I've been having too many issues with my otherwise great sounding Bellari tube phono pre. While it was a huge improvement over my integrated phono pre, I just cannot get rid of some humming issues (probably as much the fault of where I live and my setup). Then there is some distortion that Bellari swears must be from my other gear (I'll explain below in a footnote for those interested).
Thus, I'm looking for a new phono pre. I love the way this Bellari sounds 90% of the time, but it has trouble with dynamic passages, and then there is the noise of course. I love how full and rich it sounds, while still managing to be relatively clean (heck I gave this a positive review in this forum and I don't take any of it back, except maybe build quality, which I didn't mention). I've done some research, and decided I'm open to getting a nice solid state phono pre, as long as it doesn't sound thin or particularly harsh. I'd like to stick with tubes, if the pre has a relatively low noise floor (these Bellaris, for all of their great qualities, are known to be noisy) I'm sticking with my MM cart for now, but may upgrade my table in the future and switch to MC but not completely sure. My budget depends on whether the thing can handle MM and LOMC. I'd like to be able to do quality MM/MC for under $1,000, which means I'm perfectly happy getting a $500 MM preamp now, and a $500 MC pre later, or a step-up transformer.
Of my options below, I'm most inclined to grab a Graham Slee Gram Amp 2 for now, and figure out the MC situation later. I've heard good things about it, but I'm interested in what other people have experienced. I like the idea of having MM-Only for now, since I don't know that I'll use the MC in the near future, and it seems that having extra circuitry lying around is a bad idea.
If I stick with tubes, I've heard good things about Jolida, but not as much about their phono pre.
I appreciate any input.
Graham Slee Gram Amp 2 SE - MM only (just above $400 new)
Creek OBH-18 - MM Only (around $250)
Creek OBH-15 - MM/MC (around $450)
Musical Fidelity X-LPS v8 - MM/MC (around $500)
Pro-Ject Phono Box IISE MM/MC (under $350)
Rogue Audio Stealth MM/MC (just under $800)
Jolida JD-9A (under $450)
Ear 834p - MM or MM/MC (probably can get one for around $1000)
Pro-Ject Tube Box SE II - MM/MC ($700)
Footnote about the Bellari for those interested: Basically, when the volume control on the Bellari phono preamp is above 12 o'clock, everything distorts very badly (when using the RCA outs to either my preamp/headphone amp OR using my integrated amp). Bellari told me this shouldn't be happening, and asked me to check the headphone out. The headphone out sounded clean, even when I hooked it up to my preamp/integrated amp with a 1/4" to RCA adapter (it just sounded really bright and yucky that way). Bellari says it must be an issue with my other gear. Since it essentially happens on two separate systems, I don't get it, but I'm tired of messing with it.