Superb PHONO Preamp ?

There are now some very interesting Phono Preamps out there.
Sooner or later I am interested to buy one, beside my existing Stan Klyne 7 PX 3.5
I was very interested in the newest Design from
Aesthetix Io phono Signature Version.

Now I heard from 2 other units which caught my attenttion, the
Tom Evans Design " The Groove "
and from
Manley , the " Steelhead ".
I don't have much info about them - beside their Websites - but I heard some interesting things.

Is someone out there who owns one of these units or has compared one of these to others and can give a little info ?
I use always MC's, I prefer low output, that means, around 0.20 mV.
The Klyne can handle this WITHOUT ANY Problems, and I would like to have another Phono amp TO DO this SAME way.

These are all units which - I imagine -, will only be bought from REAL ANALOG specialists, so this info could be very interesting.

( Please don't write me stories from Linn, Audio Research etc. ,these are not in this class )
I am sorry for not answering the question directly but I thought I'd confuse you even more by letting you know that Lamm just a few days ago came out with a reference tube based phono stage the LP2 (retail around $7,000) that I just bought without hearing (they haven't let me down yet). You may want to add this to your short list.

The Aesthetix is a fine sounding phono stage (formerly owned one) but I haven't heard the Signature version which looks interesting. Good luck in your search. I'd be interested in hearing what you find out.
There is review of the Steelhead by Manley in the new Stereophile by Fremer - great review but costly - unbelievable amount of vesatility including no preamp needed in one mode. good luck- i have a plinius which is really nice.
Thomas ,You forgot Lloyd Walkers' phono sections.If you are interested in a 30-day money-back guarantee contact me .For more info call Lloyd:610-666-6087 or .Good luck! Tom
Fmpnd, have you listened to the Lamm long enough to form an opinion of it verses the Aesthetix Io. I own an Io and love it but have considered a second power supply, the Signature version, or both. I would appreciate any feedback.

Another question would be why did you go away from the Io?


... the story never ends ...........
Why did you sell the Aethetix ?
What cartridge do you use ?
Can you write something about the Lamm later ?

The Klyne is one of the finest phono stages made today. The ones you mentioned probably aren't any better than the Klyne, just different. Do yourself a favor, keep the Klyne and spend the money on something else, like a nice vacation. A couple of weeks away from your stereo might bring you back to your senses.
Mike and Thomas:

I do not have the Lamm yet. It will arrive on Wednesday. As far as the Aesthetix goes, please remember that this will be based, for the most part, on MY system and room as well as MY tastes and prefernces. That said, sonically, I feel the Aesthetix is one of the best sounding phono stages on the market. However, I had problems with it and 4 other friends of mine had problems with it going down as well. This MAY be a sign that Jim White was pushing the tubes too hard or that something in the design was causing the problem (it most likely is NOT the quality of the parts as they were exceptional). This is PURE speculation, but maybe that is why Jim came out with the two new versions and maybe that will fix any potential problem (as well as possibly improving on an already great phono stage).

I have considered the Groove, the Pass X-Ono and the Manley but, I wanted a tubed unit and am not only more familiar with the Lamm designs but, as I have mentioned, I have been happy with my Lamm gear (the M1.1s and the L2 Reference Line Stage).

I have used a Van den hul Grasshopper -IV GLA, a Cardas Heart, a Crown Jewel SE and, currently, a Helikon with my Aesthetix and Hovland. I anticipate using the Helikon with the Lamm but will reserve final judgment until I match it with the Lamm which only has 57 db of gain (compared to 80db for the Io and 63db for the Hovland).

When I have burned in the Lamm (will use the Thor Burn-In as well as time) and feel I have a handle on it, I will either post my comments (or, possibly write a review for Ultimate Audio -- FYI, I wrote a review of the Io for UA a year ago and you can see a more detailed description of my experiences there). I hope this helps.

thanks Frank, i appreciate your response. I did read your Ultimate Audio review. I have owned my Io for 2 and 1/2 trouble-free years.....i must be lucky i guess. My tubes still seem fresh and i bought a spare set for about $350 with the Io when new, i keep hearing frustrations with the Io....but no problem here.

I am always looking for better if it's out there.....will look forward to your future feedback.

btw, is the next issue of UA about to hit? I love UA and don't like to see people spread rumours of it's demise.

I've read all your posts with great interest.

For Rfsphil ( and some other readers ):
You are right, of course, The Klyne is exceptional good,
and I will never sell it. I am not that mad.

I feel growing interest for tubes since I bought from Ralph Karsten a pair of this OTL amps.

BTW: Is there someone out who knows something about his phono stages? I forgot to list Atma-Sphere in the first mail.
Finding superior units is very difficult for me, because all of them are not imported in my country,
- they are even expensive for you and with the calculations for importer, dealer, the prices explode .....-

- they HAVE TO BE Reliable, no service available , too
and any mistake will be tough because of my low exchange rate,
I would like to AVOID looking for a cartridge WHICH FITS TO the phono preamp. sorry but then I loose interest.
( The Atma-Sphere I bought unheard, because I got so many positive and honest comments, and I really love these units ...)
Thanks for your Walker offer, I will try to get some info about it.

Thanks again to all

How about the new Boulder 2008 phono preamplifier? Retail price is $35,000 USD. Enjoy!!
i already have io and walker phono.i prefer walkers one it s
really one of the best.also connoisseur definitions and kondos phono stage may be very im using lab 47 phono it s also very good .
Two that has not been mentioned are the Zanden and the FM Acoustics. Certainly the one which has recently gotten the most mention is the Groove. I am very pleased with my Vendetta 2T, but would like to hear some of the other contenders, particularly the Groove and the new Connoisseur which is finally being sold as a separate unit.

On a separate topic, I just had a friend install a Helikon in my systen replacing a very old Clearaudio Accurate; even cold with no breakin better than the Accurate.
Hi Fred, i too have heard that the Connoisseur is very special and all the rage now in Japan. I would love to hear some details on it.

Btw, i agree with your letter in Absolute Sound; it is frustrating when they say they will be publishing further information and then no more word.....if the distributor pulls the item, they should have an obligation to fulfill their promises somehow. I'm sure the new distributor would love to help the process if Absolute Sound asked.
My friend bought the Klyne 7. Listened to the unit: (1) On MC, it was strange for me that 100 Ohm did not sound better than 47K, the sound did change, but not conclusively one better than another settings. Theoretically, and on other phono stages, 100 ohm definitely should've been better. (2) Very detail and silvery sound, but cold and not emotional. Violin tone lacks the 'friction' of horse hair rubbing the string. Not projecting air surrounding, vocal or cello.

The Aesthetix has a bigger, lusher, and slower sound, and the noise is quite obvious. I personally find it too slow, and the 2-box to me is not acceptable.

I ended up personally with the Groove. Extremely quiet, the best in the detail retrieval, so far heard none better. And it does not sound 'solid-state', but very suave, musical and a slight warm tone (but not overly goldend). Very fast transient and explosive dynamics.

Just to share that I picked Groove after hearing the following stages.

Owned-then-sold: AIM3, AIM3a+GB, ARC PH3, Linn Linto, Pentagon, Krell KPA x 1, Krell KPA x 2 (dual mono), Vendetta SCP2B, Spectral DMC20.2

Heard-w/o-home-trial: Aesthetix Io, Herron, Klyne 7, YBL, Hovland.
Thomasheisig, I can't offer a comparison of the units you mention, but I have recently added the new Aesthetix Io Signature, with optional second power supply, to my system. This simply is an incredible phonostage. As you might expect, detail, quickness, timbre, imaging, etc, etc, are all you would expect of a high performing phonostage. What continues to amaze me are: harmonic truthfulness, soundstaging (as opposed to pure lateral imaging), bass reproduction, and dynamics. The dynamic swings this thing makes are almost scary. You can just be cruising along and then suddenly, out of nowhere, can come this huge transient that will cause you to jump. In addition, it just seems not to have any limitations on how far it can continue to track along with a big dynamic change in music volume. The power reserve just seems endless.

I've actively engaged in this crazy shared passion or ours for 30 years now, and the Io Signature is one of the most incredibly satisfying pieces of gear I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. It suits perfectly my biases in favor of acoustic music, accurate reproduction of complex harmonic overtones (a magic that I still find only with the best tube electronics), timbral accuracy and soundstaging.

For further point of reference, the balance of the system includes Atma-Sphere MA-2 Mk2.2 amplifiers and Avalon Eidolon speakers. While I don't use a low output cartridge, I've spoken with a number of Io owners who do (e.g., 0.2mv Koetsu Rosewood Signatures) and who report that the Io has no trouble at all with the low output as long as you pay proper attention to keeping low noise tubes in the first stage of amplification. As delivered from the factory, this is not a problem.

Best wishes and good luck in your search for a phonostage that will have the right balance of characteristics and synergy with your system. The Io Signature has the right balance of characteristics for me and my system.
Thomasheisig, Albert Porter here. You will most likely recall our email discussions 6 months ago where I advised you that the Io was to eventually be available as a "Signature" version. You were interested in one at that time, and still appear to be on the search for the ultimate phono.

I am pleased that Rushton has spoken his mind, and said almost word for word my opinion of the Io.

Should you choose another route, you will have to eventually return to the decision to buy an Io to obtain the ultimate performance.

Much less strain and expense to do it correctly the first time.

The connoisseur definitioins 4.0 phonostage was recently awarded the COTY by the prestigious Japanese Stereo magazine.It is regarded as the best of the best, Its principal designer is Jonathon Carr of Lyra Helikon fame,
building on the original superb Mares designed phonostage.
It has not been sold out of Japan before, and is regarded
by Japanese audiophiles as simply the best available.
But the same magazine gave the first position to Linn Linto and Connoisseur the fourth position in the phono section,does that mean that the Linn Linto should be taken into consideration if you consider the large price margin between the two.
hi Extremephono, your comments on the Io being bigger, lusher, and slower are counter to my experience. I agree with Rushton and Albert. The Io seems very neutral to me. If you mate the the Io with a neutral arm like my Graham 2.2 it will be quite neutral, if you are using say, a VPI arm, it will be more rounded and lush. Same with phono cables, my XLO Sig. was slightly warm whereas the Quattro fil i am currently using is more neutral. I recently lucked into a used Clearaudio Insider Gold that is very neutral and vivid compared to my Koetsu RSP II. There is nothing lush, slow or noisey about the Insider/Io combo.

I would expect the ss phono stages to be slightly quieter than the Io, but other than that issue i believe the Io to be outstanding in every parameter. I think the Io is very flexible and will reflect the associated gear it is matched to and not color or assign it's own signature.

I am leaning toward the Io signature; I don't think my small room can handle the heat from 2 power supplies.
extremephono - you're the only one i've heard of that has tried the pentagon fono-stage. i presently own & enjoy one, run thru a melos music-director preamp. any recommendations on how to improve on it, w/o breaking the bank? buying used, of course... ;~)

thanks, doug s.

My comment on Aesthetix is solely relative to other phono stages I heard. It is more noisy than Vendetta and other solid state and bigger/lusher than solid state should not be a surprise, but it doesn't mean that it is all gooey like a Jadis.

But, if you have not heard the Linto, Vendetta, or Groove, it is hard to grasp how 'fast' these phono stages are relative to tube, no matter how good, tubes are 1000x slower than the best solid state. That's fact, no design can fundamentally make tube to have a faster rise-time and higher damping factor than solid state design. For personal preference, I like fast, high impact sound, and thus I am using linestage from Spectral, and active speakers like ATC SCM50ASL.

Perhaps I should rephrase that "Aesthetix is the fastest tube phono stage, but slower than the fastest solid state phono stage"... that's what I really meant. It is definitely a much better stage the ARC PH3, but still more noisy than the PH3.
The COTY award went to Connoisseur, but your reference to the ranking actually is the 'Best Buy' award, which meant to say the Linto was a better value than Connoisseur, not a surprise.

The COTY is cost-no-object accolade, but it is also not exhaustive, as only candidates submitted for COTY competition (major cost $$$-wise for manufacturers), and the setup, hand-holding, etc has to be first-class to compete in COTY. While Best Buy is a loose entry requirement, and the reviewers were given broad liberty and a budget of 'stars' to vote for BB products.
hi Extremephono, you are correct, i have not listened to the ss phono stages you mention and they may very well be a little faster and quieter than the Io.

I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of your comments. But i do think that the fact that you sell Tom Evans "the Groove" should be mentioned when you endorse it. I have read the reviews and your comments are consistent with what i have read.

Don't get me wrong, i think you are trying to be helpful and look forward to your continued participation in this and other threads. In fact, i may e-mail you regarding an audition of "the Groove". So, please don't take my comments as anything more than a friendly suggestion.
The connoisseur definintions phonostage has been purchased by Japanese audiophiles that have compared it with many of the other superb phonostages mentioned in previous posts.It is regarded as an upgrade to the top FM acoustics phonostage in particular.As a money no object product it is, as with its sibling linestage, regarded as the best available in Japan(with the possible exception of the
Connoisseur definitions 3.0 full function preamp at $50,000).
I Just re-check the Japan Stereo Sound magazine, the Connoisseur phono had not been awarded the COTY instead the Connoisseur 4.0 line stage was actually the one that receive the COTY award.
samuel you are quite right,the Connoisseur line stage and not the phono stage was awarded the COTY also called the 4.0, my Japanese is not that good. However the previous year the Connoisseur 3.0 was awarded COTY, from which the 4.0's phonostage was derived.
Hi All,
I just changed from the Herron VTPH, a very quiet and slightly warm unit, to the new Vendetta which is integrated into my new CTC Blowtorch preamp. It is fast, musical, has a huge soundstage and mates well with my Koetsu RSP (also new). This is straight out of the box! Can't wait until it breaks in. Meanwhile, I've sold the Herron, the interconnects and the power supply. I love getting rid of all those boxes.

David, it was about time to tidy up around there! :) I have heard the preamp you are using (I built it) and maybe I imagine my prespective is a more than a bit tainted, but brand new and dead cold your unit beat the absolute tar out of my fully updated Vendetta SCP2-T which had beaten the poop out of the SCP2-B that Extremephono and others here have been familiar with the past almost fifteen years as a reference......I do want folks to keep in mind that there are probably only half a dozen of the SCP2-Ts out there and only four of the full function CTC units which include the updated Vendetta.......We aren't particularly commercial as we built it initially as an experiment to see how far we could take the design just as Jim Smith did with the Io and Jonathan Carr did with the Connoisseur.....Glad you feel spoiled David as that was our intent as Curl, Thompson and I built it for ourselves as did Jim and Jonathan with their units.......
Oops, make that Jim White in lieu of Jim Smith.....

Bob Crump
Very interesting responses.
I haven't made a decision yet, I've read some posts from a few ( albert porter for example )I know for some time and these are mostly equal with my experiences, but everyone has a different system.....

To extremephono: 'fast' these phono stages are relative to tube, no matter how good, tubes are 1000x slower than the best solid state. That's fact, no design can fundamentally make tube to have a faster rise-time and higher damping factor than solid state design...............

Hm, maybe you are right, maybe not.
I thought so too
I use very efficient speakers ( 99db, 8 ohms ) with Nelson Pass SE Design Aleph 0 Mono amps.
This is definetly the fastest possible reproduction which is possible.

Now I bought amps from Atma-Sphere, the socalled OTL Design,
I listened to so many amps ( CAT,WAVAC,Jadis .......) the Atma's blew them by far and they are absolutely on par with the Pass.
I use both a few times a week and I can tell you,The Atma-Sphere are online, not the Pass.
Ok, this will chance of course with different speakers, but I can honestly say

Tube is NOT Generally slower than transistor.

That was one reason I decided to ask the question in the headline.....

Have you heard audio tekne if not you haven't heard the best.....
Just my two cents:
I use a Cello Encore with RMC phono unit, the RMC on its turn fed by the Palette powersupply.
After spending my Analog life with the CAT Signature over some 9 years the Cello really washed my ears and brought music and life to my system.
I used to 'swear' for tubes all the way, but this Cello combination really changed all that, and more.
The CAT was fine, and i spend happy times with the beast, but the Cello is really about music.
further use: Grasshopper 3. Atmasphere MA-2.

Cello Encore and RMC phono unit may be reasonably priced on the market, worth to consider.

Precision Fidelity C7/A Revised: It's rarer than chicken's teeth though.
How about the TRON Seven phono? Boutique British tube phono amp - great sound, battleship build. Distributed by Jeff Catalano at Highwater Sound in NYC. They are made to order by the designer, Graham Tricker himself (no out sourcing to others) - bespoke build, so you can specify exactly what you want. Designed to work with carts like the Allaerts MC2 Finish with sub 0.2mV outputs.
hey guys; this is a 9 year old thread (that was untouched for 9 years)and most of the comments (including mine above) are far out of date. if others start reading the thread it will end up confusing people.

i suggest starting a new thread.