Musical Fidelity V-LPS Phono Stage

Not being fond of self-flagellation, I don't usually do analog. I am not a fuddy-dudley, nor am I especially fremerous.

Ivor Tiefenbrun, founder of Linn, told me 25 years ago that CD players were fine for "little old ladies with shaky fingers." I am neither a lady nor little. And so far, I am not shaky. But I'm too old to fuss much with LPs, which I regard as a flawed medium in its own right and worthy of respect but not veneration. Still, I remain analog-retentive.

Most preamps these days do not offer onboard phono stages. If they do, it's an option that's not always wise to opt for, even to have everything in one box. There's much to be said for buying an outboard phono stage, including flexibility with gain and loading and the possibility of upgrading. I particularly dislike tubed preamps with phono stages that burn up tubes even when the phono is not used for weeks.

Obviously, no one is going to pair Musical Fidelity's V-LPS phono stage ($199) to use with a Continuum Audio Labs Caliburn turntable and Cobra tonearm (ca $120,000). It should work like a charm with real-world priced 'tables. You could even treat yourself to a low-output moving-coil cartridge.

Only so much can be stuffed into the little V-series boxes, so I wasn't expecting a lot of flexibility with adjustable gain or loading. Actually, I got more than I expected. The MM input goes straight to the RIAA section. The separate MC input goes through a "proper head-amp" first, as Antony put it. Input impedance loading is a standard 47k ohms for MM, 100 ohms for MC. Input sensitivity is given as 35mV for MM, 450µV for MC.

I've owned Rega turntables for the past 25 years, beginning with the original Planar 3 with Lustre tonearm. I currently have a P25 (discontinued) with Rega arm and Goldring 1042 moving-magnet cartridge. I used the Musical Fidelity V-LPS with my Rega-Goldring rig, LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III integrated amplifier, and Harbeth Compact 7ES3 speakers. I put the MM and MC sections through their paces, then did the same with my Musical Fidelity M1 turntable, SME M2.9 [ahem] pickup arm, and Ortofon Kontrapunkt B MC cartridge. In both systems, I also ran the V-LPS into the Musical Fidelity V-CAN headphone amp with Audio-Technica ATH-AD700 headphones.

This was not the most dynamic, expansive phono sound around—but then again, you can't have expansive (and( inexpensive. Detail retrieval was quite good with both cartridges, especially the Ortofon—but the Goldring has a sweetly extended sound that nicely complemented the V-LPS.

There are certainly better phono amps than the V-LPS—at higher prices. My EAR 834P ($1595) isn't leaving my living room any time soon. While I haven't heard it in my system, PS Audio's GCPH ($1000) might be a world-beater in terms of sound and value.

I thought the V-LPS was at least the sonic equal of Clearaudio's Smart Phono at $600, and better in terms of low-impedance loading for moving coils. I think you need to spend $1000 or more to get one substantially better. If you decide to upgrade later on, the V-LPS will make a splendid backup. Or use it in a second system.—Sam Tellig

plakey's picture

I bought this and tried it out, but I didn't think it could hold a candle to the built-in phono-stage in my Meridian 603 pre-amp. I retuned it. Sounded thin.