Phono Preamp Reviews

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John Atkinson  |  Sep 14, 2020  |  3 comments
When Stereophile publishes followup reviews of various kinds in the print magazine, we add the followup as a "child page" to the full review. That means that they don't appear on the website's home page and might get missed. The October 2020 issue included three followups: of the Boulder 2108 phono preamplifier, the Weiss DAC502 D/A processor, and the IsoAcoustics Gaia loudspeaker isolation feet.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 31, 2020  |  First Published: May 01, 2020  |  6 comments
The catastrophic February 6 fire at the factory where Apollo Masters produced LP-mastering lacquers—flat aluminum discs covered with nitrocellulose lacquer—will be old news by the time this column gets to you, but the repercussions of the loss will be ongoing for at least the next year and probably beyond.
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 14, 2020  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2020  |  25 comments
The two biggest sonic jolts I've experienced involving phono preamps were from two very different ones: the Petr Mares's Connoisseur 2.0 and Boulder's 2008, which was reviewed in the July 2002 Stereophile. The first was hand-built, single-ended, housed in a wooden case, limited to 100 units, and, when I got to hear it in the mid-1990s, cost around $6000, or about $10,000 in today's dollars. The other was a feature-laden, double-chassis monument to flexibility and surface-mount high technology. It featured beautifully finished, flush-mounted mirrored buttons your fingers just wanted to press.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 10, 2020  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2019  |  12 comments
Install a new component in your system and there's usually a period of adjustment as you get used to the difference in sound—especially if the new product costs much less than your reference. Channel D's new Lino C 2.0 balanced phono preamplifier costs $2499, yet my ears instantly accepted its combination of drop-dead, noise-free backgrounds and lack of obvious colorations or sonic personality. I didn't hear it—I heard only my Ortofon A95 cartridge, with which I'm well familiar, as amplified by far more costly phono preamps.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 03, 2020  |  27 comments
We usually save the question of value for the end of a review, but this time it's worth mentioning up front, if only because PS Audio has been in the news lately. Late last August, the company announced they were switching from a traditional dealer network to a factory-direct sales model. So, to some readers, it might seem fair to judge the brand-new, full-featured Stellar Phono Preamplifier ($2500) against ones selling in stores for $5000.
Brian Damkroger  |  Oct 04, 2019  |  28 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.
Art Dudley  |  Feb 19, 2019  |  9 comments
Easy pickup: Art’s Dog, Chatter, cozies up to Leif Johannsen of Ortofon A/S and Dee Hustinova of Ortofon USA. (Photo: Art Dudley)

According to the 2018 edition of the UN's World Happiness Report, Denmark is the third-happiest nation on Earth, trailing only its neighbors Finland and Norway.

I heard that yesterday afternoon, on NPR. The reporter even spelled out the word used by Danes to describe their feelings of happiness: hygge. Apparently, at present, Denmark is positively rotten with hygge.

Herb Reichert  |  Dec 13, 2018  |  5 comments
I needed one black tiddledywink (not provided) to use Dr. Feickert Analogue's three-speed, two-motor, two-armboard Blackbird turntable. The tiddledywink was for covering the Blackbird's painfully bright power-on LED so that it didn't blind me when I cued up a record. The first night, in my dark listening room, this tiny indicator sprayed the wall behind and the ceiling above with more light than a bright-emitting 845 vacuum tube.
Herb Reichert  |  Oct 04, 2018  |  2 comments
The days were long, the strawberries ripe, but it wasn't quite summer. It was, however, a perfect night for Otis Redding and Carla Thomas singing the Lowell Fulson–Jimmy McCracklin classic "Tramp," on a 7" 45rpm single (Stax 45-216).

Otis: What you call me?

Carla: Tramp! You don't wear continental clothes, or Stetson hats.

George Graves  |  Aug 09, 2018  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1986  |  6 comments
Basically, I have to admit that I am a Valvophobe. I would give you the dictionary definition of that word, but it has been sealed in a mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnall's porch since . . . Anyway, you get the idea. A Valvophobe is someone who doesn't like tubes in their 1986 stereo systems.
Herb Reichert  |  Feb 08, 2018  |  7 comments
In my October 2017 column I reported on two turntables, the Palmer 2.5 and AMG Giro G9, each costing $10,000 and up, depending on ancillaries. It wasn't that I wanted to get all Mikey Fremer Uptown on you; I wanted to refine my listening skills and familiarize my senses with what my own humble system would sound like with a pair of world-class record players.
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.
Brian Damkroger  |  Aug 22, 2017  |  4 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.
Art Dudley  |  Jul 27, 2017  |  3 comments
How can you tell a classic product from the hi-fi hoi polloi? One sure sign is when third-party developers spring up around the thing, offering parts and service intended to maximize its performance—or just to keep it on the road. Thus regarded, a few true classics emerge: Quad's ESL and ESL-63 loudspeakers. Altec's 802 and 806 compression drivers. The Linn LP12 and Garrard 301/401 turntables. The Rega RB-300 tonearm and its direct descendants.
Michael Fremer  |  Jun 15, 2017  |  0 comments
Maybe you've seen the widely circulated New Yorker cartoon: Two guys stand in front of a nicely drawn, tubed audio system, under which are shelves full of LPs. One guy says, "The two things that really drew me to vinyl were the expense and the inconvenience."

If you can't laugh at that, you've lost your sense of humor—even acknowledging that, oddly, convenience is the raison d'etre of some recent phono preamplifiers—including Dan D'Agostino Audio's Momentum and the CH Precision P1, both of which offer multiple, switchable, configurable inputs saved in memory. Today's well-heeled vinyl enthusiast might have two or more tonearms mounted on a single turntable—or even two turntables, each with two arms. Zesto Audio's new Andros Téssera tubed phono preamplifier takes aim at that market segment.

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