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PostPosted: December 10th, 2020, 9:44 am 
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For those of you who spin the black licorice discs to satisfy your musical sweet tooth, I have, for the past couple of months, been listening to an iFi Phono 3 Black Label phono preamp in my system.

I have been listening to a number of phonostages that I have built over the years, Aikido phonostage, Pass Pearl 1 & 2, Pete Millett LR phonostage, Hagerman Octal Cornet, Hagerman Bugle, etc., and used a number of moving coil stepups. I always keep coming back to the Aikido phonostage, but seems it is always keeps me tube rolling or modifying the front end for the gain and sound I like, and I never seem to settle in totally on the sound.

Enter the iFi Phono 3. It is a really small solid state unit, powered by a switching power supply (one of the new iFi iPower 2 versions). It has alot of flexiblility for gain and loading thru dip switches on the board. I have tried it only with moving coil cartridges so far, but have used it with both a Denon DL-103R (aluminum body + line contact stylus) and a Benz Ruby 3. In any case, the sound quality is better than anything I have built. It is dead quiet, grain free, and tonally neutral (but not FET cool sounding). Every recording I play seem to have a quiet background (i.e. it seems to be undisturbed by ticks and pops), even with moving coil input. Digital quiet. Really hear alot of detail and texture, with a big soundstage with good depth. Also is very involving, I keep wanting to put on the next record, and old records sound new again. It is really a surprising little unit, and reasonably affordable (under $1K). I have to say, that despite the considerable upgrades on the digital side of my system the past few months, this unit is a substantial upgrade in vinyl enjoyment that keeps pulling me back to analog when I get a chance.

David

* BTW, it will actually fit in a stocking.


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PostPosted: December 10th, 2020, 11:05 am 
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David McGown wrote:
For those of you who spin the black licorice discs to satisfy your musical sweet tooth, I have, for the past couple of months, been listening to an iFi Phono 3 Black Label phono preamp in my system.

I have been listening to a number of phonostages that I have built over the years, Aikido phonostage, Pass Pearl 1 & 2, Pete Millett LR phonostage, Hagerman Octal Cornet, Hagerman Bugle, etc., and used a number of moving coil stepups. I always keep coming back to the Aikido phonostage, but seems it is always keeps me tube rolling or modifying the front end for the gain and sound I like, and I never seem to settle in totally on the sound.

Enter the iFi Phono 3. It is a really small solid state unit, powered by a switching power supply (one of the new iFi iPower 2 versions). It has alot of flexiblility for gain and loading thru dip switches on the board. I have tried it only with moving coil cartridges so far, but have used it with both a Denon DL-103R (aluminum body + line contact stylus) and a Benz Ruby 3. In any case, the sound quality is better than anything I have built. It is dead quiet, grain free, and tonally neutral (but not FET cool sounding). Every recording I play seem to have a quiet background (i.e. it seems to be undisturbed by ticks and pops), even with moving coil input. Digital quiet. Really hear alot of detail and texture, with a big soundstage with good depth. Also is very involving, I keep wanting to put on the next record, and old records sound new again. It is really a surprising little unit, and reasonably affordable (under $1K). I have to say, that despite the considerable upgrades on the digital side of my system the past few months, this unit is a substantial upgrade in vinyl enjoyment that keeps pulling me back to analog when I get a chance.

David

* BTW, it will actually fit in a stocking.

I had the same experience with an iFi phono stage -- that is until one channel went noisy. It is now in some landfill. If you can find one -- Mark Levinson's Red Rose Rosette phono stage is unbelievably musical, transparent, and dead quiet. The nice feature of the Red Rose is the fact that the settings are easy to get to on the back side making switching cartridges an easy activity. The MC input is serviced by a braced of hand-matched JFETs. NICE!!


Attachments:
Upgraded Red Rose Rosette 2 component side b3a.JPG
Upgraded Red Rose Rosette 2 component side b3a.JPG [ 624.43 KiB | Viewed 1103 times ]
Red Rose Rosette 2b.jpg
Red Rose Rosette 2b.jpg [ 38.79 KiB | Viewed 1103 times ]
Red Rose Rosette 2a.jpg
Red Rose Rosette 2a.jpg [ 32.8 KiB | Viewed 1103 times ]

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PostPosted: December 10th, 2020, 11:35 am 
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SoundMods wrote:
I had the same experience with an iFi phono stage -- that is until one channel went noisy. It is now in some landfill. If you can find one -- Mark Levinson's Red Rose Rosette phono stage is unbelievably musical, transparent, and dead quiet. The nice feature of the Red Rose is the fact that the settings are easy to get to on the back side making switching cartridges an easy activity. The MC input is serviced by a braced of hand-matched JFETs. NICE!!


I heard of people having problems with earlier iFi phono stages.

Regarding the Red Rose Rosette, I saw that this is the same as the Chinese Dussun u3i phonostage (OEM), that was available for considerably less. Still if it sounds nice and is cheap, that is great, but looks to be a difficult item to find.

My motivation to try the iFi unit was curiosity after reading some very positive impressions, and it was cheap enough to take the risk. I ended up very surprised by the sound quality, even stone cold out of the box, and it continued to improve over time. If it croaks out of warranty, then my loss, but I would have enjoyed it while it is working. The unit is essential unserviceable due to the extensive surface mount construction.

David


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PostPosted: December 10th, 2020, 12:20 pm 
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David McGown wrote:
SoundMods wrote:
I had the same experience with an iFi phono stage -- that is until one channel went noisy. It is now in some landfill. If you can find one -- Mark Levinson's Red Rose Rosette phono stage is unbelievably musical, transparent, and dead quiet. The nice feature of the Red Rose is the fact that the settings are easy to get to on the back side making switching cartridges an easy activity. The MC input is serviced by a braced of hand-matched JFETs. NICE!!


I heard of people having problems with earlier iFi phono stages.

Regarding the Red Rose Rosette, I saw that this is the same as the Chinese Dussun u3i phonostage (OEM), that was available for considerably less. Still if it sounds nice and is cheap, that is great, but looks to be a difficult item to find.

My motivation to try the iFi unit was curiosity after reading some very positive impressions, and it was cheap enough to take the risk. I ended up very surprised by the sound quality, even stone cold out of the box, and it continued to improve over time. If it croaks out of warranty, then my loss, but I would have enjoyed it while it is working. The unit is essential unserviceable due to the extensive surface mount construction.

David

Actually, the Red Rose was a complete re-do of the Dussun with many upgrades to satisfy Mark Levinson's requirements. I have "underhood" photos of the Dussun and noted that the PC-board layout was optimized, inter-stage coupling capacitors eliminated, a copper-shield added to the JFET group, better switches were provided, better RCA connectors, plus some other upgrades including the power supply. Then -- no surprise -- I had my way with it.

What I find humorous is the case-work. It is big -- thick -- attractive -- but it is a Chinese Puzzle. YIKES! Without instructions from the manufacturer, the casework had hidden everything and I almost damaged it trying to figure out how the damn casework came apart for removal.

What I found interesting about the iFi was that the tiny surface-mounted capacitors were white instead of the usual beige color of monolithic ceramic caps was that iFi used aluminum-oxide monolithic caps, that on paper, perform like polystyrene caps and the sound quality supported the cap data sheet.

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PostPosted: December 12th, 2020, 11:00 am 
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Some commercial products get it right for some reason. I am considering a MM phono stage for a second turntable setup in my system. Will consider this based on your recommendation. I am also considering the PS Audio Steller Phono stage which gets rave reviews. It comes with a 30 day in-home trial period. Maybe once we are all vaccinated and things return to normal, I might try the PS Audio and bring it by your place for a comparison?


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PostPosted: December 12th, 2020, 11:23 am 
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Pete,

Let me have a chance over the holidays to try out a MM cartridge with the iFi and I can report back. I have been holding out due to the tonearm (12 inch Jelco TK-850L) which is well suited for MC but perhaps has too much mass for MM. But it is worth a try to see how it works. I may just try this weekend.

We will probably have to have rolling meets over several weekends devoted to listening to everyone's projects, new acquisitions, and upgrades since the beginning of Covid. Between new speakers, phono preamps, DACs and streamers, amplifiers, etc. that everyone has been working on. I know my system is almost completely changed from what it was 2 years ago.

David


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PostPosted: December 12th, 2020, 12:52 pm 
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:thumbup:


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PostPosted: December 12th, 2020, 1:06 pm 
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Joined: July 24th, 2015, 4:17 pm
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David McGown wrote:
Pete,

Let me have a chance over the holidays to try out a MM cartridge with the iFi and I can report back. I have been holding out due to the tonearm (12 inch Jelco TK-850L) which is well suited for MC but perhaps has too much mass for MM. But it is worth a try to see how it works. I may just try this weekend.

We will probably have to have rolling meets over several weekends devoted to listening to everyone's projects, new acquisitions, and upgrades since the beginning of Covid. Between new speakers, phono preamps, DACs and streamers, amplifiers, etc. that everyone has been working on. I know my system is almost completely changed from what it was 2 years ago.

David

I can highly recommend an AKG moving-iron cartridge. It gets very close to the performance of the best moving coils yet does not need the gain.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/NOS-Genuine-AK ... SwwBZfTWQ2


Attachments:
AKG Cartridge.jpg
AKG Cartridge.jpg [ 268.17 KiB | Viewed 1029 times ]

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PostPosted: December 12th, 2020, 1:13 pm 
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SoundMods wrote:
David McGown wrote:
Pete,

Let me have a chance over the holidays to try out a MM cartridge with the iFi and I can report back. I have been holding out due to the tonearm (12 inch Jelco TK-850L) which is well suited for MC but perhaps has too much mass for MM. But it is worth a try to see how it works. I may just try this weekend.

We will probably have to have rolling meets over several weekends devoted to listening to everyone's projects, new acquisitions, and upgrades since the beginning of Covid. Between new speakers, phono preamps, DACs and streamers, amplifiers, etc. that everyone has been working on. I know my system is almost completely changed from what it was 2 years ago.

David

I can highly recommend an AKG moving-iron cartridge. It gets very close to the performance of the best moving coils yet does not need the gain.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/NOS-Genuine-AK ... SwwBZfTWQ2

Here is a copy of the user manual and information regarding the construction.


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AKG P8E User Manual.pdf [1.12 MiB]
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PostPosted: December 12th, 2020, 2:38 pm 
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Walt,

The AKG cartridges are new to me. Interesting.

I have a good collection of MM cartridges, already mounted in headshells, including:
Grace F9 with SoundSmith Ruby cantilever line contact (also have SoundSmith aluminum cantilever eliptical stylus)
AT150MLX
Shure V15vmr (with Jico SAS stylus)
Goldring 1042
Grado Reference Reference (with Soundsmith ruby cantilever, line contact re-tip)
Benz Glider HO (probably needs retip, if worth it)

I think I am pretty committed to MC cartridges with my setup, my Soundsmith retip (a real retip, not a replacement cantilever) of the Benz Ruby 3 is low hours, and is my favorite anyway, so I have time before I need to shop for a new cartridge.

David


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