Hagerman Audio Labs Piccolo Zero MC Headamp

Jim Hagerman is at it again. The Hagerman Audio Labs head honcho did some soul searching recently about cartridge loading — and while doing so, he in turn came up with the Piccolo Zero MC (moving cartridge) headamp.

Hagerman reached out to me directly to tell the tale of how the Piccolo Zero came to be.

“Right before the holidays, Jim Austin [the editor of our sister site, Stereophile] wrote a great opinion piece [in the As We See It column] regarding cartridge loading and distortion,” Hagerman observes about Austin’s truly insightful column that you can read here.

“Herb [Reichert] followed that up by talking about MC loading and tracking ability,” Hagerman continues. “Well, that lead to a bunch of email threads between Dave Slagle, myself, Herb, and others discussing merits of the case. They also wanted me to update my cartridge loading page, as the previous version was confusing to customers — at least for Dave. Anyhow, it led to a lot of work, more simulations, the addition of braking theory, and my development of a new formula to calculate bandwidth of a cartridge in current mode.” You can see Hagerman’s cartridge loading-related updates here.

Continues Hagerman, “Well, that got me thinking, ‘I need to try this out’ — so I designed a new transimpedance headamp. Oh my, the sound was something new, something very controlled, something wonderful. I may not prefer it for Earth, Wind & Fire, but Patricia Barber and Miles Davis? Absolutely!”


According to Hagerman, Piccolo Zero is a transimpedance headamp that offers “an upgrade path for anyone with a decent MM phono preamp to delve into current mode operation.” It is designed to operate MC cartridges in that current mode — i.e., zero input impedance — which is said to be desirable for its improved tracking ability, resulting in lower distortion and well-controlled sonic presentation. The Piccolo Zero offers four levels of gain that are selected by “tiny” internal switches (83V/A; 0dB, +4dB, +6dB, and +12dB) with the nominal gain set at 132ohms (“yeah, that sounds funny, but it’s true,” adds Hagerman).

Other specs and features for the Piccolo Zero include an input impedance of 0ohm, output impedance of 330ohms, DC bandwidth to >1MHz, and an included power supply (24V @60mA).

Finally, the SRP for the Hagerman Audio Labs Piccolo Zero headamp is $249. Hagerman adds that the company still offers the Piccolo MC headamp (voltage mode with traditional resistive loading), which has an SRP of $259.

For more about Hagerman Audio Labs and how to order their gear directly, go here.


Anton D's picture

I admit to not getting that part: "which is said to be desirable for its improved tracking ability..."

Another question: how does this happen - "I may not prefer it for Earth, Wind & Fire, but Patricia Barber and Miles Davis? Absolutely!”

It's not good on complex musical signal? It's "slow?"

I am sure there are parts I didn't grok.

Jeremiah Webster's picture

Hi there,

The phrase "which is said to be desirable for its improved tracking ability" refers to a characteristic of the turntable cartridge. In the context of vinyl playback, tracking ability refers to how well the needle (stylus) of the cartridge follows the grooves of the record without skipping or causing distortion. A cartridge with improved tracking ability is less likely to lose contact with the grooves, resulting in a more accurate and faithful reproduction of the music.

As for the statement "I may not prefer it for Earth, Wind & Fire, but Patricia Barber and Miles Davis? Absolutely!” it suggests a subjective preference for different cartridges based on the type of music being played. The terms "slow" or "fast" in this context are metaphorical and don't refer to the actual speed of the cartridge but rather to its tonal characteristics.

For example, some cartridges may emphasize certain frequencies or respond differently to dynamic changes in the music. In the case of Patricia Barber and Miles Davis, the listener might prefer a cartridge that provides a more nuanced and detailed presentation, which could be described as "fast" in its responsiveness. However, for other genres like Earth, Wind & Fire, the listener might prefer a different cartridge characteristic that complements the musical style.

Ultimately, the choice of a cartridge can be a matter of personal taste and the specific characteristics that a listener values in their audio playback. Different cartridges can bring out different aspects of the music, and preferences can vary based on individual listening preferences.
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I hope this clarifies the concepts for you. If you have further questions or if there's anything specific you'd like more information on, feel free to ask!

Anton D's picture

My question was how this device improves a cartridge’s tracking ability.

This device is ‘post tracking.’

He also states his device is not for EWaF, not the cartridges.

kleinbje's picture

The amount of current drawn from a cartridge is in a large part determined by the first "post tracking" component, in this case a transimpedance head amp. Drawing a lot of current from the cartridge leads to more difficult deflection of the cantilever. This more difficult to deflect cantilever may(does) have different tracking properties.
Just as that post-amp piece of equipment can completely fry your amp.

otaku2's picture

I am not an expert on this topic, but I think that the "improved tracking" refers to Lenz's Law, where the magnetic field generated by the stylus movement creates an new magnetic field in the opposing direction.


Tom L's picture

Every time you buy something to hook up to your turntable it automatically improves the tracking. Right?

barfle's picture

You’ve reviewed a product without a comma in the price tag!