Suggest upgrade from c2300 phono stage

I am currently using a McIntosh c2300 with phono stage. I am using a VPI Aries 3 with flywheel motor/ring clamp/center weight and 10.5i arm. The current cart is a Lyra Argo i.
I am in the process of choosing among 3 new cart upgrades...Lyra Titan, Dynavector XV-1s, and ortofon A90.
I am looking for a tubed phono stage to mate with one of the above 3 carts. I want a crazy low noise floor and a tighter lower end and not a "fat tube" sound.
Where do I go from the Mac? I will do +/- $12k on phono stage.
Any suggestions on above carts and mating pre amps are welcomed.
Will use c2300 as pre with mc501s running JM Lab Alto Utopias.


New Orleans...proud to call it home
I'd recommend going to the C500C/C500T in lieu of the C2300. Did that myself and never looking back. The C500 combo is down right quiet & had an awesome MC stage. Additionally, it is 99% of the soon to be discontinued 1000 series.

I'll add the phono stages in the C500 and 1000 series are identical and when comparing these two pre's with the C2300 on that aspect, the MC/MM within the C2300 is not even of same design/configuration.
Big upgrade from C2300 to C500/1000 series.

I was under the impression that the MC phono stages were the same in the c2300, c500, and c1000. Are they not? What are the differences?

Completely different in design and actual components. The fully balanced C500 & 1000 pre's have left & right MC modules whereas the MC circuitry in the non-balanced C2300 is incorporated on the main component board.


I have a friend with your amp and preamp and he can't say enough good things about the Aesthetic Rhea Signature in combination with them. He won't even use the C2300 phono stage, and didn't when he had an Art Audio Vinyl One, either. The Rhea retails at $7K.

I just bought the MC501 and have a C2300 on the way. My phono stage is a K&K Maxxed Out. In a few weeks I'll be able to give a report on how it mates with the Mac stuff. I think it's hard to beat at twice the price, though, and some people think it's better than the Rhea. I've never compared them.

You might want to check around and see if the phono stage in the C500/C1000 is substantially different from the C2300. Seems like I've read that it's not, though I'm not at all certain. Of course, the outboard PS and fully balanced circuitry of the more expensive Macs will make the phono section sound better, too.

I stand corrected, then: I guess the phono stages are different in the Big Macs.

Modded Jolida phono stage, Manley, EAR 324, Tom Evans Groove (choices, choices, choices).

I really liked the modded Jolida, and the Tom Evans models are really special.

I have not hear, but have heard great things about the Marchand phono pre's.

I tried many, mostly tubed, and ended up with a Parts Connexion (they are sold through Underwood HiFi)Modified PS Audio GCPH, and I absolutely love it. It's a great piece of gear.
Here's a couple links showing inside photos of the C2200 & C2300.

Here's a link showing inside photos of the C500/1000 boxes. Post #27 has the photos of the two units uncovered:

Quite a difference between the single box pre's and the dual box pre's & the MC circuitry too boot.

Just to be informative -- the two shinny modules towards the rear in post #27 of the C500/1000 pictures -- those are the left/right MC modules which are non-existant in the C2200/2300's.

Hi Bob,

Your third post above slipped in ahead of me. You're right, the phono stages of the C2300 and C500/1000 look very different.

Post #19 in this link provides the irrefutable ocular proof:

Phono section on the C500 vs...

Bob & Macdadtexas,

What cartridges are you using? I currently really like my Lyra, but I want to take it up a notch. I would not be surprised to see the Titan get a facelift like the lower end carts recently got with the new cantilever design. I am seeing great threads on the new Ortofon A-90 and am intrigued by it--so it is on the short list. Do either of you have experience with these?
I will read up on the Mac c500 phono stage as well. How does it stack up with the ARC Ref 2 phono? Or the new Boulder 1008?

Cajun, I am using a Grado Statement the Reference 1 (low output), with the modded PS Audio GCPH into a Cary slp98p F-1, cary amps and Maggie 3.6r's, VPI Classic turntable.

I am also thinking new cartridge right now, maybe the A-90, or soundsmith The Voice hav ebeen regular suggestions.
Macdadtexas, who did the mods on your phono pre that you are currently using?
Parts Connexion, Underwood HiFi sells this model currently.