which budget preamp?

I hope that somebody can shed some light on this for me. I'm considering a phono stage for around 400 cad.
I have thoroughly researched the ones I like to the point where I can tell you anything about them. I just don't know what they sound like. I have a Project 1.3 with an Ortofon Blue2m and a Speedboxll. Interconnects for the TT are Ecosse Composers. Tannoy 8 Reveals, Shunyata Venom 3's Mogami Gold, Mackie BigKnob. The big knob is a volume controller with a phono preamp built in. The system already sounds very clean, punchy and smooth. But I want a little more smooth AND keep the punch and clean, and I'd like the sound to open up a bit. Any suggestions?
dude....I'd help you if I could, but i don't know shit about phono pre amps....I just hated to see you get blanked on a Friday night....Best wishes from Lake Tahoe, CA,
Are you thinking new or used? Used of course has the advantage of letting you try it out and being able to sell for close to what you paid. Used preamps that I have tried and liked around under $400 cad are the Vincent PHO-8, Musical Fidelity V-LPS and Dynavector P75 MkI. I plan on getting a Dynavector cart so settled on it. One of these days I will get around to listing the others for sale...

But generally speaking, are you looking for MM only or MM/MC? Preferences for tubes or solid state?
Just pick one. You probably already know from all of your research which one you want to pull the trigger on, No?
Jolida JD-9. New just outside of your price range, used probably just within.
PLEASE SEE my fairly comprehensive answer and suggestions (just completed!) in response to "Phono pre-amp" [from] 'Pmp', also in this grouping of posts. These two inquiries ask essentially the same question, as it happens. I might add, however, that the Jolida JD-9 suggestion looks to be a good one. I recall a review that made a very emphatic point that replacing the stock tubes with much pricier vintage "classic" 12AX7's made a world of difference with this design; so you'd probably have to budget for those, as well. I'd expect that an investment in upgraded coupling caps would be worthwhile [a speculation, since I have not seen the Jolida] -- say, Russian K40Y on the cheap, if suitable values are available (possibly in conjunction with the familiar Orange Drop polypropylenes in another location, just to avoid stacking colorations -- experimenting advised), or Dynamicaps (see Michael Elliot's [Counterpoint's designer] strong endorsement at his Altavista site. There are the familiar Hovlands and Auricaps, and many others, as well. Don't mess with the EQ caps for the RIAA compensation, though; unless you can pull off tight matching of values and tolerances (not trivial), and come into some extra loot. Good luck.
hi and thank you for your input. my problem here really is tube or no tube.
i'd like a new mm stage, but it could include mc as well, for 400 bucks. i've spoken with several "experts" and they all tell me different things. one expert told me he would never go with a tube phono stage as the inherent quality of vinyl already lends itself to warm and cozy so tubes just soften the sound too much. another expert told me that ss will bring the sound closer to that of a cd. neither one appeals to me. i was curious about the jolida but one dealer said they are difficult to acquire and even more difficult to deal with should there be a problem. i like the vincent pho8 because of the big power unit but no one in calgary has ever heard of vincent. i like the tubeboxll because it matches my other tt gear, but have been told totally opposite things about it.
finally i like the rega phono because according to everybody, its awesome.
i want big clean punchy smooth and deep, and just a little more from a system that already sounds great. i told my wife this thing is the last thing i buy for the stereo, so i can't mess it up.
Well, let's see here:

"Expert" #1 gave you a lazy, well-worn, thoroughly discreditable generalization... the kind you hear from the ignorant... or somebody trying to sell you something else. Find a better "expert". And BTW, proper reproduction of vinyl is not [over]warm or "cozy". Cozy is Miss Marple soaking her feet after a long morning picking mint leaves down the lane for her Wild Rose tea. She probably still listens to a Quad 303. But I've heard a LOT of solid state systems that sound a bit like that -- boooring.

If "Expert" #2 thinks vinyl through a good solid state phono preamp sounds like a CD, he's either got one HELL of an amazing CD player... or he's got one crappy vinyl rig. More likely, he's ignorantly repeating tired old sales pitch fodder from very lonely hi-fi salesmen. Find another "expert". And YOU are absolutely right -- you don't want that.

#3 -- The "dealer expert": Jolida as unobtainium? Really?! There seems to be enough people dealing these via order-taking and drop-shipping, let alone people stocking them... You need another "dealer" -- call up Wally at Underwood; see what he says. And if you find just ONE, what do you care who else can find one? Better for you when you want to sell and upgrade, if true... however... And are the Jolida people difficult? Ask Wally. Response Audio has done Jolida mods for some time, so ask Bill, too, about the state of Jolida.

I personally have no "insider" knowledge on the matter, other than dealers I've spoken with who DO handle the line having said to me they choose Jolida because it makes their life EASIER than alternatives, not harder.

If you haven't read it, see my response to 'Pmp' -- the thread, "Phono pre-amp", referenced in my entry above. We have 3 people asking more-or-less the same question here at once. Pick up all the responses.

The Vincent might be a decent choice if you must go solid state -- I have heard two good reports from people I don't really know, but who I have some reason to believe weren't way off base. Not a hearty endorsement, I know, but I have to be honest about the circumstances. The Vincent, I expect, is an op amp design. You can almost always improve such units a lot, at modest cost, with a swap of chips to hi-test units. Many can advise you here. I agree with you that the separate power supply chassis seems promising.

But "no one in Calgary has... heard of Vincent"? Where did you check, Best Buy?! Let's see, Calgary's population is 1,071,515 at last count. I see things are a little slow up there -- sorry -- but man, your experts need to get out and about [a-boot?] more. Call Tom Myers, the U.S., and now Canadian, distributor for the brand (W.S. Distribution) -- I'll bet HE'S heard of Vincent.

The Rega phono preamp will not be "awesome", and not even close. You don't get awesome for this kind of bread -- sorry. But Rega mostly know their stuff, and would be idiots not to give this product their best shot for the bucks involved, given all the phono products they'd like to step you up to. A used Brio integrated amp off Audiogon will give you more-or-less the same thing (plus the rest, of course), and your investment won't depreciate away on you to a disappointing fraction. I believe you'll find that will be the story with low-cost solid state phono preamps: who on this site is going to buy one used? eBay? Good luck. And BTW, note that Rega have REVAMPED THE SS LINE: an opportunity to get an improved product new, perhaps; or a chance to find a last generation Brio or Mira here cheap. Watch this space. One more time, read my other post and digest it carefully. You'll thank me.
I'm happy with the Pro-Ject PhonoBox II with my RPM 1.3. I have no idea if you would like it in your system though.
Thanks seakayaker for your thoughts and advice. I will read your thread I promise. What about the tubeboxll. Not the se, can't afford it. And why is there so much modding going on. I read about a jd9 that was tweaked to the max. I get the feeling that every one of the "experts" is unhappy that I can only spend 400 bucks and unless I spend 700 or a 1000 I might as well forget about it. Which sucks cause I only have 400. My system is very entry level so spending big bucks on a phono preamp is not something I think I should do. I work in the restaurant business and I can sell you a bottle of wine for 250 bucks, if that's what you want to spend. But I can also sell you a bottle for 60 that is pretty damn delicious. One guy told me that too much of a good thing(adding tubes) can result in a real disappointment. And again how do I know they're not just trying to move certain stock? When I bought my tt I bought it because it filled three specific criteria. It was exactly the price I could afford, the motor was completely separate, and I could use my own interconnects. I have since upgraded the stylus and am very happy with it. I would have loved a clear audio concept, or even the project expression, but they were just too much. So for 400 bucks which phono preamp do you think is best?
The Jolida JD-9 is good even if you don't get NOS tubes, don't replace capacitors, etc. It's good period. Decking it out will make it even better, but that just means you have room to grow without needing to start all over again.

No need to fall into the trap the rest of us have fallen into. Plenty of time for that later. Seriously, it really is good. World beating can wait.
As an alternative how about an older preamp with a decent phono stage built in. The B&K MC101, Pro10 models have a very respectable phono stage for their price point. They do require swapping out resistors (no soldering though) to allow for proper set up. Easy to do and the manual is available online. Accommodates MM and MC. I acquired my mint MC101 for $275 plus shipping. A great bang for the buck.
I believe Sumo also has some older preamps with good phono stage. I'm sure other Agoners could offer other suggestions as well.
Good luck,
Wilsynet is correct, of course. The comments I made on the Jolida were meant to illuminate for you where it COULD go -- in time -- with a high VALUE [hint] upgrade strategy -- consideration of which should be a significant part of your thinking UP FRONT. That's how you decide the Jolida is worth it. You need to see the big picture, and it seems you're having trouble seeing much beyond price; which is NOT the same thing as value: See Oscar Wilde on this subject (though I know you won't). ALL such "entry level" devices, as some call them, rightly or wrongly, are built to a price point for perfectly understandable reasons. And guess what, so are the $3000 pieces. You'll NEVER get past this at retail (probably) unless you win the Lotto, or marry Paul McCartney. Then you can buy a Dartzeel after the divorce. Becoming a U.S. Senator shilling for Exxon-Mobil, Big Pharma, and Tobacco death-dealers seems to be out, since you're Canadian. Too bad, that seems to pay off in HOUSES.

But here you seem to be fighting to defend your own biases without having sufficient knowledge or understanding to justify so much unease. Take it easy. People here are trying to show you where the highest value-for-money choices can be found, given your stated objectives and your equipment in place. And BTW, keeping a budget (you're truly serious about) in mind is, in some respects, admirable; but I infer that yours may be too arbitrary. Unfortunately, the world rarely cooperates in offering up the true "best buys" to arbitrary price points. You seem to have this backwards: you have to first figure out where the sweet spots are price-wise (new OR used), and THEN determine your exact budget in accordance with sensible objectives. But you are having a real problem here with "advice". Your latest (local?) "expert"? Please LISTEN: Forget THAT guy, too! Please reread previous commentary until it starts to sink in. Opinions differ, yes, but somehow you've got to figure out how to separate worthwhile opinion from the Yadayadayada. Please reread all the previous posts, INCLUDING PLEASE the other post of mine I pointed you to: WHY are you coming back with pretty much the same question without even having bothered to read the answers you have ALREADY BEEN GIVEN? Didn't have three minutes? C'mon now, you are spinning your wheels!

You'll have to decide what you can do to manage your cash flow most productively in the short term. But frankly, I just don't believe this budget thing has to lead you to short-change yourself where IT REALLY MAKES A DIFFERENCE, possibly a large enough one that it could rearrange your whole perspective on what this music thing means to you and your family. E.g., I pay $10/month (or a LITTLE more IF I feel like it) for cell phone service: what do you pay? I ride the bus downtown to the library quite often -- it's amazing to sit there and see/hear the cell phone contracts in action among the bus-only-option crowd. And I have YET to overhear one meaningful conversation. Answering machines cost fifteen bucks.

This is a tale about priorities: unless your family is statistically pretty unusual, all kinds of cash gets frittered away here or there on all kinds of, objectively-speaking, ultimately unnecessary stuff. You are making a mistake if you cheap out below the PERFORMANCE level of that Jolida -- I can't be more blunt. Although, that's not to say something won't turn up on this site which could meet or exceed that level of performance for a bit less. Note, too, the Brio -- you COULD resell one of those you pick up here, when the time comes... and not lose much. Buy a new basic low end whatzitbox JUST for phono, your're gonna get hit down the road. Who here is going to want that thing used with all the substantially better performing options on offer to the vigilant? eBay? Good luck. My frank opinion. It's a live and learn thing... been at this, off and on, 47+ years (Roll your eyes, if you must)... And I reiterate, I gave you MY two (more alternative) options elsewhere. Failing to get a truly representative audition of the Jolida, I would (personally) go there first if price is that much of a concern. You asked... there's your answer from this quarter.

In addition and FYI, nobody has to be pulling high-profit bucks out of your pocket [High profit -- bottom line -- is much harder to achieve in so-called high end audio than you seem to think] for you to achieve what I suggested. The cheapest options are almost NEVER the highest value ones; nor do they tend to retain much value. The same can be said, not surprisingly, about most top-of-range offerings in many (most?) manufacturers' lines. In fact, it is often the case that the step-up model is, in fact, a step-DOWN in absolute terms. People on this site know what I'm talking about. And that doesn't necessarily mean someone's trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Often, makers and distributors themselves fail to appreciate what (in some important respects) is the best of their own lines; or are just responding to what the [often not so shrewd] "market" wants. What else is new? So cool off your suspicions a bit.

Also, direct yourself toward quality music (there are many kinds), and away from the c**p the corporations that own the airwaves and the junk media want you to buy into reflexively. This will change the way you look at investing in a system.


1.No, it DOESN'T suck because you've "only" got $400 -- that's life, that's where you are now. Come to better terms with it. You'll be happier, and probably live longer.

2.If you end up liking either of the DIY options you apparently didn't 'get to'(one of which is practically DONE for you already -- less picking up two tubes -- and costs $249!), there are plenty of people around who can help you, if you need that -- Min, at Tube Audio Lab; Tom McNally, to name two. Oh, and Abraxas Audio's another.

3.If you reconsider your situation more substantially and need to hunker down and save up for awhile, eBay is full of pretty nice $100 integrated amps with O.K. phono stages. I won a pristine Sansui AU-7500 recently, to give you an example -- in their best "McIntosh of Japan" regalia -- for $101 plus less than $20 shipping. And this is a piece people do want -- sometimes people are snoozing... Others here have done the same. If you will just put in the time and work at it, you can quickly find a nice, clean Kenwood KA-8100, something like that, for maybe just a little more money. You WILL probably need a refreshed power supply (major caps -- not a huge deal), though you can find such amps already serviced. Yes, there is some risk. No free lunches, remember? So buy something clean and nice someone else would want. Move up when you can. If you do refurb such an amp (one well-chosen), you may be able to resell it here when you are ready, or on one of the "vintage audio" forums elsewhere, for a better than typical eBay price. Note, too, that full-blown receivers often sell on eBay for less than the equivalent amps, ESPECIALLY when it comes to tube units [my Pilot 602, e.g.].

4. Want more opinions? Fine. But you're already slightly frazzled, so please get them in some orderly fashion [here]: you're not doing so hot with your "experts". All you've gotten there are some half-baked generalizations and a dose of confusion.

5. There are TWO other threads up right now, basically asking the same thing you are. Read 'em?

Good night, and good luck.
CORRECTION to my posting above -- SUBJECT: Cell Phone Service cost, in reference to domestic budgets. I pay $10 every THREE months (i.e., $3.33 per month, base rate). That makes the point (audio related, in this case) more emphatic.
The question is "what phono preamp should I buy new for 400 bucks?". I have a budget of 400.00 for a new phono preamp. If I wanted to spend 250 I'd probably by the Bellari. If I wanted to spend 2000 I might buy a Rogue or a Sutherland. But in this PRICEPOINT, I have, luckily, many different options. This is not an arbitrary amount . It is an an amount I have decided I can afford on a phono preamp. I am simply trying to find out what the best sound is gonna be, a 400.00 tube preamp or a 400.00 solid state preamp. I am seeking input and advice from people who have heard any of these particular units:

rega fono
vincent pho8
project tubeboxll
jolida jd9
clear audio nano

+1 Seakayaker. Although perhaps in not so many words.

I really do recommend the Jolida JD-9. Stop thinking about it and buy one. The JD-9 is a winning balance of price, value, and sonic quality. For more dollars, I prefer the Ray Samuels Nighthawk, but at $795 new it is outside of your target price. The Nighthawk is more transparent and is more neutral. It's so good that you'll likely want to upgrade your turntable, cartridge, line stage or amplifier before you'll run out of runway on the Nighthawk.

If you want me to really simplify it, I'll say this: The JD-9 in its stock form will not be the weak link in a system where the turntable is $800, the cartridge is $400, the amplifier is $1000, and the line stage is $1000. The Nighthawk will not be the weak link in a system at least double that value.

I do not for one moment believe that you are going to be happy long term. You're a prime candidate for the audio nervosa that has affected so many of us. So trust our advice when we say get the JD-9; it will suit your particular affliction very well and save you a bunch of cash and heartache.

I've had a lot of gear grace my system over the past few years, and the Jolida JD-9 is a winner. If you decide to upgrade, the JD-9 is more than capable of being upgraded. If you choose NOS tubes talk to Andy at Vintage Tube Services. If you choose to upgrade capacitors, a local electronics repair shop may be able to help you out. If someone suggests a resistor replacement, I'd probably skip that.

For what it's worth, the so-called experts are wrong that tubes and vinyl are warm. If by warm we mean veiled, rolled off, euphonic, then neither tubes nor vinyl are inherently so.

Vinyl is tonally full and harmonically complete. Highs are smooth, extended and beautiful. As for tubes, the variability of tube gear stretches across the continuum from one end warm, liquid and euphonic to the other end neutral clean and clear. I would submit that the so-called experts are not very expert.

Good luck -- you have my recommendation.
Well, there you go.
I'll add a few more things.

I think what is really being asked is for someone to opine whether they think the Rega is better than the Clear Audio is better than the Jolida is better than the Project, etc.

This is really hard to do, even for a dealer who may have seen a lot of gear. Everyone has their own biases, there's also such a thing as system synergy, and most people haven't heard every piece of gear mentioned.

So, hard to say really.

What one can usually offer in terms of opinion is whether they were happy with something, whether they thought it represented good value for dollar, how it may have compared to some other things that they have indeed listened to, in a very general sort of way.

Nothing beats an audition in your system, with your ears and in your room. And even that is subject to the many, many room changes, system changes, changes in listener preferences over time.

Having heard Rega, Project, VPI and Nottingham gear, I'll say that at the time I preferred my vintage JVC QL-Y66F direct drive turntable, Dynavector cart and Jolida JD-9 phono stage to any vinyl rig (turntable, cart, phono stage) that retailed less than $3000? Maybe it was $4000.

This was about 2-3 years ago, but my favorite turntable at the time was a higher end Nottingham with a Micro Benz cart. The entry level Nottingham didn't do it for me and I thought the lowly (but modified) JVC was better.
Second on the Pro-ject phono box II in MM mode with my Pro-ject Xpression III and Ortofon MC-3 Turbo. I am using an Audio Refinement (YBA) Pre5 + Multi5 and Tekton 6.5t front end. Might be trading in the Pre5 + Multi5 for a Rogue Cronus Magnum very soon. :)
Graham amp SE 2, this is a very good budget phono pre.

I saw a Minimax phone pre today,for $600 and that's starting to get near the best of em.

You could go after a used NAD amp with a phono pre built in....I thought the 3020a had a good phono pre.
That Minimax deal was EXACTLY the kind of thing I had in mind in making my lengthy point about audio budgets. Bet I know who DIDN'T get it. And that's too bad.