Cart and Phono help

With all the extra time I have had the last few months I have headed down a never ending upgrade path. I knew better, but I still went about it the wrong way. In three months I have gone through 2 sets of speakers, 3 TT’s, and 3 Preamps. Which is why I am asking for help now :slight_smile:

My current setup is:

  • VPI Prime TT
  • Audio Technica OC9xML Cart
  • Moon 110LP v2 Phono
  • Carry SLP-05 with Ultimate Upgrade
  • Focal Sopra 3
  • PS Audio M700’s amp
  • PP3

To me my system sounds amazing, and puts a smile on my face every time I set down and listen. I know I still have two components that would make a large impact if I upgraded. My Cart and Phono stage. I would like to stay around $1,500 for the Cart, and about the same for the phono stage. The 3 options Im leaning towards on the phono is Moon 310LP, Steller Phono (a bit more than my budget), and Parasound JC3 jr. Im open to suggestions on phono’s. I am really lost on the cart. I don’t really have a way to compare carts so other than reading for comparisons. I am turning to you for suggestion for anyone that may have had similar setups as I.

I’ve had one pre-amp in almost 40 years, so you are ahead of me on that.

I bought the Origin Live Aladdin Mk2 a few months ago. It’s a rebranded SoundSmith Zephyr Mk3 because OL thought it was so good. It’s a medium output moving iron and so only needs an MM phono.

I bought a used solid state Vertere Phono Mk2 last year used for £600. Even at £1,000 new (about $1,300) it’s a steal. Vertere are very high end, but they wanted to do a top rate budget pre and deck. I’m not selling it even though I have the new valve EAR Phonobox on order. That would be in your budget, but good luck getting hold of one, the demand is very high. They are usually made to order due to the options available.

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Thanks for the info

What is your budget for a phono stage? I must have owned a couple of dozen over the years? I even have three now.
Preference for tubes or solid state? Those you mentioned are all SS, but are you open to tubes?

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I’m currently using an Ortofon Quintet Black witch runs about 1K
nice sound for the money…

You could sneak around your budget on a stellar phono if you have a trade.



You really can’t go wrong with a PS Audio Stellar phono or the Parasound JC3/JC3+ I’m currently comparing the PSA Stellar and the JC3+. Both really are amazing! Look for used ones.


I’m pretty open but would like to stay around $1,500

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I actually was thinking about this exact cart and trading up for the Stellar Phono.

Nice! Would love to hear which one you choose.

I’ll definitely let you know!

If you end up with a HOMC or a MM cart. The Decware ZP3 is phenomenal. If you need a SUT you will be over the $1,500 budget. The clarity, dynamics and soundstage are outrageous.

My previous reference was VTL TP-6.5 with a Benz Ruby 3

With 97.5db speakers there is a very slight hum noticeable within an inch or two from the speaker with my all tube system. With digital I have almost the same amount of hum maybe 1-2 db difference. My TT is 2-3 feet from the left speaker and when I change records I don’t hear anything.

I’m a Sound Smith fan. They make great cartridges.

Cool. I am a huge Sutherland Engineering advocate. Can’t recommend the Insight phono stage at $1400 retail enough. Like the Stellar, you are buying a Made in America product designed by Ron Sutherland who has built his entire company from the ground up on phono stages. That’s literally all he does and every phono stage in his lineup is outstanding in its price class.
Btw kids for those of you who may have seen my post on the SPP thread about my DUO being in the shop for a switching power supply to LPS upgrade, I’ve got it back in my system #2. Ron turned my unit around in seven calendar days from the day it left my hands to when I took delivery of it again. His tech worked hard to get my DUO upgrade done the same day he took delivery of it. That was … Sunday. To minimize my down time. The LPS upgrade is an unambiguous step up in smoothness and noise reduction. Worth every penny I paid for it.
Anyway I share this with everyone including clrvlewis to emphasize that, like PSA, there are truly good guys in this industry that pull out the stops after the sale on behalf of us, the audiophiles who make it all possible through patronage. Like Paul, Ron deserves a shout out!


Agree regarding Sutherland. I owned the PHD and his Director pre amp. I couldn’t get it to auto switch correctly with my home theater system at the time (it only auto switched). Wish I still had it now that I eliminated my home theater gear. The best sounding solid state pre amp I’ve ever heard or owned. Loved that piece of gear! Love the phd too but turntables are out of my life for good now.

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Thanks for all the info. I have not heard of Southerland. I will look into them!

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Just to reinforce the seeming lack of uniformity among phono systems, I would add that I had tried a couple of Sutherland phono stages in the 1.5K to 2k price point (used) and found them to be utterly disappointing and uninvolving. Obviously, lots of people find them to have many virtues because Sutherland has been around a long time. At the time I had an original VPI Scout and was using a low output Grado Sonata and then a Grado Master. The low voltage Grados were very fussy about what phono stage they partnered with and Suterland products didn’t work well with them. Once I switched to my current RCM Sensor Prelude it was an entirely different scenario, the Grado’s sounded wonderful.

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I’m a relative nubie in the analog world, but I have VPI Superscout with the Ortofon Quintet Black, feeding the PS Audio Stellar phono. It sounds wonderful!


Hi owlsalum… calord/Boulder here. I had a Sutherland Insight when I beta tested…Darren’s Stellar Phono Pre… Darren brought his prototype here as well as his ‘final’ design here. Darren, Badbeef, and I listened to the Sutherland vs. the SPP…and we all found the SPP a big improvement vs the Insight…especially in HF definition/edge accuracy. I happily traded in my Sutherland for Darren’s SPP. FWIW…


I really appreciate all the help and suggestions. I have decided to try the SPP and Hana ML Cart.

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Running a SPP and Hana SL myself. Great combo.

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Thanks danm great to hear!