Ever since the advent of “perfect sound forever” the availability of quality analog reproduction devices has increased. Now that the LP is a dead medium we consumers can finally buy the best equipment ever available. Whoever dreamed Boulder would make a $26,000 phono section? Unfortunately the Boulder is out of reach for most of us. But, there are plenty of other quality phonostages / phono preamps available for the working class.
Within the last six months I replaced my old Krell preamp with a line stage KRC 2. I loved the sound of my new pre-amp but now I needed to add an outboard phono stage. My brother-in-law loaned me a Krell KPA with all the settings right there on the front of the cabinet. It was easy to use and sounded better than what I had in my old KSP-7b. The fact that I liked it as much as I did allowed me to take my time replacing it.
After a long drawn out ordeal, which I chronicled in a thread on AudiogoN, I bought a Pass Labs Aleph Ono. The unit had been sent back to Pass labs and upgraded by the designer. It took over a week for the unit to break-in to the point where it could be listened to for any length of time. The Aleph Ono was connected to the KRC 2 with a pair of Kimber KCTG interconnect. The Aleph Ono can be run balanced but I have not tried it that way yet. The rest of the system can be seen via the link below. Krell has always been famous for their “bass slam” and low frequency control. They deserve this reputation but they have nothing on the Pass Labs phono stage.
The bass is tight and fast. The midrange is smooth without any apparent frequency fluctuations. The one drawback in my mind is that the treble seems slightly rolled off in the upper most octaves.
The soundstage is quite possibly the strongest area in the Aleph Ono Phonostage. Imaging is tight and small. Instruments and voices are not smeared across the space between the speakers they are defined with plenty of air around them. To repeat the often over used cliché, I heard things I haven’t heard before. I listen to a pretty broad range of music, anything from classical to classic rock and whatever might be found in between. I don’t care if the recording is of Flutes or screaming guitars I want them to sound real, like live music. In Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (Karajan) it was possible to count the violins and French horns. The depth of the recording continued back farther than I am accustomed. On Hoyt Axton’s “Fearless” the track Gypsy Moth was eerie. It was so close to sounding like someone was in the room playing an acoustic guitar and singing with that powerful baritone voice. Elvis’ first album with RCA “Elvis Presley” was amazing. Heartbreak Hotel never sounded like that !
before. The recording was very well done and the Pass Labs made it come to life (the album, not Elvis).
It might not be a Boulder but the Pass Labs Aleph Ono is worth auditioning for anyone not ready to spend $26,000 on his or her next phono section.