Aurorasound VIDA Prima Phono Preamplifier Page 2

Rather, it gives a pretty matter-of-fact reading of the recording it's tasked to play, which is why the post-punk of The Jam's 'Strange Town' [Setting Sons; Polydor PD-1-6249] comes over as the slightly grey, lifeless and dour recording that it is, while Randy Crawford's soulful early '80s classic 'You Might Need Somebody' [Secret Combination; Warner Bros Records BSK 3541] is the exact opposite.

So the VIDA Prima is usefully transparent – being revealing of the less wonderful recordings without being too unforgiving, while letting the better ones shine. There's a welcome even-handedness and insight here, blended with a subtle smoothness. It's as if someone has slipped a few grains of sugar into your green tea, so you're not quite sure if it's been sweetened but it tastes nice all the same!

Its open and detailed sound goes a lot deeper into recordings than you might expect given its price. Rush's 'The Camera Eye' [Moving Pictures; Mercury 6337 160] was shown to have a dry and clinical sound – very much the fashion in 'serious' rock recordings back in the early '80s – with oodles of detail courtesy of its sophisticated multi-track production. This little box seemed to delight in delving in and having a good look around, successfully capturing the ambient feel of this track.

Behind The Scenes
The realistic texture of the synthesisers, for example, was a joy to hear, as was the crispness of the lead guitar and the sinewy thwack of the snare drum. Indeed, the VIDA Prima is better at communicating this sort of information than most phono stages at this price level, and this pays dividends with a really good recording. With the Rush LP there was a sense that it had been 'unlocked', and the listener had been allowed behind the scenes access. Everything from the tautness of the bass guitar to the smooth swish of the ride cymbal was a sonic pleasure.


This album also showcased the VIDA Prima's fine soundstaging, but things really flew with a less over-produced, classic jazz recording from the mid '60s. Lou Donaldson's 'Alligator Bogaloo' [Alligator Bogaloo; Blue Note 7842631] is typically post-bop with a modern jazz feel, but traditional production values include its pair of crossed microphones and tape recorder. Here the VIDA Prima set up some really powerful stereo imaging inside the recorded acoustic, giving a bold 'out of the box' feel to the various instrumentalists on stage.

Tactile Pleasures
While no match for true high-end solid-state or tube designs, the presentation here still sounded more expansive than you might expect. The VIDA Prima never failed to serve up a big and visceral recorded acoustic with plenty of air and space inside. Everything was carefully positioned, from the brass section and the Hammond organ to the drums and the double-bass.

Each was smartly delineated from the other, and you could clearly discern the space between them. Things had a pleasingly tactile quality, a sense of 'being there' right in the middle of the action.

The VIDA Prima's ability to nail a rhythm also never failed to impress. It's not one of those showy performers that are all about 'pace, rhythm and timing', yet it still manages to slot everything together really nicely. As The Human League's 'The Things That Dreams Are Made Of' [Dare; Virgin V2192] showed, it has an easy yet intricate style.

This early '80s synth pop track can sound a little deadpan and mechanical, but here its beats were beautifully syncopated with the lead vocals, and this gave the song a true sense of purpose. The VIDA Prima doesn't regiment everything into a metronomic rhythm with the result that you hear a false sense of speed and drive. Instead, it is supple and responsive without being overly controlled, and the overall effect is to bring a song to life.

So while this phono preamp may not be the grandest or punchiest of the breed, it still convincingly tracks the music's small accents and inflections. Whether I used MM or MC pick-ups, the VIDA Prima seemed particularly adept at simply stepping aside and letting me get on with enjoying the music.

And because it has such good manners – with a conspicuous lack of noise or hum – there's little sense of strain, regardless of the gain selected (the moving-magnet having only a slight advantage over the moving-coil input here). Either way, the VIDA Prima's insight, grip and evenness means that whatever front-end you use or recording you play, the music will be offered up with a spirit of joyfulness.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Once you look past the curious styling of Aurorasound's VIDA Prima, you'll not be able to stop yourself enjoying its sound. This quirky phono stage is a more exotic performer than most price rivals, with a sophisticated yet agile character that never intrudes on the music being played. As such, it's a pleasure to audition across a very wide range of vinyl. Full of eastern promise – so hear it if you possibly can.

Aurorasound Inc
Supplied by: Pure Sound, UK
01822 612449