Burning Amp 2018 on the Horizon!

Hey DIYer’s, this year’s Burning Amplifier Festival is arriving a little bit early.

Sunday, September 30, to be exact and it will be held again at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center.

Legendary amplifier designer Nelson Pass will be there with Wayne Colburn and Roger Modjeski to look and listen to your designs, should you bring them, and discuss what they’ve been up to as well.

It’s a great get together and I had a fantastic time attending last year. Here are the pertinent links you need:



Held annually in the fall since 2007, BAF has grown into a premier international event for DIY audio enthusiasts and professionals. BAF celebrates technology new and old and they invite you to bring your own gear to show and tell. Admission is free to anyone bringing their own gear.

There will be displays and lectures by Nelson, Wayne and Roger.

Last year’s event had some pretty cool stuff, and it’s always a treasure trove of information to talk to these guys as well as share ideas amongst the group. Book your trip now, as this place only has room for 110 people. Hope to see you there!

Issue 90


Old School:

Jerold O’Brien revisits the Shure V15 III!


REGA’s FONO MC is a steal
By Jerold O’Brien

Journeyman Audiophile:

The Boulder 508 Phonostage
By Jeff Dorgay

In Praise of the Party Table:

Get Something for the whole family


Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews

Kate Koeppel Record Dividers

Van Halen Board Shorts

Big Chill Fridge

and more….


Playlists:  We share our readers choices from around the world

Can’t Get it Out of my Head
By Emily Duff

Future Tense

JBL L-100 Reissues

Sugden A21 SE Integrated

Pass Labs XP-27

and more…

This Month’s Gear: Upscale Analog!

The EAT E-Glo phonostage

Grand Prix Audio Parabolica Turntable

Band-WIDTH Kaskode 1 Phonostage

VPI’s Avenger Reference

Artisan Fidelity Garrard 301

and more…

The Grado Statement 2 Cartridge

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Grado Labs. This Brooklyn company, also known for their diverse crop of headphones has been making incredible phono cartridges for decades now. All the way down to their entry level cartridges, Grado stands for high performance and supreme value.

When the original Statement made its way here about 8 years ago, it’s combination of midrange warmth and sheer musicality won over everyone that experienced it. On many levels the original Grado Statement had outdone the revered Koetsu in my cartridge collection in the magic department. Realizing that “magic” is a pretty tough thing to quantify, the Statement’s ability to breathe life into well worn recordings was tough to argue with. The only fault with the original Statement was its moderate tracking ability – it just couldn’t negotiate the most difficult records in my collection without a bit of mistracking.

The Statement 1 a few years later proved a tremendous improvement in performance. We try not to exhaust our adjective glands here, but the more music any component can reveal without damage, the more we see that as a “best” choice. You may have different priorities, but these are ours. Keeping that bias, if you will, in mind, the Statement 1 improved on all the original Statments pluses without any loss of that musical magic. Now a much better tracker, the Statement 1 also brought more extension at both ends of the frequency spectrum. What started as a damn good bargain for $3,500 was now a world class cartridge for $3,500.

Grado has kept the price the same and doubled the performance of the Statement 2. Still, the incredibly rich tonal character of this transducer remains intact, yet the level of extension and refinement is mind blowing for a $3,500 cartridge. That’s American know how, and it doesn’t hurt to have over five decades of experience on  your resume.

Zooms through the grooves

This is made instantly clear spinning the Windham Hill classic, Michael Hedges Aerial Boundaries. The quick paced, plucky, dynamic style that was uniquely Hedges’ explodes from between my speakers. While accentuating the different characteristics of the phonostages used for this review (Pass Labs XS Phono, Audio Research REF Phono 3 and conrad-johnson TEA 1s2) the Statement 2 keeps its own personality no matter what it’s plugged into. Regardless of what phonostage you posess, rest assured that the Statement 2 will not be the limiting factor.

Making use of four coils, this moving iron design has a lower moving mass than even the most delicate moving coil cartridge. This results in the killer transient response experienced with even the most complex musical pieces. It also helps the Statement 2 extract more music from the mediocre records in your collection as well, making it a better choice as a “do everything” cartridge. Where some ultra high-end cartridges narrow their focus so much, they only sound lovely with your best recordings, the Grado Statement 2 allows all the records in your collection to give their best.

Ironically, the Statement 2 joins a few of the other components reviewed this issue in terms of providing a high level of balance in the performance that it delivers. No one aspect of performance is compromised over another. Hand cured wood body notwithstanding, if the Statement 2 were an automobile, it would be a new Corvette Z06. You could spend three times more money for a Ferrari or an Aston Martin and you would get more prestige. You might even get more looks from the valet parking your car. But in terms of sheer performance, the mighty Corvette leaves nothing on the table to its much more expensive European rivals.

The same can be said for the Statement 2. I’ve got a handful of five figure phono cartridges. The Statement 2 runs with them all and on some levels bests them. It’s my new choice as the daily driver high performance cartridge, and the synergy with my Audio Research REF Phono 3 is out of this world good. I’d put that combination up against anything at any price. You can spend $15k on an Atlas or a Goldfinger. I’ll pocket the difference and take a nice vacation instead. The Statement 2 kicks that much ass, seriously.

Easy setup

As with past models, the Statement 2 is very easy to set up. Using the Feickert Protractor, along with a bit of listening, I had the Statement 2 optimized in about 20 minutes and I was being fussy. Grado suggests a range of tracking force of 1.5 to 1.9 grams and I found happiness on the Ortofon TA_110 tonearm closer to 1.9 grams and about 1.7 on the new TriPlanar. (another splendid match for this cartridge)

Because of the Moving Iron design, this cartridge is loaded at 47k ohms and with the 1mv output, you can use it with a lot of phonostages that might only be considered MM, giving it more flexibility than you might think. With the ARC REF Phono 3, the low gain setting worked fine, as with the Pass XS Phono.

Dynamic and quiet

Looking back on my listening notes over a few months’ time, there are a lot of comments on how quiet this cartridge is. Whatever the exact stylus profile it is that the Statement 2 has, it seems to hug the grooves better than most that I’ve auditioned. Again, the extra tracking ability of this cartridge over its predecessor is a welcome upgrade.

Where some cartridges can sound either flat or overblown, regardless of musical selection, classical pieces sound as big as required, yet even the most delicate string ensemble recordings retain their lightness, the Statement 2 serves the music totally, never really imparting a signature sound. Where my favorite Koetsu cartridges tend to round the fine details off, ever so slightly, like a great tube amplifier from the 60s, the Statement 2 does a better job at providing a high level of tonal saturation while retaining tonal contrast and the most minute details. The result is an incredibly lively presentation overall.

Both ends of the frequency spectrum are equally intoxicating. Whether tracking through Jaco Pastorius ripping up the fretless neck of his instrument, Stanley Clarke playing a standup bass, or Deadmau5 scratching, this cartridge has a powerful lower end. The top end is just as exciting, with acoustic instruments sounding natural and correct, yet Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music keeps it’s composure without grating into your skull, as it can on a cartridge less refined.

Does it all

With premium phono cartridges costing more than used BMW’s these days, if you can even get one, it’s refreshing to see Grado holding the line on the price of the Statement 2. This is a no compromise cartridge that is so reasonably priced it begs for one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2017. There is no reason to spend more money than this on a top phono cartridge. I give the Statement 2 my highest recommendation.

The Grado Statement 2 Phono Cartridge

MSRP:  $3,500



Turntables                 Feickert Blackbird with Ortofon TA-110 arm and TriPlanar

Phonostage                Pass XS Phono, Audio Research REF Phono 3

Preamp                      Pass XS Pre

Power Amp                Pass XS 300 Monoblocks

Cable                          Cardas Clear

Speakers                    Focal Sopra no.3, MartinLogan Neolith, Sonus faber El Cremonese, Quad 2812

The Luxman PD-171A Turntable

You don’t even have to play a record on the Luxman PD-171A to know it’s unique.

Taking it out of its deliberately packaged container, with small bags for every individual part that goes with it – no detail, no matter how little is left unturned. After lifting the heavy base unto your rack or shelf of your choice, you’ll need to lower the finely machined platter onto the bearing, and then you get the final dose of the PD-171As attention to detail. There are two finely machined, threaded holes in the platter for a pair of handles that screw in to help you gently and squarely lower the platter without damaging the bearing.

I highly suggest photographing every step of unboxing your PD-171A, just in case you ever have to move and need to box it back up. And I highly recommend that once you mount your cartridge of choice, just spend a few minutes to step back and absorb the sheer mechanical beauty before you. Every surface of this table is so finely machined, it is of jewel-like quality. This is no ordinary record player. Much as I like the new $4,000 Technics SL-1200G, the difference in aesthetic and fine machining quality is like parking a Kia next to a Porsche GT3. The Luxman is in a league of its own, and for me, redefines the expression “fit and finish.” I’ve unboxed turntables costing five times more that have nowhere near the attention to fine detail that the Luxman has. Do I sound smitten?

Which version do you prefer?

The A in the PD-171A stands for “arm.” This model, tipping the scale at $6,495, features a pre-mounted tonearm that appears to be Jelco derived, and uses a standard 5-pin, DIN-like socket. A high-quality tonearm cable is included but allows those so inclined to use their tonearm cable of choice if they already have one. There is also an “AL” (armless) version of this table for slightly less. Finally, those wanting to put an even better arm on the PD-171A can get a blank arm board and customize their analog player more, later. A lovely set of options.

Luxmans direct drive turntables are legendary, yet the PD-171A is a belt drive table. It works flawlessly, and checking speed accuracy with our Analog Magik software suite confirms the PD-171A to have nearly perfect speed accuracy – as good as the direct drive Technics SL-1200G. However, like every other turntable we have plugged into it, we did notice even tighter speed regulation when the PD-171A is plugged into the PS Audio P20 Power Plant.

It’s interesting how Luxman pays homage to their past direct drive tables, by offering speed adjustments and a mirrored window to observe speed control in the same manner that their direct drive tables used to provide. Again, no detail is left unattended.

Thanks to Luxman enclosing all of the necessary tools required to set all the parameters of the PD-171A, you should be able to have it utterly optimized in 30-60 minutes, depending on how fussy you are. Visual alignment was done with the Acoustic Systems SmartTractor system, and even at this point, the Kiseki Purple Heart cartridge was making incredible sound. Fine tuning to perfection with the Analog Magik software suite had the Kiseki/Luxman combination fully optimized about 20 minutes later.

Let’s go!

With all aspects of the cartridge adjusted, it’s time to listen. Rather than start with something familiar, the first record up is the Steven Wilson remix of Yes’ Close to the Edge. This proves so engaging that a full evening’s worth of comparing this version to the originals in my collection quickly unfolds. Always a perfect testament to a superior component. Those loving the physical aspect of playing a record as much as actually hearing it will be in heaven with the PD-171A. It is such a joy to use. Firm in its execution, yet intimate in its operation.

The PD-171A was used in both of my reference systems and with a wide range of cartridges to get a feel for its parameters. First, in my primary system with the Pass Labs XS Phono, so that it could be compared to my two reference turntables, the Brinkmann Bardo with RoNT power supply and the Grand Prix Audio Parabolica with a TriPlanar arm. These tables are worth 2-3 times what the PD-171A is, yet this gives a clear picture of its total capabilities.

The big direct drive tables surpass the PD-171A in retrieving the tiniest of details, and in the maximum amount of extension they can deliver at both ends of the frequency spectrum. Yet to be fair, this is in the context of a nearly $400k system and a $45,000 phonostage. What the PD-171A does provide, in spades, is a level of musical coherence that is relaxed and inviting, and of a similar voice as all the other Luxman components I’ve had the pleasure to use over the years.

Using the PD-171 in system two, in concert with the Pass INT-60 amplifier, Pure Audio Project Trio 15 horns and the EAT E-Glo phonostage, proves to be as near perfection as one could ask for. Quickly comparing this table to an older Linn LP-12 shows the new table to be much more refined tonally and offering a cleaner rendition of the musical material presented. Going back and forth comparing it to a VPI Classic Two, an AVID Volvere SP and the Kubrick HDX is incredibly exciting.

In the end, the PD-171A has a similar character to the Linn and VPI, yet with more resolution. It manages to provide all the attributes of a classic belt drive turntable, with all the sonic sophistication of the best modern turntables. It will only take a track or two for you to completely forget about the turntable and immerse yourself in the music being played.

Further listening

After a short stint in the main reference system, the PD-171A was moved to system two, based on the PASS INT-60, Raidho XT-2 speakers, and the recently acquired Boulder 508 phono stage. Though the Boulder is the primary reference here, we achieved excellent results with the EAT E glo phono stage, as well as the conrad-johnson TEA-1sa phono. Thanks to the removable headshell, a number of other cartridge combinations were easy to investigate. The $3,295 Kiseki makes a lovely mate for the Luxman table/arm combination, bringing the entire price just under $10k, and I suspect that this will probably be around what many PD-171A owners will look to invest. You can go a bit further upscale than this, but $2k-$3k is a price/performance sweet spot here.  For now, the Boulder phono proves outstanding, but we are looking forward to auditioning the all-tube Luxman EQ-500 phono stage when one becomes available.

Regardless of program material, the PD-171A doesn’t contribute even the slightest bit of mechanical noise to the sonic picture, and thanks to its incredible speed stability, paints a full musical picture in all three dimensions.

Highs remain defined and focused, yet the PD171A feels more like a direct drive table in the lowest registers, both regarding extension and drive. Absent also, is a complete lack of upper midbass fogginess, that can add a bit of romance to the presentation, but take away from pace and definition. Bass laden heavy rock and EDM tracks through the PD-171A maintain their authority and never lose impact.


After playing hundreds of LPs through the PD-171A, the respect for this manufacturer only grows stronger. Where so many good, even great turntables perform their required tasks without issue, there is something extra present in the PD-171A (and again, I venture to say all Luxman products) that makes the sheer act of using this table a pure joy.

For those of you thinking this is overly hyped reviewer-speak, I submit that if you are appreciative of this aspect of all things mechanical, you will find it hard not to be enthused with this turntable. Should such things not move you, the PD-171As performance will still impress. It did not take many records to convince me I needed to own this turntable. I’ve owned a good many turntables in the last 35 years, and I have to say this is one of my true personal favorites.

The Luxman PD-171A Turntable




Cartridges                   Kiseki Purpleheart, Grado Statement 2, Clearaudio Titanium

Phonostage                 Boulder 508, EAT E glo, conrad-johnson TEA 1sa

Amplifier                     Pass Labs INT 60

Speakers                     Raidho XT-2 w/2 REL t7i subwoofers

Power                          PS Audio P20

Cable                           Cardas Clear

A Small Miracle From Jern

After an impressive showing at this year’s Munich High End show, the tiny Jern 14EH monitors are indeed impressive at first listen.

Combining high quality ScanSpeak drivers, a 6db/octave crossover network and a cast iron enclosure that redefines the word “inert,” put in perspective of the new Wilson desktop speakers tipping the scales at nearly $11,000/pair, the Jern’s decimate the Wilsons at less than half the price. Even adding a pair of REL t5i subs to the mix and you’ve still got nearly $4k left to buy a nice integrated amp. (and for that kind of money, the PrimaLuna HP Integrated is a splendid choice.

And while beauty may be indeed in the eyes of the beholder, we think the Jern’s are way more fashion forward than those $11k/pair items. If you are looking for a killer pair of desktop, or near field monitors, these are indeed very impressive. More to come with a full review soon.

Editors note: I was just informed by Steve French that these are actually the new EH models, fitted with their latest Hiquphon tweeters and updated crossovers, which explains why these sound even better than what I remember at the show.

Also, we are the first members of the press to have the latest pair, so we are excited to be producing the world’s first review on these!  Stay tuned.


6022 Ardele Court
Apopka, FL 32703
[email protected]

Grand Prix Audio’s Parabolica Turntable

Last year, I had to curb my enthusiasm for the Grand Prix Audio Monaco 2.0 turntable, boldly calling it the best turntable I’d ever heard – a claim that I don’t make lightly.

If you got $10 for every time I’ve out and out called something the best in nearly 90 issues of TONEAudio, you’d have about 20 or 30 bucks in your pocket. Not even enough cash to buy dinner at Applebees. A year later, I stand behind my judgment of the Monaco 2.0. It’s still the best turntable I’ve heard. And by that, I mean it reveals more music with less alteration of the signal contained in the record grooves than anything else I’ve experienced. And I’ve been doing the turntable thing seriously for about 35 years now if that’s worth anything.

However, not everyone has $37,000 plus tonearm and cable to spend on a turntable. Grand Prix Audio’s other turntable, the Parabolica (named after one of the fastest curves in Formula One) tips the scale at a much lighter $17,000, offering many of the strengths of the flagship table. Granted, that’s still a fair amount of cash for a record player, but those of you already owning a table in the $3k – $10k range, looking to increase the resolution of your analog setup, (especially if you’re closer to the higher part of this range, and just happen to have a fantastic tonearm already) this is nowhere near the same financial stretch the 2.0 represents.

To save those of you crunched for time wanting to know the answers to the big questions, they are yes, yes, and no. Is the Parabolica awesome? Is it an incredible value? Is it just as good as the Monaco 2.0 for less than half the price?

Many of the features that make the Monaco 2.0 so inspiring are present on the Parabolica. The sexy, carbon fiber construction and the precision direct drive encoder that gives this table its phenomenal speed accuracy, but the more expensive table benefits from an even higher quality motor, power supply and a superior record clamping system as part of a more advanced platter. No, you can’t update the Parabolica’s clamp with the clamping pressure indicator system from the Monaco, in case you are wondering.

Keeping in the spirit of the Monaco review, I began the listening sessions of the Parabolica with the same TriPlanar 2.0 tonearm used for the prior table. Staffer Jerold O’Brien was kind enough to let me snag his Lyra Etna cartridge for a week, so the review could begin where we started on the Monaco 2.0, but the rest of my listening was done with the Grado Statement 2.0 and a few other cartridges. Thanks to its quick release tonearm board, swapping arm/cartridge combos with the Parabolica is incredibly easy. This operation is not quite as effortless with the Monaco 2.0, so if you are someone wanting to do this on a regular, keep this in mind.

Simple setup

Still, the Monaco 2.0 and the Parabolica remain two of the easiest tables to set up that I’ve experienced. Thanks to the direct drive motor (click here to get the full tech analysis here at the GPA website), there’s no platter to fuss with, no belts to string. GPA mentions that removing the platter voids the warranty and will probably damage the direct drive system. Unbox it, put it on top of its three feet, and install your tonearm. A small, external power supply plugs in at the back. Unlike the Monaco 2.0, which controls power and speed from its larger, external supply, the Parabolica hides the computer inside the base and uses a simple capacitive switch to control power and speed. I like the simplicity of this better.

Because this turntable retrieves such a high level of detail, it requires commensurate care in tonearm setup and as Mr. Lloyd says in the manual, “Patience and perfectionism are the order of the day. It is not OK unless it is perfect.” If you have a relatively high-performance car and you’ve spent the extra money to have a four-wheel alignment done, you know what I’m talking about.

Lloyd also talks about the importance of a proper platform to put his turntable on. As I’ve been using his outstanding Monaco equipment racks for the last year, that base is covered. Moving the Parabolica to a standard wood rack will shrink the size of the three-dimensional picture somewhat; so be warned, you just might need to spend a little more dough to get the most out of your GPA table. As you would with any premium turntable.

Though the TriPlanar arm has been here for a while, and I’m comfortable setting it up, former TONE contributor Richard Mak’s new Analog Magik software suite and test record had just arrived at the beginning of this review. Mr. Mak is the most capable analog setup tech I’ve ever met. He stopped by to set up a few of our tables last year, and it was like having Michael Schumacher bring the Ferrari pit crew over to tune and align your car, with a driving lesson afterward.

Mak has done the analog community a tremendous service by making the personal software tools that he has custom designed available with a proprietary test record with Analog Magik. (www.analogmagik.com) Combining this with the ASR Smart Tractor (review here) that was a TONE product of the year in 2014, brings the Parabolica/TriPlanar setup to perfection. Ever since the SmartTractor arrived, we have standardized on the Uni-Din alignment geometry, resulting in even more data retrieval in our configurations. Of course, you can use whichever of the other alignments you prefer.

Thanks to Analog Magik and the Smart Tractor, I was able to optimize the setup in about an hour, working methodically. I can’t recommend these two tools to the serious analog enthusiast highly enough. You wouldn’t let the guys at Costco put tires on your Porsche, don’t use substandard tools on a high-performance turntable, or you’re not getting what you paid the big bucks for. Rant over.

Now the bliss begins

Capable as this table is with A+ recordings, the amount of musical detail it pulls from records you thought were naff will startle you. Way too many of my audiophile buddies have this stack of 50 records worthy of their attention, yet at the same time I’m guessing we all have records falling into that “I really love the music on that album, but it kind of sucks sound-wise” category. The Parabolica shifts this curve dramatically, moving a lot of those records into the “love em” category. That alone justifies the asking price.

But, damn. Superior records sound amazing when played on the Parabolica. Because of the highly evolved direct drive system in the GPA turntables, they both possess incredible speed accuracy. More so than in any other table I’ve experienced. This translates into a musical foundation that is similar to listening to the best digital recordings, yet the additional tonal saturation that is more often than not a highlight of analog comes through as well.

As mentioned earlier, this is what allows so many more records to fully engage you. The Parabolica’s perfect pitch makes for a much more solid musical pace and foundation to your records. The resulting ease and smoothness feels like analog tape the way the music effortlessly unfolds from your speakers. There’s nothing quite like it, other than listening to a master tape. Combining this level of speed accuracy with a phenomenally low mechanical noise floor gives all of your recordings more punch and dynamic drive too. Musical instruments float between your speakers in a way they did not before.

Just as I experienced with the Monaco 2.0, the Parabolica keeps me glued to the listening chair for hours, for days. It provides such an engaging experience; I never think about anything else when I’m in the listening chair – that’s the highest compliment I can pay any audio component. The Grand Prix Audio Parabolica stops time and commands your attention. This is what analog is all about. This is truly what a great high-end audio system is about.

Most of you know I’m a car guy. Alvin Lloyd is a race carguy. In racing, there’s no room for error. You make a mistake and championships are lost, or even worse, people get hurt. The level of precision in build and execution of the Grand Prix Tables has to be seen and touched to be believed.

I’ve often compared hi-fi components to various cars because it’s a good metaphor that many can wrap their heads around. The Grand Prix tables are both like race cars in the sense that there is nothing unnecessary. The only criticisms I’ve heard is that they lack the bling that some of the $100k – $200k tables offer. Do you want bling or do you want to win the race? Bling adds weight and complexity. The Parabolica, like the Monaco 2.0 is all business and its job is to extract musical information. If that is your mission as well, there’s no better way to accomplish it.

Which to choose?

If you want a piece of art that happens to play music, (and you have crazy money) buy one of those other tables. I won’t call you a bad person; there’s room for everyone. However, if you want the ultimate expression of form meets function, with nothing unessential to the task of playing a record, I suggest the Grand Prix Turntables.

Think of the Parabolica as a Porsche 911 GT3 and the Monaco 2.0 as a GT2RS. Both tables have such an extraordinary level of performance you’ll be blown away. But if only the 700hp GT2RS will do, and you’ve got the system and record collection…

And I don’t mean this to make the Parabolica feel “less than.” Just as the Monaco 2.0 is at the top of the money no object class of turntable, the Parabolica is at the top of the range for everything else. As long as you never experience the Monaco 2.0, you’ll probably never want anything else. There are a lot of happy Porsche GT3 owners that will never experience a GT2RS. And so it goes.

Purchasing a product at this level means a commitment to the medium. I not only give the Grand Prix Audio Parabolica my highest recommendation, I hope that you will take one for a test drive and see if you like it as much as I do. I think you will find it irresistible. I’m keeping this one, so plan on a long-term revisit in a year.  -Jeff Dorgay

The Grand Prix Audio Parabolica

$17,000 (minus tonearm)



Preamplifier        Pass Labs XS Preamplifier

Phonostage        Pass Labs XS Phono

Amplifier        Pass Labs XA200.8 monoblocks

Speakers        Focal Sopra no.3 with 2- REL 212SE subwoofers

Cable            Cardas Clear

Isolation        Grand Prix Audio Monaco Racks

dCS announces their new Bartok DAC

dCS has just announced the official release of their new Bartok DAC.
John Quick and Jesse Luna were kind enough to show me the final
prototype at this year’s Munich show, but I promised to keep it
under wraps.

At $13,500, the Bartok effectively replaces the past Debussy, with
only a very minimal price increase and a major performance boost.

Of course, it’s ROON Ready, and MQA compatible. It plays every file
known to this and future universes, connects to your network and NAS.
Come on, it’s a dCS through and through.

And, if you want to reach a little further, you can purchase the Bartok
with a discrete, Class-A headphone amplifier for only $1,500 more.
We’re betting it’s going to be pretty awesome. Review sample on the way.


EATs E-Glo Phono

There’s just something synergistic and entirely analog about vacuum tubes and vinyl. Part romance, part legend, who knows?

Placebo or not, vinyl just takes on a different vibe when played through an all tube front end. And EAT’s top of the line E-Glo is a perfect example. Playing “Edith and the Kingpin” from Joni Mitchell’s Hissing of Summer Lawns takes me right back to the moment I bought this record. Though today’s trip is via the 2013 Speakers Corner remaster, not my well-worn original.

As the tubes thoroughly warm up, which takes about 30 minutes, the soundstage painted by the E-Glo expands in all three dimensions, pulling you further and further into the recording. And this isn’t a particularly fantastic recording. That’s the magic of the E-Glo – you don’t need to use a megabucks cartridge or first stamper whatever to be engaged.

Directly out of the box, the E-Glo manages to keep me on the couch well into the wee hours, and that’s a great sign. Where some vacuum tube electronics have a decidedly soft, warm, and well, tube-y sound, the E-Glo is like a delicate fragrance. Enticing enough to catch your attention, but not so much, with lingering beauty that always wants you to return for more.

What does $6,995 get you?

A lot more of everything we love about the S model. Bigger, better, deeper, more engaging sound – as it should be when you spend more money. The apparent difference is the dual box design and massive external power supply that accompanies the E-Glo. A sizeable umbilical cord connects the two, and with any two box phono stage, moving it a few feet away if possible, provides the quietest operation. Though, plugged into our recently installed PS Audio P20 Power Plant, is a thing of the past. Those not using upgraded power conditioners or cords, take note – the E-Glo is one of the quietest all tube phono stages we’ve used, even just plugged straight into the wall with supplied power cord.

Porsche designates their “S” models as the higher performing of the line, yet Jozephina LIchtenegger bucks the trend with her phono preamplifiers, making the $2,995 E-Glo S her entry-level model and the $6,995 E-Glo, the premium model. It seems not that long ago, we were enjoying the single box E-Glo S from the European Audio Team. This hybrid phono stage offers a big, expansive, tonally satisfying sound, along with a post-modern design aesthetic. It’s undoubtedly one of our favorite choices in the $3k range.

It also gets you two inputs, where the S model only has a single input, switchable between MM and MC. The E-Glo features MM and MC inputs, with an overall gain of 45db, with switchable, high-quality Lundahl transformers offering 70 and 76db of gain respectively. A set of DIP switches on the back determine whether you are set for 70 or 76db of MC gain, with loading set from the front. The front panel switches and LEDs make it a breeze to set loading and capacitance for MM users. The only complaint is that the E-Glo does not remember your settings, so users with two tables will always have to remember where you were. Certainly not a deal breaker.

A willing partner

A wide range of cartridges was auditioned with the E-Glo, from the $379 Denon 103dl, all the way up to the $10,000 Koetsu Jade Platinum. All performed wonderfully, and because the E-Glo uses the transformers to augment gain on the MC side, MM users benefit from the high-quality present. Those using a second arm or turntable with an MM cartridge will be pleasantly surprised.

The primary listening setup here consisted of the recently reviewed (and acquired) Luxman PD-171D table with a Kiseki Purple Heart MC cartridge, and the Technics SL-1200G with Clearaudio Charisma V.2 MM. Though we look forward to reviewing EATs Jo no.5 cartridge, this pair provides spectacular sound. A recent exercise with a vintage Shure V15III and newly installed Jico stylus was incredibly dynamic.

Using the Technics/Shure/Jico combo to track through a pile of 45 rpm maxi singles was tons of fun, combining the rock-solid bass of the SL-1200 and the explosive dynamics of the Shure, through the E-Glo. Thanks to its ultra-low noise floor, the beats in Run D.M.C.s “My Adidas” hit hard. Regardless of cartridge used, the E-Glo packs major drive, holding the musical pace intact at all times.

With a full complement of 4 EAT ECC83 (12AX7 equivalent) and 2 ECC88 (6922 equivalent) tubes, there’s no need to roll tubes unless you just have to have something different. We’ve had excellent luck with the EAT tubes in other applications, and their longevity has been better than what a lot of other manufacturers offer as stock tubes. In the past, comparing EAT to a few vintage NOS tubes, they have often come across as natural/neutral, for what that’s worth. If you insist on going for an even warmer sound, you can go through the ritual, but you’re going to have to spend a ton of cash for the privilege. So, for the duration of this review, we did not roll any tubes; audio nervosa was kept at bay, and it feels good.

Some cursory comparisons

Many of you are going to want to know what the “best” phonostage is. We rarely if ever make that call, and the object of this (and any of our other) reviews is to find you products we are excited about, tell you why to the best of our ability, and hopefully put it in a meaningful context for you to digest.

If you’ve listened to a fair share of tube gear, you know that every designer works around a particular tube or family of tubes and that they all have a specific sonic signature. It’s not so much a better or a worse, it’s different, and the one you ultimately choose depends in part on your sonic taste and the cartridges at your disposal. I’ve always liked the 12AX7 sound, so I guess I’m a little biased here.

Yet, leaving the taste portion on the side for now, when making a quick comparison, how well does a product at any given price point reveal the music played through it? That’s where the E-Glo performs well beyond its price tag, and if you didn’t know better, you’d think this one has a five-figure price tag. Playing side by side up against some phono stages from more established models in the $10k – $13k range, the E-Glo holds its own on all fronts. The ARC REF offers more input flexibility, balanced outputs and a remote to make adjustments, the CJ TEA-1 a slightly bigger sound, and the Pass is solid state, none of us walked away from the E-Glo feeling disappointed.

The sound, the sound

There are so many audiophile clichés to describe sound, yet when you hear something that indeed takes you out of your element and for that brief period of time convinces you that you are just listening to music, real music, not constrained by tubes, woofers, and tweeters, it’s something special. Not all components, regardless of price can deliver this experience. It’s more than just “going to 11,” the E-Glo goes right to the core of the center of your brain that loves music.

The highest compliment I can pay the E-Glo is that it takes me there. This is that part of the review process that can’t be backed up by measurements. The six-minute drum battle in “Bernie’s Tune,” between drum greats Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa shows off nearly every aspect of the E-Glo to perfection. It does an impeccable job of capturing the sheer speed of these two drummers, never losing the power of the bass drums, while simultaneously retaining the texture of the cymbals, still holding the rhythm section together as the fade in and out of the tune. Too often, this track just crowds together in a big ball of sound, but not here.

Rather than waste your time on a lot of tracks, you might not know anyway, the major strong point of the E-Glo is that it is equally competent in all aspects of vinyl reproduction. It combines low noise, major dynamics, tonal accuracy, and high resolution with real ease of use. And by keeping the casework minimalistic, yet very attractive and forgoing a remote, along with the associated control electronics required, have kept the price down from the $10k range where it easily could be.

Sharing the love

So the seven thousand dollar question is, is it for you? That will depend on your budget and associated hardware. I suggest a trip to an EAT dealer and see if you love this one as much as I do. I bought the review sample and will be using it as a permanent reference component, so you’ll be hearing a lot more about the E-Glo as time goes on. It’s a perfect fit for my system.

-Jeff Dorgay

The EAT E-Glo Phono stage




Analog Source             Luxman PD-171D/Kiseki Purple Heart, Technics 1200G/Clearaudio Maestro v.2

Amplifiers                   Pass INT-60, Esoteric F-07, PrimaLuna HP Premium (KT150 tubes)

Speakers                     Raidho XT-2 speakers w/REL t7i subwoofers

Cable                           Cardas Clear

Power                          PS Audio P20

The PS Audio P20 Power Plant

-Photos courtesy of PS Audio

What’s a power conditioner review doing in discussion about analog? Considering how faint the signal coming from your phono cartridge is, anything you can do to keep that precious signal intact is a good thing. Many analog enthusiasts agree that the integrity of the source is paramount, so starting with a solid foundation is critical.

Some of the opinion that if their AC power has traveled many miles before getting to their audio system, a few more feet of wire for a premium power cord is just crazy talk. Equally opinionated, those from this group will usually squawk that their power is very clean. Cleaner than the power you and I get. The best kind of clean.

I disagree. Vehemently.

The power your system uses is like the fuel in an engine on one level, and more complex on another. If you subscribe to the approach that your amplifier is nothing more than modulating the AC signal with audio (a bit simplistic), then any distortion present in the power line will get amplified along with that audio signal. Massive power supplies are nearly always one of the keys to the performance that comes with a mega component.

Sure, your power supply probably goes a long way at getting rid of most of that grunge, but not all. If you’ve ever had the chance to look at the AC signal on a Fluke 435 power analyzer, you’d see just how much sheer distortion is in the AC line.

This is probably a lot geekier than any of you want to get, but inquiring minds need to know, and I must admit being shocked when examining what’s in that power line we plug our gear into. Depending on where you live, this can be better or worse, but rest assured, it’s there. And it can be made worse by other things in the immediate vicinity, on the same circuit as your house.

It’s often said that listening to your system provides better results. Indeed, some of this can be attributed to the psychoacoustic phenomenon of being more relaxed and receptive, but it’s easier than that – your next door neighbor probably isn’t running their appliances. Some of the culprits can easily be in your home as well. Power tools, vacuum cleaners, and even a microwave oven can send nasty artifacts back into the power line; all more distortion that taxes your amplifiers ability to deliver a clean signal.

So what to do?

Many power conditioning products use a series of filtration techniques to augment what your amplifiers’ power supply is trying to do. Some power conditioning products just use magic fairy dust, while even a few others don’t even require you to plug your amplifier in.

Years ago, PS Audio figured out a better way with their original Power Plant 300. It actually regenerated the AC signal from a stable oscillator and generated fresh AC power. It was a brilliant approach, but its only downfall was that it could only service a source component or two, not having enough reserve power for a power amplifier. It worked incredibly well and took things to a new level of clarity.

Today, the top of the line PS Audio P20, power regenerator does more. We’ll argue about the other systems later, somewhere on the internet. Right now, we just want to stress how important it is to get a PS Audio Power Plant into your system.

The PS20 you see here can deliver somewhere between 1200VA and a full 2000VA to your system, depending on whether you have it plugged into a 15A line or have had a 20A line installed. Fortunately, with 15 and 20A receptacles in the PS20, it will sense the available power accordingly and deliver higher power if you have it. Both of my listening rooms have dedicated 20A lines, so this was easy to test.

Due to its massive capacity, the P20 has an MSRP of $9,995. It looks and feels like a giant power amplifier, which on one level it is. If you don’t have access to a 20 amp, dedicated line, save some green and pick up the P15, which has a maximum capacity of 1500 watts. The sonic effect is identical. Those with smaller systems may even be able to work with the 1000 watt capacity of the P12 for $4,995.

The result is unmistakable

Rather than wax poetic for thousands of words, the P20 works precisely as it should. It does no harm to the audio signal and expands the presentation in a few ways. As PS Audio says on their website, “it’s like being 50 feet from a power generating station.” But even the power station nearby still generates distortion in the AC process, no one built power plants with the thought of high-performance audio in mind.

As the P20 starts from scratch with an incredibly accurate DSD sine wave generator, and ultra-low distortion power amplifier (note those big heat sinks on the side of the enclosure) to generate new power with audiophile needs in mind. Thanks to the P20s sizeable current capability and low output impedance, your power amplifier can get all the current it needs, right now, so that musical peaks aren’t blurred, or worse, truncated. This is why some passive power line conditioners, even though they lower the noise floor, can rob your music of the essential dynamics – ultimately leading you to its removal once the honeymoon is over.

The P20 lets you have your cake and eat it too. Distortion goes way down – and you can see it by the front panel meters, which give you the option to see input and output distortion readings, as well as the quality of the AC waveform entering and exiting the P20.

Seriously, it only takes about 5 minutes to evaluate the P20, and a few more hours with a wide range of tracks to stop pinching yourself. Starting my evaluation with the fairly current heavy Pass Labs INT-60, plugging into the P20 was an instant epiphany. Fortunately, with a pair of 20 amp circuits and a 15 amp circuit near the equipment rack, it was a breeze to switch back and forth between P20 and the straight AC line.

It expands your audio universe

Instantly, playing the same tracks at the same volume, more dynamic range is immediately available. Thanks to the lower noise floor now available, digital sounds much more lifelike in its presentation, and an equal effect was observed with PS Audio’s DAC as well as the dCS and Gryphon DACs on hand for reference. Even the tiny PS Audio Sprout 100s sound was dramatically improved feeding it with the P20, but you’re probably not going to try that combination at home! The pristine power that the P20 delivers helps your audio system to disappear in the room better regardless of source.

The PS Audio P20 is an expensive upgrade to your hi-fi system, offering subtle and dramatic results at the same time. Nothing else you do to your system will have this effect. Before you start spending thousands of dollars on power cords, this will give you a clean foundation to build your system around, even in the context of a modest system. Though the cost appears high, I submit you won’t get this type of improvement elsewhere at anywhere near the price. And remember, there are the P15 and P10 for those with systems demanding less power.

To PS Audios credit, they offer their in-home trial, so if you don’t find the P20 stunning, you can just send it back. They also have a tremendous trade-in program to help you dispose of what you were using, and have PayPal credit at their disposal, giving you 6-months interest-free financing.

I’m gonna violate the prime directive and tell you to get one. You won’t be able to un-hear it, and you won’t be able to live without it. So be ready to pull the trigger when you take the test drive. Consider yourself warned. It’s that good.

The PS Audio P20 Power Regenerator

MSRP: $9,999



Analog Source                         Luxman PD-171D w/Kiseki Purple Heart

Digital Source                          PS Audio DirectStream DAC and Transport

Phonostage                             EAT E-Glo

Amplifier                                 Pass Labs INT-60

Speakers                                 Raidho XT-2 w/REL T7i Subwoofers

Cable                                       Cardas Clear


We’ve just received the new “Atmosphere” speakers from hORNS in Poland. You can read more on their website, at horns.pl.

This two-way speaker has an additional, rear firing woofer than can be switched in and out as room placement demands, no doubt, part of the reasoning behind the name. With a rated sensitivity of 84db/1-watt, it will be interesting how they match up with the amplifiers we have on hand.

Initial MSRP is $5,000/pair and custom finishes are available at no extra charge. Our review pair is beautifully finished in BMW “M” colors with white stands, which are included, also at no extra charge.

Stay tuned, we will have a full review shortly and they will be featured in issue 92 – our “small speaker” issue.

MoFi’s Ultra Deck + M

It just seems right to begin the review of MoFi’s UltraDeck+M with the first MoFi record I bought many years ago. #007 – Steely Dan’s Katy Lied.

Yeah, I’m that old. You probably hate Steely Dan, and you may not approve of the EQ curve they used back in the day, but whatever. I’ve heard this record a lot of times, on very many different systems, so this one is burned into my memory.

For those of you not familiar, this particular MoFi record is slightly tipped up at the high end, and could probably use a touch more on the bottom, but pressed in Japan, as MoFi records back then, it’s incredibly quiet and free of distortion. This lack of distortion is what initiated so many of us to the idea of paying extra for an “audiophile remaster.” MoFi paved the way.

Gently lowering the stylus to the second cut, this record sounds exactly as it should, with its tipped tonal balance in place. And it sounds glorious. A minute into the track, the UD’s ability to keep the musical pace locked down is uncannily good. A quick check with some Feickert tools confirms that the UD’s speed is spot on and unwavering, which is a significant contributor to this tables ability to pull it all together.

You can buy the UltraDeck without cartridge for $1,799, and for those of you that like to mix and match, this is a great way to go, but if you’d like a plug and play solution that is straight out of the box fun, I suggest the UltraDeck+M package that includes MoFi’s MasterTracker MM cartridge for $2,199. In the context of my six-figure reference system, the UD+M turns in a highly competent presentation, up against the big boys from Brinkmann, AVID, and Grand Prix Audio. No, this isn’t a $20k analog front end for $2,199, but it’s ticking all the boxes.

Positively perky

There’s something about a good MM cartridge that really makes music come alive. There’s an explosive character about MMs I find incredibly appealing. Considering the Japanese company that manufactures the cartridge for MoFi, this is no surprise – I recognized the sonic signature quickly. The MasterTracker’s billet aluminum body and unique damping material are said to eliminate resonance and was voiced by MoFi with Spiral Groove designer Allen Perkins. It’s hard to believe that this much performance is available for $699, less if you bundle it, but it’s a great addition to your system.

Purchasing the combination from Music Direct with the cart in place and installed is a great place to begin. Straight out of the box, the combo is fantastic, but breaking out the Analog Magik toolkit, I was able to optimize the setup even further, achieving even better channel separation and lower distortion. While this is probably out of reach of the average customer purchasing a UD+M, it’s worth mentioning, because it illustrates that while MoFi does an excellent job on setup at the factory, this table is capable of even more performance if you have access to more sophisticated tools.

Back to listening, this time with the original MoFi pressing of Hall & Oates’ Abandoned Luncheonette, the magic continues. The depth and subtle interplay between Daryl Hall and John Oates on this record is perfectly rendered – again with a large soundstage in all three dimensions.

Keeps you in the listening chair

Moving to more current music, with substantial low-frequency content, Beck’s Sea Change (on MoFi, of course) fills the bill perfectly and reveals that the UD+M not only has significant LF extension but detail and pace. Again, that word. Every time I drop the tonearm on this table, that word keeps etching itself into my memory, and that’s such a big part of the musical experience that helps you forget your listening to recorded music and immerse yourself in the experience.

The graininess and lack of low level that plagues nearly every MM cartridge regardless of price is surprisingly absent here. Auditioning acoustic selections or primarily vocal tracks proves highly convincing. A long stint of Ella Fitzgerald is enticing. Ms. Fitzgerald’s signature smoothness comes straight through, and this turntable/cartridge combination is never at a loss to render tonal gradation the way you’d expect an excellent analog setup to do.

As the listening sessions continue, it sinks in further just how great this combination is for just over $2,000. Granted this is probably not a casual purchase for most, but it is a substantial step up in performance from any turntable I’ve experienced in the $500 – $1,000 range. If you’re playing the analog game at that level and decide to trade up to a UD+M, this will be a revelation – it’s by no means an incremental increase in performance. Every aspect of the music revealed will be a major step up.

And that’s one of the most significant aspects of this level of analog playback. The sonic gains are enormous for minimal cash outlay. By comparison, going from your favorite $8k phono cartridge to your favorite $10k phono cartridge might only get you different, not better.

Performance options

Jay Leno once said when referring to cars that you’re either a wrench turner or a check writer. On a somewhat similar level, I feel that vinyl enthusiasts tend to be more or less predisposed to tweaking and upgrading their analog setup. Some are perfectly happy to “set it and forget it,” while others love to try and get more performance out of the existing setup. One of the things I love about my Rega P6 is that you can hang a Rega cartridge on the end of the tonearm and it’s good to go. Now that Rega has implemented a machined sub platter, (a past point of contention) other than swapping cartridges, there’s not much room for change or improvement – and founder Roy Gandy likes it that way.

However, if you would like to have a bit of an upgrade path to your table without replacing it, the UD+M gives some solid options. The tonearm is well suited to adjusting around different cartridges, and thanks to the RCA outputs on the back of the plinth, you can easily upgrade interconnects. Swapping the included interconnects for one from Cardas and another from Tellurium Q both made a tremendous difference – both revealing a substantial amount more music.

Later, a few different cartridges were tried, and the $750 Hana SL proves cost effective as well, but then you will need to consider an MC phonostage. We can discuss that later. The Delrin platter is designed to be used sans turntable mat so that no improvements can be had there, but if you want to take your UD+M as far as it can go, consider a MoFi record weight and a better power cord. Most of you will never bother, but it’s nice to know you can. You either want an open system or a closed one. Good as this table is out-of-the-box, there’s even more performance to extract, should you take the path.

Parting thoughts

You can tell a lot about a product, by the way, it’s packaged. Things often hurried to market are shabbily packed, but products built with pride nearly always carry that attitude all the way to the end. Mobile Fidelity has taken a great product and has packaged it tastefully and without excess so that you feel really good about writing the check. They even made the packaging materials orange to match the color of the drive belt. Nice touch.

This may or may not matter to you, but I love the fact that the UD+ uses a standard IEC power cord and does not have a wall wart or small external power supply. I lose those things all the time, and it drives me straight up the wall. Those more organized may not be bothered in the least; keeping it all in one box also makes it easier to place on one rack shelf. Again, may or may not matter to you.

It’s no accident that MoFi’s first turntable effort is at the top of the class with their first effort – they have a crack team behind it. John Schaffer, formerly of Wadia, has headed the project, bringing a tremendous amount of manufacturing and procurement knowledge to the mix. Even though Wadia was always a digital company, Schaeffer’s love for analog has always been apparent, as is his commitment to high quality. Allen Perkins from Spiral Groove was tapped to guide the turntable design, and his Spiral Groove tables are some of the best made at any price. Interestingly, the MoFi table makes the same little belt squeal sound at startup that my Spiral Groove did. Even the feet were contracted to HRS, so no real stone was left unturned.

Finally, all of this was accomplished right here in America. This table was not farmed out offshore to hit a price point. I think that is really impressive. In the end, I’m happy to give this turntable one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2018. This is as good as analog gets for $2,200.

Ed. note: The opening and closing images in this review are courtesy of MoFi Distribution, ©2018, all rights reserved

The MoFi UltraDeck+M

$2,195 w/Master Tracker MM Cartridge



Phonostage                 Pass Labs XS phono

Preamp                       Pass Labs XS pre

Power Amps               Pass Labs XA200.8

Speakers                     Focal Sopra no.3 with (2) REL 212SE subwoofers

Cable                           Cardas Clear and Tellurium Q Silver Diamond

Racks                           Grand Prix Audio Monaco

Graham LS3/5A Monitors

Perhaps the only other speaker that has as big of a long-term following as the esteemed LS3/5A is the Quad 57 (or original Quad if you’re being fiddly.)

However, unlike the famed ESL, there aren’t nearly as many variations on the theme as there are as the little British broadcast monitor that can. As a licensed product, made by a number of different manufacturers, each sounding somewhat different. You can lose hours on the internet arguing about which one is the “best,” but it’s more likely that finding the answer, you’ll just be more confused at best and aggravated at worst.

The Graham Audio BBC monitors are certainly the most faithful we’ve encountered, and when we reviewed Graham’s LS3/5 speaker, actually preferred it to some of the best originals. Heresy, perhaps. Yet the hard core LS3/5a enthusiasts were quick to point out that this was “not a true LS3/5a.”

So here we go. They’ve just been unboxed and we are ready to start listening. Let the good times roll.


Bandwidth Audio’s Kaskode One phono

With so much excitement over the $10k – $30k phono preamplifiers, there’s somewhat of a gap between $10k and down. Bandwidth Audio has a great solution.

Not everyone has that kind of cash on hand, and with so many audiophiles having either two turntables, or two-armed turntables, the need for a great $6,500 phonostage with more than one input is strong. Though there is a catch – the Kaskode One offers one MM and one MC input (with Lundahl transformers on the MC side), set thusly. This is not a two input phonostage, where either input can be configured for MM or MC. But then again, neither is my $16,000 Conrad-Johnson TEA 1, and I enjoy it every day, so I’m not holding this against the Kaskode, and the Kaskode offers you the option of running the MC input balanced. A nice touch.

Depending on the load impedance selected by the internal jumpers, three gain settings are available at 60, 66, or 72db. MM is fixed at 46db, which will be fine for anything you might have on hand. You can read more about the loading options here:


When used with all of the cartridges at my disposal, nearly all having .4-.5mv output, the 66 dB setting was just fine. I never found the need to go all the way to 72db, except for my Denon 103, which only has .25mv output. Even at maximum gain, the noise level stays low.

A different approach

An all-tube design, the Kaskode piqued my interest immediately, and further investigation reveals a different tube compliment than the typical 12AX7/12AU7/6922 that nearly everyone else uses. Instead, Bandwidth uses hand tested and matched D3a/7721 and EC8010/8556 tubes. The good news is that these tubes are not terribly expensive, the bad news is that you can’t find them. If you love the Kaskode One as much as I do (it’s pretty outstanding) order a few sets of replacement tubes right nowand start the hunt for more. This phonostage uses two of the former and six of the latter.

Another benefit to off the beaten path tubes is that you won’t have to agonize about tube rolling. While some enjoy this, I find it more often than not an exercise in futility and a great way to flush a lot of money down the drain. Use the Kaskode with the supplied tubes and enjoy!

Diversion from the path traveled by everyone else does have its benefit though. The Kaskode offers an open, natural, dynamic, and quiet sound that you’d expect to have about double the price tag attached to it, maybe more. But then they don’t have 60 mouths to feed and pay health insurance for like Audio Research does.

While the Kaskode offers balanced inputs, single-ended RCA outputs are the only option. Bandwidth claims that their output stage is very robust and capable of driving long cables with ease. A 30-foot pair of Cardas Clear interconnects, A/B’d with a 3-foot pair confirms this is no problem, so those of you wanting your turntable across the room can rest easy.

A number of companies have based their designs on hybrid technology to get the noise floor down, which does work well, but provides a different sonic signature than the Kaskode. My Audio Research REF Phono 3 is a perfect example of a very mature design – honed over decades. Each tube set/topology has a different sonic signature. It’s up to you to find the one you love and provides the perfect synergy for the rest of your system.

This is not a better or worse comparison, but the Kascode does present a different tonality, a different flavor. ARC’s FET/6H30 design is slightly punchier and less “tubey” in it’s presentation. Never a bad thing, but to me it’s like comparing a BMW M6 to a 911 GT3. They both offer tremendous performance, they just go about it differently with a different ride. And the Kaskode does have a different ride. Used in the context of a system with older Magnepans or the Graham LS5/8s (which are already slightly soft tonally) the Kaskode is too much of a good thing for me – though that might be perfect for you if you want that really romantic sound. However, when the Focal Sopra no.3s were in place in system one, or in room two with the Raidho X-1s (both of which are extended and highly revealing) the Kaskode is sheer perfection.

Putting this preamplifier through its paces with about ten different cartridges reveals no weak spots. The Kaskode really embodies what I think of when the word analog is brought up. I appreciate the subtle balance at work here. This phonostage has an extended HF range without ever being harsh, combined with a silky smoothness that never feels dark, or rounded off.

Good as the MC performance is, the Kascode delivers stunning MM performance, so if you are using an MM cart on your second table or second tonearm, you will not be disappointed. Paired with the recent Clearaudio Charisma V2, I never found myself longing for the MC. Thanks to a 1mv output, the Kaskode also works incredibly well with the Grado Statement 2 moving iron cartridge, which requires 47k loading. Regardless of cartridge used, from $95 Shure to $12k Atlas, the Kaskode extracts plenty of music from your LPs.

Rather than going on and on about specific musical selections (none of which might even be in your record collection) suffice to say that the Kaskode delivers great all-around performance. If your taste leans more to vocal heavy tracks, you’ll be impressed at how well harmonies are defined, with plenty of three-dimensional “reach out and touch it” going on. The soundstage painted by the Kascode is big in all dimensions.

The overall tonal balance is natural yet defined enough to resolve the difference between stringed instruments in an orchestra. Dynamic slam is here in abundance as well, so if you like to rock, the Kaskode has enough sheer dynamic force to keep you interested.

The stuff you don’t see

Because Bandwidth’s designer Mr. Beardsworth comes from a solid engineering background, the Kaskode offers a lot you don’t see until you remove the cover. The level of detail paid to its construction is first class all the way, from the – 2-layer PC board, all the way to the quality of the solder joints. The Kaskode certainly features $20k build quality.

A short delay following turn on and turn off will save you at least one blown tweeter over the time you own the Kascode. An internal selectable subsonic filter is included, and around back is a conveniently placed switch to float the ground, just in case you are having buzz issues. The level of sheer human engineering incorporated into this product shows the level of care that went into its design. (And I’ve had more than one $20k phonostage make a loud “thump” when switched off or from mode to mode.)

The longer you listen, the more you’ll like the Kaskode

Economic arguments aside, if you’ve been thinking about a two input phonostage, and don’t want to spend five figures, the Kaskode should be at the top of your list. Aesthetics are straight forward and understated. It will fit in nearly anywhere you might use something else, though if you’re super OCD, the grey might be a deal breaker. Personally, I love the semi retro look and the grey instead of the usual black or silver.

My only complaint about the Kaskode is very minor. Should you buy one, be super careful around the switches that control mute and MM/MC mode; they are the same flimsy paddle toggles that ARC and BAT used to use years ago. (and I’ve accidentally broken them all) The power switch is much beefier.

If you don’t change phono cartridges often, hence not needing to change gain and loading on the front panel (or via remote control) Bandwidth Audio’s Kaskode One could very well be your final destination. It turns in impressive sonic performance, and thanks to being produced by a smaller audio company, (with less overhead to build into the price) offers class leading performance at a lower price than you’d pay for a similar offering from the big boys. A true audio value and worthy of one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2018.

And for what it’s worth, one of my personal favorites. Highly recommended. I can’t wait to see what else Bandwidth Audio comes up with in the years to come.

The Bandwidth Audio Kaskode One Phonostage




Analog Source Technics 1200G, Grand Prix Audio Parabolica, Brinkmann Bardo turntables

Preamplifier Pass XS pre

Power Amplifier Pass XA200.8

Speakers Focal Sopra no.3 with (2) REL 212SE Subwoofers

Cable Cardas Clear, Tellurium Q

AVM CS 2.2 4T

AVM’s new Inspiration CS 2.2 4T has just arrived, and it does everything you need.

Further pushing the boundary of a high performance audio control center, it allows the ability to play CDs for those still loving the shiny silver disc, as well as a top notch MM/MC phono section for those with a collection of black discs. It’s ability to connect to your LAN, UPnP server or WiFi components leaves no options left to chance. And there’s even an FM tuner!

165 watts per channel (at 4 ohms) offers a wide range of speaker choices, and there is an on board headphone amplifier too.

Best of all it is TIDAL and QOBUZ ready, so you are rocking, no matter what the format.

We’ve just unboxed the CS 2.2 4T, so watch for our review very soon, and again in issue 91, which will be all integrated amplifiers. Please click here for more information.

Current MSRP is 4,990€, or $6,975 (without optional RC9 remote)

https://avm.audio (Main Site)

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30 Eric, Juan, Shanon, Michael and more to follow

Bios to follow SOON!

26 Richard Mak

A true world citizen, Richard Mak can be found wherever there is great food, wine, music and turntables to be setup. His expertise as a turntable master is unparalleled. Creator of the Analog Magik software system and test record, he’s made it easy (but not cheap) for analog lovers to get the most out of their systems. We appreciate his help.