What’s the best moving coil phono preamplifier?

Easy – a good step-up transformer.

Nothing does a better job of taking the extraordinarily small signals from a moving coil cartridge and amplifying them than a step-up transformer. That’s because they are completely passive, require no power and have no electronic or moving parts to degrade things or add noise.

Pros: better in every way, the best solution, better bass, better midrange, better treble, lower noise, no parts to wear out.

Cons: more expensive to manufacture, good ones are really expensive.

The very best MC step-up transformers are seriously expensive, but once you’ve heard what one can do for a really good moving coil cartridge, it’s almost impossible to go back to an active electronic MC gain stage, whether it be tube or transistor-based. Note that the MM and EQ parts will still be active, so you cannot get away from this completely. The first part of the chain is where the transformer sits, doing at least 30dB of heavy lifting.