Phono Preamp Reviews

Sort By: Post DateTitle Publish Date
Art Dudley  |  Nov 14, 2015  |  1 comments
At some point within the last few years of his life, the late Ken Shindo designed an outboard phono preamplifier—a decision perhaps made inevitable by his earlier decision to answer popular demand with line-only versions of the Aurieges and the more upmarket Vosne-Romanee preamps...
Michael Fremer  |  Oct 07, 2007  |  First Published: Mar 07, 2007  |  0 comments
Simaudio's Moon LP5.3 MM/MC phono preamplifier ($1400) is silly good! It has single-ended RCA inputs and both single-ended and true balanced-differential outputs. It also offers a wide range of adjustments for gain (54, 60, and 66dB), resistive loading (10, 100, 470, 1k, and 47k ohms), and capacitive loading (0, 100, and 470pF), all accomplished via a series of internally mounted jumper banks. You can even choose RIAA or IEC equalization. Removing the top plate to get to the adjustments reveals boards filled with high-quality parts for the well-isolated power-supply and signal-handling circuits.
Brian Damkroger  |  Jul 01, 2007  |  First Published: May 01, 1999  |  0 comments
I've been in love with British sports cars ever since a visiting highway engineer brought a green MGB-GT to my tiny Nebraska town 30 years ago. Since then, there's been a steady stream of ferocious little cars in my life. Triumphs, MGs, Healeys, you name it—right up to my current crop, a Triumph TR6 and roughly two-and-a-half Jensen-Healeys.
Michael Trei  |  Feb 28, 2024  |  0 comments
Twice in the last month I have been at someone's house, servicing their turntable, when they asked whether they should be considering a new phono preamp that offers additional playback equalization curves besides the standard RIAA. My usual reaction is to thumb through their record collection, where, more often than not, I find that they don't own a single record that was cut using a curve other than RIAA.

Phono playback EQ is one of those audiophile topics that stokes some people's passions, with plenty of disagreements about how important it is. I have seen grown men get into heated discussions about the history of record EQ curves, but in truth, the subject is only likely to matter if you listen to a lot of 78s or original mono LPs pressed between the late 1940s and the mid-1950s.

Michael Trei  |  Apr 30, 2024  |  3 comments
"I think both moving coil and moving magnet cartridges are terrible." That's what legendary Canadian audio designer Ed Meitner told me when I asked about the pioneering transimpedance current drive phono stage he created for his Meitner PA6 preamp some 40 years ago.

Meitner has been designing innovative hi-fi gear for the pro and consumer audio markets for more than 50 years, but for most of the last 30, he has been best known for his work with high-resolution digital audio and DSD recording. Despite this focus on digital—and despite that comment about the two leading phono cartridge technologies—deep in his heart, Ed still loves analog and has fond memories of the Kenwood optical cartridges from the 1970s, which I discussed in last month's Spin Doctor column. So when Ed read that a company in Japan called DS Audio was bringing back an improved version of the optical cartridge using modern materials, he contacted designer Tetsuaki Aoyagi to learn more.

Michael Trei  |  Jul 05, 2023  |  2 comments
In 1928, Swiss engineer and inventor Jean-Léon Reutter created a clock that could run for years without human interaction or any type of external power source. The Atmos Clock required no AC power, batteries, solar panels, or hand-winding. It was able to wind itself by leveraging subtle changes in atmospheric pressure and temperature.

The design was so energy efficient that a single degree of temperature change provided enough power for two days of operation; it would take an incredible 60 million Atmos clocks to equal the power demands of a single 15W light bulb. 95 years later, the Atmos Clock is still being manufactured in Switzerland by Jaeger-LeCoultre, but like most high-precision, Swiss-made instruments, it isn't cheap. Prices start around $7500.

Brian Damkroger  |  Feb 25, 2011  |  0 comments
Why no batteries?

It seemed a simple and obvious question, but I couldn't get an answer out of Ron Sutherland. Why did his new 20/20 phono preamp use an AC power supply instead of batteries? I asked directly, I asked repeatedly, I tried framing the question in different ways, all to no avail. Did the AC supply make it sound better? Was it less expensive to build? Were potential customers turned off by having to replace batteries once every year or two?

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  |  35 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.

Pages

X