Phono preamp or cartridge - which to upgrae first


I am currently considering upgrading my analog system and would appreciat your advice on what my next move should be.

My front-end system currently consists of
Galibier Gavia, Triplanar arm and Dyna 17D3 cartridge which runs through a Modwright 9.0 SWLP preamp w. phono stage. Music is mainly rock, jazz, blues - very little classical music.
I am quite happy with my set-up but am interested to improve it to get more detail and spatial information as well as maybe a tad warmer, more emotionally involving sound (I believe the Modwright can sound a bit solid-statish at times). I like dynamic, transparent sound with good wxtension to both frequency extremes, but not strident; tonally neutral but if necessary erring a bit to the warm side than analytical.

Initally I was thinking of getting a better cartridge but am hesitatant because I am not sure how much of its qualities I will be able to hear through the Modwright. Maybe it is a better idea to get a really good phonostage first as a system anchor? If so, my preference would be to combine phonostage and preamp into one box (maybe with seperate power supply) rather than seperate components to save money and space (such as a Coincident phonostage?).

Any advice on how to proceed and specific suggestions is greaty welcome.

So basically you have a very good analog setup and you want to transition it into greatness. And you've already honed in on targeting a new Phono Stage or
Cartridge, which in my experience are easily the 2 most important components in the analog chain (over TT, tonearm, SUT, and cables). It's tricky to prescribe
which to do first, and in the end of course you'll do both!

If it were me I'd probably do cartridge first, which is akin to choosing speakers before amp (though to be fair, phono stage can and does influence the sound
more than amp). I had a friend in a similar situation with that 17D3/Scoutmaster and a phono stage no better than your Modwright built-in (if not lower in the
food chain). He liked the 17D3 but never loved it, and eventually landed an Ortofon Jubilee which he liked waaaay better (same phono stage). So you can
definitely have success down that path. Also I've personally had satisfaction upgrading my cartridge beyond the pay grade of my phono. Though as a result,
phono stage is still the bottleneck in my current system (what I'm using is a tradeoff: "so there" in midrange, treble and imaging, but "not quite there" in bass
and macro-dynamics).

Upgrading to a higher-end preamp with built-in phono is also a reasonable approach to consider. I had a VAC Renaissance III with an incredible sounding MM
stage (there you'd want to go with a 3rd party SUT for MC though since $1K+ for the inexpensive Lundahls is a huge ripoff); I believe that you can in fact have
a fairly good built-in when it comes to phono stages.
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You will get improved performance from your existing cartridge with a good phono stage.

I just upgraded to a Herron VTPH-2 from a VTPH-1mc. The VTPH-1 is outstanding. The VTPH-2 is hands down, by far the very best phono stage I've ever heard.

I'd contact Keith Herron to see if you could arrange a home audition. Make up your own mind.
I agree with Bpoletti on this one, your Dyna is a good cartridge and in my experience, upgrading the phono stage to better amplify the dynamic swings this cart is capable of would be my first venture. The Herron or Manley stages would be excellent choices to go with.
Though I sided on the recommendation towards cartridge, I see it's all-in for phono stage here; it's certainly true that this would be an excellent investment for you. I'll also note that in the last 2 years (at least) of reading here, I've seen only 100% positive (read: gushing) feedback for the Herron VTPH-2 stage, which seems peculiarly immune to the typical flavor-of-the-month ebb and flow of enthusiasm.

I'd definitely love to try out that Herron myself, as it seems to be something special. My Sonic Frontiers Phono 1 SE+ has a phenomenal midrange and silky sparkling treble, but if I could find something to match it that adds in top-notch dynamics I'd be in bliss.
Mulveling, you should contact Keith Herron to see if you can arrange an audition in your own system. It's the only way to know for sure.
Went to a seminar at the RMAF. Roy Gregory on optimizing your cartridge Look for the video to come out on The Audio Beat..All things you can do without and devices or software. Very very cool. In addition he was using a VPI table and arm set up. I was surprised that he was using SoundSmith MM cartridge that he said sells for about 1K. I thought is sounded very good and fuller then a lot of MC cartridges that I heard.
Thank you for your ideas and proposals.

Upgrading a new phonostage/preamp with phono would make auditioning a bit easier, it seems. Auditioning cartridges is very difficult at best, and auditioning in my own system is probably next to impossible. There are so many variables...the Jubilee which one of you mentioned is considered in some reviews as unemotional and analytical, in other reviews as the opposite. Not sure it would be a substantial over the Karat which is no slouch itself. Other cartridge proposals which would be a good fit with the Triplanar would be very welcome (how about a Dynavector XV-1s or XX, a Transfiguration Orpheus or one of Van den Hul cartridges?), even if I should decide to get a new phonostage first.

Thank you for mentioning the Herron which seems interesting. Has anyone been able to compare it to competitors in its price range (such as Allnic H1500, K&K, Manley Chinook or Steelhead, Coincident, Odyssey Suspiro,Tron Seven). Budget is around 4-6 k, less if possible. Also, any specific ideas, apart from the Coincident)for a phonostage with volume control/preamp with built-in phono module) to avoid additional cost and system complexity). I listen to vinyl 95% of my time and only have one other source, so this seems a reasonable idea.

Last but not least, any idea what kind of improvement over the Modwright I can hope for?
I know your phono stage and cartridge well. The Modwright is an excellent unit which can easily accommodate a better cartridge. The Dyna XV1S is great. At lesser cost the Ortofon Windfeld which I own or the Cadenza Black are both excellent.

I own the Herron VTPH2 and I love it but IMHO you will get more from a cartridge upgrade.
If you are looking to upgrade your phono stage check out the Zesto Audio Andros. I liked it very much. Very much. To upgrade your cartridge the Transfiguration would be a great step up.
Thank you for your additional input. In the meantime I decided to follow Teeshot's advice - at least partly. I could get a good deal on a new Transfiguration Proteus and decided to order it. Recent reviews and reports on it are very promising and pricing was less than a Dynavector XV-1s (and to tell the truth I was a bit afraid of the Dynavector's long exposed stylus). It is the first time I use such a still quite expensive cartridge so I am very excitedly waiting for its delivery which hopefully will be in 3 weeks or so.

So I think the sensible thing to do is wait and see/hear how it will integrate into my system (even though I am still thinking on a new phono preamp particularly as there may be a possiblity for me to get a good used Coincident phono which is rarely offered). Regarding the Andros, I read some reports that it sounds a bit analytical. I would appreciate to hear more about this.
Congrats on your Proteus, its a great cart and one that IMHO warrants a better phono stage. It never ends this merry go round...nor should it.