Should I upgrade my phono pre??


My custom Rega with an Apheta v.2 sounds great and I sure have been enjoying listening to so many LP's on my stereo. My phono stage is an AD-50 phono option board plugged into an Accuphase E-470. But then in a moment of weakness I bought a table that I've kind of lusted after for a long time, a Luxman PD-171 with a 10" Jelco 850 series arm. The cartridge is an Ortofon Cadenza Black. After solving a vexing ground loop issue, and getting the cartridge dialed in just right, I was simply unprepared for a shocking improvement in every aspect of the sound. When I cue up a record I can't but sit transfixed by the music. 

So I THOUGHT that my Rega/Apheta was the bomb. I had no idea that the Lux/Cadenza Black would be such a thrilling upgrade. Now I'm wondering if I would get yet another leap in performance if I was able to invest six to seven thousand (used or new) in a new phono pre. The AD-50 SEEMS awesome, and I'm a sucker for anything Accuphase, so my question is: Should I be shopping?

D7e5068b 0b05 4f98 a199 54020901c555oranfoster
I've never heard vinyl played through an AD-50 board, so I've no idea if it is awesome or not.  However, Accuphase makes some lovely noise otherwise and I certainly wouldn't go out and buy a new phono stage without subjecting it to careful head-to-head auditioning it first.
Accuphase has a phono amplifies which you could look at. However, I think you should look at a tube phono preamp.
Oh no, there's no need to spend that kind of money. Not when the Herron VTPH-2A is equally as good and for only around half the money.
Yeah definitely - phono stage is a crucial to performance and its perfect matching to your cartridge is paramount. It’s wise to explore this area now, with the rest of your source riding at such a high level.

The VTPH-2A is an excellent option. Unlike other owners of this stage, I find you CAN do better for more money (I like my VAC better), but it should clobber your current phono card, and it’s unlikely you’ll find better without spending more.

One fun thing you could do to potentially greatly improve your sound without spending a lot of money - invest in a good SUT and run that into your present phono card in MM mode. I prefer a good SUT to the VTPH-2A’s MC input stage (JFET) for cartridges below 0.5mV output. The Cadenza Black should be well matched to any 30x SUT, of which there are some excellent choices in the 1.2-2.2K range. E.g. EAR MC-4 (or older MC-3), Bob’s Devices Sky 30 (not quite as good as the EAR but cheaper). Ortofon offers a couple of their own (the Verto model uses Lundahls). You could also have a premium Lundahl SUT built by K&K, and for a better price than the the Ortofon. The Hashimoto HM-3 and HM-7 are also well liked.

If the SUT route works then you can upgrade to an outboard phono stage, and focus only on its MM capabilities (you would bypass its MC stage with your favorite SUT).

I have a Cadenza Bronze as a backup cartridge, and it pairs quite well with the Bob’s Devices Sky. The Black, being lower output, should benefit even more from a SUT.
I've got an AS Phonolab 1.0 available to demo if you like. Since its a commercial interest for me I'll refrain from subjective commentary and just say 'you could hear it and make your own mind'. It's in your stated price range.

....if solid state sans SUT is something of interest....
*i love SUT/tubes too. But sometimes solid state can surprise you these days.
I forgot to clarify: you can try the Phonolab in your home....
Have fun in your analog adventure!
Well, the Herron phono stage certainly has a devoted following! I’ve seen so many posts in various threads raving about the VTPH-2A that it really does make me curious. The Accuphase card generates very little self noise giving it what I think must be very good resolution. Is the Herron super quiet and resolving? If I could get those traits plus the great tone density from its valve based circuitry it could make for quite a nice combo.

I’ll look up the Phonolab....

thanks for the insights so far....

~Oran
mulveling,

In your experience, would a SUT compromise dynamic range?

In your experience, would a SUT compromise dynamic range?

@oranfoster  My only experience is with a Zesto Allasso SUT and in this case definitely not.  It's not the cheapest option but I love the flexibility with its gain and loading options.  I use it with my Herron VTPH-2A and find it allows me to dial MC cartridges in much better than with the Herron single MC gain (plus several loading options) setting alone.I really now have the flexibility to let the Herron shine with virtually any cart I decide to try.


oranfoster:
Well, the Herron phono stage certainly has a devoted following! I’ve seen so many posts in various threads raving about the VTPH-2A that it really does make me curious. The Accuphase card generates very little self noise giving it what I think must be very good resolution. Is the Herron super quiet and resolving? If I could get those traits plus the great tone density from its valve based circuitry it could make for quite a nice combo.


Super quiet. Incredibly resolving. Although frankly the darn thing is so good its hard not to feel describing it is futile. Its just so much better. That’s why in my review I made a point of telling the story of how my wife first heard it and commented repeatedly on how much better it sounded even though she had no idea what or if I had bought anything and was never even in the room but was hearing it through the closed and weather-stripped solid core door. While puttering around in the living room and kitchen. Its that good.

Prior to this I was using the Audio Research PH3-SE and had been very happy with it for something like 15 years. Well, it is a very good phono stage. Still is. The Herron though is in another league altogether. So much better in fact that it made me aware of a woody tonal character that was the kind of thing you would never in your life associate with electronics, more the kind of sound a speaker cabinet resonance would make, but suddenly with the Herron this was completely gone leaving me to struggle with how I had been living with that from the ARC for so many years without noticing it at all!

I have a hunch that the biggest problem with the Herron is its incredible value. If only Keith would price it up there along with where it performs, in terms of sound quality and build quality and everything else, then at $12k I’m sure it would get a lot more respect. Actually thinking over some of the stuff Keith told me it might be low even at $12k. Or if he gave them away to reviewers, or sold them at reviewer "accommodation pricing" (ie, gave them away to reviewers).

When I started getting interested one of the first things that got me even more interested was when I went looking for used. There were none. The few I found had all sold really fast. Instead there were people posting they were looking for a used one.

So good luck with that. Pretty much all the comments from actual owners are beyond happy. They are basically, you buy this and you are done. You can spend the rest of your life upgrading everything else. So maybe another reason there aren’t more of them. People like to flip. Which I guess you can do with some stuff. But not this.
Yep - in my experience too, music sounds notably MORE dynamic and alive with a SUT than with an active MC gain stage, even an excellent JFET stage like in the Herron. That's what I love about using SUTs. And this difference increases as you get into lower output MCs like the 0.3mV Koetsus.
@millercarbon,
     Your post should earn you a commission from Herron Audio. You sold me on one. I’ll start with that and keep my eyes peeled for a great SUT. 
     I’m terrible because I’ve never been a huge fan of the Zesto design theme, but I think it really works well for their SUT. Now I just have to sell a couple pieces to make it happen. My Benchmark DAC3 HGC is awesome but my analog front end is getting so engaging that I’ll let that go and rely on the DAC-40 board that’s also installed in my Accuphase E-470. Hardly a compromise....
Look into Silvercore SUT and Emia SUT too...