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Sutherland KC Vibe MK2 Phono Stage Review

Rate this phono stage:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 17 14.5%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 46 39.3%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 47 40.2%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 7 6.0%

  • Total voters
    117

restorer-john

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A miserable day pouring with rain here, so I've measured 1kHz MM front end overloads on six vintage phono RIAA stages (preamplifiers or integrated amplifiers) so far.

I try for ten or so, then post up a separate thread to discuss.
 

pma

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A miserable day pouring with rain here, so I've measured 1kHz MM front end overloads on six vintage phono RIAA stages (preamplifiers or integrated amplifiers) so far.

I try for ten or so, then post up a separate thread to discuss.
I'll join you, then :).

Below is a recorded click from vinyl track as seen at the MM phono preamp output.

click2_vinyl.PNG
 

AudioSceptic

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AFAIK the Parks Audio Puffin does this and many more useful things.
Thanks to DDF for posting this link in that thread to a very interesting article on vinyl recorded velocities, including the Shure research. <http://www.pspatialaudio.com/max_velo.htm>.

Sadly, unless there were basic errors in the Puffin's settings, it's fatally flawed in both overload and HF cutoff, so any features it has in the digital domain are essentially wasted.
 

Phorize

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Well, the Chord Huei has just lost its number one spot in the terrible interface category:p
 

sarumbear

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Loop into the MM stage.

Most MC stages are flat gain and sit up front of the MM stage. Just like a SUT.
I understand. I thought it was a separate output on a socket and wondered what can be the use for.
 

sarumbear

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A true statement if you are referring to overload margin. That is one place a properly designed tube phono preamp has - lots of available voltage swing.
Average MM cartridge output is 5mV, let’s say we want a headroom of 30dB you are talking 150mV. Compare that to 48V this unit is fed, 320 times, then think again what you said.

Before you said what about amplification… 150mV input with 45dB amplification as this unit was tested at would create 26V output which would require 40VDC supply. Well, it was fed with 20% more.

Their main issue is passive RIAA equalisation. Ideology over engineering fails.
 

Bob from Florida

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Average MM cartridge output is 5mV, let’s say we want a headroom of 30dB you are talking 150mV. Compare that to 48V this unit is fed, 320 times, then think again what you said.

Before you said what about amplification… 150mV input with 45dB amplification as this unit was tested at would create 26V output which would require 40VDC supply. Well, it was fed with 20% more.

Their main issue is passive RIAA equalisation. Ideology over engineering fails.
Beefkabob appeared to be mocking tubes or perhaps serious. A phono tube preamp with a 200 volt plate supply is going to have serious voltage swing available - way more than 5 volts of 40 db gain phono stage plus 20 db buffer. A 5 mv signal gets amplified 40 db or 100 times for nominal .5 volt output. The RIAA recording curve boosts the treble up to 20 db at 20 KHZ. The first stage has to handle the extra 20 db boost in the treble before the RIAA playback curve adds 20 db at 20 HZ and subtracts 20 db at 20 KHZ - RIAA curve between those points. Before RIAA correction of the treble you need a lot more than 20 db overload margin if you are going to minimize pops and clicks from record damage. Easy to get 50 volts out without clipping using a well designed tube phono. Please note I did not state the tube phono would be good all around.
The Sutherland's power supply is not regulated at 48 volts. It uses the 48 volts to power a dropping network of resistors and capacitors. This may help explain the low noise. We don't know the final rail voltage for the op amp. The recent Zen phono test showed decreasing overload as frequency increase - very similar to the Sutherland. The Zen makes plus and minus 12 volts while the Schiit Mani 2 with its plus and minus 5 volt rails has better overload measurements. Something going on but without all the circuit details no way to even speculate the source of the overload measurements.
 
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sarumbear

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Jim Shaw

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I often wonder (as in shake my head) at phono preamps. They have a simple, and in today's world of available components, reasonably easy to accomplish tasks:
take the signal from an MM (or occasionally an MC) cartridge and boost it up to a few volts to drive a preamp or amp that doesn't have the needed gain or RIAA equalization. It's best if the phono preamp has an input impedance to match the cartridge manufacturer's specs -- and an output Z that will drive the next amp firmly and correctly.
The source can be presumed to be a vinyl disc (here come the vinylphiles) which, under real conditions, has a frequency response of about 25 to 15000 Hz and a dynamic range of no more than 60 dB on a good, clean, early pressing. Figuratively, modern, reasonable-cost electronics should be able to do this with easy grace.

To a good designer, this is pretty trivial. Yet audiophrenics will obsess over it, and opine that any perceived difference between devices is "better." (No, it's just "different.") It's like changing the color of chess pieces from white to gray, or black to dark green. The game is still the same.

To reproduce the sound imprinted on a vinyl record can and is done with preamps built-in for free, outboard devices for $75-$350, and foo-foo "high end" devices costing thousands. I'm pretty sure that, if a proper double-blind testing procedure was ever in place, trained listeners would hear differences, but not be able to judge cost with any correlation. As it is, it's all a fashion show. And the use-case is more like sweatpants. A Nike swoosh won't make you run farther. A milled aluminum billet front panel does nothing to change the function. Just the price.

Execute a double-blind testing program with trained listeners, and try to prove me wrong. :)

-Just one man's view.
 
Last edited:

Bob from Florida

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I often wonder (as in shake my head) at phono preamps. They have a simple, and in today's world of available components, reasonably easy to accomplish tasks:
take the signal from an MM (or occasionally an MC) cartridge and boost it up to a few volts to drive a preamp or amp that doesn't have the needed gain or RIAA equalization. It's best if the phono preamp has an input impedance to match the cartridge manufacturer's specs -- and an output Z that will drive the next amp firmly and correctly.
The source can be presumed to be a vinyl disc (here come the vinylphiles) which, under real conditions, has a frequency response of about 25 to 15000 Hz and a dynamic range of no more than 60 dB on a good, clean, early pressing. Figuratively, modern, reasonable-cost electronics should be able to do this with easy grace.

To a good designer, this is pretty trivial. Yet audiophrenics will obsess over it, and opine that any perceived difference between devices is "better." (No, it's just "different.") It's like changing the color of chess pieces from white to gray, or black to dark green. The game is still the same.

To reproduce the sound imprinted on a vinyl record can and is done with preamps built-in for free, outboard devices for $75-$350, and foo-foo "high end" devices costing thousands. I'm pretty sure that, if a proper double-blind testing procedure was ever in place, trained listeners would hear differences, but not be able to judge cost with any correlation. As it is, it's all a fashion show. And the use-case is more like sweatpants. A Nike swoosh won't make you run farther. A milled aluminum billet front panel does nothing to change the function. Just the price.

Execute a double-blind testing program with trained listeners, and try to prove me wrong. :)

-Just one man's view.
It is not that easy. If you look at the Sinad graphs produced during the phono stage reviews you always see the higher distortion at 20 HZ ramping down to 20 KHZ. The bass is recorded as much as -20 db and that has to be corrected to make the response flat. A 40 db phono stage has as much as 60 db gain in the bass. Any noise - think 60 HZ mains and harmonics are going to get boosted. The cartridge is acting as an antenna to any 60 HZ signal that couples to the cartridge, turntable chassis, and tonearm cable. Any of that that makes it to the preamp gets amplified. You do what you can do - grounding schemes, cartridge mu metal shielding, etc to minimize.
Perhaps a system like the below will yield better results - not cheap though.

 

Mnyb

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I’ve seen this “passive riaa equalisation “ mentioned several times in this tread and also historicaly over the years as more than one phono stage mfg is touting this as the best way to do it ?

Is this yet another audio myth ? Any real pros and cons.

It obviously lowers the overload margin ? But what’s gained ?
 

sergeauckland

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I’ve seen this “passive riaa equalisation “ mentioned several times in this tread and also historicaly over the years as more than one phono stage mfg is touting this as the best way to do it ?

Is this yet another audio myth ? Any real pros and cons.

It obviously lowers the overload margin ? But what’s gained ?
Nothing as far as I can tell. It only has disadvantages, mostly to do with overload performance as the voltage swing required stretches what low level amps can do comfortably. To me it's being different for the sake of it, as it's hard to charge a premium for audiophile credibility when a cheap opamp stage like the CA or ProJect can do such a good job for very little cost.
 

Casper

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How will you know if it is better or worse? Also, what is your criteria to judge a phone amplifier's quality? I really like to know.
The only way to know is with objective measurements. If it had significantly more headroom, lower distortion, lower noise, etc. I wouldn't mind spending $1400 for their higher end unit. $4000 is more than I would be willing to spend now, but that's not unreasonable in this market. A lot of the comments on this board imply that it's a simple matter to build a phono preamp with outstanding performance, but if that were true, the Cambridge Audio Solo would be at the bottom of the chart, not the top. I have a Rek-O-Kut-Ultra that I bought for its features because I also have a 78 player, but I'm in the market for a better phono preamp for my LPs. I'm hoping to see more phono preamps reviewed here to see what is really outstanding. The Cambridge Audio Solo seems like a good value but I bet there are better options out there.
 

sarumbear

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A lot of the comments on this board imply that it's a simple matter to build a phono preamp with outstanding performance, but if that were true, the Cambridge Audio Solo would be at the bottom of the chart, not the top.
Can you explain why you think that? i can’t see your logic.
 

Casper

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Can you explain why you think that? i can’t see your logic.
Maybe I did miss something. Do have the list of inexpensive high performance phono preamps? That is what I'm looking for.
 

sarumbear

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Maybe I did miss something. Do have the list of inexpensive high performance phono preamps? That is what I'm looking for.
There’s a list already on ASR. Look at the reviews page.

Cambridge Duo or Solo are at the top.
 
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