Pyxi phono stages, two systems.

I've posted about the Pyxi before, but wanted to give it another shot.  The responses to my last post mostly centered around preferences based on topology, op amps vs tubes vs solid state.  I'm no engineer and have little interest in what strategies and components go into a given design, I just know what I hear based on 55 years in the hobby.   That being said, here's my experience so far with the Pyxi and it's precedent.  

I recently purchased the Pyxi phono stage from SOTA after having used
the phono stage it was based on for over two years.  The original is
from a DIY design that an engineer named Wyn Palmer created. Wyn
supplied the boards along with a parts list for his design on
Audiokarma. There's quite a long thread devoted to it over there.  The
Pyxi and DIY unit are virtually identical sonically, so even though I've
only had the Pyxi a couple of weeks, I've spent a lot of time with the
the design.  My system - VPI TNT turntable, ET 2.5 tonearm, Myajima
Shilabe, Ortofon Cadenza Bronze and Hana ML cartridges, Muse Model 3
signature preamp, Son of Ampzilla MK II power amp, Audio Artistry
Vivaldi speakers. For starters, the Pyxi clearly reveals the attributes
of each cartridge.  The Hana a little more forward / Row C, the Ortofon
a great overall performer, the Shilabe perhaps lacking a little drive,
but it's the one I've settled on. With it, the music just hangs in the
air, clean and clear, dead quiet in the groove, incredible detail, real.
The properties that come through regardless of cartridge are a clear
window into the performance, unforced detail, excellent microdynamics
and an even frequency balance.  Bass is cartridge dependent, I prefer
the Shilabe, but in all cases it's well sorted out, with distinct bass
timbres even at very low frequencies. That being said, it, the Shilabe
is a little on the polite side.  My next purchase is a second turntable,
a Lenco based Solid12 from PTP.  I'm hoping that will provide some more
drive / forward momentum.

At it's price point, the Pyxi has a few competitors.  A friend of mine,
Steve, has one of those.  I'm not going to name the stage, I've just
never been comfortable doing that.  I took the Pyxi over to his place
for a shoot out, along with a Ven Den Hul MC 10 Special cartridge I
hadn't used in years. Steve has a Fluance turntable with an Ortofon Blue
cartridge, a Denon home theater receiver and Focal speakers.  We first
played the setup as is, the Ortofon through his phono stage.  We used
Paul Simon's "Hearts and Bones" for the comparison.  The sound was
barely passable, muffled, garbled,  very little instrumental
separation.  Frequency balance was OK. FWIW Steve's been pretty happy
with it, I'm the one who steered him to the phono stage and turntable. I
swapped in the Pyxi and things improved considerably.  I like to  think
of the soundstage as analogous to a balloon, and the change was akin to
adding air to an underinflated balloon. The bass, while still lacking,
was no longer the one note bass that we'd heard with Steve's stage. 
Better micro and macro dynamics. A more relaxed and enjoyable
presentation.  Next I installed the Van Den Hul cartridge and we went
back to Steve's stage. A big improvement over the Blue, but at over ten
times the price, I would hope so. Detail, microdynamics bass definition
all improved to a point where the sound become borderline acceptable.
Next up was the Pyxi with the Van Den Hul.  That combination, no
surprise, was the best.  Very low distortion, given the associated
equipment. A more fully developed and larger soundstage, another level
of improvement in bass definition and microdynamics.  Macro dynamics
also improved.  So, even in a mid-fi system like Steve's, the merits of
the Pyxi were easy to discern.  Steve's no audiophile, he never even sat
in the prime seat, but he still liked what he heard well enough that
he's planning to purchase a Pyxi to use with his Ortofon Blue.

I've been extremely pleased with the Pyxi and the unit that preceded
it.  I'm fine with spending thousands on cartridges.  My new turntable
is going to be more than $5,000.  The $300 Pyxi is all I need from a
phono stage and is every bit up to the task of delivering what the other
components feed it.  I've now also seen what it can do in a mid-fi
system and was frankly surprised by how much improvement it wrought.
That experience is what prompted this post actually.  Again, I'm not
naming names, but the DIY stage replaced a highly regarded $3,000 tube
based phono stage I had for 15 years that sounded soft and indistinct by
comparison. Several times before I sold that tube stage, I'd put it back
in only to take it back out within an hour.  The person I sold it to
said he's happy with it, so there you go. As for my reason for
purchasing the Pyxi when the DIY was essentially the same, first, the
Pyxi has adjustable loading, second, my DIY unit  is mounted in a case
salvaged from a Dynaco tuner and is frankly, but ugly. I still may end
up using it a second system though.. The Pyxi, in my setup, is in a
class by itself when it comes to price vs performance.  My impression of
the original phono stage, which remains true with the Pyxi, is, that
with a properly setup cartridge, the experience is more akin to
attending a performance as opposed to just listening to a recording.  55
years into this hobby I'm still making changes, but I'm done with phono
stages. Don't let the low price fool you.  This is where the reviewer
closes with "Highly recommended!". Done.



Your ears are the final judge.

A $300 SS unit more convincing than some of the many $3K+ SS & tube units is definitely a personal  call.

It's priced  low enough to buy and  hear for myself.


I just bought a Sota Escape a few months ago and was trying to find someone who stocked the Pyxi.   I think they may have had production delays .  In the end I bought a Sutherland KC Vibe and it's been great.   

I'm doing a second system , I have everything except the speakers which are on order.   I would definitely take a chance on a $300 phono preamp for that room.  I have a NAD pp1 which is mediocre at best.   It has no ground lug so i have to ground it  to my preamp or it has a nasty hum.  

The Pyxi did have mechanical issues that delayed shipping. Those problems have been resolved and the unit is available, although the first build was quickly sold out. You can order directly from SoTA or from select  dealers.