Hovland HP-100 preamplifier Michael Fremer, March 2002
In my drool-drenched review of the HP-100 in the November 2000 Stereophile, I complained about an almost-inaudible hum in the phono section. After I'd bought my review sample, Hovland made a production change in the moving-coil transformer, so I sent my unit back to be upgraded. You might think they'd have taken the opportunity to fix the hum, but they just changed the transformer and sent my HP-100 back still humming.
After the Home Entertainment 2001 show last May, Hovland's Alex Crespi came back to my place with an early-prototype Sapphire so I could hear it at home for a few hours. While we were hooking it up, he decided to get in some good-natured ball-busting, telling me that my mention of the hum had caused the company much grief, with many e-mails and phone calls coming his way from concerned and hesitant potential buyers. When I asked Crespi what he'd told the callers and e-mailers, he said, without affect, "I told them Mikey's got some grounding issues." Oh.
Of course, when I cranked up the volume on my HP-100, Crespi couldn't deny the hum. Fortunately, he'd brought along a spare HP-100—he wanted me to hear a new kind of resistor in the stepped volume attenuator. We switched preamps, and the hum was gone.
No comment.—Michael Fremer