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Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Ultimate Phono Stage - Part 4


As promised in part 3 about this phono preamp, here some more photos and some sound impressions.

I have been living with this unit for some time now. This helps to get a good feel for it's capabilities and is better than writing in the first excitement when a newly finished device is used for the first time. Especially when only the finest parts and tubes are used as in this one, there is quite some expectation bias.

So can the use of silver transformers really improve upon the already magnificently sounding copper version?

Yes, absolutely! The improvements are similar as heard between the copper and silver versions of the line stage. Especially in combination with the matching ultimate line stage, this is a revelation.

Please forgive the ranting and keep in mind I am building these preamps for a living. So judge my impressions accordingly. Whoever is interested can have a listen to this at my place to get his own impression.

The total absence of capacitors in the signal loops enables these to dig out details from the recordings which have not been apparent before. Tiniest details in the background become visible. And this without distracting from the musical flow. It just adds to the ambience and realism of the presentation.  Voices are simply life like. The nuances and especially decay of each tone is extremely well articulated. A curious side effect: I suddenly also heard flaws in some recordings which I was not aware of before. Like pre echoes from the master tape. Such things are audible in any good system, but I am hearing more of these things now than before. Also on some tracks I heard a slight hum which first disturbed me because I thought something is wrong in the system, only to realise that it was on the recording and it faded out at the end of the track. Now this might seem as a disadvantage, but once realised what it is it didn't spoil the enjoyment. The beauty of the recording is still there, even if it is a mediocre one. This combination of phono stage and line stage is brutally honest.

There is simply more of everything and the records are even more joy to listen to than before. Bass tones are more defined and even the lowest bass notes reveal all the subtle details in the structure of the overtones. Many many shades of dark brown, grey and dark blue, never dipping into an artificial blackness. Just how I like it.

Enough of the ranting. This does not make the copper version a worse performer than it was before, or the single ended variants. They are all fine units and I can happily live with them even after I heard this all silver combination.

Here a view of the back side:

XLR and RCA in and outputs for maximum flexibility. Switches for selecting in and output modes.

Best regards



  1. Just curious which of your power amps did you use this with for your tests?

    1. I currently have the 211 amps with 801A driver and tango transformers in the demo system. These: