- Jul 31, 2019
- Northampton, UK
Some good ideas in this product but it seems to me that they haven't been properly exploited, and is the basic performance good enough for the money? I also don't like the sockets being on the top: that makes for a messy setup, with cables pointing upwards.This is a review and detailed measurements of the Parks Audio Puffin Phono Pre-amplifier. This is a special device in that it digitizes the cartridge output and then is able to perform a wealth of signal processing on the signal from pop and tick removal to RIAA equalization. The standard one with analog in and out costs US $489 including Prime shipping on Amazon. The version the member purchased with Toslink digital out costs a lot more at $639 including shipping.
While compact, this is an attractive phono stage:
View attachment 108437
User interface is easy to navigate with countless option (22?). As you can see, there is a volume control as well so you could drive a power amp directly instead of going through a pre-amplifier (assuming you don't have other inputs).
The Toslink option is brought out on one side:
View attachment 108438
I tested and compared the unit using both RCA out and Digital.
Parks Audio Puffin Measurements
Let's start with our using moving magnet dashboard of 5 mv in with the device configured to 40 dB:
View attachment 108439
As you see, I had an easy time dialing out mains noise and hum. On the other hand, it is disappointing to see such high level of distortion.
Switching to digital out eliminates all but the second harmonic:
View attachment 108441
We don't gain a whole lot there and performance is still middling:
View attachment 108442
Measuring distortion alone we get:
View attachment 108443
So basically most of the distortion is baked in the input buffer and ADC side.
Where the Puffin shines is in its perfection implementation of RIAA equalization:
View attachment 108444
This gets even better when using digital out:
View attachment 108445
The manual says the internal sample rate is 96 kHz but per above, I am not seeing it clear much beyond 20 kHz which indicates a sample rate of 44.1 kHz. But maybe sample rate is high but internal processing is done at lower rate. Or there is an option to change the same rate -- I did not see it in my quick read.
A tricky part of this design is what to do with wide dynamic range of the input with respect to pops and clicks. So let's run our overload test:
View attachment 108446
This is not much of a headroom. Fortunately there is some pop removal processing so if the ADC doesn't overload, maybe that is a good workaround.
I have a soft spot for the Puffin as it is made locally and looks kind of cute. Its RIAA equalization is the most perfect I have seen in any phono stage which is the most audible thing. All the other filters and processing far outweigh anything that is out there and would make for a bunch of fun tweaking. Alas, not a fan of the high price with digital output. As far as I am concerned, that should be standard in the base price let alone incur a $200 penalty. Headroom is low as well and distortion is higher than pure analog phono stages. Then again, the LP medium has so much distortion that the latter point doesn't make any difference in reality.
Overall, I am going to put the Parks Audio Puffin on my recommended list but you may not.
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.
Appreciate any donations using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/