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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

Casper

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Yes, that is what I was referring to in my post. There have not been many phono preamps reviewed here, so the list is a small sample of what is available. I suspect that Cambridge Audio is not the gold standard in phono preamps. If Sutherland's entry level phono pre is is good enough to land in second place, I'm very interested to see how their higher end products perform.
 

sarumbear

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Yes, that is what I was referring to in my post. There have not been many phono preamps reviewed here, so the list is a small sample of what is available. I suspect that Cambridge Audio is not the gold standard in phono preamps. If Sutherland's entry level phono pre is is good enough to land in second place, I'm very interested to see how their higher end products perform.
You are only looking at SINAD. There’s more to a phono amplifier. Read the reviews.
 

sergeauckland

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Yes, that is what I was referring to in my post. There have not been many phono preamps reviewed here, so the list is a small sample of what is available. I suspect that Cambridge Audio is not the gold standard in phono preamps. If Sutherland's entry level phono pre is is good enough to land in second place, I'm very interested to see how their higher end products perform.
The Sutherland is only Good Enough for 2nd place on SINAD. It's NOT Good Enough as a decent phono preamp as the overload margin is so poor. In my view, it's not fit for use, especially at the price.

If you want a really good phono stage, then the Cambridge Audio is pretty much as good as it gets, regardless of price. Phono stages are really easy to get right, so it mystifies me that the expensive stuff is often so poor.

S.
 

sarumbear

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There have not been many phono preamps reviewed here, so the list is a small sample of what is available.
There had been 19 reviews. For a niche product how many more do you want?
 

Casper

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I want more reviews. Especially scientific reviews of audio products. That's what ASR is about. DACs are also a niche product. The reviews are interesting, but from a cost/performance perspective, there is less to be gained there. The state of the art is so good, and there are so many affordable DACs at the top, there is little difference. Yet the phono preamp list shows that most dedicated phono preamps--many from companies that should care about them--underperform. It's sad to see brands like NAD, ProJect, PS Audio, Chord, and others at the bottom. These are companies that have the resources to produce much better products. Unfortunately, there is no Topping of SMSL equivalent in the phono preamp market. Or is there? We won't know until we have a larger sampling.
 

sarumbear

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I want more reviews. Especially scientific reviews of audio products. That's what ASR is about.
What ASR is about is people like you who doesn’t balk at spending $4000 to buy the units they want to be scientifically analysed and send to @amirm.
 

Casper

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I've tried to keep this conversation civil and on a positive note, even though you were probably trolling from the beginning. You crossed the line into cranky old man territory a couple of posts ago, but I thought I could steer the conversation back into something useful, but when you start using phrases like "people like you" the conversation is over.
 

Bob from Florida

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I went back to look at the Cambridge Solo review and the clipping test only appears to test 1 frequency. The newer reviews show multiple frequencies tested for clipping. Assuming I am not missing something, doesn't this invalidate clipping comparisons to a certain degree? I like that there is more data, but as the testing evolves the older tests don't compare as well against the newer.
 

Frank Dernie

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Eh!
This, here, is a turntable "re-imagined": almost every single element of it.
View attachment 234075
The whole shebang costs $1,000/pound ... really, no reason to discuss MSRP but it has a 3-digit weight.
I am betting that it comes with RCAs. If at that price; it comes with an arm at all.
Chickens are smarter, maybe this is the egg!;)
One of the thing that has always disappointed me about most turnables is how many must be designed by people who are not well conversant with the dynamics of vibration and how the transduction works.
Loads of static statements are put forward by people selling what is a dynamic transducer and loads of schoolboy errors being made in the design.

There are 6 degrees of freedom. It would be ideal to isolate the record surface from all of them but persistently a huge chassis with springs very far apart is used which is capable of adequate isolation in 1 or 2 maybe 3 of them definitely way out too high a frequency of rocking isolation.

The original Edgar Villchur design was done well understanding the basic physics of how a record player works.
It was built to the sort of budget people spent at the time and was way more effective at isolating the playing transducer movement from the environment than anything that came before.

There were several record players using the same concept subsequently with Ariston, Linn and Pink Triangle selling quite a few.

All these massive decks with widely spaced suspension towers, including my Goldmund Reference unfortunately, will not be able to isolate rocking modes down to the lowest audio frequencies - however reassuringly expensive and astutely marketed they are :)

They may look impressive and work reasonably well but their isolation can not be ideal.

Sorry, nothing to do with phono stages but it is infuriating how expensive some items with fundamentally flawed conceptual design are. :mad:
 

cgallery

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Exactly this. Any phono stage needs at least 20dB of headroom at 1kHz. Shure measured commercially available LPs way back when, and found that some hot LPs were cut with velocities of up to 70cm/sec. This is 14x or 23dB above the nominal 5cm/sec recorded velocity, and that's modulation, not scratches which can go higher still. This means that a nominal 40dB gain phono stage with a cartridge of nominal 5mV @ 5cm/sec recorded velocity has to be able to output at least 5V on peaks, and ideally a good few dBs more, so I expect a phono stage to output around 8V (+20dBu) without clipping.

Yes, RIAA accuracy and low noise are important, but they're trivially easy to get right, overload margin seems to escape modern designers. My own phono stages, made in the mid 1980s, can output 9.5 V (+22dBu) before clipping.

S.

I thought there was some debate over whether the +23db included possible surface noise.
 

cgallery

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Input overload is vitally important for obvious reasons, but why should a RCA equipped stage be required to give 4V output? Most amps with RCA inputs seem to have plenty of gain, don't they?

I do appreciate the input overload can be equated to output levels too as regards gain levels internally from input to output, but hoprfully SIY or another engineer can clarify for me?

Price is mad-high though, bearing in mind the basic casework I feel.

My Parasound ZPre3 preamplifier has an IC-based input selector with a maximum 2.5v input, anything above 2.5v is going to cause clipping. And I see these sorts of limitations on downstream input voltage becoming more common, if anything.

So lower gains would be beneficial for people that run cartridges rated at 5mv or even higher. I sometimes use vintage cartridges rated at 6.2 and even 6.5mv.

I use a super-inexpensive TC-750 phono preamp, and I've reduced the gain from 40db to 34db, so as to prevent chances of clipping the input of the ZPre3.

My ideal phono preamp would have adjustable gains of perhaps 34, 37, 40, and 43db, and have options for capacitance and resistive loading all on the front-panel. I don't think any such thing is made, I've had to modify the TC-750 so I can adjust loading by stuffing capacitors and resistors into a Molex KK250-series connector (think 4-pin motherboard fan connector) that I've connected to the board.
 

sergeauckland

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I thought there was some debate over whether the +23db included possible surface noise.
As far as the cartridge is concerned, it can't distinguish between noise and modulation, it's all stylus movement. However, even as relatively noisy as vinyl is, noise will still be a very long way down that it will make no impression on overload margins.

S
 

cgallery

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As far as the cartridge is concerned, it can't distinguish between noise and modulation, it's all stylus movement. However, even as relatively noisy as vinyl is, noise will still be a very long way down that it will make no impression on overload margins.

S

Well when I'm capturing my pink noise and other tracks, it is the pops and ticks that set the peak bars on the meters of my acquisition app, by quite a margin, too.
 

sergeauckland

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Well when I'm capturing my pink noise and other tracks, it is the pops and ticks that set the peak bars on the meters of my acquisition app, by quite a margin, too.
Exactly, that's why the overload margin has to be as high as possible, certainly over 20dB, and better still 25dB. Even though the 'normal' peak modulation is around +10-+15dB, and according to Shure, there are some LPs with modulation as high as +23dB (both relative to 5cm/sec recorded velocity), clicks and pops can go higher still, and a phono stage has to be able to handle those without nasty artefacts.

S.
 

cgallery

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Exactly, that's why the overload margin has to be as high as possible, certainly over 20dB, and better still 25dB. Even though the 'normal' peak modulation is around +10-+15dB, and according to Shure, there are some LPs with modulation as high as +23dB (both relative to 5cm/sec recorded velocity), clicks and pops can go higher still, and a phono stage has to be able to handle those without nasty artefacts.

S.

This guy says 20db is the theoretical limit for 33-1/3-RPM vinyl, 23db for 45-RPM:


So I wonder whether Shure wasn't picking up pops and ticks during their testing.
 

sergeauckland

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This guy says 20db is the theoretical limit for 33-1/3-RPM vinyl, 23db for 45-RPM:


So I wonder whether Shure wasn't picking up pops and ticks during their testing.
I don't know is the honest answer. In Shure's graph for peak velocities, they don't specify what the LPs were that were the outliers on high peak velocities, but I would be surprised if a company with Shure's expertise they would have got that wrong. It is also possible that those outliers could have been 45rpm cuts, just don't know.

S.
 

cgallery

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I don't know is the honest answer. In Shure's graph for peak velocities, they don't specify what the LPs were that were the outliers on high peak velocities, but I would be surprised if a company with Shure's expertise they would have got that wrong. It is also possible that those outliers could have been 45rpm cuts, just don't know.

S.

Yeah certainly possible (likely even) they were testing 45-RPM stuff.

The thing is, if the user doesn't have any 45-RPM albums, then sticking in the 20db (or more, never less if possible) headroom area should be fairly safe, it is an age-old rule-of-thumb for a reason.

If they have 45-RPM albums, then going 23db or more would be advisable.

I ran into this with my Zpre3, which has that 2.5v limit on the input. Using a 40db phono gain stage, I was occasionally saturating the inputs on that ZPre3, so had to modify my phono preamp for less gain (went from 40db down to 34db, and honestly now that I'm using a 7.5mv cartridge more and more, I might drop down another 3db).
 

MarcosCh

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All this conversation got me wondering what might be the headroom of my phono stage. I don't expect that Amir or anyone ever measures it so.... Is there an easy way to measure it myself?
My stage has adjustable gain (42 to 66 db) and my Motu M4 that I would use as adc spec "max input +18dbu" (=6.15 V I read somewhere??). If my math is correct (I highly doubt it) I could feed the phono stage with up to 49mV at 42db gain before it is too much for the Motu ADC (?). Seems high enough....
So if I would feed the phono stage a weak sine wave at xx frequency using a DAC (and measuring the output first with a multimeter in case) and capture the signal in REW and then I start to increase the signal amplitude until I start to see the distortion taking off inREW, would that be the point I am clipping the stage -> allows me to calculate the headroom??
Do you guys think it is feasible or this is the most stupid idea ever, and I am at risk breaking something ??
 
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