2024’s Best Phono Preamplifiers and SUTs | Buyers Guide 2024

2024's best phono

Welcome to 2024’s best phono preamplifiers and SUTs from the Part-Time Audiophile Buyers Guide.

We’re not saying that these are the “best” phono preamplifiers and SUTs or that these choices somehow overrule anyone else’s favorites. We’re saying that these are the products we’ve reviewed, owned, or have had extended experience when it comes to performance and sound quality. This is the gear that we, the staff of Part-Time Audiophile, recommend.

2024’s Best Phono Preamplifers and SUTs

schiit audio mani

Schiit Audio Mani ($149 USD)

Owned by a few PTA staffers as a budget reference, or as we like to say, “If it’s not at least better than a Mani, don’t bother.” This could be every audiophiles’ first upgrade to dedicated outboard phono pres, and it’s so cheap you’ll never have buyers’ remorse.

2024's best phono

Hagerman Audio Labs Piccolo MC Head Amp ($259 USD)

A more affordable and flexible option than the usual step-up transformers, the Piccolo provides linear pre-gain and loading options to existing MM phono pres. “The active circuitry uses low noise matched discrete JFETs in a no-feedback gain and buffer configuration, offering very low noise and distortion.” Review forthcoming.



Clearaudio smart phono V2 ($775)

Clearaudio is famous for its upmarket turntables and cartridges, but they also offer this affordable pint-sized powerhouse for a very reasonable amount of money. The Smart Phono V2 packs a punch adding slam, tempo, and energy to your LPs. Excitement never came in such a tiny package for this, one of 2024’s best phono products. A Reviewers Choice Award winner.

2024's best phono

Hagerman Audio Labs Trumpet MC ($1,289 USD)

From the land of “we put the good stuff on the inside, where it counts” school comes this classic tube preamplifier from Jim Hagerman in its latest version, a simple almost kit-like phono stage that nevertheless sounds way more accomplished than its price suggests. We found the overall balance of the Hagerman to be truthful and direct and honest with the listener–the list for 2024’s best phono pres with tubes, for around a grand, begins with the Trumpet.

vertere acoustics phono-1

Vertere Acoustics Phono-1 Mk. II ($1,599 USD)

Used in an all-Vertere Acoustics analog rig (Mystic cartridge, SG-1 tonearm and MG-1 turntable), the affordable Phono-1 was “extraordinary for the price…any price.” This modest unit excelled at “subtle, slight dynamic contrasts, tonal shadings, and imaging effects” and we always enjoyed a satisfying level of detail with all of our favorite recordings.

2024's best phono

Austin Audio Works The Black Swan ($1,649 USD)

Tons of features, great sound and a very low price makes the Black Swan one of 2024’s best phono pres for anywhere near its price. The Black Swan has everything in a small package–balanced and unbalanced MC inputs, passive equalization and the ability to adjust loading on the fly. Plus, it sounds dynamic and clear and honest. Review forthcoming.

2024's best phono

Bob’s Devices Sky 20-S SUT ($1,650 USD)

The latest step-up transformer from Bob Sattin is a step-up from the popular Sky 20, with a longer core and a change in the winding that provides a meatier sound than before. (Ratios are 1:10 in LOW and 1:20 in HIGH, same as with the Sky 20.) Review forthcoming.

parasound jc3 jr

Parasound JC3 Jr. ($1,699 USD)

The JC stands for John Curl, and that’s really all you need to know. The little brother to the JC3+, Junior just sounds right striking a balance of doing everything well, making it a strong “all-arounder” at a very appealing price. This is a phono stage that just sounds right and true to all types of music. This is one of 2024’s best phono stages at a reasonable price, and our review purchased the sample unit. A Reviewers Choice winner.

2024's best phono

Audio Note UK R/Zero II ($2,036 USD)

At first we were concerned about an MM-only phono preamplifier for over two grand, but this is Audio Note UK–the land of step-up transformers and MM cartridges that can actually sound great. Within the context of an all-Audio Note system, the R/Zero maintains that smooth, open sound that focuses on tonality first. For those who want to extract the most performance from a moving-magnet cartridge (such as Audio Note UK’s stellar IQ III), this is 2024’s best phono pre for the job. Reviewers Choice winner.

fern and roby

Fern & Roby Maverick ($2,250 USD)

A joint effort between Fern & Roby’s Christopher Hildebrand and Linear Tube Audio’s Mark Schneider, the Maverick is a beautifully machined yet straightforward two-box phono stage design that nevertheless convinces you that you’ve spent far more than a tad over $2K. Ideal, of course, for the splendid Fern and Roby turntables, but a surprisingly adept all-around performer that kept up with a number of costly analog rigs.

2024's best phono

ModWright Instruments PH 9.0, and PH 9.0X (starting at $2,900 USD)

Distinctly American in design, the ModWright Instruments PH 9.0 “dispenses with everything but the essentials in a way that is elegantly functional.” We found that it combines the clarity of an excellent solid state design and a warm tube sound without the drawbacks, eventually appearing as if it’s completely invisible in the context of the system. The 9.0X upgrade, which costs an extra $995, adds a pair of Lundahl gapped output transformers that simplifies the signal path for more dynamics and deeper low frequencies.


Parasound Halo JC 3+ ($3,199 USD)

Is this the spiritual successor to John Curl’s famous Vendetta phono pres of the ’90s? Also designed by Curl, the JC 3+ is indeed Parasound’s flagship phono stage and offers a very neutral sound overall with just a hint of sweetness and light that we usually find with five-figure products. We concluded that “you have to treat the JC 3+ as something of a gift, a product from a great engineering mind produced by a company that keeps impressing.” A Reviewer’s Choice award winner.

The Best Phono Preamplifiers

Lab12 Melto2 ($4,490 USD)

This compact yet beautifully built tube phono stage from Greece is almost impossible to beat at its relatively modest price–five years after we reviewed it it’s still one of 2024’s best phono preamplifiers for the money. You get great sound, trouble-free operation and an amazing set of features—you can even make all your adjustments via remote! The Lab12 Melto2 is one of those phono pres that will make you ask, “Do I really need anything more than this?” An Editor’s Choice Award winner.

pass labs

Pass Labs XP-17 ($4,500 USD)

With Pass Labs amplification, you’re generally getting a circuit design that is both innovative and straightforward. The XP-17 phono pres adhere to the cliché of getting out of the way of the music without adding colorations, or its own idea of what is and isn’t great sound. It’s the rare phono stage that sounds so neutral that you won’t even think about how it contributes to the overall flavor, which makes it an easy recommendation.

2024's best phono

RCM Sensor 2 Mk. II ($4,950 USD) 

“Wide, deep imaging. Black backgrounds. Clarity and detail without annoying sharpness. Deep lows and dynamic slam while never sounding messy.” The RCM Sensor 2 gets you very close to the summit as part of that chain of vinyl specific components required for groove-oriented bliss. Your vinyl collection will thank you.

The Best Phono Preamplifiers

Koetsu Step-Up Transformer ($4,995 USD)

It might seem a little crazy to spend $5000 on a metal box that fits in the palm of your hand and weighs about two pounds, but this is a Koetsu, where the coils in this SUT are painstakingly measured and wound to work with your Koetsu phono cartridge so that its performance will reach new heights. While this product is so specialized that it won’t convince you to choose an SUT over an MC input–results with other cartridges were mixed due to the varying impedances–this is an almost mandatory upgrade for any Koetsu owner. Reviewer’s Choice, along with the Koetsu Urushi Black cartridge.

2024's best phono

Allnic Audio H-5500 ($6,000 USD)

One of the finest examples of a tube phono stage that can create analog magic, even in an all solid-state system, the Allnic Audio H5500 has an extraordinarily musical demeanor that’s about purity first and foremost. Beautifully made in Korea, the H-5500 is the replacement for the highly popular and well-respected H1202, but it still uses those wonderful Permalloy transformers. It’s also versatile among phono pres, providing the user with two MM and two MC inputs. Lush, romantic and sexy, and a Reviewers Choice winner.

2024's best phono

Luminous Audio Technology Arion Mk. II ($7,999 USD)

From the mind of Michael Bettinger comes this heavy and substantial phono preamplifier, which is a “highly refined version of the original Arion.” That means better parts, more effective grounding, PCB routing and, of course, spectacular sound. We felt the sound wasn’t different, there was just more of everything, including “outstanding dynamics and plenty of gain.” A Reviewer’s Choice award winner and one of 2024’s best phono preamplifiers.

jeff rowland

Jeff Rowland Design Group Conductor (starting at $8,500 USD) 

Four inputs–three for MC and one for MM–make this superb Jeff Rowland phono stage perfect for audiophiles who run multiple rigs and/or tonearms. Each input is fully isolated from the others, making the Conductor as clean, quiet and neutral as it gets. Note that the starting price above is for a basic unit with just the MM input, an unlikely configuration–with extra inputs, upgraded input transformers and power supplies and an EQ module, the price goes up substantially. But so does the sound and the flexibility. (Our unit topped out over $14K.)

van den hul the grail

Van den Hul The Grail ($8,995 USD)

AJ van den Hul’s entry level phono pres are still awesome beasts with plenty of energy and dynamics that’s consistent with the European analog sound and yet still suggests the quiet mystique of the Japanese counterparts. The Grail, fitted with two MC inputs, “sounded completely natural and real, qualities I’ve generally ascribed to vinyl and tubes and Class A and whatever else you got.” Reviewers Choice Award.

mola mola lupe
Mola Mola Lupe ($9,850 USD)

One of the 2024’s best phono stages we reviewed was one of the most flexible we’ve heard–there are 72 equalization curves to choose from! “Within a matter of minutes after dropping the needle when listening to my favorite music with the Mola Mola Lupe, I quickly dismissed those cares, put down my notes, and was simply transported into the message of the music,” our reviewer proclaimed with enthusiasm. A Reviewers Choice winner.

allnic audio h-6500

Allnic Audio H-6500 ($9,900 USD)

The next step up from the superb Allnic H-5500, the H-6500 features and outboard power supply that contains a user-replaceable rectifier tube. Slightly quieter than the 5500, with an incredibly low noise floor for tubed phono pres, the Allnic is supremely listenable without leaning too warm. One of 2024’s best phono preamplifiers, so much so that our reviewer is keeping it as a reference. A Reviewer’s Choice Award winner.

2024's best phono

Pass Labs XP-27 ($12,075 USD)

The two-chassis XP-27 includes an outboard power supply, and uses the input and gain circuitry of the flagship XS Phono. Everything new in the XP-27 is designed for lower distortion and noise suppression, resulting in one of the quietest phono pres we have heard. It’s a Pass Labs through and through–neutral sound, tons of usable features and settings and incredible reliability.

brinkmann edison mk. ii

Brinkmann Edison Mk. 2 ($14,490 USD)

The Edison, made in Germany, is both stunningly beautiful and full of features, but you’ll quickly be won over by its stable, solid imaging as well as its stunning ability to eliminate noise and other artifacts. Hooked up to the Brinkmann Taurus direct-drive turntable, the Edison became an intrinsic part of an analog rig that was accomplished and rare in its ability to show the true potential in every LP. A Reviewer’s Choice and one of 2024’s best phono pres.

The Best Phono Preamplifiers

Dan D’Agostino Momentum Phono ($32,500 USD)

Using just one input stage for both MM and MC, the Momentum achieves sonic purity with integrated passive equalization followed by the output stage. Dan D’Agostino accomplishes this by adding just the right amount of gain without increasing noise, creating phono pres that dig deep into those grooves, elevating micro-details and dynamics to recreate music that is “breathtaking.” The Momentum Phono has to be part of any discussion about 2024’s best phono preamps.

If you would like to hear even more on our choices for the 2024 Buyers Guide, check out our tips, picks and highlights in our audiophile-oriented show The Occasional Podcast. You can stream the episode direct from the embed below, or from your favorite podcast platform including iTunesAndroidGoogle, Deezer, SpotifyiHeartRadio and more.

Check out the rest of the 2024 Buyers Guide:

Best Bookshelf Speakers

Best Floorstanding Speakers

Best Integrated Amplifiers

Best Power Amplifiers

Best Preamplifiers

Best Turntables

Best Phono Preamplifiers and SUTs

Best Cartridges, Tonearms and Headshells

Best Digital Playback

Best Headphone Gear

Best Cables, Power Management and Grounding

Best Hi-Fi Accessories