The Mod Squad Phono Drive phono preamplifier JA's System Details
The fundamental listening tests involving The Mod Squad Phono Drive were carried out in a system consisting of the The Mod Squad Line Drive Deluxe VTL 100W Compact monoblock amplifiers driving Celestion SL700 loudspeakers, though I also used the combination for all the loudspeakers that I tested for this and the next issue of Stereophile. In addition, the pair of Thiel CS1.2s reviewed by Larry Archibald in this issue spent a considerable amount of time in my system.
Line-level source components included my stock Revox A77 for master tape replay, CD players from The Mod Squad and Marantz, the latter also used to drive the Sony DAS-R1 D/A converter unit reviewed by JGH in December. For LP replay, the source was the fully loaded Linn LP player (Sondek/Ittok/Troika) sitting on a Sound Organisation table. Very late in the auditioning, the Ittok tonearm was replaced by an early sample of the new Linn Ekos arm ($1995), a fabulous component, in my opinion rivaling the SME V in midrange transparency. The cartridge was loaded with 100 ohms for all auditioning.
Loudspeaker cable was Monster M1, two runs being used to bi-wire the SL700s, while the interconnect between the Phono and Line Drives was MIT 330. That between the Line Drive and the VTLs was initially Monster M1000, then I changed to a 1m pair of MIT's new Shotgun 330 CVT at Steve's behest. This did sound excellent, but as time went on I began to have doubts. With the volume control well up, all was well, but the sound took on a dark character at lower levels. It turned out that the MIT cable has too high a capacitance (see "Measurements") to be optimal for use with the Line Drive; I ended up replacing it with Audioquest LiveWire Lapis. This gave a consistent sound whatever the level setting, though I am informed that it does take an unusually long time to break in, perhaps a couple of weeks, which meant that it was probably only starting to give of its best as this issue of the magazine went to press.
For comparison and reference, as well as my usual Krell KRS2 ($4500), I had access to the PS Audio 4.6 preamplifier, fitted with its M-500 power supply ($1104), and the Vendetta Research SCP-2 dual-mono phono preamplifier that usually graces J. Gordon Holt's system ($1895). This only just had sufficient gain to drive the VTL amplifiers to levels high enough to boogie by via the Line Drive.John Atkinson