c) the "front-input-is-better" weird thing is, well...weird. There are attenators; is it worth using it without preamp?
At present I have a Marantz PM-16 and a NuPrime AMG-STA class A preamp, and AMG-PRA power amp (130w stereo, class A+D); very fine little combo. I listen mainly to classical, large room and very good acoustic, no neighbors.
Yes, we do have the same phono stage. I have installed an upgraded power supply that Modwright made for this unit. As I recall, it was in the range of around $450, and made a big positive change. Recently, a NOS GE 5AR4 rectifier tube has the SWP, and my analog front end, sounding better than it ever has. Very pleasant listening to LPs lately.
Honeyooi, very nice system, I'm sure it gives you a great deal of pleasure. I also happen to have a Zu Denon 103R, which was an upper-tier cartridge from Zu. I sent mine to ESCCO in Britain for their white sapphire cantilever/Paratrace stylus mod. It still amazes me at how good it sounds. It would be interesting to compare the two, though I'd imagine they sound very similar (good!).
When my Zu needs retipping, I intend to send it to Andy, so one of these days, I'll find out how yours probably sounds. Enjoy your great system.
Nice system -- if you ever get the chance do explore picking up another ATM-2 and having them modded for dual mono use. This puts them in another league entirely. I would have happily lived with my pair of ATM-2's apart from their annoying tendency to blow tubes (I became quite adept at swapping out the protection resistors after one blew). Anyway they are built like tanks and will happily serve you as long as you need