Hey there! We have spent the past 4-5 months running a new Rega P9 through the Ray Samuels F117 (battery powered SS) phono stage in our system to get a feel for our system and to establish a baseline. Generally speaking, we thoroughly enjoyed the F117, especially when you consider the price. More recently, our neighbor brought over his new Ear 834P and we were impressed by the immediate and notable difference. The tonal differences were significant, and while the F117 seemed to have more "detail" on the higher end, the Ear was more pleasing. This in turn irritated that upgradeitis I sometimes get, and accelerated my plans to start looking at more robust phono stages. But we'll still keep the F117, because it is a nice little bugger. So with this in mind, we're looking to start auditioning some phono stages. Our budget can go to $7K, in the right set of circumstances, but we're confident there are some solid products out there for less money than that. Keeping this in mind, we wanted to ask you all for input and recommendations. For this project, we're really interested in tubed products, but will consider the solid states. So if you have a great recommendation to go with our Rega P9 Turntable, and can provide some insight into why you love the phono stage you are writing about, we'd really appreciate it. Also, if you have any of the following products and can comment, please let us know. 1 Rega Ios - Per Tone Pub, we are considering this because of the Rega Synergy. 2. Ear 834P - we already have access to this, and will use it in any comparison we do. 3. Manley Labs - Steelhead RC Phono Stage. Yes, I know it's slightly more than our budget. But it may just be worth it. (BTW, TP, we read your review on it from issue ~24). 4. Rogue Audio - Ares - This is one but ugly product..., but it sure is an interesting product, especially given its price point in relation to the Ear. We would REALLY LOVE to hear from anyone who has pulled the trigger on this one, in particular! 5. Pass Labs XP-15 - we have a Pass amp, and love it. So it seems natural to want to try this one. Not sure, though, how it would compare. We are working on a demo of this, but still would love to have some input on it. 6. Audio Research's PH6 and or PH7. TP reportedly has a review coming out on this or one of these. The AR products are very cool, and we are definitely considering this for a trial, if we can find one. Any other solid recommendations would be welcome. Also, if you have any experience with more than one of the products referenced above, please share your thoughts on how you'd rate them. Thanks in advance for all of your time and input. We fully intend to audition stuff, but for now, we need some help sorting this out. Finding dealers that will let you audition items in your home is not always easy, and sometimes you have to rely upon what people say and share. I've had really good success doing this in this fashion so far with all of our equipment. Our only missfire - a Class D amp. Class D just was not our cup of tea, and we really love our Pure Class A that we have now!