Whest Phono Stages

Having owned several phono stages starting with a more entry level Clear Audio unit (which I actually think is still very nice) and moving up the rungs of the ladder to other offerings; I started to research something which would perform in all of the aspects of what I want. I entered into a long exchange with a friend of mine who has had or used far more phono preamps than I have and he told me that in his opinion the Whest Titan Pro delivered more to his ears than anything else he’s heard. He did not own this unit, it was far outside of his reach cost-wise ($12K); however a friend of his owned it and allowed him to use it for a period of time. He has used tube and solid stage preamps, so he has experience with multiple formats of presentation.

This opinion started my extensive reading from users of the various Whest phono stages and what I was finding is that most Whest users not only stay with Whest, they usually upgrade into newer and more expensive Whest products. Since there are no audio dealers that I am able to go to in order to audition a Whest as they are sold in the US directly from Whest in London, I decided to simply find a used one and find out how it performs for me in my system. I was open to any of the mid level Whest phono stages as all of them are on the expensive side and I didn’t wish to spend the money required to buy something like the Titan Pro, so I kept an eye on what was showing up on the used market. I also spent a fair amount of time exchanging e mails with James Henriot on the differences between the products and what I would get in performance as I was to move up the line. My take away is that all Whest phono stages share elements of the top of the line products like the Titan Pro or the Reference V dual independent mono stages. The more the cost, the more the refinement and specialty elements such as suspension chassis to isolate the internal electronics from vibrations or more discreet hand matched components. It’s all about how much you are willing to pay to get to a new level to dig out the information cut into the vinyl.

Several months ago I found a very lightly used, almost new Whest Three Signature which is a main phono stage chassis with an external dual mono power supply and I bought it. I was shocked at how heavy the power supply is! This small chassis with the toroid transformer must weigh 5 pounds. The construction of both chassis units is really quite outstanding with a beautiful front panel and dual specially made XLR cables which run from the power supply to the main preamp.

The performance of this mid range phono stage ($4K new) is simply amazing. The details it digs out with tremendous dynamic output; it just puts to shame the other preamps I have used over the past two years. I can see why people who use Whest phono stages rave about them.

So now what do I do? Am I to stay with this Whest Three Signature from here forward and be very content? Or what is next? OK, next...... I just ordered a brand new NOS build Whest 2019 version PS.30 RDT SE using the front end components from the new PS.40 RDT series, Clarity caps, zero floating voltage, full chassis suspension, new heavier toroid dual high voltage/current transformers, full discrete bipolar PS.40 matched input section... .etc, etc. James said this 2019 version is a very different animal than all previous PS.30 RDT SE’s. I will have an opportunity shortly to test this against my fully broken in Whest Three.... can’t wait! With the Three  as good as it is, I am very hopeful that I’ll be in for a super treat. I just hope that I am not going to end up spending to get a Titan Pro by year end.....
I only owned the lowest level Whest two.2 and very satisfied with it.  Heard the 40 but no way can afford it even though it's way way better.  If one needs better I think I would just move up the Whest line up!
To my ears the Whest PS.40RDT SE and Tom Evans Mastergroove are without a doubt the two best solid state phono stages I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard a good few. The differences between the former and the regular PS.40RDT are almost vanishingly small in my estimation and I can’t even imagine how acute one’s hearing must be to properly benefit from the additional £2500 or so difference in price.

Be that as it may, I can’t think of a better choice than a Whest or a Tom Evans if a solid state phono stage is what one is after. Presuming your "special edition" PS.30RDT SE ends up about as good as the PS.40RDT, I’d say you’re already within spitting distance of state of the art.

There is still more to be had of course, as there always is, but whether your other components can do that "more" full justice, whether your wallet can bear the cost and whether your ears can actually properly appreciate the difference once the initial "I’ve got a new expensive toy" placebo-euphoria has dissipated are matters which also ought to be taken into consideration before shelling out.
From everything I have read, the jump in performance when moving from the original 30R to the 30 RDT and then up to the 30 RDT SE is very substantial. The PS.30 RDT SE is supposed to be a major move up in resolution and detail over the previous two versions. However James told me the other night that the new 2019 spec PS.30 RDT SE is a totally different animal than the first model PS.30 RDT SE. This latest one contains many of the attributes designed into the 40 series. Although it’s not a 40, it is very close to one. The only thing better than a 40 and this 2019 30 series would be the Titan Pro.

I suspect that if one were using a very resolving MC, they may hear the differences, however that is not really where I am at. My interest is placed in the very high end MM AT 20ss which too benefits from what these phono stages deliver. The noise level is non-existent and the details dug out of the vinyl are astounding. Plus the dynamic presence at the low end to mid frequencies is just what I like.

So let us see or hear where this next level preamplifier brings us to.