Phono Preamp Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Oct 17, 2017  |  17 comments
First let's all agree that these short clip tests are useful and fun but must be taken as "for entertainment purposes only."

For those joining late, we twice asked the question "Should You Buy a MM-Only Phono Preamp If You Own a MM Cartridge"?, each time offering "blind listening" and voting. The first time was way back in May of 2017 where you could listen and vote for one of eight phono preamps, some MM-only and some MM/MC running in MM.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 29, 2017  |  13 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  |  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  |  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 07, 2010  |  0 comments
Why bother with three phono preamps most of us can't afford? For the same reason the enthusiast automobile magazines cover the newest Ferraris and Lamborghinis: just reading about them is fun.
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 29, 2008  |  0 comments
The German company AQVOX Audio Devices has produced an innovative moving-coil/moving-magnet solid-state phono preamplifier, the Phono 2Ci, that's as intriguing for its technology and performance as it is for its relatively low price: $1400. The zero-feedback, op-amp–free circuit uses a compact switch-mode power supply that's built into the chassis and features conventional voltage gain for moving-magnet cartridges via its RCA jacks, and current gain for moving-coil cartridges through the balanced XLR inputs. Rear-panel switches select between RCA or XLR inputs and offer a convenient ground lift. Either the single-ended or the balanced outputs can be used with either input. Unfortunately, the tight spacing of the RCA input and output jacks, which are mounted on the circuit board, will somewhat limit your choice of cables: Pairs of thick-barreled plugs will have difficulty fitting.
Michael Fremer  |  Feb 24, 2018  |  4 comments
Phono preamps arrive here by the stack. It’s difficult keeping up. To be honest, Arcam’s rPhono arrived before the JC3 Jr. but here, anything with John Curl’s name attached automatically goes to the head of the queue, especially considering the Jr.’s remarkable $1495 price.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 05, 2007  |  0 comments
"Everybody's gotta get into the act!" Jimmy Durante used to say. That's what's happening with phono preamplifiers—they just keep being built, and I keep getting them for review. Up for evaluation in next month's column are new models from Perreaux, Musical Fidelity, Graham Slee, and a Chinese one, Ming Da. You can bet there'll be more.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 31, 2009  |  1 comments
I first spotted Audia Flight's exquisite-looking two-box phono preamplifier ($6100) at last year's Hi-End show in Munich, and now that Musical Sounds is importing Audia Flight gear, a review of the Phono seemed a good idea. I know nothing about Audia Flight or the designer, or what Italian audiophiles think of them, but the more time I spent with the versatile, exquisitely built Phono, the more I liked everything about it.
Michael Fremer  |  Oct 05, 2016  |  6 comments
Audio Alchemy was one of the premier “go to” budget priced audio companies of the late 1980’s through the 1990s, at which point it went out of business for reasons having little to do with the quality of its products.

What some people forget is that aside from producing reasonably priced, high performance gear, the company also issued some truly high tech products like the Digital Transmission Interface Pro32, which included an I2S interface that produced a low jitter connection between a transport the company also made that had an I2S output and DAC.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 03, 2005  |  0 comments
Audio Research's long-promised "final statement" phono preamplifier has finally arrived, and its price is $3500 less than the originally rumored $10,000. That's a pleasant deviation from the audiophile norm, but at $6495, the Reference phono still boasts a steep ticket. That's more than twice the price of the $2495 PH3 SE, AR's previous best—a class sonic act itself.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 20, 2014  |  4 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  |  9 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 14, 2002  |  0 comments
It's not every Consumer Electronics Show that someone introduces a $29,000 solid-state phono preamplifier—and I miss it. The 2002 CES was one. My show report in the April issue made it seem as if I'd found out about it there, but the fact is, someone clued me in after I'd returned home. I needed to come clean on that.
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 06, 2010  |  0 comments
Why bother with three phono preamps most of us can't afford? For the same reason the enthusiast automobile magazines cover the newest Ferraris and Lamborghinis: just reading about them is fun.

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