What's your experience with fine phono preamp s ?

Arthur Salvatore highly recommends the Coincident Technology Statement phono preamp on his blog. I know nothing about Arthur's listening preferences, so can't know why he feels it superior to other phono pre's.

My table is a Technics SP10, arms are Talea and SME with Benz and AirTight cartridges respectively ( phono cable undetermined for SME arm, open to suggestions on a separate thread --to keeps things 'simple' ) My gear is hybrid, with solid state 100 wpc bass amps, 300B and 6SN7 tubes for mids and tweeters, and JL Audio subs for the bottom octave. The CDP and preamp are solid state and very high quality.

Please weigh in on phono pre's between $2 and 7K that you have owned or heard in systems you know well. I don't have a prejudice or preference for solid state or valve gear, and I'm receptive to used equipment.

I DO, however, strongly prefer an 'I am there' presentation, over 'the musicians are in the room' sensation, when the that's in the vinyl. More interested by far in an emotionally engaging ( not distortedly emotional or euphonic ) listening experience than a precise, highly detailed but soul-less presentation.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions and shared experience.


Coincident Statement is a fine piece, also look at the Ayre equipment.
Given the cost of the products that you are looking at, and your sonic expectations, I think it would be best to work with a dealer on this. There's just too many variables and everything has to work together. I know that you may say you have a lot of experience and you know what you like. And that given your knowledge and experience a dealer is not necessary. My answer to that would be, its clear that you know what you're doing. No question about that at all. Because of that, though, you won't settle for anything but the best possible results for the money you are investing. Unless you really get lucky, I think you are better served by working with a dealer that really knows vinyl. And there's a good chance you'll save money. With vinyl, the right combination isn't always the most expensive.
I own and have not heard ANY other phono stage as good as a Herron VTPH-2. Prior to that phono pre-amp, I was using a Herron VTPH-1mc. Also very good, but short of a VTPH-2.

The VTPH-2 has more of "You are there" than another other phono stage I've heard at any price. It is very precise and detailed; dynamic, super-low distortion, very neutral RIAA, startling dynamics (high level and low level dynamics). Not "warm" or artificial. I have heard VTPH-2 units in several systems and it impresses me the same in all of them.

Luck has nothing to do with the VTPH-2. It seems to work well in a wide variety of systems and a wide variety of cartridges (high and low level inputs, external mc loading capability).

And the price is right in your wheelhouse. Mid-$3k.
Arthur Salvatore highly recommends many Coincident products. Yes, they are good, but I believe he is also a close friend of Blume's.

The best I've heard/owned in this price range was a Klyne 7PX5.0. It bettered a couple of more expensive models. Others that I haven't heard but would highly consider in this price range are the aforementioned Herron VTPH-2 and an Allnic H1201.

I would also suggest you hear a Herron, it's a really nice unit. Also, a used Lamm LP2 Deluxe should come in your price range, though it might be a little laid back compared to the others mentioned, and you might want a little more gain than it offers. And I do agree with Zd that working with a good dealer who knows vinyl would be the best course.
I have found the AudiaFlight Phono to be exceptional. It is quiet, fast, dynamic, and I have yet to hear a better phono stage. I think you would be hard pressed to beat it.
Aesthetix Rhea. I bought mine used 8 years ago and couldn't be happier. Extraordinarily flexible, with 3 inputs, 2 outputs, adjustable gain and loading via the remove, built-in cartridge demag. Uses 10 tubes (8 12AX7, 2 6922) but very quiet for a tubed unit and has been easy on tubes IME.

The best part: it's a glorious sounding phonostage. I upgraded from a Conrad Johnson Premier 17LS2, which is also a great-sounding unit.
Correction. My CJ Premier 17LS2 was a linestage, not a phonostage.
+1 on the Aesthetix Rhea. I just upgraded mine to the signature version. I also recommend the Art Vinyl One which is what I used while the Rhea was out for upgrade.
FWIW, I have heard the Coincident phono and it is excellent. My friend who owned the piece has since supplanted it with an EMIA phono stage, built by Dave Slagle and a partner. You can find their website via Google. It's hearsay evidence, but my friend prefers the EMIA to the Coincident. The EMIA costs about $5K. Conversely, this same person preferred the Coincident to a Doshi Alaap that he owned previously. I am not sure I heard much difference between those latter two, but the EMIA is indeed a winner.
David, a lot of fine phono stages have been suggested. My one suggestion is that you indicate the input impedance of your solid state preamp, or at least its make and model number. And also whether the inputs it provides are balanced or unbalanced or both.

If the input impedance is less than around 25 or 30K or so some of the suggested phono stages may not be optimal matches. That may include the EMIA, the Rhea, the Herron, and possibly the Allnic. On the other hand, if the preamp's input impedance is say 47K or higher impedance compatibility would be a non-issue with pretty much any reasonably designed phono stage.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al
P.S. to my previous post: If the cable length that is necessary to connect the phono stage to the preamp is particularly long, say 12 feet or more, that should be indicated as well. Phono stages having high output impedances (e.g. 2 or 3K) at high frequencies may not be optimal choices in that situation. That would be a particular concern with the Rhea's unbalanced outputs (but not its balanced outputs), and with the EMIA.

-- Al
Lew (Lewm), I just noticed that the description of the EMIA phono stage here indicates that for an LOMC it would require an external SUT or other step-up device. Is that correct, or is the web page out of date?

Best regards,
-- Al
Having heard many a phono rig over the years, both old and new, and at all price points, I think the phono portion of the ARC sp16 pre-amp I have currently to be pretty darn good and its a fairly modest piece in the ARC world. ARC has been doing this stuff for a long time. For good sound and a world class track record to back it, I'd look no further than Audio Research.

I don't know what's the best but I think I can recognize good sound when I hear it.
@Mapman ... agree. IMO and IME, even better is the ARC PH-7 or PH-8. I owned the SP-16, the SP-17, the PH-7 and now the PH-8. Between you and me ... I think the PH-7 and PH-8 sound about the same.

All that being said, I've reviews that say the ARC Ref Phono 2 SE is to die for. That's a tomorrow project for me. Other priorities ahead of the Ref Phono 2 SE.

But Al's points above are very important. Electrical compatibility of components and I/C length should be carefully considered.

Almarg: If the input impedance is less than around 25 or 30K or so some of the suggested phono stages may not be optimal matches. That may include the EMIA, the Rhea, the Herron, and possibly the Allnic. On the other hand, if the preamp's input impedance is say 47K or higher impedance compatibility would be a non-issue with pretty much any reasonably designed phono stage.

This gear is the Aurum Acoustics Integris CDP system. Input impedance is listed as 25 kOhms unbalanced, 48 kOhms balanced.

IC length will be as short as possible; the phono pre will be on a preloaded Vibraplane as close to the Technics as possible.

Thank you. I look forward to learning more with auditioning. Still open to suggestions and personal experience.
You might be able to pick up a lightly used Allnic H3000 Mark II Phono within your price range.
This gear is the Aurum Acoustics Integris CDP system. Input impedance is listed as 25 kOhms unbalanced, 48 kOhms balanced.
The balanced input impedance is actually indicated as 48K per phase, which would be 96K based on the more usual convention of the sum of the two phases. So impedance compatibility won't be an issue with any phono stage providing balanced outputs (such as the Rhea).

I suspect that you would be marginally ok with the Herron, but if you want to consider the VTPH-2 I suggest asking Keith Herron to confirm that. I'm sure he'll give you an honest answer.

I suspect you would be fine with the Allnic H-1201, but it would be prudent to confirm that with the manufacturer or distributor. The H-3000 would certainly be fine.

I have some doubt, though, about the EMIA, which appears to have only unbalanced outputs, specified as having an output impedance of 2K. Since its outputs are capacitively coupled chances are that the output impedance rises to significantly higher values than that at deep bass frequencies, which in the bottom octave I suspect would fall significantly short of meeting the 10X rule of thumb guideline for impedance compatibility when working into 25K.

I don't see any technical issues with any of the other phono stages that have been suggested.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al

Hi Stringreen, Zd542, BPoletti, Jmcgrogan2, Rcprince, Dopogue,Dinster, Lewm, Almarg, Mapman, Bifwynne, Lak and Jperry,

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience and opinions. I really appreciate it.

I've taken your suggestions into account and have a much better informed idea on where to look for my phono pre. I'll post in another thread about what I choose, how it interfaces with my gear and if I like it.

Very Best to Each of You,

Dear Almarg, You are correct, Emia has gain sufficient for high output cartridges only. However, it is no accident that Dave Slagle is involved with this product. The company markets SUTs designed by Dave to go well with the Emia. I don't know what the SUTs cost (they custom build the SUT to suit the cartridge) but they're probably not cheap.
Check out the Rogue Ares. It was recommended to me as 'the best phono stage under $5000'. I have one now, and it definitely lives up to that, in my experience. Yes, it is a great piece of gear.

Having corresponded with Dave Slagle, I don't know how he would feel about my posting prices for his SUTs. Each would be designed for the two cartridges (Allnic PC1 Supreme and Benz LP-S) I use in my system, because they have very output. Suffice it to say he has been very responsive and helpful via email. I will add that your observation that "they're probably not cheap" is likely to be accurate --wallet dependent, of course.

Thank you very much to everyone for their suggestions. Decision is still pending, as it's a big one for me. I generally aim to make a single purchase and make it as good as I can with the goal of not often having to repeat. You know how goals can be, though...
Cdk84, it is nice to see EMIA being discussed here. I have heard Slagle's products and they are outstanding. If you can afford buying his SUTs which are specifically built for a particular cartridge (and is expensive) nothing like it! If the EMIA phono has an output impedance of 2k then it is definitely a bit of a concern. Check it out.

Personally after many phonostage auditions and trial I am using the Naim Superline with Supercap. It is a no compromise phono. You can read what Fremer has to say about it. Unfortunately these British products are not very popular in US so many top quality products do not get the air time they should on these forums. I have heard a Allnic 1500 phono in my system and it is no match to the Superline. Even tonally the Superline was better even though it is a SS design.
The RCM sensor or ZYX artisan both are very good and are in the price range. Like z said, if you can get a dealer who will will work with you with demo's or loaners, then you can hear what works with your entire system. I did that as I moved fm my ZYX to the RCM.
I moved from RCM Sensor to Naim superline :-)