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

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

  1. roboss38

    roboss38 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Clovis, CA U.S.A.
    I have a couple friends with Chinooks, and they actually take about 100 hours to really sing. Enjoy your Chinook!
     
    toddrhodes likes this.
  2. psulioninks

    psulioninks Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Kansas City, USA
    I've had many phono stages in my system over the years...the most recent being:

    Sutherland Ph3D
    Manley Chinook
    Whest PS.30RDT
    McIntosh MP100

    What you are using it for and your needs will largely dictate your options, but nothing is as important as how your piece integrates with the rest of your components.

    If you are ripping vinyl, noise is an issue - and that may rule out some options. For instance, I rip a lot of vinyl...and having two sets of output is important to me because if I just want to play a record now and then...I don't want to have to use my ADC. Also, having a mono switch is extremely useful if you are ripping vinyl as it makes getting the correct channel balance easy before ripping a stereo LP.

    If you're just listening to LPs for pleasure on your turntable, then the features mentioned above may not be important to you.

    I will give you my very quick take on the phono stages above...

    Sutherland Ph3D - extremely quiet due to the use of batteries - definitely has a forward characteristic and a pronounced bass. Has a decent set of loading and gain settings. Can make some laid back LPs in your collection come to life, though at the expense of making others sound too "in your face". I never liked the Sutherland with modern recordings. No mono switch and only one set of inputs/outputs.

    Manley Chinook - tube stages have the benefit of allowing you to somewhat tailor the sound by swapping tubes. Loved the tone of this piece with NOS tubes. However, just had too much noise for my liking when ripping vinyl (and this was using different sets of tubes). Lots of gain and load settings. If you're just spinning LPs and don't like messing with gain/load settings once they are set, this unit is hard to beat. No mono switch and only one set of inputs/outputs.

    Whest PS.30RDT - about as quiet as the Sutherland, but with the opposite sonic character. Sounds awesome with modern recordings, but can be a bit lacking in the lower registers with albums from the 60's-80's. Nice gain and load setting options, but again...best suited for a "set it and forget it" type of user. No mono switch, but has two sets of outputs.

    McIntosh MP100 - This is a tweaker's delight as the load and capacitance settings are controlled on the front of the unit. Only has two fixed gain settings (one for MM and one for MC), but does have two inputs. Has a mono switch AND two sets of outputs along with a built-in ADC for ripping vinyl. It sounds less romantic and warm than the tubed Chinook and straddles the line between the Sutherland and Whest as far as frequency extremes. I have read some reviews that mention a "cool and clinical" sound with this unit. I would definitely say it is not warm...but I think it is more neutral than cool - it's most similar to the Whest, but with better bass reproduction. I mention this as the Whest is a very highly regarded phono stage.

    But as I mentioned earlier...NOTHING takes the place of trying a unit in YOUR system. These are my findings when used with the equipment in MY system.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
    Johnny Vinyl, toddrhodes and mreeter like this.
  3. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Bend, IN
    One of the reasons I went with the Chinook is that my stereo pre has a mono switch; that was something I wanted to sort out one way or another. I do wish it had balanced outputs but beyond that, it fit what I was looking for. Solid description of it as well just based on 4-5 hours of listening to it so far.
     
  4. psulioninks

    psulioninks Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Kansas City, USA
    Yup. As you crave more convenience features, that's largely when added costs come into play. Most phono preamps are adjusted internally or on the rear of the unit. Not a problem for a one-time set-up. If you want to be able to control this from the front, that will take more $. More outputs? Generally means more money. You really have to decide what is most important for your application and then get the best sounding piece for your system that fits within your budget. Unfortunately, that is a lot harder to achieve than it sounds.
     
    toddrhodes likes this.
  5. psulioninks

    psulioninks Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Kansas City, USA
    I also wanted to mention that if you want to explore another tube-based piece. Quicksilver recently redesigned their stand alone phono stage which I think retails for about $1,500 or so. Not a lot of bells and whistles, but it could be a nice option for someone just looking to spin vinyl as long as the cartridge they used worked well with this minimalist unit.

    I mention this piece as I recently purchased their affordable tubed line stage and have been blown away at how this piece sounds for $1,000...it's really sensational.
     
  6. AmericanHIFI

    AmericanHIFI Active Member

    Location:
    California
    Herron Audio VTPH 2- $3650.
    As good as anything out there and still underpriced. I've used one as a part of (and on its own) a Herron system for 8 years now. It has replaced an entry level FM Acoustics phono, and a Tom Evans Groove + (that broke more than it worked).
    You owe it to yourself to audition one otherwise you'll never know what you're missing.
     
  7. psulioninks

    psulioninks Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Kansas City, USA
    Maybe under-priced compared to what other companies are charging for their stages. LOL

    I did not consider this piece in my search as it did not have enough of the features I was looking for, but if I were just going to spin vinyl, I think I would certainly want to hear it in my system before I bought anything else.
     
  8. dogpile

    dogpile Forum Resident

    Location:
    YYZ - Canada
    Cliff.

    You should really consider the ZYX Artisan.

    It's battery powered MM/MC and ideal for cartridges with 0.4 mV and above with 100-125 ohm loads.

    I've seen them on the used market for around $2000 and less.

    No loading options, quality materials and compact design - Made In Japan.

    Happy hunting :cool:
     
    Cliff likes this.
  9. Cliff

    Cliff Magic Carpet Man Thread Starter

    Location:
    Northern CA
    Your last sentence sums up my experience with higher-end phono stages. At least when compared to my MS Phonomena II+. I tried a near $5k unit and I didn't like it nearly as much. It sounded more digital than the Phonomena. I don't want to make that mistake again. Thanks for the update and look forward to hearing more as you put some hours on it.
     
    SandAndGlass and toddrhodes like this.
  10. Cliff

    Cliff Magic Carpet Man Thread Starter

    Location:
    Northern CA
    Wow thanks for all of that :) Funny you mention vinyl rips. I do a ton of them. Although with my setup, I can listen and record at the same time. I simply use my Zone 2 outputs into a Tascam DA-3000. So noise is always a concern. And being as I haven't gone tubed yet in my main system, I am a little worried about (too much) tube rush in the recordings. I've always leaned toward SS phono preamps for this reason. But I've heard many state that good tubed pre's can be as silent as SS pre's.
     
  11. psulioninks

    psulioninks Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Kansas City, USA
    I use a tube preamp, but I prefer to capture my rips without coloring them in any way with tubes. Never had much luck with tube phono stages, as you say, always too much tube rush which is then clearly present on the rip when I am cleaning it up on my headphones. If I were just spinning vinyl for pleasure, then I would have had no issue with them.
     
  12. Cliff

    Cliff Magic Carpet Man Thread Starter

    Location:
    Northern CA
    Thanks man. That makes this a lot less painful. I'll look for a very capable SS pre then.
     
  13. tman53

    tman53 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Pa
    I also own a Chinook and at first I was a bit concerned that the initial sound was it. But, after a number of hours (50) it has just blossomed. Now it appears with each listen I hear something new. It is easily the best phono stage I've ever owned.
     
  14. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Bend, IN
    I'm listening to a little Mclaughlin/De Meola/De Lucia Passion Grace & Fire right now and it is sublime. Pretty well gob-smacked. I think I have all of 5 hours on it so I know she's got a lot longer to go.

    [​IMG]

    Played through Dark Side of the Moon earlier and that was great, all the raw, analog sound I crave but with just a bit more mustard on the hot dog; it takes instrument separation and focus up a notch or two and I didn't know that was really possible given how well my setup did that after adding the Statement D2 and Odyssey amp. But, I will say that breaking this thing in is getting easier by the hour ;)
     
    Cliff likes this.
  15. innocent_bystander

    innocent_bystander Member

    Location:
    Anaheim, CA
    how do like the zesto andros?
     
  16. roboss38

    roboss38 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Clovis, CA U.S.A.
    I love it!
     
  17. GotMojo

    GotMojo New Member

    ARC PH 6
     
  18. thegage

    thegage Forum Currency Nerd

    I'd second looking at Ayre and the Parasound. I'd also add the Moon 310LP/320S, a combination well-regarded for both low noise and its performance. It has a good number of adjustment options (though you have to remove the cover). As Moon is upgrading its line you can pick up the combo used for around $1900.
     
    Shoalcove and Cliff like this.
  19. BigGame

    BigGame Well-Known Member

    Tell me about it.
     
  20. Cliff

    Cliff Magic Carpet Man Thread Starter

    Location:
    Northern CA
    Those are near the top of the list along with a Pass Labs XP-15. This has turned into a bitchin' thread! Hopefully others will get the information they need and demo some of these monsters in their systems.
     
  21. BrokenByAudio

    BrokenByAudio Forum Resident

    Parasound JC3+ gets great reviews all around. An audiophile buddy of mine put one in his system about four months ago and loves it. Speaker Shop carries both it and the McIntosh MP100 and says there's no comparison--the Parasound is better by far.
     
    cmndrums, Litejazz53 and Cliff like this.
  22. BrokenByAudio

    BrokenByAudio Forum Resident


    I like the description of the JC3+ as "beefed up". Here is the link to the Parasound and there is a full list of improvements made:

    Model Halo JC 3+ « Parasound

    The fact that it is designed by John Curl ought to say a lot.
     
    cmndrums likes this.
  23. GoldprintAudio

    GoldprintAudio Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lexington, NC
    As was mentioned a little earlier in this thread, the new Rogue Ares Magnum is a fantastic piece of gear.
     
  24. xmas111

    xmas111 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Plymouth MA
    I've had the Parasound JC3+ for a few months now and truly enjoy it.
     
    cmndrums and Litejazz53 like this.
  25. David B.

    David B. Active Member

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Cliff,

    I note that you are in Northern California. I also note that AudioVision in San Francisco (a wonderful dealership, by the way) has a new-in-box Zesto Andros PS1 on sale for $2,900. That's a significant discount (about $1,000) on a very nice piece -- one that I have heard and greatly admired in both show and showroom settings.

    Note that this is not the most-recent model Andros, but rather one version back. Still, taking into account sonics, adjustability/feature set, and aesthetics, I'm not sure you can do better for an MC-compatible phono stage under $3k.

    Best of luck with your upgrade,
    --David B.
     

Share This Page