Maybe I missed something, but a phono stage with a gain control is called a preamp.
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My Wright Sound WPP200C sounds tremendous plugged directly into the preamp inputs of my Leben CS-600.
The Wright is designed to be used directly into an amplifier. It's essentially a single-source preamp.
At the used price, it's a zero sum game. Try it, and if it doesn't work as you hoped, then sell it for what you paid.
The Wright wpp100c is actually a better choice than the wpp200c. It uses tubes that are better suited to phono-stage usage, and are not in demand (thus: cheap!). the Framed-grid 6Er5 is a much better gain tube than the 12ax7 for this application. The only reason George changed to the wpp200c with different tube choices (12ax7s instead of 6ER5) is that he felt he didn't want to use up the world's supply of 6ER5s (though he maintains a nice stash for sale to wpp100c owners at ultra-cheap prices, usually about $8/ea).
I agree with Tvad that the WPP200C is the way to go. I had both the WPP100C and the WPP200C at the same time. I, as well as others, whose opinions I trust found the WPP200C to be quieter and more involving with a bit better dynamics. These were compared side by side in my system with nothing changed but the phono preamp. There are lots of 6ER5s around. They are a very linear tube, used in UHF TV tuners. Sad thing is, they are a little noisy. I tried a number of different 6ER5s just to be sure. I kept the WPP200C and have no plans to change. Mind you, this was mine and others' opinion in my system only.
I own the GCPH and it doesn't quite have enough gain for my .5mv cart.
I run it direct balanced to my amps (balanced is 3db higher than the unbalanced out) and I still would like it a bit louder.
But if you have either a higher output cart, or are willing to get a transfomer step up, then the GCPH is for you. Modded it supposedly is on par with $3000 units. I compared it n a home demo against the new phono stage I eventually ordered (the Tron Seven phono pre @$4000) and you know what, the GCPH wasn't embarassed at all. For it's price and settings and convenience it's a fantastic piece for driving amps direct, as long as you have a higher output cart or step up.
Mingles, I cannot offer a quality comparison because I used the two phono pres only a short time with the same table/cart, but overall, I can say the Lehmann was a strong performer. I'd not hesitate to own another. The Lehmann was quieter. The Wright has a bit more "life" in the music provided by the tubes, but the diference is not night and day. Of course, because of the availability of tube swapping, the sound of the Wright can be tailored whereas he Lehmann's cannot.
I also like the dual gain controls of the Wright.
Inpepinnovations,,,That was what we called the extra gain stage that went in front of the preamp when using a MC pickup. Nowadays it is no great feat to provide sufficient gain for MC pickups without additional stages. And I don't think they had any gain control (that was in the preamp).
Dean_fuller...If your pickup yields sufficient volume when the power amp is fed directly from the phono stage there is no need for extra gain, which you will just "throw away" using the volume control pot.
Which is exactly why I'm running my Wright WPP200C into the preamp inputs of my Leben CS-600.