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Affordable - sub $500 (USD) Phono Stages

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davidavdavid
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Affordable - sub $500 (USD) Phono Stages

Unread post #1 by davidavdavid » Tue Jun 19, 2018 11:26 am

As I have a number of sub $500 turntables here at home, I was interested in which comparably priced phono stages with which they could be paired. The turntables: Rega RP1, Pro-Ject RPM-1 Carbon, Denon DP-300F and here is a list of the phono stages:


Parasound ZPhono USB
Cambridge Audio CP-2 (updated model = Duo)
NAD PP3i (updated model = PP4i)
Musical Fidelity V90 LPS
Rega Fono MC & MM (two separate models)
Pro-Ject Phono Box
Schiit Mani



The shootout was unofficial and took place in the absence of men in white lab-coats :)

I judged the phono stages on 3 criteria: functionality, sound quality and price.

Let me start off by striking off those which failed to impress almost immediately.

Schiit Mani - major issue here was/is shielding. This Mani generated not only audible hum, but RFI to the extent that i could pick up local foreign language radio stations, not clearly, but definitely audible. Having gotten a replacement unit within the week, it fared no better. And NONE of the other brands/models exhibited any extraneous hum and/or interference.

Pro-Ject Phono Box - did the job and would make use of it, if it were gifted to me, but would not go out of my way to spend money on the unit. File this phono stage under inoffensive and forgettable.

Rega Fono MM/MC - two decent enough phono stages. Nothing too write home about. They both do an admirable job, but the MM at the price is outdone by others providing both MM and MC functionality. The MC version, again a uni-tasker, in comparison is not value for money

With those out of the way I shall list the remaining phono stages in order of preference:

    1 Parasound ZPhono USB
    2 Cambridge Audio CP2
    3 NAD PP3i
    4 Musical Fidelity V90 LPS

You cannot go wrong with any of the above and they are all value for money. While there are newer and updated models as I mentioned of some of these units. I am listing them as there were indeed available to me at the time. These can now be available at a discount, depending upon geography and availability.
David Blumenstein
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Gojakla
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Re: Affordable - sub $500 (USD) Phono Stages

Unread post #2 by Gojakla » Tue Jun 19, 2018 12:38 pm

Thank you for sharing David.


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Dr Pan K
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Re: Affordable - sub $500 (USD) Phono Stages

Unread post #3 by Dr Pan K » Wed Jun 20, 2018 12:27 am

davidavdavid wrote:Let me start off by striking off those which failed to impress almost immediately.

Schiit Mani - major issue here was/is shielding. This Mani generated not only audible hum, but RFI to the extent that i could pick up local foreign language radio stations, not clearly, but definitely audible. Having gotten a replacement unit within the week, it fared no better. And NONE of the other brands/models exhibited any extraneous hum and/or interference.


This is quite interesting, I get more and more negative feedback regarding Schiit products. Not that they are bad but the have been hyperhyped on certain forums and they simply do not deliver the goods.

davidavdavid wrote:Pro-Ject Phono Box - did the job and would make use of it, if it were gifted to me, but would not go out of my way to spend money on the unit. File this phono stage under inoffensive and forgettable.

The ProJect I know rather well. Bought it as a gift for someone in the family and gave it a test run. Nothing fancy and I would tend to use almost exclusively with MM carts. This is an entry level phono, not sure if we should expect more for the price. The switching mode power supply is not much of a a help but at approx 110 euros it doesn't come as a surprise. Inoffensive and forgettable, as you said.


davidavdavid wrote:With those out of the way I shall list the remaining phono stages in order of preference:

    1 Parasound ZPhono USB
    2 Cambridge Audio CP2
    3 NAD PP3i
    4 Musical Fidelity V90 LPS

You cannot go wrong with any of the above and they are all value for money. While there are newer and updated models as I mentioned of some of these units. I am listing them as there were indeed available to me at the time. These can now be available at a discount, depending upon geography and availability.


Out of these 4 I have heard the NAD, which is decent, the Cambridge, idem, and the Musical Fidelity V90 which is probably my fav of the lot and can be upgraded with a small linear power supply with decent good results.

I would be curious to see what the Parasound Z is capable of.. It sure looks promising

zphono_front_black.jpg
zphono_front_black.jpg (214.46 KiB) Viewed 92 times


zphono_rear_black.jpg
zphono_rear_black.jpg (284.47 KiB) Viewed 92 times
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