Acoustic Sounds

Features: Phono Preamplifiers

Schiit's Skoll phono preamp is a wonder of miniaturization and efficient product design, that much is certain. The photo makes it appear larger than it really is, which is approximately 9"x6"x1.5". Now, that's compact and perhaps not unusual in itself but consider that it features both single-ended and balanced XLR inputs and output connectors. There's even a multi-pin jack for the special wall-wart that provided the chassis both 24VAC... Read More

Many Grails ago, in 2009, van den Hul introduced its original "The Grail" transimpedance-based MC/MM phono preamplifier. I reviewed it in 2018 when it cost $7950. Yes, it’s pretentious to name anything, but especially an audio product, “The Grail” but at least it wasn’t called “The Holy Grail” and it wasn’t packed in a cup and didn’t promise mystical healing powers. But it surely did deliver the promised outstanding sonic performance and it's still in... Read More

AVM’s Ovation PH 8.3 vacuum tube-based phono preamplifier is among the most versatile, useful, and well-conceived phono preamps I’ve yet encountered. How’s that for an opening paragraph? As with all models in the Ovation 8 series, the PH 8.3’s output stage uses a matched pair of AVM’s 803T tube, which is a 12AX7, modified per AVM’s specifications, that helps produce, according to the company, “an unmistakably charming tube sound”. BTW "AVM" stands for Audio... Read More

Maryland-based Black Ice Audio manufactures and markets an extensive line of vacuum tube-based audio products. The company had a long association with the late audio genius Jim Fosgate, who passed away in 2022.Rather than list Jim’s accomplishments here, please read his obit, though if you don’t, just know that among his many tech accomplishments Jim invented and licensed to Dolby what became Dolby Pro Logic II. It made him a well-deserved wealthy man, but it didn’t... Read More

Is high end audio practical? If you ask the average Joe on the street, a $5,000 set of speakers is not practical. However, if you ask Tracking Angle readers, my guess is most would think that $5,000 is a pretty reasonable price. One might even say that listening to vinyl is not practical. The Phonomena III phono preamplifier, when paired with the upgraded Linear Power Supply, is among the most practical and flexible phono stage you can buy.

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I figured before boxing it up and returning the MoFi Electronics MasterPhono I'd remove the top cover and give you a short guided tour. Read More

Put yourself in the shoes of an audio designer like industry veteran Peter Madnick. You are tasked with creating a phono preamplifier at a given price point. In the case of the MoFi MasterPhono phono preamplifer, around $6000. That puts it not at the “luxury” level, but well above “entry level.” Absent price constraints a designer can offer high sonic performance and a generous feature menu, but as the price drops, the higher becomes the tension between features and... Read More

A manufacturer arrived the other day to install a costly turntable that I won't identify here. We played some records and you can be sure it sounded really fine. I could probably write the review after that first listening session but of course I won't. Then I went into my utility room and played a record we'd just played, on the Michell Gyro SE (the review will shortly be published). He couldn't see the turntable nor did I identify it. But he... Read More

You’ll have to decide for yourself whether DS Audio President Tetsuaki “Aki” Aoyagi’s smarter move was instigating a 21st century version of the ‘70’s era optical phono cartridge or creating an open playing field upon which other companies could develop their own versions of the particular equalizer/preamplifier required to make the cartridge work.Aoyagi, an accountant by training with a family background in high-tech laser optics could probably have fashioned a... Read More

Lehmannaudio's original Black Cube, introduced in the late 1990's and still in production, set a high bar for what a moderately priced phono preamp could accomplish. Since then the Cologne, Germany-based company has added a top of the line Silver Cube in 2002 (now costing $4699) and over time filled in the price points in-between with the Decade in 2005 (celebrating the company's 10th anniversary), the Black Cube Statement a year later (among other... Read More

Even if you don't collect 78rpm records and can't understand why anyone would want to listen to crackling, breakable 3 minute obsolete antiques, consider that streamers and CD fans think the same of people who collect vinyl records. Of course, we know better, and you can believe so do 78rpm collectors.Regardless of your enthusiasm or not for 78s you are sure to enjoy Amanda Petrusich's book "Do Not Sell At Any Price" subtitled "The Wild,... Read More

Priced from $99 to $1500, these 5 phono preamplifiers offer fine build quality and sound to match. Equally important: they are from stable companies that will exist when in the future you might need customer support. Of course, there are many others worth noting but we want to avoid a laundry list here. Meanwhile, as in “Miracle on 34th Street”, where Macy’s Santa sent people to Gimbel’s, please visit my “former endeavor” and scroll through the phono preamp reviews.... Read More