Phono Preamplifiers

Sort By: Post DateTitle Publish Date
Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 24, 2021
hfnoutstandingJoining the M3scd CD player/DAC and M3si amplifier, the new M3x Vinyl represents the brand's 'entry-level' MM/MC phono preamp. We lift the lid on a novel design

Scratching my head, I remain amazed at the plethora of affordable phono stages now on offer, as if to prophesy that the LP's return has no end in sight. Either that or it's sheer opportunism, but hey, that's all good news for hi-fi users. What these phono preamps do is ensure that LPs are accessible to a wider audience than high-end devices serve, while filling the gap between the costly stuff and those £99 USB-equipped decks which probably chew up more LPs than they actually play. Musical Fidelity's M3x Vinyl, however, begs a different sort of question.

Christopher Breunig & Paul Miller  |  Jan 06, 2009
It was something of a surprise to open NAD’s substantially sized packing box to find the PP 2 is only 135 x 35 x 70mm (whd). The review sample came in a dark grey metal enclosure but a lighter ‘Titanium’ finish is available too (see picture). All you have to do is connect tonearm leads either to the MM or MC pair of labelled rear RCA phono input sockets, and switch accordingly, attach the arm earth lead to a screw terminal and plug in the ‘wall-wart’ mains transformer. Mains-on is indicated by a small green front-panel LED.
Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 19, 2022
hfnoutstandingReplacing the longstanding VPS, Nagra's Classic Phono is not only significantly more flexible but its technical and sonic performance also marks an equally significant uplift

Acelebratory cake is in order. Swiss high-end manufacturer Nagra turned 70 last year, and its birthday present to itself is something of a first for the company. That's for another time, but I'm not giving too much away by saying that, when it arrives, it will make the perfect partner to the item under review here – the £17,000 Classic Phono MM/MC phono stage.

Review: Nick Tate, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 01, 2018
hfncommended.png‘Junior’ in name and certainly less substantial in build than its flagship stablemate, this latest take on the JC3 theme turns out to be an even more flexible MM/MC phono stage

Does the world really need another phono stage? Back in the late 1980s the Michell ISO was a rare standalone product, but since then there has been a steady stream of the things, multiplying in numbers like Tribbles on Star Trek’s USS Enterprise. We’re now at the point where it feels as though there are as many designs on sale as there are people to buy them – so any new entry has to have a compelling raison d’être.

Ed Selley  |  Jan 12, 2012
The full sized casework is matched by the large and lively sound. Uncomplicated Scandinavian design’ is how Primare defines its ethos and a quick glance at the R32’s front panel tells you that this phono stage is truly living Primare’s ‘brand values’. Since it measures 430x95x380mm (whd) and weighs a substantial 8. 5kg, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve been sold a power amp in the wrong box. Of course much of this weight can be attributed to the R32’s case, with its 8mm-thick front plate and solid feet.
Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 09, 2020
hfnoutstandingPrimare's 'Prisma push' may have focused resources into network-enabling its amplifiers and CD players, but its new flagship phono pre proves its love of vinyl has not waned

Even the most ardent vinyl enthusiasts will admit that they can get bamboozled by the whole process of cartridge loading and gain matching. Some MMs and MCs can be quite particular about the load resistance and capacitance that they 'see', just as most phono stages will have a 'sweet spot' gain setting that varies from pick-up to pick-up. So there's a great deal to be said for a flexible phono stage that offers numerous adjustments. On the other hand I can appreciate the popularity of designs where the complexity extends to nothing more than an MM/MC switch!

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 18, 2020
hfnoutstandingAlongside its range of turntables, Pro-Ject's diverse Box series of hi-fi separates – from streamers to phono preamps – has come to define the 'world vision' of its founder

One of the nicest by-products of the vinyl revival is the constant flow of affordable phono stages, essential to allow newcomers to adapt to LP playback the line-level-only integrated amps that have proliferated since 1983. Thorens, Mobile Fidelity, Musical Fidelity, NAD, Cambridge – there are too many to list, but the go-to brand for me is the one that also 'owns' the entry-level turntable market: Pro-Ject.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 27, 2022
hfnoutstandingMoving-coil pick-ups are inherently 'balanced' and Pro-Ject is determined to reveal them at their best with this balanced-wired version of the X2 deck and phono preamp

One burning question is begged by the arrival of Pro-Ject's X2 B turntable and Phono Box S3 B phono stage: why did it take so long for the industry to simplify a balanced vinyl-playing front-end? It's not like balanced operation wasn't adopted by high-end listeners decades ago as superior to single-ended for both line-level sources – DACs and top-flight CD players – and pre-to-power amp connections. MC cartridges are inherently balanced. So why the wait?

Review: Jonathan Gorse, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 23, 2020
hfnoutstandingForty-five years after the launch of its inaugural phono preamp, PS Audio launches another, this time in Stellar guise, and with the emphasis on flexibility with convenience

Large by phono preamp standards, PS Audio's Stellar Phono is built into the same full-width silver grey or black chassis as its partners in the new Stellar range [HFN Jan '20]. Nevertheless, it's also considerably heavier at a full 10kg because the casework here is steel, not alloy, perhaps in an effort to improve screening. Having asked PS Audio, it seems likely that all Stellars will move from alloy to steel enclosures in time.

John Bamford & Paul Miller  |  Nov 17, 2009
While there’s little that’s grand looking about RCM Audio’s Sensor Prelude phono amplifier, despite it costing considerably in excess of a grand, close inspection reveals that it has been purposefully designed. A substantial brushed alloy fascia disguises what is otherwise a rather utilitarian metal case. But there’s little to complain about its construction quality, other than the cheapness of the stuck-on rubber feet. A separate power supply box connects via an umbilical cable of fixed length and locking DIN connector while the cable is generous in length to allow remote placement.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 13, 2015
Rothwell Audio has been going for a quarter of a century, mostly making guitar effects pedals. Its hi-fi range encompasses three moving-coil step-up transformers, two MM-only phono stages, a valve preamplifier, interconnects and attenuators. Rothwell’s first phono stage was launched at the 1990 London Hi-Fi Show. The Rialto MM/MC phono stage is tiny and perhaps no oil painting in aesthetic terms.
Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 05, 2021
hfnoutstandingWho better than a legendary turntable maker to offer a go-to, affordable, universal phono stage? The Thorens MM-008 looks set to shake up the entry-level sector

If anyone still doubts the extent of the LP renaissance, beyond the use of turntables as a trope for cool ads aimed at hipsters, the plethora of affordable gear coming from purist brands known for high-end price points should convince them otherwise. Forget those £69, all-plastic 'record players' sold online to snare newbies: when a company such as Thorens brings out a phono stage like this £220 MM-008, it indicates that renewed LP usage is not the sole province of seasoned audiophiles. Or, indeed, wealthy ones.

Ed Selley  |  Nov 16, 2011
Matching clever technology with exacting build, the Trilogy is an engaging performer. Superbly put together, the Trilogy 907 is machined out of a solid billet of aluminium. Its made-tohide- away outboard supply shares the same footprint and needs to be separated by at least 250mm, with allowance for ventilation. It elicited sighs of admiration from audiophiles to whom we was showed it.
Richard Holliss  |  Nov 03, 2014
The GT version of the Tron Seven phono preamplifier marks the ultimate evolution of the series design. The range starts with a MM base model, with the MC variant next. The Reference model adds high quality resistors and capacitors; the Ultimate adds silver-wired MC transformers and ‘four nines’ silver internal wiring. It also has twin switched inputs, with MM/MC, or MC/MC options.
Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 04, 2021
hfnoutstandingFrom California via London comes the shapely form of Zesto's Andros phono preamp – all tubes and transformers and now, courtesy of an uprated PSU, in 'Deluxe II' guise

If you demand full control over your cartridges, an all-singing/all-dancing phono preamp like the Zesto Andros Deluxe II is the only thing that will suffice. At £7500, it occupies the lower reaches of the extreme phono stage market – there are £40k-plus units if you're inspired to go further – but one should still be hyper-critical when the market is awash with exceptional, fully-adjustable phono amps for under £1000.

Pages

X