Looking for phono preamp suggestions

My system 
sme 30/2 with Dynavector 17dx catridge, cardas clear beyond phono cable with xlr termination ,
ayre kx-r twenty preamp ,
ayre mc-r twenty monoblocks 
kef blade speakers 
cardas clear cables for rest of system .
cureently using ayre p-5 Phonostage .
asking for recommendations for upgrading the phono stage .
requirements xlr inputs and outputs.
looking for more depth and separation in sound stage and more sweetness / magic/ romance 
Thanks in advance .

All of us with the Herron are extremely pleased. Depth, separation and sound stage are superb. Sweetness, magic and romance however are relative. I would call it neutral, in the best sense of the word. Warm, rich, natural. You may want to look at an all-tube design. Even then however pay attention to listener reviews as not all tubes are sweet, let alone romantic.
Herron VTPH2 Aexcellent phono stage irrespective of price. I have one and use Telefunken NOS tubes which was a nice upgrade.


Luxman EQ-500.  I own this as well as the Herron VTPH-2A and the Luxman is superior in every way and has the XLR's you're seeking.  Yes, it costs more but it is well worth it IMO.
A few thoughts:
Any SUT can be wired balanced and use xlr inputs.

AudioSpecials Phonolab has balanced in and out, although the inputs are mini lemo 3 pin not xlr 3 pin (caveat I sell this, just to disclose)
I have not heard the dx but older 17 carts were not 'romantic'...ymmv


Re the Luxman EQ-500, I note that depending on the selection between the two LOMC gain modes it provides it presents the cartridge with a load impedance of either 40 ohms or 2.5 ohms. While the OP’s 0.3 mv cartridge has a recommended load impedance of >100 ohms, and an internal impedance of 32 ohms. Doesn’t seem like a good match in either gain mode.

Best regards,
-- Al

the  Luxman Does not have balanced input.
i want to run balanced from needle to speaker .

i am not a big fan of the 17dx catridge. I am working with my local dealer to get a good deal on a Lyra Etna lambda catridge . Hopefully soon 
currently my digital front of lumin u1 and ayre Qx-5 twenty with cardas clear interconnects bests the analogue front of sme and 17dx and ayre p-5. I am trying to get my analogue front to sound better . 
@almarg   Good point and I wasn't thinking about the built-in loading options as I use a SUT with my Luxman.

@newtoncr  Yes, I was thinking about the balanced output as opposed to input.  Sorry about that.
With your strict all balanced requirements you should take a look at Boulder. If you are limited to one cartridge and 100 ohm load impedance is suitable, the 508 would be a great value at the price (ca. $5000). If you need more flexibility with two inputs, any load impedance you fancy and alternative equalization curves for pre RIAA era records, the 1008 is a great choice. I’ve been using this device for years and never felt the need to upgrade. It’s hugely dynamic, totally transparent, very neutral and dead silent. Your system is certainly up to it. The 1008 originally cost around $12k in 2009, but it’s now deleted and replaced by the new 1108. The difference seems mostly cosmetic to match with the new 1100 series amps and the inevitable price increase. Hunting down a previously used 1008 might be a more interesting option. If you can find one, they don’t come around very often.

You didn’t mention budget, but if price is no object, there are far more options. A sign of the times I guess. A used Boulder 2008 might be located at a reasonable price, but after that all bets are off: Boulder 2108, d’Agostino Momentum, Soulution, Ypsilon, the list keeps growing. All fully balanced and all fully unaffordable for us regular folks.

Good luck with your search!

I was thinking of how the boulder 1008 or 1108 will compare with the ayre p-5 xe . 
That would be in my price range .

You may want to consider van den Hul’s The Grail SB phono preamplifier. It’s fully balanced, battery powered, has current-mode inputs and sounds lovely.

A professional review.
A youtube review of the entry level model.


van den Hul dealer
Get your self in front of the price appropriate, for you, Allnic and enjoy the music
@tooblue - is there Allnic phono stage with XLR inputs?  I am not aware of any.  Thx
@gestalt the van den hul seems very nice , what the price .
the others I am considering are boulder 1008/1108, Zestos Andros , 
Jeff Rowland i can’t find much on it .
which among the above would be the best match for my sme 30/2 with currently a Dynavector 17dx catridge and in future hopefully a Lyra Etna lambda catridge . I would love to save some money on a demo or preowned unit . I am inclined to solid state .
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PS Audio Stellar. Folks at Stereophile gushed over it and I am loving mine. 
Lots of good suggestions, to which I will add the ModWright PH-150 Reference Phono. This is a tube MC/MM unit with two inputs: single ended and balanced. Running a Lyra Kleos SL LOMC with excellent results. Service and advice from Dan Wright are a big plus. 
BAT (balanced audio technology) VK-12SE all tube, tons of gain, quiet, fully balanced in and out. Sound incredible. Built like tanks. Music direct and MoFi carry the line. 
The Coda 06X has balanced inputs and outputs. This may be an option worth consideration. 
I just received a PJL hybrid phono preamplifier. Under 300.00, I'm really amazed at the performance of this New Jersey made phono preamplifier. 

Check them out

I did an extended audition on Boulder 508.  The sound is superficially enticing but I tired of it.  It lacked depth, image and realism.  It sounded a little 'digital'.  Good digital, but digital.

I bought the van den Hul Grail after an audition of more than a month.  It costs a lot more but is worth every cent.  Superb presentation and uncannily quiet.  It is a match for all else regardless of price and so, in its way, is a 'bargain'.

I second and highly recommend the Boulder 1008 or 2008.

I also own a DSA phono.  all the load settings (many options) are located in the front of the unit, and thus changes are easy and near-infinite.

The Ypsilon is another great option.

Good luck,
I have narrowed my choices down to boulder 1008/1108 vs van den hul the grail sb.
between these 2 which one would suit me for my kind of music , which is vocals, jazz, acoustic music and classic rock 
thank u 
I have never heard "the grail", so I am not qualified to compare.  

What I do know, is that the Boulder 2008 is outstanding.  The 1008 has the same DNA... I believe,  the cartridge your after deserves a quality phono.

I use the following carts,
Otofon Anna
Strat V2
Hana ML

good luck,
@newtoncr ,
both Boulder 1008/1108 vs Van den Hul the Grail SB seem to be excellent choices, but they're using different technologies.

Generally speaking, in a cartridge the more coiled wire turnings, the greater both the voltage output and internal impedance.  Likewise, the less coiled wire turnings, the lower both the voltage output and the lower internal impedance.

Like the Boulder, most mainstream phono stages amplify the "voltage".  So generally speaking, the lower the output cartridge voltage, the more the phono stage has to increase/multiply which in turn often lead to more distortion.  

The VDH Grail uses a much rarer form of amplification - "current".  The lower the internal impedance, the greater the current (Ohms Law).

So in a nutshell, the lower the cartridge's output voltage (associated with lower internal impedance), the greater the VDH current (a good thing) or the greater the voltage must be magnified by the Boulder (a potential bad thing - multiplying any distortion).  This doesn't necessarily mean that one is better than another, rather, your cartridge output may be an influencing purchasing factor.

FWIW, I recently purchased the VDH Grail SB because of the "black" backgrounds and favor low output/low impedance cartridges: less coils > less magnetic resistance > faster cantilever > cleaner music. 


prob not the answer you want hear, but if you want the improvements you say you want. i would suggest moving to a better dynavector cart - like an xx2 or tkr, or a lyra or AT art9

your ayre px5e is not an artifically sweet sounding unit but it very clean very smooth, no harshness at all, you could go zesto or chinook or another tube pre but it may well introduce noise - your noise floor is VERY low right now, don’t screw that up

instead, get a sweeter cartridge that resolves detail and images better and has more subtly
I’ve owned too many p-stages to count, and I think my Audio Research REF 3 blows away anything else I’ve heard.  Tubey in a good way: involving, high def, dimensional, but surprisingly authoritative.  Injects life into the sound.  Like a Chinook tonally, but with bass and jump factor.  I paid $10k for a demo model.  No affiliation.  
I second the recommendation for a BAT phono stage.   An all balanced design, from input through to the output.  There are several models to choose from ranging from $3K to $12,500.  I own BAT electronics and they are fabulous.  Read up on their website at balanced.com to become more acquainted with their design philosophy.  The sound quality is exquisite and they are built exceptionally well.  I have gone through several great systems in my time and my current BAT products are certainly about the best I have ever owned.
Good luck, and do enjoy the music.

Check out Sutherland. That’s all he makes. I recently got a modest model and had some questions/needed an upgrade and Ron Sutherland himself helped me. Doesn’t care where his box has been purchased -he will support it. I think his models go from $900-$16,500. I think his and Van den Hul are top options.
Sutherland does not have balanced input and output . They use the same tech as the grail .  Still deciding between boulder 1008/1108 and the grail sb/sb 
Working in Europe and Singapore I get to hear 'millionaire' Hi Fi systems at hi end dealers and at shows (last year!). The two best phono stages I've ever heard (no I haven't heard them all) would be an Aesthetix IO which Is balanced in and out. The other is a Tom Evans Mastergroove SR
which is single-ended In and can be ordered with a balanced output.
 'Full disclosure' I loved the Aesthetix but was put off by the costs involved in keeping it supplied with the quantity of valves/tubes it needed. I ended up buying the Tom Evans SR and just love it's music making abilities. I have the 0.2 mV input with an Ikeda 'Kai' pick up. The Tom Evans 'Mastergroove' Is almost as good as the 'SR' for 60% of the price.
You must consider something in the Allnic line.  LCR networks are the way to go.
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We have phono stages ranging from $1500 all the way up to 21k for the Gryphon Legato. In the price range you are talking about, nothing is like the Zanden 120. The RIAA curves are unique and it is a true balanced design. In comparison with its bigger brother, the 120  a solid state unit but has that same signature Zanden sound that is unmistakable.

Dealer disclosure
Kyomi Audio
I have spent many enjoyable hours listening to Lyra Etna ( non Lamda ) and it is a very linear non romantic cart - it does pair very well w ARC, BAT and Aesthetix. My choice in your $ is ARC for the FET / tube  Low noise solution.

hope you are enjoying your quest :-))
I am not as knowledgeable as many of these contributors, but why do you need balanced input and output? Or does if depend on the cartridge? Doesn't the output of the cable from the turntable (cartridge/arm) just have a right and left interconnect?
... why do you need balanced input and output? Or does if depend on the cartridge?
A phono cartridge produces very low output voltage and is inherently balanced, so there can be advantages to using balanced phono inputs.
After several attempt to find the sound I was looking for I ultimately ended up purchasing an Icon Audio PS3 MKII phono preamp. The sound that this unit generates is nothing short of spectacular. The other bonus is tube rolling to adjust the sound to any finicky ear. All Icon Audio product are built like tanks and perform excellent. David Shaw and group are great folks to work with for any questions or clarification before and after purchase. Just my thoughts…………
Ron Sutherland replied to my query about balanced input saying he’s going to release an upscale version of phono loco with balanced input and balanced output at 16,500 .
that brings it to the same price range as van den hul grail se version and boulder 1108.
tried to contact the boulder dealer and was not very impressed with the interest they showed ( they don’t have any phono stages on demo for me to listen to ). So now inclining towards vdh and now Sutherland.
has anyone compared the vdh and Sutherland. Would love to hear some first hand experience. Thanks