Depends on what price rangee your talkin' about.
In the $300 to $1000. range.. new is good, recent used of those is good.
For the big ticket, $2,000 and up retail, vintage is fine.
New designs are good, but the vintaage ones are pretty good too.
This is, of course just my opinion.
I own currently:
Bryston 1.5 new
Audio Research SP-15 preamp with phono.
Audio Research PH-2 balanced phono
Elizabeth has hit it on the head. I think if you like warm for the slant of your system, then vintage can/is better in general.
In fact, I love most of the vintage phono/preamps/recievers I have heard.
You are right. If you know your history, you can get a killer phono stage for not huge money. I find the best ones are embedded in top-notch preamps from the late 1970s. I have one I will be hooking up again tonight. It is a joy.
Vintage pres (with decent phono stages) I currently own:
Jadis JP-80 (euphonic)
Pioneer C-Z1 (ridiculously transparent, not "solid state-y")
A Phono Stage is the most critical unit in the whole chain. With no other unit you can win or loose so much. When it is done right, it is not a question of age.
Working on top level 1990 is still top level today (Science is knowledge ---> RIAA, precision, temperature, parts... ).
We have now a lot more units available, but only very, very few are outstanding. Nothing changed. Like a famous European Designer (Mies van der Rohe) once said: "God is in the Detail"
I had the pleasure of using a vintage Accuphase C-240 preamp recently for a few weeks when it was loaned to me. The thing is a build like a tank and i found the build in phonostage to be very good. 2 inputs, switchable headamp circuit for LOMC , loading option up to 100kohm and low noise. The only downside is some slight weakness in PRAT/drive when compared to my other stages. Definitely some gems out there.
I found an old used Audio Electronic PH-1 phono at a garage sale for $5. I am currently using a PS Audio GCPH. I had to hook this little unit to my table for fun. All I can say is wow!!! I am now in the process of replacing the caps and some of the old wire. I plan to also do some tube rolling. This hobby can be a lot of fun. I will probably have less then $100 in this great little piece.
You do need to consider the amount of gain needed if you plan to use the lower output moving coils (I do not). I am very happy with my solid state CJ EF-1. Quiet as the grave, it's was $2000 a decade ago and is a set and forget unit. CJ is always there to repair it if necessary. They often sell for under $1000, in perfect condition.
I think the problem one will find with the "vintage" phono stages will depend in part upon which cartridge you're planning to run. If it's a low output MC, then you're going run into noise and inadequate gain problems. In the end, this will lead to the loss of dynamics, resolution and transparency.
That said, I do find newer phono sections as a whole much quieter than older phono stages.
Interesting responses! I currently have a Modwright SWLP with the internal phono section. Sounds great and is fantastic value for the money. I have been rebuilding my system from the TT (Raven One/Phantom/XV-1s) down and suspect there is more to be gained at the phono/pre side of my system. My main system is vinyl only so a phono w/volume control or phono/pre combo like I have is ideal. I want to avoid the cost of separates for a quality pre and phono. There must be lots of vintage equipment that would work. Any suggestions? or hidden diamonds out there?
This is one place where I would recommend caution when going vintage, if the goal is max performance or at least max bang for the buck, rather than collecting. That's because although there are few things new under the phono audio sun, parts are better now than they have ever been before. We have faster better sounding transistors, quieter diodes, better sounding caps (or all types and kinds), and quieter resistors than ever before. There have been advances too in power supply implementation and design, as well as in chassis damping, etc. In a vintage piece, all of the parts are as old as the unit itself, unless someone else rebuilt it before you bought it. To get the best out of a vintage design, it would help a lot to be able to DIY in terms of baseline upgrades to get the most out of the circuit design.
I am reminded of an experience I had years ago. I owned a Marantz 7C which I put up for sale (pre-internet days). The buyer interrogated me at length over the phone re the originality of the unit. That's all he cared about. I assured him that the unit was truly in "as sold new" condition, meaning none of the parts had been replaced or upgraded. When he received it, he remonstrated with me about the fact that there was a little noise on phono, due to a cap or something which he had had to replace. Needless to say, this caused me to become peevish. You can't have it both ways.
In your time using the Accuphase, did it compare well with other decent phono/pres? It was THE megabuck unit by Accuphase at the time and the one time I heard one years ago (as a pre) it was very nice, but I haven't heard one in 10+yrs. It has more buttons than I have ever seen on any other piece of gear, which is cool.
Agree on the buttons galore and it's nice as a linestage. It still commands a fairly high value on hifido.
I didn't test the phono extensively against my other phonostages at the time as it was a short term loan from a friend. My general impression was pretty positive , not too noisy, a tinge of warmth but a bit more extra gain and a bit more get up and go would have suited my then setup more.
Dear Musichead: IMHO there is no single Pros on the subject if we are talking of excellence in the quality performance of a phono cartridge.
Exist only Cons and Lewm point out about.
IMHO the worst audio area where vintage electronics must be forgetable is on the phono stage audio link, read again what Syntax posted that I'm agree with.
Musichead, you can't know how good is your XV-1 till you mate it with a better phonolinepreamp: that's the importance critical importance that that stage has and that many of us don't understand in deep.
There are other audio areas where vintage products are welcome but not this one.
Regards and enjoy the music,
i agree with Myles; current SOTA phono stages are much quieter than vintage. and with phono stages, it's almost all about the noise floor.
almost every sonic aspect of performance is improved with lower noise. and whether we like it or not, the best cartridges are LOMC's which are optimized with the lowest noise phono stages. i especially like how a very very low noise phono can reveal the micro dynamics from those grooves that some of the less current phono stages gloss over.
this is another one of those areas where until you hear a phono stage with a lower noise floor, you might assume that yours is very quiet.....or even as quiet as they come.
Where do you think the difference comes from? Is it only in parts selection? Or is it a difference in physical implementation of the design, or is there a fundamental difference in circuit design which makes them quieter?
Dear Mikelavigne: +++++ " i agree with Myles; current SOTA phono stages are much quieter than vintage. and with phono stages, it's almost all about the noise floor. " +++++
well IMHO that could be true on tube electronics, with SS designs the noise in vintage phono stages was/is no issue.
In the other side, if it is true that noise level is very important on audio electronics and especially when we are talking of phono stages this noise factor/parameter IMHO it is not " almost all on phono stages " but only one factor/parameter in the phono stage quality performance.
First we need accurate RIAA performance, second low very low distortions and third/fourth enough gain with out noise.
In Phono Stages RIAA accuracy is the name of the game, phono stages exist because the needs of an inverse RIAA eq. not because " low noise ": accuracy is IMHO the most and critical subject in Phono Stage designs.
Now, if noise is so important to you I can't understand why you show on your virtual system a tube phono stage that certainly is not the best/a peer on that subject:????? and certainly not even accurate.
Btw, T_bone what define a phono stage quality performance ( including low noise. ) are in this order: circuit design, circuit boards layout, parts selection and quality level implementation.
Regards and enjoy the music,
For those who know?? Is it more important to have a SOTA phono section if you are using a mc rather than a mm cartridge? I purchased a Rhea and almost immediately started using mm cartridges. Do I really need the Rhea?
Dear Rnadell: On either cartridge MC/MM design if you want that your cartridge shows you at its best IMHO you need SOTA phono stage level.
The MM/MI analog source alternative demand for the best too, at the end the cartridge signal ( MM or MC ) must pass trhough the phono stage where the signal suffer a degradation, as better your phono stage as less signal degradation you have.
Regards and enjoy the music,