Specific SS phono stage suggestions 1K budget


Hey everyone,

I hope those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving had a great time with friends and family. As the titles says - looking for some specific recommendations in the 1k range for SS phono stages. I have certain parameters that will hopefully narrow the field. My set up is a Naim 5i-2, Harbeth C7es3 speakers, and a Marantz TT with a Grado Statement Sonata 1 (LOMC) cartridge. The system plays very well together, and the phono stage is the final piece of the puzzle. I know these discussions go in a million different directions, but I'm trying to keep it within the following parameters:

1. Solid State (either battery powered or with a IEC cord. No wall warts)
2. Multiple cartridge loading options - I can't believe what a difference this makes.
3. 1k new (would consider going a bit higher).

So far, I've looked at the following that seem intriguingL
a. Sutherland Ph3D
b. Musical Surroundings Nova II
c. Whest Two (pretty minimal options in terms of loading)

I'd welcome any other suggestions. Hopefully, the parameters I've provided will make recommendations a bit easier.

Thanks so much,
Scott
smrex13
Heed Quasar.
Thanks for the Quasar suggestion - looks like it's got everything I'm looking for and I like the separate power supply.

Best, Scott
I have an AcousTech which was designed by Ron Sutherland. No loading options, you just switch it internaly for either MM or MC. Works great with my Spacedeck/Spacearm/Goldring 1042 front end. The amp is Redgum integrated, Purist Colossus interconnect.
So, I guess Sutherland should be good. I heard good things about the Heed too, I think it is a Hungarian company.
This may be not better/worse case but just different. We cannot know what you would like more, you might even like both. I think, Elusive Disc sell the Heed.

Musical surroundings Nova II !  If your looking for a SS phono stage that sounds fantastic! look no further. The Nova II is powered by a rechargeable battery for super quiet operation. The Nova also has more settings for MM/MC cartridges than you could ever want, very versatile. Brand new sells for $1200. You can buy used ones too for less on this site. You can then buy a new battery direct from Musical surroundings because that usually has to be replaced.


Regards,


Matt M

Try the Ray Samuels F-117, The Nighthawk MC/MM Phono Stage $795 plus shipping. They may have a holiday special going. Battery powered and very quiet, as well as being adjustable with front panel switching.

Best Regards,

Jim Perry
I've read really good things about the Lounge Audio LCR phono. I'd love to hear one...I'd buy one to check it out but I have a LOMC cartridge

http://www.loungeaudio.com/
The Grado you have is not a MC,it is a low output MI (big difference). The preamp you decide to get must have an input sensitivity of at least .5 mv to accommodate the low output of the Grado.
Yogiboy,

Yes, I realized right after I posted that it was an MI cart. I looked at several phono amps, and none of them state the input sensitivity. I got a really good price on a Grado high output MI cart (4.0mV), so I'll be able to use either. Seeing as I like the sound of the Grados (and they go well with my TT and tonearm), what specs should I be looking for in the phono amp?

I only recently began learning about loading and capacitance and how important it is to have a phono amp that matches your cart.

Thanks!
Scott
Hi Scott,
Most phono preamps will list the minimum input,also the gain will be listed in the specs. It's too bad you are not interested in a tube phono,the Croft would be a great match with your gear. Grado cartridges should have an input load of 47,000 OHMS and a resistance of 475 OHMS. What phono are you looking at that does not state those specs?
I forgot to mention,check out the Rogue Audio Triton. It is solid state and has 3 gain settings and loading options.
Jasmine line is good also.
Yogiboy,

I wish I could go with tubes!  It's what I prefer, but I've had noise issue with almost every tube product I've tried.  I currently have a Jolida JD9 phono stage that has tubes in the output stage, and I get a pop and crackling every time the washer/dryer starts or the heater/ac starts or stops.  

Anyway, I'm leaning towards the Quasar.  Here are the specs:

Specifications:
MM input: 5 mV /47 kOhm / 100 pF
MC input: adjustable
Sensitivity: 100 µV - 200 µV - 600 µV
Impedance: 100 Ohm / 220 Ohm / 470 Ohm
Output voltage: "Low Out": 220 mV/100 Ohm
Output voltage: "High Out": 775 mV (0 dBm)/ 22 Ohm

Does this match with the Grado?  Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!!
Scott
Scott,
The 5mv input sensitivity is on the high side. It is okay if the cartridge you use is 5mv or higher. What Grado are you going to use?   
Yogiboy
Yogiboy,

I have both the low and the high output versions of the Sonata 1, with the following specifications:

Low output:
Input Load 47K
Output at 1KHz 5CM/sec. 0.5mV
Recommended Tracking Force 1.5
Stylus Type E
Inductance 2mH
Resistance 2
Compliance CUs 20
Stylus Replacement F=Factory F
Mounting S
Weight 6.5

High output:
Input Load: 47K
Output: 5.0mV
Recommended Tracking Force: 1.5Gms
Stylus Type: Elliptical
Inductance: 45mH
Resistance: 475Ω
Compliance CUs: 20
Stylus Replacement: Factory
Mounting: Standard
Weight: 6.5Gms

Can the Heed be configured to match with either of these?  If not, could you give me some idea of the specs I should be looking for in a phono amp that would work with the Grados?  

Thanks, Scott
Hi Scott,
Any phono preamp will work with the 5 mv Grado including the Heed. The low output Grado will not have enough gain unless the phono preamp has a minimum input sensitivity of .5 mv.  Some preamps do not list the input sensitivity but they do list the gain,low,medium or high.If this information is not listed  in the specs you should get in touch with the manufacturer . BTW,that Heed uses a wall wart.
Yogiboy
Hi Scott,
You should take a look at the Rogue Audio Triton,it has all the features you are looking for! You can give them a call  just to make sure it will work with your Grado's!
Yogiboy
In Stereophile, Herb Reichert has a pretty enthusiastic review at http://www.stereophile.com/content/gramophone-dreams-6#o7J7zJSqh2x3YQ2T.9 of the $1299 (MSRP) Blue Horizon Profono. It's worth a read.

Yogiboy - thanks for the Rogue recommendation.  It looks interesting. And Johnnyb53, thanks for the link to the Blue Horizon - it looks great!  

Right now, I'm leaning towards the Quasar as I like the descriptions of its sound that I've found in reviews, and it seems that owners are very happy with it.  I'll keep y'all posted!
Best, Scott
Just wanted to update you all, and say thanks for the recommendations.  I got a Heed Quasar and matched with the higher output Grado Sonata - WOW!  Of course, they are still breaking in together, but the sound is very open, warm, dynamic, smooth...It's what I've been shooting for with the sound of my system.  

Thanks again, especially for the Quasar recommendation.  Back to the music...

Scott

I'm happy it worked out for you Scott. I also found it's sound, as you describe. Cheers -Don



Scott - I purchased a Simaudio Moon LP5.3RS a while back.and haven't looked back.

This model is now discontinued, but the new 310LP is basically the very same unit - it just has a new faceplate.

It seems to fit your requirements very well and really benefits from using a quality power cable.

There is a separate power supply, but they are expensive and the quality power cable seems to provide similar benefits.

It is very quiet - with the amp at full volume I get a very slight hiss

The only drawback - you do have to remove the cover to set the jumpers - not very elegant - but very effective

I'm using it with a Soundsmith modified Denon DL103 moving coil cartridge on an Audiomods Series three arm and the details are superb.

The Sutherland and the Whest were also on my list, and I also tried the LFD, but the Moon performed better on my system.

Hope that assists you in your decision making process :-)

Regards...

smrex, Just for the record, sensitivity to transients in the AC supply to your home has nothing to do with anything related to use of tubes vs solid state in the audio circuit.  Has everything to do with the design of the power supply, the other items that may be in the line shared with your phono stage, and the paths of the circuitry in your particular house.  Anyway, glad you're happier with your new purchase.
Thanks again to everyone.  So, the Heed sounds great, but it's fairly difficult to change the jumpers to try different loading (and they're pretty fragile, so I want to be careful).  Was wondering if someone might venture a guess as to the best setting to try with the Grado Sonata 1 cartridge.   The specs for both the cartridge and the Heed are below.  I appreciate any thoughts.

CART:
Input Load 47K
Output at 1KHz 5CM/sec. 0.5mV
Recommended Tracking Force 1.5
Stylus Type E
Inductance 2mH
Resistance 2
Compliance CUs 20

HEED:
MM input: 5 mV /47 kOhm / 100 pF
MC input: adjustable
Sensitivity: 100 µV - 200 µV - 600 µV
Impedance: 100 Ohm / 220 Ohm / 470 Ohm
Output voltage: "Low Out": 220 mV/100 Ohm
Output voltage: "High Out": 775 mV (0 dBm)/ 22 Ohm

Thanks!
Scott
Nein nein nein, you must try them all, there is no way around. Guesses are irrelevant. Sorry.
smrex13, you are missing out on the most choice and one of the best out there for the budget, the Lehmann Blackcube SE with outboard power supply. It remains a reference in the price range of $1k. Another very good phonostage is the LFD LE. Check out the review here:
http://www.stereophile.com/content/lfd-phonostage-le-phono-preamplifier#MpOyhTA3bbxs55dq.97
Was wondering if someone might venture a guess as to the best setting to try with the Grado Sonata 1 cartridge.
Scott, the Heed does not provide ideal settings for the low output version of the Grado, because the Grado's recommended load is 47,000 ohms, while the highest load impedance choice the Heed provides for low output cartridges, depending on what document is looked at, is either 470 ohms or 1,000 ohms. 

And quick calculations of the interaction between the three load impedance choices that are provided for low output cartridges and the 2 mH inductance of the Grado certainly appear to confirm that the 100 ohm and 220 ohm choices are undesirable, while the 470 (1,000?) ohm choice is marginal at best.

I wouldn't be surprised, though, if removing the resistive loading jumpers in the Heed altogether would result in a suitably high input impedance, such as 47,000 ohms, although **possibly** with adverse sonic effects depending on the Heed's specific design.

Given also your Naim integrated amplifier's fairly high sensitivity (= low sensitivity number, 150 mv in this case), what I'd suggest is that you try the following with the low output Grado:

1)Try the Heed's MC input and "high" output, with a setting of 600 uV and with the resistive loading jumpers removed altogether, which as I indicated MIGHT result in a 47,000 ohm or other suitably high impedance.

2)Also try the Heed's MC input and "high" output, with settings of 600 uV and 470 (1000?) ohms.  With this option, look particularly for adverse effects in the upper treble region, such as dullness and sluggish transient response.

3)Also try using the Heed's MM input and "high" output, with the low output cartridge.  With this option, look for excess noise, and not being able to turn the volume control up high enough on material having wide dynamic range (such as classical symphonic music).

Good luck.  Regards,
-- Al

Pani - when I was lookingfor my phono stage I purchased the LFD based on recommendation of the guys at the store (they are very good, so I respect their opinion), but I ended up taking it back - it was not a good choice for either my cartridge or my system (probably the cartridge).

 I then tried the Simaudio Moon and never looked back.

By comparison the LFD was low on volume, dull and lifeless, which surprised me, based on what I had read in several reviews, and it also surprised the guys at the store from which I purchased it, because they thought it was their best bang for the buck phono stage.

So as always, it only goes to show what's good for one system may not work too well in another - you really do have to try them in your own system to see if they pan out.

Regards...

Al,

Thanks for the thorough reply!  Before I saw your message, I did try it without the jumpers, which appears to be an impedance of 47,000 ohms.  I set the sensitivity at 200 uV (middle setting, figured it was the safest bet), and used the high output.  The sound is much better than with the previous cart (the high output Grado) through the MM inputs. I'll try the 600 uV sensitivity to see how that affects the sound, but I think I'm getting it dialed in pretty well.  Of course, maybe it could be much better with a better phono stage/cart match...

Thanks again,Scott
Just as an update...as I experimented with the Heed I just couldn't find the sweet spot.  The high output was too high, and the low output just seemed dull and lifeless.  I'm now auditioning the Lounge Audio phono amp, and it's quite good for the money.  I'm using the DL-110 cartridge as the 5.0mV Grado is really pushing the limits in terms of distortion - vocal peaks sound quite ragged whereas they are well controlled with the Denon.  The Lounge is much more detailed than my Vincent and has a very nice soundstage.  It's also handles sibilant sounds much more realistically.  It's only been in my system for a couple of days, but I'm impressed so far.    

I will be comparing it to a Lehmann Black Cube SE II that should arrive next week. Will let you know how the shootout evolves.

Happy New Year,
Scott