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Phono stages.

Discussion in 'audio' started by mikegreenwood, Jun 30, 2016.


    YNWOAN 100% Analogue

    I've had all of the above in my system*.

    The Arkless punches well above its weight and, in character, isn't dissimilar to the Dynavector (I've also heard a more ambitious 'scratch built' phonostage from Arkless that was really very good and significantly better than either the Dynavector or the modified 640/651). The Firebottle had enough gain for my 0.2mV cartridge but wasn't quiet enough. As a result dynamic was compromised and tonal shading/character was uneven. In short, it didn't work for me. However, someone used the same unit after me with a MM cartridge and really liked it so YMMV (not really suitable for very low output MCs I would say). The Paradise is a different thing to all three of the above and significantly better in every regard. You need to look at stages like the Vida for competition (I've also had that at home).

    * Thinking about it, the Arkless wasn't the Turbo version I don't think.
  2. yuckyamson

    yuckyamson pfm Member

    Presuming you come up with the cases, what's the price on a paradise kit?

    YNWOAN 100% Analogue

    There's an element of 'how long is a piece of string' about that question - all that is absolute is that it is finite. It's not the cases that are difficult to source but the raw circuit boards themselves; particularly the power supply boards. They do come up but it's not a case of just popping them in your cart and then heading straight to the checkout. Once you have the raw boards it's then a question of how much you want to spend on the components populating those boards etc.

    The bottom line is that it's not exactly 'bargain basement' and I would budget circa £1K+.
  4. FireMoon

    FireMoon pfm Member

    The Phono-clone is a very fine kit, the guy who soldered my boards up commented on the seriously high quality and matching of all the components.



    As for budget, it depends where you source your transformers from and how far you are willing to go, I lucked out and found exactly what I needed at a huge discount. I'd say between £400-750 depending on how far you wish to go.
  5. sq225917

    sq225917 situation engineer

    A no holds barred Paradise four box build will set you back £1500 from me. You could probably scrape one together for half of that if you lucked into someone selling a complete group buy kit. The total parts cost plus four shoebox cases is circa £900.

    If you can source parts I'm more than happy to provide a complete list of all the mods I apply and advice on wiring and component matching. The build is quite involved but anyone who can solder and buy a Peak Atlas meter can make it. Figure on it taking 100 hours to do it right including all the metalwork and parts matching.
  6. stevebrock

    stevebrock pfm Member

    Bloody hell !

    I just have a mediocre Rega Aria which fades away compared to all these
  7. yuckyamson

    yuckyamson pfm Member

    It's probably a very fair price for the quality of craftsmanship and design, but it does put it into a higher price category than a typical DIY kit. (although nCore's are cheap either, on a tangent), anyway it'd be really interesting to compare it to some of the dearer models from mainstream manufacturers.

    Has anyone compared it to:

    - Linto
    - Eurika
    - The naim in-board with hicap (I forget is this a superline? Blanking on it)
    - Some of the Whest dearer models
    - Audio Research Phono Sections....etc.
    - Ypsilon
    - Sutherland
    - Auditorium
    - other

  8. sq225917

    sq225917 situation engineer

    I had superline and uphorik, and I've made them for people replacing whest 30's. Ill leave it to others to comment on the sound.
  9. MartinC

    MartinC pfm Member

    Add the Manley Chinook to your list if it's available in the UK, or if that's out of the price range the PhonoClone is excellent and beat my Linto by a fair margin.
  10. martin dawson

    martin dawson pfm Member

    I've owned my Paradise for over a year now, firstly I need to comment on Simon's work it is absolutely top draw. His attention to detail is superb and trying various components to make the best to arrive to nirvana.

    I use mine with a LP12, Aro, Kiseki MC, Karmen, Plateau, Cirkus and Armeggedon. The Whest 30R was no slouch at £1800 but the next step up in the range was the RDT at £3K or RDTSE £4K. The Paradise is so quiet, surface noise is virtually non exsistent. It's opened up the whole spectrum for me LP's I've listen to for 30 years or more I've noticed instruments that I hadn't heard before and vocals sound so natural it's uncanny.

    One needs to hear the Paradise in a system it's that good.


  11. Pac1

    Pac1 Designer/Manufacturer

    The two stand-out phonostages that I've had in my system and really liked are:

    TRON Convergence MC stage
    Tube Technology M.A.C MM/MC valve phono stage

    Both excellent. The TRON offers by far the greater bang for buck. It manages what many can't...as neutral and engaging a phonostage as I've heard at any price, exhibiting real air and space around instruments, a timbrel accuracy that is utterly engaging and all with a superbly low noise floor.

    The TT is a little more coloured, but in a nice way. It is a slightly bigger, bolder sound and doesn't have the rounded off and slightly soft and muddy bass and upper HF of something like the EAR 864P (which I've also owned).

    One more worthy of consideration is the Hagerman Cornet. It is an outstanding MM phonostage and is a match for the TT M.A.C's MM section imho at a fraction of the cost.
  12. rn82497

    rn82497 pfm Member

    Anyone have thoughts on Tron Convergence v.s. Vida v.s. perhaps Trilogy 906?

    Thinking of re-activating my Turntable and would need a phone stage.
  13. The Naim in-board is a Prefix.
    They can be found quite cheap these days.
    I used one for years until Linn released the Urika.
  14. YNWOAN

    YNWOAN 100% Analogue

    I've never heard the Tron but if it as nicely made as other Tron stuff then it will be well worth consideration.

    @ yuckyamson, you are covering quite a price range there, Linto to Ypsilon!
  15. yuckyamson

    yuckyamson pfm Member

    Ypsilon actually has some less expensive models compared to their mega-buck crappers.
  16. YNWOAN

    YNWOAN 100% Analogue

    Oh, the only phonostage they list is the VPS-100 and that's US$26,000.00+

    Edit: I see the 100 is a MM stage so you also need a step-up transformer - Ypsilon do a couple between $3 and 6K.
  17. abbydog

    abbydog pfm Member

    Recently heard one of the stages by FM Accoustics of Switzerland and found it impressive to say the least - for a non-tube unit :)
  18. DevillEars

    DevillEars Dedicated ignorer of fashion

    One aspect of living here in South Africa is that the local audio industry, while small, includes some really excellent local manufacturers with great products.

    That's the plus side... The down-side is that this is a small market and most local manufacturers do not have the production capacity to enable entry into large volume markets - they tend to build-to-order. The result is delayed availability from order to receipt but, with the manufacturers close by, after-sales support is excellent.

    One example is a local manufacturer - Valve Audio - that make a range of audio gear - from integrated amps, to high-end pre/power combos and...

    The Valve Audio "Whisper" is a valve-based modular phono stage with a chassis design that clearly demonstrates a solid understanding of the low signal levels inherent in any phono stage and, particularly, in an MC configuration.


    The front panel spans the full standard component width and provides power on/off, MM/MC selection and cartridge loading selection. Behind the front panel lies a shielded "bus" for wiring between the power supply and the various modules that provide, per channel for one or two arm feeds.


    The rear view shows the modules (in this case for a single left/right feed) attached to the "bus" on the left with the power supply module on the right. Each module is constructed from extruded aluminium and functions as a Faraday Cage to limit the impact of any EMI on the low level signal.


    A fully-configured unit with two sets of left/right modules for a dual tonearm/turntable setup via the addition to the base unit of the additional modules.

    I've known Mr Valve Audio for years and have a great respect for his products and his engineering abilities (I've never been able to accept the order-to-delivery delays, so own none of his products... :) ) but a number of friends are very proud and happy owners of various combinations of VA electronics and the one consistent impression is just how musical these systems really are. The fully-configured Whisper above belongs to one such friend.

    Some years back - about a year after VA launched the Whisper - we had an audio exhibition here in Johannesburg which included a guest speaker in the person of AJ van den Hul. After an extended set of auditions, Mr van den Hul ordered a Whisper for his own personal use.

    From a pricing perspective, VA gear here in SA, provides a competitive offering to some of the real high-end audio available from all over the world - if one has the patience to accept the delay between order and delivery. The Whisper - prior to Brexit - sold for the equivalent of GBP1,100 or thereabouts - what it is post-Brexit is not quite clear in my mind, but would expect to see a hike of between 10% and 20% due to exchange rate shifts.

    The only challenges for any UK buyer considering a Whisper would include:

    a) a lack of any UK-based distributor/support organisation
    b) the "build-to-order" approach

    But any real lover of LPs and analogue reproduction associated therewith who does travel between the UK and SA should make a plan to audition some of these products - and the Whisper is a good starting point.

    For anyone interested, the link below is the Valve Audio website:

    Valve Audio Website

    Please note that, apart from being a friend of Mr VA, I have no other connection or involvement in VA - I just admire his demonstrated understanding of audio and his commitment to engineering and after-sales service (rare commodities these days).

  19. Clay B

    Clay B pfm Member


    Nice post. Looks like a great outfit and it makes you wonder how many other small firms are doing great work outside the scope of the larger countries and major markets. Probably some real jewels hiding out there.
  20. abbydog

    abbydog pfm Member

    Increasingly I take the view that in a phono-based system it is worth spending the greater proportion of the amplification budget on the phono stage. This is likely to produce much better results than a big line stage/power amp with a phono stage tagged on afterwards, as some sort of accessory.

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