Should I purchase an expensive phono preamp

I have a Nottingham Horizon TT with the Rega 250 arm and a Goldring 1000 series MM cartridge. This is hooked up to a Pioneer Elite VSX-99 AV receiver that has a built in phono stage. I am trying to improve on the phono stage but I am wondering if there will be diminishing returns going to the more expensive stages. I am considering Lehmann BC, Graham Slee Era Gold V and AcousTech PH-1. I listen to Jazz, Old School R&B and Classic Rock music mainly.
You can easily improve on the MM phonostage that's in the receiver, and for not a lot of money -- certainly not what the stages you mention will cost. You have a nice TT and arm, but your cartridge and receiver (more the receiver) are the limiting factors sonically, and so a very modest phonostage will get you all that the cartridge and receiver are capable of delivering IMO.

One day when you have the money, you could invest in a receiver from one of the better domestic manufacturers. It will most likely have a great MM/MC phonostage built in. Save your money for now.
Any that you would recommend?
You might want to look into modifying your RB250. Origin Live modifications to the arm make this piece a category killer that will improve sound defination, character, etc... . There are good sights on the internet where you can read about this. Also look into rewiring for the arm with something like Cardas. Check it out.
Well, I'd keep it under $200. That lets out even the Creek OBH-18 by $25. But there's the Parasound or Project Phono Box for $150/120 from Music Direct, or from Audio Advisor the little Bellari Rolls tube unit for $150 -- also doubles as a headphone amp, and will add the warmth of tubes to your (very very solid state) receiver.
I would agree with your assessment relating to diminishing returns. Not knowing your budget I would turn my attention to your amplifier and put your money towards improving this side of your system. If you wished to purchase preowned you could pickup a Naim Nait 5 (integrated) and a Rega phonostage which wouldn't be much more than the Acoutech PH1. All depending upon your speakers this would prove to be a good phono match for your Nottingham until you are ready to upgrade to a Spacedeck or beyond. Have a great day...Gerry.
Like nsgarch I feel your reciever is the choke point in your system.You did not mention the type of speakers you are driving or the number.Why not consider selling the Pioneer? adding the amount you would have payed for the AcousTech[my choice out of the phono stages you mentioned] and buy a high quality integrated with a phono stage built in.Then any mods you make to arm or cartridge will be audible improvements instead of being converted to over processed transistor hell.Or you could buy the AcousTech not expect too much and when you upgrade to a line stage integrated be blown away by the improvement.
A very popular item on A'Gon which sells mopst often within a day is the EAR MM or MM/MC tube unit.Selling new from $1K to $1500 it sells used for $700-850.It allows experimentation with different NOS (New Old Stock) tubes.Another one in the range is the acoustech which won many awards and you have it on your list (none of my thoughts go above this.Other than a few like the $2800 Krell it seesm like the market gives choices up to $1500 than jumpos to $4K and over.At $1500 the Conrad Johnson tube unit is very warm and fine unit.Lower in price spectrum the Lehman Cube for $500 or so.The Graham Slee is an excellently reviewed line as well.But I am being a tube guy I might suiggest between Joilda who just came out with a tube unit at a killer price of $450.Too new for reviews but at price from a company known for good value I don't think you can't lose.I might have bought it but I have a table with an arm that allows for quick change of arm/cartidge so even though I am a tube guy (have an EAR intergated) I am going to get $1K PS Audio.Has flexiblity to change loads easily on back (many including expensive ones require you to open hood to change Dip switches).But also has volume (if you even wanted to go staright into an amp.Also allows for precise input matching geting gain higherst before distortion) as well as mono and phase button on front (not all LP's are made in absolute pahse so on some recordings can make big diference).Think it's a bargain at $1K.But in a hi end system (or any for that matter) the caretidge and phono section effect sound more than turntable and arm.If you step up from a reciever (as good as that one is) your going to have comesurate gear when you do.But in mean time it should sound much beter than the recievers stock unit.Tubes also rolling (changing) and that can be fun to experiment with.But your list of $1500 and less is pretty complete with excellent choices.After 3K hours or when bug bites write back about catridges and sperates or an intergared amp!Great thing about this hoby is you can never stop upgrading but there is a point where the retuirnbs diminish to the point where you don't HAVE to upgrade and can buy gobs of (now) overpriced original LP's on Ebay and get what has become too nutty on CD/SACD/DV-A and what ever new fangled replacement they come out with.
Have fun.
I agree w/Nsgarch; the Bellari would be a cheap way to get a nice improvement.
Sit's suggestion of arm rewiring might be good, but I'm thinking same $ would be better spent on speaker or amp upgrade first. At lower end of the spectrum, speakers will make the biggest difference for the incremental investment. So many to choose from, but that's another thread. Cheers,
I have a 5.1 system with Paradigm speakers. I don't recall the model numbers but the front speakers are much bigger than the surrounds. These were purchased in the mid 90's
My Nottingham Horizon, RB250, Dyanvector 20X sounds amazing with the Whest 2.0 phono stage. It's a solid unit, with the ability to provide gain up to 70Db and different loading via plugs. Huge dynamics, great bass and smooth overall character. This setup beats the pants off my 10K CD player.

FYI the Dynavector 10x5 and 20X both sound very good on the Horizon/250.
I had a Whest in my system, and heard it in a couple of others. While I agree it is a great phonostage and worked nicely in my system, it is very system dependent, not to mention susceptible to EMI and RF. The prices on the Whest units are dropping pretty fast so cost of entry may be worth it now versus a year ago.

FWIW, there is a Cary PH-301 here on Audiogon for $900 obo that I think is a great phonostage. Unfortunately I sold mine to get the Whest (which in turn yielded to a Hagerman Trumpet). The Cary has great resale value so if you try it and don't like it you won't risk losing much.
Saw a Graham Sleee "Buy It Now" for $375 on ebay and think this may be comessurate with A'gonm prices.That Cary suggestion is a pip as well.But as said just to see where Hifi is probably going check out PS Audio site for the stage also for tech going inton new digital gear in their amps and integrateds (which ar e cool in that you can defeat either amp or line section to ad another peice without having to get rid of integrated in one fel;l swoop).Wish I knew how Pioneer stacked up sound wise.All I know that is they are heavy and well made but that does noit mater when the lights are out.But when you get into receiver or it's components you rae hearing character and capablities of the amp and always thought it should be chosen for speakers which I don't think you mentioned.There are some pre's that have EXCELLENT phono section so if that's a possible upgrade soon you might buy new equipment later and find excellent seperate (which requires interconnect and it's characteristics) might be equaled or betered by section in pre.May confuse issue but it is part of total picture.On other hand you could get a great pre like say new $4500 G'luck
I ended up deciding to go with the Bellari. Any suggestions for interconnects? Also, thinking about investing in a couple of different tubes. Any suggestions on where to buy them?
Signal Cable is good stuff for little money. Cheers,
Ejcpa, what cable are you (will you be) using from your tonearm to your phono preamp?
no..use the one provided on your pioneer until you upgrade the reciever.jaybo
Its the cable that came with the tonearm and turntable (bought used on Audiogon). Doen't look to be very high quality.
The Origin Live tonarm cable is an (maybe THE? I don't know) upgrade for the cable that came with. See:

But maybe this isn't the time (for you economically) to start upgrading those items. From the Bellari to the receiver, just make sure you use a good shotgun type, low capacitance (cause of the MM cart,) shielded cable. You can get Straightwire Maestro I or II, Audioquest. MIT, Purist Musaeus, all bargains new and especially used. I'd stay away from Cardas (too warm added to the Bellari) Kimber or Nordost. IMO
I'm not sure if you can easily swap cables on the Rega. Mine is a continuous run, but it is a Brit Audio RB 250.
If the tonearm cables are hardwired to your Rega, I'd just let it be for now. Whatever they are. the'll be good enough for what you're about to put together.

Later on, you might decide to get an altogether new arm for your TT, new arm and TT, or maybe upgrade the Rega at britaudio as Dan_ed suggests. For now, just get a decent entry model pair of ICs (Bellari to receiver) from one of the above reputable manufacturers and you should be fine.
Give us ome idea of what you like about what you have and what you don't Also unltimate transducer is your speakers.I know it is sophisticated to say that you can use lesserr speakers "That's it's only the kids at Circut City or Best Buy" who say "It's all in the speakers and you should put 50% or more into them" I disagree with those who don't realize it is the ultimate transducer and DOES have greatest effect on sound (all other elemensts being frozen).I am skeptic about gear cables,mods,but have had many work out well and be worth investment .Much other is snake oil.But as ususal I digress.
You haven't let us know what you have in total and a strategy you have for your system..Hate to be blunt but maybe your speakers ARE crap and needs to be swapped out with reciever.And speakers should be decided on first and one chjooses amplificatiion needed from them.I am amazed foten at folks who ay "Im just bought a pair of $10K tube monoblocks and want speaker reccomendations for them".This to me is Bass ackwards.For the mid fi crowd the Elite stuff is pretty good and with their $500 speakers and does a fine job.But given the rest of your ig and given folks are telling how to spread your money around you should let us in on what speakers they are using.Tell us if you like them,the receiver (even if we pooh pooh it it's your ears and given the resty of your rig you show good judgement and ability to assesss).But diference between $200 and $1500 phono depends on what else you have,.how you think it sounds,and how you might upgrade any companonenet receiever or speaker and how you want to go about it.Might be you are spending what you can in a building block fashion and leting us know this helps.But if you want to get the rig complate and BALANCED we would need to know what speakers you have and any plans to relave anything what you can spend and when.Know this was long wided but as I have said in many of my postsbrevity isn't my strong suit.But re-reading the post up to this point it seemed top be full of holes.

In an earlier post I stated that I have Paradigm speakers. The system was set up originally as a 5.1 surround sound home theater with the Pioneer Elite AV Receiver (with built in phonostage). DVD's and CD's sound pretty good. I had one of the cheap $200 turntables that went bad (have 300+ lp's) and when I started looking at replacing it I was astounded at how far tt's had come. After research I was able to get the Nottingham with the Rega arm from Audiogon. After being satisfied initially, I noticed that (like described by others) I had to turn down the treble and turn up the bass on most lp's to get the sound I wanted. So the step I am at now is get a stand alone phono stage.
I'm using Paradigm Studio 60's in my HT. They're not bad. I wouldn't necessarily use them in an audio system but I don't think the Paradigm's will hinder your enjoyment of music. I have heard some of the newer Monster Cable IC's that you can pick up at any Best Buy or Circuit City. They should be good enough to let you hear what's going on. If it were me I wouldn't get to crazy unless you really start upgrading equipment.
Are all of the cables you mentioned low capacitance? What exactly do you consider to be low capacitance? I am having a hard time finding the capacitance for these interconnects as it does not seem to advertised on most of the sites relating to the products. Also, do you have any recommendations as to where to purchase these interconnects (except for the Audioquest which seems to be readily available on several websites).
EJ, yes, they all have very low capacitance specs. And it's not critical for the phono preamp to receiver connection.

The critical part for MM carts. is from the tonearm to phono preamp connection. The Goldring 1000 series specified capacitance is 150-200 pf (picofarads). To achieve this, you'd have to know the capacitance of the Rega tonearm cables and add that to the default capacitance in the Bellari and then either add or subtract capacitance to meet that spec. by using little load capacitors inside the Bellari. I don't know (doubt) if the Bellari provides for that amount of tweaking.

Bottom line, don't sweat it for now.
I'm using a Graham Slee Gram Amp 2SE & love it! My front end is Goldring 1042/RB300 Incognito arm rewire(Self Inflicted) and Michell's Counterweight upgrade, on a 1988 Roksan Xerxes. Do make sure your T/T is well isolated (preferably on a wall shelf)the GS costs Appx £200GBP but has a lot of Oomph! This being cleanly administered dynamic clout.
Ok. It's a year later and I have upgraded the receiver to an Arcam AVR 300. So the question is, do I upgrade the TT, arm, cartridge or phono preamp. I have a Nottingham Horizon TT with the Rega 250 arm, Goldring 1012 MM cartridge and the Bellari VP129 phono stage. I am thinking about the Ear 834p and upgrading the cartridge at this point. I am wondering about the arm and possibly moving up to the Spacedeck.
Others may have more valuable insights than me, but you have what seems to be a fairly well matched analog setup at the moment, and if it were me, I might try out some different MM carts first and see where that got me. Raul posted a thread recently about some carts he thinks are good performers, two of which are MM's. Check it out here
Seems to me that your phono pre-amp is now out classed by everything else that you have updated. I think your idea of upgrading the phono pre to the Ear 834 and upgrading the cartridge is the right way to go. The Ear has lots of good press and the units go quick on Audiogon. The Space Deck with the Bellari would not be, in my opinion, a good match. Also, if you jump up to the Space Deck, it may cause you to start the process of componant matching all over again: pretty costly. But, hey, isn't it fun??!!

Good luck.