Your Pick of Phono Preamps Between $2k and $4k?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Cliff, Apr 15, 2017.

  1. Cliff

    Cliff Magic Carpet Man Thread Starter

    Northern CA
    I'm looking to upgrade my Phonomena Phono Pre. There are tons of threads on budget phono preamps but very few in this price range. I'm open to either tubed or SS designs. What are your recommendations?
    reapers and Ivand like this.
  2. Jimi Floyd

    Jimi Floyd Forum Resident

    In that price range, I own an Ayre P-5xe and I cannot but recommend it.

    Type: SS

    Advantages: designed to be powered on 24/24, it is always warm and ready when you want to play LPs. balanced and unbalanced input and output. fully balanced design. zero-feedback. MM/MC. Adjustable gain, adjustable loading. Easy custom loading. incredibly low noise. huge dynamics.

    How it sounds: totally neutral, imagine a wire with (RIAA) gain. no timbre or character of its own, it lets the turntable/cartridge sound pass unaltered and shiningly clean to the preamp/line stage.
    bluemooze likes this.
  3. Cliff

    Cliff Magic Carpet Man Thread Starter

    Northern CA
    Thank you @Jimi Floyd. That looks like a very nice piece!
  4. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Forum Resident

    South Bend, IN
    If my Chinook ever gets here, I'll be able to compare it to my iFi iPhono 2 which, as I understand, compares equally to the Phonomena 2. Do you have the original phonomena or the newer one and regardless, are you using the battery power supply with it currently?
  5. mreeter

    mreeter Forum Resident

    Midwest, USA
    I own a Rogue Audio Ares, it is very quite with a separate power supply, very adjustable via dip switches, and is a tube based circuit. The Ares responds well to various tubes and has been trouble free for three years now.

    The Ares also has an onboard Cinemag SUT for the MC/Low Output duties, which is upgraded to the Cinemag 1254 in their new "Magnum" offerings.

    Ares and Ares Magnum

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Front: Click to enlarge Back: Click to enlarge

    An ultra-high performance low noise tube phono preamplifier for low, medium, and high output mc and mm cartridges.
    Truly fantastic sounding!

    Magnum version now available!

    Download product literature here

    Read a review by Scot Hull here

    Read a review at 10 Audio here

    Read a review at here

    [​IMG]Click to enlarge

    - Toroidal transformer
    - Internal settings with most popular loading options
    - Internal setting for 150 Picofared or 0 capacitance loading
    - Three gain settings: 40dB, 55dB, 64dB

    - Timer delayed start for minimum turn-on noise

    - Subsonic filtering
    - Ultra heavy-duty gold RCA inputs
    - Precision components throughout
    - Machined aluminum faceplate
    - Heavy (2 ounce) copper circuit boards
    - Teflon/silver plated hook-up wire
    - Detachable IEC power cord

    - 17" W x 9" D x 5.5" H

    - Shipping weight 21lb
    - Entirely designed and built in the USA

    - 3 year limited warranty (six months on tube

    I will be receiving my Ares back from Rogue on Monday with the "Magnum" upgrade completed.

    Rogue Audio Ares Magnum:
    The Magnum is cosmetically identical to the Rogue Audio Ares. It features component upgrades.

    • It uses a better step up transformer, Cinemag 1254, that provides more gain (about 10dB more) and better sound.
    • The Ares Magnum uses better inner-stage coupling caps.
    • PRP resistors in critical spots
    • Improved internal wiring
    • Improved RCA jacks
  6. mkane

    mkane Musics a Passion

    Sutherland for starters or if you're into tubes a PH16. Darn, why did it type PH16. Tempted, really tempted.
    HiFi Guy and nitsuj like this.
  7. Litejazz53

    Litejazz53 Enjoying Sparkling Crystal Clear Digital

    Well, I will offer my two cents. For many years I have used inexpensive $200. to $450. phono stages. I thought if I don't make the plunge now, I never will, so I purchase the Parasound JC-3+, a beefed up version of the original JC-3. I think there is now a new one coming out, even more beefed up over the JC-3+, but let me just say, this is a wonderful, "beautifully made" phono pre-amp. The others mentioned in this thread are wonderful, but I can certainly vouch for close to perfection with the JC-3+. Here is a quick recap of the original JC-3, and you can clearly see extreme quality construction. I hope you consider this wonderful product.

  8. Subvet

    Subvet Great music has great lyrics, or none at all.

    Southern Maine
    I'm hoping to upgrade my phono stage in that same price range. The Ayre P-5xe looks interesting as does the Pass Labs XP-15.
    dvcarrick, jawaka1000 and Cliff like this.
  9. Cliff

    Cliff Magic Carpet Man Thread Starter

    Northern CA
    I have the Phono II+. It's the newest model with no battery power. Please check in once you've compared the iFi with the Manley! The Chinook and Rogue Ares are at the top of my list for tubed stages.
    toddrhodes and mreeter like this.
  10. Cliff

    Cliff Magic Carpet Man Thread Starter

    Northern CA
    I've heard great things about Sutherland. I've read things like 'they're very tube-like in sound' - whatever that means though. I assume they mean it's warm in the treble region? Which would be a huge plus indeed.
  11. tiller

    tiller Forum Resident

    I recently built Kevin Carter's Trio Phono and it is an incredible performer. His company, K&K Audio, do an assembled and slighty upgraded version of the Trio called the Maxxed Out Phono - K&K Audio | Maxxed Out Phono Stage . It's in the middle of your budget and I'd hazard to guess you'd be hard pressed to do much better than this. In my opinion of course. Kevin was the designer behind the Art Audio Vinyl One preamp if I'm not mistaken. Anyway, great service from Kevin and stunning sound. My 2c
    MarkNC and Cliff like this.
  12. thesisinbold

    thesisinbold Forum Resident

    Camarillo, Ca, USA
    lfd SE. it's what I have. It's what I love. I think it was 1300 new.
  13. innocent_bystander

    innocent_bystander Well-Known Member

    Anaheim, CA
    Never tried/owned... But Im interested in Zesto Andros 1.2
    sfoclt and Cliff like this.
  14. jeff kleinberg

    jeff kleinberg Forum Resident

    Definitely consider used, I got a Lamm LP2 in your price range. Probably my last phonopre, especially with NOS WE tubes upgraded from the chinook which I loved, especially with amperex 7308's. A good power cable is key also IMHO.
    Cliff likes this.
  15. BigGame

    BigGame Forum Resident

    I am also looking for phono stage in this price range (used).
    Do you have any experience with AudioResearch PH 6 & PH 8.
    Rest of the system:
    AudioResearch LS27
    Krell KSA200s
    SonusFaber Cremona M
    Transrotor dark star silver shadow - SME 309 - Ortofon 2M Black ( next one should be MC )

    PS Audio look interesting.
  16. jlykos

    jlykos Forum Resident

    Parts Unknown
    I auditioned the Sutherland 20/20 and thought that it was fantastic. I didn't detect any "tube-like" qualities (for that, you need to go with real tubes), but it had an absolutely silent background, a totally coherent presentation, and tons of detail without being sharp or edgy. It was a great value for the price at around $2,200 for the unit.

    I eventually went with an Acoustic Plan Phonomaster SE because I found one used on Audiogon for a great price. It is a tube design and is perhaps the single most important component that I have in my stereo. Backgrounds are not nearly as silent as with the Sutherland, but I can "see into" the music to a degree that nothing else can match. They cost around $4,500 new and it may be worth your time to audition one if you like tubes.
    bluemooze, Dennis0675 and Cliff like this.
  17. KOWHeigel

    KOWHeigel Forum Resident

    Manlius, NY
    I have a Herron PTPH-2 and love it. Whisper quite and very accurate reproduction.
  18. sfoclt

    sfoclt Well-Known Member

    Yes, this is what I'd look at in this price range.

    Andros 1.2 Phonostage
  19. KOWHeigel

    KOWHeigel Forum Resident

    Manlius, NY

    woops had a brain fart ... I meant VTPH-2
    fldveloce and Steve0 like this.
  20. roboss38

    roboss38 Forum Resident

    Clovis, CA U.S.A.
    I use a Zesto Andros 1.2 with my VPI Prime/Ortofon Quintet Black, and it's an awesome combination. I listened to about 10 phono stages in your price range, and for me the Zesto was the clear winner.
  21. Olias of Sunhill

    Olias of Sunhill Forum Resident

    Jim Creek, CO, USA
    I have a Chinook and think it's lovely. Love the flexibility and the dynamic sound. That said, it's far more phono section than I need for my Rega RP6/Exact setup, so I'll probably be moving it soon.
  22. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Forum Resident

    South Bend, IN
    Mine just got here! I like it so far, but it's way too early to judge and I feel like it and the tubes inside need a healthy amount of break-in. Sounds a little glaring depending on the material and volume level right now but you can tell, beneath that layer burning off, there's magic in here. It definitely brings macrodynamics (thanks @avanti1960!) up a notch and now, even microdynamics, I think, are showing up that I had not noticed before. And, as I expected from the reviews, any song with a brass instrument in it is a revelation now.

    What's really interesting is that it is not quieter than my iPhono 2. The iPhono 2 is eerily quiet; the Manley is definitely quiet but not to the level of the iFi. That's a minor nitpick though, we're not talking about a noise floor increase of several dB, just going from "super quiet" to "really quiet" if that makes sense.
  23. Cliff

    Cliff Magic Carpet Man Thread Starter

    Northern CA
    Congrats! Please post your thoughts after ~50 hours or so! But the glaring definition has me a little concerned. Normally when it's there, it stays there, IME. But tube rolling is always an option.
  24. Mike 33

    Mike 33 Active Member

    The Netherlands
    Did get a Lehmannaudio Decade in november.

    Does a bit more than 2k$ in the US so it seems but in Europe I got one for €1350.
  25. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Forum Resident

    South Bend, IN
    I certainly will. It's definitely a different presentation than the iPhono 2 and I would bet tube rolling will help but I'm not jumping right to that. I don't buy much "new" gear but this thing is right off the truck brand new, so I'm holding off any judgment for awhile. I did buy a brand new NuPrime amp that was a little shrill in the beginning but it opened up after about 20-30 hours and was a very, very solid amp. So, I'm not overly concerned, especially since this is tube gear with presumably brand new tubes in it that I think will mellow out a touch (and trust me, it's not going to take much, it's not like the thing sounds like metallic glass or anything).

    It does have a very sweet, articulate topend and the midrange is good. Bass guitar, so far, articulates well and there is plenty of "slam" in this unit for my tastes.

    With that said, I think the fact it isn't simply blowing the doors off the iPhono 2 is quite a testament to what that little brick is capable of. It's a good time to like audio/stereo, IMO.

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