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?

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OP...Try a Sutherland phono stage at your price point. Give Ron a call, he's easy to contact and very friendly and informative. He won't try to sell you something that does not meet your needs/preferences. He's got plenty of customers to keep him busy. For my ears Sutherland gear sounds like music, simple concept that too often gets lost in the specs/wild-arse opinions of this crazy analog world. 

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I have purchased a Viva Aurora MkII and think it's absolutely fantastic. It replaced a Lamm LP2.1 Deluxe. 

@jeff1225 Did you mean the Aurorasound Vida MkII or a Viva Fono? The Viva Aurora is a massive set of 845 monoblocks. I’ve owned a Viva Linea preamp, and it was beautiful but somewhat obscuring. I did have curiosity about the Aurorasound Vida before.

That said @palasr and others -  I’m now quite happy with the two stages I have and am still evaluating which I will keep for the main rig. The BMC MCCI has really come to fruition the last two weeks, but it does have a very different presentation from the Audionet. I relate the BMC to an OTL amp. It is incredibly clear, like nothing is held back in terms of presence and resolution. But the forwardness of the presentation inhibits soul from being at the core of the music. Not much, and I likely would not be picky if I didn’t have the Audionet as well… but I do. The BMC continues to be more forward, and over time feels slightly more fatiguing. The Audionet on the other hand is a bit more refined and confident sounding, like it’s not trying to prove anything. It just delivers music and has an incredible flow with incredible resolution.

I would say that the BMC does let me hear things that I wish the Audionet could do. The imaging at most times is incredibly holographic. The sense of space and separation between instruments is stunning. But sometimes, it makes it feel like a number of musicians playing separately and the gel factor doesn’t hit me like it does with the Audionet. The moment I put on the Audionet, I miss some of the presence from the BMC and it takes a while to get used to, but I feel the music more, and it most times gives me a stronger and more fulfilling emotional response.

I am still playing with the settings of both units. The capacitance and resistance settings of the Audionet do effectively fine tune tonal balance and presentation. The  BMC has different types of settings for providing a warmer sound and standard RIAA vs Neumann RIAA curves. That combinations of the two do make notable differences in the presentation, and I need to sit with both units more. 

but to be clear, while I love them both equally, it is not to say that they are anywhere close in their overall presentation to each other. They are completely different beasts, both whom deserve to be loved. 

More to come in a week or two. 

@thiefoflight I got the name wrong and the system wouldn't let me edit. I have the VIDA MKII and I'm very pleased. It's dead quiet but still extremely engaging.