Tavish Adagio, Parasound JC3+, JC3 Jr or something else in the $1.5K - $3K

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by TheVinylAddict, Apr 23, 2018.

  1. TheVinylAddict

    TheVinylAddict Forum Resident Thread Starter

    ANOTHER phono preamp thread..... :)

    I am finding that choosing one in this price range is tough. (shocker, eh?) I'd love to hear what you are running, and / or what you think is a good contender. I offered three to get the discussion started, but wouldn't be surprised to see the Manley or Herron come up. :) among others. Please offer pro / con and any comparisons you have personally done if you can... always helps the recommendation if you have experienced more than one.

    I also don't mind the tubes vs SS discussion either - it's been 25 years since I have had tubes of any kind in my system, and still debating if I want to moving forward. There is overhead to owning tubes of course - the additional expense and potential tube rolling rabbit hole, then there is the warmup time also....

    This next purchase will be "next level" compared to my current preamp.

    The system it will be running on: Parasound P5 Preamp -> Parasound A21 Amp
    Turntables: Yammy GT-2000, Denon DP-59L and Kenwood KP-9010
    Current phono preamps: Lounge LCR standalone, Lounge / Copla for Moving Coil, Schitt Mani and Vincent Pho 8

    Some pro / con to get started:

    Tavish Adagio:

    • Pro - All analog / discrete design, good perceived price to value, separate power supply, two inputs - both MM and MC tables can run on it with the flip of a switch, gain adjustments (this is a BIG plus for me). Also supporting a small business, which I always think is a plus in the audio world.
    • Con - tubes additional expense, warmup time, and not many user testimonial / reviews - have to rely on the "pro" reviews where everything is good :). May be no support five years down the road since it is a small company, so taking a risk there. Also 10-12 week wait time, have to wait to get it.

    Parasound JC3+:
    • Pro - "Synergy" with my Parasound P5 / A21, good reviews from users, separate mono signal path construction for L/R inputs. Support is good, Parasound will probably be around for a while.
    • Con - pricey, not many loading options, power supply not separate, surprising number of discussions / feedback of hum even with the P5 / A21, some users have returned it. Only one input (MC or MM) at the $3K price point.

    Parasound JC3 Jr:

    • Pro - 1/2 the price of the JC3+, more and more user reviews popping up positive, synergy with my P5 / A21. Good support.
    • Con - If MC is a requirement then LOMC in the 0.25 - 0.5mv range may not have enough gain. Above 0.5mv LOMC as a starting point. Competition is stiff at this price point also as there are many others to choose from
    Again, just because I listed three, don't be shy about offering why you think there is a better choice --- with experience / comparison between any being a big plus!

    Thanks in advance for your insight.
     
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  2. Dubmart

    Dubmart Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    Gold Note PH-10

    Pros
    Option to run two decks, so double value.
    Non RIAA curves, great if you play lots of fifties vinyl.
    Incredibly easy to use from the single knob and screen.
    Upgrades in the pipeline including a dedicated power supply.
    Very well made.


    Vertere Phono 1

    Pros
    Can handle just about any cart.
    Sounds absolutely fantastic.
    Cost, £995, a bargain for the performance.

    Cons
    Not sure you can get it in the States.
     
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  3. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Tavish Adagio, all the way, I myself have eyes trained on that one. The MC stage of that unit is transformer-coupled, i.e. - it has a built-in SUT! The stock one comes with 1:10 SUT, optionally, you can order it with 1:12. All with adjustable loading! It doesn't get better than that, conceptually, if you plan to run LOMC carts. The MM section's 44 dB gain is also somewhat of a marvel for an all-tube phono pre, and hits a sweet spot, allowing you to run carts with as little as perhaps 2.5 mV output comfortably. With the optional 1:12 step up, carts as low as about .25 mV output will do fine.

    As far as "it's a small company" reasoning goes - to me, it seems that indeed only the small companies strive to give you value for your money, i.e. produce gear that is reasonably priced, compared to big names' units with similar performance. Try to get anything on the level of Lounge LCR or Parks Budgie for the $300 and $399, respectively, from a big well-known brand. - No chance, they will casually charge you triple and quadruple, and will not even measure up, in may cases! To get something like the Tavish Adagio from a big name - easily expect to spend $6,000 - $8,000, as opposed to their $2,300, 1:12 option included.
     
  4. HiFi Guy

    HiFi Guy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    Don't forget the Sutherland Insight or 20/20.
     
  5. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Warm-up time with the Chinook was mere seconds. Don't let that stop you.

    As for support, Oppo recently folded. Buying anything has a certain amount of risk involved. Typically, class A devices are made by hand and therefore should be quite easy for any tech worth his salt to fix it. If the device is made on PCB with machines, that'd be a different story.
     
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  6. displayname

    displayname Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dallas
    I'll second this. Two options in your price point. Both dual mono designs. Mountains of positive reviews. I can't compare these to anything on your list, but I can tell you I've been extremely happy with my 20/20.
     
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  7. TheVinylAddict

    TheVinylAddict Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Good point, I actually sent Scott Reynolds a note at Tavish after posting, and he said if the unit has been off for an extended period (like a week) then 15-20 min warm up is not out of the question.... but if you use it regularly, especially daily, warmup time is "within minutes".

    See, I have been away and busy --- I did not know that! Shows how much I am paying attention.

    Yes, some things are self-evident... it comes down to degree of risk.. but there are no guarantees. I still like supporting small companies like Tavish (and Lounge)... made and innovated in the USA. Plus I agree, given the Class A design, most repairs won't be overly complex.
     
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  8. TheVinylAddict

    TheVinylAddict Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Duly noted, Sutherland makes many and many great stages --- and I have looked at these a number of times. I would have to look again to see why I may have not put it on the current short list...

    .... is there ANYTHING you don't like about it, could be better, or wish it had more configurability, etc?
     
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  9. displayname

    displayname Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dallas
    Personally I haven't run into any issues with it at all. I came from an iPhono2 which I really enjoyed. The main thing I was really hoping for was taming the high end a little more, an even more quiet unit, and in general just a bit more of everything. That's exactly what I got. The biggest surprise was how much it cleaned up the bass, which I didn't even previously consider a problem. The added front-to-back depth of the soundstage was a nice change I didn't expect either. It is also amazingly quiet. I could 100% walk right by the system and not realize it was on if I didn't look at it. I personally was drawn to the 20/20 after listening to Ron talk about his design philosophy in a YouTube interview. The power filtration and the true dual mono design really interested me, and this unit couldn't be more dual mono unless they put it in two boxes.

    I haven't experimented with a bunch of different carts, but it is possible that some people might want more loading options. It has 5 loading and 5 gain options. I'd imagine they cover 99% of the market, but I imagine their might be some carts that demand a little more. I don't know what those might be, but I'm sure they are out there.
     
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  10. 4011021

    4011021 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brazil
    I've read a lot about the JC3+ and I'm about to order one, I don't remember reading about this issue. Now this worries me because where I live it wouldn't be easy to have it serviced and return is always a pain.
     
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  11. TheVinylAddict

    TheVinylAddict Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Here is one place - this is a long thread, but a good read... more than one person had hum issues with JC3+. vpiforum.com • View topic - Parasound Halo JC3+ Incoming

    What does this mean? Like anything, could be a lot of factors, even the users system or even user error... there are a couple of other sources I read recently where this was mentioned though, one I think was in the comments of the Pro reviews, a couple of users commented on returning the JC3+ due to hum, one said it was there on two separate units - one I think was even using the P5 / A21.

    Just sharing some of the information I saw, I did a fair amount of searching on the JC3+.

    Still think it's a great stage though.
     
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  12. TheVinylAddict

    TheVinylAddict Forum Resident Thread Starter

    You sound like the Pro Reviews - "everything is perfect"! :) Come on, there has to be something.... :D

    Seriously, thanks for the feedback.
     
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  13. swvahokie

    swvahokie Forum Resident

    Higher level Sutherlands are better than my KCVibe, but I can't afford them. I think that flat out sucks. If Sutherland was all that, he could give us Phono Block performance for 300 dollars. ;)
     
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  14. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    The phono preamp game is definitely a specialized one in order to make it work with your system and cartridge. Going the SUT route seems reasonable but internal SUTs may not be optimized as best as possible for your cartridge. Then there is the idea for the best possible gain and loading options for a given cartridge. Some cartridges are sensitive to gain- meaning that too little gain gives an anemic sound while too much gain and you have compression, grit and noise. Another choice is to use tubes or no tubes. I prefer tube phono preamps with solid state amplification and vice versa. So be careful.
    I am in the process of evaluating a Sutherland 20/20 because of the Stereophile Class A review as well as talking to many people at AXPONA recently. My goal was pristine, electronic artifact free vinyl playback for my LOMC and so far it is delivering quite well.
    I came from a Lehmann Black Cube SEII which was no slouch either and by far the best sounding value in its price range.
    In fact the bass filters worked so well making the bass sound tighter and more powerful that I truly miss that feature with the Sutherland. If the 20/20 had a low cut filter it would be an easy decision. I'm giving the 20/20 time to break in (word is that it takes quite a while) so I am keeping my options open and may return it for something else- possibly a Luxman E-250 or Musical Fidelity Nu Vista Vinyl.
    If anyone has experience with those please chime in!
     
  15. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    If this was an allusion to the Tavish - I can reiterate that while it has an internal SUT, it still has a user-adjustable, front-panel loading dial up to 500 Ohm, which makes it suitable for a huge array of LOMC carts on the market today. I'm sure there are exotic carts out there, but almost every cart I've been looking at nowadays falls into the "under 500 Ohm" recommended loading.

    Adagio Vacuum Tube Phono Stage (MM / MC)
     
  16. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    not necessarily about the Tavish. Other concerns include gain (of the SUT and system) as well as SUT device. I would not want a SUT if it wasn't made by Cinemag.
     
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  17. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    I will honestly admit to not knowing the difference between Cinemag, Lundahl, Jensen, Beyerdynamic, or Tango, to go even more exotic. A SUT is a SUT, as far as I know. At the moment, I do not own a single one. Instead, I have a Hagerman Piccolo2 - an active head amp, which I like very much, indeed. I have been considering a SUT for a while, and have been lost in the sea of possibilities and price points - anything from $289 for custom unit by H Devices in Germany, to well over $1,000 from Bob's Devices here in the US, plus everything in between, like Denon, Ortofon, Rothwell, Bellari, Parks, and a few others.

    To have an educated opinion, I would have to have owned a few of them, which certainly isn't a cheap way to earn experience, as SUT prices go. That's why I was somewhat excited about what the Tavish Adagio offers - a built-in SUT in a high-quality tube phono with adjustable loading. It just seems a reasonable solution that kills more than two birds with one stone. Is it "optimal" for any one specific cartridge? - probably not. Does it work well enough with more than a few? - I'm sure it does, judging from rave reviews and constant "sold out" status. Myself - I would feel more than comfortable buying one. The OP, of course, has a free hand to choose his way.
     
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  18. varyat

    varyat Forum Resident

    Location:
    wheaton,IL,USA
    Something else...
    If you will be sticking with your current cartridge, do consider the Tron Convergence. The designer, Graham Tricker, will build you one to your specific needs. This is a giant killer phono stage for the price . Only downside is that it is not adjustable by the user. A restriction for future cartridge swapping but can be sent back for modification if required.
    These are hand built phono stages assembled with utmost care. Very highly recommended:righton:!
    ATB,
    Mark
     
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  19. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    Just like tubes, the SUTs will all have their own flavor, no one can know them all. The Tavish comes stock with Jensen 44 transformers that you can buy in singles for about $100, fairly inexpensive in todays SUT market, but not a bad SUT at all and widely used in the audio world, especially by DIY types custom building them into preamps since they are fairly compact, though as you may suspect, it won't have some of the "magic" properties proclaimed in the higher end ones, and can only be configured for the a gain of 10 (20dB). But a good deal, so used in a number of quality products.

    I have and am using a pair of nice Swedish Lundahl LL1933, which were $180 each from the US distributor, Kevin at K&K Audio. I built them into my Conrad Johnson phono preamp, and didn't want too much extra gain so have them wired for a gain of 8 (18dB), and run my preamp at either 40dB or 46dB gain setting, which is plenty since my CJ 17LS2 line preamp has 26dB gain. They can also be wired for gain of 16, and have other similar models with higher winding ratios. The base models are wound with Cardas copper, but if you have a lot of leftover cash from your big lottery win, they have silver wire versions too.

    Cinemag makes some really nice transformers too, and like Jensen, are down in the LA area of southern California. They've gained a lot of notoriety in the audio world in the last decade or so via Bob's Devices, who has some exclusive distribution deals with some of their best transformers. I think the best model they offer to the public is the CM-1254, for about the same cost as the Lundahl at $180 each. Bob's Devices used to package that model, but then moved to the hand wound 1131 version, and now a new Sky model which he retails for around $1200 in the stereo package. They have the same dual input windings as the Lundahl, but have center taps so you can choose from three winding ratios depending on how connected, as opposed to just two.

    But the sky is really the limit, and like tubes, some prefer the old style vintage transformers, either NOS or scavenged from old equipment. Metal recycling contamination and all that, hard to get the same purity in the core these days :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2018
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  20. displayname

    displayname Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dallas
    Haha, that's fair enough. I honestly haven't had a significant amount of time with other units in this arena. I went with the Sutherland due to the positive reviews, the design philosophy and a little luck on the used market. I also selected it because I had a few goals for the preamp, and from what I read with about the 20/20 it would meet those goals... and it did. So all I can really say is that it 100% lived up to the hype and I have no desire to look elsewhere in this price point. I'm sure there are some really great options that push closer to the $3K price point (and maybe a few closer to $1.5K), but I also think most of the ones worth reviewing will solid and the sound will be more "different" than "better." There are still compromises at this point, but I think this range is where good system matching creates a bigger leap than a best in class "giant killer." I can say that a lot of people seem very happy with their Sutherlands, and I also enjoy that it's not set up to tinker with settings. That could be a big downside to some people. I know if I could tweak the impedance on the fly, I would constantly. I would almost never sit and enjoy the music. I'd always be looking for a tweak to be made.

    I think you need to think about not only where your system is now, but where it might go. I know my system started with the speakers outpacing the rest of the system. So I've been deciding what my upgrade order should be, and what the goals are for each component. I think that makes upgrades a lot easier. Decide what you want your preamp to do, and focus on one that's know for that. For example, you'll notice I didn't say the Sutherland made my soundstage wider, because it didn't. It did add some depth, and that very possibly could be largely credited to the cleaned up bass. If I wanted more through the walls soundstage a different phono might have been the answer.
     
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  21. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Honestly, there must be a limit somewhere, or it will bloom into a full-blown OCD. Cart/styli characters, tube-rolling, thousand-dollar power cords/ interconnects, and now transformer "flavors". I strive towards "perfection" as much as the next audiophile guy, but I hope to stay sane in the process... :wtf:
     
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  22. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    Well, if you know the names of more than five SUT makers, that ship may have already sailed ... :)

    Like tubes, buying a SUT does seem kinda like the wild west, there's really no way to know what it might sound like with your cartridge and preamp until it's between your cartridge and preamp, or even what it might sound like with your next cartridge. But they do usually wind up sounding good, and usually better than no SUT.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2018
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  23. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    :mudscrying:
     
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  24. swvahokie

    swvahokie Forum Resident

    The 20/20 is good enough for you to upgrade everything else in your system before you need worry about it. You need a big upgrade at TT before you can even approach the Sutherlands limit. Since you are in the USA, I would look at either the Rega P6, Technics GR, or VPI Scout Prime. Also, budget for a good low output MC.
     
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  25. swvahokie

    swvahokie Forum Resident

    Davey is right, you are ready for your straight jacket. Most folks are ready to be committed once they have more than 2 turntables hooked up. It took me about 25 years away to get over my first round of audiophilia. Its a terrible affliction, and can cost you everything. I'm wearing a safety belt this time.
     
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