2014 Recommended Components Fall Edition Turntables, Tonearms, Cartridges, etc.


Editor's Note: We strongly recommend those interested in LP playback visit our sister website, www.AnalogPlanet.com, which is edited by Michael Fremer.


Continuum Audio Labs Caliburn: $200,000 with tonearm and stand ★
Part New Jersey diner, part Wurlitzer jukebox," the 160-lb Caliburn is the brainchild of Mark Doehmann, whose clever, purposeful design is based on rigorous scientific methodology using finite-element analysis computer programs. While the only serious competition for the Caliburn is the Rockport System III Sirius, MF decided, "The Caliburn beat the Rockport's overall performance by a considerable margin," adding an "emotional majesty" that made the Rockport seem analytical. "Better than sex!" cried Mikey's wife, though compared to the Onedof turntable, while the Caliburn offered greater dynamics, transparency, and impact, it sounded slightly ragged and less stable, said MF. The ultrarigid Castellon stand, made of chromed, aircraft-grade aluminum, costs $25k on its own (pheww). Stereophile's 2006 "Analog Source Component" and "Overall Product of the Year." (Vol.29 No.1, Vol.31 No.3, Vol.35 No.7 WWW)

VPI Classic Direct turntable: $30,000 including tonearm
A brand-new, US-made direct-drive turntable—in 2014? Believe it. For VPI's Classic Direct, designer Harry Weisfeld selected a $4000 (his cost) Thin Gap motor, servo-controlled by a custom-designed active-feedback loop, which he combined with an 18-lb platter machined from a single billet of aluminum. The platter and drive system (combined weight: 27 lbs) are snugged into an aluminum-and-MDF plinth measuring 23.5" wide by 17.5" deep. To this, Weisfeld has mated a version of his tried-and-true JMW unipivot tonearm updated in both mechanical design and materials choice, this one a seamless resin creation whose existence would not have been possible even five years ago. Referring to his longtime reference 'table-arm combination, MF observed that "the Classic Direct with its JMW Memorial 3D-printed 12" tonearm comes as close to the [Continuum] Caliburn's sound as has any turntable, and for less than one-fifth the price." Quibbles: MF wondered if even greater performance could be had with a more sophisticated plinth, and lacked enthusiasm for the model's peripheral platter clamp. (Vol.37 Nos. 5 & 6 WWW)


AMG Viella 12: $16,500 as reviewed
Made in Germany, the Viella 12 is a belt-drive turntable with an ellipsoidal plinth of aircraft-grade aluminum; a two-piece black-anodized aluminum platter; a two-pulse, low-speed, 24V DC motor, acoustically decoupled from the plinth by five mounts of rubber and metal; and a 12" tonearm with a unique, dual-pivot, vertical bearing system. Setup was simple. Used with a Lyra Atlas cartridge, the Viella 12 produced a rich, detailed midrange; nimble, well-controlled bass; and smooth, clean highs, said MF. "An incredible value," he decided. Reviewed with AMG 12J2 12" tonearm and Cherry wood skirt. Add $500 for piano black lacquer skirt. Price without skirt is $15,000. (Vol.36 No.8)

Ayre/dps: $9250 without tonearm ★
In Willi Bauer's handsome dps, an aluminum plinth houses three shallow PVC cups, filled with elastomer buttons, that act as supporting springs for the rest of the turntable. The body is a laminate of six separate sheets: two layers of lossy damping material sandwiched by three sheets of Baltic birch plywood and topped with a layer of cork; the platter is acrylic. Bauer prevents energy storage by combining a resistive bearing with a high-torque AC synchronous motor, this powered by a three-phase power supply custom-made by Ayre Acoustics. Though it lacked the bottom-end heft of AD's Thorens TD-124, the dps showed unsurpassed pitch stability and revelatory soundstaging abilities. "A striking, innovative success," Art enthused. dps tonearm adds $3500. (Vol.33 No.4 WWW)

Brinkmann Balance: $23,700 ★
The ready-to-play Brinkmann Balance is a plinthless 'table with an attractive, low-profile base available in a variety of sizes and configured for specified tonearm masses. Its high-tech feet are designed to effectively isolate the supporting base from horizontally and vertically induced vibrations, and its platter's speed can run at precisely 33.3 and 45rpm. Combined "deep, tight, articulate" bass performance with "the lightest, airiest, purest" soundstages to breathe new life into MF's favorite LPs, adding "greater holography of imaging but without etch." Recent upgrades include a new motor and new power-supply electronics. Adding Brinkmann's optional RöNt tubed power supply ($4300) produced cleaner, better-articulated mid- and high-frequency transients, said MF. "The Brinkmann Balance remains one of a handful of the finest turntables being made today." Brinkmann 12.1 tonearm adds $7500, Brinkmann EMT-ti cartridge adds $4300. (Vol.28 No.5; Vol.35 No.4 WWW)

Brinkmann Bardo: $9490 without tonearm
The Bardo is a direct-drive, suspensionless turntable with an eight-pole, speed-controlled motor. It has a vinyl platter mat, a polished granite base, and the superbly designed and machined spindle and bearing used in Brinkmann's more expensive Oasis, La Grange, and Balance models. Fit'n'finish were outstanding, and setup was quick and simple. Though it lacked the rich, deep bass of Brinkmann's more expensive 'tables, the Bardo "produced superbly well-organized sound with clean, sharp attacks, reasonably strong sustain, and pronounced decay, all against a jet-black backdrop," said Mikey. Precision-ground crystal platter mat and screw-down record clamp now included in price; optional Balance power supply adds $1490. (Vol.34 No.5 WWW)

Dr. Feickert Blackbird: $9000 without tonearm ★
Easy to set up and use, the Blackbird is a mass-loaded design that can simultaneously accommodate two tonearms, each mounted on a precision-machined armboard of polyoxymethalene copolymer (POM-C). A thick slab of thermally treated MDF is sandwiched between two aluminum plates to form the Blackbird's attractive plinth, which in turn supports the 9-lb POM-C platter and houses the proprietary motor controller. The Blackbird traded bottom-end extension for rhythmic clarity, producing an overall sound that was open, uncolored, and slightly lean, said MF. Though "a likable product," the Blackbird "would be far more attractive and easier to recommend if it sold for $1000 less," he decided. (Vol.34 No.9)

Linn Sondek LP12, with Lingo power supply: $5010+, depending on finish and options ★
Compared with Linn's original Valhalla, the Lingo-equipped Sondek minimizes the LP12's propensity toward a slightly fat midbass, subjectively extending the low frequencies by another octave. The Lingo upgrade alone costs $1810. The Trampolin suspension reduces the effect of the support. Cirkus bearing/subchassis, fitted as standard, costs $1280 including labor as an upgrade kit, and further extends and tightens the ëtable's bass, leading to a borderline Class A rating, according to MC, JA, AD, and LG (as long as a good support is used, adds MC). "A deeper, more profound silence," enthuses WP over the Cirkus mod, adding that what stunned him was "the extent to which surface noise receded into insignificance." MF agreed: "Everything its fans say about it is true: It can carry a tune, it's well-paced, and it has impressive bass extension and supple, believable bass transients." Superbly low measured rumble and excellent speed stability reinforce the feeling of maximum musical involvement offered by this classic belt-drive turntable. Good isolation from shock and vibration. While the felt mat doesn't offer the greatest degree of vibration suppression within the vinyl disc, what absorption it does offer is uniform with frequency. The Lingo'd Linn was "a big-sounding, wildly dynamic, faultlessly tuneful player that held me utterly rapt," said AD. In direct comparison, the Lingo-Ekos combination sounded more dynamic than the Naim Armageddon-Aro combo, AD added. "The Naim Armageddon was easy to listen to. The Linn Lingo was hard to ignore." The Keel one-piece subchassis, tonearm board, and Linn-specific tonearm mounting collar ($3250) maintained the sonic character of AD's LP12 while adding size, richness, and detail. "To the person who understands what the player is all about, this very expensive upgrade could border on being essential," said Art, who feels that high Class B is the appropriate rating. Effects of the Trampolin base ($250) were not as pronounced. Despite flirtations with other decks, JA remains true to the basic design he has used now for more than a quarter century. The Radikal, Linn's 2010-vintage upgrade for the LP12 ($4250), combines a DC motor with an outboard switch-mode power supply and control unit. Housed in a shell of machined acetal and aluminum, the motor includes neodymium magnets, precious-metal brushes, and a rotor design said to virtually eliminate electromagnetic interference and magnetic cogging. While it maintained the LP12's natural warmth and superb musical flow, the Radikal presented music with greater force, momentum, and clarity, for a more satisfying and altogether easier listening experience, said AD, leading to a revised Class A rating. (Vol.7 No.2, Vol.13 No.3, Valhalla; Vol.14 No.1, Vol.16 No.12, Vol.17 No.5, Vol.19 No.2, Vol.26 No.11, Vol.28 No.2 WWW; Vol.30 No.10 WWW; Vol.34 No.6 WWW)

Onedof turntable: $175,000 as reviewed
The audacious Onedof (One Degree of Freedom) turntable comprises three towers, one each for the motor, the tonearm, and the massive platter bearing, the last also serving as the platter's pedestal. The self-centering bearing system has no points of solid contact and generates virtually no heat. To ensure that an LP rests flatly against the platter, the Onedof employs a massive central weight and a gold-plated platter ring. Compared to Mikey's Continuum Caliburn, the Onedof sounded smoother, silkier, and less mechanical, but lacked dynamic expression, transparency, and impact, which keeps it from Class A+. "I'd take a new Rega RP6 for roughly 1/100th the price," snorts ST. Sold factory direct to order only. (Vol.35 No.7)

SME 20/12: $22,100, with 312S tonearm ★
Among the best-built turntables in the world," the SME 20/12 is a tank-like machine weighing more than 75 lbs. It has an oversized 14.3-lb platter, and a 17.6-lb aluminum-alloy subchassis secured by ten O-rings for each of four suspension towers and will take 12" arms. Its three-phase, eight-pole motor uses an electronic controller to achieve precise speeds of 33.3, 45, and 78rpm. Though it lacked the bottom-end weight and macrodynamic range of even more expensive turntables, and had a slightly dry, analytical sound, the SME offered a very low noise floor and stable image specificity, said MF. Price without tonearm is $18,500. (Vol.32 No.5 WWW)

Spiral Groove SG1.1: $25,000 without tonearm ★
The 75-lb SG1.1 is a remarkably dense, belt-driven, split-plinth design with an onboard AC synchronous motor driving a 22-lb platter of graphite, vinyl, and phenolic. While the SG1.1's clever tonearm-mounting system allows for simple installation of most any arm, Spiral Groove's complementary Centroid tonearm is designed for optimal system stability. Build quality was superb. Possibly the quietest turntable-tonearm combo in Mikey's experience, the SG1.1-Centroid matched black backgrounds with delicate highs, natural attacks and decays, and rock-solid bass. (Vol.35 No.11)

Spiral Groove SG2: $15,000 without tonearm ★
Well built, simple to set up, and bulletproof in operation, the SG2 is designed by Allen Perkins and represents an evolution of design and production capabilities from his RPM turntables. Though similar in appearance to the RPMs, the Spiral Groove uses a five-layer chassis—two thin layers of damping material separated by three aluminum plates—and a thick, anti-vibration platter comprising layers of aluminum, an impregnated phenolic, vinyl, and graphite. The bearing assembly has been optimized to eliminate radial movement and prevent stray magnetic fields from interacting with the cartridge. The SG2's dramatic timing, authoritative midrange, and superb resolution of detail worked to present music with an urgency and wave-like drive, said BD. Through the SG2, "[a recording] became a performance," he enthused. (Vol.33 No.6 WWW)

TechDAS Air Force One: $97,000
A visually stunning technological tour de force," the 174-lb Air Force One has a three-layer-damped aluminum chassis, a forge-processed stainless-steel platter, and a massive AC synchronous motor controlled by an outboard dual-50W amplifier. The platter uses an air bearing; LPs are held to the platter with vacuum suction. The review sample was equipped with a Graham Engineering Phantom II Supreme tonearm. Though it didn't sound as smooth as the Continuum Caliburn or the Onedof One Degree of Freedom, the Air Force One was sensational in terms of harmonics, space, texture, and microdynamics, said Mikey. "The TechDAS Air Force One was a sonic masterpiece," he concluded. (Vol.36 No.4)

Thales TTT-Compact: $13,200
Designed and built in Switzerland by former watchmaker Micha Huber, the elegant TTT-Compact measures approximately 18" W by 3.5" H by 12" D and hides its belt and built-in motor under its 14-lb damped platter. The drive system comprises a small-diameter belt driving a grooved subplatter positioned very close to the triple-phase DC motor. A massive circular tonearm-mounting platform with integrated RCA-jack module locks securely to the main chassis via six hex-head screws. Setup was simple, but required great care to avoid damaging the exposed tonearm wires. Partnered with the matching Simplicity tonearm, the TTT-Compact produced a slightly bright overall sound, with rock-solid images, ultraclean transients, a neutral midrange, and rhythmically taut bass, said MF. (Vol.37 No.1)

VPI HR-X1: $15,000, with tonearm ★
Harry Weisfeld's efforts to produce the ultimate TNT turntable include a plinth of acrylic-aluminum-acrylic laminate, an inverted bearing assembly, the addition of a perimeter clamping ring, and replacement of the outboard motor and flywheel with a single unit. Simpler, smaller, more luxuriously appointed, and better built than the TNT, the HR-X also eliminates the TNT's pervasive warmth and softened dynamic transients, to offer a much more neutral overall presentation. BD: "The HR-X struck me as a stable, inert, and nearly neutral platform that simply supports a cartridge and lets it do its job." Price includes VPI's JMW-12.6 3D tonearm (see "Tonearms"). (Vol.29 No.5 WWW)

VPI Super Scoutmaster Reference Rim Drive: $10,000 ★
The Super Scoutmaster Reference Rim-Drive combines the Scoutmaster's Super Platter with the Super Scoutmaster's Mini-TNT Stabilizer feet, and uses a rim-drive motor system based on the HR-X's dual-motor/flywheel module. It comes equipped with a JMW-10.5i Memorial tonearm fitted with Nordost Valhalla wire. The sound was "fantastic," with impressive bottom-octave heft and slightly warm high frequencies. "The Super Scoutmaster Reference Rim-Drive is one of the best values of the true high-end turntables now available," said MF. (Vol.32 No.2)

VPI Classic 3: $6000 ★
Like earlier Classic models, VPI's most recent design is easy to set up, relatively compact (22" W by 10" H by 16" D), and uses a motor that has been integrated into its plinth. Refinements over earlier models include a more massive, better-damped plinth structure, newly designed feet, and an 18-lb damped aluminum platter. Though the Classic 3 wasn't as quiet as MF's much more expensive Continuum Caliburn and couldn't match the rich midrange of Dr. Feickert's Blackbird, the VPI had a clean, fast, lively sound marked by masterful attacks, outstanding microdynamics, and lifelike textures. "One of today's great values in analog audio," concluded Mikey. "I don't hear how you can go wrong buying one." Borderline Class A. Price includes the new JMW-Classic tonearm. See "Tonearms." (Vol.34 No.10 WWW)

Wave Kinetics NVS Reference: $45,000
Made in a California factory that specializes in microrobotics, the NVS Reference is superbly built and has a dramatic physical appearance: A large sculpted pod forms a central pillar and holds the motor—a custom DC design governed by a "laboratory-grade" commercial servo-controller with an active, ultrasonic feedback loop that produces a claimed speed accuracy of 1 part per million. Atop the motor is the NVS's 30-lb platter, which comprises three slabs of aluminum interleaved with two slabs of a mass-loaded white polymer. The turntable's platform is machined from billets of solid aluminum and includes a proprietary vibration-damping material. Compared to the Continuum Caliburn, the NVS Reference had similar bass extension and control, but offered slightly drier textures, muted attacks, and less dimensional images, said MF. "A top-shelf turntable that's easy to recommend," he concluded. (Vol.35 No.10)


Clearaudio Ovation: $6500 with tonearm
Using technology found in Clearaudio's more expensive Innovation series, the elegant-looking, belt-driven, three-speed Ovation measures 16.5" W by 6" H by 14" D and weighs 34 lbs. It uses a decoupled DC motor and has a resonance optimized chassis of Panzerholz and machined aluminum, a 1.5"-thick polyoxymethylene platter, and self-adjusting speed control. More nuanced and resolving than Clearaudio's entry-level Concept, the Ovation had a smooth, cohesive, and organic overall sound that combined sweet highs, a warm midrange, and taut bass, said EL. Compared to EL's Bel Canto digital front-end, the Ovation offered greater midbass body, but lacked some image depth and bass extension. Price without tonearm is $5000. (Vol.35 No.10 WWW)

Luxman PD-171: $6400 with tonearm
The retro-styled PD-171 is a two-speed, belt-driven turntable with an AC synchronous motor and a 9", S-shaped tonearm made by Jelco. Central to the turntable, and largely responsible for its 51 lbs, is a 15mm-thick solid-alloy top plate that supports an 11-lb platter and sits above a plinth made of hardwood and sheet steel. Separating plate from plinth is a thin layer of damping material; additional vibration control is provided by four adjustable feet. Fine-tuning controls are provided for both running speeds; a slender, columnar LED light pole acts as a cueing aid; and a robust, clear-plastic dustcover is included. Setup was straightforward. Exceptionally forgiving of poorly recorded and very worn LPs, the Luxman sounded slightly warm overall, with a sweet top end, rich midrange, and reasonably satisfying bass, said AD. (Vol.36 No.11 WWW)

Oracle Paris: $5000, as reviewed ★
The newest turntable from Canada's Oracle Audio Technologies is finished in a stunning high-gloss red lacquer and uses a carbon-fiber tonearm based on Pro-Ject's 9cc. To both minimize the effects of harmful vibrations and allow for easy, accurate leveling, the platter and tonearm have been cleverly isolated from the turntable's subchassis, plinth, and AC synchronous drive motor. Oracle's Micro Vibration Silicone Damping Device, a tonearm-damping system comprising a stationary trough and silicone bath, further reduces vibrations. Setup was simple. Though it wasn't as quiet as AD's reference Garrard 301 and lacked that player's tonal color and texture, the Paris performed especially well with up-tempo rock music, exhibiting good timing, a punchy low end, and clean highs. Price includes tonearm and moving-coil cartridge; base price for turntable is $3150. (Vol.34 No.10 WWW)

PTP Audio Solid12: $3500
Made in the Netherlands by Peter Reinders, the Solid12 has a heavy Corian plinth and uses several reconditioned components from original heavy-platter, idler-wheel Lencos: motors (along with their suspension cradles and wiring blocks), platters, platter bearings, platter mats, idler wheels, and idler-support mechanisms. Setup was simple and straightforward. Combined with AD's Schick tonearm and Ortofon SPU cartridge, the Solid12 delivered punch, drive, force, color, richness, and pure emotional and visceral involvement. "The essential musical rightness and the sheer availability and affordability of PTP Audio's Solid12 can't be overstated. If you want to know what the idler-wheel fuss is all about, this may be the easiest and most affordable way to find out," AD concluded. Price includes shipping from Amsterdam. (Vol.36 No.6 WWW)

Rega RP8: $2995 with tonearm
A highly evolved embodiment of Rega's philosophy of low mass and high rigidity, the RP8 uses a new low-mass, precision-engineered RB808 tonearm and a "skeletal" frame made from Rega's own version of Zotek, an ultrarigid polyolefin foam. As in the RP3 and RP6, a stress beam links the tonearm to the platter hub, increasing structural rigidity while reducing internal resonances and external vibrations. A newly designed glass platter is heavier at its perimeter, exponentially increasing the platter's flywheel effect and maximizing energy efficiency. Setup was quick and simple. Though it ran slightly fast, the RP8 produced a powerful, dramatic, coherent overall sound with solid, well-defined images; clean, articulated bass; exceptional resolution of detail; and outstanding dynamics, said MF. "Rega's new turntable-tonearm combo is the most exciting and truly revolutionary turntable to be introduced in quite some time," he concluded. Rega Apheta MC cartridge adds $1000. (Vol.36 No.11)

Well Tempered Amadeus Mk.II: $2850 including tonearm
The Chinese-made Amadeus Mk.II more or less replaces the US-made Well Tempered Record Player, long an AD favorite. Compared with that earlier 'table-arm combination, the Amadeus Mk.II uses a less complex platter bearing that uses light oil instead of thick silicone; a flat-profile platter with foam mat instead of a concave platter with threaded spindle clamp; an onboard low-torque motor instead of a more powerful outboard motor; a drive thread instead of a drive belt; and a thinner plinth, without the damping layer of yore. Changes evinced in the new Symmetrex tonearm include the elimination of adjustability for overhang and offset angle, and the switch from a purpose-made damping paddle to a bisected golf ball. Notwithstanding those changes, Well Tempered's second-least-expensive record player has, according to AD, "a musically involving sound—good timing, very good momentum and flow—combined with the sorts of spatial accomplishments and lack of obvious colorations that I associate with more traditional high-end audio products." (Vol.37 No.8 WWW)


Clearaudio Concept: $1400 with tonearm $$$ ★
The sleek, stylish Concept is a plug'n'play, belt-driven turntable with a decoupled DC motor and integral Clearaudio Verify tonearm, available with either the Concept MC moving-coil cartridge (add $800) or Concept MM moving-magnet cartridge (add $200). Though its attack transients were soft and its deep-bass extension limited, the Concept produced black backgrounds, solid and three-dimensional images, and a clean, smooth midrange. "Exceptionally attractive, easy to set up and use, and better built than its price would suggest," concluded MF. "High Class C" says EL.With Clearaudio's standard Concept moving-magnet cartridge in place, EL noted a slightly opaque, closed-in treble, but was nevertheless impressed by the Concept's fleshy, detailed midrange and rich upper bass. Switching to the Concept MC cartridge resulted in even greater midrange detail and palpability, and a sweeter, more extended treble, he said. (Vol.34 No.6, Vol.35 No.8 WWW)

Rega RP3: $1095 $$$
Though similar in appearance to Rega's P3-24, the RP3 uses Rega's new RB303 tonearm and a completely redesigned plinth. The RB303 has a more rigid armtube, a revised three-point cartridge mount, and a new headshell, counterweight, and bearing assembly. The plinth now incorporates a flat, 4mm brace of superhard phenolic resin that couples the tonearm mount to the bearing assembly, both atop and below the plinth, to reduce mass and increase rigidity. Compared to the P3-24, the RP3 sounded leaner and cleaner, with a tighter and better-controlled bottom end, said MF. "The RP3 is a plug'n'play package that's beautifully built, well engineered, and sounds wonderful," he concluded. Compared to the VPI Traveler, the RP3 consistently produced faster transients and more aggressive, precise imaging for an overall sound that was snappy and exciting, but lacked the Traveler's liquidity, bottom-end control, and rhythmic stability, said SM. Price includes Elys 2 moving-magnet cartridge; base price for turntable with tonearm is $895. Optional Belt Drive: $59; Rega TT PSU: $395 (Vol.34 No.12, Vol.35 No.11)

VPI Traveler: $1499 $$$
The first VPI product codeveloped by Harry Weisfeld and his son Mathew, the Traveler is designed for easy setup and meant to appeal to a younger generation of music lovers. It uses an AC synchronous motor built directly into a rigid, compact chassis of Delrin and aluminum; a machined aluminum platter damped with a stainless-steel disc; a high-quality bearing assembly capable of driving a 20-lb platter; and a dedicated 10"-long, spring-loaded tonearm with a double-gimbal bearing for horizontal and vertical movement. The Traveler combined delicate highs, a clean midrange, outstanding low-end control, and awesomely silent backgrounds with an overall ease and fluidity that SM found intoxicating. Compared to the Rega RP3, the Traveler lacked transient speed and precision but offered greater clarity, presence, and rhythmic authority. MF says high Class C. Running changes since SM's first review include sturdier tonearm bearings, a repositioned motor, a better platter mat, and cosmetic refinements; the last, according to SM, have left the current-production Traveler "easily more attractive than the original." Available finishes include black, red, white, or blue. (Vol.35 No.11, Vol.37 No.5 WWW)


Music Hall USB-1: $249 ★
The two-speed, belt-driven USB-1 bears a striking resemblance to the iconic Technics SL-1200 turntable. It comes equipped with an aluminum platter and felt platter mat, an S-shaped tonearm with detachable headshell, a serviceable Audio-Technica AT3600L moving-magnet phono cartridge, antiskating and pitch controls, and a thick dustcover. The USB-1 had a slower, darker, less rhythmically assured sound than the Rega RP-1, but produced eerily quiet backgrounds and solid stereo imaging. SM partnered the USB-1 with the Audioengine 5 powered speakers for "a stripped-down, badass, bitchin' little system." Converting vinyl to WAV files via the USB-1's built-in phono preamp, USB output, and Audacity software was a simple but tedious process. (Vol.34 No.5 WWW)

Rega RP1: $445 $$$ ★
The plug'n'play RP1 (for Rega Planar One) replaces Rega's popular P1. Nearly identical to the earlier model in size and shape, the RP1 uses an Ortofon OM5e moving-magnet cartridge, but trades the P1's MDF platter for one of phenolic resin and adds Rega's new, solidly built RB101 tonearm. Additionally, the P1's drab gray finish is exchanged for the RP1's choice of White, Cool Gray, or Titanium. Compared to the P1, the RP1 delivered more drive, better focus, and was the more confident, purposeful, and authoritative player. "Rega's RP1 looks good, is easy to set up, and plays records like it means it," said SM. AD shared SM's enthusiasm: "It's not just that I can't imagine $445 buying more happiness; I can't imagine so modest an investment in money and effort buying more music." The RP1 Performance Pack Upgrade was easy to install and resulted in a bigger soundstage, deeper silences, and greater resolution of low-level detail, said SM. "A no-brainer," agreed AD. (Vol.34 Nos.2, 4, & 5 WWW)


Origin Live Resolution Mk3.

Avid Diva II SP and Oracle Delphi Mk.VI not auditioned in a long time. 



AMG 12J2: $4500
12" tonearm with dual-pivot, vertical bearing system. See MF's review of the AMG Viella 12 turntable. (Vol.36 No.8)

Brinkmann 10.5: $6300 ★
A Breuer-like gimbaled-bearing design that features an armtube described by the designer as a "high-speed, double-concentric, ceramic-plated, self-damping transmission device." JI uses a Brinkmann arm on his Oracle with great success. (Vol.28 No.5)

Continuum Audio Labs Cobra: $22,500 ★
The Cobra's odd shape—it's wider and higher in the middle—is designed to make the center of the arm as stiff and free of resonances as possible. The Cobra also includes original and ingenious methods for azimuth stabilization and adjustment. "The Caliburn-Cobra produced the most convincing, believable, solid, and alive sound picture I've heard," said MF. Though its tonal balance was similar to that of the Kuzma 4Point, the Cobra sounded less energetic and less natural, decided MF. (Vol.29 Nos.1 & 6, Vol.34 No.10, Vol.35 No.7 WWW)

Durand Tonearms Telos: $19,500 ★
The beautiful Telos, Durand's top model, is a 12", medium-mass tonearm made of a superbly sculpted and finished piece of wood. It comes in an attachÈ-style wooden case and includes a full set of high-quality setup tools and accessories: LED flashlight, loupe, pivot-to-spindle-distance gauge, and alignment gauge. The "constrained unipivot" design provides relatively easy azimuth adjustment and uses a Swiss-made point of nonmagnetic stainless steel and a sapphire cup. With the Lyra Atlas cartridge mounted in its headshell, the Durand Telos sounded "addictively glorious," with outstanding harmonic richness and a relaxed sense of musical flow. Though bass response was well textured and relatively well controlled, the Telos lacked some bottom-octave solidity and punch, decided MF. (Vol.35 No.10)

EMT 997: $5295 ★
The banana-shaped EMT 997 tonearm employs a fixed-pivot, high-mass design and has a detachable headshell. Its effective length of 307mm (12") works to minimize tracking-angle error and distortion. Though it sacrificed timbral neutrality, imparting well-recorded vocals with some "mid-to-upper-mid bumps and dips," the 997 impressed Art with its ability to convey the inherent tension of recorded music. "The EMT 997 was the least wimpy, least wispy tonearm I've ever heard," he said. If willing to invest the time and effort necessary for proper setup and installation, the user will be rewarded with "an almost indescribably great deal of pleasure," AD added. (Vol.31 Nos.7 & 9 WWW)

Graham Phantom II Supreme: $7000–$7900 ★
Replacing the long-recommended B44 (reviewed in Vol.28 No.9, Vol.29 No.1, Mk.I, Vol.32 No.10, Vol.35 No.7, Mk.II WWW), the Graham was just as detailed and uncolored as the Kuzma 4Point but lacked some speed and coherence, said MF. Price is for 9" Chrome Version. (Vol.35 No.7)

Ikeda IT-407CR1: $6500
Imported from Japan by Beauty of Sound, the IT-407 is a remarkable, high-mass 12" tonearm: "a beautifully rounded construction of polished chrome and stainless steel that appears to be at once both new and old," said AD. It offers several setup and adjustment features, including: spring-actuated dynamic tracking force; a calibrated and adjustable falling-weight antiskating mechanism; an adjustable lift/lower platform, mated to Ikeda's trademark spherical cueing knob; a headshell that's easily adjustable for overhang, offset angle, and azimuth; and an adjustable arm pillar. The Ikeda excelled at minimizing groove noise and produced a big, round sound with a freedom from harshness and overall sonic poise that served every record Art played. "The Japanese arm sounded every bit as beautiful as it looks," he summed up. (Vol.36 No.8 WWW)

Kuzma 4Point: $6675 ★
Designed by Franc Kuzma, this brilliant pivoted tonearm takes its name from its four-point bearing system: Four carefully arranged points contact four cups, permitting the arm to move in both the vertical and lateral planes while avoiding the chatter of gimbaled bearings and the instability of unipivot designs. It has an effective length of 11", a pivot-to-spindle distance of 10.3", an overhang of 0.6", an effective mass of 0.4oz, and a total weight of 3.63 lbs. Its removable headshell made swapping cartridges painless, while adjustment of VTF, VTA, antiskating, and azimuth were all relatively simple. With its outstanding immediacy, transparency, and overall coherence, the 4Point consistently exceeded Mikey's expectations. Compared to the combo of Continuum Cobra arm and Ortofon A90 cartridge, the 4Point with Lyra Titan i offered greater timbral, textural, and image solidity, said MF. "I'm in love," he concluded. Compared with the Continuum Audio Labs Cobra, the Kuzma sounded more natural and more energetic. "The Kuzma 4Point may be the finest tonearm out there, period," said MF. The Kuzma matched the Graham Phantom II Supreme's detail retrieval and neutrality but offered greater speed and coherence, said MF. Also offered with regular phono cables/no RCA box for $6375. (Vol.34 Nos.9 & 10, Vol.35 No.7 WWW)

Linn Ekos SE: $4950 ★
Outwardly identical to the original Ekos in all but color, the Ekos SE is machined from a titanium tube in an effort to smooth out resonant peaks, while its stainless-steel main pillar and bearing cradle work to maintain perfect bearing adjustment in the face of temperature extremes and user abuse. The "beautifully finished" SE comes packaged with a selection of tools, a Linn T-Kable interconnect, and a new iteration of Linn's cable clamp. With its strong, tight bass and solid aural images, the Ekos SE produced a "cleaner, more dramatic, and more enjoyable" listening experience, said AD. "Other, more exotic arms may give better results in some settings, but I can't think of a more consistent—and consistently recommendable—tonearm. It's a Martin D-28, a BMW 3-series, a bottle of Bombay Sapphire: It will please any sane, reasonable person," he sums up. (Vol.30 No.10 WWW)

SME 312S: $3600 ★
The 312S is a 12" tonearm with a tapered armtube made of pressure die-cast magnesium for strength, rigidity, and low mass. With fit'n'finish to match the no-nonsense precision of SME's 20/12 turntable, the 312S includes a secure sliding-track overhang-adjustment mechanism, a spring-loaded VTA post, and a silicone-filled damping trough with adjustable paddle. SME has produced "a tonearm that has all of the 12" arm's theoretical advantages and none of its disadvantages," MF said. (Vol.32 No.5 WWW)

Spiral Groove Centroid: $6000 ★
The Centroid is a fluid-damped unipivot design that gives the user fine adjustment of all relevant parameters. It was extremely quiet, with stunning resolution and clarity, and had an uncanny ability to reproduce the tonal and dynamic elements of deep bass notes. "The Centroid tonearm may be the best tonearm I've heard. It is not leaving my listening room," declared BD. The Spiral Groove SG1.1-Centroid turntable-tonearm combo offered black backgrounds, rock-solid bass, natural tone color, and outstanding detail retrieval, said Mikey. A universal version with standard arm mount is also now available. (Vol.33 No.6 WWW, Vol.35 No.11)

Thomas Schick 12" Tonearm: $1675 $$$ ★
Made in Germany by Thomas Schick and imported by Oswalds Mill Audio, the Schick 12" tonearm is intended to combine the greater-than-average length and mass of certain vintage models with the high-quality bearings of modern arms. It offers superb fit and finish, with a clean, spare bearing cradle and a smoothly solid pickup-head socket. Though lacking the spring-loaded downforce and other refinements of the EMT 997—and, thus, some measure of the more expensive arm's performance—the Schick is characterized by a big, clean, substantial sound, with an especially colorful bottom end: "a superb performer," according to AD, who also verified the correctness of the Schick's geometry with Keith Howard's ArmGeometer freeware. According to Art, "The Schick tonearm is an outstanding value and easily the most accessible transcription-length arm on the market." (Vol.33 Nos.3 & 6; Vol.34 No.10 WWW)

Tri-Planar Mk.VII UII: $6200
This venerable tonearm maker has a new owner (see "Analog Corner," March 2001). The Mk.VII UII builds on earlier versions, "with a larger-diameter headshell tube, a larger damping trough, and redesigned bearings, featuring handmade hardened and polished needle cones." Many of the arm's parts are still made by Papier's machinist in Maryland. "Right out of the box," MF said, "it was obvious that the Tri-Planar's build quality is still topnotch." But MF still has a beef with the headshell screw slots—"way too wide." Still, "the Tri-Planar was one of the first...captured-bearing tonearms to offer easily adjustable VTA and azimuth adjustment." MF: "The sound of the Tri-Planar had not changed appreciably since I last auditioned it: It offered unerring, rock-solid image and soundstage stability. The bass was extended and lithe, and high-frequency transients were cleanly presented. The picture was airy and big....In any case, the Tri-Planar's ability to resolve low-level detail was superb, and its tonal balance and frequency extension were exemplary." Price includes 1m cable/RCA plug termination or 10" wire to RCA-jack junction box. BD's reference tonearm as of 2009; he got great results with the Tri-Planar on a Spiral Groove SG-2 turntable. The Tri-Planar Precision Mk.VII sounded vivid and solid on the Spiral Groove SG2, with rich tonal colors and textures, but was never overly euphonic, said BD. (Vol.18 No.2, Vol.21 No.3, earlier versions; Vol.24 No.7, Mk.VI Ultimate; Vol.33 No.6, Mk.VII WWW)

VPI JMW Memorial 3D-printed 12" tonearm: $3000
The JMW Classic 3D 12" tonearm is identical to the JMW Classic Signature of the same length—with one big difference: This unipivot's removable armwand is made, on a 3D printer, of an epoxy-like resin said to impede the transfer of vibrations. MF was very impressed with the new model's smooth, transparent, well-balanced sound, likening it in those regards to his reference Continuum Cobra tonearm, and declaring the Classic 3D the logical upgrade for present owners of the JMW Memorial arm: "It's not that the metal JMW arm is so bad—it's that the 3D-printed version is so good." AD, who has set up a JMW Classic 3D for friend Sasha Matson, reports being very impressed with the new arm's level of finish. (Vol.37 No.6 WWW)

VPI JMW-12.7: $3000 $$$ ★
Unipivot tonearm features vestigial antiskating, which disconcerted MF. Nonetheless, he enthused over its lush midrange, ultra-smooth top end, and rock-solid imaging and soundstaging: "Subjectively, it seemed to have lower distortion than any other pivoted arm I've heard, but part of that might be the result of its smooooth frequency balance. Inner detail was outstanding." However, he added of the original 12.5 version, "I think there's a slight midbass exaggeration that may be part of the spreading warmth above this range, and which gives this arm its inviting midrange." BD says of the 12" version, "lowers the original's already low distortion. The background is blacker and the arm seems to float an infinite well of inner and low-level details. The tonal balance is more neutral, but combined with the TNT III or IV, is still warm and inviting." With the 12.5, Harry Weisfeld made small but important modifications to the 12" JMW that resulted in heightened rigidity, a reduced center of mass, and improved damping. What BD found most impressive was the "obvious-once-you-see-it" touch of the small V-groove machined into the top of the headshell. This allows the user to more easily gauge headshell tilt while setting azimuth. "Neat!" MF adds: "Luxurious midrange, low distortion, and ease of setup and use make this a very attractive arm if your ëtable can handle the length." More recently, in addition to a streamlined model name, VPI's first transcription-length tonearm has come in for some mechanical refinements. Its unipivot bearing, and the jeweled cup within its bearing housing, have been improved. A weighted collar has been added to the counterweight, and can be rotated asymmetrically for azimuth adjustment. "Most important," according to MF, "[its] cantilevered platform has been made far more massive and sturdy." Additionally, an antiskating mechanism is now available, though not without the manufacturer's antipathy. Additional arm assemblies cost $600. (Vol.20 No.1, Vol.24 No.12, Vol.25 No.3, Vol.37 No.5; see BD's review of the VPI HR-X in Vol.29 No.5 WWW)

VPI Classic-JMW: $1600
An upgraded version of VPI's JMW Memorial 10.5i, the Classic-JMW, included with VPI's Classic 3 turntable, uses a new stainless-steel armtube, a stronger, more massive bearing platform, and a more rigid base mount. Though lateral instability remained a problem, any adverse effects were inaudible, said Mikey. (Vol.34 No.10 WWW)


Clearaudio Clarify: $1600
A perfect partner for Clearaudio's Ovation turntable, the Clarify has a machined aluminum headshell with azimuth adjustment, a carbon-fiber armtube, a magnetic bearing, and a low-center-of-gravity counterweight with an integral mechanism for adjusting VTF. It uses Clearaudio's proprietary Direct Wire, a five-conductor configuration of copper with Teflon insulation, implemented as a direct run from the cartridge clips to a 1.2m tonearm cable terminated with RCA plugs. The Ovation-Clarify combo had a resolving, nuanced, musical sound, said EL. See listing for Clearaudio Ovation in "Turntables." (Vol.35 No.10 WWW)

Ortofon TA-210: $1899
The 12" TA-210 is a pivoting tonearm with traditional gimbaled bearings for lateral and vertical movement, and a curved, damped aluminum-alloy armtube. Versatile and user-friendly, it comes with a removable cable, a plug-in headshell for use with standard-mount phono cartridges, and a simple, accurate installation jig. Compared to the EMT 997 and Schick Tonearm, the Ortofon lacked some scale, presence, and impact, but sounded consistently smooth, serene, and uncolored, with no apparent stressing on dynamic peaks, said AD. "A wise choice for a newcomer to the world of vintage-style phonography," he concluded. (Vol.35 No.10 WWW)

Rega RB303: $595 $$$
Latest version of Rega's classic tonearm. See the Rega RP3 entry in "Turntables." (Vol.34 No.12)

ViV Lab Rigid Float: $4390–$4990
The Viv Laboratory Rigid Float is a radically different tonearm: a design that combats tonearm skating forces and their distortions not with the application of antiskating—which the designer abhors—but by eliminating from his arm the headshell offset that, in tandem with the friction of the stylus in the groove, causes skating in the first place. Consequently, like the RS Laboratory arm before it, the Rigid Float's geometry eschews overhang in favor of underhang, the cartridge-alignment implications of which concerned MF—who also scratched his head over the nonrigidity of the ViV arm's turntable mounting arrangement and consequent less-than-optimal height-adjustment provisions. But MF was impressed with its unconventional bearing—"the pivot floats on a dark, magnetic, light-viscosity, ferrofluid-like oil that you inject into . . . the front of the pivot housing"—and, in the end, was wowed by the Rigid Float's "gloriously smooth" midrange and "meaty, full-bodied" bass: "If you love to the exclusion of most everything else the romantic, vintage, midrangey sound that some people insist is 'music,' the ViV Laboratory Rigid Float is made for you." (Vol.37 No.8)

VPI JMW-9: $1200 ★
The newest and shortest of Harry Weisfeld's JMW tonearm line, the JMW-9 comes standard with the Aries Scout turntable. (AD enthused about the combination's sound.) It uses a reverse-missionary bearing with a hardened tungsten-carbide point and a machined and hardened-steel set-screw for a cup. A quick-connect plug makes for easy removal and easy cartridge swapping, but as with all Harry Weisfeld designs, there is no antiskating mechanism. MF auditioned the 9" version of the JMW Memorial tonearm with VPI's Scoutmaster turntable. Unlike the original JMW Memorial, the 9" arm's main bearing is directly grounded to the plinth and the stabilizing ring surrounding the arm's bearing housing is fixed. The lack of a damping well results in a "Parkinson's-like trembling of the JMW when you use the finger lift or lower the arm via the cueing mechanism," which MF found disconcerting. Nevertheless, the arm appeared to be extremely stable: "The taut, focused, remarkably coherent performance of this ëtable-arm combo is testament to a fundamentally solid, well-grounded system that deals effectively with energy created at the stylus/groove interface." Some disagreement between AD and MF over the overall rating, but Class B seems appropriate. (Vol.26 No.2, Vol.27 No.9 WWW)

Editor's Note: There are currently no Class C or D tonearms listed.


Origin Illustrious 3C.


Thales Simplicity no longer available.

Phono Cartridges


Brinkmann Pi: $2700 ★
The Pi moving-coil cartridge uses a motor built to Brinkmann's specifications by Benz-Micro, includes a Micro-Ridge stylus, and has a body of machined aluminum designed to control the dissipation of resonant energy. Though its tonal balance was slightly lean, the Pi's overall frequency extension and tracking ability were impressive, said MF. "The Pi cartridge strikes me as very competitive at and above its price," he concluded. (Vol.34 No.5 WWW)

Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement: $15,000
The audacious Goldfinger Statement has a diamond embedded in the front panel of its 14K-gold body, and features EMF shielding and a resonance-damping, gold-fingered top plate. It uses 12 magnets, a 24K-gold coil assembly, and a boron cantilever with a Micro HD stylus. The unusual specs include a high weight of 17gm and a high output of 0.9mV; tracking force is 2.8gm. Though it lacked ultimate soundstage width, the Goldfinger Statement produced a "generous, voluminous midrange" and had outstanding dynamics, bottom-end extension and authority, and transient speed and clarity, said MF. (Vol.35 No.9)

EMT TSD 15: $1950 $$$ ★
The EMT TSD 15 is an A-style pickup head weighing just over 17.5gm and available with either EMT's proprietary diamond-shaped output-pin pattern or the more common SME square pattern. It has a high impedance of 24 ohms, a high output of 1.05mV, and a moderate recommended downforce of 2.5gm. The EMT's overall sound was open, clear, and transparent, with above-average presence, body, and color, and an outstanding sense of momentum and flow. "A fine all-arounder, combining starkly honest music-making with the sorts of refined sonic attributes most audiophiles cherish," said Art. Examining the EMT with a microscope revealed its distinctly small, sharp, spherical tip, which, AD conjectured, may be the reason for the stylus's exceptionally low groove noise. For special systems only, as it is a complete pickup head, not just a cartridge. (Vol.34 Nos.5 & 9 WWW)

Haniwa Audio System HCTR01: $5000
Designed in Japan by Tetsuo Kubo and built by Y. Matsudaira of My Sonic Lab, the beautifully made HCTR01 moving-coil cartridge has a super-low internal impedance of 0.8 ohm and can track at an astonishingly low 0.6–1.0gm when used with Haniwa's HEQA01 Phono Equalizer. It uses a boron cantilever and a line-contact stylus assembly. While it lacked midrange warmth and texture, the Haniwa produced "a fully extended, ultraclean, remarkably transparent sound," said MF. Sold direct from Kubotek USA with a money-back guarantee. (Vol.34 No.11)

Lyra Atlas: $9500
With its off-center motor-retaining screw and asymmetrical design, Lyra's new top model represents designer Jonathan Carr's latest ideas on minimizing resonances. It has a body machined from a solid billet of aluminum, a diamond-coated boron cantilever, and a nude diamond stylus. The Atlas combined the Titan i's detail and transient speed with the Kleos's warmth and smoothness, said MF. "The Lyra Atlas is a complete success." (Vol.35 No.5 WWW)

Lyra Etna: $6995
Like Lyra's flagship, the Atlas, the Etna is machined from a solid billet of titanium and has a high-efficiency, X-shaped former and coil arrangement; a yokeless dual-magnet system; a cantilever rod of diamond-coated boron; and a Lyra-designed, line-contact stylus with varying radii. It weighs 9.2gm, has an optimum VTF of 1.72gm, and its recommended resistive load is between 104 and 887 ohms. As in all Lyra designs, the motor is built into the cartridge's body via a wire suspension held in place by a tiny screw. Compared to the Atlas, the Etna lacked dynamic drive and spatial resolution, but produced a harmonically rich, full-bodied, ultradetailed, and natural sound, said MF. "One of the most neutral- yet enticing-sounding cartridges I've heard, it's also one I can recommend for any system and for any sonic or musical taste," he concluded. (Vol.37 No.3 WWW)

Miyajima Labs Kansui: $3600
Like the Miyajima Shilabe, the Kansui uses a cross-ring motor design, weighs 10.4gm, has an internal impedance of 16 ohms, is fitted with a Shibata stylus, and has a curvaceous body of African Blackwood. Because it has a higher compliance, however, the Kansui can track at a significantly lower tracking force for greater speed and resolution. Though it lacked the Haniwa HCTR01's resolution of spatial information, the Kansui offered a meatier and more intimate sound, with forceful bass, rich textures, and solid images, said MF. (Vol.34 No.11)

Miyajima Labs Shilabe: $2995 ★
The Shilabe is a low-output (0.23mV), low-compliance design with an unusually high recommended tracking force of 2.5–3.2gm. Its Shibata stylus is attached to a large-diameter, old-fashioned–looking cantilever. Like Miyajima's Premium Mono, the Shilabe uses a patented "cross-ring" construction that centers the generator's fulcrum within the coil. Though it lacked the soundstaging and imaging of the Shun Mook Signature, the Shilabe had a sound that was "full-bodied, deep, and extremely well-defined," and offered "superbly coherent transient and harmonic presentation from top to bottom," said MF. AD also enjoyed the Shilabe's "consistently present, colorful, and downright chunky" sound. "It was the closest I've heard a stereo cartridge come to delivering the meat, the force, the sheer solidity of mono," he said. (Vol.32 No.9, Vol.33 No.10 WWW)

Miyajima Labs Zero Mono: $1995
The Zero Mono cartridge has an output of 0.4mV, making it compatible with a wide range of moving-coil phono preamps. Compared to Miyajima Lab's Premium BE, the Zero produced a similarly big, rich, meaty sound, but offered improvements in image focus, clarity, transient detail, and bass control, said MF. "If you treasure your mono albums, get a Zero. It's infinitely better than any other mono cartridge I've heard," he summed up. (Vol.36 No.3)

Ortofon Anna: $8499
Named after Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, Ortofon's new flagship moving-coil cartridge uses a high-efficiency magnet system for improved dynamics and impulse linearity over earlier Ortofon designs. It has a curved titanium body, a boron cantilever, and a nude Replicant stylus. Its low (0.2mV) output means it should be used with only the quietest phono preamps capable of considerable gain; an appropriate step-up transformer should provide the best results. Compared with the Lyra Atlas, the Anna sounded slightly warm and lacked bottom-end tightness and impact, but was more texturally refined, said MF. (Vol.36 No.5)

Ortofon Xpression: $5399
A unique blend of new and old technologies, the Xpression derives from Ortofon's cutting-edge MC A90, but is designed as a drop-in replacement for any G-style pickup head. It uses a Replicant 100 stylus, has a recommended downforce of 2.6gm, an impedance of 4 ohms, and a low 0.3mV output. Compared to AD's original Ortofon SPU, the Xpression sounded just as solid, colorful, and forceful, but was more detailed, open, tactile, and revealing of nuance and technique. "The difference was real: Love my older Ortofon though I do, the Xpression was clearly more dramatic, with no penalty in texture or color," said Art. (Vol.35 No.2 WWW)

Soundsmith SG-200 Strain Gauge Mk.IV: $8590 ★
The SG-200 is a strain-gauge phono cartridge with six choices of interchangeable styli and a dedicated power supply and preamplifier. Two bright-blue tubular LEDs run vertically through the metal body's horizontal slats, giving the cartridge a unique look. Also unlike most cartridges, the SG-200 provides controls for setting vertical tracking angle and azimuth. Though it could sound somewhat cool and lacking in physicality, with a lean midrange and stingy sustain, the SG-200 produced incredibly clean, fast top-to-bottom transient attack, deep bass, airy highs, and spectacular transparency. "The SG-200 is a unique game-changing product," said MF. Price includes two SGS-5 styli; add $100 for the SGS-6, a nude line-contact stylus with a ruby cantilever. (Vol.34 No.3 WWW)

Soundsmith Sussurro: $4800
Designed and built in the US by Soundsmith's Peter Ledermann, the Sussurro is a low-output (0.3mV), low-mass (8.79gm), moving-iron cartridge intended to be used with an MC phono stage that can provide 60dB of gain. It has a wood body, a ruby cantilever, and a line-contact diamond stylus; its unique construction allows for adjustment of azimuth, vertical tracking angle, and stylus rake angle, all from the cartridge body. Though it lacked some resolution and detail, the Sussurro was an exceptionally quiet and smooth tracker, and offered a slightly warm and lush overall sound, said MF. The Sussurro's stylus's severe profile mandates precise settings of overhang, zenith angle, and especially SRA and VTA. (Vol.35 No.3)

Stein Music Aventurin 6 MK2: $6495
Based on a Benz LP-S motor with a solid-boron cantilever and a micro-ridge stylus, the Aventurin 6 Mk.2 has a boxy, open-bottomed body made of layers of mahogany and carbon fiber. Its moderate weight of 11.5gm makes it an ideal match for tonearms of medium to high mass. Though it lacked the full-bodied sound of the more expensive Lyra Anna, the Aventurin was fast, clean, and natural, with a well-extended treble, solid bass, and rich midrange, said MF. (Vol.36 No.10)


Goldring Legacy: $1395 ★
The low-output (0.25mV) Legacy is a moving-coil design with a lightweight, low-resonance magnesium body and a low-mass, fine-line Vital stylus. Mounted in MF's Graham Phantom 2 tonearm, the Legacy was a superb and quiet tracker capable of delivering loads of detail. Though it lacked the midrange richness of more expensive cartridges, the Legacy managed to sound smooth and relaxed, never etched or analytical. Requires a great deal of attention in setup to achieve the best results, and must be used with a high-quality phono preamp or step-up transformer, advised MF. Goldring recommends a resistive load of 100 ohms and a tracking force of 1.75gm. (Vol.33 No.11)

Lyra Kleos: $2995 ★
Billed as a replacement for Lyra's classic Helikon, the moving-coil Kleos uses an Ogura boron cantilever fitted with a low-mass line-contact stylus, and includes Lyra's New Angle alignment system. Compared to the Helikon, the Kleos had a warmer sound, with greater delicacy and detail. While it lacked the resolution and dynamics of Lyra's Titan, something that just keeps it from Class A, the Kleos combined a neutral tonal balance with airy highs, a rich midrange, well-controlled lows, a wide soundstage, and solid, three-dimensional images. "Highly recommended, and without reservation," said MF. (Vol.34 No.1)

Miyajima Labs Takumi: $1800
Like Miyajima's more expensive Shilabe, the Takumi has a body of sculpted African rosewood and uses the company's "cross-ring" motor assembly. Compared to the Shilabe, the Takumi has a slightly lower output (0.2 vs 0.23mV), a more forgiving stylus profile (elliptical vs Shibata), and is slightly lighter (9 vs 10.4gm), with a lower recommended tracking force (2.5 vs 3.2gm). Sonically, however, the Takumi more closely resembled its more expensive sibling, with a meaty and full-bodied sound that was only slightly less detailed, said MF. (Vol.36 No.10)

Miyajima Labs Premium BE Mono: $1260 ★ $$$
With its ebony body and pure-diamond conical stylus, the Premium Be Mono weighs 10.8gm, has a recommended tracking force of 3.5gm and an internal impedance of 6 ohms, and outputs 0.9mV. It produced "big, pure, meaty, midband mono physicality, and remarkable depth of soundstage," said MF, who feels Class A would be a more accurate rating. "The Premium BE Mono is my favorite mono cartridge at any price." The Premium Mono BE sounded "chunky, colorful, forceful, and fun," said AD, who recommends Class B (High Value). Also available as part of Robyatt Audio's Ultimate Mono Record Playing System ($3000), with the Robyatt Audio Mono transformer and Tektron Italia Mono phono preamp. (Vol.33 No.11, Vol.35 No.6 WWW)

Miyajima Labs Premium Mono: $1050 ★
The Premium Mono monophonic cartridge uses Noriyuki Miyajima's "cross-ring method," whereby the cantilever's fulcrum is centered precisely within the former on which the coil is wound. Recommended downforce is 3.5gm. In addition to its "near-total rejection of surface noise," the Premium Mono provided a forceful sound with "fine impact" and an "excellent sense of scale," said AD. "A staggering good value, but for special systems only." (Vol.32 No.8 WWW)

Ortofon 2M Black: $719 ★
Partnered with the budget-priced Audio-Technica AT-PEQ3 phono preamp, the "ridiculously good" Ortofon 2M Black produced a bright, open sound with "surprising heft and slam." Because its Shibata stylus is sensitive to rake angle, the 2M Black should be used only with tonearms that permit adjustment of VTA and SRA, Mikey advised. (Vol.32 No.12)


Denon DL-103: $229 $$$ ★
In production since 1962, the DL-103 is a "resolutely old-fashioned" cartridge with a two-piece plastic body. It uses a two-piece aluminum cantilever to drive a cross-shaped armature wound with several turns of fine-gauge copper magnet wire. Its square-shank nude diamond stylus is ground to a spherical tip. Though the Denon offered excellent bass depth and impact with an overall exciting and "pleasantly forward" presentation, its high-frequency response peak made bright recordings sound "a bit more forward than ideal." Nonetheless, AD deemed it "a superb cartridge and a remarkable buy." Compared to Denon's new DL-A100 100th Anniversary moving-coil phono cartridge, AD's old DL-103 was tubbier in the bass, but just as dynamic and dramatic. Performance with the a stock spherical stylus tip squeaks into low Class B, he adds, saying that "apart from various Miyajimas and the always-recommendable Miyabi 47, it's hard for me to think of another standard (non-pickup-head) type of cartridge that has this much impact and drama. (Vol.3 No.9, Vol.30 Nos.10 & 12, Vol.34 No.12 WWW)

Dynavector DV 10X5: $450 $$$ ★
Besides subtle changes in magnet material and coil-winding techniques, the latest iteration of Dynavector's classic moving-coil design has threaded mounting holes for simple installation and alignment. It weighs 7.3gm, has an output of 2.5mV, and uses an elliptical stylus tip and aluminum cantilever. Recommended load impedance is anything greater than 1000 ohms; recommended tracking force is 1.8–2.2gm. Thanks to the Dynavector's clarity, immediacy, and presence, "music was consistently more dramatic and involving, while never sounding unnecessarily harsh, aggressive, or forward," said SM. One of ST's favorite cartridges. AD: "This colorful, well-balanced, chunky-sounding cartridge played music extremely well, with a bonus of very fine stereo imaging....More money can buy more drama, impact, scale, and transparency....But the Dynavector 10X5 should give you most of what I think you need at a bargain price." (Vol.26 No.10 WWW; Vol.35 No.11 WWW)

Nagaoka MP-500: $699 ★
The MP-500 has a samarium-cobalt magnet, a permalloy shield casing, a SuperFineline line-contact stylus, and a low-mass boron cantilever. When used with the Thorens TD 309 turntable, the Nagaoka had a slightly forward, somewhat cool overall sound, but outclassed the TD 309's stock Audio-Technica AT95E in terms of image solidity, detail resolution, and bass extension, said MF. (Vol.34 No.2)

Rega Elys 2: $295 $$$ ★
See the RP3 entry in "Turntables." Subtract $95 when purchased with that turntable. (Vol.31 No.7, Vol.34 No.12 WWW)


Audio-Technica AT95E: $74 ★
When used with the Thorens TD 309 turntable, the Audio-Technica AT95E produced large, exuberant images, but lacked the solidity, detail resolution, macrodynamics, and bass extension of the more expensive Nagaoka MP-500, said MF. (Vol.34 No.2)

Ortofon 2M Red: $99 $$$
The least expensive of Ortofon's 2M moving-magnet cartridges (the series name is shorthand for MM), the Red offers a 5.5mV output, a replaceable elliptical stylus, highish compliance, a recommended tracking force of 1.8gm, and a square-front body with threaded mounting holes, for ease of installation. SM declared the 2M Red's dynamic range "vastly wider" than that of the less expensive Ortofon OM 5E, and praised the new cartridge's clean, fast, grainless sound. SM's verdict: "If you're looking for a high-value cartridge . . . the 2M Red is an excellent place to start." Borderline CLass C. (Vol.37 No.5 WWW)


Ortofon Cadenza Red, Audio-Technica AT150ANV, & AT7V, Grado Gold 1, Nagaoka MP-300, Sumiko Blue Point EVO III.

Ortofon MC A90 no longer available; Benz-Micro LP S, Lyra Delos, Transfiguration Axia, not auditioned in a long time.

Phono Accessories & Record Cleaners

AcousTech The Big Record Brush: $36.95 ★
This large-handled brush has soft bristles of both natural hairs and conductive synthetic fibers, and makes dusting LPs nearly foolproof. The 5.5"-wide bristle area easily spans the width of any LP's grooved area. Version with ground wire ($52.95) does "a pretty effective job of dissipating static electricity," Mikey said. (Vol.31 No.9)

Acoustical Systems SMARTractor: $650
The SMARTractor is a semicircle of mirrored plastic with five single-point alignment grids: Löfgren A/Baerwald IEC, Löfgren A/Baerwald DIN, Löfgren B/IEC, Löfgren B/DIN, and UNI-DIN. A sixth position, labeled UNI-P2S, specifies pivot-to-spindle distance. Each alignment option has its own tiny dimple into which the stylus must fit for the alignment to be perfect. Three pop-in adapters (7.1, 7.15, and 7.2mm thick) ensure a secure fit with a variety of spindles. A sophisticated sighting and magnification system allow the user to precisely set parallax and zenith angle. Though very expensive, the SMARTractor was "the easiest and most accurate alignment device I've used," said Mikey. (Vol.37 No.2)

Aesthetix MC Demagnetizer: $199 ★
Battery-powered, reasonably priced, seems to do the job as well as any of them, decided MF. (Vol.25 No.7)

Allnic Audio SpeedNic: $399
The SpeedNic is a strobing platter-speed checker for 33.33, 45, and 78rpm discs. It uses a gooseneck LED lamp powered by three C batteries and a metal disc that doubles as a record weight. Expensive, but works as advertised, said MF. (Vol.34 No.12)

Audio Additives digital stylus-force gauge: $79.99
The Audio Additives comes in a nice black box and includes two AAA batteries and a 5gm calibration weight. It has an easy-to-read touchscreen display, a nonmagnetic case, and accurately measures a cartridge's vertical tracking force down to 0.001gm. Precise and a pleasure to use, said SM. (Vol.35 No.11 WWW)

Audio Desk System Vinyl Cleaner: $3995
(The fully-automatic Audio Desk uses ultrasound and cavitation to clean records, much as an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner does for jewels. The entire cleaning and drying process is completely silent and takes about six minutes. A 20ml bottle of Audio Desk's alcohol-free, biodegradable concentrate ($19.95) will clean at least 50 records, and the microfiber cleaning barrels ($99.95 each) are good for 500 to 1000 cleaning cycles. "The Audio Desk Systeme was the most effective, easy-to-use record-cleaning machine I've ever tried," said MF. He bought the review sample. FK was stunned. The Audio Desk not only thoroughly cleaned his LPs, it significantly improved their sound, revealing nuances long locked in the grooves. "If your stereo system cost tens of thousands of dollars and you play a lot of vinyl, you need to check this thing out," he said. (Vol.35 No.6; Vol.36 No.9 WWW)

Audio Intelligent record-cleaning fluids ★
MF: "The AI fluids are reasonably priced, easy to apply and (especially) to spread, clean extremely well, and leave no audible residue." "Simple, effective, and distributed by kind people," said SM. Prices are for 16-oz bottles: Enzymatic Formula, $25; alcohol-free Premium Archivist Formula, $25; Super Cleaning Formula with research-grade isopropanol, $25; Ultra-Pure Water (claimed to be 50 times purer than distilled water), $16. Distributed by Missouri-based Osage Audio Products, LLC. (Vol.30 No.12, Vol.35 No.4 WWW)

Clearaudio Outer Limit Turntable Ring: $1350 ★
Heavy, stainless-steel ring acts as a speed-stabilizing flywheel, damps the record, and flattens outer-groove warps. However, MF cautioned, its weight means that you can use it only with turntables with massive platters and/or very powerful motors. MF also noted that a centering template would be a happy addition to the package. The Outer Limit was "a pain to center." Nonetheless, it "blackened backgrounds, solidified images, and made them ëpop' in three dimensions." (Vol.24 No.10)

DB Systems DBP-10 protractor: $49 ★
Fiddly but accurate guide for setting cartridge tangency. JA's preferred alignment protractor. The DBP-10 can be used to gauge alignment accuracy at any point or points between 44 and 153mm from the record spindle. "A hell of a bargain," said AD. (Vol.33 No.6 WWW)

DB Systems DBP-6MC resistive loading kit: $49 ★
This resistive loading kit is based on a pair of flexible Y-adapters, each having two phono sockets at one end and a single phono plug at the other. It comes with five pairs of color-coded resistive plugs (10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 ohms), as well as a pair of empty plugs into which an alternate resistor value can be soldered. "An ancient but eminently useful thing to have," said AD. (Vol.32 No.8 WWW)

Furutech DeMag record demagnetizer: $2715 ★
Who knew?!?" Like the Acoustic Revive RL-30 Mk.3, the DeMag removed glare and enriched the midband of edgy-sounding LPs. Users should make sure the Furutech's uncovered surface is clean before putting freshly scrubbed vinyl on it, warned MF. (Vol.29 No.10)

K-A-B SpeedStrobe Digital Phonograph Speed Readout: $109.95 ★
Easy-to-use strobe disc simplifies precision adjustment of turntable speeds from 33 1/3 to all of the variations on "78." "It's just fantastic," effused J-10. "It looks cool, and it's a snap to perfectly set the speed." (Vol.19 No.2)

Keith Monks Audio Works Mk.VII Omni record-cleaning machine: $5995 ★
The late Keith Monks's son, Jonathan, has taken over production of this venerable classic, moving manufacturing to a dedicated facility on the Isle of Wight and expanding the line to include new models, new platter mats, new cleaning brushes, and specially formulated cleaning fluids. With its solid idler-driven platter, refined cabinetry, and improved internal wiring, the new machine outclasses the old. After cleaning a record, AD noted clearer instrumental voices and greater low-level detail. The Omni was "so easy to use—so pleasant to use—that the prospect of cleaning LPs became a happy one." Price is for white finish; English oak adds $300. (Vol.32 No.5 WWW)

Keith Monks DiscOvery One record cleaning machine: $2495 $$$
The discOveryOne is both the newest and the least expensive record-cleaning machine from the company that created the genre. The new machine has at its core an off-the-shelf direct-drive record player, the tonearm of which is modified to accommodate both a fluid-evacuation system and a means of delivering and refreshing the nylon thread used to cushion the vacuum nozzle. Money is also saved by eliminating the automated fluid-dispensing system of older, more expensive Keith Monks machines, though that can be retrofitted to a discOveryOne for $700. AD observed that the new machine's vacuum-drying function was slower than that of its predecessors, but no less effective—and surprisingly quiet. He quibbled with some construction details and was puzzled that the stripped-down machine was actually larger than its stablemates, but nonetheless declared the discOveryOne "an accessory of notably high value—and notable worth." (Vol.37 No.4 WWW)

Kerry Audio Design F2 Titanium tonearm counterweight: $129 ★
Titanium replacement counterweight for Rega tonearms. Machined with three sets of thin contact rails that ride on the Rega arm's counterweight stub. The sonic improvement was "amazing," thought MF; he found the F2 gave better bass response, greater low-frequency extension and control, and an improved sense of overall weight and tonal richness. (Vol.26 No.5)

LAST Power Cleaner for LPs: $44/3/4-oz bottle, with applicators ★
This small bottle of Freon-free cleaner is enough to treat 75 LPs. JE found just three drops sufficient to remove dirt, dust, and grime from garage-sale records, though he discovered that a subsequent wash with his VPI HW-17 was still required to reduce groove noise to acceptable levels. "A worthwhile companion to LAST's wonderful Record Preservative." (Vol.17 No.5)

LAST Record Preservative, with applicators: $50/2-oz bottle ★
Significantly improves the sound of even new records, and is claimed to make them last longer. "I unhesitatingly recommend LAST Record Preservative," said Mikey, whose records sound as quiet now as they did when he first started using the treatment, over 25 years ago. AD is not a fan, however, though he does admit that LAST, if used correctly, does no harm. $185/8oz, $350/16oz. (Vol.5 No.3, Vol.30 No.10)

LAST STYLAST Stylus Treatment: $36/¼-oz bottle ★
Stylus treatment designed to reduce friction between groove and phono cartridge. Some manufacturers caution against it, claiming it migrates up the cantilever and attracts dust, thus clogging the armature. One reader suggests applying treatment to brush rather than stylus, which would reduce the possibility of over-applying. MF has found STYLAST effective, but expresses concern over possible cartridge damage. (Vol.18 No.12)

Lyra SPT: $50/5ml bottle ★
Includes a small, wedge-shaped applicator with which MF brushed a drop of this fluid carefully, back to front, along the stylus. Don't get any on the cantilever, he warned, and wait 10 seconds before playing a record. Pricey fluid said to lubricate the stylus, to improve S/N ratio and trackability, and to last for one side's playing time. Mikey thinks he noted a slight sound-softening effect, but wouldn't bet the farm on it. (Vol.23 No.11)

Merrill G.E.M. Dandy Hydraulic Record Cleaner: $149 ★
Designed to sit in a sink, the "rudimentary but ingenious" G.E.M. Dandy is an inexpensive manual record-cleaning rig that uses a proprietary cleaning solution comprising a degreasing detergent and an alcohol-based carrier, followed by a tap-water rinse. Made mostly of PVC tubing, the Dandy has a vertically mounted clamping mechanism that permits easy rotation of the secured LP. Also included are a faucet-coupling adaptor, a protractor, and a length of clear plastic tubing with a pressurized water nozzle. "Until you get the hang of it," Mikey warned, "the G.E.M. Dandy can make a mess." Despite his best efforts, water invariably seeped into the Dandy's protective cups to wet the outside edges of record labels. However, the Dandy proved "terrific" for cleaning water-damaged and crudded-up records, MF concluded. (Vol.31 No.9)

Milty Zerostat 3: $100 ★
The gold standard of static-discharge devices," the ZeroStat is a gun-shaped gadget with two heavy-duty piezo-electric crystals and a patented compression trigger. Slowly squeezing and releasing the trigger produces a neutral static condition, thus removing static cling from record surfaces. Said to be good for at least 10,000 squeeze cycles. SM uses the Zerostat religiously: "Wouldn't want to live without it," he declares. (Vol.30 No.10, Vol.35 No.5 WWW)

Mobile Fidelity Geo-Disc alignment tool: $49.99
The size and shape of an LP, with a spindle hole at its center and clear instructions printed right on its surface, MoFi's Geo-Disc is a simple and affordable cartridge-alignment tool. Using the Geo-Disc to install cartridges on the VPI Traveler and various Rega 'tables, SM easily and consistently achieved accurate alignment. Diehard analog hobbyists will still want the versatility of more complex tools, such as the DB Systems DBP-10, but "the Geo-Disc is the only alignment protractor most vinyl enthusiasts will ever need," said SM. (Vol.35 No.11 WWW)

Musical Surroundings Fozgometer: $300
The Fozgometer allows its user to easily check phono cartridge channel separation and crosstalk. (It uses a log-ratio detector developed by Jim Fosgate for the steering-logic circuits of surround processors.) Housed in an aluminum case, it runs on a 9V alkaline battery and has an On/Off switch, left and right RCA input jacks, an analog signal meter, and three LEDs labeled Left, Center, and Right. "Well made, really easy to use, and accurate," said Mikey. "The Fozgometer gets my highest recommendation!" However, while the Fozgometer provides useful measurements for cartridges with similar channel-separation numbers, it can lead to unusual and undesirable results with cartridges that have high levels of interchannel crosstalk disparity, cautioned MF. (Vol.33 Nos.5 & 11)

Nitty Gritty Mini Pro 2 record-cleaning machine: $1459 ★
Nitty Gritty 2.5Fi Vacuum record-cleaning machine: $1015 ★
Nitty Gritty 1.5Fi record-cleaning machine: $935 ★

The Mini Pro is a semiautomatic machine that cleans both disc sides simultaneously. The 1.5 is identical to the 2.5 but substitutes black-vinyl woodgrain for the latter's genuine oak side panels. Instead of a vacuuming "tonearm," as on the professional Keith Monks machine, the NG cleaner uses a vacuum slot, with the record cleaned by fixed, chassis-mounted "lips." Gunk-laden fluid is vacuumed off. Cleaning is efficient and as good as Nitty Gritty's Pro, at a significantly lower price, though it takes twice as long, cleaning each side of an LP in turn. Don't smear the schmutz from one record to another, MF warned; he suggests manual pre-cleaning of records for best results. While the vacuum-cleaning Nitty Gritty does a job on dusty albums nearly equivalent to that of the similarly priced VPI HW-16.5, CG felt that the VPI's hard-bristled brush did better with really dirty LPs than did NG's velvet one. He found the effect of both was to produce a less colored, more detailed midband sound from LPs, as well as provide the expected reduction in surface noise. (Vol.8 No.1, Mini Pro; Vol.7 No.5, Vol.8 No.1, Vol.23 No.6, 2.5Fi; Vol.17 No.5, 1.5Fi)

Nitty Gritty 2.5Fi-XP LP cleaning machine: $1115
Nitty Gritty's latest record-cleaning machine adds the convenience of two separate fluid chambers and hand pumps for quicker, easier cleaning sessions, and has a new venting system that allows the machine's motor to run cooler for longer periods of time. Like other Nitty Gritty machines, the 2.5Fi-XP forgoes a platter in favor of a round, label-sized disc, making the Nitty Gritty more compact than most other record-cleaning machines. The 2.5Fi-XP managed to quickly and thoroughly clean and dry very dirty LPs. "Two wet thumbs up!" said Mikey. (Vol.34 No.5)

Octave Audio/Schopper modifications for Thorens TD 124 ★
Replacement parts for vintage Thorens TD 124 turntables are manufactured in Switzerland by Schopper A.G. and sold in the US by Octave Audio. A new drive belt ($35), new rubber "mushrooms" for isolating the player from its plinth ($60/set of four), and a fresh bottle of Thorens oil ($25) got AD's turntable up and running. However, the biggest improvements to the 124's performance came from new rubber grommets for isolating the motor from its surroundings ($50/set of six) and Schopper's platter-bearing rebuild kit ($90), complete with new gasket, thrust plate, and bolts. The Schopper mods "created a record player that could compete with virtually anything I've heard in terms of treble openness and clarity, midrange detail, and bass extension," said Art. (Vol.31 No.5 WWW)

Onzow Zero Dust: $69 ★
A circular mound of semi-gelatinous goop in a box, onto which you gently lower your stylus," said MF. Use is simple: "After a few seconds, you lift the stylus, and it's as clean and residue-free as the proverbial whistle....Upside: no potentially dangerous brushing, and no fluids. Downside: if you like to leave your platter spinning, you'll have to stop it each time, or find another steady surface upon which to perform the operation." (Vol.25 No.3)

ORB phono accessories: $350–$480 ★
The Sakura handheld static-discharge eliminator ($350) is a variant of the Furutech deStat SNH-2, and the SFM-2 stylus-force gauge ($480) and CRE-2 Cartridge Exciter ($399) are variants of similar products from Air Tight. While pricey, the ORB Phono Accessoriesare beautifully made and work well, said Mikey. Available directly from www.twinaudiovideo.com. (Vol.33 No.12)

Rega R808 2mm spacer: $39
This simple stainless-steel spacer allows owners of Rega tonearms to adjust the height of their arms to accommodate non-Rega cartridges. Fidgety but worth the hassle, says SM. With the spacer in place and Dynavector's DV 10X5 moving-coil cartridge mounted on his Rega P3-24, SM heard improved clarity, impact, immediacy, and soundstage depth. (Vol.35 No.11 WWW)

Rek-O-Kut Stylus Force Gauge: $24 ★
The Rek-O-Kut Stylus Force Gauge is a big, easy-to-use balance beam that comes with a total of 5.75gm in plastic weights, for use in various combinations. For cartridges designed to play at downforces of 3.5gm or more, the Rek-O-Kut is "a good, cheap solution," said AD. (Vol.32 No.2 WWW)

Shure SFG-2 stylus-force gauge: $40
Shure's classic balance-beam stylus-force gauge is simple to use and accurately measures a cartridge's vertical tracking force between 0.5 and 3.0gm. At less than half the price of the Audio Additives, the Shure is a great little tool, but the AA is easier to use, more precise, and provides an extra measure of comfort, said SM. (Vol.35 No.11 WWW)

Soundsmith EZ-Mount screws: $39.95 ★
Soundsmith's sets of knurled screws, designed to fit most brands of tapped cartridge, made installing cartridges much easier, said Mikey. Each set includes pairs of 10mm-long screws made of four different materials—nylon (1.04gm/pair), aluminum (2.06gm/pair), stainless steel (5.80gm/pair), and brass (6.24gm/pair)—so that users can easily match a tonearm's effective mass to a cartridge's compliance. (Vol.33 No.12)

Spin Clean Record Washing System: $79.95 $$$ ★
Package includes a plastic vat, two brushes, two rollers, a 4-oz bottle of concentrated cleaning fluid, and washable drying cloths. Three sets of slots allow cleaning of 7", 10", and 12" records. Two velvet-like brushes clean both sides of a record simultaneously as the user rotates the record within the appropriate slot. Though "not nearly as convenient or as efficacious as a vacuum cleaning system," the Spin Clean Record Washing System "got the job done," said Mikey. Spin Clean claims a single vat of fluid can clean up to 50 records, but MF suggests refreshing the vat more often. A 16-oz bottle of fluid costs $20; a package of five drying cloths costs $14.99. (Vol.33 No.2)

Sutherland Timeline: $400 ★
The Timeline is a device for testing a turntable's accuracy of speed. Housed in a solid disc of aluminum and Delrin that fits over the platter spindle, the Timeline uses eight laser-projected timing marks with a claimed accuracy within two parts per million. "Unless your wall has hash marks, there's a bit of subjectivity involved, and at $400 the Timeline isn't cheap," said MF. "Indispensable," said BD, who used the Timeline to measure, set, and monitor the speeds of his Spiral Groove SG-2 and VPI HR-X turntables. (Vol.33 Nos.3 & 12 WWW)

The Disc Doctor's Miracle Record Cleaner: $27.00/pint plus $7.15 S&H ★
The Disc Doctor's Stylus Cleaner: $28.00/17ml plus $3.80 S&H

Chemist Duane Goldman, the Disc Doctor, claims that his Stylus Cleaner—a mixture of sub-micron filtered water and separately sub-micron filtered +99.5% 1-propanol alcohol—leaves no residue on the stylus or cantilever. Comes with a stiff brush for the first wet cleaning of the stylus. After that, the good Doctor recommends a natural-bristle artist's brush that's been cut down at an angle or been given a crew cut, as Mikey put it. Quart of fluid, $40.75/$8.65 S&H; half gallon, $64.75/$10.00 S&H; size A for LP brushes, $44.95/pair/$4.55 S&H; size B for 45s, $31.95/pair; replacement pads for brushes, $16.50/4; QuickWash solution, quart, $27; half gallon, $44.25. (Vol.20 No.3, Vol.23 No.11, Vol.24 No.7)

Vinyl Flat LP Flattener: $99.95
Made in the US, the Vinyl Flat uses pressure, heat, and time to repair warped and dished LPs. The basic package contains two Groovy Rings (LP-sized sheets of black plastic), two heavy metal plates, a few pieces of hardware, a nice storage case, and a table of heating times and cooling cycles. The optional Groovy Pouch ($59.95) is a soft, specially made enclosure that uses carbon-fiber heating elements to surround the Vinyl Flat with gentle, even heat. Using his oven or the Groovy Pouch, SM was able to successfully flatten even severely warped and dished LPs, but cautions: "Be sure that your oven's temperature is properly calibrated before baking your precious LPs." Add $69.95 for pouch. (Vol.35 Nos.4 & 5 WWW)

VPI HW-27 Typhoon record-cleaning machine: $2500 ★
The Typhoon is smaller, quieter, and more attractive than earlier VPI record-cleaning machines, "with the look and feel of a turntable." Its vacuum pump, twice as powerful as that used in the HW-17, proved capable of drying an LP in a single rapid revolution. "The Typhoon is a clean, efficient record-cleaning machine that's almost fun to use," said MF. (Vol.30 No.5)

VPI HW-17 record-cleaning machine: $1800 ★
VPI HW-16.5 record-cleaning machine: $650 ★

Clearly an industrial-quality machine of reassuring quality, the VPI ë17 cleans one side at a time, semiautomatically, and is slower than the Nitty Gritty. "Best I've used," says LA. Latest version has a heavier-duty vacuum system. The ë16.5 is a manually operated version with a noisier motor. Adjusts automatically to thickness of record; gets hot quickly. Of the HW-17F, MF says, "Fast, convenient, beautifully constructed, and can be used indefinitely without overheating. The fan version of the 17 is well worth the extra money for those post–garage-sale/record-convention analog orgies when only cleaning the whole pile will do." "The 17F is probably the best record-cleaning machine available," MF concluded; "a true workhorse." (Vol.8 No.1, Vol.19 No.6, Vol.23 No.6, HW-17F; Vol.5 Nos.7 & 9, original HW-16; Vol.17 No.5, Vol.19 No.6, HW-16.5)

VPI VTA adjuster for Rega tonearm: $150 ★
Seems to maintain the desired rigidity while allowing for about a full inch of vertical adjustability. It's nicely machined from aluminum and has a sturdy mounting collar." Its only downside, reported MF, is that it won't fit into a standard Rega opening. Drill it out yourself or send your armboard to VPI. (Vol.23 No.6)

OMA slate turntable plinth discontinued; Wally Phono Tools because of reported delivery problems.

Phono Preamps/Moving-Coil Step-up Devices


Auditorium 23 Hommage T1 & Hommage T2: both $4995 ★
Over twice the size and weight of the less expensive Standard transformer, the Class A Hommage T1, designed as a companion to Auditorium 23's Solovox loudspeaker, is a statement product. It has a textured-paint finish, attractive white-oak endcaps, and input and output resistances of 3 and 2530 ohms, respectively. The Hommage T1 shared the Standard's excellent timing, flow, and overall drama, but produced a much larger soundstage; and while the Audio Note AN-S8 was slightly richer, the Hommage T1 proved more exciting, said AD. Pairing the Hommage T1 with an EMT OFD 25 mono pickup head resulted in unsurpassed musical and emotional impact, he noted. The Hommage T1 provided more timbral color, more shimmer, and a larger overall sound than did Bob Sattin's CineMag 3440A device, found AD. Outwardly identical to the T1, the Hommage T2 takes the same uber-perfectionist approach and applies it to EMT's high-output, high-impedance cartridges and pickup heads: the TSD 15, the OFD 25, and so forth. Unusually for a transformer designed around such motors, the Hommage T2 has a high turns ratio, and consequently very high gain; it shouldn't work -- yet it does, brilliantly. The combination of the Hommage T2 and an EMT OFD 25 delivers the most dramatically impactful, tonally vivid phono playback ever heard by AD, who adds, "The T2 is so good, it's sick!" (Vol.30 No.10, Vol.32 No.8, Vol.33 No.6 WWW)

Boulder 2008: $38,000 ★
Despite everything else he had ever heard or reviewed, MF could never have been prepared for what the 2008 offered. He was taken to a higher level: "What the 2008 delivered was the music's meaning....It was like analog on acid. Every note, every musical gesture became the most important, most profound note ever struck—until the next one....The 2008 gripped, mesmerized, suspended time, and communicated profoundly." The sound, MF raved on, was "faultless in every area of performance: soundstaging, imaging, dynamics, harmonics, frequency extension, solidity, 'bloom'—you name it." MF had no complaints: "As with the Continuum Caliburn turntable, the 2008 belongs in Class A+—the single most impressive electronic audio component I've heard." Compared with the one-third-the-price 1008, the 2008 did sacrifice a little of the 1008's midrange richness for better bass control and greater top-end extension, said MF. (Vol.25 No.7, Vol.33 No.7 WWW)

Vitus Audio MP-P201 Masterpiece: $60,000 ★
The massive, two-box MP-P201 Masterpiece Series Phono Preamp includes switchable, independently configurable balanced and single-ended inputs and a single balanced output. Available are a choice of four dealer-installed modules for resistive loading, each including 16 different resistances. The MP-P201's dynamic presentation was "nothing short of ridiculous"; its bass extension, control, and weight were "granitic"; speed, transparency, three-dimensionality, frequency extension, rhythmic ability, and musical grip were unsurpassed. "You need to hear it," gushed MF. JA's measurements revealed excellent channel matching and almost zero RIAA error, but nothing to indicate why Mikey was so taken by the Vitus's sound. (Vol.33 Nos.7 & 9 WWW)

Ypsilon VPS-100: $26,000 ★
Made in Greece, the moving-magnet VPS-100 is beautifully built and housed in a substantial aluminum case. Joining the Boulder in Class A+, it uses a 6CA4 rectifier tube and choke filter, while RIAA is accomplished passively with zero feedback using a transformer-based LCR network. All internal wiring is done by hand, point to point. While it couldn't quite match the bottom-octave punch, definition, and extension of the Pass Labs XP-25, the Ypsilon produced a more transparent, silky, airy overall sound, said MF. "It produced an absolutely intoxicating blend of stupefyingly extended high frequencies, resolution, clarity, and transient precision, along with tight, deep, nimble, nonmechanical bass, and an ideally rich midrange," said MF and has since purchased the review sample. (Vol.32 No.8, Vol.34 No.3)


Abbingdon Music Research PH-77 Reference: $11,995 ★
The AMR PH-77 Reference Phono Class Equaliser is a true dual-mono design with unprecedented, microprocessor-controlled features and seemingly limitless flexibility, including 22 phono-equalization curves in addition to RIAA, eight gain settings, and 32 loading options each for MM and MC cartridges. Also included is a 24-bit/96kHz A/D converter, accessible via a rear-panel USB port. Though it lacked the dynamic expression of the Boulder 1008, the PH-77 was "a sweet, tonally well-balanced, quiet performer that produced a large, authoritative sonic picture packed with honest detail," said MF. Though in most ways the PH-77 was a solid performer on the test bench, JA would like to have seen a greater high-frequency overload margin for its moving-coil modes. (Vol.33 Nos.7 & 11 WWW)

Allnic Audio H-3000V: $14,900 ★
This gorgeous, two-box design from Korea features rectification by 5AR4 tubes, and uses two pairs of NOS E810F pentode tubes for the gain stages, plus pairs of 7233 and 6485 voltage-regulator tubes, for a total of eight tubes in the main chassis. Unusually versatile, the H-3000V provides two sets of moving-magnet and moving-coil inputs, a front-panel polarity switch, several gain options, and a wide variety of pre-RIAA curves. The fully balanced, class-A circuit uses no negative feedback. The H-3000V excelled at textural production and musical flow, but lacked definition, transparency, and transient refinement, producing a slightly soft, loose overall sound, said MF. (Vol.34 No.3)

ASR Basis Exclusive 2X: $9100 ★
The battery-powered Exclusive is made of two complete, fully balanced stereo phono preamplifiers on a single chassis, entirely independent except for a shared, switchable output—a major convenience for audiophiles with more than one turntable or with two tonearms mounted on a single ëtable. The amplifier section is housed in an acrylic chassis, while the power supply is housed in a steel chassis with an acrylic faceplate. MF listed the original Exclusive's strong suits: "rhythmic snap; among the deepest, cleanest, most dynamic bass; and midrange and high-frequency transparency and clarity without etch, grain, or brightness." Revised 2007 edition operates at slightly higher voltages, and remains one of the top phono preamps in Mikey's experience. The 2010 edition offered outstanding transparency, speed, rhythmic snap, and wide dynamics, but lacked midrange warmth, said MF. Multiple gain choices and loading options make the Basis Exclusive 2010 one of the most adjustable phono preamps available, but at this price point it faces stiff competition in terms of sound quality. (Vol.26 No.10, Vol.30 No.2, Vol.34 No.11 WWW)

B.M.C. Audio Phono MCCI: $3890
The Phono MCCI moving-coil phono preamp uses a current-injection input and has a fully balanced, single-ended, class-A output stage. High-quality parts include 10 ultralow-noise transistors, balanced-current capacitors, inductance-free polystyrene capacitors, thin-film metal resistors, gold-plated printed circuit boards, and a shield of copper-plated iron. Internal jumpers allow the user to select among three levels of gain, standard or Neumann RIAA, a subsonic filter, and various bass settings. Though it lacked some bass control, the MCCI produced "liquidity and harmonic richness along with warmth, speed, drive, three-dimensionality, and pitch-black backgrounds," said Mikey. "B.M.C.'s Phono MCCI is exceptional, and easily among the best MC phono preamps available today at any price," he concluded. On the test bench, the MCCI exhibited low noise and low distortion. (Vol.36 Nos.6 & 9 WWW)

Boulder 1008: $13,000 ★
The impeccably built 1008 is a fully balanced, dual-mono design with XLR inputs and outputs. In addition to RIAA, the 1008 includes the Decca, Columbia, and EMI curves for LPs released before 1954, and DIP switches mounted on the Boulder's personality cards select between MM and MC cartridges. It had a slightly soft overall sound, with a bloomy midrange and a forgiving top end, but was capable of producing massive dynamic swings, said MF. "Superb measured performance" and "a standard of construction that is to die for," praised JA. (Vol.33 No.7 WWW)

Channel D Seta Model L: $3799 ★
Designed to take full advantage of Pure Vinyl's digital RIAA correction, the beautifully built Seta Model L includes balanced and single-ended inputs, balanced unequalized outputs, variable gain, and a built-in, rechargeable battery power supply. Recordings made using the Seta Model L's optional RIAA-equalized outputs were "models of clarity, definition, tonal accuracy, detail resolution, and spatial coherence," said MF. "There is no doubt that the Seta Model L has been superbly engineered," praised JA. Compared to the Liberty B2B-1, the Seta Model L lacked some midbass energy, but did a better job of preserving recorded ambience, said JA, who also admired the Channel D's superb measured performance. Optional internal RIAA compensation module adds $1199. (Vol.33 No.8; Vol.36 No.12 WWW)

Dynamic Sounds Associates Phono II: $12,000
The Phono II is a versatile, full-function phono preamp with: three XLR/RCA MM/MC inputs, each independently adjustable for resistive or capacitive loading via front-panel buttons; six loading choices; four gain levels (40, 50, 60, and 66dB); and front-panel buttons for selecting mono playback, inverting polarity, activating a high-pass filter, and adjusting azimuth. Four all-FET gain stages use internal feedback, with passive RIAA equalization; the dual-mono design uses no global feedback and no step-up transformers. Connecting, configuring, and using the Phono II was a simple pleasure. The overall sound was extremely fast and transparent, with crystalline highs, clean attack transients, and a full bottom end, said Mikey. However, while the Phono II was generally quiet, it produced some odd mechanical noises when partnered with certain cartridges. The "odd mechanical noises (produced) when partnered with certain cartridges," which last time relegated the DSA to Class B, turned out to be motor induction leakage that a running modification has remedied—hence this thus well-deserved kick upstairs to Class A. (Vol.36 No.10)

EAR 324: $6095 ★
A serious and downright scary assault on the state of the art of phono amplification," the solid-state EAR 324 features both MC and MM inputs, with switchable input impedances. While the 324 offers many choices of inputs and settings with provisions for accommodating many different phono cartridges, it had no outstanding sonic signature of its own. AD found the EAR's overall performance to be tight and rhythmically correct without sounding mechanical. Its presentation was "organic, as distinct from artificial," with "a consistently, pleasingly great sense of flow and ease on LP after LP." However, JA found that the EAR's circuit had virtually no headroom in the low bass. The 324 emphasized the leading edges of transients for excellent clarity and coherence without brightness or edge, said Mikey. "As a reliable reference, an all-around quiet and neutral performer, and an ëI'm done' product, the EAR 324 is still easy to recommend," he concluded. (Vol.27 No.7, Vol.34 No.9 WWW)

Hagerman Audio Labs Trumpet Reference: $7200
Hagerman's beautifully built, top-of-the-line phono preamp uses four each 12AX7 and 12AU7 dual-triode tubes in a class-A, zero-feedback design. It employs choke-regulated power supplies; DC heaters; passive split RIAA equalization; and a balanced, JFET-based, moving-coil input stage. Six front-panel pushbuttons allow the user to choose among four choices of EQ (AES, Decca/EMI, RIAA, Columbia/NAB), stereo or mono playback, MM or MC input, polarity, two options of MC gain, and eight options of MC loading. Though it lacked some bass definition and dynamic impact, the Trumpet produced a relaxed, graceful sound, with an excellent sense of space, a rich midrange, and generous sustain, said Mikey. (Vol.37 No.2)

Haniwa Audio System HEQA01: $5000
The nicely made HEQA01 has moving-magnet and moving-coil inputs and a built-in degausser. It uses electromagnetic damping to permit cartridge tracking as low as 0.6–1.0gm. When used with Haniwa's HCTR01 MC cartridge, the HEQA01 produced a fast, clean sound with exceptional transparency, spaciousness, and three-dimensionality, but lacked some midrange warmth, said MF. Sold direct from Kubotek USA with a money-back guarantee. (Vol.34 No.11)

Kondo GE-1: $12,900
Made in Japan, the GE-1 is a moving-magnet (34dB of gain) phono preamplifier with separate, switchable input pairs for two phono cartridges. It uses three Electro-Harmonix 6072 dual-triode tubes, which provide a two-stage, zero-feedback gain circuit, and a cathode-follower final stage for low output impedance. Like Kondo's matching Overture integrated amplifier, the GE-1 uses high-quality parts throughout, including silver wiring, handmade capacitors, bespoke resistors, a solid-copper ground plate, and a tuned chassis made from a combination of steel, brass, and aluminum. Though it was leaner and less boldly colorful than AD's Shindo Masseto, the GE-1 sounded more open and modern, with a pleasantly extended top end and exceptional senses of scale and drive. (Vol.36 No.11 WWW)

Lehmann Decade: $2099
AD tends to prefer the sound, with an MC phono pickup, of a phono preamplifier plus an MC step-up transformer—yet was pleasantly surprised when he replaced both with the Lehmannaudio Decade. This two-chassis, solid-state phono stage offers adjustable input impedance and gain—the latter up to 66dB, for very low-output cartridges—and a switchable soft-rolloff filter. When substituted for both the CineMag Sky 30 transformer and the phono section of his Shindo Masseto preamplifier, the Decade presented AD with exceptional clarity, believable colors and textures, and "satisfying" force: "Yes, the Lehmannaudio preamp could be made even more explicitly forceful with the addition of a good transformer. . . . Considered on its own, the Lehmannaudio is easily the most impactful solid-state phono preamplifier I've ever experienced." (Vol.37 No.5 WWW)

Michael Fehlauer Monophonic Variable EQ Phono Stage: $1500 $$$
Designed and made in Germany by mono enthusiast Michael Fehlauer, the Monophonic is a single-channel, solid-state phono preamp with user-selectable gain for moving-coil, high-output moving-coil, and moving-magnet cartridges. Rather than using traditional switches, the Monophonic's equalization settings are arrived at with two stepless, continuously variable potentiometers, thus offering far greater potential for fine tuning and ease of use. Included is a list of suggested settings for the EQ schemes of various record labels, including the modern RIAA standard. The sound was "stunningly clear, yet very colorful and well textured," and Fehlauer's suggested EQ settings were almost always dead on, said Art. "The Monophonic didn't just sound good: It was fun. And it made my record collection seem even bigger than it is by making it even more listenable than it was." (Vol.36 No.12 WWW)

Nagra BPS: $2200 ★
The tiny, lightweight, battery-powered BPS is loosely based on Nagra's more expensive VPS, but uses bipolar transistors instead of tubes. It provides 51dB gain in MM mode and 62dB in MC. With its "upfront transient speed, clarity, and focus," the BPS was "a more neutral, accurate phono preamp than the lush, romantic VPS," said Mikey. Overall, the BPS sacrificed sustain and richness for attack and rhythm. Compared to the Audio Research PH7, the BPS was "lean, fast, tight, and clean," lacking delicacy and harmonic complexity. MF: "If your system needs an injection of excitement, the BPS is guaranteed to do just that." While the BPS sounded good plugged into the AC, it sounded better when powered by its own 9V battery, added FK, who bought the review sample. (Vol.32 Nos.6, 8, & 10 WWW)

Parasound Halo JC 3+: $2995 $$$ ★
The Halo JC 3 is a true dual-mono design with a large R-core transformer power supply. Construction quality is first rate, top-shelf parts are used throughout, and the stout, heavy chassis is beautifully finished. In the JC 3, designer John Curl favored purity over adjustability, offering minimal loading options: 100 ohms or 47k ohms for moving-coil cartridges and 47k ohms for moving-magnet cartridges. Its fully direct-coupled RIAA equalization circuit is based on the circuit used in Curl's famed Vendetta Research SCP-2, while the JC 3's output stage is a true dual-differential, balanced design. In addition, the JC 3 has a built-in AC line conditioner, and its power supplies are modeled after those found in the extremely quiet JC 2 line stage. Though it lacked the dynamics and transparency of either the Pass Labs XP-25 or Ypsilon VPS-100, the JC 3 combined superb musical grip and control with a timbrally and texturally ideal midrange. "The JC 3 represents the best current value in a phono preamp that I know of," said MF. Though it lacked the Sutherland 20/20's tonal richness and punchy sense of pace and drive, the Halo JC 3 produced a detail-rich sound with tight, extended lows, a clean midrange, and carefully drawn images on a huge, open soundstage. "If your tastes run to purity, clarity, neutrality, and detail, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better phono stage for anywhere near $2350," BD concluded, recommending a Class A rating. The JC 3 sounded remarkably similar to BJR's reference, the Vendetta SCP-2, but lacked some high-frequency purity and ambience recovery. JA noted superb measured performance. (Vol.34 Nos.3 & 10; Vol.35 No.2 WWW)

Pass Labs XP-25: $10,600 ★
This two-chassis, moving-coil/moving-magnet design offers two inputs and has front-panel controls for several options of gain, capacitive loading, and resistive loading. It uses Pass's XP-20 power supply, which comprises low-noise transformers, RC filtering, and capacitive multipliers. The XP-25's first gain stage uses low-noise transistors and a controlled open-loop gain, while its circuit employs new low-noise, thin-film, surface-mount resistors. The XP-25 produced deep bass, explosive dynamics, and good three-dimensionality, but lacked the Ypsilon VPS-100's top-end air, transparency, and transient speed, said MF. (Vol.34 No.3)

PBN Olympia PX-1: $22,000
Although MF wasn't impressed with the styling of this American-made two-box phono pre—okay, he called it "butt-ugly"—he found a lot to love in its musical performance. Designed and made by Peter B. Noerbaek, the Olympia PXi is a fully balanced, dual-differential pre using cascoded JFETS in its first gain stage and a complementary MOSFET source-follower in its output stage. Gain is switchable between 60 and 70dB, and the user can select among six different resistive loads, ranging from 50 ohms to 47k ohms; input and output jacks are XLR only. As for the Olympia PXi's sound, the prospective owner is advised: "Strap yourself in!" MF elaborated: "The grip the PBN had on the music, from top to bottom of the spectrum, was immediately obvious and almost physically demanding to experience—but in a relaxed and very pleasing way. Dynamics were limitless. The terms bass extension and bass control took on new meanings." For all that, MF wrote, "the PBN was also able to express instrumental liquidity and textural subtlety." (Vol.37 No.9)

Phasemation EA-1000: $15,000
The Japanese-made EA-1000 is built into separate left- and right-channel cases of copper-plated steel adorned with thick, brushed-aluminum faceplates. The first selector knob on each allows the choice between RIAA stereo and three mono curves—Columbia, Decca ffrr, and an "all-purpose 78rpm" curve—while additional controls adjust MC impedance and gain and select among three inputs: two MC, one MM. The single-ended, hybrid EA-1000 uses three dual-triode tubes per channel, and its hefty outboard power supply is built around a 5U4G rectifier tube. In addition to praising its very quiet performance, MF noted the EA-1000's "textural delicacy and detail" and its knack for delivering "rich, saturated harmonic colors." Through the Phasemation, he said, "music was finely and delicately drawn, sounding sweet but not cloying, feathery but not smotheringly soft." MF cautioned fans of large-scale music that, through the EA-1000, "the bottommost frequencies were somewhat less than fully realized." (Vol.37 No.9)

Simaudio Moon Evolution 810LP: $13,000
The first phono preamp in Simaudio's Moon Evolution line of cost-no-object designs, the fully balanced, dual-mono 810LP is a beautifully built, rigid component weighing 40 lbs and measuring 18.75" W by 4" H by 16.81" D. Its four-layer circuit board uses a five-point, gel-based, floating suspension system derived from the Moon Evolution 850P preamplifier, while the power supply features a high-quality toroidal transformer and multiple filtering and voltage-regulation stages. DIP switches on the bottom panel provide unprecedented configurability: 64 impedance loads, from 12.1 ohms to 47k ohms; 16 capacitance settings, from 0 to 1120pF; 16 gain settings, from 40 to 70dB; and RIAA or IEC equalization. The 810LP had a cool, dry overall sound with exceptional transparency, clean transients, muscular macrodynamics, and delicate microdynamics, but lacked harmonic richness, soundstage size, and top-end air, said MF. (Vol.35 No.12)

Sutherland Engineering Phono Block: $10,000/pair
The Phono Block is a stripped-down, optimized, no-compromise design made of two completely separate but identical monophonic units. Each Phono Block itself comprises two heavily shielded, individual subchassis, one for the power supply and one for the audio stage, linked by the front and rear panels. The Phono Block offers one pair of inputs, two parallel pairs of outputs, a choice of three grounding schemes, and a built-in white-noise generator. Plug-in cards allow the user to select loading and gain. Like Sutherland's battery-powered designs, the Phono Block had an uncanny ease and purity but a more realistic and energetic sense of timing and pace, and created a larger, more enveloping soundstage, said BD. JA noted superb measured performance. (Vol.35 No.1 WWW)

Sutherland Engineering 20/20: $2200 ★
The single-chassis, solid-state, dual-mono 20/20 shares a family resemblance with Sutherland's earlier models, the PhD and Direct Line Stage, but with slimmer, more graceful proportions. Circuit-board jumpers are used to set gain and loading, and the circuit boards themselves are lavishly executed, with top-quality components employed throughout. Unlike earlier Sutherland designs, which employed a bank of D cells for battery power, the 20/20 uses two inexpensive, outboard power supplies mated to several stages of low-pass RC filtering. The 20/20 combined the power, control, and vivid tonal colors of the Direct Line Stage with the transparency, resolution, and detail of the PhD. "It's simple and easy to use, gorgeous to behold, beautifully built, and an absolutely superb sonic performer," raved BD. (Vol.34 No.2 WWW)

Thrax Orpheus: $21,500
Made in Bulgaria, the Orpheus is a vacuum-tube phono stage that uses a low-noise D3a pentode tube wired as a triode for both moving-magnet gain and to feed its constant-impedance RIAA section. The equalized signal feeds a Russian triode tube to provide the necessary output gain, loaded by a Hashimoto isolation transformer; the additional gain required by moving-coil cartridges is provided by an amorphous-core Lundahl 1931 transformer with 1:8 and 1:16 selectable primaries. The Orpheus has three switchable inputs—two RCA and one XLR, the latter for use balanced cartridges/tonearms. Though it lacked some top-end extension and low-end impact, the Thrax produced a rich overall sound with a well-controlled bottom and fully fleshed-out midrange, said MF. (Vol.36 No.12)

Trinity Electronic Design Phono: $34,750
Made in Germany, the fully double-balanced, DC-coupled Trinity offers four equalization curves (RIAA, ffrr, Columbia, and EMI), a front-panel Polarity button, and 10 loading options for its two inputs. Though he wasn't able to use it in balanced mode, MF found that, even in single-ended mode, the Trinity was easily one of the most dynamic-sounding phono preamps he's heard. Mikey will examine the Trinity's balanced-mode operation in a Follow-Up. (Vol.36 No.12)

Ypsilon MC10 & MC16: $2800 ★
The MC10 transformer produces 20dB of gain and is intended for use with cartridges having an output range of 0.4–0.6mV. Its custom double-coil transformers are shielded with mu-metal and potted in 10mm-thick enclosures coated with soft iron-nickel. Though it lacked the "shimmering clarity" of the TruLife Audio Reikon, the Ypsilon MC10 produced an "exceptionally expansive and deep" soundstage with solid, dimensional, life-size images, said MF. The MC16 step-up transformer sounds identical to Ypsilon's MC10 but adds 4dB of gain. Compared to the Music First step-up trannie, the MC16 sounded more open, transparent, extended, and three-dimensional, said MF. (Vol.32 No.8, Vol.35 No.6)

Zesto Audio Andros PS1: $4900
Made in the US, the Zesto Andros PS1 is a dual-mono tubed phono preamplifier with built-in step-up transformer and eight loading options. Its curvaceous, retro-modern exterior doesn't allow for front-panel controls, but the rear panel is clean, spacious, and logical. Separate moving-magnet and moving-coil inputs permit the simultaneous connection of two tonearms. The Zesto had an addictive, warm overall sound, with plenty of detail, impact, and grace, said MF. "It's among the more enjoyable and satisfying phono preamplifiers I've auditioned at any price," he concluded. (Vol.36 No.3)


Auditorium 23 Standard: $995 $$$ ★
Designed and voiced for use with Denon's DL-103, the Auditorium 23 Standard uses two sealed trannies in a nondescript aluminum case, and offers input and output resistances of 7.8 and 505 ohms, respectively. With Denon, Zu, EMT, and Benz cartridges, the sound was "dramatic without being brash, and consistently full-bodied and colorful," said AD. The Auditorium was "slightly coarser" than the Audio Note AN-S8, lacking some sweetness and color, but "a bargain" nevertheless, AD sums up. (Vol.30 No.10 WWW)

Bob's Devices Sky 30 CineMag step-up transformer: $1250
Like its predecessor, the CineMag 1131, the CineMag Sky 30 is a US-made step-up transformer that offers two switch-selectable gain settings, the only difference being the new model's slightly different impedance ratios: 1:30 for high gain and 1:15 for low gain, in contrast with the older model's respective 1:40 and 1:20. Using the Sky 30 with both his high-gain EMT OFD 25 mono pickup and the slightly lower-gain EMT TSD 15 stereo pickup, AD found that it "bowed to no device in its expression of tonal colors," and that while it didn't quite match the far more expensive Hommage T2 in its ability to communicate touch and force, "the more affordable transformer punched well above its weight." (Vol.37 No.5 WWW)

EAR 834P: $1895 economy model; $2595 deluxe model ★
Tim de Paravicini–designed, three-tube (12AX7) MM stage that also offers, for MC use, a pair of step-up transformers (3–50 ohms). MF: "The 834's sound was absolutely gorgeous in the midband, with a touch of 'golden glow,' and an overall spaciousness and enticing musical wholeness....The 834P's bottom-end delivery was well-extended though a bit loose, if only slightly so....[Its] high-frequency extension and transient performance perfectly balanced its bottom: not sharp and etched...but not soft or overly romantic....A slightly sharp, fast-sounding cartridge should really get this thing singing." Compared to the GSP Audio Era Gold Mk.V, BJR found that the EAR 834P exhibited more detail, air, delicacy, and body in the midrange, with more detailed and extended highs, but with rounder, slower bass performance. ST is a long-time owner of the 834 and loves it. Add $700 for chrome Deluxe version. (Vol.20 No.7, Vol.26 No.8, Vol.28 No.1 WWW)

Graham Slee Reflex M: $1240
Like Graham Slee's previous designs, the lightweight Reflex M is housed in a small aluminum case and is powered by an outboard 24V DC power supply. RIAA equalization is applied actively with the negative feedback loop. There are no loading options. Compared to the Graham Slee Era Gold Mk.V, the Reflex M offered superior image solidity, transparency, and top-end extension, said MF. (Vol.35 No.6)

Leben RS-30EQ: $2695
Designed to match Leben's CS300 integrated amp, the robustly built CS-30EQ has a decidedly old-fashioned look, with wood side panels and a gold-toned faceplate. It incorporates a pair of common dual-triode tubes for phono gain, but uses a CR-type equalization circuit rather than the more traditional negative-feedback type. A specially made "orient-core" power transformer is employed to minimize hum and noise. Combined with the CS300, the CS-30EQ delivered a rich, punchy, nuanced sound, said AD, who feels it a high value. "A pleasure to look at, a pleasure to use, and delightful to hear," he concluded. JA was bothered by the CS-30EQ's very high output impedance, however, which restricts the CS-30EQ's compatibility with preamps. (Vol.34 No.11 WWW)

Lejonklou Slipsik5.1: $1595 ★
Made in Sweden and housed in a simple black-anodized aluminum box, the moving-magnet–only Slipski5.1 is nearly identical to the less expensive Kinki3, but provides 41dB gain and a fixed loading of 47k ohms/68pF. It produced a smooth, midrange-rich sound with plenty of detail, long decays, and clean attacks, said MF. "It may be the finest-sounding MM-only phono preamp I've heard," he concluded. (Vol.34 No.10)

Lejonklou Kinki3: $795 ★
Made in Sweden and housed in a simple aluminum box, the moving-magnet–only Kinki3 provides 40dB gain and a fixed loading of 47k ohms/80pF. Like Lejonklou's more expensive Slipski5.1, the Kinki produced a smooth, midrange-rich sound with excellent microdynamics and an expansive soundstage, but lacked the Slipski's coherence and sophistication, said MF. (Vol.34 No.10)

LFD Phonostage LE: $1295 $$$ ★
Phonostage LE Special: $1895 ★

Minimalist in design and appearance, the LFD Phonostage LE combines 28 resistors, 24 capacitors, 4 regulators, 2 epitaxial diodes, 2 op-amps, and 1 transformer in a pleasant-looking chassis of extruded aluminum. It has a fixed input impedance of 47k ohms and can be configured to provide appropriate gain for moving-magnet (39dB) or moving-coil (53dB) cartridges. Despite its modest design and price, the LFD was "a sonically refined, musically involving, downright fun piece of gear," with a nice sense of touch, good weight and impact, and beautifully rich timbral colors, said AD. Upgraded with multistrand PC-OCC input wiring, multidiameter silver output wiring, taller viscoelastic isolation feet, and a larger power transformer, the Phonostage LE Special ($1895) offered greater nuance, touch, detail, and scale for a more compelling listening experience, felt Art. "The measured performance of both versions was first-class," said JA. (Vol.34 No.6 WWW)

Liberty Audio B2B-1: $1749 ★
Made in the US, the all-FET, class-A B2B-1 comes in a heavy-duty aluminum chassis with a handsome black-anodized faceplate. In addition to its chassis-mounted RCA input and output jacks, the B2B-1 provides single input and output XLR jacks for use as a fully differential mono phono preamp. Jumpers offer five choices of resistive loading and two choices of gain. Though it lacked the Lejonklou Slipski's midrange richness, the B2B-1 produced an extremely quiet, authoritative, ultradynamic sound with deep bass, clean transients, fast attacks, and precise images. "It's a mini Boulder 1008," Mikey praised. The B2B-1 is one of the best-measuring phono preamps in JA's experience. "Nice. Very nice," he said. Sold factory-direct with a two-week return policy. (Vol.34 No.10; Vol.35 No.6 WWW)

Manley Chinook: $2250
Made in the US, the Chinook is a one-box, tube-and-FET-cascode, MM/MC phono preamp. A pair of dual-triode 6922 tubes produces the gain, while a second, direct-coupled pair drives the output. Resistive and capacitive loading are selectable via rear-panel DIP switches. Though it lacked the slam and intensity of Manley's much more expensive Steelhead, the Chinook had a subtly warm overall sound, with clean transient attacks, generous sustain and decay, reasonably taut bass, and good soundstaging and imaging, said MF. (Vol.35 No.8)

Music First Audio Step-Up Transformer: $3100
The impeccably built Music First comes in an attractive aluminum case and uses Stevens & Billington TX103 nickel-core transformers. Three turns-ratio options (1:5, 1:10, and 1:20) and six loading options (10k, 20k, 30k, 40k, 80k ohms, and Open Circuit) are selectable via Swiss-made ELNA silver-contact rotary switches; internal connections are made with 0.6mm single-strand, silver- and Teflon-coated wire. Compared to the Ypsilon MC16, the Music First lacked transparency, top-end extension, and transient snap, said MF. (Vol.35 No.6)

Musical Fidelity M1ViNL: $1199
Based on circuitry used in Musical Fidelity's more expensive kW phono stage, the versatile M1ViNL has front-panel pushbuttons that allow the user to choose between MM and MC inputs, eight capacitance settings, 10 loading options, and RIAA or IEC equalization. Compared to Manley's Chinook, the M1ViNL's sound was somewhat dry and slightly dark but inviting overall, with clean, fast attacks; solid, three-dimensional images; well-extended bass; and a rich, warm midrange. MF summed up: "Musical Fidelity's M1ViNL is as easy to recommend as it is to listen to." (Vol.35 No.9)

NVO SPA-II: $7000
Imported from Cyprus by Sounds of Silence, the SPA-II is an all-tube, MC/MM phono preamp with a simple aluminum chassis. It has no step-up transformers, but provides 62dB of gain; MC loading is done with RCA or XLR plugs fitted with resistors. The SPA-II ran very warm but was exceptionally quiet; it produced sweet highs, a warm midrange, and well-controlled, full-bodied bass, said MF. (Vol.36 No.7)

PTE MMMC-R: $1595 ★
Made in the US, this MM/MC phono preamp is housed in an attractive wooden case and contains a full complement of gain and loading options selected via DIP switches. In moving-coil mode the PTE produced compact, well-focused images, an expansive soundstage, and very good macrodynamics. In moving-magnet mode, however, the PTE sounded "flat, cardboard, and glary," said MF. Changes in production to the MMMC's MM section are said to improve its sound. JA's measurements of a current production sample showed that the MMMC offers superb behavior via both its MC and MM inputs. Current production has increased power-supply voltage and uses active RIAA equalization and low-tolerance film capacitors. While the original version sounded "flat, cardboardy, and glary" in MM mode, the revised version offered "tube-like richness and warmth," said MF, hence the promotion to Class B. (Vol.34 No.10, Vol.35 Nos.2 & 6 WWW)

Robyatt Audio Mono: $675
Simple inside and out, the True Mono SUT step-up transformer is made to Robyatt's specifications by AK Audio of Brooklyn, New York, and comprises just a single transformer and some bits of wire and connectors in a clean copper case. Fit and finish were rough. The True Mono SUT worked well with every mono cartridge AD had on hand and exhibited a "tremendous sense of scale and cavernously deep bass response." Also available as part of Robyatt Audio's Ultimate Mono Record Playing System ($3000), with the Miyajima laboratory Premium Mono BE phono cartridge and Tektron Italia Mono phono preamp. (Vol.35 No.6 WWW)

Rogue Audio Ares: $1995 ★
Made in the US, this beautifully built, all-tube design uses pairs of 12AX7 and 12AU7 tubes, has CineMag step-up transformers for low-output moving-coil cartridges, and provides 27 DIP switches for three levels of gain (MM/high-output MC, 0.5–1.0mV; MC, less than 0.5mV) and capacitive loading options. Matched with the Shure V15VxMR MM cartridge, the Ares produced a fully developed, harmonically rich, and three-dimensional aural picture, said MF. Through its MC input, the Ares had a fast, dynamic, slightly dark overall sound, with a slightly thin mid- and high treble. "That Rogue can offer this beauty for only $1995 makes you wonder what some of the other manufacturers are smoking," marveled Mikey. (Vol.34 No.9)

Silvercore One-to-Ten phono step-up transformer: $765 $$$
Designed and manufactured in Germany, the Silvercore One-to-Ten step-up transformer is packaged in an attractive lidded box of pulpy gray fiber and is built into a substantial case of polished stainless steel. It contains a stereo pair of toroidal transformers, wound from copper wire on proprietary amorphous cores, with a primary-coil impedance of 100 ohms. Inserted between the EMT TSD 15 pickup head and the 47k ohm phono inputs of AD's Shindo Masseto preamplifier, the One-to-Ten sounded "forceful and dramatic, yet colorful and sweet," with excellent dynamic nuances and a rich, lovely overall tone, he said. (Vol.34 No.5 WWW)

Simaudio Moon 310LP: $1900 ★ $$$
The Moon 310LP moving-magnet/moving-coil phono preamp is a fully balanced, discrete design with internal jumpers for selecting gain, resistive and capacitive loading, and equalization curves. Though its break-in time was long, the Moon 310LP offered vivid three-dimensionality, extended dynamics, precise attacks, and lengthy decays. Adding the Moon 320S outboard power supply ($1399) tightened musical events but hardened the presence region. "Simaudio's 310LP is one of the best analog values I know of," said MF. (Vol.34 No.1)

Soundsmith MCP2: $999.95 $$$ ★
Similar in appearance to the Soundsmith MMP3, the MCP2 offers 62dB gain and continuously variable loading from 10 to 5k ohms. It had a smooth, well-balanced overall sound with a slightly warm midrange, a moderately deep soundstage, and fair bass extension. Mikey found that the MCP2's overall smoothness made long listening sessions easy, but turning the volume up too far resulted in excessive glare. Compared with the far more expensive Ypsilon VPS-100, the MCP2 exhibited a tendency toward brightness and electronic haze, said MF. (Vol.34 No.10, Vol.35 No.3)

Sutherland Insight: $1400 $$$
The dual-mono, AC-powered Insight has a case of cold-rolled steel with a powder coat of baked-on epoxy and uses Wima polypropylene-film capacitors, Dale/Vishay metal-film resistors, and gold-plated RCA and internal jumper jacks. Gain and loading options are adjustable. Compared with the Musical Fidelity M1ViNYL, the Insight offered greater dynamic thrust and slightly more transparency but lacked midrange warmth, said MF. "The Insight is easy to recommend," he said. This phono pre lacks the drive and impact of the best units I've heard, and is also slightly short on texture, but it's wonderfully quiet and pure-sounding, with a nice sense of flow, sums up AD. (Vol.36 No.8, Vol.37 No.10 WWW)


Bellari MT502 transformer: $499 ★
Housed in Bellari's familiar powder-coated red chassis, the MT502 step-up transformer features hand-wound coils, gold-plated inputs and outputs, two choices (9.12 and 12.4 ohms) of input impedance, and a ground lift. The MT502 produced a quiet background, sharp transients, and taut, fast, well-defined bass, said MF. A perfect match to Bellari's VP130 moving-magnet phono preamp. (Vol.33 No.11)

Lehmann Audio Black Cube Statement: $449 $$$
The bearer of Lehmannaudio's loftiest product name is in fact their least expensive phono preamplifier: a solid-state device built into a single (not counting the wall wart) and decidedly nonfancy aluminum box. The 1.75" by 4" by 4.25" Statement offers the user a choice of four gain settings (31, 41, 51, or 61dB) and three input-impedance selections (100, 1k, and 47k ohms), the latter supplemented with open slots on its circuit board into which the user can insert the loading resistors of his or her choice. SM was won over by the Statement's dynamic and rather bold, forward sound, especially when compared with his reference, the more reticent NAD PP-3. Above all, SM was impressed by the Statement's high value: "At $449, it strikes me as a bargain . . . dynamic and robust, with a great sense of space." (Vol.37 No.5 WWW)

Musical Fidelity V90-LPS: $229 $$$
Musical Fidelity's new V90 line of small (6.6" by 4" by 1.8"), affordable, Taiwanese-built electronics includes the V90-LPS phono preamplifier, offering two separate pairs of inputs—one for MM (47k ohm impedance), another for MC (100 ohm impedance)—selectable by means of a pushbutton toggle. ST, who insists that, "For jazz, analog is superior to digital," tried the V90-LPS in place of his tried-and-true EAR 834P phono stage. His verdict: "Good enough and then some. It's detailed, sweet, and dynamic, and flexible enough to accommodate almost any MM or MC cartridge." (Vol.37 No.4)

Soundsmith MMP3: $649.95 ★
The modest MMP3 provides 43dB gain, comes in a nicely machined aluminum case, and is powered by a 24V wall wart. It produced very quiet backgrounds and reasonably good dynamics, but its bass extension and punch were only okay, its imaging was slightly diffuse, and its sound suffered overall from a slight metallic haze. "It's what you can expect for $400 (price when reviewed)," said MF. "If that's what you can afford, the MMP3 at least gets the job done quietly and cleanly." (Vol.34 No.10)

Tektron Italia Mono: $1350
Made in Italy exclusively for Robyatt Audio, the Mono Phono phono preamplifier is housed in a wood-frame box with a solid-copper top that doubles as a ground plane. The Tektron's power supply uses an onboard mains transformer with an EZ80 full-wave rectifier tube for the rail voltage and a silicon rectifier bridge for the heater voltages. Gain is supplied by a pair of 12AX7 dual-triode tubes, which share the signal path with a passive RIAA filter. Fit and finish were excellent. The sound was "workmanlike," with a slightly bright tonal balance, decent musical flow, and a nice sense of presence, said AD. Also available as part of Robyatt Audio's Ultimate Mono Record Playing System ($3000), with the Miyajima laboratory Premium Mono BE phono cartridge and Robyatt Audio True Mono SUT step-up transformer. (Vol.35 No.6 WWW)


Bozak Madisson CLK-PH2: $19.95 $$$
Small, dark, and distant: That's how SM described the sound of this small, dark, Taiwanese phono preamplifier, available for sale through the mail-order megalodon of your choice. So what do you want for 20 bucks (plus shipping): to live forever? For that kind of money, SM says, the Bozak Madisson CLK-PH2 is "totally recommended." Extra points for performing humlessly without an external power supply; bonus point for having the courage to add, at least phonetically, the word click to the name of a phono product. (Vol.37 No.5)

NAD PP4: $199 $$$ ★
The simple, small (5.3" W by 1.7" H by 1.6" D) PP 3i has circuitry identical to that of NAD's PP 2 phono stage, but adds a line input and a 16-bit, bus-powered A/D converter with USB interface for digitizing LPs via a Mac or PC, and includes user-friendly VinylLite software. Used as a standard phono preamp, the PP 3i was neutral, delicate, and resolving, with a rich midrange, fast transients, and strong senses of coherence, pacing, and rhythmic consistency, said BJR. Digitized files maintained the original LPs' harmonic and dynamic signatures, but sacrificed a bit of air, richness, and warmth. "The PP 3i has no meaningful flaws," said BJR. "A superb value," agreed JA. current version is called the PP4—same circuitry but now has a level control and an automatic power-down feature. (Vol.33 No.4 WWW)

No Class Distinction

Rek-O-Kut Re-Equalizer mono record-specific equalizer: $369 ★
Built into a small metal box attached to a rack-width panel of black aluminum, the Rek-O-Kut Re-Equalizer is designed to work with the gain and EQ of an existing phono preamp, making it "perhaps the least expensive and simplest of all 78rpm-specific equalizers on the market," said AD. Included in the owner's manual are several pages of thorough EQ recommendations for various labels and two pages of helpful tips on record labels and matrix numbers. Though it added a very slight veiling to the sound, the Re-Equalizer proved effective, useful, and fun. (Vol.32 No.1 WWW)

K Sutherland Duo.

Deletions Bob's Devices CineMag 1131 in favor of new model; Esoteric E-03 and NAD PP 2i not auditioned in a long time.

j22928's picture

Why is Stereophile afraid to test a fully tricked out current model Linn LP12? The mush in Recommended Components just doesn't cut it.

John Atkinson's picture
Why is Stereophile afraid to test a fully tricked out current model Linn LP12?


John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

daveyf's picture

Actually the top end LP12 Klimax is as follows: LP12, Cirkus. Keel, Radikal D, Tramp 2, Ekos SE-1. Also a Urika phono stage and a Kandid cartridge. If you are still using a Lingo and a Ekos, you simply have no idea as to what the table can bring. A 2007 model LP12 compared to a 2015 Linn LP12 Klimax is like comparing a Prius to a Tesla, they are both electric based, but that's where the similarity ends.

winefix's picture

Where does this speaker place?

John Atkinson's picture
Where does this speaker place?

It hasn't been reviewed yet. (Our review is provisionally scheduled to appear in the January 2015 issue of Stereophile.)

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

chrisstu's picture

Greetings. I could not find an indication of what the star means when it appears next to a component. Thanks

John Atkinson's picture
I could not find an indication of what the star means when it appears next to a component.

A ★ indicates a product that has been on this list in one incarnation or another since the "Recommended Components" listing in Vol.34 No.10 (October 2011).

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

tonykaz's picture

It's easy to see who JA Caters to .
Gentlemen , this is the 21st Century , Edison Players are a bit long of tooth , aren't they ?
Is there enough customer base there to support a Main Industry Mag. ? , I see the snaps of the Shows where the Product Rooms have a few old geezers like me sitting around on folding chairs .
I wonder if Motor Trend will now be giving 4 Barrel Carburetors from Holly a nice A+ recommendation ? or the 1957 Chevy Convertible ?

to JA ; even Ivor at LINN has gone over to 16/44.1
Are you lads starting a new Chapter of "Flat Earth Society" ?

Tony in Michigan

Allen Fant's picture

I concur gentleman, this particular issue, appears to get weaker every year?

j22928's picture

2007 was pre-Radikal, pre-Urika and pre-Kandid.

jimtavegia's picture

Vinyl and turntable sales, USB DACs and Streamers, and download sales all increasing. I can think of no better reason than all the turntables showing up. CD sales down and will continue to do so, but I do believe that the used CD market is strong. It is for me.

handler's picture

May I suggest the placement of the KEF LS50 in "Class A" be revisited. Having owned both it and the Revel M106, and having made my own recordings, the Revel is more "true to the recording" throughout the audio band. In fairness to all manufactures, I believe either some competing designs to the LS50 deserve to be moved up a class, or the Kef be moved down.

Ajani's picture

Being a Revel fan, I was a bit disappointed that the M106 wasn't rated Class A like the LS50. I would love to read a comparison between the LS50 and the M106 in Stereophile. It would be interesting to see whether the respective class ratings would remain the same after a direct comparison.

John Atkinson's picture
I would love to read a comparison between the LS50 and the M106 in Stereophile.

I am planning on publishing this comparison in the January 2015 issue.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

corrective_unconscious's picture

I don't know your lead times or, obviously, who that other poster is, but did you already plan to do this comparison or did you decide to take a suggestion here? (I'll be interested in the comparison either way.)

John Atkinson's picture
I don't know your lead times or, obviously, who that other poster is, but did you already plan to do this comparison or did you decide to take a suggestion here?

I set-up the Revel M106es in my listening room last week, so I could write a follow-up. Yes, it was the suggestion in this thread that triggered the idea of my also obtaining samples of the KEF LS50.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

handler's picture

Thank you, Mr. Atkinson. It's nice to hear the readership has a voice here on Stereophile.com

It'll be interesting to read your thoughts. I ended up keeping the Revel in lieu of the Kef. I did not expect to like the Revel as much as I do.

Dr.Kamiya's picture

Any idea what will happen to Pioneer and TAD speakers as Pioneer merges its HiFi business with Onkyo? Some of what I've read suggests that only the AV Receiver business will be sold, and I fervently hope that is true.

John Atkinson's picture
Any idea what will happen to Pioneer and TAD speakers as Pioneer merges its HiFi business with Onkyo?

We don't know what will happen to Pioneer-branded products, but TAD's Andrew Jones tells us that the TAD brand will stay in Pioneer's portfolio of brands.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Anon2's picture

Dynaudio has come out with a new active speaker, the Focus XD. The gist of the very limited initial product information is that the speaker also has some sort of DAC capability.

On the subject of Dynaudio, does anyone want to posit any observations on what the differences might be between the Excite X14 and the Focus 160, which both received accolades in this latest edition of Stereophile?

What electronics would warrant, or would require, the Focus 160 for the additional outlay? Yes, I could go to a dealer, but this entails parking, expressways, gas, and a forgone weekend. Any thoughts before one takes the plunge to take up a dealer's time and effort?

Something's good (not fishy) in Denmark!

lo fi's picture


Will John Atkinson be providing objective measurements to accompany John Marks's praiseful review of the ATC SCM19 speaker?

John Atkinson's picture
lo fi wrote:
Will John Atkinson be providing objective measurements to accompany John Marks's praiseful review of the ATC SCM19 speaker?

No plans to, I am afraid.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

lo fi's picture

Damn! ;)

Lago's picture

Why is the Sophia 3 in A Class Restricted Extreme LF, if they numbers for Frequency Response are: +/-3 dB 20 Hz - 22.5 kHz?


MBL-Russia's picture

Es ist fantastisch!

Dushyant's picture

From your introductory comments, I understand that full-range class A products have LF extension down to 20Hz. It is confirmed by reviews and specs. What about the full-range class B and class C? Just scanning through the list shows that most, if not all, products in these categories do not have LF extension to 20Hz. My question then is what are your criteria for full-range in class B and class C? The restricted LF makes sense for all classes.