Phono Preamplifier Redux .. Damn This is Getting Expensive

I posted previously in search of a phono preamplifier, but as I put together a system I refined what I was looking for.

My current Analog food chain consists of Technics 1200G turntable, Hana ML cartridge, unknown phono preamplifier, McIntosh MA12000 integrated, Sabrina X, pair of REL S/812 subs.  Also, Shunyata Everest 8000 power conditioner and a mix of Alpha V2 NR and Venom V10NR power cables.  Other cables: AQ Earth balanced interconnects, William Tell full range speaker cables.  Also, had to make some room acoustic modifications.

So, here is the problem.  I just got a Holo May DAC DTE and have been streaming by Roon, mostly purchased and ripped files on a Synology NAS.  The problem is that my digital side sounds much more musical than my analog.  Part of the remedy is on the way with 3" Tiger Maple equipment rack, but digital and analog are not close.  My Sutherland 20/20 LPT is going back.  It has limited front/back sound stage and the upper mids and treble are a bit shrill.  I say this because the Holo is just beautifully musical throughout.

Music Direct will be taking Sutherland back and has suggested the Esoteric E-02 Balanced as a solution.  So this post I'm raising my budget to 9-10K new, or used and prefer balanced out.  Looking for detail, dynamics and silent background.  I just can't have the digital so much more enjoyable... of course there is always selling all analog and staying digital, but that doesn't feel right.  

So, where do I go for balanced out and more musical, but retaining micro detail and dynamics?


@vonhelmholtz Before you change a thing, please move your turntable out of the sound field. Your speakers are blasting your poor cartridge like Captain Kirk flying through an asteroid storm. That can't be helping and I'm surprised you're not getting feedback from the speakers into the analog playback.

To be candid, you've made many purchases of gear you haven't heard before. That's always going to be a risk. Most electronics need 100hours or more of break-in. Are you judging the phono stage before that? If you aren't near a number of dealers and can't demo stuff, you should seriously consider buying used gear with the mindset that it's just a longterm home demo, with little risk. Take your time and change only one piece at a time.

If you can demo gear, bring your music that you know well, is well recorded and make appointments to listen on slow days/times when you won't be rushed. The gear that "wows" for 30minutes, may not be what moves you over a longer listening session. Musicality & detail are yin & yang. Short demos make detail win and long term enjoyment suffer. Cheers,


I suggest that what you are hearing is not the fault of the Sutherland which is a very capable phono preamp. There is nothing shrill about its sound.

It does take ~ 200 hours for all of the capacitors and electronics to be burned in.

I suggest your issue could also be that settings are not ideal for the cartridge. Try setting it to 100 ohms and a lower gain setting than you have now. What your hearing sounds like too much gain and possibly the cartridge is not yet broken in or properly aligned.  

FYI I am currently running a 20/20 with Technics GR and Lyra Delos and the sound is phenomenal.

Patience is advised when setting up a vinyl system.

If you feel you must have balanced connections, the Parasound JC3+ at Music Direct ($3199) does support them.

in no way do you need to consider a different turntable/cart. both are very capable! a used herron phono pre would be my choice but a rogue ares magnum is wonderful sounding.

I looked at your system and it’s possible that the way it is positioned It is causing noise through the TT. It’s also VERY possible that you like digital more. Some people try to make us feel like we can’t hear if we feel that way but there are virtues to both digital and analog. I like both but could happily live with my Holo Spring DAC.

I'm in same boat with digital so much better no longer listen to vinyl, and this with well over 3500 albums. I estimate I'd have to spend upwards of $10K on phono pre and cartridge to get back to something like level playing field. Not sure I'm going to ever do this as digital sound quality entirely pleasurable and now hooked on new type listening session, what with ease of selecting music via streaming.