I want to once again thank all of you for the good advice about what phono preamp might fit my budget and needs. I'm still considering all the options.
In the back and forth on the subject, Goran Finnberg had some very strong criticisms (below) regarding Esoteric Sound's two units, so I forwarded the comments to the company, since I thought they should have a chance to respond. Below is that response. I thought it might generate more insight on the subject of specs vs. user comments.
--- On Sat, 2/25/12, [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
From: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Fw: [ARSCLIST] Phono Preamps
To: [log in to unmask]
Date: Saturday, February 25, 2012, 2:49 PM
It took me some time to devote to all of these somewhat excited remarks,
but I finally got the time.
Having been requested, I will offer a few comments on the recent
uncomplimentary paper analysis of our PMMP BY GF. First, I would like to mention
that we provide more specification details than most manufacturers, who often
give up after stating the weight and power consumption. We give minimum
performance details, not marketing specs. In fact, several of the
complaints referred to info we provided that is often not published by
others. Had we not published them, we might have received a slightly
It was suggested that the overload margin of the preamp was inadequate and
that heavily modulated records will severely overload this preamp. I hate
to do things twice, especially when prompted by people who jump to conclusions
based theoretical articles they read. So, I revisited old design
considerations and tested a unit pulled from stock with various LP records and
78 rpm records. I used a relatively high output Stanton 500.V3 cartridge
and observed the output on an oscilloscope. Guess what? No peaks, no
clicks, no pops, nothing approached clipping the output. Too bad, nobody
will have to listen to clipped pops! Just for fun, I scratched the
stylus from side to side of a record and then only that managed to clip once or
twice. My advice is not to purchase our preamp if you like to listen to
dragging your phono arm from side to side.
Our subsonic filter was a last minute addition after it was noticed that
the house shook when records were played on our system consisting of B&W 801
Matrix III speakers and a subwoofer. We had too flat of
response. The low end drops 3 dB at 7Hz and continues down at about
a 9 dB/oct. rate. It is not an exotic filter, but sonic earthquakes are
gone and the bass is still solid. Again, it is an oft-not specified
The signal to noise ratio of the preamp (better than most audiophile
turntables) was described as completely useless as it is not stated whether this
is with shorted input or with an actual cartridge connected. Please
understand that “completely useless” was used, not vague, or confusing, but
“useless.” Useless to whom? Someone who cannot make a simple mind
extrapolation, or cannot hear? How often have you ever seen the test
conditions stated in a simple spec sheet? You get the result. It
doesn’t really make that much of a difference. So, the S/N might we equal
to the rumble of your audiophile turntable, or 10 dB better. Who
cares? You won’t hear it. As it is, we use the 600 Ohm position of
our Audio Precision. So, do not fear, the input is not shorted.
Oh that reminds me, we were criticized for listing our output
impedance. The input impedance and the output impedance of most audio
device is usually given. They are basic information. Suddenly, 600
ohms is a sign of unprofessional design. This is more a joke than a
criticism.. We could have made it 50 Ohms but what for? To feed some
ancient equipment with too low an input impedance? In actuality, we
use 560 Ohm resistor in the output as form of short circuit protection.
Simple, low cost, and it works. It is amazing how many of our professional
customers have problems with our preamp driving the 10 Ohm inputs of their
I cannot comment on the claim that a +/-0.25 dB variation in audio response
is excessive. That is better or equal to just about any
preamp. Oops, I just did.
I should point out that as large percentage of the purchasers of both the
PMMP and the Re-Equalizer are professionals, and that is a good reason for us to
use the term in our product’s description.
Our Re-Equalizer (first-ever product like it) has but one competitor,
Manuel Huber’s FM Acoustics device. The FM Acoustics device is very nice,
more than nice; it is a gem. However, consider that we may not need
1% accuracy to replicate records that were made with 20% tolerance
components. For over 25 years, every review of the Re-Equalizer has been
glowing. Amongst those unprofessionals are Len Feldman at Audio
Magazine, John Borwick at The Gramophone Magazine, and Art Dudley at
Stereophile Magazine. We all know that Stereophile Magazine focuses only
on mediocre, Big-Box Store equipment. It is difficult to understand why
they would put it in their list of Recommended Components. We provide a
manual with equalization settings that have taken 30 years of research.
Amongst those with whom we worked with was Peter Copeland, ex-BBC and the
British National Sound Archive, and we found many mistakes in what had
previously been published of the subject.
We design our equipment to be cost effective, not spec. impressive.
They meet 90% or better of the needs of professionals and collectors
Our PMMP will provide most of the performance of a $200.00 or more preamp, and
our Re-Equalizer’s only competitor costs about l0 times more (actually, it
seems impossible to find the selling price). My best guess is that you can
purchase our products at a total cost of $438.00 or the complainee’s for
$3,900.00, and end up with very similar results.
Mike Stosich, Esoteric Sound
In a message dated 2/17/2012 12:02:05 P.M. Central Standard Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:
Ladies and Gentlemen of Esoteric,
This email is from the ARSCLIST archival group in response to my
search for a reasonable cost phono preamp. I thought you should
have the right to refute these accusations. Please respond, and I
will forward any comments to the group if you wish.
--- On Thu, 2/16/12, Goran Finnberg
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Goran Finnberg <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
February 16, 2012, 7:55 AM
Roderic G Stephens :
an overload point of just 35 mV heavily modulated records will
overload this preamp.
And if the music is not loud
enough on a given record then the ticks and
crackles will do this
constantly since such disturbances will provide for
forces on the stylus tip well in advance what can be cut so
actual voltage output is much higher on the ticks and crackles
music can provide.
The Sub Sonic filter is
completely useless having a very low cut off at 6 Hz
information what the roll off rate is.
To really be effective
the absolute minimum requirement is 18 dB/octave at
15 Hz to even
start making some inroad in the copious amounts of low
disturbances coming off vinyl disks.
Using +-15V dc powering,
standard for anything op amp based I would excpect
to see an output
clipping level of minimum 8.9 V RMS but this device clips
at 2.9 V
The S/N figure specification is completely useless as
it is not stated
whether this is with shorted input or with an
actual cartridge connected.
Shorted input always gives a much
better S/N figure compared to with an
The Re-Equalizer is the same with very low values of
clipping level at 3.5 V
With such mediocre
specifications I would not even bother to listen to
The very low overload level of the RIAA preamp
is a real killer and makes it
unusable in a professional setting. I
prefer minimu 100 mV and most
"Professional" ones will easily give
you 200 mV.
In no way can I agree to the claim of
"Professional" in its name, Rek-O-Kut
Professional blah blah. This
is just sales babble.
Looks like a cheap two transistor
implementation of an RIAA preamp for home
use with its attendant
problems......600 ohms output impedance means nothing
at all since
no indication is given to its actual current delivery,
but true professional equipment usually is below 50 ohms and
loaded down to 200 ohms with little change in its
Also when I look at the printed RIAA response
curve on top of the box I note
that the response is elevated below
1 kHz and depressed above 1 kHz.
Such an inbuilt chosen EQ
inaccuracy will always sound nicer than a really
preamp having basically flat response from 20 to 20 kHz.
Rek-O-Kut RIAA curve inaccuracy will tend to lessen perceived mid
harshness and increase the LF warmth since the errors are over
at least 5
octave either way.
The Mastering Room AB
[log in to unmask]
from the mistakes of others, you can never live long enough to
them all yourself. - John