Phono Stage upgrade to complement Dohmann Helix One Mk 2

Thanks to the recommendations from many users on this Audiogon blog, I think I was able to make a more informed purchase of a turntable, the Dohmann Helix One Mk 2.  I've really been enjoying the turntable for the past month!  

The next phase of my system now needs attention:  the phono stage.  Currently, I'm using a Manley Steelhead v2 running into an Ypsilon PST-100 Mk2 SE pre-amplifier (into Ypsilon Hyperion monoblocks, into Sound Lab M745PX electrostatic speakers). 

I've been told that I could really improve my system by upgrading the phono stage from the Manley Steelhead (although I've also been told that the Manley Steelhead is one of the best phono stages ever made).  
Interestingly, two of the top phono stages that I'm considering require a step-up transformer (SUT).  I'm not fully informed about any inherent advantages or disadvantages of using an SUT versus connecting directly to the phono stage itself.  

I suppose my current top two considerations for a phono stage are the Ypsilon VPS-100 and the EM/IA  LR Phono Corrector, both of which utilize an SUT.  I don't have a particular price range, but I find it hard to spend $100k on stereo components, so I'm probably looking in the $15k - $70k price range. 


@drbond, what a difficult, yet fun decision. I happen to own a full Ypsilon and FM Acoustics systems and they are both awesome. Both systems are "buy and forget" as you focus on enjoying music and nothing else. The Ypsilon Phono requires SUTs for MC, and in my case I have 2 from Ypsilon to cover the cartridges I use. The FM has switches and modules with various resistance values (FM122, in my case), instead. Obviously, the FMA 223 mentioned above is at a higher level than mine. I have selected not to mix the two systems, as they both perform the best when matched with their in-house components. Another phono that I considered seriously prior to deciding on the Ypsilon was the Zanden Model 1200mk3. The TTs I use are Helix 2 with Ikeda arm, Thales Compact II with Simplicity II arm, and Simon Yorke S4 and S10 with their "house" S7 and Aero arms, respectively. Cartridges used are VDH Frog, multiple top IKEDA, Lyra Skala, Transfiguration Orpheus,  Shelter 901III, various EMT, Grado MM Reference and Ortofon A90. All contribute to sonic diversity and fun, as well as to prove to friends that choice of cartridge can totally transform a system, up or down!

I do not know where you live, but now with the "show season" in full swing, you maybe be able to convince distributors to bring their phono to your home for a trial. There is no other better or safer way to make the decision.

Unfortunately, I haven't auditioned the Manley or the EM/IA, thus no comparative notes there.

Good luck!


Why not use two different phono preamps?  It would allow flexibility to experiment with different sound profiles.

Dear @drbond  : " Thanks for the FM acoustic recommendation, but are there any other brands that you can also recommend, w.....""


There are a lot of phono stages to choose in between but my take is not exactly that but understand why exist a Phono Stage unit? Why not have only one electronic item with low noise/high gain where the signal goes directly to the amps, with no additional cables for a phono stage and additional electronics signal degradations?

Because that's the main point when we are talking of this or the other phono stage. Let me explain my opinion:

It's obvious, we need a phono stage because the cartridge signal that goes at the input of any phono stage needs to be proccessed in that unit with an Inverse RIAA Eq. Curve that be inverse can mimic the RIAA standard to have a flat response after the inverse RIAA was pplied to the signal and that is the main reason of the phono stage  existence.

Now, the RIAA curve is not an " easy or lower " equalization but the other way around. Its runs from 20hz to 20khz at around very high and low equalization levels around: +,- 20dbs ! !  and this means that that curve has a swing of 40dbs ! !  where any single/low deviation from the standard affects around 2 MUSIC octaves making a non-desired " colorations " work.


What all those really means? That the inverse must mimic the standard and this means: mimic accurately to stay nearer to the recording.


I'm not talking if the unit we own like it, it does not matters because that is not the main point but accuracy and today accuracy means phono stages with at least a RIAA deviation not higher than +,- 0.1db.

Ypsilon, DSA and almost all the names here but FMA are far away to acomplish an accurated inverse RIAA: your unit has a swing of 1.0 db!  To high. Where goes the money we pay for Ypsilon or other high priced electronics when are non-accurated.

Please remember that when I'm talking of accuracy this not means analythical. Far away from there, accuracy is just that: accuracy.

I like FMA but the Boulder 2108 is an option.

Again, I'm not talking of what we like I'm talking of what is wrong or rigth against what we are paid for the ps units. Some kind of critical measurements puts its finger where it hurts to the subjectivist gentlemans.


If you want something truly better of what you own then you have to think seriously on what I said here. Yes, only an opinion where the best one is your opinion along your room/system targets.