Phono Accessory Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Oct 27, 2020  |  4 comments
In place of my usual Wilson Alexxes, a pair of small (though very fine) two-way speakers has been in my system this past month: the Marten Oscar Duos I review elsewhere in this issue. Without my usual reference speakers in the system, I didn't feel comfortable covering anything that affects sound quality for this column, so, with the exception of one item—the first—this column covers accessories that don't require sonic evaluation.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 22, 2020  |  10 comments
Ever since I stopped using my Audio Research SP10 preamplifier in the early 1990s—its eight phono-stage tubes used to get too noisy too quickly—I tried a variety of standalone phono preamplifiers. Seeing the most service through the 1990s and 2000s were, first, a Mod Squad Phono Drive EPS, then a Linn Linto, both of which I purchased. But when I measured Channel D's Seta Model L, which Michael Fremer reviewed in the August 2010 issue, the Linto was pushed to one side. The battery-powered Seta L (footnote 1) had the lowest noise and distortion I had encountered in a phono preamplifier, and I eventually bought the sample I had been sent for a follow-up review in 2013.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 19, 2020  |  6 comments
How goes your quarantining? Honestly, my life hasn't changed much here. I'm locked in the basement as usual, happy to have a good audio system and overwhelmed by my musical choices. Other than minimizing shopping expeditions and wearing a mask, the biggest change in my life is a spike in requests from readers for upgrade advice. I've never been so busy answering reader emails.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 04, 2020  |  First Published: Jul 01, 2020  |  6 comments
Lately, current amplification–based moving-coil phono preamplifiers have gotten a great deal of well-deserved press. For years, Haniwa's Dr. Kubo has been designing and selling super–low-internal-impedance cartridges because such cartridges work best with such devices. He has also been designing and selling his own current-amplification phono preamplifier.
Art Dudley  |  Aug 20, 2019  |  25 comments
This is a story about a $1375 commercial turntable accessory and a free tweak—the latter discovered while installing the former, although the two things exist quite independently of one another.

Here's how it all went down: Earlier this year, I was sent a review sample of a perfectionist-quality platter bearing called the Buddha Bearing, intended for Garrard 301 and 401 turntables. I was happy to receive such an interesting product but slow in trying it, partly because my record player sounded so good at the time that I didn't want to go tearing it all apart, and partly because there were other review samples in line ahead of the Buddha Bearing.

Art Dudley  |  Oct 30, 2018  |  25 comments
I have flip-flopped between these points of view: that some audio products or technologies are better suited than others to specific styles of music, and that any good product or technology should be equally at home with rock'n'roll, chamber music, large-scale classical, hard bop, techno, ragas—even George Crumb.

At age 19, in my first job as a hi-fi salesman, I was asked to adopt the first of those views. The shop I worked in carried only two loudspeaker lines—EPI and Ultralinear, both long gone—and the owner urged me to push the former on lovers of classical music, and the latter on rock fans. So I did. To paraphrase Jiang Qing, I was the shopkeeper's dog: What he said to bite, I bit.

Art Dudley  |  Apr 24, 2018  |  3 comments
In an oft-viewed clip on YouTube, recorded at the 2009 Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, three world-class guitarists pause during a music workshop to talk about their instruments: Danny Knicely describes his 1939 Martin D-18, Chris Eldridge talks briefly about his own 1937 Martin D-28, and Josh Williams notes that his guitar was made in 2002, by the Kentucky-based luthier Neil Kendrick. Then, with fine comic timing, Knicely remarks, "One of these days, me and Chris will be able to afford a new guitar, too!"
Art Dudley  |  Mar 29, 2017  |  1 comments
Before I revert to form and leave the subject for another nine or ten months, I'll pick up where I left off in last month's column to focus once again on step-up transformers (SUTs) for moving-coil cartridges. There's yet another choice you should know about—in this case, a thoroughly brilliant, handmade SUT that sells for well under $1000.
Michael Fremer, Robert Deutsch  |  Sep 13, 2016  |  26 comments
Synergistic's PHT ($199/set of two) is a very tiny, tweezer-ready HFT designed to placed atop a phono cartridge, and is marketed with a nod and wink: "grown in California, legal in all 50 states" (PHT is pronounced pot). Analog vets might remember Apature's line of moving-coil cartridges from the 1980s, which included the models Panama Red, Maui Blue, and Koce (which was white). Think I'm handing you a line? I've got a Koce here.
Larry Archibald  |  Jun 18, 2015  |  First Published: May 01, 1982  |  3 comments
LAST (Liquid Archival Sound Treatment) is a record treatment developed by one Dr. Catalano, which promises to retard dramatically the wear of vinyl discs. I don't feel that the advent of true digital discs will diminish the importance of LAST; on the contrary, as this century comes to a close many stereo records will be in their 30s and 40s and in need of as much preservation as possible, if the sounds and performances we treasure are to be preserved.
Stephen Mejias  |  Apr 24, 2014  |  0 comments
What I failed to make absolutely clear in my April column is that I really, truly, thoroughly enjoyed all three USB DAC–headphone amps that I auditioned: the Audioengine D3 ($189), the AudioQuest DragonFly v1.2 ($149), and the Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS ($199). Each offered a slightly different perspective on the music, but none could be accused of closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge, dumping several feet of snow on top of our car, or doing anything especially wrong.
Michael Fremer, Fred Kaplan  |  Aug 22, 2013  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2012  |  28 comments
Getting a review sample of this unique ultrasonic record-cleaning machine took me years; apparently, Audiodesksysteme Gläss, a small German manufacturer, couldn't keep up with demand. I've also heard from a few sources that reliability was not high in the company's early days, but that now all that's been sorted out, as has manufacturing capacity.
Stephen Mejias  |  Nov 08, 2012  |  6 comments
It was around 7pm on Tuesday evening when I bumped into Nicole and Ms. Little on Newark Avenue, in downtown Jersey City. The girls were on their way to Kristen's shop, Kanibal Home, for their weekly book-club meeting. (Or was it Writing Club? Knitting? Screen printing? Butterfly pinning? I can never keep track.) I was on my way home, not to read, write, or listen to music, but . . .

"Hi, honey," Ms. Little said. "Going home to play with your cartridge?"

I made a face, nodded, sighed. Sensing some sharp-witted remark forming in Nicole's filthy mind, I beat her to the punch: "Yup, that's what I call it."

Stephen Mejias  |  May 18, 2012  |  5 comments
The Milty Zerostat: Sold for prevention of disease. And other things.

Before dropping the needle onto Christine's copy of Sold for Prevention of Disease Only, I shot the record a few times with the Milty Zerostat 3 ($100), a blue, gun-shaped gadget that helps eliminate static. Squeezing the Zerostat's thin black trigger releases positive ions; relaxing the trigger produces negative ions. A complete squeeze cycle results in a neutral static condition—one perfectly in balance, neither too heavy nor too light—and my LPs play quietly. This step in my LP-playing routine grew out of necessity and has become a habit. The process is especially important in the cold winter months, when the air in my small apartment is dry, and debris stubbornly clings to my LPs and my cartridge's stylus.

Stephen Mejias  |  Apr 20, 2012  |  5 comments
"How many new records did you buy today, Stephen?"

It was New Year's Eve, and our large group of friends occupied the entire ground floor of our favorite restaurant, Jersey City's Satis Bistro. We had already been presented with a beautiful buffet of meats, cheeses, and breads, and now more appetizers were being served. A waiter placed before me the world's most delicious date, stuffed with gorgonzola, wrapped in bacon, and baked to perfection. I immediately stabbed it with my fork and popped it in my happy mouth. I chewed, savored, silently wished that I could make this moment last forever, and contemplated a way to answer Nicole's question. From her tone, I knew that she was only looking for an opportunity to mock my weakness for buying new LPs. I've grown used to it. Nicole is nothing if not a ballbuster. I decided to go with the truth.

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