Among the solid state phono preamps for about $500 (used), there are the "usual suspects" that have been discussed a number of times here on A-gon. For more info, check the threads listed in the A-gon archives. (To access the search feature for the archives, click on the link "More Chat" at the bottom of the discussion forum threads. On the next page that comes up, look down at the bottom for the search engine.)
I can, from personal experience, recommend the Lehmann Audio Black Cube SE as an excellent choice for a moving magnet phono preamp (the concensus seems to be that it is less desirable for moving coil cartridges). The "SE" version, with the much larger power supply, is a decided improvement over the stock (original) Black Cube, so if your budget will allow, go for the "SE" model. It often sells used here on A-gon for around $500.
musical fidelity X-LP
all are good buys and cheap.
How about the Klyne Audio Arts SK-2A? There just happens to be one on Agon today for $350 used ($750 new).
I'll second the Aragon 47k, especially with the IPS power supply.
I currently use a CJ PV10A preamp with phono. I have considered upgrading the pre and keeping the CJ as the phono preamp. They are often availble for $600 on this site. Does any one use a PV10 as a phono preamp only?
Monolithic Sound PS-1 is a pretty nice choice. You'd probably want the outboard HC-1 power supply with that though. Still should be able to pick it up in your price range.
If the Klyne is still available, it will SMOKE anything else out there anywhere near its' price range ( sonically ). That is, so long as it has enough gain for your specific situation. If i didn't already have seven different preamps with excellent phono stages, i would buy it in a heartbeat.
After spending a little bit of time with a Lehmann ( non SE version ), i came away not really liking it. The "funny" ( not to owners of the Lehmann ) thing is that Music Direct used to sell these. In their brand new catalogue, they state that they no longer sell or recommend these units, poke fun at them and say that you should call them up to buy a "real" phono stage !!! Sheesh, talk about spitting in your customers face AFTER selling them the product that your making fun of !!! Sean
Wow, Sean, that's really amazing! I can't believe it, either! The Lehmann is considered by many to be the "reference" solid state phono stage in its price range. I don't have one, nor have I ever listened to one, so I can't comment. The SE is supposed to be even better, and the Silver Cube better yet. The latter is really pricey, up there I think with the Plinius M14.
Back to the original post: there are so many reasonably good phono stages in this price range, particularly if you are willing to buy a used one (almost always the best option, IMO). In addition to those listed above, there is the Blue Circle BC-23, EAR 834P, Plinius Jarrah.... and the list goes on.
Like Sean said, Music Direct dropped the Cube (or was dropped by Lehmann...who really knows the story) and is offering multiple phono pre's for less than $600 (there are nine listed in their new catalog...eight for under $500). The various makers are Sumiko, Rega, Grado, McCormack, Clearaudio, Musical Fidelity, and Creek. They claim the $200 Clearaudio "bested the Black Cube" in their listening tests. I don't know if they're full of %#$@, or not. You might want to check out their website. I haven't heard many phono pres, but I did think the cube was a nice phono pre for the money (especially used pricing). Good luck.
So much for integrity. "Get rid of that empty black box!" I've never heard it, but I understand that many people think it does a good job, sadly, many who purchased theirs from Music Direct. You should know, they arent "audio consultants," but salespeople, and wouldnt be able to tell one of their products from another if you put them to a blind test. Their hatchet job reads as though they were dropped by the manufacturer. Why would a dealer ever drop a product that people want to buy?
I'm afraid to buy anything from them.
Paul: I pretty much have to agree with you on this one. While most of the sales people at MD are nice folks and try hard, they are just that: SALES people. Some of them have very valid opinions on some of the products that they carry but i really do have to question the levels of experience that they have with various components. As most of you know, up until recently they were basically a good source for good to decent quality recordings, various tweaks, power cords, headphones and some phono goodies. Their venture into selling quantities of actual components is something new and obviously, they'll need a little time and experience to do the type of job that most of us are looking for. In the meantime, enjoy their nice new catalogue and take their advice with a grain of salt. That is, unless you want to be one of those that gets ridiculed in the future for the products that you've bought from them in the past. Sean
PS... Figure this part out. They are taking trade-in's on a product that they completely blasted in their most recent catalogue. Who in their right mind is going to buy such a product from them when they do have used models to sell ??? You would either have to be pretty daring or be quite familiar with the product to do so...
The Grado PH-1 can be had for less than $500. and
is worth a listen.
Nope. Music Direct sells it. I'm afraid to buy anything they sell.
Back on topic, if I were in the market (and I might be), I think I would buy the Monolithic preamp. It was reviewed head to head in TAS a couple of years ago and the writer liked it better.
Sean, I suppose they will sell the units they take in to a liquidator, so you might watch for someone with a supply of used Lehmans. Or maybe they have a guy in their store who specializes in being the house maverick and will tell prospective used buyers that the Lehmans are really great. Everyone is a role player.
Musical Surroundings MM/MC Phonomena Phono Preamplifier
I was looking into this a few months back and was wondering if anyone had any experience with this unit which was reviewed in Stereotimes back in 1\01.
I have a Passive Pre-Amp and I want to be sure I have enough gain for the Phonostage if that matters.
There was one listed at Agon a few months back and was gone in a day.Has alot of versitility for you to tweek in order to get the best performance from your cartridge.
Anyone have any thoughts on it or think of a better suited unit please advise.
The Phonomena will do what you want. It is electrically quiet, no rushing noises, LP surface noise is minimal, very minimal intrusion from pops etc. The variable gain settings work perfect. I use the Ortofon TM20 cartidge and have the gain set at 46 db which offers plenty of punch and dynamics. I did a direct comparison to a Monolithic in a different system and the Phonomena was the clear cut winner. I have mine plugged into The PS Audio P300 and see no need to use the battery power supply. I listen to 60-80's Rock and Jazz on LP and find the dynamics and soundstage to be complimentary.
New I don't know. I have tried the Camelot an the Musical Fidelity both the XLP and the XLP2. The XLP 2 is claerly the better of the two. The Camelot was also very nice even though I thought it could be more dynamic but it was very refined.
I also saw Music Direct's statement which i find a slap in the face of the people they told to buy the lehman.
Rhljazz,now all I have to do is find a used one for a good price which is kinda of hard.
I thought after reading the review on it that it was what I was looking for.I will be updating my Phono section next year some time.
I think the db systems phono preamps are very overlooked...they are extremely transparent...with very good imaging and depth...for under $200 new...at audioadvisor.com...they are hard to beat...If i dont go with a new Rega intergrated...I will add one of these...
I listened to an Antique Sound Labs phono preamp that retails for 249 and has an external power supply. Nice sounding little tube unit; for the money it is a relative bargain. Also, it has its own volume control so a linestage preamp is not required if you do not have a volume control on your amplifier.