Solid State Phono Stages

I used to be an all-tube guy, but I’ve now ventured into the realm of high-end solid state with T+A and no longer have any itch to go back heavily into tubes. Now, the only tubes I have left in my system are in my Modwright PH9.0X phono, and from what I’ve demoed against it, it seems to be a giant killer. I do love it, but I’m curious to try a higher end solid state phono stage to see what more noise and more music might sound like. Unfortunately T+A does not have a standalone phono stage, so I’m looking at other manufacturers and open to other opinions.

I currently have a Clearaudio Innovation Wood table and Air Tight PC-1s cartridge. i listen to a wide range of music, from Zeppelin to Vivaldi to Beck to Coltrane to Yello. The stage would ideally have between 65-74db of gain, maybe adjustable to 60db at minimum, and have variable impedance values. A balanced output stage would be ideal. I don’t ever really plan to have a second arm, but most stages that retail over $7K tend to have multiple inputs anyways.

My budget would be at tops ~$8K for a used unit. The unit that is sticking out to me from what I’m reading about is the Simaudio Moon 810LP. Another high on the list is the Esoteric E-02. I’ve also come across the Pass XP-27, the Gold Note PH-1000.

I’m looking for a stage with some personality in its character, not one that is overly refined. I’d love for it to be dynamic and bold when it should be, and also gentle and refined when it should be.

The only solid state stages I’ve ever owned and tried were the Pass Labs Xono, which was clean sounding but a little noisy and brittle sounding compared to a PS Audio Stellar Phono. I’ve liked all my tube phono stages better than both of those units.

I’ve also considered going further up the tube stage route, looking at Doshi 3.0, Aesthetix IO Eclipse, but I’m hesitant unless I can hear those in place. 

What solid stage phono stages have you loved, and what have you compared them to?

128x128Ag insider logo xs@2xblisshifi

I would suggest the transimpedance jobs are likely worth a listen to if you use MC.

(Sutherland makes one)

I would love to hear the new Gold Note PH-1000. I use the GN PH-10 and it's so versatile and sonically full and detailed. If the PH-1000 is significantly better it just might be the end game for many


+1 on the Sutherland Loco or transimpedance phono preamps. The build and specs of your PC1S make it an absolute ideal candidate.

While your tonearm is not mentioned, Clearaudio Tonearms usually have a captive signal cable. Definitely helpful if your tonearm cable utilizes balanced signal construction as coax types typically exhibit increased inductance which impedes current/music flow.

As expected, network phono cables are a definite no for transimpedance performance.

The best phono solid state phono stage I've heard in your price range is the Coda 06x. It's bettered by my Zesto Andrés Deluxe II phono stage but not by much.

I am very happy with the Parasound JC3+   Way below your max budget and while worth a demo. I believe it has all the features you have requested. 

@thiefoflight - Take look at Simaudio Moon - there is a model to suit your budget.

Not sure you will find a used uinit because the ones in your budget do not come up for sale very often.

I have the LP5.3 RS model (the current 310LP model) and I an very happy with it.

But you would probably want the 610LP ($10k CDN) or the 810LP (16k CDN)

Simmaudio Moon Phono stages

They are extremely quiet and can be configured to most all cartridges

They are very dynaic and bold with exceptional details, but they convey the aura of the performance very well also

I use extremely good cables and the sound is exceptional.

Regards - Steve


Good luck on your journey!

I haven't explored the separate phono stage route; however, I am extremely pleased with the phono stage from my Moon 390 - it is derived from their 610 phono stage.  

Thank you all - some great suggestions here. 

@holmz ​​​​​@boothroyd - I don’t currently have balanced outs coming from my tonearm but it is an option. I’ve read about the Sutherland Phono Loco in the past and forgot about it as I wasn’t curious about solid state stages then. A brief search also surfaced Channel D phono stages, which also have an incredible reputation. 

@rsf507 I think the Gold Note PH-1000 is super sexy, but a few reviewers have commented on its lack of speed and dynamics, stating the unit is overly refined. That was a turnoff but would love to hear if anyone has experience comparing it to other stages. 

@bigtwin I forgot to list the Parasound JC3+  I’ve looked into that one before, but I’ve read a few users who commented on its noticeable noise levels for low output MC cartridges, and that was a turn off. 

@williewonka Yeah Simaudio MOON is up at the top of my list. There is a 610LP that is in budget for me, but I’m somewhat waiting for the 810LP to hit the market. They consistently seem to outperform the competition from what I’ve heard. 

I really appreciate the suggestions so far and will take a deeper consideration into transconductance stages, which I know little about. 

Keep it coming!


I don’t currently have balanced outs coming from my tonearm but it is an option.

Not required on the current crop of Loco products although cable type should be considered as previously mentioned.

I am a Tube Device user myself and every so often get the chance to listen to very modern designs for Solid State devices..

Recently I have been offered demonstrations of Two Phonostages, one being the Phasemation E-350 and the other being a model referred to as the 'Avalon', it is  Bespoke Built Design by a very accomplished Electronics Engineer with more than 40 years using LP as their main replays.

Each of these Phon's have made a extremely good impression and very memorable and worthy of informing others about.

Neither of the Phon's are going to break the bank, and the price separation between the Two above Phon's has a decent separation.

Even though the Phon's were not compared side by side, the demonstrations were carried out in short succession and the recollected information was enough to produce a assessment that both were very capable and will need a vast jump in design to be seen as easily bettered.

When encountering either of these Models the impression made might be such, that the need to continue a search further may be vanquished.  


complete don't usually promote products

Most higher end tonearm makers will offer their tonearms with "captive" cables as an option, so you have one wire from cartridge pin to phono input. For sure, this is true for Reed and Triplanar; I own one of each, both with captive cables. Clearaudio tonearms are not unique in this aspect.

Re balanced connection: You really already have a balanced connection, as 99% of cartridges offer a balanced output if the wiring permits.  To connect the cartridge to a balanced phono input, you simply use the "Ground" lead from the cartridge as the negative phase of a balanced signal. Optimally, therefore, you want the ground wire to be a conductor identical in type and quality to the conductor used for the positive phase of the signal.  By convention, the positive phase, aka "Hot" on an RCA connector, attaches to pin2 of an XLR connector, and the negative phase, aka "GD", attaches to pin3 of the XLR. pin1 is then where to connect the shield and any audio ground wire.  Since the internal wiring of most tonearms already uses the same conductors for what becomes Hot and GD in a single-ended connection, all you need is a balanced cable (defined as per above, where the pos and neg phase conductors are equal and terminated in an XLR), and of course a true balanced phono stage. (Be careful of that.  Some phono stages that offer XLR inputs are not truly balanced internally.) Also, you could get away with just re-terminating a single-ended phono cable where ground is carried on the shield with XLRs, but that would be a compromise with respect to optimal.

"Transimpedance".  I really dislike that term, although it is in common use these days to indicate a current-driven phono stage. Because it's misleading.  MC cartridges with high-ish internal impedance, say 20 ohms and higher, are not necessarily so well matched with SOME current-driven phono stages, because those phono stages inevitably have an input impedance greater than zero, and because the current output of the cartridge is a function of its internal resistance. (I know a lot of audiophiles break my "rule" by driving transimpedance stages with say a Denon DL103, which has a very high internal R. That's life.) The lower the internal resistance (and the greater the voltage output) of the cartridge, the more current it can deliver. If I am not mistaken, most current-driven phono stages seem to consist of an input stage that converts current to voltage. Then the downstream circuit functions much like any other phono stage.  The I to V conversion is best done by a solid state device. Hence most current-driven stages are at least hybrids or fully ss.  If it were me, I would check on the input impedance of any current-driven stage before purchase.  Ideally you want the Z to be as close to zero as possible.


I know a lot of audiophiles break my "rule" by driving transimpedance stages with say a Denon DL103, which has a very high internal R. That's life.

A great excuse for them to consider the upgraded “R” version DL103R (14 vs 40 ohms). Lower impedance equals more current & music in these types of circuits 👍

@thiefoflight hopefully you do get to demo the 810lp, it fits your characterization of 'SS with personality' from my experience. I represent a solid state phono from Germany called the Audiospecials Phonolab and had it in a comparo with the ( more costly ) Moon. Both are fantastic, but in this instance and system the takeaway was that the Phonolab is a straight A student but the 810 in comparison had more swagger on top of good grades :) . The Phonolab does have the interesting Recompizer function which is pretty nice to have with less than stellar recordings, for my wide ranging musical tastes it gets used...

Very happy with my Pass XP-27.  Super quiet and brings out the uniqueness of each cartridge. No balanced input, but has a true balanced output. Great controls up front for MC, MI, MM carts.

Dear  @thiefoflight  :  Just pull the triger for the 610 by SimsAudio, no tube or hybrid designs can " touch " it. Latter on you can make an upgrade to the 610 with the external 820S power supply that not even the 810 has it. Obviously I'm in agreement with the gentlemans that posted here and that support the 610/810. Don't waist your time and as soon is posible start to enjoy the SimsAudio. You can't go wrong with and fulfill your tragets:


" when it should be, and also gentle and refined when it should be. " Yes, when it should be.


I think that in the same system with the same cartridge if you listen to the 610 and 810 will be extremely hard that you can say which one in true is better, not only different but better,


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,


@thiefoflight  I have the Rega P8 with Alpheta 3 MC cartridge.  Hegel H590 into Acoustic Zen speakers.  It is dead quiet so I'm not sure what noise others are complaining about.  My previous phono stage was the Vertere Acoustics’ Phono-1 MkII.  The JC3+ is superior in wvery way.  IMHO

@boothroyd looking at the Phono Loco and it looks like it requires a balanced input into the stage, meaning I would need balanced outs from my tonearm. I could get my tonearm to do so. It is possible, but I would want to make sure transimpedance is the way I would want to go. I strongly believe in using good cables. I’m currently using a Synergistic Research Atmosphere X Euphoria phono going into my phono stage. 

@solypsa and ​​​​@rauliruegas Thanks for the nudge to SimAudio. It continues to be the unit that piques my interest and the way you validate it’s sonic characteristics is reassuring and make it more appealing. I did not know about the 820S power supply, that makes it even more interesting to upgrade down the line!

@karl_desch I have heard the XP27 a few times as well in a friend’s all Pass system. It too is very good, so worth considering.

@bigtwin The noise I mention is likely not one that is readily audible from listening position, but one that obscures imaging and separation. Even by looking at the stats, it has a range of SNR from 87db down to 67db. I think that is noisier than even my Modwright tube unit. I know most record surface rumble generates around 70-75db SNR anyways, but adding yet another layer of noise never helps. Many of the other stages I’m looking at are up in the 90-100db SNR range, which will be beneficial to pair with my preamp and amp which are all >115db SNR. 


@thiefoflight Nice looking specs on the Moon product.  I would expect that at three times the price. I'm at the point where my ears just can't hear the difference above a certain level of quality.  Cheers. 


looking at the Phono Loco and it looks like it requires a balanced input into the stage

Your cables should work fine as they are. Current (no pun) production typically uses RCA inputs.

I hope you will report back as to what you do and find. My journey has been in the opposite direction… I found Audio Research for phono stages decades ago and once I got to ARC tube phonostages… there was no going back… I now own a ARC Reference 3. Next same with preamps… now Reference 6SE… then DAC and amp… Ref160s… After decades with the wonderful Pass ss amps I can’t even begin to think of going back.


So, I would be really interested to hear your impressions when you get your new Phonostage.

The smartest thing is likely to stick with the Modwright PH9.0X phono. (IMO)

I had the Sim/Moon on the short list, as well as Sutherland.
It sort of depends on the cartridge though. If one is playing many cartridges then the Sim/Moon has combo that can be selected from the front panel.

If one is inclined towards MI or MM then I doubt that the transimpedance are “the go”. I am pretty sure that the Sutherland requires only MC… so no MI or MM.

And there is the SUT crowd. So whether it is “build in” or outboard, then that drives one to a different set of phono stages.

If one already has a nice phono stage then a good case can be made to just stop there.

My system has zero hiss at full volume, except with the phono stage… and the old ARC is limited to MM and 42dB (or maybe 48dB) of gain. And the ol ARC PH2 has a fair amount of hiss and low level noise… which starts to get audible a bit higher than where I normally have the volume at. So it is not bad, just it’s not perfect.
And I am limited to using only High Output coils.

Hence; I decided to upgrade the phono stage. And I have more cartridge options available.

If I had something like the Modwright PH9.0X phono, I would not likely have done so.


I’ve liked all my tube phono stages better than both of those units.

I got a used tube phono stage. And most are not overly “tube hungry” like a power amp can be.

I’ve always had tube phono stages. But I decided to give a SS one a try and I’m glad I did. I bought an SPL Phonos and am very happy with it.  Very dynamic with great bass extension and tonally very neutral. This is the one I’d recommend. 

”And  the old Audio Research PH2 has a fair amount of hiss”… That was released in 1992… thirty years ago. 

My ARC PH8 had no hiss as does my REF 3. 



Interesting. What did you have? What do you have now. What does your solid state do that your tube did not? 

”And  the old Audio Research PH2 has a fair amount of hiss”… That was released in 1992… thirty years ago. 

My ARC PH8 had no hiss as does my REF 3. 

Yeah, probably… I got it used in ‘98… and everyone knows that the ARC should be replaced as often as possible. 😂

My new (used) phono stage is at least 20 years newer 😎.

If one is playing at ~90dB SPL the hiss is not heard between tracks. It needs to be more like 100+ dB, and the head near the speaker, to hear the hiss.

It still sounds pretty good for music, and I do not have my head in front of the tweeter listening for hissing often… so the main reason for the upgrade was to be able to use other cartridges.

You can probably discount my suggestion for the OP to stay with what they have, or at least we have an understanding that I do not replace gear without having a reason to do so.

@ghdprentice The ARC Ref3 Phono definitely makes me drool, but even at it’s used prices it is a bit too expensive for me. Since I only live 10 min from Audio Research, perhaps one day I’ll find a way to demo it in my system. I’ve tried lower end ARC (PH6) and preferred the Modwright PH9.0X.

I’ll definitely report back, though it may take some time based on availability of units since I may not be buying a new one. I’d say the SimAudio MOON 810LP and 610LP are still the ones that are appealing me the most, and there is a 610LP used on the market right now but at a higher asking price than normal. I’m also looking for a unit with a full silver face plate if possible, but it’s not a deal breaker. Until then, competitive research keeps me busy and helps me be patient. 



Yes, the REF 3 is expensive. Fyi. I used to own a PH8… which I thought was an incredibly good deal for the money. I also owned a PH2, pH2Se, PH3, PH3SE, No trying to make you change your mind… just sharing my observations.

@ghdprentice I appreciate it. I have had some ARC gear, and they tend to vary in quality with more recent units generally sounding much better. I had the Ref 6 line stage and Ref 150 SE amp for a short while. They were both very good but not sonically where my heart was at a few years ago. I think my listening preferences have changed to be a bit more analytical, so the Ref 3 phono does interest me.

@holmz You’re probably right about me keeping the PH9.0X. Even if I did buy a solid state stage, I’m not sure I would let go of it. As a tube unit it has bested some Allnics, the Herron VTPH-2A, the Rogue Ares Magnum, and Fosgate Signature Phono. In terms of tube stages the Luxman EQ-500 also caught my attention and there is another thread where I comment on that in this forum. I’ve been advocating for the PH9.0X for years, so this is just my never ending curiosity just to say “I tried that”.

I also used to own a few SUTs including an EAR MC3. That one was very good, but  I’m in the camp on “no more SUTs ever again”. 


I have the Boulder 508 and it’s fantastic. Compared to the 2108 and it was very close. Table is an AMG V12

boothroyd, The Phono Loco by Sutherland is balanced.  The BMC MMCI is another balanced "transimpedance" phono stage.

There is no reason a current-driven stage cannot operate in balanced mode; it just has to have been built to do so with essentially separate gain circuits for the positive and negative phases of a balanced signal. This is much easier to do with solid state gain stages than with tubes.

@holmz You’re probably right about me keeping the PH9.0X. Even if I did buy a solid state stage, I’m not sure I would let go of it. As a tube unit it has bested some Allnics, the Herron VTPH-2A, the Rogue Ares Magnum, and Fosgate Signature Phono. In terms of tube stages the Luxman EQ-500 also caught my attention and there is another thread where I comment on that in this forum. I’ve been advocating for the PH9.0X for years, so this is just my never ending curiosity just to say “I tried that”.

It is some of this (I’ve tried that) that moved me to an upgrade.

Now looking to whether I set of a garage system with the ARC, and a cheap table, or move it on. (Etc.) It is not a high $ phono stage, but pretty good for 30+ years old.

Most of the ones you’ve mentioned should be good. I have no experience with the Sutherland, but if I was a hardcore MC guy, I would be taking a look if I had not gotten a stage with the SUTs built in.


I had a K&K Audio Maxxed Out pre for almost 20 years and loved it. Before that I had a few tube preamps with phono stages. Most recently I was using a Fosgate Signature phono stage which was also very good. The SPL, as I mentioned above, is more dynamic with better bass. But it also unravels details in complex recordings a little better.

I have just learnt the the Brand Phasemation does not seem to have a supply chain within the USA, so the E-350 Model Phon' is not looking like it is a Stock Item within the Country.

That is a shame, as it does present in a manner that is very attractive.


I have a Tom Evans that is a fantastic SS phono.  I'd be willing to send to you for an audition.  Happy Listening.

Tom Evans phono stages are good BUT the company has been very unreliable over the years. 

they are at a lower price level but my two faves, that i have kept after trying many over the years is the lehmann decade and the ayre px5e, wonderful sounding, dead quiet, adjustable, high gain

i too prefer ss phono stages for the low hassle factor, quiet and purity, just straight wire plus gain as much as possible for that miniscule signal... tube ’magic’ is easier and better introduced later in the chain if needed (e.g., linestage)...

Having heard many of the Phonostages mentioned here and some more, my 2 cents 1. The likes of PS Audio Stellar and JC3+ are good value but they ultimately sound like a sub 5k phonostage. They touch the high end end of the game.

Simaudio 610 and Avid Pulsare 2 are the 2 best SS Phonostages in this price range that I have heard. They are not too polished. They sound raw and have that bold drive in their presentation. Tonality, Prat and Dynamics, all proper and in the high end league.




@holmz Sutherland is now definitely on my consideration set.

@bigkidz Thank you for the offer to audition the Tom Evans. I’ve known two people who have owned it locally but didn’t get a chance to listen to it before they moved on from them. I will let you know if I’d like to take you up on it but balanced outs to the preamp would be a priority for me as I am considering moving my table away from my main system.

@jjss49 Lehmann has a good rep for sure, and I admittedly haven’t considered them. I’ve also forgotten about Ayre and never looked into their phono stages. That will be something I’ll need to do. I know Ayre has had some reputation of having a dry sound, but I’ve found their reference level gear to be quite incredible.

@au_lait and others - ever compare an XP-25 with the XP-27? How big is the improvement on the 27? That’s something I’ve been curious about.

@pani You too are advocating and validating Simaudio for me. I also was a fan of your ART-9 thread, which is still one of my favorite carts to date. When my last one died, I went to the DV-1s, then ART-1000 and liked neither. I then sold both and found the Air Tight PC-1s, which has the same character as the ART-9 but at much higher fidelity and grace. I also agree with your comments on the Stellar Phono and  JC3+. I’ll have to look into the Pulsare 2 as I haven’t even heard of that one!



and others - ever compare an XP-25 with the XP-27? How big is the improvement on the 27? That’s something I’ve been curious about.

I haven’t compared xp25 to xp27, but read a bit from people that have. In the end I found a good deal on the xp25 and it was already quite a jump from my RCM Sensor II.



@thiefoflight  : The suggestion on the Boulder 508 is very good too and along the SimsAudio all the others, including the ARs and your MR,  are beated easily.


Just an opinion.



@rauliruegas Ah yes, the Boulder definitely made my list as I was looking at it last night. They don’t come on the market too often unfortunately. I know the 1108 is higher up and maybe out of my price range but any opinion on whether the older 1008 is preferred over the 508?

My .02...try a Whest Audio phono stage. Music Direct carries them now here in the US and I believe that you can return it if needed. 

A PS. 40RDT will serve all of your needs. Email James Henriot at the Whest Audio website if you have any questions- he can customize your unit if needed. He is a great resource and builds great phono stages.

I have had many phonostages . Currently have an Allnic H-7000, the Sutherland Phono Loco and the Whest MC Ref V mono's which are no longer made. I have owned the Whest PS.30 RDT and the Titan Pro prior to the monos. Fast, clean and dynamic. Quiet and very adjustable. Just great products imo....



@au_lait Thanks for that link to the comparison thread. Looks like I’d be in the camp to invest in the XP-27 if I do go the Pass route. 

@varyat Good call on Whest. I’ll look into the PS 40RDT. 

@varyat I have the first whest 0.20 - superb phono stage - I understand the ref and subsequent models are better still.



It's too much of a generalisation to consider it simply between valve and SS design.


For instance the Whest is very different to a Tom Evans which is then different to a Vendetta. Its a bit like going from a FWD to a RWD car - ie a porsche vs bmw vs ferrari are all very different.


Try and audition one in your system - take up @bigkidz  offer...



Hi @lohanimal - I fully understand it’s not black and white. But if you read my posts, you’ll see I’ve owned a whole suite of tube phono stages as well as the PS Audio Stellar Phono and Pass xOno which are both solid state. Those two had a lot of differences from each other, but they also did not have the characteristics of my tube stages. It’s not like I’ve never tried a SS stage. I’m just further exploring my options, just as I have with just about every type of tube preamp and  amp and a number of solid state preamps/amps. But right now what I am looking for is a high end solid state stage to further my experience and expertise. I’m not looking to generalize and that was never the intent of this thread. And I’m being open minded with many of the suggestions because I know they will all impart different personalities in my system. As I said, the offer to audition is appreciated, but if it doesn’t have a balanced output stage it does not really suit my needs given the space I would like to have between the phono stage and my preamp. 

@thiefoflight the Avid Pulsare is a serious phonostage and possesses similar character as the ART9. Neutral, musical and dynamic. It can boogie and play classical without a bias. Typical grown up British kit.

A little more data on other Phonostages being talked here. The only Whest worth considering is their MC Ref, their top of the line. Anything below sounds clean, fast but also dry and lacking intensity.

Boulder is good but at that price check out an FM Acoustics 122 Mk2. It is very very good.

OP…”I think my listening preferences have changed to be a bit more analytical, so the Ref 3 phono does interest me.”

Ok, the REF 3 should not interest you. From what you are saying you really are moving in the opposite direction.

If you look from a high level in the changes in audiophile equipment over the last 40 or 50 years. Tube was musical, really warm and a bit rolled off at high and low frequencies. SS was fast but with copious quantities of high frequency hash and really distorted treble. They have been converging from these opposite sides. As an example Audio Research leading the way (admittedly floundering a bit un the late 90’s ėarly 2000… but killing it after that) Pass has step by step worked from high output detailed… calming down the distortion and getting more musical. The devide still exists… but it is so much smaller… but important for those of us that have really great systems. ARC is high resolution (as opposed to MAC, for instance) very natural. And musical… not a bit of analytical. The ARC Ref 3 Phonostage is beautiful… but not remotely analytical… don’t give it another thought.

You should think Boulder, Mark Levinson, Pass, SIm… I am sure there are a couple more.