I would ask to take a used one home before buying..That way you will know for sure...........
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I found the Tube Box IISE to have somewhat undefined bass response, which was cured by a switch to different tubes. I used Black Sable Tung Sols ($99/pair). However, since you're probably not going to buy the PJ just to immediately upgrade, I would consider something I liked more than the NAD right off the shelf. Unfortunately, it's impossible to know what's going to work in your system until you try.
My advice would be to save up your cash, and then send your Ayre K-1xe back to Ayre to have the phono stage boards installed. For $1,600 (I assume the price for the boards did not change with their last round of price hikes), this is a great phono stage. I upgraded from the ARC (tubed) PH-3 phono stage, and the phono boards in the Ayre are clearly much better. Much quieter, more resolution, and great frequency response throughout the entire frequency range.
FYI, I know a guy who has the Ayre phono boards and he bought a ASR Basis Exclusive phono stage, (one of the best phono stages around according to just about everyone, and one of my favorites, as my friend uses it). He told me that the ASR is better, but not a lot better. He says that for the money, the Ayre's phono boards are an incredible value.
In looking at your system, you have a pretty dang good system, and using a low price phono stage is clearly going to be the weak link in your system, IMHO. It is my opinion that having as good a phono stage as possible is one of the best upgrades you can make to your analog source. (I have been using the Ayre K-1xe (and its internal phono boards) for several years, and I have not had the urge to upgrade beyond it.)
Two things I should tell you though:
One, the good news is that by using the internal phono boards, you can eliminate the cost of the interconnect cables between the preamp and the phono preamp. (And since good cables can cost a bundle, this will help pay for the cost of the boards!)
Two, and now for the bad news, (well, probably bad news for you, but it was not for me), is that the internal phono stage of the Ayre only accepts balanced (XLR) terminations. Charles Hansen believes (and I agree with him), that running your turntable in balanced mode is the way to go. This might mean that you will need to use RCA-XLR adapters. (I did this for a couple of years, with very little sonic affect. I have since had my Vector tonearm terminated with XLRs to eliminate that additional connection.)
Those are my two cents worth anyway.
Good Luck in your search!
Thank you for the info and recommendations! I have about $500 bucks give or take to play with at the moment! I just bought the TT and cartridge last month. I will most likely be looking to purchase the Ayre Acoustics phono stage when I have the money in about six months. I just really want to get a little more out of my current set up right now.
My dealer has a really good trade up policy where they will give you 100% of the retail value of your phono stage (if purchased from their store) to put towards a new phono stage. So, it isn't as if I am wasting money, but the mushy bass kind of bothers me. I really like the open and wide sound-stage of the tubes but the lack of detail in the bass is not so great! Pro-Ject does have another tube phono-stage that allows you to adjust the loading. I do not no what that will do for me as analog is new to me.
Thanks for the help!
Well was going to chime in earlier but figured why, since you said you would rather NOT pay 500 for something, however now you are saying you have 500 to play with . Anyway you want the best Tube based unit at 500 or 2000 on the market right now with all the adjustments of a good MC and MM stage with extra power (gain), Look up the Jolida JD-9a its a newer unit and only been around for a short period of time, but you will find a bunch of reviews Mine after modifications seen in link below has not been matched by anything I have heard or played with up to 5000, which even in bone stock form is not a slouch of a unit.
check out mine and look it up on google and your basic audio review sites including 6moons and several others for more info and good positive feedback on the unit, they come up rare used and normally used go for about only 50 to 100 bucks less than new which is only 449.00, I have the newer version and of course it is tweaked out. But to also answer your question the phono stage will have a large impact on your analog experience, and I have not found any Solid state units yet that were totally dimensional with good bass impact as a good tube unit, as a matter of fact most tube units I have used have far greater bass load and punch. This one happens to be of a rarer breed its a Hybrid so you could say you get the best of both worlds.
Well, I wound up purchasing the Phono Tube Box II with Harmonix 12AX7EH tubes! Much better! The bass is tighter and more focused! The bass output is a little less, but more accurate to my ear! These tubes only cost $14 dollars each! They did not have any higher end tubes available so I thought I would give the harmonic tubes a try and upgrade the tubes in a month or so! What would be the best sounding tubes for this phono-stage?
Thanks for all the advice and input! Analog is a new world to me, and I must say I am really enjoying music more than ever! Thank you all forl the information!
The bass from the stock tubes seemed mushy and slow! There was not much impact or slam! Thats how it sounded with my gear. The harmonixs tubes have much better bass control! I recently had spine surgery, so for months all I have done is listen to music! I have kinda been obsessed! :) So, I guess I am really sensitive to changes in my system. Hopefully after a couple of days these new tubes will sound even better! What is the best web-site to buy tubes if I get an itch to try some higher-end tubes like the ones mentioned above? Thanks again for the input!
Rick , you did have a rega exact cartridge that was faulty.Which you had to return which is very rare but happens with anything but, Now you have purchased a Benz Micro Glider. Here the price for the Exact 11 new I paid 450 taxes in. A new benz micro glider is double that plus the tax here. The phono pre is what you should spend the money on in my opinion anyway. A good 500 dollar cartridge and a 1000 dollars on a good new or used phono pre if chosen properly will really open your eyes.If money is an issue like it is for most of us in this economic climate you would be even more surprised at how some of the older pre amps with a built in phono section that can be bought for low dollars and just used for phono section will still out perform most new 500 dollar phono amps. Case in point ADCOM 565 was known for a great phono section and can be had for a couple of hundred, the classe's more but better still.Not knocking you , I just don,t get the logic of using a cartridge that good and a pre-amp that just can,t dig your monies worth out of it.The pre-amplification in a system can make or break even the best gear being fed into it and if it can,t keep up with what it is being fed and convey it out to the speakers then the potential is derailed. The phono pre is just as important and in my humble opinion should not be the peice to make consessions with. Like speakers are just as important and even the best pair can,t reproduce what they don,t see. It,s just when I look at the rest of your equipment in your system which is all Excellant gear to not see its potential for anologue for you to hear how truly good vynil can be, well for a long time vynil guy its a sin ! Irreguardless of what I or anyone else thinks its your ears and your dollars so do enjoy the sounds of vynil. Cheers
In a phono section especially, the quality of the tubes is critical - as is the MATCHING of the tubes. I have bought from Upscale Audio, who is not cheap - but after never being totally happy with any of the tubes I had used, I figured I'd give them a try. The results were far better than I expected. Even a set of the basic Winged C 6550's from them totally blew away my previous set of the same from Conrad Johnson. The level of matching was truly superb and the sound was like I had bought a new amp.
The reason I upgraded the cartridge was because I had a faulty cartridge and was given the opportunity to get a better cartridge at a really good price! Given, the performance capability of this cartridge I would upgrade my phono stage over time. I can within one year from the date of purchase get 100% of my money back for my current phono stage to put towards a better quality phono stage. I can't do that with a cartridge. So, within the next six months I will most likely be looking at phono stages in the $2500 dollar range! One I have enough albums to play then it may be time for a better turntable. Analog is super new to me so, I am taking small steps while I learn. I do appreciate all the input. It really helps give me more knowledge for future purchases.