Phono stages belong to which tier?

I feel the phono stage is the most critical component in an analog system since it is an important part of the source. Which phono stages have you heard and in which tier would they fall in 1st 2nd or 3rd?
From reading the threads here: aesthetix, manley, lamm, fm acoustics, einstein would probably fall in the 1st.
Please include stages that have been listened to extensively and those that have been heard breifly.
Don't agree phono stages are the most critical component
in the anolog song.

I would say IMHO this would be the order for me;

1.)turntable,tonearm wire,

2.)cartridge,phono stage,

3.)motor,tonearm,filters etc...

but really especially with the top four items, your only as good as your weekest link.

Happy new year.
My ranking -

(1) Phono

(2) Cart (3) Tonearm/wire (4) TT

Tough choice but ideally I would actually place the rest of the items at a distant second place behind the phono. Yes, I'm trying to convince myself to get a Audia Flight Phono now....
Has anyone heard the Walker Audio Reference Phono Second Edition or the ASR Basis Exclusive 2010 model? If so, how do they compare. Thanks
Hey Curio,
Thanks for quoting me in your response! I'm sitting here listening to some great jazz right now. The whest is wonderful...and the rest of my system....well it gets me through the cold winters here in Chicago. I'm a big fan of Sonus Faber! Since they're made in your back yard, have you spent any time listening to them? I've owned the Cremonas and now I have the elipsas. Would enjoy hearing from you.

If one is serious about the goal of having a hi fidelity, high performance, transparent system no component or part should be underestimated or given more or less importance in its contribution to the final experience you have at your listening chair.

From the cartridge to the woofer each component is interconnected to the other in a sophisticated cryptic web and chain.

In every system there must be thousands of parts and chemistry is one of many important factors.

How each of these thousands of parts, especially how one component with its thousands of parts, built by a different design circuit topoglogies/ designer , perhaps built on the otherside of the world, how it will interact with another designers design/ parts is extremely difficult to predict. An average system probably has components from more than 5 different companies and when they created their products it was within the context of their own set of contigencies, ie (room, speakers, amp, preamp, wire, cartridge, tonearm, personal tastes) and in isolation from the components you are presently using in your system.

Some people want to say the phonostage is the most important, others the speaker and so on, i say each and every single part is essential to the whole and no component should be overlooked or should be deemed more important than the other.

If you have a 10 link chain and one of the links was extremely expensive and made with state of the art metals and production processes how much will that matter when you begin using all the links to try and lift a very heavy weight when one of the links is make of a inferior metal and with inferior production? How well will the lift be executed? did it matter that the high quality component was in the chain if the weak leak was there as well?