Is the Darlington MP-7 an upgrade over a MS Nova Phonomena?

So I've been rocking the Nova Phonomena for more than 10 years now, bought it new all those years ago.  It's the one that has a battery powered mode, off the grid with its one green eye.  It's served me well and I really have no complaints, but perhaps I might enjoy a more exciting sound as opposed to neutrality.  That's where the Darlington MP-7 comes in.  Been researching it and no owner seems to have anything bad to say about it, and it may be a giant killer as well.  To some it bests a Manley Chinook and a JC3+, and even some in the $4000+ category.  I'm one who doesn't believe the more you spend the better the sound, plus I'm bordering on dead broke for this hobby so I have to spend carefully.  The Darlington seems like a great fit for my modest system.

I'm running an old Koetsu Black that's been recently re-tipped by VAS, and that's going into a Phasemation T-300 SUT, at 1:20 ratio.  I very much like the sound improvements of using the SUT plus the virtual elimination of background noise, so that stays.  Thus I only need an MM phono pre, and the TOTL Darlington is now at the top of my list.  Another candidate is the Teddy Pardo PHN1.1 that caught my eye last night, though the 2 box solution isn't really appealing to me.  But would these actually be an upgrade over the Phonomena?  Or is it more of a lateral move?  The Phonomena gets really good press, many consider it an affordable reference.  But I found that with gain pumped up to 60dB for MC that the hiss and hum was pretty much unacceptable,  Thus the addition of the SUT, and gain set to the minimum of 40dB.  Sounds pretty darn good at the moment, but can it get better without spending a lot?

Feel like I'm wasting a lot of circuitry just using the Phonomena in MM mode, and perhaps a dedicated MM unit might have less sound degradation.  Measurements are pretty meaningless with these things, except for RIAA deviation and input overload characteristics, which the Darlington excels at.  It's been described as tubey which is appealing to me, but without the noise and inconvenience.  I'm pretty sold on the MP-7 and will probably nab it when my birthday comes around in a couple months.  But in the meantime, any thoughts would be appreciated.


Recent Darlington purchaser here, although our vantage points are not even close!!! 

Unlike you drewdawg- I had nothing tangible to go by for a comparison. I'm 65, and have my old vinyl from a teenager on, and lots of rock, jazz and classical re-issues. BUT- I never used a standalone phono preamp! I always made do with my receiver preamps, with my latest being the built in on my Yamaha RX-A1030 receiver. 

I had the opportunity to hear some of my vinyl played back on another deck and preamp and it opened my ears and eyes so to speak. I did some research on  preamps and noise, and read a lot about Darlington(right here in my home state). I thought about going to the MP-7, but figured if this thing was good I'd be extremely happy for the $300 so I bought the MM-6. 

I just finished 30 days of power on with it- and played a few pieces here and there, and the first thing I noticed my my soundstage just completely opened up, and found that out while I was working at my desk, which is to the left of my left speaker! For the rest of the chain- I have a VPI Scout 1.1 and an Ortofon 2M Black. The 2M Black was starting to get on my nerves as it has a tendency to pick up a lot of noise.

So just tonight- I played my Classic pressing of Alan Parsons I Robot, and now playing a Speakers corner pressing of Les McAnn / Eddie Harris Swiss Movement, and am completely floored that sounds are now scattered and placed or arranged rather than two dimensional. The opening track I Robot blew me away with just how everything seemed to just roll out smoothly and it spaciousness.

I'm a very happy camper with the MM-6 and its such a huge change from what I had. Why I never thought of doing this before- I just don't know. Take a read at the massive FAQ over on the Darlington site. It goes in to a lot.



@reidcc Thanks for the detailed testimonial, very nice! Had a read of the FAQ at the Darlington site and it was a good read, they seem to know what they're doing over there.  Also perused their Audio Encyclopedia which is nice and knowledgeable as well.  There's also one user blurb that states the MP-7 sounds better than his Phonomena, so there's that.  Darlington is a company I'd like to support, as they want to bring great sounding phonos to the masses at great value, right in my wheelhouse!  Also no sales tax from MA to CA, so bam that's saving 60 bucks right there.  I want the mono switch which is $80, on the fence about upgraded connectors. Looks like I'm gonna pull the trigger, soon as I have the funds.

@drewdawg999  I had a JC-3 and Chinook.  I now own an MP-7.  I would never go back to either of those.  

@tswisla Cool, thanks. Must have been your post I saw before in another thread. Perhaps phono stages are a solved problem now and need not cost an arm and a leg. 

Ummm, did a pivot and oops, I'm soon to have a new SUT, my dream one, a Cinemag 1254 by Ned Clayton. Expecting big things in order for it to be a meaningful upgrade from my Phasemation T-300. 4 adjustable gain settings is a big plus, I have much to play with if I ever change carts. Borrowed from my birthday fund so this is it until Christmas, but nice early present for me. So looks like it's Darlington MP-7 for Christmas but that's okay, I'm a patient fellow.