Opinions on ModWright PH 9.0 Tube Phono Stage (and others)

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by wbass, Sep 12, 2019 at 12:45 AM.

  1. wbass

    wbass Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Hi, all, I've got an opportunity to get a demo ModWright PH 9.0 Tube Phono Stage from Dan and company for $2100 (down from $2900). I've also been looking at the following phono pre's, all of which have (for me very desirable) two or more inputs:

    --Elac Alchemy PPA-2, $1000 (two inputs, continuously variable loading, high-pass filter, mono switch)
    --Gold Note PH-10, $1700 (also two inputs, balanced outs, stopped variable loading, several EQ curves)
    --Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2, $650 (two inputs, two outputs, continuously variable loading, high-pass filter)

    I've also looked at stuff by Lehmann, Sutherland, and Tavish, but, for various reasons, these are my front runners. I'm looking to do a significant upgrade from a Graham Slee Era Gold V, especially as I have an ART-9 cart (and hopefully a Denon 103R) coming my way soon. I'd also been considering SUTs, but, b/c I don't know what kind of cart I'll settle on eventually, I think a phono pre upgrade is a better path for now.

    I like the ModWright 9.0 for its mono switch (I spin a lot of mono Blue Note), separate power supply, and its supposedly very quiet implementation of tubes. My only hesitation is that variable loading has only six stops and isn't continuous. (Though to be honest, I've no idea how important dialing in the very exact loading is. Perhaps those six stops will give me enough adjustability??) I also think stepping up to $2-3K stage might make more sense than more or less side-grading from my Graham Slee to the Elac or Pro-Ject.

    Anyway, I'd welcome thoughts on these four phono pres. Have done a lot of reading on the forum, but of course this particular set of options has never been discussed. Thanks!
     
  2. Goatboy

    Goatboy Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    While I can't answer your question, I have pulled the trigger on a Modwright PH 9.0. which should arrive next week. I'm upgrading a PS Audio GCPH phono, and I've taken a similar philosophy to you, in that I don't want to make the error of a sideways move. I've also taken somewhat of a leap of faith based on reviews and seeing seasoned phono pre owners wax lyrical about the Modwright. Good luck with your decision.
     
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  3. wbass

    wbass Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Yeah, it might be something of a leap of faith for me, too. I'm going off a few pro reviews (which I typically find useless, b/c all pro reviews are positive) and the generally excellent reputation of ModWright. The PH 9.0 has a good feature set (for me), too.

    I'm trying to get my head around the adjustable loading and whether I'd want more MC capacitance tweaking than six stops on the knob. I also saw a brief mention in the forums that 470 is a little low as a top end, but perhaps not. Having to do some very rapid research on this.
     
    Goatboy likes this.
  4. wbass

    wbass Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    The Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2, for example, continuously adjusts from 50-1000 Ohms. The Elac from 5 to 999 Ohms. The Gold Note from 10-1000 Ohms....

    Hmm, so, yes, the ModWright does seem to top a little low compared to those. Then again, the very respected Parasound JC3+ only adjusts from 50-500 Ohms, so maybe it isn't such a big deal? I'm looking for a stage that can work with a wide range of carts as I grow and experiment.
     
  5. Goatboy

    Goatboy Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    I scanned potential carts of interest and there were almost none requiring high loading. So I reckon it’s versatile enough for my requirements.

    But it’s a decent investment, so you want to be comfortable before pulling the trigger.
     
    wbass likes this.
  6. wbass

    wbass Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Right, makes sense. I'm researching various cart loadings now....
     
  7. dolsey01

    dolsey01 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston, MA
    I actively watch the used market and use that also as a barometer to gauge the FOTM equipment. While there have been a few used PH 9.0 sales, the number is pretty small compared to other popular phone preamps in that price range.

    At that discounted price, you would really have to spend much more. As in this territory. Herron Audio: VTPH-2A Phono Preamplifier
     
  8. Anton D

    Anton D Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chico CA
    I have a PH 150 and love it. I think the PH 9.0 is likely to be just as good.

    Truly quiet and astounding detail. We used the 150 to demo at a expo and a reviewer who had reviewed for a publication sat and said he thought it sounded better than his review of it.

    I bet you are going to love the PH 150.
     
    wbass likes this.
  9. wbass

    wbass Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Well, they have a trial period, so I'll very likely go for it.
     
    Goatboy likes this.
  10. wbass

    wbass Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Cheers, Anton. It seems that the 9.0 uses the same Lundahl transformers at the 150. Interestingly, they're not the top of the range Lundahl's but the more basic model. (Though I'm sure both are good.) Yes, all reports suggests it's a real quiet stage. Thanks!
     
  11. hi_watt

    hi_watt Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    I am currently using a Modwright SE 9.0 phono preamp, and am coming from a Manley Chinook; the SE 9.0 has been a more preferable match for my Lyra Delos (100 ohm load). It has been a satisfying experience so far, and look forward to tube rolling. Your Modwright should sound amazing! (I am tempted to get one in the future).
     
    ellingtonic likes this.
  12. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Have you considered a GS Accession MC? You can try one out through the home loaner program, no purchase obligation.
     
  13. mreeter

    mreeter Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midwest, USA
    I've owned a Tavish and a Rogue Audio "Magnum" Ares. I currently have Dans PH-09 and absolutely love it.

    The previous stages mentioned were both very good, but the PH-09 is just a cut above in about every area.

    Roll in some quality nos Tubes after she's run in, and enjoy!

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend

    Location:
    Texas
    I got the PH 9.0, with the balanced upgrade, a few months ago. I upgraded from the PS Audio GCPH.

    I've been really enjoying it. I run two 'tables into it. One has a MC Dynavector XX2mkII (set to 50Ohms), the other has a MM Nagoaka MP-200.

    I think the sound is great, very smooth and quiet. The only other phono pre I strongly considered was the Parasound JC3+. I appreciate the slight tubey-ness of the PH9.0, and the ability to potentially do some tube rolling, down the road.
     
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  15. wbass

    wbass Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Thanks for the feedback, y'all! The Modwright does sound like a great unit.
     
    hi_watt likes this.
  16. hagtech

    hagtech Forum Resident

    Location:
    Oahu
    The Modwright is probably the best of that batch. Sounds like you got a great price, too! As far as loading goes, you really don't need that many settings. It's a compromise between simplicity and performance. The more steps you try to add, the more complicated and clumsy it becomes, employing excessive area and components to achieve very little in return. Six stops is a very good optimization. The difference you hear between 50 and 100 ohm loading is not that dramatic.

    I get it, some people want as many knobs and controls to fiddle with that they can possibly get their hands on. That's great, but you're definitely taking a performance hit at the same time.
     
    mreeter likes this.
  17. Sedwards

    Sedwards Forum Resident

    I'm running a very similar analogue setup as you - a VPI Classic Signature with the SDS and a Soundsmith cartridge, though its the Paua. I currently have the Tavish Adagio and have enjoyed it for the past few years. I also run a Thorens TD 126 into it with an AT MM cartridge as a second table. But all this talk here and elsewhere about the PH-09 has me thinking - the never ending upgrade curse strikes again!

    I've had Dan's Sony XA-5400ES SACD player for many years and it's still my favorite CDP. I also recently had him mod a new Pioneer LX-500 for DVD-A and BR playback. He does great work. Seems I'll have to drop him a note about the PH-09!
     
    mreeter likes this.
  18. wbass

    wbass Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Well, I've got a PH-09 on order for arrival in early November. Looks like it'll be a great unit and a solid upgrade from my Graham Slee Era Gold V and some of the other options I listed above.

    Wondering what the two mute switches on the Modwright phono are for, practically speaking.... Is a mute switch on a phono stage particularly useful for some reason?

    Another minor concern: the PH-09 (and its bigger brother the PH-150) uses the Lundahl LL9226 transformers, which seem to be a step below the LL1931's Kevin at K&K uses for his premium SUTs. I doubt I'll be able to hear any difference, but it's something I noted all the same. Generally speaking, everything on the ModWright looks well thought out and very high quality.

    Thanks to everyone for your helpful feedback above.
     
  19. ellingtonic

    ellingtonic Forum Resident

    I made the same switch late last year and couldn't be happier. The Modwright is dead quiet. The Chinook was noisy and microphonic in MC mode with multiple sets of tubes.
     
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  20. mreeter

    mreeter Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midwest, USA
    Yes, I have a Classic 3 as well, atm I'm running a VAS Audio Nova Signature Cartridge.

    I also had the Tavish Adagio. It was is a fine Preamp, that was very adjustable and feature rich. It just didn't jive with the rest of my set-up for some reason. I rolled in various different NOS tubes, tried some different cabling. It just didn't have the 'Synergy' if you will, that I was looking for.

    I will say this, the PH-09 has the Blackest Background of any Tubed Phono Pre that I've had (which isn't many) the Music just starts flowing out of nowhere. It's also very receptive to tube changes, I just rolled in a pair of these Matsushita / National PCC88 / 7DJ8

    These tubes are exceptional for the price of admission. BTW, You know ModWright offers the PH-09 with a "Money Back Guarantee":righton:
     
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  21. mreeter

    mreeter Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midwest, USA
    Congratulation, I think you will be very happy with your choice.

    The Mute feature I believe is for those who want to cut the signal to the Linestage when turning on and off the Table. This eleminates any load noises from reaching your Linestage and your speakers. At least that's my take, I could most certainly be wrong. I Mute my Linestage Preamp when doing so.

    I wouldn't worry about the Tranformers, you won't think about them after PH-09 settles in.
     
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  22. mreeter

    mreeter Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midwest, USA
    Just a side note, I looked through the PH-09 Manual (imagine that), and the Mute feature is used when switching from one input to the other.

    "You will notice that while the input is labeled MM, Mute, MC, there are actually four positions.To prevent any possibility of switching noise when selecting between MM and MC, we found that it was critical to Mute after MM and also before MC"
     
    wbass likes this.
  23. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    I owned the previous version of the Tube Box (DS) and it sounded very good and led me on the path of an all tube system.
    The continuous loading dial was more of a novelty than a usable feature- once you get past 100 ohms or so for various MC carts the sound did not change and I have not missed that feature in my more conventional phono premps. It's downside was that it was not very dynamic or powerful sounding compared to the ones that came after it.
    If dynamics are important to you, look for phono preamps with large power supply transformers. The Lehmann Black Cube SEII has one in its outboard "box" and is probably the lowest cost unit on the market that has a large power supply transformer. It was a tremendous upgrade from the Tube Box DS and has nice synergy with the ART9.
    The ModWright does include this and it looks like an excellent phono stage. It should be a great option - especially if you have balanced inputs.
     
    wbass likes this.
  24. wbass

    wbass Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Tons of great information here. Thanks, y'all!
     

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