Phono Preamp Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Oct 12, 2021  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2018  |  4 comments
Among the electrically connected, the phrase short circuit induces panic and horrific images of tripped breakers, blown fuses, acrid blue smoke, and melted circuit boards. Nonetheless, near short circuits are becoming popular among the analog set. Moving-coil cartridges of an inductance and impedance so low they're nearly short circuits are now more common, thanks to powerful neodymium magnets that help produce more and more electrical output from fewer and fewer turns of coil wire. Perhaps the most extreme example of this is the Haniwa HCTR01 Mk.II cartridge, which has an internal impedance of 0.4 ohm and an inductance of 0.3µH.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 31, 2021  |  7 comments
I don't like being pigeonholed as a reviewer of exclusively expensive audio components—because I'm not, as anyone who regularly peruses Analog Planet knows. So, to ease the pain of reviewing the half-million-dollar Air Force Zero turntable—you'll find that review elsehere in this issue—I figured I'd cover some more reasonably priced analog gear here in Analog Corner.
Julie Mullins  |  Aug 25, 2021  |  5 comments
Phono preamplifiers could be compared to children as viewed by a previous generation of adults: They are expected to be small in stature, and they should stay out of the way, seen but not heard and maybe not even seen. With the simpler models typically encountered at lower price points, there's little to do except "set it and forget it."
Herb Reichert  |  Jun 30, 2021  |  18 comments
In my world, the quiet ritual of choosing a record and placing it carefully on the platter is always followed by a sequence of three rough sounds.

With the volume at listening level, I hear the bristle-by-bristle rasping of my stylus brush as it drags across the exposed tip of the cartridge cantilever. Next, as I dip the diamond in Onzow gel, I hear a little suction cup pop and feel the compliance of the cantilever's rubber-tire suspension. Finally, my brain registers that sizzle sound as the stylus contacts the grooved surface. These sounds are tattooed on my brain. They "cue up" my consciousness, preparing it for attentive listening.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 28, 2021  |  3 comments
First, a power update: The generator and transfer switch bypass plan has been solidified, the town permit has arrived, and the work will commence soon. I'm pretty sure what I've learned through this debacle will help other audiophiles improve both their power and their system's sound.

Now, on to this month's column: Revisiting an updated product from a small company can be a rewarding experience. For startups in our competitive, niche marketplace, just remaining in business is a challenge. Many under-capitalized startups founded by well-meaning idealists/hobbyists disappear in just a few years if not faster.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 01, 2021  |  First Published: Feb 01, 2019  |  17 comments
Last May I got a text message from my vinyl-loving electrician: "Hey Michael, I'm listening to WFMU and a young 12 year old analog genius is guest DJ-ing, Malachi Lui. He mentioned you, and talks about mastering and pressings—he's incredible. I imagine he's been in touch with you. Hope all is well, Craig."
Michael Fremer  |  May 25, 2021  |  4 comments
Almost exactly a year ago to the day that I'm writing this—March 11, 2020—the WHO officially declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. If you weren't paying attention, maybe you didn't see it coming (incredibly, some still deny the pandemic's existence), but I had already canceled a March 14, 2020, flight to Atlanta to speak to the local audiophile society. I'd made the plans for that visit at the Florida Audio Expo a few weeks earlier. Remember hi-fi shows?
Michael Fremer  |  May 04, 2021  |  First Published: Mar 01, 2019  |  5 comments
Lately, there's been too much gear worth covering and not enough space to cover it in. So this time . . . less think-piece filler and more hardware!
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 07, 2021  |  22 comments
At the end of Gramophone Dreams #46, I was lost in the pristine beauty of Decware's 25th Anniversary Zen Triode amplifier driving the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 speakers. That was an extremely enjoyable system, and I was hoping to keep it intact for another month. My plan was simply to morph into my long-postponed opus on tube rolling using the Zen Triode as well as Ampsandsound's Bigger Ben headphone and loudspeaker amp. Both are single-ended triode, no-feedback designs and therefore perfectly suited for tube-swapping comparisons.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 15, 2021  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2019  |  3 comments
VPI Industries Voyager phono preamplifier
Following my auditioning of Channel D's Lino 2C current-mode phono preamplifier, back in the world of voltage amplification, here's another phono preamp from another company based, like Channel D, in New Jersey. Probably not since Dynaco manufactured its electronics in Pennsauken has the Garden State enjoyed such riches of analog electronics!
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 10, 2021  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1997  |  3 comments
You think Watergate was a momentous break-in? You should hear what a good electronic Rolfing does to the sound of this meticulously built, full-sized, full-featured, and full-priced ($3495) phono section imported from New Zealand by Fanfare International. Out of the box, the Plinius M14 sounds like what it looks like: all silvery, hard, and steely. Just leaving it powered up doesn't do the trick, nor does playing music through it—unless you're prepared for endless hours of truly bad sound before the sonic clouds begin to break.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 19, 2021  |  7 comments
I feel compelled to repeat here an eerie occurrence I related a while back on AnalogPlanet. I reviewed, in the February 1999 Analog Corner column, the Cartridge Man's Digital Stylus Force Gauge, which back then sold for $299.

I still have it, but a decade ago, the battery stopped taking a charge. I put it aside, planning to replace the battery someday.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 05, 2021  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2019  |  2 comments
Haniwa's Dr. Tetsuo Kubo is an interesting fellow. If you go to shows, domestic or overseas, you've possibly encountered him in his room a space known for being strewn, shrine-like, with LPs that once belonged to The Absolute Sound's founder, the late Harry Pearson: Dr. Kubo was a fan.
Michael Fremer  |  Dec 07, 2020  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2019  |  13 comments
Since acquiring SME in late 2016, Ajay Shirke's Cadence Group has moved cautiously. First, it revamped and cleaned up the company's somewhat chaotic worldwide distribution. More recently, the new owners eliminated from the bottom of the line the SME Model 10 turntable, introduced in 2000.
Michael Fremer  |  Nov 09, 2020  |  First Published: Dec 01, 2019  |  4 comments
AVM Audio, which has been in business since 1986 (footnote 1), chose last year to enter the turntable market with two models that reflect the company's brushed-aluminum/blue LED visual aesthetics.

It doesn't take a forensic turntable scientist to figure out who manufactures both of those turntable models. Clearly, Pro-Ject does (footnote 2)—although some audiophiles might recognize only a few key parts. Other elements, especially the two different tonearm models, may appear unique to AVM, having been built to their specs.

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