What phono pre am I looking for?


It needs to be quiet, fast, dynamic and not cost an arm and a leg, $1500? Plays nice with a VPI/dynavector 20x2 low without a sut. I listen and enjoy most everything but, the British Invasion, Willie Nelson, Gillian Welch and jazz take the cake. I have tubes, an LTA pre, decware set amp and omega speakers. 
The new channel islands peq-1 looks mighty fine and dusty uses the 20x2 as his personal cart, which can't be bad?  New or used no problem. 

7cc1d358 2e4c 49ac be68 8b0851e0f4cajmolsberg
JLTi brand has a great history, since Allen Wright is no longer with us Joe Rasmussen taking care of the business and here is the latest version, actually cheaper than old version, lower than your budget as the price is in Australian Dollars, check this out: http://www.customanalogue.com/jlti_phono_stage.htm

I use this JLTi phono stage and i love it. Few people on audiogon have it.
You can check this: https://www.audiogon.com/listings/vacuum-state-jlti-mk3i-absolute-sound-recommended

Now i’m thinking about that Italian Gold Note PH-1 after i have realised that price without VAT is under 1000 euro which is amazing deal imo (normally they are 1400 in the shops).

I’m not looking for tube phono stage, actually i have replaced all my tube gear, no more tubes in my system, no regret.

$1k is my target price for any additional phono stages, i think it’s realistic budget for superb MM/MC phono stages. One of them is JLTi
Used opens up many options. As for new, the three I’d consider are the Parasound JC3 Jr, Sutherland Insight, and Gold Note PH-10. I was recently shopping in this range and bought the Parasound. I’m extremely pleased with its performance. Prior to it I used the Lounge LCR MKiii. I almost bought the Gold Note due to its versatility. It allows the user to select from 3 equalization curves and has a rumble filter.

If you’re a tubes only guy, consider the Tavish Adagio, which requires getting on a wait list.
@holomech why Parasound instead of Gold Note PH-10 ?

The goal of Gold Notes for me is that it has 2 independed phono inputs with independent settings for each and the ability to switch between them. Great for a turntable with two different tonearms.

My JLTi has only one input :(
@chakster  "no longer with us"?  Really?  So that explains why you are hawking you r wares on this forum.  Your credibility and objectivity just took a nosedive somewhere below zero.
@bpoletti That’s explain nothing! Only your bad imagination.
What’s wrong with you? I’m in St.Petersburg, Russia and i do not sell JLTi or anything from that Australian brand.

I’ve learned about JLTi from the David Dlalolum posts here on audiogon, he’s not posing anymore for some reason, but that was his choice of phono stage for MM cartridges (he asked for the same mod as myself).

I don’t know of any other phono stage with optional loading (plug in RCA resistors on the back) for MM cartridges! It is also amazing for LOMC cartridges of 0.25mV or higher. This is a great feature that comes with extremely expensive phono stages like Herron and others, but only for $750 dollars including delivery worldwide. Do you know any other products at this price tag that can compete with 3k phono stages and offering same features?

It is hand build in Australia by Joe Rasmussen (partner of Aller Wright). You can ignore it and stick to your overpriced phono stage or some other cheap made in china products people promotes here (like the iPhono 2), but i will promote "best price and top quality" phono stage as much as i like it, because this is my honest opinion about this wonderful producs for very reasonable price. I have much more expensive phono stage in my arsenal too and tried various different phono stages, the JLTi is great, that’s it!

I use this phono stage myself and i will recommend it to anyone who would like to have great phono stage and ask for it on audiogon forum. I do not sell this phono stage, it’s a keeper.

I’m pretty sure if that could be reviewed by M.Fremer (like he did with iPhono) everyone would love to grab it, but there is NO reviews yet!

If someone making legendary $2-3k phono stage again for $750 - that’s a good news for everybody, maybe it’s a bad news for you, but who cares?

JLTi kills the iPhono 2 in my system, so now i want to try it agains that Italian Gold Note PH-10 (if i will buy it next month, maybe).

P.S. Allen Wright passed away and that’s very sad. Old audiohiles remember this name and his reputation.
JLTi is probably a very nice phono stage for the money, but let's not pretend that it competes with really good phono stages in higher price brackets.  For Allen Wright and Joe Rasmussen, it was never their top of the line product.  AW preferred his tubed units, which of course cost much more money.  This is no insult to Chakster or the JLTi; I'm just keeping it real.  If you're on a budget in that price range, JLTi is probably a contender.  Phono stages that cost more are not necessarily "over-priced" by comparison.  I think AW's fully balanced RTP3C cost on the order of $10,000, and it was that good, by all accounts.  Still, I admire your enthusiasm, Chak.
Thanks Lew
I like my $2500 WLM Phonata Reference better for LOMC, but it’s completely different design, it’s a current phono stage, with lundahl transformers inside.

But when people ask for the phono stage under $1500 the JLTi must be in the list for sure if the buyer is ok with just one input (to switch between MM/MC).

Also for vintage MM enthusiatst i do not know anything with the option described earlier and that’s the reason why our David (dlaloum) has been using JLTi for his amazing collection of the rare vintage MM cartridges.

In my opinion "normal" people are not buyin $10 000 phono stage or $15 000 turntables with $8000 cartridge from the start. 
violectric phonostage designed to match and adjust to all cartridges and loads you can think of and fits within your budget.

Since you like tubes, check out Don Sachs' custom phono stage.  I have one and it is quite good, albeit MM only.  It can be had right at about $1k.  You could use a Decware SUT or have Don add a transformer for step up for less money. 

Either of those options limits future cart changes to similar cart output.  Getting a Bobs Devices SUT with a couple of gain options is more flexible, but of course more money.  The Don/Bob combo is what I use and I'd have to double the investment to get getter sound.  

BTW, I also have the LTA MZ2 preamp.  Don's phono stage mates with the MZ2 like a glove.

jwm71

what have you compared Don's with? It is definitely on my short list but I am also concerned with having so many tubes. I would certainly have him build it with the step up..

Thank everyone one for the suggestions, I am absorbing too much info, sensory overload. Discrete vs op amps, does anyone want to go there?
TRON Convergence comes in at that budget on a MC version. 90% of the performance of a high end TRON Seven phono stage at a snip of the price. Beautifully built to order (you can specify which cartridge you have and wish to match). Ultra quiet for a valve/tube phono - no audible circuit noise on my 104 dB/W Avantgarde Duos
@chakster thou dost too much protest
+1 for the Tron Convergence ! Great value ...
I bought a new audio alchemy with their optional power supply about a year ago & really like it. I'm not sure how it compares to the others mentioned but it replaced an older sonic frontiers unit (which I still have) and easily betters that. The cost would be around $1500. It has 2 inputs. Currently have 2 arms set up, both for MM, although it does well with LOMC's as well. Just a thought. 
I have tube amps and preamp, and they match perfectly with the Pass Labs XP15, which is being replaced by the XP-17.  Both are solid state-- I have the idea that tubes everywhere can get you to a place of too much of a good thing, so adding this ss, very flexible phono stage has yielded very nice results for me.  Used they are in the $2,500 range, but I don't think you'll be disappointed, regardless of the cartridge you are using.  Food for thought.

Best place for good value and great service on a new or demo unit is Mark at Reno Hifi.  A true gentleman.
Plinius m14 if you can find one. Did you try the Decware Zp3 already?
Fourwnds
I did not. But I read good things.
I don't want to use a step up and not sure I need more tubes. 

Liamowen, I know it would fit the bill perfectly but so expensive. 
Parasound JC3+
Micromega MyGroov

Are the best I’ve heard. I’ve been on the phono quest for the past couple of years and heard just about every preamp from a major manufacturer. My list would be approaching 50 units, all personally tested by me in my own system. That’s how good those two are. To my ears of course. 
@chakster

The deciding factors in my purchase of the Parasound were simply that I received a good discount from my local dealer and he had one for me to audition in my home, risk free. It was a worthy upgrade over my Lounge LCR and has great synergy with the rest of my gear, including its look.

I would’ve had to buy the PH-10 from an unfamiliar dealer, who would’ve had to special order it from Italy (which likely meant no option to return). Had I not been so pleased with the JC3 Jr, I would’ve taken a gamble on the PH-10.

A member of another forum I frequent preferred the Parasound to about a half dozen well-regarded phono stages, including the Rega Aria, Manley Chinook, and Lehmann BC SEII.
@invictus005,

So the MyGroov competes well against the JC3+?
Ok, the JC3+ is another $3000 phono stage, LOL
Parasound released JC3 Junior for half price and here is the review

The Gold Note PH-10 cost 50% less than Parasound JC3+
Not sure how it competitive with JC3 Jr.

Has anyone compared them ?


P.S. I could get new PH-10 from Italy with warranty for $1120 (in black or silver) including delivery to my door. It’s an eye candy, love its design and compact size.
@helomech Both are very different sounding preamps, but yes, it absolutely does. Micromega is pure magic. How they’re able to do this for under $300 is a complete mystery. MyGroov is the most 3D vibrant phono stage I’ve ever heard. It’s as if the contrast was turned to max, but so pleasant and addicting. Micromega also makes my absolute favorite digital components BTW.

JC3+ is a bit more extended in the treble, but slightly flatter overall in presentation. It lacks some of MyGroov’s bouncy fun factor, but is a more solid no nonsense preamp. It’s almost like an instrumentation tool. Gets out of the way and showcases all of the other components in the system. John Curl is a legend and a master circuit designer. He's been perfecting phono circuitry since the 60's. 

If anyone’s interested, I have the original Parasound JC3 (not the +) for sale in mint condition. PM for details.
I'm just putting this out there, and as a warning I no NOTHING about cartridge types (MM? LOMC?) nor do I know practically any brands for different preamps... I'm 19, Im learning :)

HOWEVER. I know my super basic tube tech. and anyone who knows tubes knows the fairchild twins. 

specifically its 20 some tubes and 14(?) or so transformers that act as multiple gain stages, minimizing overall distortion and allowing incredible control over distortion characteristics. never-mind that negative feedback and/or pentodes and all that can sometimes yield even cold sounding amps, while vintage Japanese single triode (300b) theater amps are crazy lush... thats a single, tiny, power tube per channel..... its tricky... 
If you want a fabulous phono amp try a Herron VTPH-2A. I have one in a very high level system. Nothing that has been suggest here even comes close to the sound it produces. This is a very silent amp that is slightly
warm but with very precise sound reproduction. And the support after the sale is excellent from Keith Herron.

@jmolsberg, a friend has the JC3 phono stage and we compared that to Don’s one weekend. They are different but I think comparable in quality. The JC3 clearly sounds SS where Don’s does sound like tubes in comparison.

The Sachs phono stage is really clean, not lush sounding. You said you were worried about too many tubes. I mentioned I have the LTA MZ2 that you have, and you know how clean, not tubey that is. I also have the LTA ZOTL40 amp, so I’m tubes all the way. If I had a bunch of iron core transformers and/or coupling capacitors mucking things up, I might have too many tubes, but the LTA gear avoids that thankfully. I have upgraded all the tubes with NOS that I think brings out the best.

I used to have a Cary SLP 98L, with the included phono stage. That was tubey sounding, which I liked but I didn’t realize how much was being muffled by that unit. Don’s phono stage took me two or more levels higher in quality from the built in phono section of the Cary, and you know how good the MZ2 is.


Herron VTPH-2A is about $3700 and full of tubes. He has explained why loading plugs instead of dip switches here. But even in this design at this price over $3k it’s impossible to change loading of MM cartridges (only 47k Ohm by default)! As i said many times, every respected manufacturer of the nice Moving Magnet cartridges clearly stated the loading range from 30k Ohm to 100k Ohm (not just 47k Ohm).

@browndt

Nothing that has been suggest here even comes close to the sound it produces.

I believe you have tried every phono stage mentioned here before making such conclusion?

I do use a couple of MM carts that I like with the Sachs phono stage.  I simply bypass the SUT and Don's unit allows full tailoring of the MM loading.  Don has been really helpful with recommendations for the loading settings for the specific carts I've asked him about.

I even don't use the 47k Ohm default when using the SUT.  Again, Don helped me with fine tuning the MC carts when coming from the SUT.

@invictus005 
Parasound JR is definitely on the shortlist. I suspect, reading between the lines, they may be a little thin sounding? In its defense, every discrete phono pre amp I've listened to, sounds a little thin to these ears. Quite possibly the only way to accurately produce real tones?
That little MyGroov, crazy.


@browndt 
Everybody loves the Herron 2A but unfortunately I am too poor ): want to sell me your at half price (:

I am still very intrigued with the CIAUDIO PEQ-1, I wish we someone on the forum had some experiences. I took a gamble in 2012 with their VDA-2 DAC and still happily using it today, although ones and zeros is not my preferred listening method. My front end: $1500 Traveler and $995 cart, not exactly top tier. 
@jmolsberg 

Everybody loves the Herron 2A but unfortunately I am too poor ): want to sell me your at half price (:

I feel the same when people recommends phono stage with price tag over $3k, this is just too much. Have you checked the Gold Note PH-10? 

Anyone can explain what is the benefit of the tube phono stage? 
Tubes are noisy and microphonic, only top quality military vintage NOS tubes are very good, but they must be replaced like the cartridge over the years, they can not last forever. Top quality NOS tubes like Telefunken, Mullard, Siemens are extremely expensive, some RCA or Sylvania are not so expensive, but still not cheap. When i've been using tube gear (amp) i could not find any modern tubes (ecc81 or el84) that can compete with the NOS vintage tubes from the 60's or 70's. Change the tube and you change the sound, it's endless quest!  
@chakster
Gold Note PH-10 looks like a legit phono. I know squat about the company. I am not crazy about the equalization but I am going to have to make some concessions. Where does one get it for $1200? I suppose to realize its potential you need the external power?
@jmolsberg Definite not thin. Instead of Jr., look for a used JC3. It's in a different league. Significantly better power supply, better chassis and shielding, it even has power factor correction built in. No other phono does this that I know of. 
To add to the fray. Manely chinook if your looking  for a top rated, for your budget phone stage. 
Maybe having tubes somewhere in the chain is a good thing, but when it comes to phono, solid state is the way to go.
Had an opportunity to listen to the dynavector mk lV today. It was nice but definitely not where I see my analog at. 
Where does one get it for $1200? I suppose to realize its potential you need the external power?

Italian shops will be happy to sell PH-10 without VAT if it will be exported from Europe, maybe it depends on the distributor in your area, but in my case they can ship directly to me without VAT as it should be (that’s the low). The price is much better without VAT added to it.

I don’t care about optional upgrades, every manufacturer trying to catch you with external power supplies, but the phono stage must be good or bad from the start, the external (optional) power supply is the next step if you like the phono stage.

Alternative RIAA is a myth, nothing but tone control. I have some records from the 50s, but they are not from Colombia or Decca. Fremer claimed Decca ALWAYS used standard RIAA and it was proved to him by an old DECCA’s engineer.

However, i’ve never heard PH-10, but i own JLTi which is cheaper and might be better as it does not have that fancy look (to reduce the price only) and also comes with optional power supply as the upgrade.
@jmolsberg P75 is a toy based on National’s data sheet for LT1115 OP amp. I think you’re looking for something way beyond that.
+1 for chakster & invictus. SS is the way to go with a phono stage for the reasons stated. 
I really enjoyed my Rega Aria as phono stage in that price range.  It was very clean, quiet, great dynamics, and very flexible in its setup.  I used mine with a Lyra Kleos cartridge on 66dB gain, and that sounded great!
BTW the old Parasound JC3 might be not as good as the JC3+. Read J.Carr's comment here https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/jc3-anyone
This thread is timely for me.  I just upgraded my turntable to a Marantz TT-15S and I am running it through a Project Phono Box as a temporary solution and it is obviously majorly limiting.  I have been running a PeachTree Nova 220SE, but I just recapped a McIntosh MC2505 and it sounds amazing(pre hopping at the moment.)  Trying to decide between those 2 and what phono pre I want and then I hope to be done for the immediate future.

Does anyone have any experience with the PS Audio NuWave?  They are closing them out for under $1000 and it seems like a great option in this price range.


why0

I do not but i think that would be lateral move at best. 
I too will be upgrading my phono stage in the near future. Looking into @chakster  suggestion of the JLTi with the external power supply. I'm currently using the Lehmannaudio Black Cube 2. It's my first phono ever and I like it. I have some vintage MM carts now that kick ass and want to get the most out of them with a variable range of 30k Ohm to 100k Ohm.
Phono and external power supply under $2000 is a pretty good deal. So far, extremely happy with the suggestions I've gotten here on Audiogon and the individual units. 
I ended up buying the Herron. can't tell you how it sounds yet but something tells me it's going t be just right. 
New and under $1500, sticking with tubes also, take a look at the Decware phono preamp. You already have the Decware amp. If you like that then their preamp maybe the way to go. Rogue also makes a tube phono preamp within your price range. You obviously can spend a lot more and get something better you can also spend more and do worse. I have had equipment from both manufacturers and at the time liked the equipment and support they gave behind it.
you are looking for a Manley Chinook
If one wants to stick with solid state, and if one has money to spend, and since the OP wants at least two phono inputs, I highly recommend the DS Audio phono stages.  I have heard them both in my house, in my system, and they are among the rare SS phono stages that could compete with my Atma-sphere MP1, albeit I still preferred the MP1 by a slight margin. But the great thing about the TOTL DSA phono stage (about $10,000, I think) is that it has THREE completely independent phono circuits, so you can set gain, load, capacitance, etc, independently for each of the 3 stages, and there's no worries about colorations or signal loss due to the interposition of switches in the phono signal path.  The designer is a very nice guy, too, and he seems to have thought of every eventuality in implementing a 3-cartridge/3-tonearm set-up.  The less expensive version of two models I heard is possibly only a single phono stage but has all the virtues of its big brother.
I'd look into the Black Ice (formerly Jolida) F159 vacuum tube phono preamplifier at your exact target retail price of $1495. It's all tube and has 40dB and 60dB gain settings.

Designed by Jim Fosgate.
I'd bet a quarter that the Black Ice F159 is a further refinement of the circuits used in the Fosgate Signature, which is a very fine sounding phono preamp. It looks like Chinese manufacturing and a plain-Jane case have cut $1000 off the old Signature's price. I haven't heard one, but if it sounds as good as my Fosgate Signature, then it's a bargain. If it sounds better, then I'm jealous. ;)