Reite Audio PS-1 MC Phono Preamplifier and PSU-1 Power Supply

Reite Audio is a relatively new company created by electronics designer Bob Reite and musician Ed Sheftel. Sheftel first imported to America and distributed the Welsh-made Tom Evans Audio Design line of electronics. One of its products, The Groove phono preamp had, at the turn of the century, what could fairly be described as a “cult following”.

The unit with which I some time, didn’t impress in terms of build quality and though it sounded fine, I couldn’t understand the level of audiophile near-hysteria surrounding it. The company’s ability to reliably deliver has been questioned in many online threads and despite being in business for twenty years appears to be a not particularly communicative one man operation (readers are invited to argue otherwise).

Sadly, Mr. Sheftel, who had a Master of Music from Yale University and a long career as a Los Angeles studio musician (and who played lead trumpet throughout the musical “Hair”’s two year run at the Aquarius Theater), passed away late last winter just as Reite Audio’s engine was gathering steam, but Mr. Reite, who has an Associates Degree in Electronic Engineering Technology from Santa Monica City College, continues the operation.

The Reite Audio line includes the PS-1 phono preamp ($3900), the LS-1 line stage ($9200), the PA-100 100 watt monoblock amplifier ($17,000/pr), the PA-400 400 watt monoblock amplifier ($25,000/pr), the HP-1 headphone amplifier ($5500) and the PSU-1 power supply ($1900) that can simultaneously run both the phono preamplifier and the line stage. In other words, the PS-1 plus the PSU-1 power supply required to run it brings the phono preamp’s total price to $5800.

The entire product line features no reactive components in the signal path: no capacitors, chokes or transformers. Where caps are necessary as in the RIAA filter high quality mica, polypropylene or polycarbonate films capacitors are used. Particular attention is paid to heat dissipation.

Since Mr. Reite comes from a radio transmitting background, he claims he pays particular attention to power supply filtering. Each unit is burned in for 200 hours and tested to ensure that it meets published specifications and the results are included in the instruction manual (needless to say, the review sample met or exceeded all specs). The warranty is five year limited parts and labor.

These made in Exeter, Pennsylvania, USA products sold factory-direct are relatively expensive ($5500 for a factory direct headphone amp?) though not so for “state of the art” products. Are they SOTA? I can write only about the PS-1 and PSU-1.

The PS-1’s Specifications

Gain: 60dB

Noise:-79dBV (A weighted)

THD+N: 0.03% (400Hz)@1.0 volt RMS output.

RIAA accuracy: 0.2dB

Channel tracking: 0.1dB

Separation@1KHz:<=79dB

Weight (PS-1): 3 pounds

The Physical Plant

The PSU-1 power supply connects via a long multi-pin umbilical that makes possible flexible power supply placement well away from the signal handling PS-1.

Both the PSU-1 and PS-1 are housed in thin, folded and what appear to be painted sheet metal chassis, well-stiffened by attractive wooden side cheeks that also serve as “feet”. How thin is the chassis? Once the side braces are removed, the two folded pieces flex when gently handled. To be fair to the design, the visible chassis section is in one piece that wraps gracefully from front to back. I’m sure there’s a name for this sort of metal folding but I don’t know it.

It didn’t take long online to find very similar looking chassis, though the one shown there is structurally far more rigid than is the one Reite uses, which I’m fairly certain is also “pre-fabricated”.

Separate the two PS-1 chassis components and inside are two identical signal-processing circuit boards attached to the chassis bottom and another one containing a pair of dipswitches and associated resistive and capacitive loading components affixed to the chassis rear along with the hard-wired gold-plated WBT RCA input and output jacks.

The circuit boards are populated with what appear to be good quality low noise 1% (?) metalized film resistors. The two electrolytic caps do not appear to be bypassed with film or tantalum, which is often done in non-budget electronics. The op-amps are Burr-Brown OPA37 (first introduced in 1984), which are Texas Instruments' “high end” line (though that brings the cost to around $4.00 each).

The loading dipswitches and associated caps and resistors are sandwiched behind the circuit board so the quality and tolerances of the parts cannot be ascertained but the board’s proximity to the input jacks and the manner in which this is executed is very good. I’ve seen in some phono preamps cheap rotary switches to which are soldered equally poor quality resistors. Not so here.

Inside the power supply I found a rectifier block, an IEC A.C. input jack and a circuit board on which was a good quality, familiar-looking blue Amveco Magnetics toroidal transformer, 5% resistors and other standard fare power supply parts. Note that there are two multi-pin outputs as the PSU-1 is designed to power both the PS-1 and the Reite Audio preamplifier.

Reite Audio PS-1 Set-Up

Since the PS-1 is MC-only all that needed to be adjusted was the capacitive and resistive loading. Why adjustable capacitive loading? Given an MC cartridge’s ultra-low inductance, capacitive loading becomes almost a non-issue, though some MC cartridge manufacturers still specify capacitive loading.

With all dipswitches “off” the PS-1 gives you a sensible 1K resistive and (taking into account a typical phono cable’s built-in capacitance) 100pF capacitive loading. Reite offers 2 capacitive loading dip switches that used in combination can produce 100, 300, 500 and 700 pFs.

Resistive loading choices are generous, controlled via five dip switches that in combination can produce 10, 15, 19.6, 25, 30, 47.6, 60, 80, 90, 150, 200, 375 and with all switches off 1Kohms.

I placed the power supply well away from the signal-carrying unit and given the light weight (3 pounds) and relatively flimsy chassis construction, placed under the latter four Still Points.

What Matters Most: The Sound!

First up was the $5999 Transfiguration Proteus cartridge, a review of which will appear in the October issue of Stereophile. Let’s just say here for now wow! This cartridge outputs but .2mV and has an ultra-low internal impedance of 1 ohm. With 60dB of gain, the Reite Audio PS-1 should be able to do the job (though 64dB would have been better) but with what kind of accompanying noise? With the Proteus’s 1 ohm internal impedance 10 ohm loading (10x internal impedance) was a good starting point. If the sound was “closed down” I’d up it.

Given the -79dBV (A weighted) noise spec, I expected reasonably quiet backgrounds even with a .2mV cartridge and that’s what the PS-1 delivered though when the music stopped there was considerable audible background “rush”. However, with music playing it was not an issue, and certainly a .2mV cartridge is an unusual case. (I tried 90 and 150 ohm loading too with little improvement in background noise but the top end became [as expected] a bit over-pronounced). I actually really liked 90 ohms too, so open and grain-free was the PS-1's top end.

Beyond the less than black backgrounds in this case, the PS-1 produced startlingly better sound than I was expecting, having had a look “under the hood”. Bottom end extension was fully realized and “depth charge” robust. What better test than the just arrived TRON soundtrack (Audio Fidelity on clear blue vinyl (Audio Fidelity AFZLP2 177)? You could say I knew it well (review to be posted shortly).

The soundtrack’s stupendous bottom end weight (the Royal Albert Hall’s gargantuan organ for instance-and not playing “Louie, Louie”!) is finally on vinyl and the PS-1 expressed it with great authority and control. The score is punctuated with high frequency synthesizer “zings” that should sound transparent and crystalline. The cartridge can do it and so did the PS-1, which also managed to flesh out the midrange warmth of the UCLA chorus and particularly the delicate clarinet in “Anthem” on side four.

Switching to the Lyra Etna, which has a more generous .54mV output and a richer midrange, the background with no music playing was quieter and when the music played the sound produced by the combination was as rich and robust as hoped for.

I played the Analogue Productions “Living Stereo” reissue of “Lieutenant Kije”/”Song of the Nightingale” (RCA LSC-2150) (highly recommended) and though the lustrous string sheen and harmonic richness produced by the $34,000 reference Ypsilon were in shorter supply, in no way did the PS-1 sound “transistory” or “solid-state” or exhibit any distinctive sonic anomalies. I was left impressed by the PS-1’s transparency, dynamic capabilities, staging and every other audio checklist item you can think of.

On the “…Kije”, the triangle, tambourine, trumpet and string pizzicato on the “Troika” section Woody Allen used in his 1975 film “Love and Death” (which probably introduced the boomer generation to Prokofieff) was delivered with clarity, delicacy and an overall deft touch that one should expect at this price point.

Conclusion

Yes it’s the sound that ultimately counts and I don’t think anyone buying this $5800 phono preamp will be disappointed by the sound (though I don’t recommend it for use with .2mV output cartridges). However, I find it difficult to justify the asking price for a variety of reasons, starting with the thin, flimsy, off-the-shelf chassis. Looking inside, I cannot justify the $5800 asking price given that this product is sold “factory-direct”. There is no “middle-man” yet it seems as if the manufacturer is not passing along to you any savings.

$1900 for the power supply sold “factory direct”? That means were this to be sold at retail the power supply alone would cost at least $3800, with the total cost of the PS-1 plus PSU-1 being well over $10,000. I don’t see that at all. Please compare to this piece the parts and construction quality and the configurability options of the recently reviewed $2400 Swan Song Audio Cygnet also sold factory direct. On that basis there really is no comparison. And also please compare to the $2500 fully balanced LKV Phono 2-SB also sold "factory direct".

Sonically, in some ways the Swan Song/ Reite Audio comparison is apples to oranges: I asked for the Cygnet sample to be delivered with optional step-up transformers to achieve 69dB gain (it can be set to achieve up to 81dB of gain), which is useful for the Ortofon Anna and A90 as well as with the Transfiguration Proteus. The standard Cygnet with no transformer can be adjusted to reach 61dB gain and a fair comparison would have been to that version.

In terms of noise there’s no comparison: the Cygnet produces dead black backgrounds at an output level where the Reite Audio produces audible hiss, but in terms of transparency, stage width and depth and particularly bass extension, punch and bass transient attack, the Reite Audio PSU-1/PS-1 wins by a wide margin. The organ on the TRON soundtrack, which sounded so open and airy became closed down and mechanical, producing “bass” instead of a pipe organ pedal stop bass.

How much of the difference is caused by the transformers? I suspect a great deal. The Cygnet was rich and warm as the original review claimed, but that smothered much of the Proteus’s sonic greatness, particularly its exuberant dynamics and spectacular three dimensional imaging, which the Reite fully reproduced. The LKV's sound is closer to that of the Reite Audio (I no longer have it here to make a direct comparison) but at less than half the price.

So here’s what I conclude: Reite Audio designer Bob Reite is an extremely talented designer. Using mostly modest quality parts housed in generic, flimsy folded sheet metal chassis, he’s produced a superb sounding, exciting phono preamp that’s airy, spacious and delicate on top, full bodied on bottom and rich in the mids. Were you to hear it without seeing it, you might think it cost in excess of $5K. I found the sound superb regardless of price. Handling it and seeing its insides without hearing it, you might think $2000.

He’s chosen to sell it factory direct for $5800. Reite is entitled to sell it for whatever he wishes and I understand that R&D time and packaging (generic cut foam) need to be factored in as well as all of the cost of doing business and manufacturing a product etc. I get all of that.

But even considering all of that, while I hear a $5000+ product I don’t see one, which is a real shame because were he to price this commensurate with its stellar sound quality and its budget build quality it would be, like the LKV Phono 2-SB, a break-through product. Mr. Reite is welcome to post a response.

COMPANY INFO
Reite Audio
br@reiteaudio.com
(570)-371-4070

COMMENTS
deniall's picture

An insane price considering there's probably $50 worth of parts in this thing. I'm sure it sounds good but there's no way I'd pay that much for such a DIY looking piece of gear.

Michael Fremer's picture
The difference between how it's built and how it sounds is enormous. Yes, the pricing is unfortunate. However there are more parts elsewhere that can't be seen. No doubt there are more than $50 worth of parts in there but still, the pricing seems off. If Mr. Reite can "re-structure" and sell it for considerably less, were you to hear it you might reconsider! It's really good...
Ortofan's picture

The discrepancy between apparent bill-of-materials cost and selling price is astonishing and brings to mind Art Dudley’s “Skin Deep” commentary piece – only without the fancy casework. For additional comparisons, see what you get inside (and outside) of a Cambridge Audio 651 (~$200), one of the Lehmann Black Cubes (~$500-1K) or the Parasound JC-3+ (~$2K).

OTOH, should we ever bother to look inside the box or proceed purely based upon an aural evaluation? If the device under consideration sounds as good as or better than similarly priced products, does it matter if it contains three op-amps or three hundred or if it is packaged in a flimsy box instead of a solid copper enclosure, for example?

On the technical front, why are there so many trimpots and what parameters have to be adjusted? Also, if there are “no reactive components in the signal path”, exactly what topology is being employed to implement the RIAA equalization? Maybe it’s just a semantic distinction between "in the signal path” and “connected to the signal path?”

Jim Hagerman's picture

Interesting, that "circuit board on which was a good quality, familiar-looking blue Amveco Magnetics toroidal transformer" just so happens to be my design. And my circuit board to boot!

Not sure what they are going to do for production as I stopped selling them months ago (they were $39).

Michael Fremer's picture
Thanks for pointing that out….
Ortofan's picture

Let’s see if we’ve got this straight. “Reite Audio designer Bob Reite is an extremely talented designer” who “pays particular attention to power supply filtering.” Yet, the power supply board appears identical to one developed by Jim Hagerman. Can’t wait to see how that one gets explained away. Likewise, if (as it would seem) the power supply design was lifted from another engineer, what are the odds that the design of the audio section actually represents original work.

Michael Fremer's picture
What I was fed by others who will not be named who should have known better as should have I for not adding disclaimers as in "said to be" a very talented designer, "of whom it is said" pays particular attention to power supply filtering. Reite's claimed expertise is in RF circuit design. I promise to be more careful going forward. But I'd say Mr. Reite has a great deal of "'splainin'" to do.
Ortofan's picture

…as President Reagan used to say.

Some of these reviews do take an intriguing turn when you take the time to check what’s inside the product rather than just listen to what comes out of it.

Jim Hagerman's picture

That isn't a copy of my board, it is one of my boards.

Recently I stumbled upon this: Audio Business for Sale...

volvic's picture

Want to add my comments; as someone who has paid lots of money in the past only to be disappointed when looking under the hood I would feel very disappointed if I dished out hard earned money on something that didn't meet my expectations. I remember reading how Steve Jobs' dad taught him to paint the inside of the fence with the same care as the exterior. That idea followed Jobs throughout all of his career till his death. When I opened my first Mac Plus and SE's in the 80's and 90's I was struck by how well everything had been put together; no sharp metals to cut your hands, circuit boards neatly laid out with high quality parts that snapped into place with precision and confidence. I knew I was using a quality product that mirrored the money I had paid for. Perhaps this is Reite's first foray and we should stay away until the quality matches the price, but if it isn't then this great review my M. Fremer should serve as a wake up call. I also want to thank M. Fremer for the honesty and directness he showed in the review and with others in the pas which is sadly lacking these days.

Michael Fremer's picture
Michael, thank you for taking the time to review our PS-1 Phono Stage product. I'm a bit surprised that you decided to take a peek "under the hood". If you had looked under the circuit boards you would have found additional supply bypassing in the form of surface mount capacitors under each op amp, to give the lowest lead and trace inductance possible. Yes, we use Vishay 0.5% film resistors for equalization and 1.0% everywhere else.

Except for one capacitor that is part of the RIAA equalization, the unit is direct coupled which contributes to the excellent bass response that you heard. Three trimpots per channel are there to adjust the DC offset to zero. The other two are to adjust the on board regulators to exactly match each other.

The black powder coated case work is not "off the shelf", it is custom built by a Canadian firm for Reite Audio. The wood trim is made locally. Ed and I were purely focused on the sound and saw no point in using fancy casework that would have no impact on the sound and only add even more to the price. At T.H.E. Show Newport 2014, people commented that our "retro" look was a refreshing change from the blue lights and chrome of most of the current audio products.

As far as pricing goes, I found that the Reite Audio PS-1 measured better than the Tom Evan's Groove+SRX phono stage and Ed thought the subjective sound was better than the Tom Evans product which is still a current catalog item that sells for an even higher price. However with competition from companies like LKV Research, I may have to reconsider our pricing structure. That is what free enterprise is all about.

Robert D. Reite, Reite Audio LLC.

volvic's picture

Love the candor he shows and his response, big thumbs up for admitting they may have to reconsider pricing structure.

Devil Doc's picture

Many others in the reviewing business should take note.

isaacrivera's picture

While welcome mr. Reite's candid explanation, it sounds to me like they basically said, well, it sounds better than X and Y and those are priced at Z so we can charge Z++. This means that their cost of production was not what determined their retail cost, but what they thought they could get away with. This is reinforced by the fact that mr. Reite suggests in his response he could actually adjust his price, meaning, there is room for bringing it down and still be profitable. Though I agree with mr. Fremer that there are costs of R&D etc a manufacturer wants to recover ASAP, it is also true that performance is not the only quality a buyer considers when forking out thousands for a high-end component. A rolls performs excellently I am sure, but there is also quality of build, materials used, aesthetics. A similarly performing car built cheaply could simply not command the same price. I won't mention any names, but this is why quality brands that have been acquired by greedy corporations that have cheapened their quality of production expecting to command the same prices and higher margins simply based on brand prestige have gone south recently. Likewise for the opposite case. Recently we have seen more and more brands putting excellent materials and care in their products and charging much less than competing products. The phono preamps mr. Fremer mentions are good examples, but there are others.

figaro's picture

It can't be too hard to build, very simple design and simple circuit board layout, this thing screams kit! Reduce the price by offering it as a kit.

xxmartinxx's picture

"I'm a bit surprised that you decided to take a peek 'under the hood'."

This sounds like the Great and Powerful Oz saying he didn't expect you to pull back the curtain.

"The black powder coated case work is not 'off the shelf', it is custom built by a Canadian firm"

Hammond, the maker of cases, chassis, and transformers that you pointed out is based in Canada, so I don't think you're wrong here.

"However with competition from companies like LKV Research, I may have to reconsider our pricing structure. However with competition from companies like LKV Research, I may have to reconsider our pricing structure. "

Considering the level of build quality put out by much lower priced units by Sutherland, Rogue, Liberty, Manley, etc... I don't know how a company like this stays in business.

I feel bad for slagging the guy, but this "because we can" type of pricing is why "audiophiles" look foolish to the saner members of society. It's hard enough to justify a $500 phono preamp to spouses, friends, and coworkers much less a $5k+ that looks like a high school science project.

overnout's picture

Since you recently reviewed the BMC unit, with its unusual circuitry and roughly similar price loin, I was wondering how it stacks up against the Reite Phono Stage....?

Michael Fremer's picture
Is a current amplifier not a voltage amplifier. They are very different. The BMC works best with the lowest impedance MC cartridges. It's quite special. The Reite sounds good but is nothing special technologically and obviously is grossly overpriced and considering that it actually uses an "off the shelf" Hagerman Audio power supply that cost $39, you make up your own expletives deleted!
rakalm's picture

For us poor people, please review the updated Jasmine (with 2 phono inputs and those nifty blue lights). Direct with power supply for $560 delivered. I love mine. I believe it is really a great bang for the buck. For the price, the build quality is excellent. The innards have been improved since your last peak under the hood. They may have read your review of the earlier models.

April234's picture

good you may shed the needed data also affects aptoide download in the underneath part to set up the application best.

amber5555's picture

Thanks, you can fake your location with Fly GPS APK which is really nice

Finnerty865's picture

video online search engine that makes it simple to search for Tubidy Mobile Tubidy mobile site. download tubidy video clips, tubidy sound.

panistefanin's picture

sprint corporate
Thank you for your work on the blog! You're doing a good job!

X