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Audio Ideas: Being Transformed

Andrew Marshall, 2008In the past year I’ve gone through an experience I never expected, the process of moving from the best head amp I’d ever used to a series of transformers in my phono system. It all started with the final fate of my twice-retipped Ortofon MC-3000 MK II, which was to become mono, the left-channel coil failing. And the thing about this wonderfully civilized and detailed cartridge was its very low output, a nominal 30 microvolts, which dictated the active MC stage, the legendary McIntosh MCP-1…”

Firestone Audio Korora MC/MM Phono Preamp

Korora Small“Nothing terribly shocking in the basic description department, the Korora being a small metal box made in China, with RCA ins and outs, a light on the front to tell you it’s on and a small outboard power supply. What is a little more interesting, however, is the fact that the Korora can run off an internal rechargeable battery and/or off the power supply. Simply yank the plug and any AC power noise is history, at least for eight to ten hours, which is how long the charge is said to last…”

Tom Evans Microgroove Phono Preamp

Graham Slee Era Gold V

“Finally we come to the second product named after its designer, and the most visually unassuming of the bunch. Like most Tom Evans gear the Microgroove is housed in an enclosure of shiny black plastic, Tom’s belief being that non-metallic enclosures do a better job of resisting electro-magnetic interference…”

Pro-Ject Tube Box Phono Preamp

Graham Slee Era Gold V

“In comparison to the Graham Slee the Tube Box, from Austrian turntable giant Pro-Ject, is more of a switch hitter, as it’s configurable for both low output and high output cartridges. In MM mode (40 dB of gain) the Tube Box, like the Era Gold, is setup for standard 47k Ohm impedance. In MC mode (60 dB of gain) it can be configured, via a set of DIP switches, for 100, 220, or 1000 Ohms…”

Graham Slee Era Gold V Phono Preamp

Graham Slee Era Gold V

“Of the two eponymous British phono preamps on review here the Graham Slee Era Gold Mk 5 is the prettier little box, a simple, silver-faced brick with no lights or controls whatsoever. On its rear you’ll find gold-plated RCA inputs and outputs, a grounding post, and an input for the 24 volt outboard power supply…”

Rotel RQ-970 BX and Anthem Pre 1P Phono Preamplifiers

Anthem Pre 1P Phono Stage

“Vastly different in both design and price these two phono preamps have also made major contributions to my blah busting system over the past several weeks. They both accept moving coil and moving magnet cartridges, but beyond that the similarities end…”

AcousTech Electronics PH-1 Phono Preamplifier

Acoustech Phono Preamp

“… Now that preamplifiers are coming mostly with line-level inputs only, outboard phono stages are proliferating. It’s not a new concept to me, having owned the Bryston version for many years: I bought their professional BP-1 to use in my home broadcast production studio. I still use it for more casual listening, finding it superior to that inside my 11B preamp in terms of resolution and spatiality…”

Linn Linto Phono Preamplifier

Linn Linto Phono Preamplifier

“Outboard phono preamplifiers are becoming a necessity for vinyl lovers trading up their systems because few current preamplifiers contain phono stages. Virtually all of these take the signal from its beginning right to line level, unlike many moving coil stepup devices, and the Linto is no exception, with 64 dB of gain. Cutting an internal wire reduces this to 54 dB in cases where the MC output is unusually high, and lights the Linto’s red front panel LED on peaks…”


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