Preamp for MA1 amp

I have Atma-Sphere MA1 Mk2.2s and wonder what the experience is out there in terms of preamps that work well. I need a preamp with integrated phono (clutter reduction). Two candidates: MP1 preamp from Atma-Sphere or Hovland? The former is completely balanced and has a phase switch, the second is not but well received in the press and this forum.
The MP-1 is glorious. I have mine paired with Atma-Sphere M60 amps. I have little experience with other preamps but can not imagine ANYTHING sounding better. I have never heard anything but praise for the Hovland unit. God bless.
Depending on your interest in optimizing playback for vinyl, an interesting option is the new Aesthetix Io, MkII, phonostage. When you order the version with volume controls, the Io now includes a front panel switch for a second input. This is a high level input that connects ahead of the last gain stage prior to the volume control. A simple switch box plugged into this input would then accomodate multiple high level sources. It has no tape loop capability, though. And, in keeping with the Aesthetix philosphy, there are no additional switches in the circuit either - so no phase switch, mono switch, etc., etc.

Of course, as Wellfed points out, the Atma-Sphere MP-1 is very well-regarded by those who have acquired them, and all MP-1 and MP-3 owners I've talked to say there is an incredible synergy between the Atma-Sphere amplifiers and preamplifiers. A recent review of the MP-3 (younger sibling of the MP-1) can be found at if you've not already seen it.
Hmmm..., I should have mentioned that I use an Atma-Sphere MA-2, Mk2.2, and I have made the commitment to purchase the Io MkII, but have not yet received it.
Rushton, thanks for tempering my enthusiasm. I really did not mean to imply that the MP-1 could not be beat. It is just hard to imagine better sound than that coming from the MP-1.

Jkubina, I do think you seriously consider the MP-1 though. Again I will state that it sounds absolutely glorious. I am currently visiting my brother which has an MP-3 and it is sounding seriously good as well with a Rogue 88 amplifier.
Wellfed, I did not mean to temper your enthusiasm and I apologize if I sounded that way. I know that my enthusiasm for the Atma-Sphere amplifiers knows no bounds! I wish more of us could hear the Atma-Sphere preamplifiers to discover what Ralph Karsten has been able to accomplish. Your opinion of these preamplifiers certainly matches the comments I have heard from quite a number of MP-1 and MP-3 owners.
Kindest regards,
Hello Everyone,
Had to comment on this one, I have tried the Audible Illusions, CAT, CJ PV10 (I think) and the Joule Electra, all very good in thier own right, especially the Joule and then plugged in the MP-3, It was one of those few moments when my jaw dropped to the floor. The MP-3 was so much better than the others in almost every way. There is another thread going on relating to the Joule vs something else I don't remember but in that I had a similar story. I need to remind you that I own the MA-1 MKII amps so again there may be a synergy with Ralphs stuff going on here. I too was tempted to buy the Hovland but then I would have to change my system from a balanced to a single ended. I really don't know how much that buys me but the bottem line is that I really have no desire to try it.(Man does the Hovland ever look cool though) I finally ended up buying the MP-1 preamp. I really don't think you can do much better if you're running Ralphs amps. Besides you get to talk to Ralph which is always a kick. Good luck and keep us posted on which way you go.
Hello again Jkubina,
As an aside I haven't tried the phono stage yet but will soon as I am having my tonearn rewired for a balanced signal. A friend of mine that has tried it says it's killer.
I use my MA-2 mk 1 with the CAT signature mk3 to very good results, though i had to short one input tube to get the sensitivity down on the MA-2.
they work with RCA interlinks, the CAT is not fully balanced. The two partner very well, and i can recommend an audition ..
The CAT IS a great preamp, phono section is superb.
I am aware thru many conversations with many Atma-Sphere owners, that the MP-1 is bettering the CAT with any Atma power amp in a big way .
It may be mostly due to the Fully Balanced operation. i don't know.
It is a big investment over a CAT for sure, 6000 US for a CAT Ultimate versus almost 10 grand [without options] for the MP-1 !!
MAY it better the CAT ?!

Yes you may have guessed, i'm saving up.
OTL and vinyl, way to go for me.

The current list price for the base model MP-1 is $7,695 according the Atma-Sphere website.
The higher price would be for a fully optioned MP-1. I don't know all the details, but when I asked Ralph, he confirmed that the price for a fully optioned MP-1 would be nearly $12,000.
Thnks all for you responses. I will go with MP-1 even if I now have to change my interconnects. Did try the Hovland, and it was superb, and good on the eyes too. I seem to agree with Fremer and others on this one.
Rushton, could you tell me what those options are, my local dealer has no clue as to what they might offer.
wondering if anyone here knows how the MA-1 MkII, fully tweaked, with phono stage, compares to the MA1 MkII line stage only with an aesthetix io phono stage. i own an io and am considering the MA-1 and wonder if i should sell the io (which i truely love) and get the internal MA1 phono instead.

as the io is 24 tubes and 2 boxes the real estate savings would be considerable. but which would sound better?

sorry, i meant the MP-1 preamp, not the MA1, which is the amp.
Mike, you might want to look at the thread on Audio Asylum (see URL below) where Philip O'Hanlon tells of lending his Io to a friend who has an Atma-Sphere MP-1 preamplifier (next model up from the MP-3) and MA-1 amplifier. The friend so much preferred the phono stage of the Io that he has decided to sell the MP-1 and get an Io with volume controls and second switched input (eliminating any separate linestage). I spoke with Philip recently and he says plans are still in motion, but they are waiting for the soon-to-be released "Signature" version of the Io.
Jkubina - I wish I could, but I don't know. I wrote to Ralph Karsten when I saw an MP-1 for sale being described as "fully optioned" with a retail price of $10,000 since this didn't match what I had seen previously about the MP-1. Ralph's reply was simply that the price for a fully optioned MP-1 would be nearly $12,000 and that the seller's asking price would be "a steal." He did not elaborate in his reply and I never pursued it.