What is the Phono stage you have finished with?

Hello, Like many I have an e.a.r 834p, and it has served me well for many years, I am now however looking for a new MC phono stage. I am up for going quite a few stages up from the ear (so the next phono will last me a few years!).

Would like to hear from you guys who have already gone down this road!
Happy listening

I had a Pass Alpha Ono for years. I purchased a Nagra VPS & I am very happy. The cost was more than double my Pass but well worth it.
Simaudio LP5.3. Very versatile with many settings although not convenient to reset settings. This is a very transparent phono stage. The LP5.3 has a 10 year warranty to boot!!!!
I really want an Art Audio Vinyl Reference, it is what I would get and will get. I currently have an inexpensive Musical surroundings Phenomena stage. It is good, but not good enough.
I would recommend one of Lloyd Walker's phono stage's, or if you cannot find one of those, try an Einstein's Choice stage.

An ASR Exclusive Phono will leave you speechless at first listen.
Just like everything, they do come up for sale used.
Coupled with a new or used top flight preamp you will be finished wanting more.
Five years later, still have the EAR 834p. I had Mitch Singerman replace the resistors with Caddocks and caps with Hovland Musicaps. I also use Telefunken Tubes in it. So it's a much improved version of the stock unit.
I can live indefinitely with the sound that I get from the EAR 834p. The only thing I miss is adjustable gain and loading.

I am very happy with my Aesthetix Io mk2 with volume, going direct to my amp, especially after I got a new set of tubes from Aesthetix. Blends well with the Krell. A friend has a Manley Steelhead and a good tube amp, going the other way so to speak. Each setup has its strengths; I enjoy the huge soundscape and dynamics of my own system.
Lots of good choices out there. I am pleased with the
Tron Seven. I had a Steelhead before the Tron. My Tron was built for the higher output PC-1 but can be configured for lower voltage cartridges as well.
Good luck with your search.
ASR Mini Basis Exclusive. Have no desire look for anything else.
After owning few phono stages - fm acustics 122, cj prem 15, pass xono, EAR 834, Mac c2300 - still have the last 2.

and listening to a hell of a lot more - sutherland PHD, EAR 88PB, Aesthetix IO, RCM phono, ARC PH5 & PH7, Manley Steelhead, Einstein phono, ASR exclusive,

I have ended up with TW Acustik as my main phono stage and could not be happier.

Pure tube gain with no noise, 3 inputs and 6 loading options from the front panel. kool 50's retro look as well.
Naim Superline with Dynavector XV-1s, powered by the 252 preamp. Not quite finished: there's a Supercap power supply to go.
I have owned an Ayre P5xe, and ASR Basis Exclusive. Thy're both great pieces at their price points (used). I am now using an Atma Sphere MP-1 MK III with phono and I'll tell you the preamp is awesome, but the phono stage is as good as anything I've owned prior.
Many thanks gentleman,

Looks like I have to wait a while, which is no hard ship... or sell the car!!

I am located in europe, and am now researching the Nagra, TW and the Aesthetix.

Happy listening, and thanks again.
I very much like my Aesthetix Rhea (already owned the matching Calypso linestage). The ultimate-couch potato phonostage, with remote control of load and gain, separately for up to three arms/cartridges, along with multiple balanced and single-ended outputs. It even offers remote controlled cartridge demagnetization. Good luck, Dave
Dopouge - do you have any issues with noise - ie tube rush.

I have had the rhea home twice and heard the IO and all units had(to me) noticible tube noise at loud levels. My cartridges are around .35 mv.

I would have luved the IO, however too noisy. the TW acustik phono OTOH also has pure tube gain, but not noisy. Better mids and highs than the IO, the IO was more dynamic and explosive in the bass thou.

I did own or listen in my - or friends- system various Phonostages (Aesthetix Rhea, Boulder, FM Acoustics 222, Klyne 6/7, Kondo M7/SFz, Linn, Nagra VPS, Pass Xono, Tron 7, TW and some others) i bought a Lamm LP2 and that's it.
I think, the Phono stage is the most important unit in an analogue System. Good luck.
Sutherland Hubble
I have the Audio Research PH3 and really like this unit.
ASR Basis Exclusive...at least until I can audition it against the Boulder!
I had a NAIM Prefix when I had an all NAIM system, then switched to a Michel ISO/Hera. I've had that for about 10 years but now I live in the States I have to run it through a stepdown transformer which makes 3 boxes. I purchased a PS Audio GCPH which is very nice. Might sell the Iso/Hera or keep it as backup.
Dear James: Which budget do you have? and do you keep your current line stage or think to change it too?.

I ask about because the quality performance on your analog rig will be the quality performance on the " poorer/poorly " link on that analog chain and IMHO that line stage ( where the cartridge signal must pass ) that you own is that " poor/weak " link, so IMHO it will be a better choice/alternative to see the phono stage change ( for a quality improvement ) like a whole: pho/line stages, as a fact and IMHO these two stages most be in reality one integrated ( synergy ) unit.

IMHO it does not make sense to buy a " Ferrari " with bicycle tyres.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Downunder no tube rush issues here, although I may listen at lower levels than you do. Actually, I didn't mention the Rhea's sonics earlier and want to emphasize that it's the best-sounding phonostage I've heard. But I didn't expect it to be ultra-quiet, with its 10 tubes. It is marginally more quiet that my former tubed phonostage, however.
Art Audio, Vinyl One made a wonderful difference in my system.
Got rid of a new PS Audio unit I had for about 4 weeks and got the AA instead. I've had it now for 2+ years and continue to be very happy. I got mine with the optional volume control.

Depends somewhat on the other equipment you have.
I have the Io sig with volume controls. I run a Koestu at supposedly .2mV There is no tube rush here. Of course, I had selected tubes put in the front end and was careful in doing so. Additionally, the unit is one of later production so this may have some bearing.

I just recently received a Klyne 7PX3.5 phono for a trial against the Io. So far I am having gain issues with my set up and the Klyne running through the Io's aux input so I'll have to try another combination to match volume levels more closely.

I think the Klyne and the Io represent top spot(s) in the valve vs. ss camps.

Being in Europe easy to get Goldmund Mimesis PH 3 or FM acoustics. Have heard both and the FM Acoustics is by far the best phono preamp I have heard. The Goldmund is right behind it and not that far of the pace of the FM Acoustics. Price wise not for the faint of heart.
Re Downunder: "I would have luved the IO, however too noisy."
Yes, my Io, bought used, was noisy, and remained noisy with various NOS tube experiments. It got so bad that I asked for a full tube replacement from Aesthetix. That fixed my noise problems, now it sounds great.
i am by no means an expert, but the zyx artisan is a quality ss phono preamp. I have borrowed a couple of tube phono's before i got the zyx. I have not a/b's using my friends tube preamp so i can not say if i am better or worse, but the quality is much better than my vandersteen ol and rotel. I have learned there is no finished but rather content for a while. I am there right now on my analog setup
My own super biased opinion - the PBN Audio Olympia PX -
Balanced operation - fully discrete - fully regulated power supply larger than most power amps - does not get much better :-) go to the website and take a look.


Atma-sphere MP1 has a first-rate phono stage and a fabulous linestage all rolled into one, with true balanced differential circuits from input to output and no output coupling capacitor, since the amp is directly driven via the circlotron output stage of the MP1. This is a true bargain in all of audio, when you consider the gear it can be compared to, e.g., the Aesthetix Io, Manley Steelhead, Lamm, ASR, etc, etc. I haven't heard it, but Raul's Essential 3160 would seem to be a similar bargain. Plus, you don't have to buy interconnects between phono stage and linestage. My only beef with the MP1 - I sure wish it had two pairs of phono inputs, instead of one.
I have had my IO Sig (single power supply) for a couple of years now and it is naturally musical and explosively dynamic with a wide soundstage. It is very textured as well back to front and that can come across as a bit flat sometimes - but the detail is there in that dimension, just somewhat understated. It is noisy though at high gain (tube rush) even after Jim and the folks at Aesthetix went over it and changed out some tubes. I found the new Sovtek low noise tubes to be quieter and no downside replacing previous NOS tubes. The unit does benefit from spending money on a quiet NOS 6922 / 6dj8 pair though.

Eventually I put the jumpers in the lowest gain setting and added a ZYX pre-pre for loading my UNIverse cartridge and now there is zero noise - and a better bass response than going into the IO alone.

From time to time I consider a different unit, but I suspect it will be hard to get a better sound, so my conclusion is the next upgrade is moving to the IO Eclipse upgrade for my unit. I am confident I have one of the best phono stages available and I would not switch for sound quality reasons, only if I went for more flexibile inputs and loading options. At this moment in time, I can live with a single input as I try to listen to the music - and not trying to be an audiophile comparing equipment performance while listening to music!

I am very intrigued to hear how NKj gets on with the Klyne though and how he will characterize the sound against the IO.

I absolutely love my Artemis Labs Ph-1. It's an all tube design using 6n1p's, 12ax7's and 5687's giving about 52dB of gain without the use of any step up transformers. Loading is completely adjustable by simply plugging resistors in the back panel of the unit. Extremely well built. The key with this one is you must put a lot of hours on it to break in fully resulting in a wonderful harmonic bloom, excellent micro and macro dynamics. Without the full break in, it is only mediocre at best. Also, I leave mine on all the time unless thunderstorms are in the area. With only 52dB of gain on tap, you must keep the cartridge output at roughly .8mV or higher unless you want to put a step up transformer in front of it. If used within these constraints, it is a truly remarkable phono stage.
My K&K will do me indefinitely, quiet, detailed good soundstage, but above all, it flows like music should. Coped with a number of cartridges including Koetsu Rosewwod Signature, Zyx Airy 3. I am sure there are better, but at the price, under $2000? I do'nt think so.
The Rossner and Sohn Canofer-S is my favorite. By far the quietest and the most detailed phono stage I have ever used.
Until I can afford the Manley Steelhead, I will live very happy with the Simaudio LP5.3 phonostage and PSX5.3 power supply

Although I am a dealer for Art Audio I would still recommend you take a listen to the Vinyl Reference Phono Preamp. You can google it to catch the reviews. A serious piece of audio equipment. I do apologize for being a dealer however, it is just that I like to listen to good stuff as well.
Hello James,

I'm very happy with the Whest Audio PS30 RDT .. you 'll read about this unit in next future
Probably the best bargain within 10.000 USD$
I am finished w the TW Phono. Had quite a few including a custom phono, a Groove & a few more. The TW allows you to use 3 cartridges & change loading on the fly. It also has the best highs & mids I have ever heard from Vinyl. No SUT which is a big plus for cartridge compatability & matching with a SUT. Pure tube but not mushy. 3 tubes total. I guess you can say I am done barring hearing a Boulder which might not be better just different.
I've had a Herron Audio MC tube phono stage for 5-6 years.

Last year I had to change the tubes (one died and the others were ready to), but I would not think of changing it.

Beautiful, smooth, detailed sound.
Does the TW Phono deliver in the lower frequencies as well? I'm still strongly considering an AC3 as a table upgrade but phono stages continue to confound me. Did you compare the TW phono with the Tron 7(another Catalano recommendation)? Do you find the TW to be quiet for a tubed phono(an area where many tubed phonos seem to fall down a bit)?
Sonofijn, I won't answer for Dgad. I also have the TW Acustik phono stage that Dgad recommended I have a listen to. Dgad also has the TRON.

Yes, the TW does deliver in the lower frequencies, however it is not as obvious as some phono stages with SUT or SS. At first I thought it lacked a little bass depth and dynamics. I now don't feel any lack of bass whatsoever. It is not quite as explosive as say the ASethetix IO. Now I feel it does not have the mid bass forwardness a lot of phono stages have, it is better balanced.

Yes it is quiet for a tube phono and can be turned up to loud without any tube rush in my system.
I had tube rush/noise issues in the past with Aesthetix IO and rhea as well as cj prem 15.

there are lots of phono choices out there, and the TW is another top shelf alternative

TRON phono stage on board my TRON Meteor tube preamp. This is very similar to the current top spec TRON Syren.

Went from a Phd Sutherland to a Nagra VPS. Cleaner highs and better bass definition and more of it. The tube only output which I tried/discovered last week is the best that I have heard. For rock you can always switch to the SS output. I don't really need to switch cart loading etc. so don't really miss the absence of a remote .Highly recommended that you give this a listen and then let your ears decide.
Best of luck.
I have the ZYX Artisan, and I like it enough (despite it being the only SS gain component in an otherwise tube gain chain) that it is in no danger of getting 'upgraded' any time soon.
Heed Audio Quasar. Man does this one fly under the radar. It's wonderful.
I also use a ASR Basis Exc. and I have no idea where it went?! It was in my rack...now its gone. It appears ONLY after I turn the music off. The only other Phono pre that I like equally as much (just for its unique sound) is the JLTI (Vacuum State).

Good luck.

I have a zyx artisan coupled with a universe
great sounding

only pre I'd consider upgrading to is the doshi
mega buck there
I was using the onboard phono stage on my Rotel RC-1082 preamp - was pleased with the performance until I TRIED a Graham Slee Era Gold Mk V. Made a sonic difference for the better. I had been researching the pluses of a seperate phono stage because I was curious what i was missing out on. My dealer (Sound World in Houston) was kind enough to allow me to demo the unit in my home. I have expereince better bass response, better soundstage and more air plus in is blacker between notes. Will be a good upgrade.
K&K for now, it beat out the ear 834 and jlti. Though all 3 of them are excellent at their respective price points.
After 5 years of enjoying the EAR 834p, I recently upgraded to an Aesthetix Rhea and after one week thi shas turned out to be a logical and wise upgrade. Overall the results are a more refined, extended and dynamic presentation. Also the channel separation is greater and this makes for a wider and deeper field. The Rhea gets my vote as a logcal upgrade choice for EAR 834p owners.
My 4 chassis Alaap is not going anywhere!