Phonostage recommendations under $3K


Folks,

I am looking to step up from my current Parasound ZPhono XRM (still under 60 days audition trial). To be honest, I am quite pleased with its performance, feature set and flexibility. I mean what else you can expect from a $600 phono. While I enjoyed listening to vinyl through XRM, I feel there is room for improvement and XRM may be the weakest link in my vinyl setup. And since XRM is the only phono I’ve experienced in my setup, I don’t have quite have a reference point. So what else should I be considering under $3K?

I prefer a relaxed and slightly warm sound since I mostly listen to jazz genre.

I started to put together a list list based on sound quality and flexibility with gain and impedance settings.

Parasound JC 3+ Phono Pre
Allnic H-1202
Leben RS30 EQ (requires a SUT for MC Cart)

I hear high praises on Herron VTPH-2A but it’s bit more than I would like to spend at this time.

My current vinyl setup, Thorens TD1601, ZPhono XRM, Hana ML (low output - 0.4mv), Accuphase E-650 and Tannoy Canterbury’s.

I would really appreciate some recommendations based on your personal experiences. Thank you!
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Jeff@frozentundra & @nekoaudio,

Thank you for your recommendations. I will check them out.

@simao,

I had a great conversation with Keith about an hour ago. He is going to look at my system and get back with a recommendation as far as what loading plugs to experiment with in my system. I will say this, the one on one consultation with the designer is priceless.

@three_easy_payments,

It’s good to know VTPH-2A is immunize to tube rolling :-)

“The weakest link in the VTPH2A is the FET-based MC gain stage. The VTPH2A sounds best with a decent SUT if you’re using a MC cart”

This is definitely a cause for concern. I prefer not to use a SUT. This opens a can of worms...extra set of cables, shelf space and above all the quality of the transformer.
I would recommend ModWright PH 9.0 phono amp. It uses two 6C45 and two 6922 tubes and a separated power supply. It has flexible gain and impedance settings in the front. The sound quality is excellent, very organic with good sound stage.  Currently I am also using a Manley Chinook in my other system (Dr. Feickert Volare TT with Hana ML cartridge), and I would certainly recommend that as well. It's very musical and matches with Hana ML cartridge well. Chinook uses four 6922 tubes.  
Lots of good option in this range. Personally, I would purchase my Sutherland 20/20 if given the choice again, and at under $3K you can add the linear power supply within your budget. I haven't upgraded to the LPS yet, but it's on my radar. 
Display name , I regret waiting too long to get LPS for my Sutherland 2020 . The improvement on my system is huge....
TRON Convergence - used to great effect by Jeff at High-water Sound in his recent system at RMAF, garnering much praise. Also available, I believe, directly from TRON in the UK