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Phono stage recs - 800 GBP or less...Graham Slee?

Discussion in 'audio' started by cruster, Mar 14, 2019.

  1. cruster

    cruster pfm Member

    Looking for some recommendations. I bought a Rega RP8 on closeout a few weeks back, upgrading from a P5...it's an astonishing difference. Currently running a Dynavector 10x5 which won't be upgraded for a year or so. I suspected that the MM phono stage in my Rega Cursa had become a limiting factor, so borrowed a Graham Slee Revelation under their (fantastic) loan scheme. It's as big a change from my Cursa as the RP8 was from my P5. I love the sound - soundstage is wide in my room, instruments and sounds breathe with natural attack and decay, and the bass...wow, maybe the biggest difference - it is so controlled, it just sounds fantastic. I've been pulling out vinyl with complex/busy passages that I never thought sounded as good as they could, and finding that I can track bass lines and pick out individual instruments now. It's...I have preferred vinyl playback for years, but this is more like what I always hoped vinyl playback could be. I really love the sound.

    Here's the thing - as much as I love the sound of the Revelation, for reasons mentioned above, it's also one of only two external stages I've heard; the other was a Rega Fono MM, and I much preferred the sound of the Slee. Most of the stuff on my shortlist (based on reading) is not easily auditioned - I'm in the States; most of it is British and not necessarily readily available for audition (Tron Convergence, Trilogy 906, Tom Evans anything, Rothwell Simplex) - and of course this rules out the Arkless...

    Right now I'm toying with either:

    - Buying a Graham Reflex M new (basically a Revelation without the RIAA options, which are unneeded by me)
    - Stretch the budget a bit and get a Graham Slee Accession, which appears to be the same sort of Slee sound, but "more". As great as the loan scheme is, the waiting list on the Accession is a few deep, and shipping back and forth is relatively expensive.
    - Mystery option three...open to any other suggestions. I want to make sure I'm not missing something obvious. Again, hard to audition a lot of stuff that it seems like would fit based on my research.

    I listen to: indie/shoegaze/alt rock stuff
    My setup is: Rega RP8 with Dynavector 10x5, into Rega Cursa preamp, into Rega Exon monoblocks, into Rega RP5 speakers
    What I love about the Graham Slee Revelation: natural sound of instruments, bass control, soundstage width, imaging focus. I think I could live with it for a long time, but I also want to make sure I'm making the best choice - even at this budget it's a big expenditure and one I'll be living with for awhile.

    Any advice is appreciated. Thanks in advance.

    - brendan
     
  2. Amber Audio

    Amber Audio Trade: Amber Audio

    I’d have a read up on the Rega Aria and Dynavector P75 Mk4 (not a lot in it if you see a Mk3 at a good price). Both are around 800 GBP new and 600 used at a dealer.

    I always regret not buying the Exons I was demoed years back.

    I curently have 10x5 into P75 Mk4 (have had all the versions) no complaints with the sound quality I am getting.

    Gus
     
  3. The Chronicals

    The Chronicals Disruptor

    If you can push it up a little, Robbie at Audio Oasis has a Pathos In The Groove reduced to 995. Best PS Ive ever owned.
     
  4. lazycat

    lazycat pfm Member

    If you love the sound just buy it and stop worrying about anything else.
     
    Tigerjones and cruster like this.
  5. Hoopsontoast

    Hoopsontoast pfm Member

  6. cruster

    cruster pfm Member

    Sound advice, and I appreciate it! I guess my thought was...if someone thought there was another unit that did the things I like about the Slee (drive, naturalness, soundstage) but MORE at the same price, I'd want to know about it. I'm pretty sure I could live happily with the Reflex M for a long time, I'm just trying to maximize my meager purchasing dollars...

    I should have mentioned also that I'm pretty happy with MM and high-output MC so have primarily been looking at MM-only stages.
     
  7. lazycat

    lazycat pfm Member

    If it helps... I've used a GS Era V for 5 years and see no need to look around. It has the qualities that you've listed.
     
    cruster likes this.
  8. myles

    myles Intentionally left blank

  9. BB Wan

    BB Wan pfm Member

    I too loved the GS stages I've tried (Era V Gold and Reflex MM) and i can totally relate to your general summing up of their qualities. Ultimately I bought a used Tom Evans Groove having been lucky enough to borrow one from a friend when I had the Reflex on loan. It has many similar qualities but MORE (as you put it). I don't know how much a Groove would go for over the pond, but mk1 versions (such as I had) are occasionally seen for £600-800 over here.
    Ultimately buying anything you haven't heard in your own system is a risk, so the safe play is probably to stick with the GS Reflex...but if you fancy a punt, I don't think you'd be disappointed with a Groove...in fact, quite the opposite!
     
    cruster likes this.
  10. cruster

    cruster pfm Member


    I really appreciate hearing from someone who has direct experience of both - thanks! There's only one Tom Evans dealer in the US, but they do pop up used from time to time. The Groove is one that seems to tick all the boxes for me, at least when I read about it.
     
  11. joe9407

    joe9407 actress/activist

    hey Cruster: fellow American shoegaze fan here... small world. anyway, I've used the aforementioned Dynavector P75 with the 10x5 cartridge and had good results. definitely worth considering, especially if you might go for an LOMC Dyna cart. in the future.

    that said, if you like the Graham Slee sound, i'd probably just push the boat out and get the Accession. (though i too am intrigued by the Tron Convergence. the US importer is just down the street from me in NYC, so i may try to go have a listen at some point.)

    happy hunting!
    Joe
     
    cruster likes this.
  12. krenzler

    krenzler pfm Member

    I feel that many new suggestions in the price bracket below £800 will ultimately just be slightly different flavours and not markedly better than the Slee you've already got and love. Selling the Revelation to get a new Reflex doesn't really make financial sense does it? :) Them being basically the same as you mention. The Accession looks interesting (especially the MC version) but again - you may be paying for some features that you won't use?

    I had a Reflex (early version not ultra-linear) for many years and really liked it. Very neutral and tight sounding. Low noise. Used it with a Rega P7 amongst others. And with a CineMag 3440a SUT for MC duty. But not too long ago I got hold of a (used) Evans Groove Mk2 (Anniversary) and the jump in performance from the Slee is quite big and clear. Bigger more holographic soundstage with more depth, more impressive bass. But the Groove 2 is around £2400 new. The Micro Groove+ X Mk2 may be the better value for money at £1000 but both are LO-MC only. Also the Evans stages are very sensitive to incoming noise from the mains and its surroundings so care in placement relative to other equipment is needed.

    Staying put and enjoying what you've got seems the sensible thing to do. A clear step up may be costly (and may include a good LO-MC). Another option would be to get the Elevator head-amp some time down the road.
     
    lazycat likes this.
  13. G T Audio

    G T Audio Trade: Distributor and Manufacturer

    For around your budget, you should also consider one of these:

    [​IMG]

    A new one in MM configuration is £1000.
     
    Darren likes this.
  14. I.D.C.

    I.D.C. pfm Member

    I use a Pathos amp they are fantastic. Before that I rent Linn preamp with 4 power amps. To think the pathos is one box and 10watts and beats the amp.
     
    cruster likes this.
  15. RyanSoundLab

    RyanSoundLab Trade: Ryan Sound Lab

    If you want another option, I have a prototype Ryan Sound Lab Phono-Stage that I can ship to you for a no-hassle audition (free shipping within the US). It's just about to be released (about a month left to go) so it's not "pie in the sky" stuff. For reference, the cost will be $699 for MM and $799 for MC versions (US dollars). Send your name and address to me at jc.ryan@verizon.net and I can send it out next week or you can just ask more questions.
     
    cruster likes this.
  16. krenzler

    krenzler pfm Member

  17. cruster

    cruster pfm Member

    Thanks for this - I actually have the Revelation on Graham Slee’s loan scheme, borrowed only because the Reflex M was already taken. I’ve no need for the extra RIAA curves, but the circuit is the same as the Reflex so it was offered. It’s fantastic.

    I’d also love to hear one of the Tom Evans stages - I suspect I’d have to just roll the dice and buy one in order to do that.

    I WOULD DEARLY LOVE TO HEAR THIS. I suspect I’d really enjoy some British tubes in my system if proper drive and bass can also be accomplished, and from what I’ve read about the Convergence, it can be...I just can’t figure out how I can hear this in the States without buying one blind from Tron, and tubes are divergent enough from anything in my system that I feel like I should hear this one first. Honestly, though...I covet this thing. It looks amazing.
     
  18. cruster

    cruster pfm Member

    I’d be honored to audition this. I lost a few hours in my office awhile back reading about your Naim upgrade boards - I don’t even have any Naim kit! I’ll email shortly - thank you!
     
  19. topoxforddoc

    topoxforddoc pfm Member

    Don't forget that you should be able to deduct the 20% VAT from the UK price, although some of that saving might end up on the shipping to the US
     
  20. cruster

    cruster pfm Member

    No material reason but synergy, I guess...I’ve just generally enjoyed UK gear more; I’ve had only or primarily Rega gear for almost 20 years. That said, I’m willing to mix it up on the phono stage. The Manley (Steelhead) is a bit over my budget, unfortunately - the Parasound JC 3 Jr. might be possible. That Liberty Audio unit sounds very interesting, indeed. Somehow I’ve never heard of them - thank you!
     

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