Herron Audio VTPH-2A - Modwright PH 9.0X - Icon audio ps1 mkii

Hi Everyone, I’ve heard great things about the Herron but notice it’s discontinued on the website. I’ve reached out to Keith to inquire but my other choices are the Modwright PH9.0x and Icon PS3 MK II. Has anyone compared these. I have had great experience with Dan and his mod of my Pioneer LX500. I appreciate any insights.



Hi, I bought the Herron VTSP 3A/360 preamplifier that was on sale here on A'gon.  I had no idea that I was going to buy a preamp, as I have a nice Modwright Line Stage that I thought was pretty darned good.

Now that I've been using the Herron for a little over a week, it has made me realize I'm finally hearing music the way I've wanted to hear it for nearly fifty years. My wild hairs don't usually cost this much, but I'm very glad I snapped up the Herron preamp.



The 2a is a fantastic value and very neutral sonically. The Modwright is it’s equal in many ways. Both benefit from HRS damper blocks and couplers. I am running the 2a with a Damper and stillpoints. enjoy the search and the music.


I contacted Keith from Herron and he is no longer making the VTPH-2A. Scarcity of parts and he's gearing for retirement at 71. He said he's still producing a run of the VTSP/3A. Great man, I wish him well. So that strikes that one off the list. One of my dealers suggested Musical Surroundings Nova III as a good phonostage. Does anyone have any experience with this?

If you're not in a great hurry, wait for a used Herron phono stage to come up for sale. Put the money away and make it easily accessible, and when you see a VTPH-2A offered pounce on it immediately. They go quick!

Wait for a VTPH-2A if you can.  I have no experience with Icon Audio, so won't comment on that.

I have compared the VTPH-2A to the Manley Chinook and the Pass Labs XP-15 phono stages, both very nice units.  The Herron has more drive, dynamics, and detail and is incredibly quiet.  It easily outclassed both of these units.

Like @islandmandan I went from a Modwright preamp (LS100) to the Herron VTSP-360 and it was also a nice improvement.  The LS100 had a phono stage, but I never tried it and don't know how it compares to the PH9.0.  I thought the LS100 might be a "forever" piece for a long time, but after hearing the VTPH-2A, I decided to try the VTSP-360.  

I owned a couple of Musical Surroundings Nova Phonomena stages.  I'm not sure how they compare to the Nova III, but the Nova Phonomena was a higher model than the Nova at the time.  It was great from a functionality standpoint with lots of loading and gain options, but was not as good as either the XP-15 or the Chinook,  It was more "flat" sounding with less drive and dynamics and not even close to the VTPH-2A.  

My comments are in no way a put down of Modwright, Pass Labs, or Manley's products, they are all very good, it's just that the VTPH-2A is better. 

I've got a Herron VTSP-360-Ref preamp and a Herron VTPH-2A phono preamp, and they are both magic. Keith puts some serious mojo into his gear. I'm glad I was able to get this stuff while he was still making them. I like tube gear that looks like tube gear with big tubes sticking out on top, but I also like tube gear like Keith's that you wouldn't guess was tube by looking at it or listening to it - just great, neutral sound that he happened to create using tubes. At least that's how it seems to me. I wish him well in retirement.... But used ones will become even more scarce, as I'd guess most people selling or trading their Herron gear are just moving further up the line to one of his newer models. 

I haven’t heard the Herron, but I do own the Modwright 9.0X. With the right tubes    (Bel/India in my case and are the same as Philips SQ in my case), I’d put it up against any phono pre at twice its price.  

Brother in law has the Nova III w LPS, very quiet and linear. He has a Ortofon Bronze on a mofi deck, very nice sound but not in the grade of sound of what is being mentioned this thread…


I just posted this on another forum, but I have heard both and think the PH9.0 and 9.0X kick the living daylights out of the Herron. The Herron is very polite in comparison, with the PH9.0 much more soulful, vibrant and holographic in comparison. The 9.0X even more so at a quieter noise level.

@thiefoflight Thanks for your insight. I just received mine. Packed meticulously, Rock Solid, Art and Engineering Excellence! I can't wait to hook it up.

@audiosaurusrex Awesome! Did you go for the PH9.0 or X? I ended up upgrading mine with Reflektor tubes, both 6N23-P and 6C45 and use a Synergistic Research fuse. All made considerable differences!

@thiefoflight I went for the X and have some Siemens E188CC/7308 side aside to try. I was thinking about the fuse. Did you get the new SR Purple?

@audiosaurusrex I used the blue then the orange. I haven’t stepped up to the purple yet because every component I own uses SR fuses of some sort, and that’s not an itch I can afford to scratch right now. I thought the blue was the best bang for the buck. I’m not even sold on the orange, which is softer and more refined in comparison, but I do own a number of them. But from black to blue was the biggest difference I’ve heard to date. 

@thiefoflight Yes I had the 1amp blue in my old phonostage and liked it alot, unfortunately the 9.0x uses the 3amp. I'm gonna wait a bit but I'll do something at some point.

Received the Modwright PH9.0X yesterday. Meticulously Packed, Rock Solid Construction and just gorgeous! Art and Engineering at it's finest. Or as Modwright puts it, Elegance, Simplicity, Truth! Installed tubes, I went right for the Siemens E188CC/7308 gold pins which I had on hand. Noticed a bit of a smell upon power up, not that new car smell 🤔   Currently have my AT-ART9XA on the table so I set the load to 100ohm no gain. Gonna switch out to the Umami Red which I haven't even tried yet. First album for me had to be "The Nightfly", then "Natty Dread". Stunning clarity and soundstage with air around the instruments. So I was wondering how this would compare with my SPL Phonos which I thought was outstanding. The 9.0X seems to have improved clarity and depth. The phonos was extremely quiet but the 9.0X is seemingly bottomless with nuances in the music I did not hear with the Phonos. Just spun 2 albums but we'll see how it improves over time. Hope the smell is nothing I need to be concerned about.

@audiosaurusrex  Keep us informed as to sound quality as unit burns in. I'm particularly interested as I'm running Modwright swp 9.0se and looking for cartridge upgrade, the ART-9xa at top of list with Lyra Delos. Umani Red also on my list if worth the extra money over AT and Delos.


Also wondering how much better PH models above SWP?  PH-9x would definitely be my choice.


Funny how many similarities in analog choices, Herron's always been near or top of list for phono stage.

@sns I can answer your questions! The PH9 and 9X are a SUBSTANTIAL improvement over the SWP 9.0 SE. This is the upgrade path I went through. The upgrade from SWP to PH9 was much greater than from going from the 9 to 9X, but the X upgrade is still worth it. I wholeheartedly loved the SWP, but with the PH9 there is just more to everything - musicality, tonal richness, holography, separation, resolution, you name it. I remember opening the box with Vlad Baselkov, owner of Audio Mirror. I installed the stage, and even without tube break in, the improvement of the PH9 was so substantial that it put a smile on both our faces. He immediately bought one for himself the following day. 

The ART9 line is also very special. I had the original ART9, and to date it might still be my favorite cartridge despite it being discontinued in favor of the XA and XI. I “upgraded” to other cartridges after breaking the ART9 cantilever. My upgrade path consisted of a Dynavector XV-1s and the TOTL Audio Technica ART1000, and I missed the balance and tonality of the ART9 compared to both of those MSRP $5K cartridges. I sold both of them and am now using an Air Tight PC-1s, which many say is like the ART9 on steroids. I am very happy with it, but it is definitely diminishing returns. In the future I may just find myself going back to the ART9XA or ART9XI. 

I have the utmost respect for Keith Herron and his products and I wish him well in his retirement. Maybe in another 20 years, I will be doing the same!

I have not compared the Herron to the ModWright, so I won't comment. The Herron is a well respected design.

I will however, comment on the PH 9.0X vs. the original PH 9.0! I knew that the PH 150, which the PH 9.0 design is based upon, still had qualities that the PH 9.0 did not, albeit at $5K more money! I spent some time looking at the design changes and cost cutting that I did to reach the PH 9.0's price point and I put the 150SE circuits back into the PH 9.0 at each point and evaluated them. I then found the key to the difference and that was the Lundahl output (gapped) transformers, that not only eliminated a pair of coupling caps, but also significantly increased the inductive load on the final stage that improved low and mid bass response, improved detail and resolution overall and added +6dB overall gain. This raised the cost of the PH 9.0X over the PH 9.0 of course, but still left it far less expensive than the PH 150. All PH 9.0 units can be upgraded to 'X' status for the difference in price between the PH 9.0 and PH 9.0X. I am VERY happy with the performance of the PH 9.0X!

And as for service and support, ModWright's reputation speaks for itself, over the last 22+ years.


Dan Wright
President, ModWright Instruments Inc.

@thiefoflight Is the 3.14amp fuse the correct one for the 9.0x? I’m assuming that the power supply being rated at 3amp, that would be the right one. Just making sure.

@audiosaurusrex Yes, SR tends to recommend stepping up one value. So 3.15A is a safe bet. I’ve used the suggested rated fuses in tube units and sometimes they have blown. My dealer replaced them for free the first/only two times, but from then on I always ordered one value up.