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.....
Cf91c9e5 e6a3 4979 b562 058e70859cc2slimpikins5
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.
I reviewed the 0.20 over 10 years ago - it sounds great still although I know that the game has moved on since then. I thought it was so much better than the Tom Evans Groove - more body, depth of field and a lot more. I have since acquired the Vendetta SCP 2B and it's a lot more organic and 'more-ish'. 
I hasten to add that the Whest is not voiced cold.
lohanimal, 

What do you mean by 'the Whest is not voiced cold' ?


@slimpikins5
Well in relative terms lets say the Klimo Viv is on the warm end of a scale say a 10 - an EAR 834P at 9  the Conrad Johnson EF1 and Vendetta SCP2A at 5, the Whest at 4 and Tom Evans Groove at 9  the Dynavector P75 at 1.
I guess that's my most logical and straightforward way of explaining it. That's at least to my ears in my system - please bear in mind that the comparisons I made were with Yamaha NS 1000M speakers, Lavardin IT amp, and a shelter 501 cartridge on an Amazon model one turntable. 
The Whest had a lot more body than the Tom Evans and was far more relaxing and listenable to me - as such I can't say it is voiced cold. 
It's an excellent phono stage
Ah, OK.... Let’s call your observation of the Whest as more neutral to your hearing. I would agree with you. I don’t find it pushes either end of the spectrum; it does it all just right.

I’ll be receiving my new custom built PS.30 RDT SE 2019 tomorrow according to the tracking information. My plan is to plug it in, let it run on power for most of the day to warm up things and then start my comparison to the Whest Three Signature I have had in the ’on’ state for several months. This should be interesting not because it’s a new RDT SE with the 40 series input stage and all of the other 40 series updates, but because James modified the input to 20 pf vs. the standard 91 pf (which my Three has) and he added an additional gain setting at 46 db to the standard 43 db in the RDT SE series for MM use. The Three has both 43 db and 46 db and I found the 46 db was dialed in with my system. So the new RDT SE will have the added 46 db gain plus a 20 pf input capacitance to enable me to hit 150 pf total capacitance with my interconnects and tone arm wiring added to the input of the RDT SE which will match the specification of the AT20ss cartridge. If I need more capacitance, I can make adjustments by using other cable lengths. I am using a .7 meter cable currently which is at 120 pf. It is expected that the lower capacitance will smooth out the upper end even more than it is now.

A smoother upper end in conjunction with the enhanced resolving power of the RDT SE will hopefully work out nicely.
It arrived in UPS yesterday afternoon.   I said I was going to let it warm up, but I just had to try it cold out of the box.  It was excellent with no warm up, but honestly after using this new PS.30 RDT SE 2019 for the past 28 hours of power on time, its really changed.  The dynamic power has increased to the point that I had to reduce the main volume level by 3 db as it was almost over powering my room.

Amazing detail and resolution. I can hear what was before there, but not with such articulation.  What sounded like an instrument of some sort on one cut I have heard so many times, is now resolved to hearing that the sound was actually a background singer, not an instrument.  

Another interesting observation is how many recordings have bass which has imaging.  The bass actually moves around the room vs. just being non directional tight bass.  The bass is so tight and defined, I can actually hear the player playing the instrument.

The change to 20 pf input vs. the 91 pf standard set up is pleasantly allowing my AT20ss to produce the smoothest detailed upper ranges.  That was a great call on James' part.

This phono stage just makes me want to keep putting more music on and not retire for the evening!  At this point, I  cannot imagine what Whest Titan Pro would be like.
It has been three months since I posted my initial thoughts on the 2019 PS.30 RDT SE. The phono stage really smoothed out after about 50 hours or so of use. It’s very neutral, no peaks in any range, just wonderful high dynamic output from the low end to the upper end with silky mid’s.

I put my well broken in Whest Three Signature back in line just to hear the differences and I can say the 30 takes things up to a whole new level in detail. They both have that Whest sound as described above, but the detail the 30 pulls out of the recording is quite amazing and it has much smoother upper end which might be due to the change in capacitance James trimmed for my AT20ss.

I was speaking with James about cables to use and he told me that hands down if I were to install the Titan Pro interconnects which are specially designed pro audio phase aligned, it would make a very large improvement in performance in the PS.30 RDT SE. He would be able to build me an interconnect from my SME Series IV to the 30 and another out from the 30 to my main preamp. The two properly phased cables would do quite a lot for the performance. I may go ahead an order the pair. These are the cables which are included with the Titan Pro, which of course costs around $13K. My new 30 has the Titan internal cable harness as part of its construction and the Titan elevated voltage rails.

I may even elect to try out a MC cartridge after doing the cables :)

Sounds great. Just an FYI here is a Titan $4300 US
https://www.ebay.com/itm/124002846849

On the surface it looks like a great deal; however there are two points to make.  First its an early model, notice the single power on light vs. all the late models have individual power lights for each mono stage.  They have made considerable design changes over the years with all of the Whest products.   Second issue, its a European model, it runs on 240 volt/50 hz input mains, not 120V 60 hz.   

You have to be careful!
My Titan Pro was a European model NOS that James converted  to 120V 60hz and sold it to me as B stock.  It was from a hi fi shop that went under.Bought it 5 years ago when I retired and since had it upgraded to new Titan level.

Yes it is an amazing phono amp and I encourage you to go mc too see what this thing can do. Talk to James,he suggests an Audio Technica MC that won't break the bank. 
I use a Sumiko Talisman Virtuoso dti, a cartridge from the late 80's.i'm fond of and have found NOS on line.
Stay with what you have BUT buy a MC cartridge,you will be amazed. 

A friend of mine loved the Titan, he said it was the best phono stage he had ever experienced.  That is what started me on the Whest quest.   

The thing I like about Whest is that James is never content with building a phono stage, he's always tweaking and improving upon what he has built.  He tries to push the envelope in order to extract even more out of the recordings.   My new PS.30 RDT SE 2019 is probably a PS.40 RDT in the 30 clothes so to speak as he built if for me using left over parts of the PS.30 case work and rear panel.  But it seems that the guts are pretty much the 40 series.  

My next stop will be a Titan Pro, not sure when, but that is where I am heading.  But I may order in his pro audio phase aligned Titan Pro interconnects as he told me that will make a BIG difference in his words.  I am also looking at an Ortofon Winfeld Ti MC as my friend Shep has one and he also has the AT 15ss which is almost the same as my AT 20ss and he loves the Ortofon for what it does vs. the AT15ss (which Shep said is the best MM he has ever encountered, I agree).  

I am guessing that you have the Titan Pro interconnects as I assume that they are included with it when you buy a Titan.
Yes the interconnects are included but they were RCA and my tonearm takes a din plug ( Graham Phantom B44 series 2) so I use Audience phono cables with the Titan interconnects go from my phono to pre amp.  Also included is a cable that connects to computer to make cd's of your vinyl.

I am using Whest for a few years now. From Whest TWO to PS.30 to PS.30DTSE. 
Yes I could hear the DTSE Version a bit fuller, smoother than the DT. I paired the PS.30 with a Lyra Delos and the DTSE with a Kleos. I don‘t favour one above the other, its a matter of taste, mood which one i prefer.

Not sure if you can get substantial improvements considering many recordings are mediocre anyhow.
As qdrone suggested: 'stay with what you have and go for a MC'; I took that suggestion, which I assume he meant don't go for the fancy cables right away, get into a nice MC to see what the Whest can do.

I just bought a nearly new (according to the seller) Ortofon MC A90.  The seller always wanted to move up to the MC A95 and he found a new in the box one, bought it and sold me his used MC A90.   I should have it in time for the Christmas Holiday week so that I can play with the installation in the SME Series IV tone arm which is not going to be fun.  But I anxiously await what the Ortofon will do vs. my beloved AT 20ss.....
Find out the recommended load on that cartridge,usually 100k is a good start but check with the manufacturer

I was an early Whest adopter. That was a long time ago. Mine was the tiny two box solution where one had to wire a loading resistor into an RCA plug and stick it into the unit, one for each channel. Communicating with James was an absolute pleasure, an absolute gentleman.

The Whest replaced an Acoustic Sounds Sutherland designed unit. Both were absolutely stellar in their own way. In my system, the Whest gave palpability, the Acousticsounds/Sutherland gave me precision.

If you have a Whest, stick with it and enjoy it. 

---------------------
Additional Info. I use the old JPS FX cables (still do)  for interconnects from TT to Phono stage and from phono stage to preamp.
Just picked up a used Whest Signature three a week ago & am loving it. Great phono stage! I'm using cardas reference IC's from the tonearm & audioquest yukon from the Whest to the Linn Klimax preamp. 
I have had my new to me MC A90 in the system for almost two weeks now and I am very impressed!   I set the Whest up at 100 ohms loading with 65 db gain.  After reading an article by Fremer on using his A90 with a new PS Audio phono stage, he set the loading at 200 ohms and preferred it.   I have a 220 ohm setting in the PS.30 RDT SE, so I decided to give it a try.  I must say the results are interesting.  I cannot say yet if I prefer it over 100 ohm, but it does seem to bring out the mid range and upper end with more detail.  I plan on running this for a few days before swapping it back to 100 ohms just so that my ears acclimate.

As far as using this high end MC vs. my AT20ss MM, I can say that it definitely has more to offer in all respects; however the AT20ss is no slouch.  This is not like a holy moly moment; it more like now that is very nice.  It should be as it's nearly a $5K cartridge vs. a $250 cartridge (in 1976 dollars which might be equal to around $1800 today).   For a guy on a tight budget, he'd serve himself very well if he could find a good like new AT20ss out there; it's 90% of the MC A90.  I like what qdrone suggested, go for the high end MC.  To gain 10% more in performance in a high end system is difficult to achieve and by simply adding in the A90, I seem to have done this.
I agree slimpickens. Some of the old MM are wonderful performers. I have an empire 4000 that gets put in the mix & it amazes me how good it is. Same with the old Grado signatures.
I have had many discussions with James at Whest about how to elevate performance in the analog chain. He always told me that as great as the AT20ss is and it is one of his all time favorites, any MM cannot pull out the detail from the recording as well as a good MC.  It has to do with the mass and reaction time the MM has which makes it slower than a well designed MC.  The MC will simply open things up and really dig out the detail.   I have also heard from others that a MC cannot duplicate the huge low end dynamic output of the AT20ss.

Since I now have a custom built PS.30 RDT SE 2019 with an input side trimmed for 20 pf so that my total input capacitance will hit 150 pf, the perfect specified capacitance of the AT20ss.  And a modified gain setting for 46 db which is what works so well with the 20ss; I have the best available for playback with one of the finest MM ever made.  The new dialed in capacitance did shift the high frequency peak up and out of the listening area which super smoothed out the entire range of the AT20ss; it has never sounded so good!
James hit it right on the mark; he knew exactly what to do and I suspect that is because he owns the AT20ss and has used it with his development work.   

With all this being said; he still pushed me to consider a nice MC; he thought that I'd enjoy the improvement over the excellent AT20ss. Since Whest uses the Ortofon Anna, A95 and A90 cartridges for their design testing, I thought it would be great if I could find one of these and I was lucky to stumble upon a mint condition A90 MC.
In an exchange with James not long ago, he told me that he prefers the A95 over the A90 in OEM stock configuration with the Replicant 100 stylus.  However after retipping his A90 with the ES Paratrace stylus, he prefers the A90 over the A95.   

Having listened to my new to me A90 with the Replicant 100 stylus, I have to say that it does surpass the AT20ss in all aspects, including the lower end dynamic output which surprised me.  I have two copies of Eric Burdon 'Declares War'  which dates back to around 1970.  Both in near mint condition and both suffer from some surface noise (clicks pops) which I have always had to just ignore.   When I put this record on with the A90 all and I mean ALL of the bothersome surface noise is gone!  It was like I just picked up a brand new analog repress.   After the first cut "Spill the Wine" which is a late 60's early 70's psychedelic play, it rolls into the balance of the front side which is all blues with a great Saxophone.  The detail I am hearing now is simply astounding!   I can hear the light breathes of the sax player and the low deep from the lungs low level breath as he fills the sax softly in the background as he joins Eric Burdon on quiet passages. 

I was simply stunned at what I am hearing now.  I decided to play with the loading after hearing this.  I moved to 220 ohms vs. the suggested 100 ohm setting with the A90.  It's interesting and I wish to play more on this setting as I am hearing more open air, but I want to see if I am missing anything after I go back to 100 ohms in a week or so.
I've caught up on this thread with great interest.  I'm considering the PS.40RDT and curious if anyone owns this and could provide feedback.
No experience with the PS.40RTD but I'm running the three signature & loving it. Really clean, open, & dynamic. The PS.40RTD must be phenomenal. 
I had the Whest Three Signature for a number of months; it was so good that I moved to making a purchase of the 2019 PS.30 RDT SE which is basically a hybrid.  It has the exterior case of the 30 RDT series and the rear panel, but the internals are more in line with the 40 RDT.  
The 'house sound' of the 30 series is very similar to the Three Signature, in fact you'd almost think it was the same unit when you first play it.  However as you play a lot of familiar music, you start to hear the deep detail it pulls out which was missing with the Three Signature.   If you don't have a highly resolving system, perhaps that would not be something which would be of importance and you'd be pleased with the Three Signature.   But if you do have a resolving system, you will be amazed.  

With all of this being said, I have been told the PS 40 RDT is just another step up the ladder in resolution and it takes things up to another level again.   Ultimately the Titan Pro is up at the top of the heap if you are willing to spend $13K.    I would fully encourage you to go for the 40 RDT, you will not look back.  The only thing close to this type of performance is any of the other Whest phono stages.  

I had used several other very well reviewed phono stages and none of them even came close to the Three Signature, not even close.  With that in mind and knowing how the 40 RDT is two levels up from the Three Signature, you will not be disappointed.
@slimpikns5 and @boxer12   

Appreciate the insight and feedback.  I'm very curious about trying a SS phono pre in my system to compare against my tube Herron VTPH2A.  Different topologies and certainly much different sonic approach.  The bloom and liquidity of the tubes versus the detail and silent noise floor of the SS.  My curiosity wants to compare!
UK Whest vs. Japanese VIDA, anyone ? 
T-E-P,

If you log onto the Whest Audio website and look at the customer testimonials, you will find hundreds of actual user reviews and most will list their system and what they had been using for a phono stage prior to the Whest.  It will give a great insight into what the guys out there found for comparison; you will also notice that no one is looking back at their decision.... that says a lot to me.
I have used three or four other phono stages and hands down, nothing comes close.  Just for information here, I am not a tube fan at this stage of the game.  

I find my Whest to be absolutely black in terms of noise; I mean its pretty much non-existent.  I would have no idea the preamp is even on if it were not for the two LED power on lights (one for each individual channel).   The signal to noise is just amazing.
@slimpikins5  

If you log onto the Whest Audio website and look at the customer testimonials, you will find hundreds of actual user reviews and most will list their system and what they had been using for a phono stage prior to the Whest.  It will give a great insight into what the guys out there found for comparison; you will also notice that no one is looking back at their decision.... that says a lot to me.

Yes, I read through many of the testimonials last night and they are quite impressive.  I didn't see any direct comparisons to the Herron but I did see some to the Manley Steelhead which says a lot as it's a nice tube pre.  I have placed a inquiry message into the folks at Whest.
I've demo'd several Whest's and will buy one once my listening room is back (in a renovation).  I prefer a dynamic, open, musical sound.  With those as my sonic priorities, the various Whest's bettered Shindo, Tom Evans, EAR 868 and many others in my rig.

I think their entry model is absolutely unbeatable for the money (with my sonic preferences).
If the USD continues it rout on world currency, including the British pound, I may actually be able to afford the PS 40 RDT SE.  Been chatting with James about it...what a great guy he is with customers.
Yes, the GBP conversion is very favorable right now....best it has been in a long time. I have a Titan Pro that may go back to James for an update :)
How would you Whest owners describe the Whest "house sound"?  I guess I'm somewhat guarded against an uber hi-fi, forward yet detailed sound signature.  I'm looking for some fluidity and ease to my vinyl presentation.
three_easy_payments

How would you Whest owners describe the Whest "house sound"


About 4-5 years ago, I had briefly borrowed a Whest phono stage top of the line model, although the model name I cannot recall offhand.  I found the signature to be detailed, clean, clear, bright and neutral - ish overall.  Definitely not a natural read: organic sound signature to my ears, would likely had taken careful system matching to live with.  I don't know if this is the "house" sound, or just my personal experience with this piece.  Perhaps they have evolved since then.   
@ferrari275  I appreciate you weighing in with your experience.  That is how I imagine the sound after reading the reviews.  Perhaps evoking an immediate "wow" from the clean, clear, bright presentation but then as your brain settles in you may realize it's not completely organic and leans towards hifi-ish.  While I can see a lot of systems benefiting perhaps from that pairing I don't think mine would.  The more I dig into my quest for a next phono pre the more I think I want to stick with quiet tubes akin to a Luxman EQ-500 or VAC Renaissance phono which provide nice neutral, organic flow, and ease. 
My perspective is that clean, well designed solid stage devices are pure and uncolored, especially when the devices are hand selected and hand matched as in the case with the Whest preamps.

Tubes, which I have lived with for decades in various Amateur radio and military transmitters and receivers are fine, but they have huge variables and matching them is key. They are colored in terms of how they perform and to me that is a distortion product. Plus they change in performance with use; internal component breakdown and loss of vacuum over time; in other words they have a limited life span. Its a very old technology which was replaced by solid state for a reason and SS has only gotten better over time and tubes are ’dated’ in my opinion with limited supplies.

Having owned a number of fine phono preamps over the past, the Whest was by far the best of what I have experienced. I like the total black background, no noise, no distortion, pure signal from my A90 Ortofon over to the rest of my system with deep down detail, huge dynamic range and the best bass response I have yet encountered.
For the past several weeks I've been checking out James' Instagram posts which I think provide some glimpse into the Whest sound - granted as well as can be expected through a phone or iPad.  Even through a cheap playback device I'm using I can tell the sound is clean and crystal clear so I understand why people are enamoured with these units.  I'm just not sure it's the sound for me or would really compliment my system and my room.  
Slim, You wrote, "Tubes, which I have lived with for decades in various Amateur radio and military transmitters and receivers are fine, but they have huge variables and matching them is key. They are colored in terms of how they perform and to me that is a distortion product. Plus they change in performance with use; internal component breakdown and loss of vacuum over time; in other words they have a limited life span. Its a very old technology which was replaced by solid state for a reason and SS has only gotten better over time and tubes are ’dated’ in my opinion with limited supplies."
I guess you prefer SS, which is fine, but your paragraph is fraught with problems for me.  (1) If your exposure to "tubes" is via amateur radio and military transmitters and receivers, then you are not qualified to comment on modern audio components that use tubes as active devices.  The military did away with tubes probably as long ago as the late 1950s, and their interest was never in accurate reproduction of music.  (2) I agree that tube amplifiers that use output coupling transformers can be "colored", but there is good science to suggest that the colorations are due to the output transformer limitations, not inherently to "tubes".  To my ears, modern well designed tube preamplifiers and phono stages or hybrid tube/transistor circuits are often superior to solid state in conveying the nuances of what live music sounds like to me, but that is only my opinion.  It is shared by many. (3) Tubes do age but they do not "lose vacuum over time", unless they are physically severely abused, like with a baseball bat.  The aging of a tube can be quantified in terms of its transconductance at any point in time. Matching is not so difficult to do and also not so important for ultimate fidelity, in my experience.  I don't mind changing preamplifier tubes every 4-5 years or more. (4) Tubes were indeed replaced by solid state "for a reason", but the reason was not because designers were searching for greater fidelity to the source. Lower cost of SS, the drive for ever higher power amplifiers to drive ever less efficient speakers (again, this had to do with amplifiers, not phono stages or preamplifiers), and a race for ever better specifications in regard to THD had most to do with it, in my opinion.  I respect your preferences, but if you want to claim SS is categorically superior, I would take exception to that.
Lew,

I suppose that technically a tube being a voltage device vs. a SS device being a current device it yes will be inherently quieter from my recollection of this stuff.   But tubes will lose vacuum with time as there is variation in the quality of the material used in the manufacture of the tubes, the out-gassing of the material have effects, the expansion differences in the seal of the metal pins to the glass, etc... it all causes vacuum loss with time.   Then you have to look at the resistance which changes with oxidation on the metal to metal contact of the pins to the socket.  I am only pointing out a series of issues that make owning anything with tubes something which I elect to avoid.   You don't have to be an audiophile to be able to hear differences and having many years experience with hearing and seeing degradation (a radio which cannot hold frequency with any accuracy due to a tube in the VFO going out of spec), I prefer the alternative.

Plus, who is making tubes these days?   If I am correct and maybe I am not as I don't buy any any longer other than keeping a few collectible radios running, you either  find NOS originals made in the US or you find some Russian tubes or Chinese.   The Russians do a good job with tubes, in fact I have some GU74B ceramic tetrodes which are excellent, but the Chinese stuff I'd totally avoid.  The old NOS US tubes I'd be concerned with due to the age and vacuum issue.

All in all, I'll stick with my Anthem M1 monoblock amps (or I'd be happy to take a pair of Bryston 28B3's) and my Whest PS 30RDT SE :)

  
3 payements / The whest model 3 signature (the only whest I've owned [so far]) is very clear, detailed, & three dimensional without having the typical SS "hifi" signature. It is also incredibly dynamic. I love it, but suspect you're looking for a tubed unit. This isn't that. The only tubed phono I've had (still have it but don't play it any more) is the Sonic Frontier Signature. That exhibits a "warmer" nature than the whest. Nothing wrong with either one really... it just comes down to preference. 
@boxer12  Yeah, the further I dig into the Whest phonos the more I don't think they align with my musical priorities, nor does any SS phono stage I now believe.  Being honest with myself I think the one attribute I really was attracted to was a dead quiet presentation.  I do appreciation your reflections from experience on the 3 Signature.  Perhaps someday I'd try one.
I completely understand. If we all liked the same thing, there would be a lot less variety on the market :-)
@Three EP
If you are fortunate, you may find a used Whest out there to run for a while... I'd suggest the Whest Two as it won't kill you on price.  Don't expect it to perform like the upper level Whest preamps, but it will definitely play like them and that will tell you a lot in terms of whether you like what you hear or not.

I did the same thing; I picked up the Whest Three Signature through a guy who wanted to get into vinyl so badly that he bought a pretty high end set up to try it out.  He decided very quickly that he didn't like all of the hands on work involved with records and  went back to digital format.  I picked up the Whest Three at a good price and it wasn't even broken in.  I used it for three months and fell in love with it.  I had it in parallel with several other preamps so it gave me a good reference point for comparison.  That drove me to James at Whest to have a customized latest configuration 30 series built using much of the 40 series internals packed into the 30 left over case work.  It came in and sounded very much like my Three SE except it took things up to an even higher performance point.

If you get into a Whest Two, you'll be able to test drive what they are about; if you are pleased, you sell it and most likely break even and then order in an upper level Whest for obviously a lot more money, but you know what you are getting.... no surprises.   If you don't like it, you still sell it and most likely break even.   You win either way.
Slim, I have been using tube gear since the late 1970s. I’ve also built and repaired tube equipment.  I own a Hickok tube tester. I have never ever had a tube fail due to loss of vacuum, although it can happen with mishandling I guess. The major way that tubes fail is very gradual over a period of years as they lose transconductance. This is because the cathode simply wears out and eventually fails to emit electrons to the anode. This is an inevitable consequence of use.
Lew, I was not trying to imply that loss of vacuum in tubes happens quickly, I was only saying that it can happen gradually over time, as in years. But it does happen and the internals of the tubes do also alter with time due to heat as tubes get very hot like a light bulb. I have used tube testers also as you have and there is a reason we had those; it’s because we had to test the tubes for being in specification. If power amplifier tubes are driven too hard, the plates will melt, or they will warp simply with extended use.

I had a ceramic GU74B go out of spec slightly a few years ago in an Acom 2000A linear amplifier. I knew something was up as the stack temperature on the cooling was changing. I had a 3 to 5 degree temperature differential between the two tube pair. The more the amp was driven, the higher the differential and I didn’t like that as it meant one tube was doing more of the work to make output which would eventually cause it to fail (and these ceramic tetrodes are very expensive). My friend who was the US importer for this piece of gear drove up for a visit from Boston with a box of new GU74B’s; we swapped the tubes around for an hour until we found two which were very well matched and then did a realignment of the screen current to dial things in. Now the two tubes run within a degree of each other under most all conditions, even when driving the output to 2.5KW.

As I have said, I have enough issues with tubes and when I run my audio system, I would rather not be dealing with them. I much prefer high efficiency SS amps and preamps..... I love my pair of Anthem M1 monoblocks in proprietary Class D. They make no heat, are super quiet, have immense power at 2000 watts per channel and more depending on the load, liquid cooling on the output devices and they are silky smooth on upper end unlike some class D’s I have used. Anthem has their own class D circuitry which is patented; they do not use any of the standard D modules which most of the other Class D amps use. I have a Parasound Halo A51 which runs in Class A and A/b which is a very nice amp, but next to these M1’s, there just isn’t any contest. The M1’s blow the Parasound Halo out of the contest in performance.

Having 2000 watts per channel in an audio system is something which is truly wonderful. The headroom is outstanding, no distortion at all, no clipping and outstanding dynamic range/power. When I first installed my M1 pair and fired it up, it was jaw dropping. My friends at Axiom Audio (the guys who build Bryston’s speakers) keep trying to get me to bring in a pair of the Bryston 28B3 monster mono blocks.... I would love to as they run around 2000 watts each into 4 ohms, but I cannot justify the cost of the amps and question how much better they could be vs. the M1’s. If someone wants to lend me a pair to test for comparison, I’ll be happy to :)
I suppose this is another data point to suggest the Whest line perhaps isn't for me.  The Anthem M1 sound definitely isn't for me - I know plenty of folks like them and that's why we all have choices but to my ears they are less than neutral, clean, and dry but very powerful - perhaps almost best in a HT application.  If Whest appeals to the same market that enjoys these high powered Class D amps then I'm virtually certain that Whest wont work to my priorities and in my system.  This thread has been incredibly helpful and it's awesome knowing people love their equipment.  Sonic bliss is the goal after all!
Three EP,

May I ask if you have actually heard the M1 mono blocks or are you basing your experience on some other Class D amp?   The reason I ask, I know of almost no dealers who have M1's in stock due to the very high cost of them.  I bought my pair without having ever heard them, I just took a chance as I got a great deal on them.   I knew that I would not be hurt had I not liked them.  But what I found is that they are amazing units.

My brother is a professional video producer and he also worked with major national rock bands in the past.  He told me that my system is the closest he has heard to a true live performance.  BTW, he is a tube guy!
He also said that my Whest phono stage was the best he has heard.