I don't have gear as nice as yours but I had a NAD PP2 and I upgraded to a Cambridge Audio 640P phono preamplifier. I haven't looked back since making that change. I've read that the Jolida JD9 and the Vincent Audio PHO-8 are nice phono preamps for under $500.
Good luck with the search.
hey thanks Jedinite...
May I ask you-tonally, what were the differences between NAD & Cambridge? I find the NAD a little small sounding...reserved..
In addition to your findings I just found that the NAD PP2 with the equipment made the music lifeless and sterile. I think the biggest issue I had was with the treble. Everything seemed to really be bright sounding. When I got the 640P I was A LOT happier with how the music sounded. Everything was just more alive but never punishing. I'm sorry I don't have the grasp of the audiophile vocabulary like many other members here but this is what I really felt when I heard the music coming from my system with these phono preamps in place.
I second the Moon LP3 or LP110 recommendation. I remember liking the Cambridge too, but the Moon really impressed me at its price point.
There's a Creek OBH-8 for sale and I'd give that a try. I own the OBH-8SE which has the larger power supply and it is very enjoyable to listen to. (Presently using older Project TT w/stock Oyster Cart.) I had the Sumiko Phono Box (Original version) prior and the Creek was a HUGE step up. Your NAD and my former Project pre-amp were probably in the same class. Good Luck!
I Musical Surroundings Phonomena and it sounded great. I sold the Phonomena recently when I upgraded but there are others. You can get one used for $300 or less.
Probably the one to get is the Ray Samuels F117 Nighthawk. It's tiny but can accommodate any cartridge with front panel gain and loading knobs. It sounds as good or better than many $2000 phono stages. It is surely a few steps up from the PP2 (which I owned and didn't like). It is also a step or two up from the basic MS Phonomena and Phonomena II units. It's a closer call to the Nova Phonomena but I believe the Nighhawk edges that unit as well and the battery lasts 48 hours without recharging instead of 3 hours for the Nova P.
The used Kelvin labs offered here on AG sure seems like a great deal at $400
I owned the NAD PP2 and a 320BEE. The PP2 was good for the money, but not much more than that. All the phono stages you mention and others will mention will reveal that the PP2 sounds slow and closed in.
Off the one's you mention, I like the Simaudio phono stage the best. It's truly great sounding for the price new, and even better value second hand. There's nothing the PP2 does that the LP3 won't trounce. It's not even close IMO.
One that hasn't been mentioned is the Dynavector P75 (mk1 or 2). They typically show up here for well under your budget. I haven't heard every phono stage mentioned by others in this thread, but the P75 easily the best I've heard for the cash used. If my Bryston B60's internal phono stage wasn't doing the great job it's doing, the P75 is easily what I'd buy. It's very flexible in it's loading options, making it compatible with just about any cartridge on the market.
On a side note, after you upgrade the cart, you may want to look at upgrading the 320BEE. It's a great little integrated, but it's not going to show you what your vinyl chain is truly capable of. I really liked my 320BEE when I owned it, so this isn't a knock on it.
Excellent food fo rthought and many thanks to KBARKAMIAN for his input re. 320 BEE too...The NAD may well be next---I had loved ARCAMs back in the day (Alpha 8 etc)...
First though I will investigate the phono stages!
I really liked my 320BEE. I sort of regret selling it, as I could have used it for a second system some day. Paired up great with my PSBs (also sold off), and it sounds great with your B&Ws. I sold it to help pay for my B60, so not too much regret though.
There's a lot better out there. It'll cost a good bit more, but it'll show you what a great vinyl setup you have. I really like the Funk tables.
-Let me ask you Kbarkamian-And I appreciate all the excellent info here- What might be a good used integrated bargain here in A'gon? I see REGA Brios and Arcam A70s going for 400-500 region.....
The Arcam has a MM phono stage I believe....I cant help wondering-if I am spending 300-400 on a used phono stage -say Moon/ Pro-Ject / etc etc
Would I be better off spending say 500 or 600 on a whole new (or used as it were!) Integrated with a built in phono?
I felt the old Arcam Alphas were great-I like a decent amount of weight to the sound-do not like anything sounding thin..(I am actually a bassist by profession..!)
Any thoughts from anyone gratefully received-I like the Funk table too!
I have owned plenty of int. amps over the yrs. (Brio 3, B-60, Arcam 10 and 7, Nad 302/314 and many more.) How good of a built in phono stage depends. A stand alone phono pre-amp in many cases will sound better. But you have the simplicity...If you like Arcam go for Alpha 7/8/9/10. I'm using an Alpha 7 right now w/my Krix Symphonix spks. and it drives them very easily and sounds good. I believe they are a step up, but let me say my little Nad 302 is a wonderful amp! The Alpha 7 is better though. I'd say still get a seperate phono pre-amp unless you're considering a B-60 w/built in phono stage. The Rega is nice as well. Arcam Alpha's do come up for sale here and you may want to wait for one to come up for sale. The little Creek 8 I mentioned previously for sale would be a nice unit to try and see how it would compare w/the NAD. You could always resell and lose very little and gain experience. Bill.
thanks Bill..excellent advice sir!
I agree with Bill regarding integrateds and built in phono stages. Except for a B60 (genuinely not trying to sound biased) and maybe, just maybe a Rega Mira 3, I'd go with an external phono stage.
Rega's internal stage is very good, but I'm pretty sure the Simaudio would be better. Something like the Dynavector P75 would destroy it. Haven't heard my B60's phono stage directly against a P75, but I think the P75 would be a bit better.
A huge advantage external phono stages have over internal ones is flexibility in MM/MC and loading. With an internal one, you're locked in to what you've got, whereas with stuff like the P75 or LP3, you've got far more cartridge options.
In regards to a buying a B60, very few I've seen have the phono option. It can be upgraded by Bryston if you bought a used one, but it's at least $350 if my memory is correct. That's one reason why I jumped on the one I bought here.
At the end of the day, it depends on your overall budget and is also a case by case basis. Some integrateds have great phono stages built in, whereas others are more of an afterthought.