The competition in the high-performance phonostage segment has intensified with several wonderful phonostages making their CES debuts. New tube entries from VTL, Wavestream Kinetics, Nagra, and Aesthetix offer high gain, flexibility, and most importantly, silence. The new VTL TP-6.5 Signature Phonostage ($8500) is designed to complement VTL’s high-performance linestages and offers incredible flexibility with a lot of mc gain (up to 68 dB) and mc and mm load settings, dual inputs with discrete load settings, remote control and front-panel control of inputs, gain, loading, phase, rumble cut, etc. It uses a hybrid moving-coil gain stage and sounded glorious with the VTL 7.5 Series II linestage, MB-450 Series II Signature monoblocks, and Wilson Watt/Puppy Series 8s.
Wavestream Kinetics introduced a Deluxe Edition of its phonostage ($7500). Like its Standard Edition, this all-tube phono stage can drive a Koetsu Coralstone (0.2mV) in utter silence without any step-up transformers. The Deluxe Edition offers three switchable inputs with individual loading. The sound produced in concert with its companion linestage and V8 monoblocks driving Chario Serendipity Speakers, with a Coralstone/Criterion frontend, was very dimensional, effortless, and beautiful.
The modular Nagra VPS Valve Phono Preamplifier ($5995) is based on the phono circuit in Nagra’s PL-P tube preamp but is more fanatical. It includes new custom-designed transformers and can run with only a tube gain stage or in a hybrid configuration for additional boost. Aesthetix defended its phonostage turf with a Signature version of its Rhea phonostage ($7000). Its Io phonostage (starting at $14,000) utilizes costly Stealth caps throughout with new chassis dampening and either single or dual power supplies.