Beta Test Impressions for New Stellar Phono Preamp!

Just when I thought I was out Brodric pulled me back in. You are something else. “Phono amplifier beta thread leads to complete global meltdown and nuclear destruction.” You do make me laugh…:joy:

Darren has surely come up with something extra special causing the world to collapse!


@Dirk nice to hear from you again and hopefully all is good with you and yours. Glad you are still hanging around. :+1:
You probably should find the keys to that bomb shelter door and make sure the provisions are fresh. :exploding_head:

Agreed on the phono preamp. I have a huge pile of records (nothing like your museum) but nothing to play them on. Maybe it’s time to go back down that road.


Have to admit to waking up - way too early - with that, “kid on Christmas morning” feeling.

Hmmm, what to spin with breakfast?:thinking:

Got another 6 or so linear/cubic feet still in boxes from the move🤠

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I know this feeling as probably many do :wink:

Phono stage and also preamp make such a big difference…I’m in the same flow as you are as I just switched both :wink:

Have fun exploring!

Missed you brother!


Ok, it’s the light of day in Boulder. Like The Beef, above, I got up and went directly to my kit. The new DM phono pre is in standby, but, it still has that blue glow from within visible through the top perforations. Darren says he uses blue LEDs for biasing something…I think.
To recap my kit: SOTA Star Sapphire TT (with new series 6 motor/electronics/vacuum pump), Sumiko MDC-800 arm with new wiring, Grace F-9 Ruby with new Soundsmith/Lederman sapphire cant/contact line stylus=>DM Phono Pre=> BHK Pre =>PSA M700s => Dunlavy Audio Labs SC IV.A speakers, REL S5 SHO sub. So, a little old, a little new. Also PSA DMP=>PSA DSJr. Cables are Iconoblast OFE XLR and some BAV.
First I listened to a few sides with my old Sutherland Insight phono pre to give my ears some recent aural memory. Damn…the 120Hz hum was still there distracting me. Gary Burton still sounded great but with that little bit of edgy glare to the ringing of his vibes…yup, that’s what I remember.
Then I muted the BHK, rewired in the DM phono pre, and powered it up. It comes up with default settings for MM (you can use the remote to change to MC and alter loadings if you need) but the defaults are just what I need for my stuff. Fired up the BHK, unmuted the DM pre…and held my breath as I turned up the volume… OMG, the dreaded HUM was gone!! Silence! My hum problem was some issue with the Sutherland pre that the DM fixed!! I had talked to Darren and James when I picked up my pre about how that hum problem was and that I had had visions of having to rip up my arm wiring again. I texted Darren/James with the good news and proceeded to play real music.
Without further warmup, I put on the same Burton sides,
I tried hard to match the perceived volume with what I had with the Sutherland. That lasted just one song because what I was hearing was drawing me in and I needed more.
I hesitate to use all the overused audio cliches…but, I really had literal shivers and enough emotion to well up in my eyes. Less than 1 beer, so far, so those feeling were not amplified by alcohol.
The Music gained dimensions, front to back, side to side…but the biggest feeling was that it was IN MY ROOM and close. The previous edgy glare on Gary’s vibes ringing…was gone. Then the bottom was just palpable.
I moved on to Donald Fagen’s Morph The Cat (The Beef’s bass test). Just Great again. Then the old '80s Reaching For The Sky by Renee…She’s in my living room!
Then some Mark Knopfler from Down The Road Wherever…now Mark’s in my living room too! All my music seems to have come alive and become much more involving. Then before dinner I had to play some Kenny Burrell…Midnight Blue from the Music Matters Blue Note re-release (Number 00043). Absolutely engaging/enthralling!..
Sorry for the long story and the over the top enthusiasm…that’s not my usual style. But, for me, in my room, this is an amazing new box and I can’t wait to hear it today, especially after the overnight burn in. My Sutherland is for sale.


Dirk in the house! Been a while… wait a minute, I was down in my bomb shelter getting the food straight and my generator up and running for my N+ and PSA gear for the long nuclear winter… that’s what is great about now being an official old dude…l I think of all the ladies, parties, stereos, cars, bikes… it’s been a great run… BOOHA! Thanks Brodric for making me pause… remembering pushing the stop in an elevator in my younger days working a booty call… yeah… having fun till the dementia kicks in… for that Brodric, I am grateful…:sunglasses:


That’s like it should be in summary: more involving!

Thanks for the great review! From what I get from your review you are getting a lower noise floor and a slightly less strident sound. Reminiscent of a tube phono stage fed by a quality step-up transformer comes to mind. Also, your mention of the Grace modified cartridge got me thinking about having Sound Smith update my knockered up Grace F-9e. Could you share a little on how the upgrade sounds. It would most likely end up on either my Linn Sondek LP12 or my VPI Prime.

Wow!!! Anytime equipment sends shivers we’re all ears. Well done and heartfelt. Love the review.

Hi weed… Yes, much lower noise, much less strident/edge/glare. But, mainly much more depth/dimension. Hard to describe, but it’s like the music is expanded and IS OF the room, as opposed to ‘of the speakers’.
My Grace F9e Ruby had a broken cantilever when I resurrected it and my system had changed drastically, so I cannot compare before/after the Soundsmith fix. As you know, Peter Lederman/Soundsmith makes/sells a full line of carts…but, for some reason he has a thing for the old Grace F9…and he makes replacement stylus/cantilever/suspension inserts. I called him to see if he would rebuild my original Grace inserts (I have 2) and he said sure. I chose his best canti and 2nd best stylus (contact line). He rebuilt one for a reasonable price and it sounds glorious so I had him do the 2nd one too. I kind of like the idea of my classic old vinyl kit being rebuilt to today’s standards…for playing classic old vinyl…into my classic old ears.

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Installed! Playing Hunky Dory with the JD9 first as a reference. Anticipation is killing me😁


She’s rockin’ in the other room… Good indication…

Entirely my cunning plan, because we miss you. Some of us at least. I suspected you might have been too busy on other projects to regale us with your enthusiasm. Pray tell, regale us on what those projects have been.

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Crazy good

Dan, is that Flying Lotus’ latest in the first photo?

Yep, well spotted! Super cool pop up gatefold. One of several newish arrivals that are getting played through the new phono preamp.

Listening to a RSD reissue of Euphoria by Insides at the moment.

Yes! Good to go. Can’t wait to read your thoughts.

My brother sent me this snap from his copy of Stereophile.

Meanwhile Darren and I are windmilling to Live at Leeds.


That’s a great ad in many ways, really! Cool!

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