AcousTech Electronics PH-1 phono preamplifier Sam Tellig and the PH-1P Premium
Chad Kassem, of Acoustic Sounds, distributes the AcousTech PH-1 phono stage, designed by Ron Sutherland—my reference phono stage since its introduction in 1997. You can buy a better phono stage if you have deep pockets, but the PH-1 is hard to beat at $1200 [Wes Phillips reviewed the PH-1 in June 1998—Ed.] The price hasn't changed in five years. Way to go, Ron and Chad!
Chad asked Ron to come up with a premium version, the PH-1P, with hand-soldered parts and a gold-plated circuit board. The payoff is said to be "better signal transfer." The price is $1500.
Chad arranged for me to receive the new version. It arrived after I'd done several weeks' worth of intensive cartridge listening with the original version—good timing.
As expected, the differences between the new and old versions seemed subtle, not dramatic. With the Ortofon Kontrapunkt B moving-coil cartridge installed in the SME 309 tonearm, the PH-1P gave me a welcome and worthwhile sonic improvement. The sound opened up. Highs became more extended. I heard more spatial resolution. I noted a small but significant gain in overall transparency, including better-defined bass. I heard more of what the Kontrapunkt B was capable of delivering.
With either version of the PH-1, setting up for MM or MC is a breeze; and if you tell Chad's people what cartridge you have, they'll configure it for you. The ZYX R100, with a rated output of 0.24mV, presented no problems—I had plenty of gain and heard very little noise.
I probably wouldn't run out and sell my standard PH-1 in order to upgrade, but I would plunk down that extra $300 for the P if I were buying a PH-1 now. If you upgrade your present turntable, arm, or cartridge—or all three—you'll be less limited. Both versions of the PH-1 are available directly from Acoustic Sounds, and from "select" dealers listed on Acoustic Sounds' website.—Sam Tellig