Analog Corner #63

"Simply Annoying," the section of last February's "Analog Corner" devoted to British reissue company Simply Vinyl, did not result in any clarification from the label regarding its source material—my e-mails went unanswered. Apparently, however, some consumers have had more luck.

According to a recent message posted on Phonogram, a vinyl newsgroup to which I subscribe, a Simply Vinyl spokesperson admitted that it used both analog and digital source material, and that it wasn't an "audiophile" company per se. That person went on to say that only 3% of the label's customers were "audiophiles." The other 97% just preferred vinyl.

This is nonsense, in my opinion. How has Simply Vinyl determined that 97%–3% breakdown of its customers? When someone at a Virgin Megastore or an HMV buys an SV title, who's looking over his or her shoulder and asking about the buyer's listening habits? No one. What's more, if this statistic were truly accurate, it would hardly be surprising. How many audiophiles are running out to buy expensive vinyl cut from mysterious sources that are possibly digital?

According to another SV spokesperson, their Byrds titles are digitally sourced, which won't surprise anyone who listens to them: they sound awful. What's more, they're expensive. You can buy the Sundazed 180gm versions, cut from the original tapes, for about $15 each. In fact, you should.

On the other hand, most of SV's many Dylan reissues—including Freewheelin', The Times They Are A-Changin', Bringing It All Back Home, John Wesley Harding, Blonde on Blonde, and a few others—were cut from British analog production masters, by Ray Staff at Sony's Whitfield Street Studios. Clearly, country of origin is not a reliable indicator of "analogability."

For some reason, however, SV's Highway 61 Revisited, Blood on the Tracks, and a few others were cut at Abbey Road from digital sources. This is odd, as Absolute Analogue's Blood on the Tracks was cut from the UK analog tape. Of course, a '60s-vintage "production master" is no guaranty of good sound. It could have been equalized and compressed to make the final LP play on the turntables of the day.

If Simply Vinyl would simply state each LP's source, non-audiophile vinyl fans would still buy them, regardless of provenance, but fanatical audiophiles would now know which might be worth buying for the sound. And for those titles, perhaps that "3%" would increase to 53%.

Simply Vinyl's Blonde on Blonde is a real find—the American master mix has been lost, making the reissue as close to an original pressing as you'll find. As I wrote in February, why wouldn't SV want to make this known to buyers? Beats me. Meanwhile, it's hit and miss with SV, though a spokesperson told a Phonogrammer that SV's reissues of EMI titles are sourced from analog masters and cut at Abbey Road. I'd bet on those being hits.

I Dared Compare Nine Phono Preamps and Lived to Tell About It!
If I got paid by the hour, this edition of "Analog Corner" would be a luxury even emapUSA couldn't afford. In order to test these nine phono sections, each needed breaking in, each needed to be auditioned loaded initially at 47k ohms (in moving-coil mode), and at whatever loading sounded optimum for the Lyra Helikon cartridge I used as a reference because that was what was on my Simon Yorke turntable at the time! Those phono sections that could handle moving-magnet cartridges needed to be heard doing that as well. All that took a lot of time, and is why this oft-promised survey has taken so long to see ink.

Each preamp was broken in using the Thor Phono Burn, whose CD-sourced burn-in signal mimics a phono cartridge's output by lowering the voltage and inverting the RIAA curve.

LPs included but were not limited to: Classic Records' 45rpm edition of Reiner/CSO's recording of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition; "Fever," from DCC Compact Classics' Elvis is Back; Impresses Do Brasil, a British EMI FDS mono featuring guitarist Laurindo Almeida; Judy Garland's Judy in Love, a Capitol FDS mono arranged by Nelson Riddle; an original Blue Note of Cannonball Adderley's Somethin' Else; The Dialogue, a Japanese audiophile set of duos featuring drums and a variety of other instruments; Esquivel's Exploring New Sounds in Stereo; and a German pressing of the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour.

Zanden Audio Systems Model 1000 ($15,000): If, in the year 2000, a phono section is a "niche" product, then this expensive all-tube design, imported by Bertrand Audio, is a niche within a niche within a niche. Looking sleek, solid, and unique, it's aimed at the connoisseur of vintage vinyl who owns a wide selection of monophonic LPs pressed before the RIAA curve was adapted worldwide in the mid-1950s.

For $15k you get an MM phono stage with only 33dB of gain. You get a choice of three equalization curves: RIAA, Columbia, and Decca. And you get separate mono and stereo inputs, the mono featuring front-panel-selectable loading options of 1k (for the Ortofon SPU-A), 10k (Denon 102), and 47k ohms (standard). Output impedance is specified as a high 3k ohms, S/N Ratio 70dB (IHF-A, ref. 5.0mV RMS), and THD 0.1% at 300mV RMS output, 1kHz.

Though it contains a printed circuit board, the Zanden is basically hand-built. The design features a very simple fixed-impedance phono equalizer based on a bridge T circuit comprising a capacitor, an inductor, and a resistor; and a direct-coupled amplification circuit consisting of three Sovtek 6922 dual-triode tubes. A fourth 6922 is used for current regulation. The B+ power supply uses a 6CA4 tube rectifier and an input choke. High-quality polypropylene-film capacitors are used in the signal path, and the inductors are wound in-house. Mercury switches and ultra-miniature, high-quality relays route the signal through the various EQ choices.

Zanden's designer, Kazutoshi Yamada, supplies a list of record labels and what he's found to be the appropriate de-emphasis curve for each, based on listening and personal preference. Some of these are problematic: Atlantic and Blue Note are listed as using the Columbia curve, but both labels specifically recommend RIAA on their album jackets. The list recommends RIAA for Warner Bros. and Columbia for Reprise, though they these labels in actuality have been owned by the same company since Frank Sinatra sold Reprise to WB in the early '60s. What's more, in the early days of Reprise there was no record company, just a name; everything was done out-of-house. "Record company" photos on WB inner sleeves were actually shots of film sound-production facilities, according to veteran WB engineer Lee Herschberg.

I'll write up my research on the RIAA curve and its implementation around the world in a future column. For now, I'll just say that you can use the Zanden's three curves as "tone controls," but that the majority of the LPs in most of our collections were cut using the RIAA curve. For collectors of vintage mono and early stereo LPs, the curves can correct the very serious tonal deficiencies resulting from using the RIAA curve on LPs cut using one of the other two.

I auditioned the Zanden using the Lyra Arion and Hovland step-up transformers with the Lyra Helikon cartridge. I also drove it "straight up" via the Grado Reference, which outputs 4.5mV.

What a fabulous and quiet sound came out of the Zanden Model 1000! It had that midband transparency and purity that the single-ended crowd craves, but because it's a preamplifier, it didn't suffer from limited bass extension or control, nor was it dynamically compressed—though I think the Audio Research Reference phono stage that I reviewed in the February issue is a bit more dynamically impressive on large orchestral crescendos. The top was sweet, smooth, and ultra-extended, with just the right amount of bite and detail. And, when asked to, the Zanden could rock.

The Model 1000 painted an airy, liquid, spacious, ultra-detailed picture populated by rounded, three-dimensional, harmonically complete images. Its seductive, liquid delicacy had me listening late into the night to LPs of solo acoustic and large symphonic works. Janis Ian's Breaking Silence never sounded so convincingly real. The Zanden's portrayal of well-recorded massed strings was almost sensory overload. By comparison, the superb-sounding ARC Reference sounded richer, bigger, and punchier on the bottom, but also thicker, more congested and lumpy.

What amazed me most about the Zanden's stellar performance with the Grado was that I auditioned it (using the Incognito VTA accessory) on Rega's new P3 turntable ($695), the replacement for the venerable Planar 3. The P3 features a new streamlined, ultra-light (20% less mass) plinth and a new direct coupling of the motor, made possible by a passive implementation of Rega's motor-smoothing technology. The coupling (but not the plinth) is available to current Planar 3 owners as a $155 upgrade. (Sorry, I didn't have an old Planar 3 around for a quick A/B.) I'd never heard the Grado sound this open, airy, and detailed.

Via the Yorke/Immedia/Lyra Helikon or the Grado/P3 combo, the Zanden 1000's silky-delicate yet still substantial, oh-so-dynamic, and fast picture was among the most memorable recorded musical experiences I've had. The purity of the sound was incredible.

Given that most of us don't need such a specialized product, let alone can afford one, I have to move on. But if you've got $15k and use an MM or high-output MC (or are prepared to buy an expensive step-up transformer as well), the Zanden Model 1000 is worth checking out.

Zanden: How about an RIAA/stereo-only version for less—preferably, much less?

Meanwhile, Back in the Real World...
Does $79 to $1295 sound more like what you're willing to spend on a phono section? It does to me. While none of the following matched the Zanden's magic, one got some of it, a few were quite impressive, and most had enough gain to raise a low-output MC cartridge off the ground in style. Plus, there was money left over for a stereo system. Or food.

QED DS-1 Discsaver ($79): The plastic-boxed, wall wart–powered DS-1 Discsaver (MM only) gives you acceptable, bare-bones sound and just enough gain, but I recommend it only if you're financially strapped and need the money to buy a turntable and cartridge. Dynamically limited, dimensionally flat, and sounding somewhat soft, the DS-1 still made analog music. And with a 9V alkaline battery (;ga la the Marcoff PPA-1, for you alte cockers) in place of the wall wart, the sound jumped a few notches dynamically and dimensionally. No miracles here, but not too bad.

Rega Fono MC ($295): Up the ladder a rung is Rega's unimpressive-looking, wall wart–powered Fono MC. Housed in a cheap plastic case (soon to be upgraded to extruded aluminum, at no price increase, to match Rega's other electronics), it feels as if nothing's inside—until you plug it in and listen. A $295 MC phono section has no right sounding this good. It has no user adjustments and came without documentation, but it was quiet. Gain is 62.95dB; loading is 100 ohms.

What impressed me most about the Fono MC was the three-dimensionality of the images and the lack of grain and edge commonly found in inexpensive, higher-gain phono stages, though those are accomplished here with some softness and loss of detail. But the Fono MC was a big surprise, and sounded remarkably dynamic. If you're looking for a unit you can set and forget until you can spend much more, the Fono MC will do the job. Ditto the $295 Fono for MM. This little box is damn good for the money.

McCormack Audio Micro Phono Drive ($595): When I raved about the Lehmann Black Cube ($695) in October 1998 and September 1999, I received e-mails from fans of McCormack Audio's wall wart–powered Micro Phono Drive, who thought it was better. (McCormack Audio, still headed by the very talented Steve McCormack, is now owned by Conrad-Johnson.) Now that I've had a chance to compare the two, I'd say the McCormack is the more attractive-looking phono section and physically better built—pretty impressive, given that it costs $100 less—but I didn't think it sounded quite as three-dimensional or as liquid as the Black Cube, at least in MC mode.

I found the McCormack's high-gain setting of 55dB extremely load-sensitive compared to some other phono sections, at least with the Lyra Helikon. At 47k ohms music sounded bright and hard—I couldn't understand what all the e-mailers had been so excited about. Unloaded, there was plenty of detail and speed, but harmonics were bleached out and images were paper-thin.

But when the McCormack was loaded down to 100 ohms via internally mounted resistor sockets, its sound improved dramatically. It retained its impressive speed and detail, and everything else improved. Image specificity, focus, and three-dimensionality were noticeably enhanced, and, most important, music seemed infused with a rich harmonic "rightness." With its input impedance properly set, the McCormack Phono Drive offered well-balanced all-around performance. Control and extension of bass were reasonably good, and back-wall reflections, reverberant trails, and other low-level details missing in action through the Rega Fono MC made their presences known, though the overall sound was still somewhat etchy.

At $599, the McCormack in MC mode with 55dB of gain represents very good value for the money in terms of build quality and sound, though I was much more impressed by its richer, fuller, more nuanced performance as an MM phono section (+40dB of gain) when I listened via the Grado Reference. In MM mode it really shone.

Monolithic Sound PS-1/HC-1 ($658): Monolithic Sound is the behind-the-scenes builder of electronic products for PS Audio, Vandersteen, and Genesis. In the late '70s, founder Greg Schug was involved in the design of the Infinity IRS loudspeaker's electronics. Today he's teamed up with former Audio Alchemy service department head Dusty Vawter (who must have been kept very busy!) to create a new line of reasonably priced electronics, including a line stage, a 50W class-A monoblock amplifier, and the PS-1 phono stage ($399, plus $259 for HC-1 upgraded power supply).

The PS-1 is a giant step up all around (no pun intended) from the Rega. It's very well built, its board is stuffed with what appear to be high-quality parts—especially in the RIAA, gain, and loading areas—and the power supply is unusually well-endowed for the price. What's more, MM/MC gain, loading, and capacitance are adjustable via convenient, rear-mounted DIP switches. There's even a subsonic filter, should you want to use it. But the PS-1 sounds so much more accomplished with the optional HC-1 Dual Mono Power Supply ($259) instead of the stock wall wart that I preferred to review it as a $658 combo, which puts it a step above the $595 McCormack Audio Micro Phono Drive in price.

The dual-mono HC-1 power-supply upgrade replaces the PS-1's single wall wart with a high-current, three-stage line filter directly behind the IEC jack, and a pair of 1.5 amp transformers that feed the PS-1 via a detachable umbilical. The PS-1's dip switches give you five resistive loading choices (100, 1k, 10k, and 47k ohms), three of capacitance (100, 270, and 370 picofarads), and four of gain (26dB, 35dB, 44dB, and 53dB). And don't forget that adjustable subsonic filter.

The full-boat PS-1 got a really solid dynamic grip on the music. It also had well-developed and extended bass, and fast, detailed highs without brightness or etch—though it was on the slightly dry side. The PS-1/HC-1 combo avoided brightness by sounding a bit dull even at 47k, if only slightly so. There was less ring and shimmer to cymbals and more crunch, but without etch, grain, or softness. Three-dimensionality was convincing, and the Monolithic Sound managed depth and instrumental layering much better than the McCormack.

Judy Garland's brilliantly recorded Judy in Love can speak volumes about a phono section's ability to reproduce the reverberant reflections from the back of what sounds like one big Capitol studio, as well as the front-to-back layering of instruments that a great mono recording can provide. The PS-1 did this better than anything else I've covered so far (except the $15k Zanden, of course), although, depending on the rest of your system, you might prefer the greater extension and resultant brightness of the McCormack. Overall, though, I think the PS-1/HC-1 combo is a good sonic value and very substantially built—a well-balanced product with genuinely exciting sound.

Lehmann Black Cube ($699): The Lehmann Black Cube offers 40dB gain (MM) and 61dB (MC). I was curious to hear it in this new context, but everything I heard only reinforced my original opinion. The Black Cube was probably not as dynamic or quite as rhythmically together as the Monolithic Sound PS-1/HC-1 combo, nor was its image specificity quite as good—but I found its overall sound more liquid and extended. I'm running short on space; if you want to know more about the Cube, read the October '98 "Analog Corner." I second what I wrote there.

Camelot Technology Lancelot Pro ($999): The Lancelot Pro consists of a rechargeable battery pack linked by an umbilical to dual phono boards, these set into separate aluminum chassis linked by front and rear connector plates in a kind of "flying wing." Designed by Doug Goldberg, the Northrop engineer who created the Audio Alchemy DTI!SPro resolution enhancer, the Lancelot Pro features internal DIP switches for configuring MM capacitive and resistive loading (in addition to the 47k ohm standard, the unit offers 68k), and resistor sockets for MC loading. The Lancelot comes with 100 ohm resistors installed in the MC sockets; 10 ohm, 43 ohm, and 47.5k ohm resistors are also included.

The battery pack takes about 15 hours to fully charge and will play for at least 10 hours before needing a recharge. I never ran out of juice, and I never ran out of enthusiasm for the sound of the Lancelot Pro. It bettered every other phono section in this survey (save the Zanden) and mimicked the best I've heard in some fundamental ways—which is amazing, as it runs on op-amps. (The output buffer is discrete.)

The Lancelot Pro produced a big, deep, wide soundstage, on which it placed believable, solid, three-dimensional images in a way none of the others in this part of the survey did. It carved out back-hall reflections convincingly and was positively rich and tube-like in its harmonic presentation, but, unlike some tube designs, it was also quiet, creating an eerie sensation of serenity behind the music that I find difficult to describe.

I lowered the needle into the groove of Classic's 45rpm issue of Pictures at an Exhibition and my jaw dropped. Literally. The airy trumpet was focused in space without edge, which made it sound believable, and the reflections of it off the hall walls were startlingly distinct yet rich and delicate. When the strings entered, the detailed, harmonically convincing, um, picture was complete. The portrayal of orchestral ebb and flow allowed the music to "breathe" in ways permitted by only the great and, usually, expensive phono sections.

I've been exposed to some really superb-sounding but costly phono sections. I'm spoiled. I appreciated the other models in this survey for how much they could do for so little money, but the Lancelot Pro was the only one that I found myself really wanting to listen to. I could fully relax and sink into its sound—warm yet detailed, liquid, and so three-dimensional! Extended and dynamic on the bottom and sweet and airy on top, the Lancelot Pro costs $1000 but sounded like $2000. It was the biggest surprise of this survey and, by a wide margin, my favorite of the bunch.

There's one big catch, though: In MC mode, the Lancelot has only about 44dB of gain—barely enough for 0.5mV output cartridges like the Lyra Helikon. Depending on your line stage, this is probably not enough for MCs of really low output, though the instructions claim it will suffice for 0.25mV cartridges. I don't think so! But if I were you, I'd try it anyway.

J.A. Michell/Trichord Delphini ($1295): If you need lots of gain and high-quality sonic performance, consider the attractive, well-built, MC-only Delphini from J.A. Michell/Trichord. The Delphini offers 54, 62.5, 68.5, and 70dB of gain and 33, 100, 330, and 1k ohm loading, all selectable via gold-plated PCB pins, and uses bipolar and J-FET–based op-amps, high-quality metal-oxide resistors, ultra-low–impedance capacitors, and "high"-tolerance caps and resistors in its RIAA equalizer circuit. (Usually, "low" tolerance means "tight" tolerance, which is what I think Delphini's documentation means by "high.") An in-line toroidal transformer comes standard, and an optional "Pro" power supply adds $1195 to the price (for a total of $2490). Or you can buy the Delphini Pro outright for $2395.

I auditioned the $1295 edition of the Delphini, and it was my second favorite of the bunch, after the Lancelot Pro. The Delphini sounded similar to, but in most respects was somewhat better than, the Lehmann Black Cube: more dynamic, with better depth, instrumental layering, three-dimensionality, and harmonic development. But the Delphini's performance wasn't twice as good as the Cube's, or even nearly twice as good...though its price was.

That ultra-high gain with very low noise was an attractive feature; if you're using an ultra-low–output cartridge, the Delphini will give you the gain you need—and allow you to spend more on a low-output cartridge.

But at $2400 for the Pro version, the Delphini faces some stiff competition, including ARC's sweet-sounding PH-3SE ($2495), which includes a J-FET MC section and tubes thereafter.

The Camelot Technology Lancelot Pro was a really pleasant surprise. If you don't mind jousting with its barely sufficient gain of 44dB, you'll be in for a real sonic treat. The unit's low noise might sneak you under the wire with a cartridge outputting less than 0.5mV; if you can find a dealer who'll give you return privileges, take a chance.

Place my judgments in the context of these units' prices. After my original Black Cube review was published, I received complaints from owners of very expensive phono sections who had auditioned the Cube: "Couldn't live with the lack of dynamics," "Too much grain," etc. But this was in comparison to their multi-thousand-dollar phono sections.

You can't expect miracles. You can expect surprisingly finessed sound for very reasonable prices.

Michell GyroDec SE with QC Mk.2 upgrade
Finally, I got around to trying the J.A. Michell GyroDec SE with the QC Mk.2 power-supply upgrade ($895). The upgrade is essential to the turntable's performance and turns a really nice, "smooth'n'easy"–sounding 'table into one with more muscle and punch. If you own a GyroDec or are considering buying one, get the QC Mk.2.

Speaking of Michell: A reader wrote to question whether the turntable used in A Clockwork Orange was a Michell (as I claimed in the July "Analog Corner") or a Transcriptors with Vestigial arm. I received the following from Dave Lang of Artech, the American importer:

"Concerning the turntable in A Clockwork Orange, it is in fact a Transcriptors Hydraulic Reference turntable, which later became the Michell Hydraulic Reference turntable after David Gammon and John Michell split up. Subsequently, David Gammon opened a new company, Transcriptors Ltd., in Ireland, and produced the Skeleton and Vestigial tonearm. The Skeleton and Vestigial did not yet exist when the movie was made."

Sidebar 1: Sources (as of 2000)

Camelot Technology, 30 Snowflake Rd., Huntingdon Valley, PA 19006-1518. Tel: (215) 357-8356.

Lehmann Audio, Hy End Audio Imports, 576 State Rd. N., Dartmouth, MA 02747. Tel: (508) 994-8450.

McCormack Audio, 2733 Merrilee Dr., Fairfax, VA 22031. Tel: (703) 573-9665.

Michell/Trichord, Artech Electronics Ltd., P.O. Box 455, Williston, VT 05495. Tel: (514) 631-6448.

Monolithic Sound, Channel Islands Audio, 567 W. Channel Islands Blvd., Suite 300, Port Hueneme, CA 93041. Tel: (805) 984-8282.

QED/Rega, Lauerman Audio Imports, 103 W. 5th Ave., Knoxville, TN 37915. Tel: (865) 521-6464.

Zanden, Bertrand Audio, 49 Fairview Ave., Nashua, NH 03060. Tel: (603) 883-1982.

Sidebar 2: In Heavy Rotation

1) Lee Feldman, The Man in the Jupiter Hat, Bonafide CD

2) Cat Stevens, Tea for the Tillerman, Universal Limited Edition CD

3) Saint-Saëns, Symphony 3, Munch/BSO, Classic 180gm reissue LP

4) Paul Weller, Heliocentric, UK Island 180gm LP

5) Pearl Jam, Binaural, Epic LPs (2)

6) Bruch, Violin Concerto 1, Heifetz/Sargent/NSOL, Classic 180gm reissue LP

7) Cassandra Wilson, Traveling Miles, European Blue Note 180gm LPs (2)

8) Telek, Serious Tam, Real World CD

9) Ravi Coltrane, From the Round Box, RCA Victor CD

10) James Carter, Chasin' the Gypsy, Atlantic CD

lindisfarne's picture

What have you learned about the few Zappa records coming out of SV?

Gwen Stayse's picture

Hi, was nice to read your article. Thank you for it

Dpoggenburg's picture

Michael, I hope you get much deserved RnR. I'm sorry to hijack the post, but I wasn't sure how else I might direct this. If you are not already aware of it, I beseech you to check out A.J. Croce's latest lp, Just Like Medicine. All analogue, MONO mix, and it is glorious. Produced by Dan Penn, with Steve Cropper, Muscle Shoals and the like. I hope I'm not overhyping it, bit it seems to me like a no brainer Sound AND Music 10/10.
I'll reimburse you if you don't love it. Safe travels!

Corry's picture

About 15 years ago I made the mistake of buying Nick Drake's 3 albums on Simply Vinyl, at $30 a pop. Although the packaging was first class, the sound was boring beyond belief. Hence my rule of thumb with reissues: if a reissue costs $X, for the same money you'll almost always get better sonic and musical quality in an early (not necessarily first) pressing, assuming one can be found.

EddieVanHalen's picture

I've always been reluctant to buy records from Simply Vinyl but around a year ago they released Extreme's III Sides To Every Story as a double LP set that has the full album unlike the CD release which omits one track. I bought it just for this reason, the surprise was that this album sounds Extreme-ly well on its Simply Vinyl incarnation. Compared with a friend's US original pressing it turned out the the Simply Vinyl LP's sound noticiable better. They sure are hit or miss but they also have some hidden gems like this one.

Hergest's picture

Something not quite right here. Simply Vinyl have been out of business for about 10 years or so now so the Extreme album must be released by another company.

For what it's worth, back in the day I bought a great deal of Simply Vinyl pressings. I didn't buy repressings of Byrds or Dylan or Santana albums, what was the point when there are a million copies floating around? But I bought albums that were a bit hard to get new on lp. So I got the Nick Drakes, James, Texas, Afro Celt, Roxy, John Martyn, ELO,Phil Collins, Genesis plus many others and I couldn't fault them and still can't. Always well pressed and packaged, always good sonically. I don't get hung up on the source, life is too short and I'm a great believer in the final reproducer-i.e, the quality of my playback set up to make the biggest difference of all. I would buy them in orders of 5 or 6 direct from the company in the UK which made the price far, far less than the oft quoted $30 and when the company suddenly slowed down with releases and for a while concentrated on dance 12 inch singles instead before finally folding I was disappointed. It's a re-issue company I miss these days.

EddieVanHalen's picture

Yes, you're absolutely right, The 2.016 III Sides To Every Story double LP set was released by Music On Vinyl.
I think that Music On Vinyl is another of those "suspect" record labels that pretend to send not audiophile I think but specialty record releases but mostly cut from digital files. Friday Music is another of those labels.
This doesn't change that Music On Vinyl's Extreme III Sides To Every Story sounds outstanding with no sign of "digititis".
I also have Boston's Don't Look Back on clear vinyl released by Friday Music and this sounds great also.
But this doesn't change that these "boutique labels" as I call them are hit or miss.'s picture

Any thoughts on the Soundsmith MC pre?

stephsrecords's picture

Thank you for making this review available. Steve McCormack continues to offer magnificent upgrades on most of his old designs (as well as new offerings from I've been very very happy with my McCormack MPD revised with upgraded parts and a separate power supply. It has more like 63-65 db of gain in the high gain position and matches perfectly with my Benz Micro Wood SL cartridge.

Robin Landseadel's picture

"How many audiophiles are running out to buy expensive vinyl cut from mysterious sources that are possibly digital?"

Duh . . . Most of them?

mtgman's picture

What about Musical Surroundings Nova II or Phenomena II, and the Lounge Audio LCR - made in good, old sunny California? I have both in two different systems and consider the Lounge Audio a great, all-American product at a great price.