Solid State Phono Stages


I used to be an all-tube guy, but I’ve now ventured into the realm of high-end solid state with T+A and no longer have any itch to go back heavily into tubes. Now, the only tubes I have left in my system are in my Modwright PH9.0X phono, and from what I’ve demoed against it, it seems to be a giant killer. I do love it, but I’m curious to try a higher end solid state phono stage to see what more noise and more music might sound like. Unfortunately T+A does not have a standalone phono stage, so I’m looking at other manufacturers and open to other opinions.

I currently have a Clearaudio Innovation Wood table and Air Tight PC-1s cartridge. i listen to a wide range of music, from Zeppelin to Vivaldi to Beck to Coltrane to Yello. The stage would ideally have between 65-74db of gain, maybe adjustable to 60db at minimum, and have variable impedance values. A balanced output stage would be ideal. I don’t ever really plan to have a second arm, but most stages that retail over $7K tend to have multiple inputs anyways.

My budget would be at tops ~$8K for a used unit. The unit that is sticking out to me from what I’m reading about is the Simaudio Moon 810LP. Another high on the list is the Esoteric E-02. I’ve also come across the Pass XP-27, the Gold Note PH-1000.

I’m looking for a stage with some personality in its character, not one that is overly refined. I’d love for it to be dynamic and bold when it should be, and also gentle and refined when it should be.

The only solid state stages I’ve ever owned and tried were the Pass Labs Xono, which was clean sounding but a little noisy and brittle sounding compared to a PS Audio Stellar Phono. I’ve liked all my tube phono stages better than both of those units.

I’ve also considered going further up the tube stage route, looking at Doshi 3.0, Aesthetix IO Eclipse, but I’m hesitant unless I can hear those in place. 

What solid stage phono stages have you loved, and what have you compared them to?

128x128blisshifi

@hifi59 I’m glad to hear you are enjoying the PH9.0X. It truly is one of the best purchases I ever made, and I still feel that way even if I’ve moved past it. I have endless respect for what Dan was able to achieve with it given the price point.

About three weeks in now with the Audionet PAM G2 and EPC combo, and has been performing admirably. The heavier weight in the delivery opened up a bit, and the bass performance has gotten tighter without losing intensity. It truly is an incredibly liquid sounding unit, incredibly involving and detailed. I simply can’t believe it is not a tube-based unit considering the beautiful harmonics and bloom, but the ultra-low noise and detail retrieval make it obvious it surpasses the performance of most if not all tube units on the market. So far no regrets purchasing it.

But now, enter the BMC MCCI Signature ULN, which arrived this past Friday. It is a gorgeous unit inside and out. The craftsmanship is impeccable. From an engineering perspective, it seems to be on an opposite side of the spectrum as it operates in the current injection / transimpedance paradigm. I want to give the unit the benefit of the doubt as it’s absolutely not broken in with probably 10 hours of play time on it max, so we’ll have to see how it plays out, but I’ll say my first impression with it doesn’t win me over the way the Audionet does. The tonal balance is tipped a bit higher and though with some records the BMC’s snappiness actually images incredibly with holography, other albums can sound too forward and almost fatiguing. Soundstage is also not nearly as wide and large as the Audionet, with more of the imaging happening between the speakers vs disappearing beyond

Again, I’m attributing any shortcomings to it not being broken in… from what I’ve read and heard from others, it takes quite a while I can break in. My plan is to keep spinning records using thus stage for the next 2-3 weeks and switch back to the Audionet at the end of the month for an initial comparison.

OP...Try a Sutherland phono stage at your price point. Give Ron a call, he's easy to contact and very friendly and informative. He won't try to sell you something that does not meet your needs/preferences. He's got plenty of customers to keep him busy. For my ears Sutherland gear sounds like music, simple concept that too often gets lost in the specs/wild-arse opinions of this crazy analog world.