Boulder Amplifiers 1008 phono preamplifier
All three of these expensive phono preamps I wrte about this month share certain sonic attributes not found in less costly, less ambitious units: all are free of "electronica" and glaze. Their edge definition of aural images is smoothly and naturally delineated. All three produce music on a grand, effortless scale. All, to varying degrees, are without easily identifiable sonic signatures, while reproducing harmonically and physically identifiable individual instruments into the deepest recesses of the soundstage. And each one let me easily suspend my disbelief and experience reproduced music as if it I were hearing it live.
Compare with any phono preamp costing $1000$2000 and, good as such models can be, you'll immediately hear the scale of their sonic pictures diminish in all dimensions. Individual instruments will begin to smear together the farther back you listen. Dynamics will diminish at both ends of the scale, harmonic structures will start to unravel, and edges will blur. Your wide-eyed amazement at the pricier players' sound will turn to a disappointed grimace.
Using an excerpt of a sonically spectacular reissue of Donald Johanos and the Dallas Symphony's justly renowned 1967 recording of Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances (45rpm LPs, Vox Turnabout/Analogue Productions AP 54145), remastered at 24-bit/88.2kHz by David Hancock, and using Benchmark's ADC 1 A/D converter, I made recordings as played through all three phono preamps, as well as through the Boulder 2008 and a reasonably priced, well-engineered solid-state unit. I used these files for comparisons in my evaluations here, and played them for others without identifying which preamp was which. When the recording of the perfectly fine, relatively inexpensive solid-state phono preamp came up, their faces fell.
While there are some genuine bargains in high-end audio, as there are in wines and automobiles, my mother's old adage still holds: "You pay, you get." With these three, you pay a lot and you get a lot.
Boulder Amplifiers 1008
Your $12,000 can get you the tubed AMR PH-77 or the new solid-state Boulder 1008. Though the two models are built with equal care and perform with equal refinement, they couldn't have sounded more different.
While even at $12,000 the single-chassis dual-mono 1008 costs only about a third as much as the dual-chassis 2008 ($34,000), its build quality, like that of all Boulder gear, is impeccable. Even people who don't like Boulder's house sound will grant them that. The fully balanced 1008 has XLR inputs and outputs. Boulder can supply properly configured single-ended adapters if needed (I did, for the input connection) but for optimum performance, the company suggests rewiring your tonearm leads with XLR connectors.
The 1008 has two logic-controlled inputs, each with its own configurable, rear-mounted "personality card," and two outputs, one of which can be used for recording. In addition to RIAA, the 1008 includes the Decca ffrr, Columbia, and EMI curves for "LP records made prior to 1954," the press release sensibly states. The front panel boasts buttons for a 20Hz low-cut filter and a true Mono mode. How Boulder manufactures these buttons requires a full column!
DIP switches mounted on the "personality cards" select between MM (44dB) or MC (70dB) cartridges, but if the 100 ohm MC default resistors don't meet your needs (they were ideal for mine), setting a different load will require soldering in resistors. With the resistor removed, the MC load is 1k ohm; in MM, the setting is the standard 47k ohms.