by Oliver Amnuayphol
Ahh, the joys of vinyl. Surely you're reading this blog because you know that good vinyl replay is sonically superior and much more musically rewarding than digital bits in any form--which is why you have the killer turntable, tonearm, and cartridge in your hi-fi rack, no? So if you're addicted to analog, don't forget about the all-imporant last link in the LP playback chain, the phono stage: Using a sub-par phono preamp is guaranteed to reverse a good chunk of the performance you've gained from upgrading your vinyl-spinning rig. And yes, I know I've soapboxed about it countless times before, but seriously, do your records a solid and stay away from cheaply made phono preamps--using one would be like putting bicycle wheels on a Ferrari: You'll simply never get the performance you paid for.
I'm not saying you have to spend obscene amounts of money on a phono stage; the NAD PP3i at under $200, for example, is a stunner: it sounds absolutely awesome for the price, and it even has a USB out if you need to make digital copies of your records. But if you've got the scrilla, something like that stunning Avid Pulsare phono preamp I wrote about in a previous ATV will do as much to peg your analog bliss meter as a similarly priced 'table/arm/cartridge combo, if not more. Of course, at five grand the Pulsare is um, quite ambitious, so if you're looking a little lower down the price range, say hello to its little brother, the Pulsus ($1599). Using trickle-down technology and insight gleaned from the Pulsare, the Pulsus utilizes a similar two-chassis design that separates the phono amplification circuits from the regulated power supply. Gain, capacitance, and resistance are all adjustable via DIP switches located on the underside of the phono pre, and the Pulsus even uses premium caps and Neumann HF correction for its passive RIAA equalization. What's more, the Pulsus can provide up to 70db of gain for low output MCs while maintaining an excellent <-67dB noise floor. Yowzers. And sure, two G's ain't exactly pocket change for a phono stage; but if you luvs the vinyls and spin 'em on a high end rig, the Pulsus should be a great match and quite possibly one of the best sub $2k phono stages yet. Available now.