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?


Capacitance alone doesn’t tell you much. Depends also on the B+ voltage developed in the supply. Tube devices develop high voltages, e.g., 250V and higher and require less filter capacitor. SS devices usually operate at or below 100V, but 100V would need less filtering than say 25V. Also Class A devices place different demands on the PS, compared to Class AB or B. That can be ignored since preamplifiers are nearly all Class A.

But manufacturers commonly tout massive capacitance as an unalloyed virtue and offer “upgrades” where adequate filter capacitance is replaced by even more than adequate capacitance. This can help in a Class AB amplifier but I’m skeptical how much it helps SQ of a preamp, providing the original filtering was adequate.

Bliss, I assume 203 hours means 2-3 hours. I keep the PS of my SS amplifier on standby at all times. Then when in active use it takes 30 to 45 minutes to bloom. (This is not about the BMC, which I keep on at all times.)

In my last paragraph above, replace “amplifier “ with “preamplifier”.

@lewm Yes, I absolutely meant 2-3 hours, thanks for the correction, as well as shining some light on capacitance. Your wisdom is always appreciated.