Looking for a great phono pre-amp in the $1000 or less range

I’ve a vintage Kenwood KD-500 DD turntable (concrete base), and grace tonearm.  Currently running a grado gold MM cartridge running through the built-in phono preamp section of my NAD C658 preamp, into an Anthem MCA 225 mk 2 amp and Martin Logan Classic 9 electrostatic speakers.  Streaming Tidal can give me some stunning results but my music through the turntable is far less compelling.  Hence the desire to try upgrading my phono preamp section (and eventually move to a MC).  After substantial digging I’ve got a few higher level candidates, there are obviously many out there. 
the two front runners I’m considering are:

the Back Ice Audio F9 mk and the gold note PH5.  The black ice is intriguing but not nearly as well known or reviewed as the gold note. 
others I’ve considered:

sutherland KC Vibe mk2

moon audio 110 LP V2

parasound zphono XRM

feedback from the community appreciated!


Return Option!

Of everything in the chain, I think Phono Stages are the most difficult to find one you love. You simply cannot rely on specs; reviews; advice; other than to make a hopeful choice and put it in your system.

I recommend you only buy from a source that allows return/refund, so you can either get lucky with 1st choice, or finally fall in love with the ... 5th one.

To complicate matters further, a unit might not sound great, until you find a cable that brings it to life as happened to my friend recently.


+1 Sutherland

My friend has one and thinks it’s great! BTW, Many moons ago I had that same arm and table and it was a cut above many others that I've owned!

I have an ifi iPhono3 Black Label and have been very happy with it so far. Very quiet, very dynamic, and has a wonderful soundstage presentation. Not sure of course how well it will work in your system, but is right in the price range.

Also, is very flexible for both MM and MC cartridges, so if you decide to upgrade there down the road, you’ll be able to so easily.


If you’re looking for solid state the Hegel V10 sounds great. A pre owned one can be had in the $1,000 range. 

The Grace 707 arm is a low mass masterpiece, and you are better off with an appropriately compliant MM cart.  Find a Grace F9 body and buy a Soundsmith Ruby stylus for it.  A tube hybrid phono stage like the Black Ice Audio F159, or even  The budget priced Bellari VP130 Mk 2 should have you smiling.