Boulder Amplifiers 1008 phono preamplifier Page 2

I wish I had more space to go into greater detail about the 1008's circuitry. I'll just say that it also includes a new, potted, fully discrete 985 op-amp gain stage that provides 6dB greater gain (for a total of 26dB for each gain stage) than the 995 used in the 2008, but with no additional noise.

Massive Attack!
For comparison's sake, Boulder also sent along a sample of their 2008 phono preamp ($34,000), which I reviewed in the July 2002 Stereophile (Vol.25 No.7). Immediately obvious was that both the 2008 and 1008 were capable of producing massive dynamic swings well beyond the AMR PH-77's generally adequate dynamic capabilities.

Once, a manufacturer refused to give me his product to review because I'd liked the Boulder 2008. "Clearly, you like hi-fi and not music," he said. I was taken aback then, and now, listening again to the 2008, I still don't understand his remark. The 2008 is as honest- and musical-sounding a solid-state phono preamplifier as you're going to hear.

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Like the 2008, the far less expensive 1008 was neither bright nor etched nor hi-fi sounding—unless the record or the associated equipment was. In fact, the 1008's basic tonal character was somewhat reserved, slightly soft, and almost on the dark side of neutral, in a stately, burnished sense. The midrange was slightly recessed, certainly in comparison with the AMR, but the top octaves were anything but dry or overetched, and the lower ones were neither overdamped nor too tightly sprung, and thus lacking in suppleness and texture. Image resolution and information retrieval were impressive, though the 2008 can extract even more.

Late one evening I played, at a realistically low level, Shostakovich's Symphony 12, "The Year 1917," with Kiril Kondrashin conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic (LP, Melodiya/EMI ASD 2598). It's a dark, distant, but spectacular recording, and I could "see" into the darkest recesses of the stage, hearing not only each section of the orchestra, but the individual instruments in each, reproduced with clarity, body, texture, and harmonic integrity. It produced a thrill ride as vivid as watching Avatar in 3D IMAX.

The rock-stable, cleanly delineated soundstage produced by either Boulder spread well beyond the outer baffle edges of my speakers. Aural images were tightly compacted, finely drawn and sized, and notably solid, their physical boundaries cleanly rendered but free of etch and edge.

Still, if you savor the AMR PH-77's liquidity and flow, you might find the Boulder and most other solid-state phono preamps, if not all of them, to sound analytical and "electronic." I didn't.

Interestingly, direct comparisons revealed that the 1008 produced richer midrange frequencies than the 2008, resulting in a tonal presentation that was more fleshy and harmonically more vivid, though it could at times sound soft and less detailed—as if Boulder's voicing of the 1008 were in reaction to some of the criticism leveled at the 2008. The 1008 didn't grip the bottom octaves as tightly as the 2008, but which you'll prefer in that regard might depend on your system. The 1008's top end was also somewhat less extended and a bit more soft, though not so much as to mute instrumental attack. If your problem with the 2008 was too much etch, the 1008 might be far more to your liking—but I wouldn't recommend using it with a cartridge with a similarly restrained top octave, such as the My Sonic Labs Eminent EX.

Summing Up
The Boulder 2008's soundstage was more concisely drawn than the 1008's, the images on it more finely rendered, the bottom octaves somewhat better controlled, and the macrodynamics somewhat less restrained—but the 1008's somewhat more bloomy midrange and forgiving top end might make it more appealing to many, especially for one-third the price. At $12,000, dare I call it the more affordable Boulder?

COMPANY INFO
Boulder Amplifiers
3235 Prairie Ave.
Boulder, CO 80301
(303) 449-8220
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