channel, 71.8dB in the right. A-weighting these ratios gave improvements to 99.9 and 103.3dB, respectively. Channel separation was equally superb, measuring >105dB at 20kHz. "

Way better.


As I said to you:  " I never heard that phono stage ( L 20 ) that you like to much and I think is a good contender.



On the issue of RIAA correction, I certainly agree that adherence to the standard curve should be tight, but my question is how tight makes any difference? Channel D claim their phono stages are within 0.1db, guaranteed, and typically within 0.01db for any given unit.  If you read the history of phono equalization, you find that the original tolerance for meeting the RIAA curve was +/-2db.  That was probably the margin for error of necessity, based on the microphones and the recording equipment up to and including the lathes available in the late 1950s. I am not sure whether that applied to making LPs or to reproducing them in the home, but it seems certain to me that most of the vintage LPs we cherish will vary by quite a bit more than +/-0.1db in their adherence to the standard curve.  So, when you're decoding one LP vs another, you can not be sure that your phono stage is correcting for the pre-emphasis put into it by the maker with the accuracy claimed. For one LP, it may be as perfect as claimed.  For another LP it may be off by much more than 0.1db.  So, I would ask for very good RIAA accuracy, but I would not choose one accurate phono stage over another based on ultra-precise adherence to the imaginary pre-empasis curve.

@lewm , absolutely correct. It is like rumble specs in turntables. It is nice to be quiet but it does you no good if the lathe rumble is much higher.

@rauliruegas , I'm not sure where you are getting your figures from but with a bandwidth of DC to 20 megahertz the EIN of the seta L 20 is -134 dBu UNWEIGHTED. That is an unheard of performance. Granted I have not seen any independent testing and figures but even if Channel D was 20% off this would still be far in excess of any other phono stage that I know of. Even the lowly Seta L is better than the Boulder, 64 dB down A weighted VS the Seta L's 71 dB down, A weighted. That is close to 1/2 the noise level. 

@rauliruegas forget about other Kondo models, they are average. Have you heard the GE10 ? I have heard it in a full FM acoustics system and compared with a FM 222 phono in the same system. 

@mijostyn  : Directly from the Channel Dsite:

"" also feature low noise that ranks among or better than the world's finest phono stages. Here is a comparison of measurements performed by Stereophile (including issue dates for verification) of the signal to noise ratio (SNR) of moving coil phono preamplifiers, including our Seta Model L. Higher numbers are better. The quietest are highlighted in boldface.

Phono Preamplifier (MC Input) Unweighted SNR A - Weighted SNR From SP Issue: Accolades
Channel D Seta Model L20 mk2 81 dB 87 dB    
Channel D Seta Model L 59 dB* 67 dB* August 2010 Stereophile Class A Recommended Component
Boulder 1008 60 dB 64.75 dB July 2010 Stereophile Class A Recommended Component
Vitus Audio MP-P201 Masterpiece 53.6 dB 62.8 dB September 2010 Stereophile Class A+ Recommended Component
Nagra VPS not reported 61 dB September 2008 Stereophile Class A Recommended Component
Boulder 2008 not reported 49 dB July 2002 Stereophile Class A+ Recommended Component


The lewm imagination about RIAA is only that: imagination, he shows no facts but even if exist facts that it does not matters. Wwe audiophiles can have some kind of control of the playback recording proccess but no single kind of " control " of the whole overall recording proccess. So I must take care of what I can have control no matters what. Only lewm cares of what he has no single control at all. You agree with but I'm not. Period.


Dear @pani : Never had the opportunity not even to see it. I know very well the Kondo design estrategy and japanese unique way of thinking and I know very well the Kondo silver caps.

Yes, for an all tube designs it’s not only very expensive but with excellent performance inside the tube limitations.

I was for almost 10 years a tube lover and have first hand experiences with almost all the best of the best tube electronics and I learned very carefully of its true limitations against the fully advanced designs in all solid state designs that is an almost not limited design alternative.

Look, it’s not fair for tube alternative to try and make comparisons against a way different electronics alternative that for me is a superior one and especially when we are talking of phonolinepreamps.

Everytime I make listening item comparisons, been analog or digital medium, I compare what the room/system gives against my several first hand experiences with live MUSIC seated at near field position ( that’s the way recording microphones are " seated ". ) and listening the same recording tracks that I know even how performs its click and pops.

I’m not married/biased with what I like but with what should be.

I respect other gentleman opinions and especially yours but we have different targets and due that I’m not a rich man I have to learn and learned by my self and with the advise of gentlemans with higher knowledge levels than me how with out all that money need it to be " there " I can be " there " modifiying, up-grading, building and fine tunning my room/system. As a fact from some time now I’m in the fine tunning stage.


@rauliruegas , I am as neurotic as you are and do my best to choose the best performing equipment I can given the information I can obtain. Channel D lists the Seta L's A weighted SNR at 71 dB down but 67 is still better than the Boulder's 64. However, look at that Seta L20!  But the sad fact of the matter is that vinyl is inherently imperfect and generally much worse than the equipment we use to "read" it. So, I would not be so harsh on lewm. It is just a different way of viewing the same problem. Ours is also perfectly valid, neurotic but valid. 


Harsh would be if I were actually “imagining “ the RIAA issue, and by the way I said nothing about S/N ratio. I suggest to Raul that he read up on the history of the RIAA correction. Do you think RCA and Columbia LPs adhered to the exact same spec and with the same accuracy, once they both finally adopted RIAA? That level of perfection was not even required by the NAB, which is the reason I quoted the +/-2db spec. Plus, I was not arguing that it is not a good idea for a modern phono stage to be very accurate, only that at some point quibbling over hundredths of a db becomes mental masturbation.

Dear @drbond  : Whatever be your phono stage decision you have to think that with stand alone phono stage units as the FMA the next stage where the signal must goes is a line preamps and you need at least the same quality design levels for that signal been quality preserved.


In the other side and is only an opinion and knowing very well your speakers it's a must to change your amplifiers for those Soundlabs great speakers really shines as never before.


You don't need to buy a boutique amplifiers, my recomendation is to go for the JC1+ monobloks. I listened Soundlabs/JC1s and are outstanding mate and the JC1+ set you back almost ten times lower price that your today monoblocks:



... If you read the history of phono equalization, you find that the original tolerance for meeting the RIAA curve was +/-2db.

That is not at all how the curve was specified by RIAA or any of the standards organizations. It’s possible that some manufacturers allowed this tolerance, but it would have been a pretty sloppy tolerance, even then.

That was probably the margin for error of necessity, based on the microphones and the recording equipment up to and including the lathes available in the late 1950s.

None of that has anything to do with the RIAA curve, which is applied pretty much at the end of the chain, just before cutting the disc. Any errors in microphones or recording equipment would be corrected as needed in the mixdown and mastering, before the RIAA curve is applied.

I did not mean to imply that +/-2 db was the actual permissible margin for error back in the late 1950s. But I did search for that sort of information, and in the course of that search this is the only number I could come up with. In my last two posts I tried to make it clear that I was not claiming that the error was precisely that wide which I agree is unlikely to be the case. My only point is that when you are arguing over hundredths of decibels with respect to RIAA, in comparing one phono stage to another, eventually you get to the point where tiny differences could make no audible difference, and I still maintain that LPs from the early era and maybe up till now from different manufacturers will themselves exhibit different levels of adherence to the RIAA curve. And I would posit that such differences exceed +/-0.1db, which I think is probably as good as you ever need in a phono stage.

Thanks for everyone's contribution to this thread.  I'm finding the discussion rather informative.  

It appears that most on this forum seem to advocate for a SS type phono stage, as opposed to a tube type phono stage.  I'm not certain of my preference at this point.  
While some point out that an excellent sound system should reproduce music, regardless of the type of music played through the system, I'm not convinced of that either, as the musical instruments in classical music behave entirely differently than the modern synthesized music, which has little complexity, and no harmonics to the instruments by comparison.  

@rauliruegas : what type of music do you listen to in your system and what type of live music do you listen to?  

Hello drbond,

Another suggestion for your consideration would be the Wavestream Kinetics Deluxe Reference Level 5.1.

It is an all tube design currently using (2 x 12AX7, 4 x 6DJ8); with extremely low noise ( I believe with the external power supply, noise is below 1uV (one-millionth of a volt ) competing with the best of the solid state phonos; providing 3 front panel selectable inputs providing 62 dB of gain (without the use of SUT’s or FETS) with a useful cartridge range of 0.2mV to 1mV. Having both Balanced and RCA inputs and outputs; adjustable loading available on the back panel via custom loading plugs; and an essentially flat RIAA EQ curve within one tenth of a dB (.1dB) from 3 Hz to 40 Khz.

Naturally, with any tubed phono high gain phono stage you will want to use selected low noise tubes, but I can say when using my NOS Mullards in this phono stage, it is dead quiet with my ears up against the speakers with my Dunlavy Signature SCIV's 91 dB sensitivity.

I love not having to use a step up transformer with this phono stage; not having to worry about the SUT coloring the audio signal, worrying about possible hum issues, and having to use extra interconnects and connections, etc.  

The Wavestream Kinetics gives me the pure, high gain, low noise sound that I love. It is incredibly dynamic in both the micro and macro sense, has the "meat on the bones" which many crave, brings the human voice to life, showcases the resonance of the body of cellos and acoustic bass, has the finesse for brushes on cymbals, etc. The music sounds pure and organic.  It is not syrupy or tubby or loose in the bass.  It truly is an incredible phono stage built by Scott Frankland who offers incredible customer service and support, which is the icing on the cake.

Best wishes,

For around $15k you might want to look into the Whest audio TITAN Pro 3-stage phono stage. Whest audio only does phono stages and does them very well.


Thanks for your recommendation, but the Whest audio only has one input:  i would need two.  

A major reason I originally chose the Manley Steelhead for the second of my two audio systems is that I wanted at least two sets of phono inputs, one for MM, and of course the Steelhead provides 3.  Plus I wanted a "full function" preamplifier, so as to avoid the need to purchase a separate linestage and the associated ICs.  I don't know how far back you go in this hobby, but there was a time when all "preamplifiers" or nearly all included both phono and line level on one chassis.  I don't know whether or not you have used the linestage section of the Steelhead in lieu of your Ypsilon linestage (I assume the Ypsilon PST-100 Mk2 SE is a linestage), but if you have tried it and found it lacking, I think I know why.  Manley used second rate capacitors as output coupling capacitors in the Steelhead, which in my opinion sets the unit back a bit soundwise.  Easy to fix. It also affects the phono output.