Phono Preamp Reviews

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Brian Damkroger  |  Aug 22, 2017  |  5 comments
"Saying that Sutherland Engineering builds a nice line of phono stages is like saying that the Porsche 911 Carrera is a nice line of sports cars." So began my review of Sutherland's PhonoBlock in the January 2012 issue. I went on to note that similar philosophies underpin both product lines, and to link the cost-no-object PhonoBlock ($10,000/pair) with the GT2 RS ($245,000), then the pinnacle of Porsche's 911 family. It's now 2017, and though Sutherland and Porsche have both gone through a complete development cycle and replaced their flagship models, the analogy still holds true.
Michael Fremer, Art Dudley  |  Sep 17, 2014  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2013  |  1 comments
Veteran phono-preamplifier designer Ron Sutherland has been partial, of late, to battery power. Getting off the grid can produce superb results, as demonstrated by his Hubble phono preamp ($3800), powered by 16 alkaline batteries.

I favorably reviewed the Hubble in the February 2010 issue, and remember loving most everything about it—particularly its drop-dead-quiet backdrops, its solid, weighty bottom end, and its fully fleshed-out instrumental textures. I was less enthused by its somewhat soft, muted high-frequency transients, though of course tastes and associated gear will differ. I need more grit, particularly for rock; you may not.

Brian Damkroger  |  Oct 04, 2019  |  34 comments
Descriptions of the sounds of products from Sutherland Engineering nearly always include "refined." While that word is certainly justified, it would be more apt to use it as a verb: Ron Sutherland spends more time than any audio designer I've known studying and fine-tuning and refining every detail of his work. I have the impression he knows those products so well that when he decides to design a less expensive version of his newest and best models, he knows exactly what to do.
Brian Damkroger  |  Jan 05, 2012  |  1 comments
Saying that Sutherland Engineering builds a nice line of phono stages is like saying that the Porsche 911 Carrera is a nice line of sports car. The Sutherlands all share common design philosophies, features, and sonic attributes—but just as ramping up from Porsche's classic Carrera Coupe ($78,000) to the GT3 ($115,000) or the Turbo S Cabriolet ($172,000) increases the level of performance and distills the Porsche experience down to its essence, ascending the Sutherland line from the PH3D ($1000) to the 20/20 ($2200) to the Hubble ($3800) buys more of what Ron Sutherland is all about.
Michael Fremer, Brian Damkroger  |  May 15, 2005  |  First Published: Jan 15, 2004  |  1 comments
The $3000 moving-coil (MC) PhD, available from Chad Kassem's Acoustic Sounds operation, is a monumental achievement that, for me, sets new standards for the cleanness and transparency possible in a phono preamp—and I've had a lot of experience with phono preamps.
Stephen Mejias  |  Mar 15, 2012  |  9 comments
Parasound introduced their affordable Z series in 1996, the year Lisa Marie Presley filed for divorce from Michael Jackson. I was 19 years old and could have used a good stereo in my dorm room, but I didn't then know anything about hi-fi. If you're reading this in your dorm room, you're way ahead of where I was at your age. If you're reading this in your mansion, you're way ahead of where I am now.
Stephen Mejias  |  May 18, 2012  |  5 comments
The Milty Zerostat: Sold for prevention of disease. And other things.

Before dropping the needle onto Christine's copy of Sold for Prevention of Disease Only, I shot the record a few times with the Milty Zerostat 3 ($100), a blue, gun-shaped gadget that helps eliminate static. Squeezing the Zerostat's thin black trigger releases positive ions; relaxing the trigger produces negative ions. A complete squeeze cycle results in a neutral static condition—one perfectly in balance, neither too heavy nor too light—and my LPs play quietly. This step in my LP-playing routine grew out of necessity and has become a habit. The process is especially important in the cold winter months, when the air in my small apartment is dry, and debris stubbornly clings to my LPs and my cartridge's stylus.

Stephen Mejias  |  Apr 24, 2014  |  0 comments
What I failed to make absolutely clear in my April column is that I really, truly, thoroughly enjoyed all three USB DAC–headphone amps that I auditioned: the Audioengine D3 ($189), the AudioQuest DragonFly v1.2 ($149), and the Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS ($199). Each offered a slightly different perspective on the music, but none could be accused of closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge, dumping several feet of snow on top of our car, or doing anything especially wrong.
John Atkinson  |  Feb 06, 2009  |  First Published: Jan 06, 1989  |  0 comments
Thomas Alva Edison may have had a fully equipped laboratory, with a team of assistants slaving every day over ideas to be adopted when ripe as those of the great inventor, but the image of American ingenuity which rings true to me is of the lone tinkerer, working alone and mixing a generous dose of good ol' Yankee know-how with the sweat of his brow—a lot of it. These days, with the faithful PC and a hardworking CAD program at his side to do the math, the lone tinkerer seems to be thicker on the ground than ever, to judge by the humongous numbers of small companies selling high-end hi-fi components as revealed in Stereophile's readership survey (see p.5). Whether these loners will ever rise above their origins depends, among many other things, on their ideas being truly worthwhile.
John Atkinson  |  Feb 21, 2022  |  0 comments
One reason Stereophile publishes a FollowUp is when the original review leaves an issue unresolved or where further thoughts would be useful. Such was the case with the magazine's March 2022 issue, which had followup reviews on the iFi ZEN CAN headphone amplifier and ZEN DAC Signature V2 D/A processor ($599/pair). the Pro-Ject Phono Box RS2 phono preamplifier ($1999), and the Canton Reference 7K loudspeaker ($6995/pair).
John Atkinson  |  Apr 11, 2022  |  0 comments
Michael Fremer wrote about the Paradox phono preamplifier in the March 2022 Analog Corner, Jim Austin reviewed the CH Precision D1.5 CD/SACD player/transport in March 2022, and Herb Reichert included the EJ Jordan Marlow standmount speaker in his April 2022 Gramophone Dreams column. All three products get further coverage in Stereophile's May 2022 issue.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 03, 2022  |  0 comments
The January and February 2022 issues of Stereophile feature followup reviews of three products: the darTZeel NHB-18NS Mk.2 preamplifier; the Sutherland Little Loco Mk.2 phono preamplifier; and the Mola Mola Tambaqui D/A processor.
John Atkinson  |  Jun 20, 2022  |  0 comments
Three high-performance products were subjected to second opinions and/or measurements in recent issues: Channel D's Lino C 3.3 phono preamplifier, Mola Mola's Tambaqui D/A processor, and Pass Labs' XP-32 line preamplifier.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Jun 11, 1995  |  First Published: Jun 11, 1988  |  0 comments
Few people in the audio business would deny that John Curl is an audio design genius—arguably the greatest one of our generation. He designed and built the electronics for Mobile Fidelity's SuperMaster and David Wilson's (of Wilson Audio) UltraMaster tape recorders, two of the three best analog recorders in the world. (The other is Keith Johnson's home-brew unit.) He designed the JC-1 head amp and JC-2 preamplifier sold under the Mark Levinson name some years ago. He designed head amps for SOTA, Michaelson & Austin (TVA), and has done consulting work for more high-end companies than you can shake a stick at.
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 23, 2010  |  First Published: Jul 23, 2010  |  0 comments
This massive, two-box beauty from Denmark costs $60,000, and I wish I could tell you it wasn't really better in most ways than the already outlandishly priced and sonically superb Boulder 2008. I can't.

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