EMT 128 phono preamplifier

In 2018, Micha Huber's HiFiction AG, manufacturer of Thales tonearms and turntables, assumed control of EMT Tontechnik, taking over EMT's cartridge business including development, production, repair, and international distribution—with the exception of the EMT broadcast cartridge line for the EU market, which is still distributed by EMT Studiotechnik out of the company's original Black Forest home in Mahlberg, Germany.

The backstory—or parts of it—is important to fully understand the front story: this review. So stick with me. Founded by Wilhelm Franz in Berlin in 1940, EMT began as a manufacturer of measurement equipment for broadcasters. In 1956, Wilhelm's brother Walter founded Gerätewerk Lahr, which began manufacturing EMT's products.

Fast-forward to the decade's end, shortly after EMT developed its famous "plate reverb." EMT's 927 and 930 broadcast turntables are in use in studios around the world, fitted with Ortofon-supplied tonearms, soon to be replaced by the famous EMT 997 "banana" tonearm—a story unto itself. The platters of these idler-wheel–driven, industrial-grade turntables were large enough to accommodate the 16" transcription discs then in broadcasting use. The 930 turntable, which at first was mono, incorporated a built-in vacuum tube–based phono preamplifier, the 139.

In 1959, EMT entered the cartridge market for obvious reasons and a year later developed a stereo moving coil pickup. In 1966, Gerätewerk Lahr took over production of Thorens—not relevant to this review, but an interesting aside. Wilhelm Franz passed away in 1971, but the company, run by his wife, continued.

From that time until 1989, when EMT was sold to the Belgian Barco group, cartridge design, development, and manufacturing continued at the original Mahlberg, Germany, location. Then in 2003, Barco sold EMT Studiotechnik to Walter Derrer. In 2005, Jules Limon joined the company, heading up product development as well as sales and marketing. A year later, EMT launched a high-end "Jubilee Series" cartridge line and introduced the dazzling JPA 66 phono preamp.

In 2007, Derrer died in a plane crash, and Mr. Limon took the helm of EMT Studiotechnik. A year later, he founded EMT International GmbH, which assumed control of the EMT trademarks as well as sales and production, including the JPA 66.


Limon met Micha Huber in 2009, and the two mapped out plans for collaborative, high-precision mechanical development projects. In 2014, following the retirement of the EMT cartridge production team—some having worked there for 45 years—EMT cartridge production, including all equipment and tooling, was slowly moved to HiFiction AG in Winterthur, Switzerland, where a newly trained young team would take it over.

Four years later, in July 2018, HiFiction AG completed its takeover of EMT's cartridge business including development, production, repairs, and international sales, leaving the broadcast cartridge line as well as the JPA 66 (now in its Mk3 iteration) with EMT Studiotechnik in Mahlberg. It's not clear who now owns the EMT trademark.

In 2019, in order to accommodate both the EMT production line and increased demand for Thales products, HiFiction AG moved into more spacious headquarters—a former spinning mill built in 1833—in the village of Turbenthal, close to the town of Winterthur and the Zurich airport. You can take the factory tour in a video I shot in the spring of 2019.

It's important to note that all along this timeline, the EMT cartridge line has been enhanced and upgraded.

The EMT 128
This new EMT phono preamplifier began life in 1985 as a project to replace the phono stage found inside the aforementioned EMT broadcast turntables. Mr. Huber told me he contacted the now-retired project leader and convinced him to complete the design's electronic component. Huber's team did the mechanical and vibration-control work. The printed circuit board is produced in Germany.


In function and appearance, the $12,830 128 is the opposite of the versatile, lab-like JPA 66. As for which is the cooler-looking design, I'd vote for both! The 128's sleek, low-profile chassis is milled out of a solid block of aluminum and utilizes "advanced air-flow and anti-vibration technology." It weighs 26.5lb.

The front panel features four toggle switches, one each for Off/On, Mono/Stereo, DIN 78/RIAA EQ (footnote 1), and Mute/Sound. The rear panel features one pair each of single-ended (RCA) inputs and balanced (XLR) outputs plus a banana plug–compatible ground lug receptacle on the right and an IEC connector and power switch on the left. Apart from a small identification plate, also on the rear panel, that's all there is on the outside.

Inside the chassis is a PCB populated with high-quality parts featuring a pair of Lundahl step-up transformers on the input side and a pair of Lundahl output transformers on the output side, between which are a pair of large Mundorf MCap ZN Classic Tin Foil "Audiophiler" capacitors. In between the step-up and output transformers are one trio per channel of Raytheon 5784WB subminiature, dual-pentode, wire-terminated tubes; EMT says these tubes were developed for "US missile technology."


There's no need to be concerned about tube availability. An online search shows that NOS (new old stock) 5784WB tubes are plentiful and cheap; I saw them for as little as $1.50. Online user reports claim great performance uniformity among tested samples and overall quiet. No doubt, in this critical application, HiFiction extensively tests each tube before soldering its bare wires to a small PCB fitted with pins that get inserted into sockets on the main board. Changing tubes, should it be necessary, is neither difficult nor time consuming and requires no soldering.

The instruction manual says the EMT 128 is "specifically designed for EMT MC cartridges," but it also states a range of useable cartridge impedances (12 to 30 ohms) and output voltages (0.3mV to 1mV). A pair of internally mounted jumpers lets you easily adjust gain to either 64dB (for cartridges with outputs ranging from 0.6mV to 1mV) or 70dB (for cartridges with outputs between 0.3mV and 0.5mV).

Footnote 1: After some back and forth, EMT's Micha Huber and I agreed that that DIN 78—the designation EMT used, including on its 930 turntable, which had built-in phono EQ, is the same as the TELDEC curve, with time constants T1 = 3180µs, T2 = 318µs, and T3 = 50µs. DIN 78 was "the German standard for shellac LPs, introduced in 1955," Huber told me. In the frequency domain, TELDEC deemphasis/emphasis circuits should attenuate (then boost) bass by about 16.5dB at 50Hz and boost (then attenuate) treble by 10.9dB at 10kHz. RIAA and TELDEC should match closely at 50Hz, but TELDEC will boost the highs by an extra 3dB or so at 10kHz.
HiFiction AG/EMT Tontechnik
US distributor: Wynn Audio
20 Wertheim Ct. unit 31
Richmond Hill, ON L4B 3A8, Canada

Glotz's picture

I've worn them... VERY tight! Lol..

Kursun's picture

Another $12.000+ phono preamplifier with only 3.5 db overload headroom!

According to a Shure research, maximum recorded velocities on records reach 50 cm/sec.

So a cartridge output with 5 mV@ 5 cm/sec will reach 50 mV/sec on peaks.
This means that absolute minimum of 20 db overload headroom is required. (MM or MC)

Jack L's picture


Per J.A. bench test report, 3.5dB@20KHz was test signal, not actual music signal picked up from the LP grooves. So you think a LP can deliver 20KHz music signals strong enough to overload the premp???? I doubt it very much.

Above said, the latest HD Vinyl is just around the coner. So 20KHz LPs is no longer some fancination.

Back in 2018, an Austrian startup invented a digtial mapping technology which digitally map the music signals into a 3D map which is then inscribed onto the vinyl stamper via lasers.

Yes, I think the HD Vinyl could theorettically be extended up to 20KHz. But would it sound as musical like its pure analogue format ?????? Or just another CD sound alike ?? Too early to tell now.

Unlike CD which adjust automatically its rotation speed to keep the laser linear veloicity constant, the tangential stylus speed (1.466666ft/sec) is not constant but varies as per the styuls location on the groove. Faster velocity near the edge of the LP.

From the design viewpoint, the low overload headroom of this preamp could be caused by too much gain caused by using 3 twin-pentodes in the signal path per channel, IMO. More gain would cause more 'pain' musically.

I would not use so many active devices for a phonostage considering SUT is already intalled for MC cartridge input.

Listening is believing

Jack L

Kursun's picture

Do you sincerely doubt an LP can deliver 20 kHz signal?
I am an engineer and I don’t doubt an LP can deliver 20 kHz.
Well, anyway,
Science does not rely on doubts, but facts.
“The high-frequency response of vinyl depends on the cartridge. CD4 records contained frequencies up to 50 kHz. Frequencies of up to 122 kHz have been experimentally cut on LP records.” (wikipedia)

BTW, don’t forget RIAA recording curves boost high frequencies by up to 20 db (@20 kHz) as pre-emphasis. There are high amounts of high frequencies on records. During playback, RIAA de-emphasis by the phono preamplifier attenuates them. If it is not overloaded that is…. Groove surface noise is also attenuated accordingly in the process.

Even at 1 kHz, signal velocity can reach 30 cm/sec.
That will be 30 mVs for a cartridge with 5 mV@ 5 cm/sec output.
It means absolute minimum of 15.6 db overload headroom is required at 1 kHz.
At 1 kHz this phono preamplifier provides only 8.3 db overload headroom.

Now what? Would you claim you doubt an LP can deliver 1 kHz?

A fancy casework and price does not make a good phono preamp.
Good engineering does.

20 kHz on LP records was never a fascination. It is/was always there.
Forget about what you call HD LP. Such claims are probably already extinct as a dodo.
An LP is as good as it gets.

Jack L's picture


CD4 LP invented by JVC in 1970 but died in 1979 for good ! Yes, its carrier frequency is 45KHz for the L-R channels FM multiplex signals (30KHz centre). But not its audio frequenc spectrum which I asked you about any LPs.

FYI, the audio frquency response for the CD4 LP L+R channels: 30-15KHz & same for its L-R channel: 30-10KHz with poor channel separation. No wonder CD4 lasted only a few years before it folded up.

Music comes from musical instrument which produce music. Let's take them from classical music"
Soprano 250Hz-1KHz (high enough to break a glass), Baritone 110-425Hz,
Top piccolo 630 - 5KHz. Clarinet B flat/A 125Hz-2KHz.
So tell me what musical instrument can generate 20KHz strong enough to
overload any preamp ???

BTW, HD Vinyl is a new startup invention to replace conventional cutter with laser to cut the stamper. It is the lastest revoluatinary vinyl invention, pal.

More to tell you, Mr. Engineer later as it's late now. I got to go now.

Jack L

PS: FYI, I'm an electrical engineer with dacades involvement in electrical power industries. My hobbyis DIY audio electronics.

Kursun's picture

Do you claim 20-5000 Hz frequency response is all there is and all it takes for hi-fi music reproduction?
Name of the game is harmonics. Cymbals for example, go way beyond 20 kHz.

If that is not enough,
“******** recording ******* RIAA curve” boosts high frequencies before cutting the record by 20 db!!!! (10 times)!!!! at 20 kHz! ************

************ Shure Company data state there are incredible amounts of signal peaks at 20 kHz on records. **************

This preamp can’t meet the absolute minimum overload headroom specs at any frequency either.

************ I have written all these facts before… Don’t you read or can’t you process what you read? *************

I mentioned CD4 only because you claimed LP records can’t reach 20 kHz. They do, and much beyond to ultrasonic frequencies! And you said 20 kHz is a “fascination” :) that what you call “HD records” will provide. Remember?
Don’t you understand what you read?

Jack L's picture


Slow down & take a breath! Mr. Engineer ! Don't get heart attack ! Mr. Engineer.

I said before I closed my last post to you last nite:
"More to tell you, Mr. Engineer later as it's late now. I got to go now." Obviously you did not read it, right?

Please don't put yr words in my mouth: I never claimed 20-5KHz is "all it takes for hifi music reproduction" !! You've jumped the gun before I can carry on with my explanation here now !

Yes, you are correct about the higher orders of harmonics above the fundamental frequencies of a vocal & a music instrument.

According to Neumann, Berlin, "the origin of all studio microphones", Taking reference of human voice: 200-8KHz, any frequencies above 6kHz - 20KHz are high orders of harmonics, in form of brilliance & air. What we hear sibilances & harshness lie between 6-8KHz.

20KHz is the high frequency audio standard for audio equipment. Not the frequency response of vocals & musical instruments that produce the music. Please differentiate the difference. We listen to music live/reproduced not sinewaves used in any bench tests. Don't mix up as they are totally different: apple vs orange.

My question to YOU in my first post to you was: "So you think a LP can deliver 20KHz music signals strong enough to overload the premp???? I doubt it very much." I stated very clearly to you: "music signals", not sineweave/squarwave test signals used in bench tests.

So YOU still ASSUME musical instruments with fundamentals up to 5KHz can overload any preamp with their high frequency harmonics up to 20KHz !!
So I hereby ask you again: which sopranos/tenors & musical instrument can deliver 20KHz high frqeuncy strong enough to overload any preamp ???
I can tell you: NONE !

Yes, you stated your fact of bench test standard not musical standard.
You obviously fail to know the differnece.

You quoted the JVC CD4 audio frequency "fact" is fake: only 30-15KHz max. Read again CD4 facts before you quote, OK ?

HD Vinyl, not "HD reccords" you wrongly assumed, is a proprietry trademark of a very new Austrian startup with million-dollars funds for this 3D musical signal mapping sofeware invention to replace convention chisel to cut record stamper with lasers. This company held a seminar in
Berlin only last year to demonstrate the sound effect of the 3D mapping software.

I talk facts with published references, not fake news on assumption.

Listening is believing

Jack L

Kursun's picture

I see that you posted a message, but deleted later.

You are thinking in terms of FLAT frequency response.
But LP records are not recorded with flat frequency response.
I see that I have to be more specific…
PRE-EMPHASIS is applied BEFORE cutting and DE-EMPHASIS is applied WHEN LISTENING.
This is done according to RIAA curves.

1. Before cutting an LP, BASS frequencies are ATTENUATED by as much as [-]20 db at 20 Hz and TREBLE frequencies are BOOSTED by as much as [+]20 db at 20 kHz. So if you listen to LP records without applying DE-EMPHASIS, you’ll hear that it is SATURATED with TREBLE frequencies, especially around 10-20 kHz, which you’ll see below at the Shure graph.
Do you understand so far? (Capisci?)

2. The Shure graph of maximum recorded velocities found on commercial music records on the market: https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-T97Unt0UZK8/WIPt3X3bfMI/AAAAAAAAAI0/KY9inlOQ3n8j6TTwbcIlWhwkSvjqCbL-QCLcB/s1600/record%2Bwrap%2Bvs%2Baudible%2Bfrequencies.jpg
As you can see, AT BASS, there are not much high level velocities.
MOST OF THE ENERGY is around 10-20 kHz.

3. BTW, this phono preamp does not meet absolute minimum overload headroom at 1 kHz either. You had replied, “but it has improved” (with respect to 20 kHz overload headroom). But your message was deleted. Overload headroom at 1 kHz was so low to begin with, not enough is not an improvement!

I don’t care what you “doubt”!
Do you understand so far? (Capisci?)
If not, I feel sorry. But I can’t do anything for you. You have to see a doctor.

Jack L's picture


Don't yr words in my mouth again! I never think the way YOU think what I think. Moot assumption again !!!!!

RIAA is not flat frequency response. This is vinyl ABC, even high school kids know it.

You keep on talking about RIAA equalization & Shure. Please tell us more informative on vinyl, Mr Engineer !

RIAA is a standard for manufacturers to design/build phono-preamps for sale, to provide a RIAA playback curve with transition points:
75uS (2,122Hz), 318Us (500Hz) & 3180Us (50Hz) = 20Hz (+20dB). 1KHz (0dB) & 20KHz (-20dB) so that the vinyl music can be theoretically played back flat from 20Hz to 20KHz.

It is a vehicle which convey the recorded vinyl music back to flat frequency response standard : 20Hz - 20KHz.

It does not mean music recorded in a vinyl record MUST get music contents with 20KHz high frequency response.

But YOU assume all music recroded in a vinyl gets 20KHz like sinewave bench test signals. This is incorrect. Human voices & musical instrument with highest orders of harmonics do not delivery 20KHz strong enough to overload any preamp, period!

"MOST OF THE ENERGY is around 10-20 kHz"

Substantiate your above statement with published data, Mr Engineer.

I understand every word you claim. I "doubt" you still undertand what I just posted here.

YOU don't have to do anything for me. You need to see an engineering doctor to improve your knowledge in audio engineering.

Jack L

directdriver's picture

I always associate EMT with pro audio so I do miss the rackmount look of JPA-66 preamp. This audio jewelry look trend is never my cup of tea.