Phono Preamp Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Jun 30, 2017  |  26 comments
AnalogPlanet asked the question Should You Buy a MM Only Phono Preamp If you are using a MM cartridge? and then provided readers with capsules of 8 phono preamps followed by 8 unidentified 96k/24 bit files, asking readers to listen and vote "blind".

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 21, 2017  |  1 comments
Posted stories go to the bottom of the page and then disappear but the eight phono preamps compared story lives on and there's still time to vote for your favorite in this blind listening test.

Michael Fremer  |  May 04, 2017  |  12 comments
Here’s a comparison of eight phono preamplifiers incorporating a variety of features and ranging in price from $399 to $4500. The adjacent “vote” story includes files made using each of them so this write-up will not contain sonic comparisons. Those will follow when the voting closes. When that happens depends upon how many readers participate and how quickly they vote.

Michael Fremer  |  May 04, 2017  |  28 comments
Many vinyl fans using a moving magnet phono cartridge invest in a MM/MC phono preamplifier figuring they'll eventually get a moving coil cartridge. But is that a wise decision?

Or does it make more sense to buy a dedicated MM phono preamplifier now and maximize performance for the dollars spent and later add a "head amp" or a step-up transformer to use with a moving coil cartridge?

So here is the same excerpt of "Cool Struttin'" from the great 1986 Black Saint album Voodoo (120 109 1) performed by The Sonny Clark Memorial Quartet, which was Wayne Horvitz, John Zorn, Ray Drummond and Bobby Previte.

I chose this because A) it sounds awesome, B) it has excellent dynamics C) it is a good test of "rhythm'n'pacing", D) it has really taut bass, and E) the music is outstanding (someone should reissue this AAA recording along with many other Black Saint/Soul Note records).

The same excerpt has been recorded through eight different phono preamplifiers, a few MM-only and the rest MM/MC using the superb sounding Audio-Technica AT150ANV MM cartridge mounted on a Rega Planar 3.

The phono preamplifiers (in no particular order) are the:

Music Hall pa 2.2
AVM P 1.2
Lejonklou Gaio
Lehmann Silver Cube
Graham Slee Era Gold V
ifi phono2
Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL
Jasmine 2.5DU

Please download the 96/24 files and listen. Then vote in the order in which you like the sound. Also please post comments about which you preferred and why.

The prices range from $399 to $4500. The files are not listed to match the above order! In another story to be posted shortly, you'll find a description of each unit's features but not the editor's sonic assessment, which will only be posted after the close of voting in a few weeks (giving you plenty of time). At a later date, we will repeat the vote with the MC inputs of the units that are MM/MC and with both a Bob's Devices step-up transformer and a Hagerman Audio battery powered "head amp".

Here are the files:

File "1"

File "2"

File "3"

File "4"

File "5"

File "6"

File "7"

File "8"

Should You Buy a MM-Only Phono Preamp If You Are Using a MM Cartridge?
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 29, 2017  |  12 comments
Some may find it difficult to believe, but the new $2000 solid-state McIntosh MP100 phono preamplifier is the sixty eight year old company’s first stand-alone phono preamplifier.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 26, 2016  |  37 comments
While the new iPhono 2 appears on the outside to be identical to the original iPhono, reviewed back in 2012 on analogplanet.com, don’t let the similar appearance fool you: the iPhono 2 is a completely new and vastly improved phono preamplifier—and the original was already plenty good.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 23, 2016  |  32 comments
You might be skeptical about electronics products from a company best known for its mechanical ones but Pro-Ject’s extensive Box-Design electronics series has gotten rave reviews over the past few years. The company has assembled a skilled electronics team to design and build a full electronics line in both the analog and digital domains.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 28, 2016  |  8 comments
New Zealand-based pure audio is a partnership between former Plinius Audio co-owner and chief electronics designer Gary Morrison and industrial designer Ross Stevens.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 11, 2015  |  10 comments
Much to the probable consternation of Luminous Audio Technology, I’ve sat on this MM/MC preamplifier review for more than six months. I probably could have literally sat on the Luminous Audio Arion too, so solidly is in constructed, but I didn’t.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 16, 2015  |  13 comments
With nearly 500 votes cast, File "A" received 23% (104 votes). File "B" garnered 54% (240 votes), while 23% of respondents (103) felt the two phono preamplifiers were either "identical" sounding or it was "too close to call."

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 02, 2015  |  5 comments
The Italian-built Tektron Italia Mono Phono preamplifier manufactured exclusively for Robyatt Audio is an all-tube design housed in a wooden box topped by a solid copper plate that serves as the unit’s ground plane.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 24, 2014  |  9 comments
The compact, two piece VERA 20 Phono Preamplifier from MR Labs may look more like a piece of medical technology and less like high performance audio gear, but don’t let its plain looks deceive you.

It consists of two relatively small chassis, one containing the amplification and signal processing electronics and the other the power supply. The power supply chassis (which at approximately 6 pounds weighs 3 times more than the amplification chassis) is capped at one end with a beefy heat sink more typical of a power amplifier. The two chassis connect via a pair of multi-pin umbilicals.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 20, 2014  |  6 comments
First off, to clarify: I am a big Mel Tormé fan. If I describe a product as producing a "velvet fog" (Mel's nickname), it's meant as a compliment! Some readers emailed wondering how I meant the expression. I meant it as a compliment and I used it because the VK-P6's sonics reminded me of Mel's smooth, sonorous voice. If you want a phono preamp more in the Axl Rose camp, there are some. And there are some that manage neutrality or close to it.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 06, 2014  |  10 comments
Last year's purchase of Balanced Audio Technology by Jim Davis, who also owns Music Direct and Mobile Fidelity has resulted in major product upgrades and lower prices. This new VK-P6 phono preamplifier is an example of what the newly revitalized company can do given an adequate infusion of resources.

The new $3495 VK-P6 is the company’s entry level phono preamplifier, yet in terms of build and parts quality it shares a great deal with the top of the line $12,495 VK-P12SE, though trust me, you’d have little trouble hearing the differences between the two.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 31, 2014  |  12 comments
I reviewed Dynamic Sound Associate's $12,000 solid-state phono preamp in Stereophile's "Analog Corner" October, 2013. It was a "Class A" product all the way other than a few "burps".

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