Preamp with quality MC phono section

I am in the market for a preamp with a builtin quality mc/mm phono section. Budget, up to $10,000 new or used.

Preamps that I can think of with a quality phono section are:

Any experience with any of these or recommendations would be appreciated. BTW any SS recommendations would also be welcomed.
Not quite what you are asking but l'll throw it in anyway - Leaves a lot of $ leftover for a line stage and it small so it'll fit almost anywhere - and yes I do make them.

Liberty B2B-1

Good Listening

I've been pleased with the MC phono section on the McIntosh C2300 preamplifier, which is well under your budget. Currently using it with a Dynavector XX-2 cartridge and have had very good results.
Bob, One of the best in the market today are the McIntosh C2300, C500, and C1000, all have built in MM and MC phono stage.
Peter, thanks for your reply, I had not heard of Liberty. I like the idea of one less box, but will also look at that option.

Goheelz I will look at McIntosh.
Your initial list is admirable, and your budget is realistic. It would be nice if you'd publish your system so we could see what else is involved. But, so far so good ;~) You've left a very special contender off of your list, not surprising, but I'll get to what and why in a moment. First some basic principles:

1.) Tubes. The sonic benefit(s) ascribed to tubes over solid state when used in audio devices (basically, tubes' superior ability to preserve the most subtle aspects of the audio signal) are realized primarily when tubes are used to amplify the signal. In a home audio system, this occurs in 2 places, maybe 3, and (longshot) maybe 4 ;~) They are: power amplifier, phono amplifier, microphone amplifier, and tape recorder electronics. All four amplify the signal. In any other (audio) applications such as: preamplifiers, electronic crossover networks, equalizer/processors, tuners (up to the audio output stage), and in all digital gear, tubes won't perform any better than well-designed (meaning quiet!) solid state electronics; and on the downside, tubes can possibly add thermionic 'hiss' to the signal.

2.) MC cartridges: Are basically balanced output devices. So if you can amplify them using an amplifier with balanced inputs, you gain several advantages: Better bandwidth, much less susceptibility (of the connecting cables) to external noise, less susceptable to cartridge loading. Further, in balanced mode, an MC cartridge has a higher effective output (because in balanced mode it becomes a current device rather than a voltage device) so you can usually get away without the use of (sluggish) step-up transformers, or (quiet but harsh sounding) solid-state FET first stages in the phonoamp.

OK. Assuming you accept these basic premises (as I do, but I don't mean to twist anyone's arm) then my dream phono amplifier would have (at a minimum) these two attributes:
1.) All tube, from input to output.
2.) (True) balanced inputs
In addition, it would be *nice* if it also had:
3.) Class A amplification
4.) Fully balanced (differential) circuitry.
5.) Balanced outputs
6.) Tube rectified power supply

The one unit (which you didn't include) that satisfies the all-important (for me) first two requirements is/are the Atma-Sphere preamps with tube phonostage (when it's part of the preamp, it's a 'phonostage'; when it's free-standing, it's a phonoamp.) And the funny thing is that no one I've asked can seem to think of anyone else who makes a unit, built-in or freestanding, that satisfies the first two requirements. The MP-3 satifies 1 - 5, and the MP-1 satisfies all six. Because Atma-Sphere is best known for their great OTL amplifiers, few people seem to know much about the great preamps Ralph Karsten also makes. I found out accidentally. And to be honest, I wasn't in the market for a tube preamplifier; only a tube phono amplifier. But Atma-Sphere doesn't make a standalone phonoamp, so I 'accepted' the tube preamplifier in order to have my dream phonoamp (phonostage, actually.) And I wasn't disappointed! The preamp (linestage) is a dream also -- and extremely quiet as tube preamps go. Both the MP-3, and the (two box) MP-1 are balanced from inputs to outputs (except for a couple of tape loops). There are three pairs of 12AT7's in the phonostage, which provide plenty of gain for all but the tiniest output MC cartridges (like under .2mV) and for HO MC or MM cartridges, you actually need to remove a pair of tubes. The base price for the preamps (including phonostage) for the MP-3 is ~ $5600, and ~ $15,000 for the MP-1 Of course, you can add up to $8k+ of extras to either one if you like ;~) Best to go to the website:

BTW, I'm now planning to sell my Levinson 26s (preamp) and 25s (phonoamp), in case anyone is interested ;~)

Thank you for your detailed reply. I am currently using a Deja Vu tubed preamp with a builtin phono section which is a very nice quality preamp. My turntable is a Artemis/Schroder with the Artemis/Schroder arm and a LOMC.
Also using a 2A3 tube amp on Lambhorn speakers. As stated the Deja Vu preamp is exceptional but I am wordering what the next preamp upgrade might be.
Bob, I'm not really familiar with your preamp (website?) but it appears your system is currently single-ended throughout? The other units you listed are all very fine first-rate equipment, but all single-ended units; except I think the Doshi is available with (semi) balanced outputs.

My Levinson setup (pre and phono) was hard to beat. But for the reasons I explained above (i.e. the benefits of tubes in amplification) I really wanted to have or at least hear a tube phonoamp. There are many fine ones to choose from, but except for BAT, they're all single ended, and I wanted my cake and eat it too (meaning tubes + balanced) and that seemed impossible to find -- unless somebody here knows something I missed, please say so ;~)

Anyway, when I had the chance to experience the phonoamp I desired, even though it came in the form of a preamp-with-phonostage, I thought I'd give the Atma-Sphere a try. And since you said you were specifically interested in a preamp-with-phonostage, I thought I'd suggest it. Of course my preamp, DAC, and amp, are already balanced devices (the tuner and cassette player are not) so the Atma-Sphere preamp, with the kind of phonostage I wanted, was (almost) a no-brainer for me -- assuming its linestage would be a top-notch performer too, and it definitely is that! Now I'm hearing things coming from my Transfiguration Temper W cartridge I never imagined I would, so I'm pretty happy with how things turned out.
If you don't need a lot of control flexibility, the Aesthetix Io phono amp has sufficient gain (and a volume control) to allow direct connection to your power amp. Worth checking out if you can find one to audition.

The Manley Steelhead is worth looking into. In addition to being a phono preamp it has a volume control and an input that will allow you to use an additional source (for example, if you also listen to digital). Me personally, I own an Atma-Sphere amp and am going in the direction of the MP-3 for many of the same reasons stated by Nsgarch. Mine is going to be slightly customized with a tape equalization circuit so I can run a signal from the tape head of my Otari through the preamp as well.

Of those on your list I am familiar with VAC having once owned the Avatar SE. While I found the phono section to be exceptional, I would have to assume the newer VAC designs would take it up a few notches. I bought my first tube system from Vu at Deja Vu Audio back in 1996 and even back then he was building amps and preamps for customers on a limited basis that were quite exceptional. They had a bit of a cult following then and apparently still do. Don't sell yourself short on what you already have. It may not have the bling but it can certainly sing with the rest on your list.

You are proably right about the Deja Vu preamp. Both the phono section and line stage are exceptional and my system does sound incredible. But you know that us audiophiles are always looking for the next upgrade even though it is sometimes is a backward step.
I think your starting list is a very good one, and you've gotten some thoughtful input (no pun) from others as well. Much is going to depend on synergy with the rest of your system. I was trying to get the VAC Sig IIa for a listen in my system recently, and I know the version with the phono stage is highly regarded. Ditto on the Doshi.
I ran a Steelhead for a number of years, using NOS tubes, but found that it sounded best with an additional line stage in the system, not 'straight in.' It seemed to gain more weight and palpability with the additional component (at the time, a Lamm L2, which is, ironically a solid state audio path but tube driven power supply).
I may be wrong here, but it seems like most Shindo preamp owners also opt for standalone SUTs to optimize their set-up, so that may add an additional expense.
Obviously, if you can a chance to beg, borrow or 'steal' (proverbially speaking) these to try first, you are better off in the long run. Not easy, though.
Given the price point you are considering, you should be able to get great sonics. But, having just gone through a few months of experimentation with different line stages and phono stages (as separates), you will be surprised- I was- by the profound difference in your system these changes can make, even among otherwise highly regarded units. Thus, my emphasis on home trial if at all possible.
Just a thought because I am going down a similar road, but for $10k (used) you could possibly get a Shindo or VAC amp/preamp set up that will sound wonderful and still keep the existing amp/preamp.