Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2 Phono Preamplifier Page 2

PM adds that 'much of this is lost through the passive RIAA EQ that follows – there's even a second tube gain stage between the two halves of the passive network. Thus the maximum gain available to the user is +65dB, just about spot-on for the vast majority of sane MCs. Furthermore, Pro-Ject is smart enough to ensure the Tube Box DS2's compatibility with likely partnering amplifiers by buffering its output, not via the triodes, but with a solid-state Burr-Brown op-amp'.

It's worth adding that, in addition to the above list of cartridges, my Tube Box DS2 has hosted, in addition to the aforementioned Pro-Ject Yellow Submarine, the EAT B-Sharp as well as two MoFi decks [HFN Jul '19 and Jan '20], the TechDAS Air Force III Premium [HFN Jun '19] and a venerable Thorens TD-150.

sqnoteGentle Giant
Listening to the remastered edition of James Taylor's Greatest Hits [Warner Bros R1 3113/603497852543], I was reminded of one of this phono stage's greatest qualities – quietness. I arrived at this through familiarity, because achieving this requires only the judicious application of the gain settings, to find the optimal amount relative to one's preamp or integrated amp and speakers.

Ordinarily, I am not too taken with the thought that 'Something In The Way She Moves' and 'Carolina On My Mind' were re-recordings rather than the Apple originals, but the openness of the Tube Box DS2 let me listen into the recording with 'new ears' – and a new pressing.

As I have quite a few hours on the EAT Jo No5 via this phono stage, it was a case of reaffirming what I already knew. And, lo and behold, the next tracks were my old friends, 'Fire And Rain' and 'Sweet Baby James', the original recordings remastered. With all respect to the MoFi UltraPhono, which I find to be an incredible device, the addition of that tube-y warmth worked magic on a voice that's already so honeyed as to border on the calorific.

But these are gentle recordings that do not tax a system, beyond demanding finesse. Asked to rock out, with Mobile Fidelity's superb new version of Twisted Sister's 1984 album Stay Hungry [MFSL-1492], 'We're Not Gonna Take It' (a song as familiar as the James Taylor tracks) enjoyed all of the overwhelming force a heavy anthem demands, and there was just enough softness at the upper reaches of the treble to add a frisson of 'tubeness' – arguably as much of a raison d'être for buying the Tube Box DS2 as its raft of facilities.

Rock Solid
This is not, however, to suggest for even the most fleeting of moments that one should 'de-raunch' (or should that be 'Dee-raunch'?) something as inherently and deliberately aggressive and volatile as Twisted Sister's harder-than-nails glam-metal. Bass was rock-solid and extended, as it was throughout the remastered James Taylor LP.


Moreover, the whole thing held together beautifully even during the most frantic moments, which is all the more surprising given that Pro-Ject's founder, and hard-core classical devotee, Heinz Lichtenegger probably knows about as much heavy metal as I do Andalusian poetry.

Another new arrival made me fall in love all over again with the Tube Box DS2, although my ardour hadn't waned at all over the past year. Al Di Meola, a guitarist of sublime subtlety as well as speed, recently released his second homage to The Beatles, Across The Universe [E-A-R Music/Edel 0214706EMU]. If you have no problem with instrumental covers of The Beatles' canon – and I clearly don't, owning a few hundred of them – this album of 14 tracks played in the Spanish guitar manner will surely dazzle you.

OK, so part of the challenge is keeping up with his runs, which have been accused of including too many notes, but this is like a demo LP for transient attack and detail. No blues, no smears, and a waft of the air and woodiness associated with acoustic guitar. The latter quality was never more pronounced than on, appropriately, 'Norwegian Wood', with tabla stage right to add some percussion in the spirit of the era.

This album, as did the James Taylor collection, provided the Tube Box DS2 with the opportunity to display its chops with soundstage. The width is broad enough to honour a Denon MC, but its big sister, the E-Glo Petit, just beats it for stage depth, audibly and repeatedly.

Then there's the bass: on 'Strawberry Fields Forever', it offers mass of Kodo proportions. Up top, it never sounds nasty or raspy, or comes across as too soft. There was gain a'plenty, but I'm sure there may be some oddball MC needing more. If there's anything else to criticise, I've yet to uncover it.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Here the verdict is a fait accompli as I have been using the Tube Box DS2 for over a year as my budget reference phono amp. It was enough that it handles two decks, has two outputs and adjustable loading to match any cartridge likely to cross my path. Above all, though, is the sublime valve-y sound: it's an absolute knock-out, even proving itself in an uber-high-end £100k system with a £10k MC. This is a killer.

Pro-Ject Audio Systems
Supplied by: Henley Audio Ltd, UK
01235 511166