Phono Preamp Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Sep 18, 2009  |  0 comments
In an ideal world, I'd have every phono section I've reviewed in the past 16 years on hand to compare with these three and with all that arrive in the future. But because I have a life, I don't, and I wouldn't even if I could, though some readers (and one retailer) have insisted that that's the only way that I could possibly be of any use to them. Ha! And for those who are concerned that I've neglected the Manley Steelhead, not so! It's still my reference.
Michael Fremer  |  Dec 03, 2013  |  10 comments
Norbert Lehmann’s Black Cube phono preamplifiers have surprised and at times amazed for their superior sonic performance at near bargain-basement prices. He’s been designing, building and upgrading his phono preamplifiers for nearly two decades beginning in 1995 with the original Black Cube.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 04, 2018  |  12 comments
The Lejonklou Gaio MM phono preamplifier is as simple to use as Swedish designer Fredrik Lejonklou’s name can be difficult to spell or pronounce until you get the hang of it. The Gaio has been referenced in various AnalogPlanet moving magnet phono preamp shoot-outs but it’s never been given a stand-alone review.

Michael Fremer  |  May 24, 2012  |  3 comments
The all-FET, class-A, B2B-1 phono preamplifier ($1749), made in the US by Liberty Audio, is beautifully built inside and out, and comes in a heavy-duty aluminum chassis with a baked-on crackle finish and a 3/8"-thick, black-anodized faceplate. The overall build quality and physical appearance suggest something that costs more than $3000, which is probably what it would cost were it sold through retailers and not factory direct. It comes with a two-week return policy.
Malachi Lui  |  Jan 30, 2020  |  4 comments
Last year Peter Noerbaek offered me a review sample of the Liberty Audio B2B-1 phono preamp. “I’m happy with my MoFi UltraPhono,” I told MF, “but I’ll try the B2B-1.” Not necessarily thinking it would at first make a significant difference in my system, I soon instead found that in terms of imaging, punch, dynamics, and sonic cleanliness, it greatly enhanced my hi-fi’s performance.

Michael Fremer  |  Feb 28, 2014  |  4 comments
Made in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, USA, using where possible American parts, designer Bill Hutchins’ LKV Research Phono 2-SB has the kind of Japanese corporate name that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
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  |  Dec 05, 2001  |  0 comments
The Manley Steelhead tube MM/MC phono preamplifier was first demonstrated at the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show. Nine months later, my long-promised review sample of Eveanna Manley's new baby was delivered. While Ms. Manley may have given birth to the audacious product, it was conceived by the company's chief hi-fi designer, Mitch Margolis.
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 24, 2009  |  0 comments
This tiny, lightweight, battery-powered jewel is loosely based on Nagra's VPS phono stage that I reviewed in October 2008 but uses bipolar transistors instead of tubes. The bottom of the company's familiar brushed-aluminum case has a grippy rubber material die-cut to spell Nagra. It's intended to keep the preamp from sliding, but stiff cables will have the BPS hanging in the air if you're not careful. The BPS costs $2399.
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 17, 2008  |  0 comments
Not that many years ago, it seems, every sound crew in Hollywood and around the world recorded production sound using a compact, open-reel analog tape recorder made by Nagra. The first iteration of the Swiss-made machine appeared in the early 1950s. Shortly thereafter, with the addition of an inaudible recorded tone that allowed easy syncing to picture, the Nagra recorder became the industry standard, and remained so through the 1980s. To this day, Nagra's line of audio products retains the look of those early recorders.
Michael Fremer  |  Oct 24, 2011  |  1 comments
According to Parasound's founder and CEO, Richard Schram, the Halo JC 3 began as a phono-preamp retrofit for the JC 2 line stage, with separate small circuit boards for each channel. The smaller the board, the better, Schram says, so as to attract less noise than do larger boards, whose many copper traces can act as antennas.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 27, 2020  |  8 comments
Parasound’s $595 ZPhono XRM is a compact, versatile MM/MC phono preamplifier that offers flexibility and features not usually found at this price point including gold-plated balanced XLR outputs (and gold-plated single-ended RCA outputs), a mono switch, an 18dB/octave rumble filter and for its MC input, continuously variable loading from 50ohms to 1050ohms.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 16, 2014  |  22 comments
Parasound's new $2995 JC3+ is a significantly upgraded version of the already high performance original JC3 phono preamplifier, though outwardly it looks identical to the handsome original.
Michael Fremer  |  Nov 06, 2005  |  0 comments
If compact discs are so damned dynamic and vinyl is so dynamically limited, why do they sound just the opposite? Why do LPs sound so "live," so explosive, so "there," and CDs so dead? Even the best CDs usually sink to second-rate when you switch to their vinyl versions. I've heard it, you've heard it. Only those in deep denial, those who refuse to listen, don't. They'd rather read the published specs and consider the actual listening some kind of mass delusion among Luddite LP fans.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 15, 2014  |  42 comments
On January 2nd analogplanet.com posted five 96/24 bit files, each containing the same minute’s worth of John Williams’ “Liberty Fanfare” performed by the National Symphonic Winds conducted by Lowell Graham excerpted from the album Winds of War and Peace originally issued in 1988 on Wilson Audio Specialties Records (W-8823) and used with permission.

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