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Measurements of Parks Audio Puffin Phono Stage

amirm

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#1
This is a measurement of Parks Audio DSP- based PUffin Phono amplifier. Yes, you read that right: it uses a DSP for implement RIAA curves and many, many other functions. It was kindly loaned to me in person to test our meet at friendly audio shop, Gig Harbor Audio. The unit retails for USD $399 including Prime shipping on Amazon.

Here is a quick shot of the unit while being tested with very dim light with my mobile phone:

Parks Audio Puffin Phono Stage DSP Review.jpg

The company is apparently well-known for its tube based phono stage. So imagine the shock and horror of its customer base when they heard that not only had he dispensed with tubes, but that the unit digitizes audio, processes it, and converts it back to analog. Sacrilegious! Quick search shows long threads of riots in street, folks feeling abandoned, going to psychiatrists and being asked about their childhood, etc.

Fortunately we are much more enlightened here. :) It is my firm belief that when LP sounds better, it is because it is mastered differently, not because it is analog and there is some magic there that is missing in digital.

The unit has boatload of parameters that can be changed through its LCD display. I did not try to navigate it and let the user do that.

In the interest of time, I asked its owner of one to set it to how he uses it. He programmed it as you see above with the gain of 52 dB.

Let's see how she measures.

Measurements
I only had time for one measurement which is my dashboard. I don't have canned templates for phono stages so pulled up the one for headphone amps, not realizing that the load is very low, 600 Ohm (low for phono stages/pre-amps, not headphone amps). So the distortion is likely higher than it would be with the typical 100 K ohm load I would normally use:
Parks Audio Puffin DSP Phono Stage Measurements.png


The first harmonic distortion is at a (good) -90 dB relative to our signal level. The reason SINAD is much worse is due to high level of low frequency noise. It is not distortion limited.

I don't have enough data to jude based on 52 dB of gain but just putting a wet thumb in the air, it seems to be very good performance given that massive amplification.

Conclusions
Based on this limited data, the Parks Audio Pluto seems to have good performance. Unlikely some of its customer base, I don't see any issue with digital processing to provide a much more flexible system with more accuracy.

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

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sergeauckland

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#3
Wouldn't this type of system be very difficult to test?
There are ways of automating testing RIAA equalised amps, but unless one'a going to test many, it's probably not worth the effort. I test phono stages with an inverse RIAA network which has 40dB attenuation at 1kHz, so can more easily plot frequency deviation. In my view, one of the most important parameters for a phono stage is overload margin, which should be a minimum of 20dB at 1kHz, but in the interest of quoting a higher S/N ratio, is often reduced. Distortion is I think less important, given how much comes off a cartridge that it's hard to make a phono stage with too much distortion. RIAA accuracy these days is also pretty easy to keep to within 0.5dB, which again is more than adequate given the gross errors of most cartridges.
Doing the RIAA in DSP makes so much sense, as it allows all sorts of corrections to be applied with no downside as the ADC/DAC process is transparent, especially relative to what comes off an LP.

S
 

restorer-john

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#4
In my view, one of the most important parameters for a phono stage is overload margin, which should be a minimum of 20dB at 1kHz
Absolutely true, it's really important with higher than 2.5mV rated cartridges and 'hot' modern pressings. Channel balance is also important with so much gain on tap. (That said the carts are bad at that)

BTW, which inverse RIAA are you currently using- Lipshitz/Jung (TAA 1980) or the classic Williamson (TAA 1971)?

The puffin is indeed a very interesting device.
 

SIY

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#5
SECOND HARMONIC. :D

Input impedance (especially capacitance), noise with a cartridge source, and overload as a function of frequency are important phono stage measures.

edit: Oh, also, you can put an RIAA EQ table into the AP and measure frequency response (EQ conformance and channel matching) without an inverse RIAA network.

edit edit: Is the 52 dB gain at 1 kHz?
 

maty

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#6
Tubes

* The very expensive Allnic H-3000 is very good but too much expensive! And you need to spend more money in others hard.

* Old but very good too is the phono included in: Audio Research SP15. Btw, forgive AR poweramps, only preamps.


SS

* Musical Surroundings Nova Phenomena Battery Powered Phono Preamp and others more new

* New: PS Audio NuWave Phono Converter. Avoid Class D poweramps with Icepower 700AS -> H3 dominance. Why? the own buffer.

and others... but I must go to lunch :)
 

maty

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#7
Fortunately we are much more enlightened here. :) It is my firm belief that when LP sounds better, it is because it is mastered differently, not because it is analog and there is some magic there that is missing in digital.
There are a lot of if when you to want to make a comparison between: R2R, vinyl, CD, SACD and HR files. Technology and the sad reality.

Only vinyl from analogue masters made before 80's can sound really good. Since the end of the 90's, beginning of the new century, also jazz and classical vinyls from digital masters.

There are almost twenty years with very bad digital masters, specially with commercial/popular music. Jazz, classical, antique... from good Editorials (you know, Verve and others) are much less problematic.

The problem is not only the loudness war. The big problem was in the STUDIO MASTER CLOCKs.
 

maty

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#8
Other big problem are the hours in the studio. Now very few and all is fast. Money, money.

Far away are the times when they were weeks and months recording the master. Hotel California (Eagles) and many others brilliant works would be impossible to record today.

And the contracted musicians are worse and they are very poorly paid. Better to use software and electronics. And Autotune, vade retro satana, for the voices. Money, money.
 

Juhazi

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#10
I bought this nice and cheap little plastic box about ten years ago and I love it! It seems to be NLA. No idea how it performs in measurements, but just fine to do ADC to Audacity. In Audacity I clean cracks, pops, rumble and 50Hz hum, sometimes also do response shaping. Process is 32bit floating point, I mostly save it as 24/96 FLAC. I have some 5 cartidges and 3 turntables, nice to do comparisons too! It's RIAA can be bypassed.

https://www.techradar.com/reviews/a...ries/terratec-phonopreamp-ivinyl-94425/review
 

maty

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#11
@SIY

Yes, 'n' how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind/jitter
The answer is blowin' in the wind/jitter


If someone opens a specific thread it would be better.
 

Thomas savage

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#13
There are a lot of if when you to want to make a comparison between: R2R, vinyl, CD, SACD and HR files. Technology and the sad reality.

Only vinyl from analogue masters made before 80's can sound really good. Since the end of the 90's, beginning of the new century, also jazz and classical vinyls from digital masters.

There are almost twenty years with very bad digital masters, specially with commercial/popular music. Jazz, classical, antique... from good Editorials (you know, Verve and others) are much less problematic.

The problem is not only the loudness war. The big problem was in the STUDIO MASTER CLOCKs.
Iv got loads of modern jazz recordings that sound great but we are talking here about this phono stage.

You’ve a tendency to drag threads off course bringing with you a adversarial dynamic, I’d appreciate if you’d observe the topic of discussion more closely . I don’t want you making everything about format wars , analog vs digital etc.

Cheers
 

maty

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#14
That is why I commented about a new thread. I no longer thought about commenting on this one, or even mentioning other phono or hard.

I can promise and I promise
that it will not happen again in this one or in any other thread.

- The End -
 

sergeauckland

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#15
Absolutely true, it's really important with higher than 2.5mV rated cartridges and 'hot' modern pressings. Channel balance is also important with so much gain on tap. (That said the carts are bad at that)

BTW, which inverse RIAA are you currently using- Lipshitz/Jung (TAA 1980) or the classic Williamson (TAA 1971)?

The puffin is indeed a very interesting device.
I built the design published by Rod Elliott, with component values calculated by Uwe Beis, from an original design by Reg Williamson, modified for greater accuracy by Lipschitz and Yung. So to answer your question, both of them, plus the contribution from Uwe Beis!

S.
 

Frank Dernie

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#16
There are a lot of if when you to want to make a comparison between: R2R, vinyl, CD, SACD and HR files. Technology and the sad reality.

Only vinyl from analogue masters made before 80's can sound really good. Since the end of the 90's, beginning of the new century, also jazz and classical vinyls from digital masters.

There are almost twenty years with very bad digital masters, specially with commercial/popular music. Jazz, classical, antique... from good Editorials (you know, Verve and others) are much less problematic.

The problem is not only the loudness war. The big problem was in the STUDIO MASTER CLOCKs.
Most of this is quite incorrect.
There is a problem with excess compression on a lot of, if not most, pop CDs over the last few years. Apart from that digital was superior to analogue from the beginning, with the Sony PCM-F1 system being audibly transparent.
There has been a lot of marketing BS about analogue, and fortunately most of the shortcomings of LPs are euphonic but LPs lose a lot compared to reel-to-reel tape and the best reel to reel tape is inferior, in the entire audible range, to 16/44 digital IME.
 

Frank Dernie

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#18
I very nearly bought one of these just because it is such a brilliantly sensible and well thought out product.
I was delighted by the obvious correctness of the Devialet approach to a phono stage and this parallels it in a splendid product which will be way better than it needs to be to deal with a cartridge output.

His problem is that the sort of person who sees records as superior are hard-of-understanding when it comes to things technical.
 

Soniclife

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#20
No, but he is apparently considering one as it has been requested by users.
I can see a lot of users benefiting from the freedom putting the TT somewhere good for it, and just being able to run a thin digital cable to the rest of the system, without having to worry about extra noise in analogue cables.
 

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