Request for help - phono stage specs

I’m writing for help. I need to purchase a phono stage (I lost mine in an electrical event) and have narrowed it to three, all of which I’ve heard before the pandemic and that are available on the affordable used market. What I cannot figure out is whether they would technically (not sonically) sit well between my turntable/cartridge and preamp (PS Audio Signature).

Is there anyone who would be willing and able to help me figure this out? The three, listed below, have different presentations (strengths and weaknesses) but they are all acceptable to me from the perspective of wallet and sound profile. If anyone is up for it, please contact me. Maybe as payment I could send you an album?

These are the three contenders:

  • Art Audio Vinyl Reference
  • Ayre P-5xe Phono Preamplifier
  • JE Audio HP10 Phono Stage

Thank you kindly!


There are some phono wizards on this forum. If you could list your TT setup incl. cartridge and any specific question you have I’m sure you will get plenty of good advice.

Addendum: Cartridge specs and specs of three contending phonostages:

My cartridge (with unmodified Rega Planar 10; connected to PS Audio Signature preamp)
Apheta 3 MC Specs - General
Input load impedance 100 ohms
Output impedance 10 ohms
Nominal output voltage 350μV
Channel Balance : ≥ 20μV
Separation : ≥ -29dB
Load settings for adjustable MC stages:
a. Impedance -100ohm
b. Capacitance - 1000pF
c. Gain setting - High

  1. Art Audio Vinyl Reference specifications (I will be using unbalanced in/balanced out)
    Type: Stereo moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC) hybrid phono stage
    Gain: MC input 63dB. Other gain structures available by special order
    Impedance Loading: MC 100ohms, 300ohms, 1Kohms or 47kOhms
    Output Impedance: 200ohms
    Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz (less than 0.5dB deviation from RIAA curve)
    Tube complement: four Svetlana Electron Devices 6N1P triodes

  2. Ayre P-5xe Phono Preamplifier (I will be using unbalanced in/balanced out)
    Input Impedance 47 kΩ, 1000 Ω , 100 Ω (adjustable)
    Gain: 50 dB, 60 dB, 70 dB for balanced outputs
    Frequency Response RIAA Curve ± 0.05 dB (20 Hz – 20 kHz)
    Output Impedance 110 Ω– balanced outputs (55 Ωper phase)
    XLR Input Polarity Pin 1 – Ground
    Pin 2 – Non-inverting (Positive)
    Pin 3 – Inverting (Negative)

  3. JE Audio HP10 Phono Stage (I will be using unbalanced in/balanced out)
    Type: Vacuum tube stereo MM/MC phono amplifier with passive RIAA equalizer
    Moving Coil (MC) Gain: 60, 65, 70dB for unbalanced output and additional 6dB for balanced output
    Moving Coil (MC) Input Impedance: 10, 33, 100, 250, 500 Ohm
    RIAA Deviation: 20Hz to 20kHz ±0.3dB (for MM and MC)
    Subsonic Filter: -12dB/octave, 20Hz
    Distortion: 0.05%
    Output Impedance: 600 Ohm for balanced output
    Minimum Load Impedance: 10k Ohm
    Signal To Noise: 70dB for MC, 85dB for MM

Thank you, brother. I just added all of the specs.

Hoping for sage advice!

Looks like you have no problems with any of them. Someone from PSA would have to clarify the output impedance difference, if it matters.

0,35V is low, you might prefer solid state, but again both will work.

The reason you don’t consider the Stellar phono is the price? I guess it’s the best under 5k, in certain characteristics even higher…and it will fit the pre.

I would have thought the Stellar Phono to her a great choice but apparently it’s price tag is more than these used ones? What was the budget?

Thank you Jazznut and Paul for responding to my question. My budget is $1,700 (having just bought a new PS Audio Signature preamp, 250 amp and DAC), and of all the phono stages on the used market, these are the three I know I could purchase on budget. I have heard all three of them in other systems over the years and think/hope/pray any one of them would sound good in my system. My limitation, the reason I addressed my question to this group, is that I’m limited in my back-of-the-envelope ability to estimate component compatibility.

Hi Jim, and welcome to the forum.

I have the P8 with the Apheta 2. Your analogue playback is superior to mine, especially the tonearm and the stylus on the Apheta 3. I am using Stellar Phono Preamp with the BHK preamp, with balanced AQ Water. The playback is so good, I am hesitating to upgrade to Planar 10!

Finding a second hand Stellar Phono preamp is not far fetched. Hopefully you can restore your analogue playback quickly.

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I would probably rule out Art Audio. The fixed gain at 63dB is a bit on the low side and may not be sufficient for 0.35mV output. It is also my personal opinion that it’s good to have adjustable gain. There are records which require adjustment of gain to sound good and it’s handy to be able to do that conveniently.

On the other hand, Ayre has a very coarse adjustment of gain and limited adjustment of impedance.

In that sense the JE Audio looks like the most suitable but I would suggest you wait and see a bit whether people on the forum disagree with that.

Maybe someone more familiar with the PS preamp could also comment on the matching of the 600Ohm output on the preamp inputs.


I had an Art Audio Reference. Found an image. Here’s it’s going through a passive Hattor pre-amp and into Quad QMP monoblocks, so a powerful, neutral system.

The cartridge in use was a Dynavector XX2 Mk2 with 0.28mV output, and I also used a Koetsu Urushi with 0.25mV output. So should be fine with the Rega.

It’s a very good phono stage indeed, but they tend to be built to bespoke specifications. Mine had variable gain on the MC transformers and was later modified to use as a full pre-amp (as pictured).

If @jimkiely1960 can get one for $1,700, that’s a complete bargain. It would help if he lives near Nottingham.

I’ve seen online it called “Copper Reference”. The inclusion of “Reference” in Art Audio products always implied silver wiring.

Yup, thanks. The reason I asked is because within your price range is the Stellar Phono if you had something to trade in. With a trade in product (can be anything audio related) the phono is $1,749, right in your budget.

In any case, maybe that’s not on your radar, but I thought I’d let you know.


That is a sweet price. I just picked up a SimAudio neo 310LP for a tertiary system. Should that not work out I may be placing an order for the Stellar Phono.

Yeah, it is a sweet price for a highly reviewed robust component.

I recall that there was a version of the Art Audio Vinyl made in the U?SA by K&K. Seems quite different from mine. In mine you can see all the silver wiring (a line in and switch were added) and the silver wiring cased in copper leads to the MM/MC switch underneath to keep the signal path short.

The UK units used Sowter step-up transformers, which are superb. Don’t like the look of the USA stuff.

It’s difficult to believe these are meant to be the same product. There are of course complete different to a solid state unit like the PS Audio one.

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