Phono Preamp Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Nov 09, 2020  |  First Published: Dec 01, 2019  |  4 comments
AVM Audio, which has been in business since 1986 (footnote 1), chose last year to enter the turntable market with two models that reflect the company's brushed-aluminum/blue LED visual aesthetics.

It doesn't take a forensic turntable scientist to figure out who manufactures both of those turntable models. Clearly, Pro-Ject does (footnote 2)—although some audiophiles might recognize only a few key parts. Other elements, especially the two different tonearm models, may appear unique to AVM, having been built to their specs.

Herb Reichert  |  Nov 04, 2020  |  15 comments
The 1980s was a decade when I needed three jobs to support my wife, infant daughter, and octogenarian dad. My primary job was to make and sell art, and I'm sure you know how that can go. Between exhibitions, I was forced to do construction work and to find, repair, and resell old tube amplifiers.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 22, 2020  |  11 comments
Ever since I stopped using my Audio Research SP10 preamplifier in the early 1990s—its eight phono-stage tubes used to get too noisy too quickly—I tried a variety of standalone phono preamplifiers. Seeing the most service through the 1990s and 2000s were, first, a Mod Squad Phono Drive EPS, then a Linn Linto, both of which I purchased. But when I measured Channel D's Seta Model L, which Michael Fremer reviewed in the August 2010 issue, the Linto was pushed to one side. The battery-powered Seta L (footnote 1) had the lowest noise and distortion I had encountered in a phono preamplifier, and I eventually bought the sample I had been sent for a follow-up review in 2013.
John Atkinson  |  Sep 14, 2020  |  5 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  |  21 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  |  29 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.

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