Preamp with near-reference quality built in phono?

First some background. About 6 months ago I decided that I want to get off of the continuous upgrade path, and plotted a 2-3 year course for purchasing high quality, reference or near-reference components. The first itch I satisfied was my digital source; I threw away all of my "budget" transports, DACs, upsamplers, digital cables, etc., and purchased a high-quality single-box machine that does a number of things well and has the most musical red book playback I have heard. I then turned my attention to analog. I have not finalized my choice of arm and cartridge, but my table is flexible enough to support many.

Here is my current dilemma: I currently want to upgrade my phono preamp to something that compliments the rest of my system a little better, and that is flexible enough to work with as I settle in on a cartridge/arm combo (for example MM and MC would be nice). Concomitantly, I have begun to wonder if my decision to go with a passive linestage was a good one for the long term. I have read the arguments both for and against the passive, and having tried mine in someone else's system, I have found that its performance can be grossly impacted by changes in surrounding components. So my question is this: does a full function preamp, with phono, exist where the built in phono stage is comparable to best of breed, stand alone phono preamps? Since this is a long-term project, budget is not a huge concern, although I would like to stay under $10k if possible.
I have never been in your case (always have had outboard phono stages) but seems to me like that both the CAT and the Manley Steelhead could come to your rescue.

I also had a Gryphon Elektra preamp where a phono board could be installed at extra cost. The Elektra has been for me one of the best preamps I have had, although I never installed such board in mine, you can try their new models as well.

I am sure you will get additional feedback in this forum from people who have lived excatly your case.

Hope this helps

Coming very close to your goal would be the Aesthetix Janus full function preamp. Still not at the level of the Aesthetix separates, however. See Albert Porter's comments:

Some would argue that the Convergent Audio Technologies SL1 Ultimate also comes close to your mark.
Probably no. But, there are some extremely good preamps that can be had with really good phono stages. The Audionote line of preamps come to mind first.

I have a Levinson No. 32 linestage with a built-in phono stage. The phono stage has a very wide range of adjustment to gain, resistive loading and capacitive loading, channel balance, low frequency filtering, etc. Also, because it is integrated with the incredibly versatile Levinson control system, all adjustments can be done by remote control. However, I have not shot this phono stage out with any stand-alone units. I've heard fantastic systems with phono stages that cost near $30k, such as the Boulder and Connoisseur phono stages, but I haven't had the privilege of hearing these in my own system.
Rushton's suggestions are good ones. I would add the Jadis JP80MC and JP200MC (which you can get used for about $10K) to the list, their phono stages are top-notch, although with 2 and 4 chasis you might have space concerns. Superbly musical pieces of equipment that get out of the way of the music.
The Atma-Sphere MP-1 Mk. II, with latest power supply, is an excellent option that should not be overlooked.
Agree with Wellfed's recommendation of the Atma-Sphere MP-1 Mk.II. Be aware that, afaik, it is fully balanced end-to-end with no RCA jack inputs/outputs.
Don't forget Supratek! The Chenin, formerly Syrah, is a giant killer with a killer MC phono stage at $2900. If you want to spend more the next level up is the Cortese at about $5K. I can't imagine how good that must be given how fabulous my Syrah sounds. For more references check out the thread, "Preamp deal of the century" which has lots of info. Good luck and have fun!
One of the most well regarded phono sections ever built was designed by Arthur Loesch and integrated into a world class line stage preamp. John Weisner has built the Loesch design for many years now, commonly known as the Loesch/Weisner.

I've heard thie preamp/phono directly against many others that are well regarded and still think it blows them away. Unfortunately they are very hard to find used, but some have recently been on Audiogon.

I do have a friend that knows John Weisner personally and I would be willing to put you in touch, if you're interested. E-mail me directly:

The above suggestions are great except for the price. $$$$
Depends on your budget, there are many options out there.
For around $2000, you can consider the Audio Research SP-11 MK II, cats SL MK III, Counterpoint SA-5000... anyway.. you get the pictures.
I personally found something under $1000 with great tube line/MM and active tube MC step up combo ( I'm a big fan of tube gear.)
YOu might check the Hovland.
For that budget, two possibilities that immediately come to mind are ...

Tube: VAC Renaissance Mark II preamp with MM/MC phono board, if purchased used (it is a current production model that lists for $17k+ with phono board). Really well built and great company. Webpage:

Solid-State: Rowland Coherence II preamp and Cadence phono stage, purchased used (the Coherence II was discontinued three years ago / the Cadence is still in production - together, they listed for $17.8k). This is a separate preamp and phono stage combo, but within your budget. Ditto as to build quality and quality of company. I own this combo.

Webpages: and

Both the VAC and Rowland phono stages are flexible and can handle low output MC cartridges. Both the VAC and Rowland preamps are extremely transparent, which should be crucial to you if you are used to a passive preamp.

Good luck
Wow! Thanks for all of the informed responses. I guess I have somework, in the way of auditioning, to do. Given that there is an Aesthetix and Atma-Sphere dealer within driving distance for me, those may be first on my list. However, I recently heard the CAT SL-1 Mk III and was impressed. Atcually that encounter is what got me headed down this line of thinking in the first place.

As far as budget goes, my feeling is that if I hear something I like and its out of my range at the moment, I'll just wait a little longer and save up before pulling the trigger. Of course, given my luck the roof will probably blow off my house between now and then...
Joule LA150. No question phono stage very close to the Rhea as well as Lamm LP2 in recent listening session at a friend's. A lot less cash than the other options as well.
Yeah, buy my VAC Phi 2.0 tube preamp with MM/MC phono. For those that have heard this new VAC series it is the best ever. Wait until the reviews come out, then you'll wish you had bought it at the price shown.
If you can live without a remote, I would would look at Klyne Audio Arts. Stan makes one of the best preamps with phonos in high end audio.
Remote control is not a deciding factor to me - more of a nice to have. My current linestage actually requires the remote to switch between sources. I am very seriously weighing the tube factor. In my second system, which we use for entertaining, etc., I am using a tube pre with a solid state power amp to great effect. So I am thinking this type of combo may be beneficial in my main system as well.
As all of the components listed above can be very good to excellent, do not disregard the importance of synergy. I feel like I am beating a dead horse, but due to my many upgrade experiences, one piece of equipment may sound glorious within a specific system, yet be lacking in another. For example; I have recently run an Atma-Sphere MP-1 with A-S amps into Avalon speakers. Not until I swapped cabling and tweaked the front end did I achieve a very musical presentation. I also own a Jadis JP 80 preamp, which I have found to be one of the most musical components, making it one of my favorites. With a Jadis amp I found it musical, but golden-honey colored. With a pair of Classe CAM 200's it retained much of it's musical character, but had better delineation, much deeper bass response and just plain sucked me in. Still colored. But along side the Atma-Sphere amps it lacked the speed, the bloom and most importantly, the involvement.

This is just one example of my endeavors in the mix and match game. It compels me to criticize the audio magazines for reviewing a component, often without the capability to enter in another piece, possibly more fitting. Recently, Robert Harley reviewed the Avalon Eidelon Diamonds, and although for the most part he well complemented the speaker, he critiqued (I paraphrase)the speaker as being less capable than similarly priced speakers of reaching the lower frequencies. With my Atma-Shere amp/preamp combo I agree, but with the Jadis/Classe the bass is deep and extremely musical.

I realize I have left the topic, but like many of you, I continue to search for a system that comes closer to a live performance. Somehow, getting the detail without losing the body and soul is a real trick and I do not believe any one component or cable or listening room for that matter, can offer that. My 15 years in this "holy grail" search has taught me to trust the listening.... BTW, all the pre's listed, needless to say, are really, really good.
I agree with Siddh fully - I had a quite similar experience with Avalon as well, great speakers for my Rowlands, Metaxas and Gryphon (and now Pass), but when mated with tubes I lost many of the sonic attributes of the spkr design.

You canĀ“t go wrong with many of the fine options listed in the thread, if possible try to arrange a home listen trial and-or the best deal in terms of price in your short list.

Wish you luck

Audible Illusion Modulus, VTL Ultimate, or an Audio Note level 4 or better preamplifier (save your money!).
You stipulate a desire to buy a final system. Admirable, but experience says you are not going to be willing to remain on the sidelines after you have had that system for a while.

If you are sincere in your stated desire, however, you would be well advised to eschew tubes and fads. Today's favorite flavor lacks staying power and may eminate from a source who is shortlived.

My suggestion is the JRDG Concerto preamp. It is available with phono for $4500, will never need service, will maintain resale value, interface with anything, and outperform all other options for music reproduction. Sound effects are another matter and any number of alternatives may surpass this unit when reproducing gunfire or car doors slamming.
OK, I'm confused, where does this comment come from in the context of the cordial discussion we've been having in this thread, Microjack? I'm confused by your intent in saying this.
Sound effects are another matter and any number of alternatives may surpass this unit when reproducing gunfire or car doors slamming.
So sorry. I didn't intend to confuse anyone.

The comment you question was inserted vis a vis the greater context of values expressed and implied on this site, if not specifically this post.

Home theatre seems to have implanted concerns for physical impact over emotional impact.

Nonetheless, I'll stand by my recommendation. JRDG Concerto P.
Macrojack and Rushton, et al., thanks for the response and the insightful comments. As far as the home theater thing goes, I actually have a separate system for that purpose, and thus am looking for an audio only preamp. I am not limiting myself to tubes; in fact I am in the process of making arrangements with my local Spectral dealer to try out 2 of their preamps in the next week or so.

Spectral is an equally good choice.
What I wanted to convey in my original message was simply that you choose something that will survive the coming decimation of underutilized manufacturers and avoid the inevitable elimination of NOS tubes. As they become more scarce, tubes will become more expensive to the point of absurdity unless, like me, you think they are there already.

Rowland works best for me because I live in Colorado and because he is simplifying his products and reducing their purchase price while continuing to improve them.

Whatever you choose, I think you will find that it is difficult to ignore the allure of advertised innovation unless you turn your back on the audio press.

I no longer see anything advertised that I want to own. Everything falls into one of three categories: don't want, can't use, or can't afford. And that makes me very happy with what I have. Doesn't that sound like the formula for a permanent system?
(Sorry for the length) - I'd like to provide some closure to this thread and thank everyone for their advice and encouragement. I actually ended up backtracking, sort of, and bought a separate phono stage (C-J EV-1), as well as a new power amp (Atma-Sphere S-30 MkII). I found that the image stability and ultra-low noise floor associated with my Placette Passive were too desireable to give up. So, after some auditioning of preamps, I went out and got the C-J and have been enjoying my analog ever since. The amp? Well, I had wanted more "speed" in my system, and with the S-30 I cetainly got that characteristic, and a whole lot more. Wife, kids, and job permitting I would like to offer up a review of the S-30 in the next couple months as I grow accustomed to it.