Aural Thrills Audio MM/MC Phono Amplifier All tube Last...
Phono stages are very special to me. I have a large record collection and
never made the switch to digital. I had a field day when everyone was selling
their record to Goodwill. $1 each. I fear these good old days are over as others
are discovering the magic of vinyl. I have been building phono amps for many
years and have tried many and built many others. I like the low output moving
coil cartridges best, as do most people. It has the most detail and you are
there feeling for my ears. Unfortunately low output cartridges need extra gain
over Moving Magnet cartridges. Many people use a step up transformer. It steps
up the voltage at the expense of losing current. It is known to be very quiet
but in my opinion sounds flat and loses much of the beauty. Other designs use a
small solid state amplifier chip for the extra gain that a moving coil needs.
These usually sound worse than the transformer. My favorite is to use tubes for
all of the amplification. The main downfall of this approach is that tubes can
be noisy. Phono amps multiply the signal many times over. Much more than other
types of amps. Noise is multiplied as well. So what is the solution? I have
found that there are a few ways of making an all tube phono stage quiet. I now
offer two versions for your pleasure.
The first is to design the quietest filters possible. I use a computer
program to choose components and layouts that will provide the cleanest
electricity to the amplifier stage. All electrolytic caps are bypassed by a film
cap. This results in a full frequency power supply. The dynamics and natural
sound of this system is very appealing to me. It will never be as quiet as a
fully regulated system, but sounds the best to me. It is not objectional,
just not as black as a fully regulated supply. It is also more sensitive to set
up. Standard audiophile rules must be employed for EMI/RFI interference.
The other method used is complete
regulation of the voltage and current to the plates and filaments of the
amplifying tubes. Doing this decouples the AC wall electricity further. Until now I have never head a regulator that I liked. Usually
they contribute to the sound coloring it in an obvious way. This regulated power
supply that has been employed in my new Stage II amplifier results in a quiet,
beautiful sound. It is labeled "Modern Sound" by many. Click on pictures
for more information.
Here are the latest customer reviews:
Just wanted to let you know I received the unit
in great shape. I am leaving in the morning on vacation and won/t get to
listen much until I get back. From what I have listened so far, all I can
say is awesome, awesome, awesome. I will just rotate my Moving coil
cartridges. I have some older preamps for MM. Other cartridge I have is Low
output moving coil Grado Sonata. Haven/t tried it yet. Thanks for
everything. Don/t know what brand of tubes are in it, but they sound
excellent to me. David.Here is another one.
I changed the setting back to M C @ 100 ohms after trying a higher setting,I
took the sot out of the configuration, I warmed the amp up with one side of
Bach and then I played my reference album, Dark side of the moon.
HOLY MOTHER OF GOD this would equal the most discerning systems at any cost,
the separation and darkness of the sound stage just blew my mind I am not
changing the cartridge, it could use a little more mv output to be perfect but
it is not worth the effort as this turntable is a bear to change. Thank you
for leading me away from the H O M C, I did buy the denon 103 r and I am going
to install that on a Thorens 160 that is being refurbished and up graded with
todays technology or possibly a VPI classic if I can get the right price on
that and sneak it into the house so my wife doesn't see it.
At any rate I could not be happier with this very fine pre amp you would be
hard pressed to find one that functions as flawless at any price. It is a
great product and you are a absolute pleasure to deal with.
I will send you the tracking # when I go to the post office, but now It is
Here is another review just received:
Douglas Robert Hounsell <1blues4fun@
Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 2:25 PM
To: Tom Kenny <email@example.com>
Good afternoon Tom,
The preamp is here and I must say I am quite impressed with the
build quality and construction of piece. First rate and it looks
great in the rack. However looks aside after plumbing it up into
system the real proof of your Phono pre with the balanced outs
is what really matters to me! After listening to a MFSL Rolling
Stones “Let it Bleed” I was quite pleased, then on to Stealy
Dans “Aja” I was rapidly becoming an Aural Thrills Audio fan
big time. The punch combined with a subtle smoothness is
magnificent. Lower register notes on piano are outrageous clean,
tight and dominate. I am fully aware how difficult it can be to
accomplish this as I worked my tail off with Leon Russell’s
engineer one evening getting this very thing “right” at a show I
produced and engineered some years ago. Thank you for your
devotion to what matters in your craft. Perfection takes its
toil on the less passionate but their always will be folks like
me that understand and appreciate folks like you. Now on to the
Beach Boys “Pet Sounds”
[Quoted text hidden]
Yes I received the pre amp in good condition and I sent you a response on Ebay
for your product.
I set it up and it sounds great! I've invested in an affordable LP vinyl
washing system, and with a modified vac system, my record collection has been
given new life!
The Marantz SR8001 amp and Technics SP15 turntable/Grado cartridge are
sounding really clean with your phono stage.
Thank you for your excellent workmanship.
Received the amp and plugged it in to the CD input of my Yamaha A-S700 amp. I
have a Yaquin MC-100B that’s been modified by a tech in Australia and a pair
of Sonus Faber Concertinos, but all unfortunately still in storage.
I am listening to some Australian country music, the hairs on the back of my
neck are standing up - I’ve honestly never heard it sound so clear, present
Can’t wait to spend some quality time with your preamp. Maybe I’ll just plug
the headphones in and kick back for a couple hours….
Thanking you, sir.
Picked it up this afternoon. I've attached a picture of the phono
section opened that Tom sent me while it was still on his bench.
I'll do more pics and the power section later. I have to say, even
not being broken in at all, the sound is really impressive and a
perfect match for the rest of my set up. Running analog direct,
the level of detail, the air around each instrument, the
extension, the tightness of the bass, the depth of the sound
stage, all are incredible. It was a real bargain at the price I
paid, too. All I need now is an Emission Labs 274B and time to
break it in.
Now that I'm getting a few hundred hours on the caps and other
components, it's time for a bit more of a review and a few more
First, Tom at ATA was great to work with. He answered all my
questions and helped me make decisions on a completely custom,
hand-built, phono stage. As you can see in the first pic, the
signal path consists of Mundorf S/O as the output coupling,
along with Sonicaps and silver mica caps in the passive RIAA
section, with Mills resistors. Electrolytics are used only for
the radio frequency filtering, which is outside the signal path.
Everything except the Mundorfs are part of the standard 100
dollar upgrade (normal price for the stage is 899, 999 for the
upgraded version). Those ran an extra 200 on top of the upgrade.
I also decided to go with a choke input on the 274B rectified
power supply, and a linear power supply instead of a switching
after talking to Tom about the pros and cons of each. I'm also
now running his recommended Amperex 12AX7s, which I really like.
Into this, I'm running an Empire 2x8 fitted with a Rega arm
that's been heavily upgraded and a Shelter 501 Mk II cart using
a Baerwald (sp?) alignment for Rega arms. The phono IC comes
from the Cardas DIN to custom solid silver cables w/ WBTs, and
out from the pre via a custom cable that's a single silver and a
single copper 28 ga. OCC strand twisted together w/ DH Labs RCAs
and cotton insulators. That feeds out into my Pio SC-05 and out
via analog direct into my Mackie's then to my RTi12s @ 850 wpc.
So that's the setup.
The sound is very balanced, with many good qualities, and no bad
ones that I can hear. The sound stage is quite wide and deep,
and instruments have a very nice space, but they sound neither
big nor pinpoint. Instead, instruments sound life-sized. Vocals
have a good weight to them, and it's very easy to count the
number of singers when multiple vocalists come in. A good
example of this is the 2nd track on Jackson Brown's Running On
Empty, where there's a close harmony between 3 male vocalists.
On my old Parasound, I thought it was a weird mix where
Jackson's voice was spread all the way across the sound stage.
After hooking up the Aural Thrills Audio stage, I was able to
discern that it was actually 3 different vocalists in close
harmony, with Jackson mixed center, and one voice mixed into the
left channel, and one into the right. Female vocals also receive
very good treatment. Ella and Aretha are even more engaging than
ever. It's especially fun picking out which vocalists have good
mic technique, and which one's tend to lean into and away from
the mic while singing. Cymbals ring for a ridiculously long time
through even the densest tracks, and have plenty of that brassy
shine to them that you hear if you strike a cymbal yourself.
It's even easy to discern where on the cymbal it's being played,
down to how far from the bell the drummer is striking it, and
exactly which type it is (ride, china, etc.). Drums have amazing
slam, with a deep, tight bass. I find myself listening to
Rolling Stone Under Cover just to listen to the drums. Also easy
to hear is the ring of the drum head after being hit, as well as
the transient from the strike. Bass guitars and bass violas,
whether plucked or bowed, sound fantastic. Deep, lots of
overtones, just like they're in the room. Acoustic guitars (and
all wood-bodied instruments) again sound very realistic. Picking
out a small bodied acoustic, or a dreadnought, etc., all are
quite readily distinguishable. Violins and other stringed
classical instruments have a very slight sweetness to them, but
again, the wood of the body is clearly distinguishable
especially during solo passages, but also during denser
passages. Horns all have their own proper sound, and the breath
of the player can easily be heard when wind or reed instruments
are present. It's especially fun to listen to pieces with both
flutes and piccolos present, since the tonal differences are so
readily apparent. Finally, piano pieces sound excellent, right
down to the hammer striking the strings. So in short, this pre
wasn't cheap, but it's an excellent value. I can't wait to see
how it sound after another 200 hours.
I have designed this unit for optimum sound and ease of use. It is capable
of delivering stunning performance in both MM and MC mode. The reason, it is
an all tube unit. No step up transformer needed. I have tried all types of MC
step up transformers and solid state amplifier devices for the critical first
gain for a MC cartridge. I have tried a high output MC cartridges so I did not
have to have the extra gain. Nothing sounded as good as a low output moving coil amplified by tubes.
A phono stage amplifies such a small starting signal that any outside
interference becomes a hum or other distortion. RFI/EMI becomes real problems
at these signal levels. Tube rush can also be a problem. I have worked years
to overcome these obstacles. The result is an amplifier that is dead quiet,
has great detail, and can play just about any type of cartridge made. Choose
between 55 or 66 db of gain. Cartridge loading is 47K MM and 100, 510, 1.3k,
and2.7k for MC.
I started with a commercially available board. I used a combination of and Wima
capacitors and 1% film resistors. All electrolytic capacitors are the new
Nichicon MUSE high end Audio grade.
Nichicon KG Series, designed for high-grade
offers three sound quality variations.
Capacitance range 680 to 33,000µF
Voltage range 16V to 100V (Type I, Type II, and Type III)
Temperature range -40ºC to +85ºC
These are awesome and make electrolytic capacitors
sound deep and rich. Four supplied 12ax7 tubes provide plenty of quiet gain.
Take the cover off and you can adjust gain and cartridge loading with with
built in switches.
All traces on the board are made of Silver for detail and power. All tube
sockets are Gold plated for trouble free service. All parts are hand selected
to insure a large soundstage. Every power circuit in this amp has been
designed on a computer program for optimum voltage and ripple free DC. I have
built and listened to at least 10 different circuits until I settled on this
one. It has that you are there quality.
HOW CAN THIS AMP BE ANY GOOD AT THIS LOW
As you can see, I have not spent a great deal on the
cosmetics of the unit. No fancy case, no fancy knobs, no fancy finish, only
quality parts used everywhere that it counts. I am so sure that you will love
this amp that I offer a no questions asked 14 day trial period. What have you
got to lose? For those of you who require that last 2% of perfection I offer a
package of high dollar capacitors. Most people do not know that you can buy
capacitors from $.98 to $150/ea. and more for the same value. Capacitors make
one of the most profound effects in amplifier performance. Packages start at
$200 and up. Contact for details. (Unit shown has
Computer designed power supplies
Natural brushed Aluminum finish
Chokes used in each supply
RIAA circuit built in (radio industry association of America
4 X 12AX7
Best sounding unit around
Nichicon Muse electrolytic caps
Available in Silver or Black ($100 upgrade)
Instructions for use
2 Days Left