Venturing into Vinyl - Phono Stage Questions

Well, I'm finally taking the plunge. Albert Porter's Tuesday night sessions have effectively ruined digital for me, and I've decided to try analog for myself. But, I do have some basic equipment questions, and would appreciate the suggestions of the Audiogon community...

Right now, I am using Vandersteen 2CE's with a Rogue amp and an AES tube output CD player. I think I have found a turntable, but would appreciate some suggestions on a tubed preamp and phono stage. I'd like to stay between $550-750 for both, and it seems like my options are as follows. (1) Get an older pre with built in phono stage, or (2) go with lower cost separates.

So my questions are... How good are the built-in phono stages on some of the older preamps out there (I'm thinking older Audio Research, CJ, Audible Illusions, etc.)? How do they compare with some of the newer, budget level stand alone phono stages (e.g. Lehmann, Channel Island, Bottlehead, Hagerman, etc.)? I'm very interested in trying out the DIY kits out there (specifically the Bottlehead Foreplay or the Consonance Basie) for a preamp, so if the newer budget stuff is really as good as people seem to say, I'd be more than comfortable going that route (DIY pre and separate phono).

Any advice and recommendations would be much appreciated.

I would suggest a ss phono for your price range, even though I am a tube guy. There are solid arguements for using transistors over tubes in any type of amp, dollar for dollar. Just as there are solid arguements for using tubes over transistors in a pre-amp, again dollar for dollar.
Having said that I have used a Tom Groove phono stage, the built in one in my Hoveland pre-amp, and a Phenomena phono stage. The Phenomena is very under rated. I actually liked it better than the Groove which is much more expensive. For the money you are talking about you should be able to get a used one plus the BPS.
We need to know what type of cartridge you're going to use.

Lots of people, including myself, have had good success with the EAR 834P with a decent MM cartridge. You should be able to find a used one in your price range. I am using the model without volume control.

Sorry I can't offer an opinion on any built-in phono stages.
Welcome to another reformed digi-phile, and kudo's to Albert for showing another music lover the way. Of course he doesn't really fight fair does he. Maybe he should buy a Meitner to be more evenhanded.

If you go with seperates you'll be paying for two chassis' and a pair of interconnects. That's a lot of excess hardware for a limited budget. I have to believe you'd get better sonic performance by putting all your dollars into a decent used tube preamp with internal phono stage.

A used c-j PV-10 can be had in your price range. A PV-11 (what I have) would go for a few hundred more. My system doesn't compare with Mr. Porter's, but there are still other components I'd upgrade before I'd trade my PV-11, even though it's the oldest component I own. It has given nothing but satisfaction since 1991. I believe an ARC would give similar satisfaction with a slightly leaner sound. Choose between them according to your taste.
Welcome to analog. Another preamp to take into consideration that seems to be in plentiful supply is the Classe' DR5 or if you want to stretch a DR6(has separate power supply). That way you have a full function preamp that is solid state. You avoid having 2 components and hassling with tubes.

I have a DR6 myself. Classe customer support is excellent. Even though I am not the original owner, I shipped my preamp out to them to be checked out (I paid shipping). They shipped it back (free) in a new box and packaging and did not charge me a thing as they found nothing wrong.
i too have basically enjoyed using the phonomena for the past year. if you have a mc cart, having the flexiblitly to change resistance settings is pretty cool. however, i always felt that at the end of the day, im still missing something with it, so last week i decided to purchase a dynavector p75 through music direct. it has been getting some incredible reviews, mostly in europe, and supposedley competes with units 2-3 times it's price. we'll see, but i had the dough available so decided to take the plunge.
In your budget, will be very hard to get a low enough noise floor w/ tube phono stages. I use a Monolithic PS-1 phono stage. I chose it for its musicality and designers' reputation. It is a stellar performer. Just add a good power cord and cones.
I used to own a cj pv-10 linestage (and still own vandy 2ce's). When I got into vinyl, I added a monolithic ps-1 phono stage (and later the power supply). You could probably pick up this combo for about 850$. However, in an effort to downsize my rack, I sold the above and bought an audible illusions m2 with built in phono stage for 400$. They're both good set ups, but overall, I prefer the audible illusions--and it's half the price! For a couple hundred bucks more, you could step up to the audible illusions m3, which has more inputs and a seperate power supply. Neither of these setups will support low output mc carts. My vinyl rig is a rega p25 and dynavector 10x5 cart. Have fun, and if possible try to listen to a couple of different setups in your price range to see what sounds good to you.
Doug, regarding your post.

kudo's to Albert for showing another music lover the way. Of course he doesn't really fight fair does he. Maybe he should buy a Meitner to be more evenhanded

I didn't notice a Meitner in YOUR system either :^).

Maybe you know (as I do) that you can spend $20,000.00 and not close the gap between digital and the best analog. Instead of being mad at it, I choose a cheap player and just enjoy it for what it is.
By the way, Eric is one of the brightest and nicest young men I have met in many years.

I guarantee he will become famous, I'm absolutely convinced. Look for him to become a Federal Judge, appointed to the Supreme Court or play an important role in politics.
Dear Eric,

I was using the phono section of my McIntosh MA-6500 and it was pretty decent. On a whim I purchased the $300 clear audio micro basic phono stage and was very suprised how much improvement it made. I use a Pro-Ject Perspective with Blue Point Special Cartridge and Magnepan speakers. This was the best upgrade I have made for the money.

My buddy has the Lehman Black Cube. I put it in my system and made an A/B comparison. I liked the Clear Audio better.

I found this to be a good way to try an outboard phono stage for a very small investment.

Happy Hunting!
Albert, my partner has actually been considering going for a much higher end CDP than our current Arcam. I think I'll show him your comment, might save us a bundle of money. Thanks!
wow, albert. that's one of the nicest compliments i have ever received. it's especially meaningful coming from someone that i hold in such high regard. many thanks for your continued hospitality, guidance, and friendship.

thanks also to everyone else's comments and suggestions. i'm still not certain what direction i will take, but i certainly have a better idea.

happy listening to all!

I, too, unloaded a moderately priced SACD deck in favor of a $600 Denon which also contains a burner. It is sufficient for the infrequent occasion on which I slide a small one into the tray and I smoke off an LP onto plastic about every third day to give to my son for his car. Spent the balance on vinyl.
an audio research sp9 mk 2 can be had for less than $750. they are are compact, durable, cool running, use 2 tubes which you can roll for notable effects and well supported by a superb factory. if you don't like it, they can be easily sold here but i keep mine for a backup or for a spare phonostage and or testbed when something goes wrong in my system or my sons. it sounds better to us than a bat vk3I but we're building him a bottlehead.
thanks for all the input, everyone. finally made some decisions, and the system is up and running! and i even stayed under budget! you can check out the results in my virtual system.
Nice job. How dare you stay under budget? What kind of precedent is that to establish for the rest of us?! :-)