If you can find one (never easy), a used Vendetta Research 2B or C would be as good as any units out there. I saw one a few weeks ago on A-gon, but it seems to have been snapped up. I had one a number of years ago, sold it when I got my JP80MC, it was the quietest phono stage I ever had. Don't get one expecting to have it upgraded to current specs, though, unless you're prepared for a long wait, as it took Mr. Curl a long time (in the past, at least) to get around to doing those upgrades after the units were sent to him (you can't rush genius). Two tubed, good sounding units I've heard are the Audio Research PH-3 and the Herron (seems to sell around $2000 used), both worth an audition. Finally, at a little above your price point new, Innersound has a solid state phono stage which I was very impressed with when I auditioned it in my system while my Jadis was out for repairs. Hope these give you some ideas at the top of your price range.
To the above I would add the "DACT" 101 (#?). It comes in semi-kit form (i.e. the circuits are ready, you add casing + batteries or separate power supply).
A friend of mine put it together with active PS. It sounds wonderful, has gain of its own (i.e., you can also hook a digi source onto it -- if you want to give passive a go), and the cost including the extra matls should be 1,5-2K (from what he told me). DACT stands for "Danish Audio Connect" & their site is www.dact.com// & that completes my knowledge of this product.
Oh yes, the system: a mean-looking VPI/Koetsu (sorry, can't remember either model), Krell 250, Wilson 6,1.
I hear that people and reviewers have fgood things to say about Audiomat phono (never heard it myself). Costs $990.
Check it and review out on http://www.mutine.com.
I have a Conrad Johnson Motif Phono Stage. They are used only. Sold for over $2K new. I see used ones a lot for $600 to $740. Model is MC-11 I think. Is "Reasonably" priced $2K an Oxy-moron ???
I love my BAT VK-P5 which retails for $2k, but can be had for $1200 used. I compared it in a long term audition to the $5000 Aesthetix Io and when maintenance costs were factored in, I could not justify the $3k for such a small improvement. The Io was better, but not by that much.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and recommend something from space tech laboratory found at space-tech-lab.com. ive never heard their phono stages but i recently bought a little tube preamp line stage from them for a temporary piece just until i found THE preamp i really wanted. well...this little preamp was $300 new and blew the DOORS off my audio research sp9mkII and my morrison ELAD which gets such astonishing reviews at audioreview. i did an a/b comparison with all of them and i sold everything but the space-tech. the rest of my system consists of a vt100mkII, 777es, acoustat m3s, oracle delphi and the space tech keeps up with all of those pieces. it's really outstanding and i'm looking in to their phono stages right now. i can barely wait! i'm frothing.
Here is one that might be a better choice. The Phono Stage from Plinius called M14, which retails at USD3,450 but could be obtainable at around half of the price in used market. This unit is clean, quiet, detailed, and extremely dynamic, plus a gorgeous midrange. And it is built like a tank, with a net weight of 26 lbs. Arthur
Klyne 7 is definitely the way to go. Very flexible with
Gain/impedence/high-frequency contour adjustment. Enough
gain for even 0.2mv output and very quiet. Sounds amazingly
good. It actually beats Vandetta when my friend made the
side by side comparison.
Audio research PH3 SE version can't be beat from all the many, many, many reviews i've read. stereophile rated A, hybrid design and if you can find them used (rare) they go from $1,500-$1,600. if you find one for that price and dont want to buy let me know and i'll take it.
The PH-3SE (which I owned) can easily be beat by the Sonic Frontiers Phono One SE (which I now own). The Phono One SE new can be purchased from underwoodwally on Augiogon for less than $2k.
pctower: i had the sonic frontiers phono one and wasn't too crazy about it. how is the sf phono1 se version different and is it drastically so?
I suggest an Audible Illusions Modulus 3, then add NOS tubes(Seimens are working great for me). Excellent phono stage. Very good all around performance. Tough to beat for the money -- well under your budget even with premium NOS tubes.
Kublakhan -- compared to the SE version, the standard was dry and uninvolving. It was correct, top to bottom, and seemed to resolve most of information on the record, but it had little emotion. The SE version is warmer, and, due in part to its increased midbase punch, seems more dynamic. It brings fun and emotion to listening, without sacrificing the standard's resolving ability, soundstage and top-to-bottom coherence.
Hope that helps.
Anybody with any experience with the BAT VK P10 ?. I've heard that the Aesthetix IO's have been having reliability problems. I could go up a little and get either one used.
I listened to BAT vk p10 versus an Aesthetix at the Analog Room in San Jose. (I own an Aesthetix Io) I thought it sounded better in every way. The Aesthetix design is very full out attack on making the best phono source and it's complex (many tubes and parts) design with regulation at every stage. A solid point for the stability of the design is that it hasn't been rev'd often. Lots of rev's show an unstable design or greedy manufacturers. The sound is fantastic, but plain physics involved with having more parts = more failures. BTW: I have only re-place a couple of noisey tubes and some fuses (because I'm using two PS and KT-66s -thanks Albert) in three years. Better reliability than I might have expected actually, but not for the timid.