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  • Workingman's Phono Stage

    Not looking for the "ultimate" phono stage, at least not in terms of price. But I'm aiming to upgrade from the McIntosh C2300 MC tube phone stage that I'm currently using. Front end currently is Dyna XX2MkII > VPI 10.5i > VPI Aries > C2300. Looking for improved staging, detail, and resolution. At the same time, I prefer romance to analytical presentation. I'd like low output MC ability although my cart is ready for replacement/retip now. Price range I've got in mind, including top end pricing, is listed with the options I've located below. I'd love to get this job done for 5K if possible, and I'd like to have major improvement over what I've got now. But how does a guy proceed without hearing these fairly well reviewed products? I'd appreciate your thoughts, good people . . .

    Herron VTPH-2 — $3900.00 new
    Zesto Andros 1.2 —$4700.00 new
    Modwright PH-150 — $7500.00 new
    AR Ref Phono 2SE — $8000.00 used
    AR PH-8 — $4000.00 used
    Manley Steelhead — $7000.00 new
    Sutherland Duo — $4000.00 new
    Pass XP-25 — $7500.00 demo
    Pass XP-15 — $3900.00 new
    Lyra Kleos SL, Dynavector XX-2MKII, VPI JMW 10.5i, VPI Aries, VPI SDS, ModWright PH-150 Reference Phono, Sony HAP-Z1ES server, McIntosh MR80, McIntosh C2300, McIntosh MC352, Vandersteen 5A, PS Audio P10, Bright Star Audio Rack of Gibraltar. Cables: Shunyata Cobra Ztron IC, PS Audio Statement AC, Synergistic Research AC, Harmonic Tech Silver Phono, Cable Research Labs Silver IC, Audioquest Gibraltar bi-wire.

  • #2
    FYI, since the ARC PH-8 has been discontinued, you can purchase NIB from a few dealers currently for 4K.

    Comment


    • #3
      Ive heard the Herron at length on a friends high end system, superb. Great value.
      Magnepan 1.6 QR Loudspeakers, Amherst A-2000 MOSFET 150 WPC Amp, Conrad Johnson PV-10A Modded Tube Line & Phono Stage, Electrocompaniet MC II Class A Head Amp, Audio Technica AT-OC9XML Cart (Stereo) , Graham Engineering 2.2 Tonearm (Stereo) , VPI Aries-1 Turntable (Stereo) , VPI Clamp, Denon DL-102 Cart, (Mono) , Luxman Tonearm (Mono) , Kenwood KD-500 Turntable (Mpmp) , Michell Clamp, Marantz 20B Analog FM Tuner, Pioneer SACD, Onkyo DX-6800 CD Transport, DIY 24B/192K DAC, Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones, Headroom Max Balanced Headphone Amp, DIY Silver Interconnects

      Comment


      • Rob
        Rob commented
        Editing a comment
        +1

    • #4
      If you go for either the ARC Ref Ph2 SE ( you should be able to get this new at a knock down price too) or the pass xp 25 you WILL have the ultimate ( by any half reasonable standard) Phonostage. The only thing is you do need a balanced connection to your preamp with both of these.....

      Comment


      • #5
        I can understand why you are looking for a better phono section than what is contained within the C2300. I owned one and got rid of it because the phone stage was lifeless. There is no "romance" there as you say. I now own the Zesto Andros 1.2 and I'm quite happy. If you have less money to spend, go for the Manley Chinook. Big bang for the buck and oh so much better than the C2300 phono stage.
        Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers, and Def Tech Ref subs.

        Comment


        • allenh
          allenh commented
          Editing a comment
          I second this recommendation. Zesto setup with Kharmas sounded fantastic at RMAF last year.

      • #6
        I have a Modwright PH-150 with less than 15hrs if you are interested.
        Hugh Nguyen
        ACA

        Comment


        • #7
          Its hard to beat the Manley Chinook and sound for the price.
          Chris
          ----------------------------------------------------------------
          Kef 201/2, Pass xa30.5, W4S STP-SE, Manley Chinook, VPI Classic, Dynavector DV20x2L, ExaSound e32, Acoustic Zen cables. (Office): Vincent SP331 Mkll, Quicksilver Pre, Lumin D1, (Ken Lau Signiture Edition PSU), Bryston BCD-1, Vapor Audio Breeze, WooAudio W6se,Questyle Audio CMA800R LCD-3,HD800s, HD600, Mr Speaker Ether C Flow,

          Comment


          • #8
            Oh, I have a Krell KPE Reference phono stage with outboard power supply, original box, packing material, and owner's manual for $1000 if you want that.
            Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers, and Def Tech Ref subs.

            Comment


            • #9
              Originally posted by Billy Shears View Post
              If you go for either the ARC Ref Ph2 SE ( you should be able to get this new at a knock down price too) or the pass xp 25 you WILL have the ultimate ( by any half reasonable standard) Phonostage. The only thing is you do need a balanced connection to your preamp with both of these.....

              Ref Phono 2 SE

              Comment


              • Goheelz
                Goheelz commented
                Editing a comment
                Hi tima: I'm seeing both balanced and single-ended outputs for the AR Ref PH2SE and Pass XP-25. Keeping in mind my non-tech background and beginner status: Why are balanced outputs connections essential to use on these phono stage units? Thanks!

              • MylesBAstor
                MylesBAstor commented
                Editing a comment
                https://www.audionirvana.org/forum/t...output-from-tt

              • Billy Shears
                Billy Shears commented
                Editing a comment
                Both ARC and Pass make no secret about their units being designed for balaced operation. I am not sure what ARC is doing exactly but Pass is true dual differetially balanced for sure

            • #10
              Goheelz commented
              05-26-2016, 08:49 AM


              Hi tima: I'm seeing both balanced and single-ended outputs for the AR Ref PH2SE and Pass XP-25. Keeping in mind my non-tech background and beginner status: Why are balanced outputs connections essential to use on these phono stage units? Thanks!
              Hi Goheelz - the topic your question introduces deserves its own thread - and there may be one already - but for now...

              First, you are correct noticing both type of outputs on the Ref Phono 2 SE in the picture.

              Second, "Balanced outputs" are not essential on a phono stage. There are excellent phono-stages that offer single-ended (RCA) connectors only. And some (such as the ARC unit above) that offer both XLR and RCA outputs.

              What you're describing as "balanced outputs" is better described in terms of balanced circuits and XLR connectors. Some manufacturers (Lamm, for example) will offer both RCA and XLR connectors but not use a balanced circuit. The additional output or input connectors are usually for convenience - often so a buyer doesn't need to re-cable in order to use the component. ARC Ref gear uses balanced circuits and provides both connector types.

              The benefit of using a balanced circuit comes only when using its XLR connectors, but if you're not concerned with that it's fine to use the RCA outputs.

              The benefits of a balanced circuit is obtained when all components in the chain have balanced circuits and all are connected via their XLR inputs and outputs to form a balanced system, from, say, the phono-stage to the line-stage to the amplifier. To go into the virtues of a balanced system and balanced cables will swerve this thread farther than we've taken it already. I'll skip here the thorny questions or debate and simply say to my ears an all balanced system can sound better, for example an all ARC or all Atma-Sphere system.

              Comment


              • Goheelz
                Goheelz commented
                Editing a comment
                Thank you ever so much for the detailed and informative reply. Most helpful for the neophyte, like myself. My amp (McIntosh MC352) is apparently balanced, but my somewhat newer pre (McIntosh C2300) apparently is not. Both have XLR connections, the latter for convenience I suppose and as you indicate. Have done single-ended thus far between this pairing although planning to try XLR soon to see if there's a difference.

            • #11
              Originally posted by tima View Post

              Hi Goheelz - the topic your question introduces deserves its own thread - and there may be one already - but for now...

              First, you are correct noticing both type of outputs on the Ref Phono 2 SE in the picture.

              Second, "Balanced outputs" are not essential on a phono stage. There are excellent phono-stages that offer single-ended (RCA) connectors only. And some (such as the ARC unit above) that offer both XLR and RCA outputs.

              What you're describing as "balanced outputs" is better described in terms of balanced circuits and XLR connectors. Some manufacturers (Lamm, for example) will offer both RCA and XLR connectors but not use a balanced circuit. The additional output or input connectors are usually for convenience - often so a buyer doesn't need to re-cable in order to use the component. ARC Ref gear uses balanced circuits and provides both connector types.

              The benefit of using a balanced circuit comes only when using its XLR connectors, but if you're not concerned with that it's fine to use the RCA outputs.

              The benefits of a balanced circuit is obtained when all components in the chain have balanced circuits and all are connected via their XLR inputs and outputs to form a balanced system, from, say, the phono-stage to the line-stage to the amplifier. To go into the virtues of a balanced system and balanced cables will swerve this thread farther than we've taken it already. I'll skip here the thorny questions or debate and simply say to my ears an all balanced system can sound better, for example an all ARC or all Atma-Sphere system.
              Well said.
              Hugh Nguyen
              ACA

              Comment


              • #12
                If you are looking for a tubed stage for $5K I would recommend the one I have. It punches well above it's weight class and ticks all the sound boxes for me. PM me if you are interested. It's a custom build and i can put you in touch with the builder to work out details. Depending on where you are in the SE I may even be able to drop it by to listen in late June.
                Turntable: - 1. Fairchild 750/OMA slate plinth
                2. Analog Engineering AE-2008 MinusK support.
                Tonearm: 1. Schroder Custom
                2. Schick 12"
                3. Abis SA-1
                Cartridge: Miyajima Kansui and Premium BE Mono
                PhonoPre: AprilSound LR, EMIA Strain Gauge, EMIA silver SUT
                CD: Wadia 860x
                Server: Innuos Zen Mini Mk3
                DAC: Computer Audio Design 1543 Mk2
                Preamp: Bent Audio TAP-X w silver autoformers
                Amplifier: AprilSound SET50 monoblocks
                Speaker: Pioneer PAX-30C

                Comment


                • #13
                  Goheelz - I've been considering the XP-25, Modwright, and Ref 2SE, also. Unfortunately, I have not heard any of them in my system. I'm wondering if you've made a decision or have narrowed your search any. Thanks.

                  Joe

                  Comment


                  • Goheelz
                    Goheelz commented
                    Editing a comment
                    hi Joe -- Still pondering a bit on the phono stage issue. I like to make one change at a time, and as I was thinking phono stage as an unexpectedly nice set of second-hand interconnects (preamp > amp) came along (Cable Research Lab Silver XLR). Definite improvement, and I've been enjoying that for now.

                    But on the phono stage, I seem to be getting closer to the Herron VTPH-2. I probably need to give Keith a call. Given my tastes, I think tubes is the way to go, thus ruling out Pass for now and the same with Sutherland. Herron should be able to handle the LOMC that I'm using now (Dyna XX-2 MKII). Zesto is interesting but new to me, and I've yet to see one anywhere in my remote part of the USA woods or even at AXPONA (might have missed it). There's an Audio Research dealer somewhat close to me, and I've been hoping to visit in the next few weeks to see what I can learn there. If no great deals are to be had on AR, I'll likely go with Herron. Reviews seem uniformly excellent, even if we disregard one loud guy in particular who keeps jumping in with rave positive Herron reviews all over the place. Despite his weird enthusiasm, Herron still looks good. And the price is reasonable. I keep wondering if the Pass or Modwright or Manley Steelhead or AR Ref is worth 2X the bread. Same old audiophile quandary I suppose.

                    Let me know if you learn more on your end.
                    Jim

                • #14
                  Goheelz, you have a list of good to excellent phono preamps listed. I can tell you that one of your biggest considerations, particularly with a tube phono, would be to buy a unit with 66db of gain. That may mean that it has an SUT installed or you might have to buy a separate SUT. If you can't find one in your budget price ratio give careful consideration to the cartridge you use. There seem to be more and more cartridges with outputs of .2mv these days and I would advise against those if you don't have at least 68db gain
                  TW Acustic TT with Ref motor & controller; Tri-Planar Arm; Ortofon Windfeld-Ti Cartridge, Harmonix-Combak platter matte & weight; Arcam R Phono Preamp; KLAudio Ultrasonic Record Cleaner.

                  Bluesound Vault-2 Music Server & Streamer

                  VTL 6.5 preamp Series II
                  Pass Labs 150.8 Amp

                  Piega C711 Loudspeakers

                  Symposium Osiris Rack; Symposium Platforms and Roller Blocks plus grade 2.5 Balls

                  Acoustic Revive RR-888 Low Frequency Pulse Generator, Synergistic Research 12 UEF SE Line Conditioner, Level 3 HC AC Cord and Level 3 power cords, Synergistic Carbon fiber wall plates, Synergistic Research Orange Outlet, Furutech NCF Booster Braces, Audio Art Ref IC, MIT Oracle IC, synergistic Research Atmosphere X Euphoria Level 3 Balanced ICs, Synergistic Research Euphoria Level 3 Speaker Cables, Synergistic Research Cable Risers.

                  Sennheiser HDV 650 Headphone Amp; Sennheiser HD800s Headphones.

                  Comment


                  • Goheelz
                    Goheelz commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Yes, sufficient gain is going to be important, and the Herron appears to be a candidate on those grounds. The VTPH-2 specs the MC as up to 69 db gain. The Modwright PH-150 specs at 72db gain.

                    I recently perused Fremer's review of the Modwright PH-150. Anyone else think he seemed sort of lukewarm on the PH-150, reading between the lines?

                  • JLSmith
                    JLSmith commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I didn't think Michael Fremer gave it a rave review, but I thought it was positive. Greg Weaver gave it a very positive review in the May-June TAS. He liked it enough that he purchased it for himself.

                • #15
                  Great. I know the Herron must be tube. Not sure of the ModW. Maybe hybrid? Anyway either 69db or 72 is good. I personally would opt for the 72 which will play almost anything convincingly. Happy vinylizing.
                  TW Acustic TT with Ref motor & controller; Tri-Planar Arm; Ortofon Windfeld-Ti Cartridge, Harmonix-Combak platter matte & weight; Arcam R Phono Preamp; KLAudio Ultrasonic Record Cleaner.

                  Bluesound Vault-2 Music Server & Streamer

                  VTL 6.5 preamp Series II
                  Pass Labs 150.8 Amp

                  Piega C711 Loudspeakers

                  Symposium Osiris Rack; Symposium Platforms and Roller Blocks plus grade 2.5 Balls

                  Acoustic Revive RR-888 Low Frequency Pulse Generator, Synergistic Research 12 UEF SE Line Conditioner, Level 3 HC AC Cord and Level 3 power cords, Synergistic Carbon fiber wall plates, Synergistic Research Orange Outlet, Furutech NCF Booster Braces, Audio Art Ref IC, MIT Oracle IC, synergistic Research Atmosphere X Euphoria Level 3 Balanced ICs, Synergistic Research Euphoria Level 3 Speaker Cables, Synergistic Research Cable Risers.

                  Sennheiser HDV 650 Headphone Amp; Sennheiser HD800s Headphones.

                  Comment

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