Phono Preamp Reviews

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Herb Reichert  |  Apr 07, 2021  |  22 comments
At the end of Gramophone Dreams #46, I was lost in the pristine beauty of Decware's 25th Anniversary Zen Triode amplifier driving the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 speakers. That was an extremely enjoyable system, and I was hoping to keep it intact for another month. My plan was simply to morph into my long-postponed opus on tube rolling using the Zen Triode as well as Ampsandsound's Bigger Ben headphone and loudspeaker amp. Both are single-ended triode, no-feedback designs and therefore perfectly suited for tube-swapping comparisons.
Herb Reichert  |  Jun 30, 2021  |  19 comments
In my world, the quiet ritual of choosing a record and placing it carefully on the platter is always followed by a sequence of three rough sounds.

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

Herb Reichert  |  Oct 15, 2015  |  12 comments
I used to get invited to these highly secret audio soirées, held in a basement workshop at the end of a dark, garbage-filled alley in Manhattan's Chinatown. There was no street address—only a wire-glass window in a metal door—and if you didn't know the password (ie, if you weren't carrying some type of audio amplification), you weren't allowed to enter. That said, sometimes nonmembers were allowed to attend, but only when a member needed help carrying monoblocks: There was no parking nearby.
Ken Micallef  |  Nov 21, 2017  |  4 comments
As a kid growing up in Milford, Michigan, my big brother always had the classiest clothes, latest records, and sharpest gear. He danced in Cuban-heeled leather boots, I climbed trees in lace-up Keds. He spun Rolling Stones vinyl on a fabric-wrapped Zenith portable with detachable speakers, I blasted the Beatles from a tinny transistor radio. Ten years my senior, big bro drove a Buick bomb (which, late one night, mysteriously caught fire in the garage) and had a girlfriend, Gail, whose plump cheeks and smart clothes embodied modern mid-century Midwestern appeal. I like to think that my brother and I have both aged gracefully. And lately, he's taken to high-end hi-fi with a passion.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 19, 2000  |  0 comments
This is an era in which products and websites are "launched," but in the past two years Herron Audio has sort of oozed its way into the public ear. With little visible promotion or splashy advertising, Herron is now spoken of within an ever-widening audiophile circle.
Shannon Dickson  |  Jun 06, 2004  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1999  |  0 comments
The Jeff Rowland Design Group has long been renowned for the exquisite quality of its chassis. The company was one of the first to promote fully balanced topologies in preamplifiers and amplifiers in the high-end market, one of the first to offer a sonically acceptable remote control, and one of the few to offer a battery power option for their amplifier line.
Martin Colloms, Wes Phillips  |  Oct 28, 2007  |  First Published: Jun 28, 1994  |  0 comments
The Krell KRC-2 can be regarded as a remote-controlled successor to Krell's successful KSL preamplifier of a few years back. The outboard Krell Phono Equalizer (KPE) is a separate box powered from the KRC-2. Priced at $850, it contains a printed circuit board very similar, in fact, to the $499 unit that can be fitted within the KRC. The KPE and KRC phono stages are well-designed universal units; if someone has the need for a stand-alone phono equalizer of Krell KRC standard, a separate power supply may be purchased for the KPE. It is also an advantage to be able to locate the KPE head amplifier in a hum-free zone near the LP turntable.
Art Dudley, Michael Fremer  |  Sep 18, 2009  |  First Published: Dec 18, 2002  |  0 comments
In an ideal world, I'd have every phono section I've reviewed in the past 16 years on hand to compare with these three and with all that arrive in the future. But because I have a life, I don't, and I wouldn't even if I could, though some readers (and one retailer) have insisted that that's the only way that I could possibly be of any use to them. Ha! And for those who are concerned that I've neglected the Manley Steelhead, not so! It's still my reference.
Art Dudley  |  Nov 08, 2011  |  0 comments
The Leben RS-30EQ phono preamplifier ($2695) incorporates a pair of common dual-triode tubes (12AT7) for phono gain, but breaks with tradition by using a CR-type equalization circuit rather than the more common negative-feedback type. Total gain is specified as 23.5dB, which is sufficient for moving-magnet pickups; an external transformer is recommended for use with moving-coil types. A silicon full-wave rectifier supplies heater voltage, while the rail is supplied by a 6X5GT rectifier tube.
Art Dudley  |  Sep 30, 2015  |  10 comments
"The way that young people will get into high-end audio is not through streaming: It's through the LP."

When that observation was offered during a recent phone conversation, I wrote it down word for word—not just because I agree with it, but because it was so remarkable: The audio-industry veteran who offered it owns a digital front end worth tens of thousands of dollars, and hasn't owned a turntable for at least a dozen years. Nevertheless, as became clear during the remainder of our conversation, he understands the dynamic that keeps vinyl at the top: a confluence of marketing psychology and genuine sonic goodness.

Alex Halberstadt  |  Jun 22, 2022  |  10 comments
Sometime around 483 BCE, in Kushinagar, the capital of the Malla Republic in what today is the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, an aristocrat named Siddhãrtha Gautama—known better to us as the Buddha, or the Awakened One—passed away. For 45 years, he had wandered the North Indian River Plain teaching a method of overcoming ignorance, craving, and the cycle of death and rebirth to a growing community of followers.
Art Dudley  |  Jun 17, 2011  |  0 comments
Far be it from me to surrender these column inches to the whims of a manufacturer.

That said, there's ample reason to break with tradition and offer the thoughts of an obscure English company called LFD, whose products may already have tripped your surveillance wires. In their "Charter to Product Commitment and Traditional Values"—which can be read in its entirety on Frohmusik's website and is signed by Bews and Hawksford (see below)—the people of LFD suggest, in so many words, that they will not manufacture goods outside of their native England; that their design work is guided by listening as much as by engineering theory; that they believe some component parts sound better than others of identical numeric value, depending on their specific role in an audio circuit; that their philosophy of circuit design is decidedly minimalist; and that they advocate the enjoyment of music on vinyl LP. That the principals of LFD have thus far avoided being burned alive as heretics is a source of wonder.

Michael Fremer  |  May 24, 2012  |  First Published: Oct 24, 2011  |  0 comments
The all-FET, class-A, B2B-1 phono preamplifier ($1749), made in the US by Liberty Audio, is beautifully built inside and out, and comes in a heavy-duty aluminum chassis with a baked-on crackle finish and a 3/8"-thick, black-anodized faceplate. The overall build quality and physical appearance suggest something that costs more than $3000, which is probably what it would cost were it sold through retailers and not factory direct. It comes with a two-week return policy.
Wes Phillips  |  Jun 12, 1998  |  0 comments
Audiophiles with budget restrictions (most of us, I imagine) could be forgiven for feeling we're afterthoughts to most manufacturers. Even though we probably keep many companies in business by buying their "entry-" or mid-level products, we're always hearing about products designed "without compromise." Waiter, could you bring the reality check, please?
Art Dudley  |  Mar 29, 2017  |  1 comments
Before I revert to form and leave the subject for another nine or ten months, I'll pick up where I left off in last month's column to focus once again on step-up transformers (SUTs) for moving-coil cartridges. There's yet another choice you should know about—in this case, a thoroughly brilliant, handmade SUT that sells for well under $1000.

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