by Oliver Amnuayphol
If you luvs your LPs and your hi-fi, you probably already know that a high-quality phono preamp can make or break your vinyl-spinning rig: The phono stage circuits built into receivers simply don't have the physical space required for maximum sonic goodness, and their proximity to the high-noise amplification stages of a receiver (or even many integrated amps) can wreak havoc on the tiny voltages produced by your cartridge's stylus. I've written before about the bennies of a good phono stage (which you can find here), but there's good, and then there's totally, totally boss--like this boss new phono pre from Parasound, the JC3.
What makes the JC3 so special, you ask? Only that it's designed by audio legend John Curl, the same person responsible for such famed products as the Levinson ML2 and JC1, and perhaps the most famous phono preamp of all time, the Vendetta Research. Curl's goal for the JC3 was to design a supremely quiet phono stage with as little noise interference as possible, which is why the JC3 features separate left and right, dual-mono aluminum-encased amplification stage modules, ultra-short signal paths, mild steel sheilding, and a robust, dual-channel, line-conditioned power supply. What's more, the JC3 even includes a mono switch and XLR/balanced outputs. Whoa. With all that's gone into the JC3, it definitely belongs in the top tier of phono stages; but with a price of only $2350, it should prove to be an outstanding value. Available now.
Remember the Ortofon MC 20 cartridge? Long time vinylphiles certainly do: Introduced in the early '80s, the MC 20 was one of the first high compliance MC carts to prove that a musical moving coil cartridge need not always be a low-to-medium compliance design. If you missed gittin' yer paws on the MC 20 the first time around, here's your (2nd) chance: Ortofon has reintroduced the MC 20 Super 25th Anniversary edition in full, golden-bodied glory. Packaged in a serious-looking aluminum "flight" case, it even comes with a headshell for perfect alignment in Ortofon arms. And at only $790, once inflation is factored in, this newly-built classic reissue is actually lower in price today than was it 25 years ago. Brilliant! Available now.