Project Phono Box S2 Ultra vs Phone Box Ultra 500 vs Tube Box S2

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by IRG, Jul 31, 2019.

  1. IRG

    IRG Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Ithaca, NY
    I'm still researching different phono preamp options, and have been checking out the Project offerings. I see that AA is now selling the Ultra 500 $400), but I don't see the S2 Ultra ($300) yet, and I don't think there's any difference, other than the chrome finish on the 500 - I actually prefer the looks of the non chrome. Compared to the Tube Box S2 at $400, although reviews of it seem fairly limited online. I've looked through a few threads here, but they haven't garnered many owner reviews.

    Are there American dealers selling the new S2 Ultra? I haven't seen any yet, I'll keep digging. But it seems like a pretty high quality preamp at this price point. Wouldn't mind trying tubes though, especially at $400. Don't want to go much beyond that price point.

    Any thoughts on the S2 line from Project?
     
  2. Kiko1974

    Kiko1974 Forum Resident

    Pro Ject tube Phono preamps are not real tube Phono preamps, that means that the signal fed by the cart is not amplified using tubes but solid state. Tubes are used as "buffer" on a cathode follower configuration to reduce distorsion. On these Phono preamps if you change the 12AX7 tubes, which have an amplification factor of 100, to 12AU7's that have an amplification factor of 20, sound level doesn't decrease, and that is why these tubes are not used to amplify the signal.
     
  3. IRG

    IRG Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Ithaca, NY
    Thanks, I'm aware that they aren't fully tube driven, if they were I'm sure the cost would be significantly more, no? But it still must impact the overall tone to an extent. I think the other two in any event are more likely what I would choose. Not totally sold on them yet in any event.
     
  4. Kiko1974

    Kiko1974 Forum Resident

    Why don't you try the Yaqin MS-23B? I know it's a Chinese component but it's built like a tank and with decent tubes it sounds great. Forget about its Chinese origins and give it a chance.
     
  5. E.Baba

    E.Baba Forum Resident

    I have Project tube box.
    Can confirm tube changes do change output tone even as a follower.
    Also consider other features to suit requirements.
     
  6. IRG

    IRG Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Ithaca, NY
    Interesting, I think I was looking at this option the other night. Good price, how's the reliability on these though?
     
    Kiko1974 likes this.
  7. Kiko1974

    Kiko1974 Forum Resident

    It's built like a tank, very well made, I opened mine and it looks very well built. It sounds great matched with good tubes. If you want new production tubes that make it sound right a pair of TJ Full Music or golden pins Gold Lion 12AX7 will make it sound great. For NOS and inexpensive, I think the Matsushita 12AX7 tubes that were made on Mullard tooling and used a Mullard design make it sound great too for little money. Think about this, if you buy the Yaqin MS-23B you will save some $$$ that you can spend on a pair of tubes you like and a spair pair.
    I used one for over a year and I was very happy with it. I was thinking about seling it but I thought twice and kept it as this is a good replacement Phono preamp and selling it second hand I'd get very little money.
     
  8. IRG

    IRG Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Ithaca, NY
    Kiko1974 likes this.
  9. Kiko1974

    Kiko1974 Forum Resident

  10. Ontheone

    Ontheone Drifting Towards the Dead Wax

    Location:
    Indianapolis
    I'm definitely a tube guy, don't get me wrong. My phono stage has 5 tubes in fact. But at the under $500 price point I'd be looking for a used Tom Evans Microgroove. Very quiet and much more liquid than most SS phono stages and it compliments systems that already have tubes (i.e. amp, line stage). You can run some nice LOMC carts with it.

    Micro Groove+ X mkII | Tom Evans Audio Design
     
    IRG likes this.
  11. Waxxy

    Waxxy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Alberta
    Not true with all Pro-Ject Tube Boxes. With the original Tube Box and the latest Tube Box DS series, the tubes are used for gain. I can't comment on the S2.
     
  12. RPM

    RPM Forum Resident

    Location:
    Easter Island
    Any experience with Phono box S2 ultra?
     
  13. IRG

    IRG Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Ithaca, NY
    I've been interested in this preamp as well. One local (well 2 hours away) said they just got one in stock. Haven't seen it in stock at some of the larger online dealers. AA has the S2 Ultra 500 in stock, essentially the same thing, just a special chrome case I believe.
     
  14. Joel Shapiro

    Joel Shapiro Well-Known Member

    The Ultra 500 has a chromed copper case to eliminate electromagnetic interference, or at least according to the advertising copy. I emailed Pro-Ject USA and they said that the Ultra is available through any US dealer. It may not be in stock everywhere yet, however. Looks nice. Any pictures of the circuit board layout?
     
  15. IRG

    IRG Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Ithaca, NY
    I found this on the Ultra 500, so I imagine other than the case it's the same.

    [​IMG]
    If you go to this link, you can see the pic a little bigger:
    Pro-Ject Phono Box Ultra 500 Discrete MM/MC Phono Preamp-Audio Advisor
     
  16. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Is there a compelling reason you are only interested in a Pro-Ject phono stage?

    What cartridge are you using or planning to use with this new phono stage?
     
  17. IRG

    IRG Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Ithaca, NY
    For me, no. I'm looking at a few, trying to stay in the $200 - $400 range. Maybe $500, we'll see. I like the Musical Fidelity LX2-LPS at $199 (normally $299), Lounge LCR Silver (doesn't do MC, which may or may not be a problem), Parks Audio Puffin (out of stock on Amazon right now), and the Project S2 models. Not discounting used either, but there's a timing issue I might have in terms of selling my current TT and phono preamp, and when I'm ready to buy. So at least new stuff there isn't the sense of urgency.

    Certainly if my budget were bigger I'd have more options, as is always the case. But for now it isn't.

    Haven't decided on the cart, but heavily leaning towards an AT VM540ML.
     
  18. IRG

    IRG Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Ithaca, NY
    How does the Vincent PHO-8 compare, at the same $299? Seems to have some detractors to the Vincent name here, yet each site I look at that sells Vincent, has a lot of very good reviews. Not sure why this is.
     
  19. IRG

    IRG Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Ithaca, NY
  20. IRG

    IRG Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Ithaca, NY
    I wanted to bump this thread by recapping a few phono preamps that are in the $200 - $400 range, and pros and cons of both. There might some interest here in preamps that perform above their price point, maybe.

    I'm thinking about these as new purchases. Might be better preamps than this group if purchased used. Hard to find consistently in some cases. So far, I'm thinking of the following that seem to get good owner reviews/pro reviews and are easily purchased. Emphasis probably on MM carts, but if it can do MC well in addition, then added bonus:

    1. Bellari VP130 MK2 - $275

    2. Project S2 Ultra - $299

    3. Project S2 Ultra 500 $399

    4. Project Tube Box S2 $399

    5. Musical Fidelity LX2 - LPS $199 (audio advisor, seems to be $299 most other places)

    6. Lounge LCR iii $300; Silver $450

    7. Parks Audio Puffin $399 (if available on Amazon)

    8. Vincent PHO -8 $299

    9. Mobile Fidelity StudioPhono $299


    Stretch $ wise:

    10. VanAlstine Vision Q $499

    11. Lehmann Black Cube Statement $459

    Etc.
     
  21. fiasco

    fiasco Active Member

    Location:
    Vienna, Austria
    I can only comment on:

    2. Project S2 Ultra - $299
    4. Project Tube Box S2 $399

    Heard both next to each other with the same TT. The Tube Box S2 is Pro-ject's first fully discrete tube phono preamp (without any opamps), that's why I wanted to give it a try. At first, I could not make out much of a difference, the S2 Ultra being a bit more present in the upper mid section. I replaced the stock JJ tubes of the Tube Box S2 with Genalex Gold Lions and just enjoyed listening to music for 2 months. Last week I had a friend over and we did some comparison tests with both pres. The Tube Box S2 clearly beating the S2 Ultra: More dynamics, better and fuller bass response and more air in the treble section. There is just more energy to the music. I was quite surprised to hear such a difference after ca. 100h of breaking in the tubes (was not sure at all if tubes need break in ....). But there is a significant difference now.

    Love the Tube Box S2 in combination with my Thorens TD160S MK V with TP90 tonearm. I can fully recommend it. My chain is anyway on the warmer side (which I like a lot) with Denon DL-160 -> Thorens TD160S MK V/TP90 -> Pro-ject Tube Box S2 -> NAD 316BEE -> KEF iQ30 + Focal Cub sub
     
    IRG likes this.
  22. RPM

    RPM Forum Resident

    Location:
    Easter Island
    Curious to hear comparison between Phono box S2 and S2 Ultra. Is S2 Ultra worth the price difference?
     
  23. Davey

    Davey this is the way, step inside

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    The Rothwell Rialto is below $400 shipped to the US if you order through their UK site, I'd probably pick it above any on your list based on the design and the times I've heard it in another system, but don't have very much experience in this price range.
     
    IRG likes this.
  24. IRG

    IRG Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Ithaca, NY
    One vendor I contacted that sells most of these on this list, his favorite (by a fairly wide margin) was the Mofi StudioPhono. Next up the chain at$750 his favorite was the Musical Surroundings Phonomena II+.

    I looked at other sites for owner reviews of the Mofi, especially at MusicDirect, and the reviews there (and a lot of them) were very enthusiastic for the StudioPhono. So I'm leaning that way. At the moment. If I sell some other gear locally, the budget could stretch, but if not, at $299 that might be hard to beat right now.
     
  25. wrat

    wrat Forum Resident

    Location:
    S.Fla
    lehmann or VanAlstine is what I would be looking at
     

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