Four Phono Preamp File Identities Revealed!

While in excess of 6000 people read the story and many thousands downloaded the files, for some reason fewer than 100 readers chose to vote for which phono preamp sounded best reproducing a short segment of Mehmet Ali Sanlikol's big band album what's next.

Given how many more voted in last year's multi-cartridge survey, the numbers were disappointing, but not the results.

As you can see from the bar graph File "C" with 52% of the vote was the overwhelming favorite. File "B" with 27% was runner up. File "D" garnered but 12%, while File "A" with 9% finished last.

File "A" was the Micromega MyGroov. It finished in last place, I'd say because of its sluggish, thick sound.

File "B" was the $99.99 Nerve Audio! It came in second, which surprised me, but I think what listeners responded to was its fast, somewhat bright sound. The Nerve sounds exciting.

Flie "C"—the overwhelmiing favorite with 52%—was the ifi iPhono. No great surprise in my opinion. It's incredibly good.

File "D" was the Creek OBH15Mk2, which came in third with 12%. That was a surprise! I would have put it in second place followed by the Nerve with the MyGroov in last place. Yes it was warmer than the Nerve but too sluggish and its transients were too soft (in MM mode).

So there you have it!

JohnnyCanuck's picture

I can't speak for anybody else, Mikey, but I didn't vote because I don't have an external USB DAC to route audio from my computer to my sound system. Consequently, I don't feel that whatever I may hear through my computer audio would validate your tests.

This is not to say that I don't appreciate what you're doing here -- I do. I just don't think that I have anything valid to add.

So, count me as one of those people who downloaded the files and didn't vote, and I hope now you will know why.

rahat's picture

Wow what is this where is the review i was promised last week that it would be posted here? Please dont cancel out on your words specially when someone is actually relying on it you know!

Ortofan's picture

You also have to like the music segment chosen well enough to be willing to listen to it repeatedly.

Michael Fremer's picture
That is true. I felt the big band segment was enjoyable and useful as a test.
Jim Tavegia's picture

If you take more than 4 tries at each file you may be trying too hard. It seems that for most the differences are clearly audible, but on some computer set ups it may not be so. My next buy is going to be the Ifi Nano DSD USB dac headphone amp. For $189 it is a steal and should make the differences even clearer.

2channelguy's picture

I bought the iphono based on Mr. Fremer's review and before I had a chance to listen to the test files. I voted "C" and now feel my purchase was validated. It is a great phono amp

Michael Fremer's picture
Now that's validating a purchase in my opinion…not to mention validating my opinion...
dhaskell's picture

I'd wondered when this was posted that the bugle2 wasn't on here ... I just noticed it never got reviewed on this site. I have one and love it but have little to compare it to. Anyone else have experience with it??

amudhen's picture

Glad to see the favorite was iphono, which I voted for, I will be looking to get one in the future. Thanks for the test.

Jazzfan62's picture

Mikey, I find your bright sound comment on file B insightful. I have experienced the same in with audiophile groups I have participated in. You can even tell from the audition music they bring. There are lots of cymbals, bells and other elements that are detail oriented. It's a preference thing, but I'm not in that camp.

I like the music snip-its you select for these, as they test various aspects like bass, strong transient changes and separation. Very well done.

Robsan's picture

I recently purchased the iPhono at Capital Audiofest. I did a bit of testing of the unit and I noticed there is quite a bit of noise in the spectrum that shouldn't be there, especially at 60Hz. So I did some investigating of the power supply and it's noisey, about 2.5mV of ripple voltage. I had another 9V supply on hand and knew it's ripple voltage was lower, 0.058mV (BOSS 9V supply, LEADS REVERSED!!!).

Here are the noise floor results with the MM inputs shorted:

IFI power supply offset by 24dB for clarity:

Seems the power supply needs help, or maybe I have a dud.


Robsan's picture

IFI thinks my power supply is a dud, they will be sending me a new unit. After I test the new power supply I'll post an update.


Michael Fremer's picture
Please let us know.
mtgman's picture

Dear Michael Fremer,

Greetings from the Bay Area, California! I am going to make a suggestion that I am pretty sure sounds tedious and irratating. However, with the growing analog market and corresponding "newby" analog market, I think this is an idea that has merit. As follows: Test different cartridge and phono stage combinations on two different, price-appropriate turntables, with each being under $200! This includes the Shiit, U-turn, Rega, Music Hall, Nerve, tonar with various cartridges from Nagoaka - 110, Audio-Technica 120e, Ortofon Red, Ortofon OM20, Shure M97, Grado Red, etc. Of course, if the compliance of cartridge/tonearm make no sense, there is no reason to include reviews of a mismatch! Suggested turntables would be starter decks, with no built-in phono stages, such as the various Project - Carbon, Essential, Teac, Music Hall, Rega RP-1, Marantz, etc...maybe pick two or three. Would be a huge job, but would provide a most valuable service to the next generation...

Michael Fremer's picture
That is a lot of work! We've reviewed the Schist and U-turn phono preamps, the Pro-Ject Carbon, the AT turntable etc. Just not in all of those combos.