Phono Preamplifiers

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Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 27, 2020
hfnoutstandingReplacing the longstanding, and long-popular 834P, EAR's new PhonoBox is still tube-powered and comes with MC and volume options in addition to a 'deluxe' chrome finish

Acat among the pigeons: at a time when we are being treated to a range of superb phono stages at modest prices, what for me is the true milestone of the genre has just appeared in what must be its fourth or fifth generation. The new EAR-Yoshino PhonoBox (also called the Phonobox or Phono Box) is the replacement for the venerable 834P [HFN Jun '94], which has seen a few tweaks and variants over the years, most notably restyles to smarten up the otherwise purely functional styling.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 16, 2019
hfnoutstandingEuropean Audio Team's (EAT) third E-Glo phono preamplifier is half the price and size of the second – can the E-Glo Petit redefine the entry-level/high-end phono stage?

As the most affordable of EAT's three MM/MC phono stages, the new E-Glo Petit has its work cut out, as there are plenty of killer phono stages at this £1249 price point. Nevertheless you should still prepare to revel in a transistor/tube hybrid phono stage bursting with facilities, in a package – not counting the 18V wall-wart power supply – with a footprint of only 226mm wide by 250mm deep, plus sockets and wooden cheeks.

John Bamford  |  Jul 17, 2009
Kevin Edwards, founder and managing director of Talk Electronics in Surrey, is introducing a new range of ‘budget’ products under the brand name Edwards Audio. Unusually for such an enterprise the intention is to manufacture everything locally in the UK rather than design it here and have it made overseas. The manufacturer says this ensures better control of manufacturing quality. But as discussed before in the pages of HFN, the cost benefit of manufacturing in places such as China is fast reducing anyway due to increasing labour costs and the diminished value of the pound.
Ken Kessler and Paul Miller  |  Dec 16, 2011
Though celebrated for digital products, Esoteric cares more about analogue than you’d expect – the company’s E-03 phono stage joins the ranks of the greats. We’ve come so far down the digital path that we’re at a stage where there’s been a near-complete volte face in expectations: where once we awaited digital products from companies with their roots in analogue, we now entertain analogue products from companies with their roots in digital.
Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 04, 2022
hfnoutstandingLatest in Exposure's top-end compact series is this flexible MM/MC phono preamp, inspired by the XM3 Phono but with improved audio stages and an outboard PSU

Despite concerns over pressing delays and the availability of raw materials, the lure of vinyl seems to show no signs of abating, which explains why the selection of phono stages available now is greater than ever. The latest company to add to the audiophile wishlist is West Sussex-based Exposure Electronics, with the VXN Phono. This is the first 'source' item in the only-available-in-black VXN range, joining two-way and three-way active crossover units and the VXN Power Supply [HFN Feb '20].

John Bamford & Paul Miller  |  Apr 06, 2009
Hailing from Budapest, Hungary, Heed Audio first made a name for itself with its Orbit range of turntable power supplies, designed as add-on upgrades to turntables such as Rega and Linn. Subsequently Heed has brought to market a range of components designed to offer high performance at not-too-high prices, keeping costs down by utilising utilitarian metal boxes rather than fancily styled casework. This is a philosophy that has proved popular with audio enthusiasts for decades; some HFN readers may remember UK brands of yore such as Nytech and Ion Systems. There’s a family tie-up here, in that Heed Audio’s UK importer and distributor is Tsource Ltd of Cheltenham, run by one Robert Hay, and Robert’s father is Richard Hay who was the designer of Nytech and Ion Systems products way back when.
Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 13, 2021
hfnoutstandingFor a brand that once suggested it was never going to produce a phono stage, the vinyl revival has proved an irresistible force. So is Hegel's V10 firing on all cylinders?

It's always welcome when individuals or companies offer up their future plans. If not, we'd never have known that Sean Connery was to abandon James Bond after 1971's Diamonds Are Forever, that Ferrari would not be launching an SUV and that Norwegian hi-fi manufacturer Hegel had no intention of ever making a phono stage. Of course, Connery did return to his role of suave super-spy in 1983's Never Say Never Again, Ferrari's Purosangue SUV is due later this year, and here I am writing about Hegel's £1350 V10 phono stage.

Steve Harris & Paul Miller  |  Jul 16, 2010
For the Leicester-based company Icon Audio, the PS3 is a development prompted by its successful PS1 phono stage, now in MkII form. Both feature – as do its MP3 Mini Amp and HP8 headphone amp – the distinctive ‘peephole’ through which its complement of tubes may be glimpsed. For the PS3 phono stage, designer David Shaw has specified no fewer than seven triode valves including ECC88s and one 6SN7 for the output. The separate power supply unit has another six (EZ80, ECC83 and 5687 types) used for voltage rectification and regulation.
Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 06, 2021
hfnoutstandingFirst from a hand-selected portfolio of 'artisan' hi-fi separates, this pairing of low output tubes with high sensitivity speakers boasts a very special synergy... and sound

System matching remains as much an art as it does a science. There's always the easy route – opting for a collection of one-brand separates with the promise of full technical compatibility and the expectation of similar 'voicing' throughout. aSlightly trickier is the pairing of components from brands that have an overlap in their core design philosophies – a route that often leads to the most satisfying musical experience but which requires a depth of knowledge on the part of both enthusiast and friendly hi-fi dealer. The third route – random component selection and a reliance on blind luck is not one we'll be pursuing here!

Steve Harris & Paul Miller  |  Apr 16, 2010
We first reviewed this German two-box phono stage as part of a group test [see HFN Apr ’10]. The Lehmann Black Cube Decade (available with silver fascia or black) sits between the company’s Black Cube SE and reference Silver Cube phono stages. It features Lehmann’s flagship PWX II power supply (also available as an upgrade to other Lehmann audio products), its frontal aspect uniform with the phono stage itself except for a lack of any controls, and notably well-built. You can hide it away if you want, as the shielded power cable that joins the boxes via Neutrik connectors is 2m long.
Ed Selley  |  Jan 12, 2012
A product with performance that is hard to beat at the price. Founded in 1988, Germany’s Lehmann Audio offers an extensive series of phono stages which employ technology drawn from its pro-audio range of mixing consoles and the like. All Lehmann phono stages are based around passive RIAA filter designs and, according to Lehmann, the differences between models can be found ‘in the quality of the parts and/or in the grade of sophistication of the circuit design.
Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 20, 2022
hfnoutstandingFew brands can wrestle the combination of performance and adaptability from tube circuits with the flair of Manley Labs, and those skills are at the fore in the Chinook

It may be hard to believe, but I'm certain that the 2020s will be regarded as the golden age of standalone phono stages. How so? Simply by virtue of their plenitude, especially when you consider that this is vinyl's second time around. Manley's Chinook, continually refined during its near-decade in production, creates a phono amp sweet spot at £2699, blending fine sound with broad compatibility.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 22, 2022
hfncommendedStateside tube specialist, ModWright, trickles down tech from its Reference PH 150 into a more affordable all-valve MM/MC phono preamp, featuring an outboard PSU

Nothing yet has convinced me that we have seen any period, since hi-fi separates became a 'thing', when there were more phono stages than we have right now. I say this because the ModWright PH 9.0's price of £2900 puts it smack in the middle of an inordinately crowded sector. I'm obviously being naïve here, or just pretending that you can still go into any number of hi-fi shops and ask, 'Can I compare a few phono stages?'.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 12, 2020
hfnoutstandingWith input from the designer behind MoFi's cutting lathes, the UltraPhono (and StudioPhono) were conceived as high value partners for its affordable turntables

Are we in the midst of a Golden Age of Analogue? If you're returning to, or just discovering the vinyl LP, then yes, we are. Mobile Fidelity's UltraPhono is an example of what the industry can deliver when inspired, and clearly this is a response to the need for affordable phono stages to render suitable 30 years' worth of post-CD integrated amplifiers without phono stages. At £499, it's not for the impoverished analogue neophyte, but neither is it horrendously expensive by any measure.

Ed Selley  |  Jan 12, 2012
An immensely flexible design but somewhat sterile in use. Whether you’re an audiophile on a budget or you have deep pockets to fund a seriously high-end system, it’s likely that Musical Fidelity has a range of products to suit. MF’s ever expanding M1 series sits above the entry level V series and offers a choice of half-width separates in well made cases, based on its more expensive M3 and M6 models.

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