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Sub $500 Phono Stages?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Go Mifune, Oct 14, 2020.

  1. Go Mifune

    Go Mifune Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Portland, OR, USA
    I'm in need of a phono stage to go with a low wattage integrated tube amp (specific yet to be determined but none I'm looking at have their own phono stage) and a pair of Omega speakers. I had been planning on getting a Schiit Mani which I had read many good reviews of, but as I dig more I've seen some instances of hum and picking up radio signals. I don't have a lot of money to spend but I do want something worthy of my system. Any suggestions?

    I do currently own a B&K Pro/5 SS preamp. I believe it was always well reviewed for its passive mode though I'm not sure if a simple phono stage like the Mani would introduce less into the path.

    The speakers I'm getting and amps I'm looking at are all meant to really highlight the sound so it would be nice to have a similar piece in the chain for a phono stage.

    Omega Jr. Alnico speakers, low wattage amp tbd, Denon DP-30L, Ortofon 2M Blue
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2020
  2. Uglyversal

    Uglyversal Forum Resident

    Often the humming on smaller units can be reduced or eliminated by moving it around and trying different positions. If you want to be safe buy from somewhere that will allow you to swap or return for a full refund.
    DeFriend and Go Mifune like this.
  3. Mike70

    Mike70 Forum Resident

    Graham Slee gram amp 2 ... excellent phono stage, very transparent and resolutive. If you like "fat" bass or colored sound, look elsewhere.
    Go Mifune likes this.
  4. jboersma

    jboersma Tower of Power

    Lounge Audio MKIII is a fantastic option. It's even upgradable if you want. I've had mine for 2.5 years and it's rock solid.
  5. GKH

    GKH "Its Jake, from State Farm"

    Somerville, TN
    Hagerman Audio Labs Cornet3 (all-tube).
    $419.00 delivered, 30 day trial, 10 year warranty.
    Skip the middleman, & buy directly from Jim Hagerman.
    I've owned mine for a couple of months, and I am thoroughly happy with it. I also run a tube amplifier.

    Cornet3 - MM Vacuum Tube Phono Preamp
    vconsumer, G E and WapatoWolf like this.
  6. murphythecat

    murphythecat Forum Resident

  7. deniall83

    deniall83 Well-Known Member

    Simaudio Moon 110LP V2. Adjustable cap, loading, gain. Made in Canada. $450 USD. A superb stage.
  8. krimson

    krimson Forum Resident

    Check out the Parasound Zphono. Only $200. It does MM & MC.
  9. brubacca

    brubacca Forum Resident

    Lounge Audio Mk 3 if you are going to stay with MM cartridges. If you go MC like me I like my Lehmann Audio Black Cube Statement.

    Another recommendation is to look for a used Jolida JD9 tube hybrid phono stage. The original version comes up from time to time around $300-$400.
    33na3rd and bluemooze like this.
  10. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    graham slee for MM, pro-ject tube box for MC
  11. Davey

    Davey like smoke from a lithium dream

    SF Bay Area, USA
    I'd look for a used Creek OBH-8SE, non-SE version plentiful at under $150, more desirable SE version harder to find, both very good but the SE is the one to look for, inexpensive discrete no feedback design from the late 90s ... or maybe new go for a Rothwell Simplex, around $335 from their UK store, also discrete no feedback MM design, or Rialto includes MC gain for about $400 ...

    Looking for new pre-amp - is the Schiit Mani still the one to beat?

    Lots of very nice suggestions above too, especially the Simaudio Moon 110LP V2, kind of a low budget Sutherland, very highly regarded and lots of great reviews around. Gotta be the later V2, though. It's not a discrete design like the ones I mentioned above, and uses lots of negative feedback since it's opamp-based, but one of the standouts in the pretty crowded sub $500 field now.
    Sir Talbot Buxomly and bluemooze like this.
  12. bluemooze

    bluemooze Forum Resident

    Frenchtown NJ USA
    This. :)
    33na3rd, jboersma and morinix like this.
  13. DigMyGroove

    DigMyGroove Forum Resident

    I'll give another shout for the Lounge LCR. If you go with a MC cartridge later you can always buy their very affordable Copla step up amp. I currently use a Copla with an Icon Audio PS2 tube phono stage for my stereo set up, and the upgraded Lounge LCR Gold for my MM mono set up. I purchased the original Lounge five years ago, first upgraded to Silver, and more recently to Gold.

    For a very similar sound to the Lounge, but a unit that can do MM or MC, the Vincent Pho 8 is quite good. But there's only one gain setting for MC cartridges, so if that's a no go this one wouldn't be for you.
    bluemooze and 33na3rd like this.
  14. Gabe Walters

    Gabe Walters Forum Resident

    I love my MOFI UltraPhono. I previously had and liked the Schiit Mani, but the MOFI sounds better to my ears. It's adjustable, does MM and MC, has a subsonic filter and mono switch, and a Class A headphone output.
  15. BDC

    BDC Forum Resident

    Schitt has a trial and return period---30 days IIRC--check their site.....Worst case you pay return shipping if the unit doesn't work out, but I suspect it will. I returned a headphone amp to them and bought a more powerful one of theirs...Satisfied customer.
  16. inzite

    inzite Well-Known Member

    tried the schiit mani before moving to a luxman integrated - no rfi issue or wierd hums at all and worked well with a nagaoka mp-150. not comparable to the phono on the luxman but is likely a very good choice below 300 usd.
    Cyclone Ranger likes this.
  17. rfs

    rfs Forum Resident

    Lansing, MI USA
    I also have a Lounge in my main system, but when I wanted to make a mini turntable only system I bought this, https://www.ebay.com/itm/Mini-Class-A-Phono-Stage-Preamp-RIAA-MM-Turntable-Preamplifier-Audio-Amplifier/273130059581?ssPageName=STRK:MEBIDX:IT&_trksid=p2060353.m2749.l2648, a Chinese knock-off of the Nait 2 phono stage for $40 including shipping, which doesn't sound bad at all. The rest of this mini system is a Technics SL-QL1, an APPJ miniwatt 2013 Chinese 4 tube 3 WPC Amp and 2 Minimus 7 speakers. The whole thing was about $300.
  18. Phil Thien

    Phil Thien Forum Resident

    Milwaukee, WI
    I had thought of getting one of those at one time, how is the noise level on it?

    I ended up going with a MoFi StudioPhono, because I wanted the subsonic and mono buttons. I like the StudioPhono fine, but I don't do much of anything with MC cartridges, so it isn't getting much of a challenge.
    Arliss Renwick likes this.
  19. mackat

    mackat Turntable hoar-...um, collector

    United States
    I highly recommend either of the Vista Audio phono stages - I myself have a Phono-2 and a Phono-1 mk II. They both sound excellent and are configurable - the Phono 2 via dip switches and the 1 via non-soldered resistors.

    The MoFi StudioPhono is also a great one, but I don’t think it sounds quite as nice as the Vista Audio ones, to my ears.
  20. Arliss Renwick

    Arliss Renwick Forum Resident

    Vancouver, BC
    I went with the Mofi StudioPhono for my Denon DL-103r. Might be a perfect match. My amp (the most recent Rega Brio) doesn’t have a mono switch, so that’s a must have feature for me
  21. magoo6

    magoo6 Forum Resident

    Scour Audiogon & Fleabay until you find an EAR 834P.

    Or same process but for the deeply wonderful, and inexplicably discontinued Parks Audio Budgie. The other product from over your side of the pond I went out of my way to acquire along with a certain brand of speaker you are now well familiar with :)

    The EAR has been recently replaced by the still not unreasonably priced Phono Box, so there might well be some second hand ones floating around from users "upgrading".

    In my own quest for simplicity I'm coming back round to the view that a MM cart through a good phono stage is actually "all you need", but that said, if you're looking to run MC's, start investigating Step Up Transformers to go alongside a Tube MM stage, there's magic in a well matched MC cart too. But in your shoes, i might just upgrade my 2M Blue to a Bronze (although the Black has it's fans too, imho the Bronze is the sweet spot in the 2M range).
  22. G E

    G E Forum Resident

    this is an excellent suggestion.

    I’ve had the Bugle, the Cornet2 and now the Gold Classic Trumpet.

    Jim Hagerman is an accomplished engineer and builds these in Hawaii. Look him up and read his interviews.
    GKH likes this.
  23. Go Mifune

    Go Mifune Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Portland, OR, USA
    Lost this thread for a bit while I dealt with my amp and preamp but am back at looking at phono stages and this has me really intrigued. I have been seriously considering a used Graham Slee Era Gold, but this Cornet3 keeps calling my name. My other pieces are all relatively special builds as well so this definitely fits. Amp and preamp are both all tube as well, so this keeps me all tube from turntable to speakers. Though I'm already going to have a lot of tubes that need upkeep and replacing! There is a Creek OBH-SE used which was mentioned as a good choice. That Lounge Audio keeps coming up as a good option as well.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2020
  24. Go Mifune

    Go Mifune Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Portland, OR, USA
    Anything noteworthy that is a problem for you? Have you tried rolling the tubes yet or just gone with what it came with? Was this an upgrade from another phono stage?
    GKH likes this.
  25. vinylvin

    vinylvin Forum Resident

    The new Parasound ZPhono XRM for $595.00 seems great for the money. Plenty of reviews out there. Plus it has a Mono switch
    which is nice to have.

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