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Graham Slee Gram Amp 2 Communicator Review (Phono Preamp)

Rate this Phono Stage:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 67 48.2%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 64 46.0%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 4 2.9%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 4 2.9%

  • Total voters
    139

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Graham Slee Gram Amp 2 Communicator phono stage. It costs US $299.
Graham SLEE Communicator Gram Amp 2 Review.jpg


The company gets the fonts right which look kind of classy. Otherwise, the case is ultra light which causes the unit to fall back under the weight of the cables. The edges of the front panel are also rather sharp. Back side shows this is as bare bones as a phono stage gets:
Graham SLEE Communicator Gram Amp 2 Back Panel Review.jpg

Naturally the unit is for Moving Magnet (MM) cartridges only.

Graham Slee Gram Amp 2 Communicator Measurements
As usual we start with our dashboard:
Graham SLEE Communicator Gram Amp 2.png


I was pleased with absence of distortion spikes and mains leakage. Not so impressive was the noise figure which sets SINAD below average:
best phono stage review.png


Most important measurement is RIAA equalization and here, we have 1 dB deviation from 20 to 20 kHz:
Graham SLEE Communicator Gram Amp 2 Measurements Frequency Response.png


While this is spec compliant, it is disappointing to see that it is not more accurate. As it is, highs will be emphasizes a bit.

More disappointing is lack of headroom with the amp clipping at just 56 mv:

Graham SLEE Communicator Gram Amp 2 Measurements THD vs Level.png


And that is at 1 kHz. Increasing the frequency robs you of more headroom:
Graham SLEE Communicator Gram Amp 2 Measurements Frequency vs THD vs Level.png


As a result pops and clicks will be more audible.

Conclusions
Hard to get excited over either the mechanicals of the unit or objective performance. While noting is terribly broken, for $300 I expect much better. Another British company, Cambridge Audio, has far better phono stages so I can't even recommend it even if you want to "buy local."

This is another product which WhatHifi gave 5 star review to:

1649657279028.png


Brilliant timing in a simple little amplifier like this? What did it do? Instead of 45 RPM, it plays at 50???

So no, there is no reason from performance point of view to recommend Graham Slee Gram Amp 2 Communicator. I recommend a new revision and while they are at it, please shorten the darn name!

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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phoenixsong

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Ah, WhatHifi... Along with Lehmann, Graham Slee products often got shining reviews from them. I used to own the Novo headphone amp
 

digicidal

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"Not the last word in weight or out-and-out punch" - OK... good thing the recording, power amplifier, and speakers have nothing to do with that or it would seem even more ridiculous. Or maybe they're talking about the actual weight of the device itself and would prefer it included some huge heatsinks and a 10mm billet faceplate (for sound quality of course)? :rolleyes:

I find it interesting that Cambridge Audio, Emotiva, and Schiit seem to be able to do so well with what is now largely a peripheral product line - despite all having numerous issues in many of their more "mainstream" products. Not to mention doing so at price points that are quite good. Although, to be fair, phono pre's are significantly less complicated than DACs, integrated amps and AVP/Rs.
 

fordiebianco

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WhatHiFi is good as a catalogue to give you an idea what's out there and available on the market. Not so much for reviews.
 

Talisman

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Brilliant timing in a simple little amplifier like this? What did it do? Instead of 45 RPM, it plays at 50???
they "notice" the brillante timing in a phono preamp .... and then there is me who in ABX do not recognize an E50 topping from a taishan fiio :facepalm:
 

DSJR

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WhatHifi? More like WTFHifi… I mean, 5 star for this???:facepalm:
It's been known as WTF for years here ;) Totally ignored by 'the fraternity' as a complete joke and many issues I've seen in the newsagents had tellies all over the front (shows how often I look at the rags these days). I have it on good authority that the journo's 'writing' for it are newbies who have aspirations elsewhere - What car for example...
 

Lambda

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Verry good performace!
The Sinad of 69 (nice) is actually misleading.
most of it is do to noise and most of the noise is at low frequency. so it would not be as audible.
This is why it is industry standard to also give noise in dB(A)

So if the noise would be A weighted the performance would look even better (as always)

and all this with an real chap and nasty looking class 2 power suppl...
just imagine how good it must sound with an isolation transformer.*


*just kidding in case this is not obvious
 

dasdoing

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whathifi.com said:
Detail is where the Gram Amp stands out most against its nearest competitors, but it tackles most other facets of performance at least as well.

Timing is as precise and articulate as we could hope for and, though it lacks a little venom in its punch when pitted against Rega’s class-leading Fono MM MK3, this Graham Slee’s jab is far from limp.

It’s a force dynamically as well, especially in the upper register. Melodies dominating the upper mid-range and treble are handled with more expression than most rivals and, though perhaps not as startling a couple of octaves down, the Gram Amp refuses to neglect dynamics and varying intensities in the baritone and bass.

you must be wondering if they take some sort of drugs before these? or it is just pure marketing at this point? are the amazon links thir main revenue?
 

DSJR

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Verry good performace!
The Sinad of 69 (nice) is actually misleading.
most of it is do to noise and most of the noise is at low frequency. so it would not be as audible.
This is why it is industry standard to also give noise in dB(A)

So if the noise would be A weighted the performance would look even better (as always)

and all this with an real chap and nasty looking class 2 power suppl...
just imagine how good it must sound with an isolation transformer.*


*just kidding in case this is not obvious
I'd politely suggest the performance isn't that great. HF overload is marginal at best (where all the ticks and splats are mostly) and no idea if it rings when overloaded (can a test be fabricated to check for this?). The RIAA response is actually poor by today's close tolerance component availability.

This make has a bit of a cult following on the UK forums though, so any shortcomings here will be ignored or defendced.
 

SimpleTheater

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For $50 more you can get the Cambridge Audio Alva Duo (assuming its as good as the Solo Amir already tested) and you get built in power transformer, it can handle MC as well as MM, has grounding for your TT, and if necessary can even L/R balance any issues you may have.
 

TheBatsEar

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I hate it when the power plug is held only by the PCB. It's a cheap device (both in appearance and performance) and shouldn't cost more than 100€.
 

Tom C

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For $50 more you can get the Cambridge Audio Alva Duo (assuming its as good as the Solo Amir already tested) and you get built in power transformer, it can handle MC as well as MM, has grounding for your TT, and if necessary can even L/R balance any issues you may have.
Already been done here. It’s actually even better.
 
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