Phono Preamp Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Dec 29, 2013  |  7 comments
This is a review of the NuWave Phono Converter's phono preamp section only. A review of the double DSD based A/D converter will follow soon.

Multipurpose products like PS Audio’s snazzy new NuWave Phono Converter offer a mix of great possibilities and possible compromises. In one sleek box you have a capable and versatile MM/MC phono preamplifier and an analog to digital converter through which you can conveniently digitize your vinyl—as well as any analog input you feed it— at up to double DSD resolution. All for $1895.

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 19, 2010  |  11 comments
As long as you're spinning an LP for your listening pleasure, and if digitizing it at a resolution of 24-bit/192kHz is transparent to the analog source, why not record and store the LP on your computer at that high sampling rate for future convenient playback via iTunes or for iPod use, or for burning to CD-R? And, while you're at it, why not record the LP unequalized and apply the RIAA curve in the digital domain, where you're not dependent on capacitors and resistors that are imprecise to begin with, and can drift over time? With no drift of phase or value, the virtual filter's results should be better than with any analog filter. And in the digital domain, you can program in any curve known, and select it at the click of a mouse. Aside from the sweat equity invested in programming it in the first place, it wouldn't add a penny to the program's cost.
Michael Fremer  |  Dec 01, 2013  |  12 comments
Rega’s versatile $1500 Aria phono stage combines high build quality, flexibility and dynamic capabilities more commonly found in more expensive phono preamplifiers.
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 30, 2014  |  22 comments
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”.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 18, 2014  |  7 comments
A second NuWave Phono Converter sample arrived the other day and after swapping the two back and forth a few things became sonically obvious. One is that the second sample was not as hard, bright and mechanical-sounding as the first one. And the other was that like the first sample, the second NuWave's lower midrange and bass were less than fully fleshed out.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 19, 2010  |  0 comments
The minuscule electrical output of an analog signal from a moving-coil cartridge needs to be boosted before it can be converted to digital and equalized in the digital domain. Of course, you could use your current phono preamplifier and record an equalized signal to hard disk, but then you wouldn't get to experience Pure Vinyl's digital RIAA correction—nor would you be able to avail yourself of all the equalization curves provide by Pure Vinyl, of which there are almost too many to count.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 19, 2010  |  2 comments
The minuscule electrical output of an analog signal from a moving-coil cartridge needs to be boosted before it can be converted to digital and equalized in the digital domain. Of course, you could use your current phono preamplifier and record an equalized signal to hard disk, but then you wouldn't get to experience Pure Vinyl's digital RIAA correction—nor would you be able to avail yourself of all the equalization curves provide by Pure Vinyl, of which there are almost too many to count.
Michael Fremer  |  May 04, 2017  |  30 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  |  Oct 07, 2007  |  0 comments
Simaudio's Moon LP5.3 MM/MC phono preamplifier ($1400) is silly good! It has single-ended RCA inputs and both single-ended and true balanced-differential outputs. It also offers a wide range of adjustments for gain (54, 60, and 66dB), resistive loading (10, 100, 470, 1k, and 47k ohms), and capacitive loading (0, 100, and 470pF), all accomplished via a series of internally mounted jumper banks. You can even choose RIAA or IEC equalization. Removing the top plate to get to the adjustments reveals boards filled with high-quality parts for the well-isolated power-supply and signal-handling circuits.
Michael Fremer  |  May 15, 2005  |  0 comments
The $3000 moving-coil (MC) PhD, available from Chad Kassem's Acoustic Sounds operation, is a monumental achievement that, for me, sets new standards for the cleanness and transparency possible in a phono preamp—and I've had a lot of experience with phono preamps.
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 31, 2014  |  11 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".

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 26, 2016  |  41 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.

Malachi Lui  |  Feb 25, 2019  |  26 comments
An Amazon search for “phono preamp for turntable” (the last two words theirs) will yield approximately 395 results, and above most affordable Pro-Ject, Cambridge Audio, U-Turn, and Music Hall phono preamps are those of Pyle, a company that makes most every kind of easily affordable product; hifi and A/V components, pro audio products, fitness trackers, subwoofers for boats, kitchen appliances, pest controlling devices, and even security systems! Pyle makes several budget phono preamps with the same specifications, including the $18.99 (MSRP) PP444. Two of Pyle’s preamps have well over 1,000 reviews on Amazon (mostly from real humans as far as I can tell), so quite a few people are buying these for their audio setups. Pyle’s audio products haven’t gotten much coverage, so I gave the PP444 a try.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 16, 2015  |  14 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."

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