Phono Preamp Reviews

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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.

Herb Reichert  |  Nov 04, 2020  |  19 comments
The 1980s was a decade when I needed three jobs to support my wife, infant daughter, and octogenarian dad. My primary job was to make and sell art, and I'm sure you know how that can go. Between exhibitions, I was forced to do construction work and to find, repair, and resell old tube amplifiers.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 22, 2020  |  11 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.
John Atkinson  |  Sep 14, 2020  |  2 comments
When Stereophile publishes followup reviews of various kinds in the print magazine, we add the followup as a "child page" to the full review. That means that they don't appear on the website's home page and might get missed. The October 2020 issue included three followups: of the Boulder 2108 phono preamplifier, the Weiss DAC502 D/A processor, and the IsoAcoustics Gaia loudspeaker isolation feet.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 31, 2020  |  First Published: May 01, 2020  |  18 comments
The catastrophic February 6 fire at the factory where Apollo Masters produced LP-mastering lacquers—flat aluminum discs covered with nitrocellulose lacquer—will be old news by the time this column gets to you, but the repercussions of the loss will be ongoing for at least the next year and probably beyond.
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 14, 2020  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2020  |  24 comments
The two biggest sonic jolts I've experienced involving phono preamps were from two very different ones: the Petr Mares's Connoisseur 2.0 and Boulder's 2008, which was reviewed in the July 2002 Stereophile. The first was hand-built, single-ended, housed in a wooden case, limited to 100 units, and, when I got to hear it in the mid-1990s, cost around $6000, or about $10,000 in today's dollars. The other was a feature-laden, double-chassis monument to flexibility and surface-mount high technology. It featured beautifully finished, flush-mounted mirrored buttons your fingers just wanted to press.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 10, 2020  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2019  |  12 comments
Install a new component in your system and there's usually a period of adjustment as you get used to the difference in sound—especially if the new product costs much less than your reference. Channel D's new Lino C 2.0 balanced phono preamplifier costs $2499, yet my ears instantly accepted its combination of drop-dead, noise-free backgrounds and lack of obvious colorations or sonic personality. I didn't hear it—I heard only my Ortofon A95 cartridge, with which I'm well familiar, as amplified by far more costly phono preamps.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 03, 2020  |  29 comments
We usually save the question of value for the end of a review, but this time it's worth mentioning up front, if only because PS Audio has been in the news lately. Late last August, the company announced they were switching from a traditional dealer network to a factory-direct sales model. So, to some readers, it might seem fair to judge the brand-new, full-featured Stellar Phono Preamplifier ($2500) against ones selling in stores for $5000.

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