An evening with the Whest PS.30RDT Special Edition

Well last night I had a great listening session with a few audiophile friends, all of which are anti-forum types...don't blame them!

Anyway, a couple asked me if it would be OK to bring over their own phono stages along for the ride.

'What the heck' I thought, go on then BUT be prepared for a slaughter...which is what I was thinking. Didn't do that classic Homer thing and say what I was thinking!

Anyway, I switched off the Whest PS.30RDT Special Edition in the morning to keep the playing field as even as I could.
The units coming over were going to be off for an hour at least before playing.

7.30pm... a knock at the door and in comes a 2008 ASR Basis Exclusive - nice. Not worried as I have heard one of these before and thought the Whest was way ahead.

7.46 'Knock Knock' - in comes a Boulder 1008. I think a bead of sweat might have trickled down my forehead but hey that's what the evening was going to be about 'Rumble in the Jungle' well more 'the City'.

We powered up the 3 units for about an hour or so and launched into some great.... wine. You thought I was going to say sounds! That came in about 15mins later.

First on - Kate Bush Lionheart - Kashka for Baghdad.
The ASR was first on. Really Nice, musical detailed although Kate Bush sounded a bit 'thin' - lacking in absolute body but overall a really really good sound.
The 1008. It was really quite different. Fuller but slower. We all agreed that it would have been better to have the speed of the ASR with the presentation of the 1008.

The Boulder 1008 soundstage was nice but not like what we all heard next - my trusted Whest PS.30RDT Special Edition. If any of you have ever heard this track - 'flipping hell'!!
The Whest was is a very different league. Not small at all. Where to start. First of all the other guys decided to sell their units after this first track and this is why.

The Whest pulls out stuff from the vinyl that the other 2 units just hinted at. Paddy Bush (Kate's Bro) plays percussion on this track and you can hear what each percussion instrument is made from, but also the instruments have a dimension to them which is 'freaky'.

The rhythms in this track seem very basic on the other 2 units. The Whest pulls out the individual rhythms to enable you to hear the makeup of the track - rhythmically. OUTSTANDING!!

Kate's vocal is fantastic through the Whest. Not too full, or too thin but like Goldie Locks says: 'Just right'. BUT you can also hear her 'manner', the Kate Bush personality which is captured on the vinyl BUT completely missed with the 1008 and ASR.

Not normally my cup to tea BUT here goes: Yellow Jackets - The Hornet. Track name: It's almost gone.

By this time we were well into the evening and although I was smiling I could see my audiophile buddies thinking how to finance a purchase without the 'other half' thinking about divorce.

So, Yellow Jackets goes on and it's the turn of the Whest to play. I've just bought this LP on ebay this morning because my trusted Whest has again opened my eyes to a sub-genre that I would normally not consider.

Don't get me wrong, I love Jazz, but 80's Digital Warner...not normally me. Everything about this LP, every track went down like an excellent glass of wine, champagne or lager (tick which you prefer).

The Whest bought out stuff that the other 2 just couldn't see! The 1008 and ASR were blind to the emotional content of whole thing.

Well after the Whest it was really down hill - all the way. The speed, soundstage, imaging, pace, rhythm, space, imaging, pace, speed, soundstage, rhythm and oh did I mention speed seemed to collapse with the other 2 units.

Great phonostages but that is about as far as the other 2 units go. If these are phonostages then you cannot put the Whest in that category. The other guys were so dumb-struck that the differences could be so large.

The ASR and 1008 play what is on the needle, the Whest plays what's in the groove!

The evening continued and I was offered $$$$$ for my Whest as these guys already knew about my plans to get the Whest MC REF V -NEXT WEEK. But I keeping my PS.30RDT Special Edition. It is too good to give up. The performance level is simply breathtaking.

Going from Phoebe Snow to Miles, and from EMI to CTI, the Whest outperformed the 2 other units in every area and I mean EVERY AREA. I have never seen 4 audiophiles behave in such a way - well I tell a lie, show any of these other guys a hi-rez image of a Bullet plug and it's like they are staring into the eyes of heaven.

We finished up listening to the 'Round Midnight' Soundtrack written by Herbie Hancock. Great finishing LP and shows the genius that is Herbie Hancock. This LP also enabled us to take some time out to gloat, cry and sob. I'm one of them - any ideas which one?

I never compared my Whest Audio PS30RDT SE to other phono stages in my hifi setup .. so I can't add any other comment to the one posted by Dcarol
I just have had the standard PS30 RDT for almost two years and I agree the SE is another planet even though the Whest Audio soul always emerges.
The SE could be compared to the best tube units thanks to the incredible soundstage 3D ability and its way to carve images like marble in front of you.

My cent!
Speaking of "the best tube unit(s)", has anyone compared the Whest to any one of those (e.g., Aesthetix, ARC Ref, Alaap, Einstein, Thor, etc)?

My only theoretical beef with Whest is that I don't see where the cost of their upper end products is justified in terms of chassis and parts quality, power supply complexity, etc. Of course, one should not think that way, but still...
"My only theoretical beef with Whest is that I don't see where the cost of their upper end products is justified in terms of chassis and parts quality, power supply complexity, etc. Of course, one should not think that way, but still..."

Well, in the here and now, you are right that the maker can charge what the market will bear, but for those of us who can (ok, MUST) wait, it's encouraging to observe that very high performance can be achieved without spending a fortune in parts. Hopefully the competition will quickly react to the opportunity, and bring similar performance at a price more consistent with production cost . . .
Thanks, Auxetophone. But are you agreeing that the parts quality for the upper end Whest phono stages does not seem to justify their pricing? (Prices in the US market are additionally inflated by the importer or distributor, apparently.) At the same time, I agree that fancy and expensive parts do not alone make for good sound and that there is a virtue in doing more with less. Moreover, one would rather pay for good sound than for parts.
Auxetophone, I think if you look the the chassis of the ARC, Conrad Johnson, Manley and many others you'll find they are just a simple folded steel or aluminium affair like the old NAD 3020. The Whest 30 chassis is a bit more complex than you might think as it is a hand-welded CAD designed chassis and is done that way for strength to allow the internal suspension to work properly. My mates Asthetix Rhea chassis is just a folded bit of aluminium or steel but has a fancy front panel.

Going down the 'boutique component spec' parts is always a dangerous thing. Over the years many companies have failed in giving us decent sounds even though their units are full of boutique. Personally I just trust my ears.

Before I went down the Whest route I owned a Trichord Diablo phonostage which used quite a few 'audiophile graded' components and the Whest PS.20 I heard against it still managed to better it by a mile!

'Boutique' does not make for a better sound....a great design makes for a great sound!

There is far too much crap and hype in this industry and trying to find the real gems seems to be getting harder.

One just needs to look at the whole interconnect/ cable industry and what can be had on ebay or DIYers. What do you do...go with a $2000 per metre IC because it's made with a material only seen on Jupiter and has won 5 awards or go with something that is independently recommended by 150 people that have nothing to do with audio industry and only costs $200.

I would listen to both BUT I've yet to hear a $2000 cable that is actually worth $2000!
'Boutique' does not make for a better sound....a great design makes for a great sound! - Dcarol

I totally agree .. and the Hi-End history is crowded by fantastic examples of simple projects that sound magical without any "boutique" component.
I guess many boutique units disguised poor projects.
Dear Lewm: Reading through Whest site I can understand why those prices that you think are not justified :

first I think that all the time that used the designer on its two top of the line phono stages means the careness he taked to be where is today, the research and tests to achieve top quality performance in any audio item is not only time consuming that means $$$$ but expensive too when you are testing different parts, boards layout and whole design. Remember too that a SS design with bipolars devices is a complex one a lot complex than in a tube design and certainly not a plug and play one till you tested carefully. These guys said that take it years to be " here ".

These are subjects that IMHO speaks why those prices:

- Pure discrete transistor design
- Channel matched RIAA section
- New hand made and matched ClarityCaps
- Matched capacitors and transistors
- Hand selected parts used throughout
- High current and high voltage

discrete bipolar class A design, not an easy task the ASR named here has no discrete design but use several IC's that degrade the cartridge audio signal.

Channel matched RIAA section tell me that this people take care in deep about. Please read and see here the " disaster " that the 30K Dartzeel unit is not only on RIAA deviation but on channel RIAA matching!:

Now, the people at Whest say that parts were not only hand selected but matched: this is way time consuming and means money too because you need to buy a lot of any part trying to match it...

This seems to me a serious approach to a phono stage design where the designer " understand " where the " money counts ".

Regards and enjoy the music,
Yes Raul

Very true.

The new ASR model uses the same IC chips that are used in the entry level whestTWO! I had a look at the interior of the ASR Basis Exclusive 2010 online, and my collegues 4 year old whestTWO which costs about $1000. The ASR uses 2 of these IC chips per channel. The IC chip is called a THAT 1510p and only costs...$3.00!!!!

If Whest are ONLY prepared to use that chip in their entry level product then what does that say about ASR!

NOW that is a rip!
Dear Raul, I take your point. If they really have done all the things they claim, I can see how the price is justified (but perhaps not the US retail prices for the same items). In contrast, however, I would think that your own phono stage, with an outboard power supply and separate discrete "tuned" circuits for MM and MC, is a better "buy" than either of the top two Whest phono stages. (I have heard none of these, as you know.)

Re the Whest, I would like to know more about the power supply design and implementation (it's hard to imagine how a really state of the art PS could be squeezed into that single slim chassis) and I would like to see a photo of one of their top units with the cover off, so we can see the innards. These are things they could do to support their product better. The website is a bunch of platitudes, like the ones you quoted above, using all the audiophile buzzwords, which is not to say the products are not superb.

On the other hand, I cannot ignore the fact that the end users here and elsewhere seem to love the product, and there are no used ones for sale here or elsewhere except from folks who say they are upgrading within the Whest product line, which probably means I am full of baloney or burritos. Oh by the way, Raul, it is disingenuous of you to dismiss tube phono stages as being simple to design and implement. That's just a silly bias.

Interesting point about ASR. I noticed something similar about the Rowland preamps; there is almost nothing inside those beautiful chassis'. Also, the Graham Slee phono stages use op amps, and, heaven help us, tantalum caps in the signal path (and their website brags about that), yet Fremer and others have raved about them. Go figure.
Lewn: 'I would think that your own phono stage, with an outboard power supply and separate discrete "tuned" circuits for MM and MC, is a better "buy" than either of the top two Whest phono stages. (I have heard none of these, as you know.)'

On what grounds? If you have never heard any of them how can you say or even imagine one is better than the other ;) It just does not make any sense. It's the sort of comment that a hifi dealer would come out with... You're not a hifi dealer are you ?:)

It's a bit like saying that V12 engines are better than V8s.

Just like driving a car tells you which is better, listening to the products will tell you which is better. As for relying on what a reviewer says - I think we've all been there before!

Dear LewM. I overall agree with you. Yes, it will be really interesting to " see " inside both Whest's.

I email them asking for specs and their answer was not something that could reflect everything they posted in the internet site.

This is what J. Henriot email me:

+++++ " I have attached a copy of the specification sheet for the 30 Series components. The figures are pretty much the same for all 3 products in the range BUT the audio resolution is COMPLETELY different.
The noise figures are again as low as the PS.30RDT SE but using completely different electronics.

Although our noise specs are extremely low, these do not tell you anything about the resolution performance of the products which is why we have ommited them from the site. " +++++

RIAA curve accuracy: 17Hz – 20.5Khz +/- 0.2dB or better
Frequency response: 5Hz – 62Khz +/- 1.0dB
Working band: 15Hz – 60Khz
MM Gain: 40dB @ 47Kohm
MC Gain 50dB - 72dB to suit all 0.15 – 2.5mV cartridges
Cartridge Loading 50ohm - 47Kohm in 6 steps
THD+N: 0.002%
Connections: Unbalanced RCA, Impedance Balanced on 3-XLR.


what really disappoint me after all that " bla, bla, bla, " in its site is that RIAA deviation that for the prices and what said it in that site is " unjustified " because has a swing of 0.4db ( and that " or better " that they writed has no sense: that could means that the quality control on the execution of that design is not " uniform ". ), IMHO extremely high taking in count that the units are dedicated phono stages.
In this regard we are waiting at least 0.1db but 0.4db tell us about severe colorations over the RIAA frequency curve: we have to remember here that due that the RIAA eq. is a curve any discrete/single deviation on frequency affect almost three octaves.

Other two subjects is that there is no noise spec and the frequency band is to short for a well designed SS phono stage.

I never heard the Reference or the Dcarol unit so I can't say for sure about its quality level performance. That beats ASR or the 1008 is a sign but we have to take in count here that either of these competitors ( on phono stages. ) IMHO are not at the top of the " bunch ".

Dcarol, good that you are really satisfied.

regards and enjoy the music,

Dear DCarol, Keep your shirt on. I was just thinking out loud, as one does during a face to face conversation. I did concede that I had not heard either the Whest products or Raul's phonolinepreamp; I was only comparing the known features of the two products in relation to their cost. I don't believe I referenced any review articles, and you would be right to criticize me if I did; I just went to the Whest website to find out about their products, and I found very little in the way of useful facts that could inform a knowledgeable audiophile. I apologize for my blather, anyway.

V12s ARE better than V8s, if both engines are in a Ferrari.
My maiden post at Audiogon.

I am blessed to have owned a MC V for 3 weeks now, and I must concur that it is an upgrade over my previous phono which was an ASR Basis Exclusive. But then, the MC V is double the price so it should be a big upgrade.

The MC V is dead quiet, has explosive dynamic headroom and leading edges. But to me, the best part of the MC V is it being hyper-detailed but not analytical. It manages to play music as a whole, yet is so detailed that I can now hear HOW the note was produced, and not just the note. It does rhythms and large scale music pieces beautifully esp brass instruments.

The MC V is made to order with gain and impedences tailored to your specs. Expect a long wait, but it will be worth the wait. Patiently run-in for 70 hrs before it starts to sounds superb.

Yes the whest do seem quite minimal for the price. How ever the ref V is cheeper in the US than the UK. It is £10000 in the UK, that is $15000 at least in anyone money.I believe this model is around $12.k in the states.
Well since my GREAT evening in with the Whest PS.30RDT Special Edition I decided to put in into my second system and have upgraded to the Whest top-of-the-line MC REF V MK4. I've read some fantastic things about it and very briefly heard one but had a chance to borrow one for 3 evenings after which I bought one... I had to - read on.

I was quite shocked on the difference between it and the absolutely brilliant PS.30RDT SE. The MC REF V MK4 is in a very different ball-park. In fact it is by far the best I have heard, and I have heard plenty in my system.

I don't really know where to start but suffice to say that my vinyl playback system is at a level that I cannot believe sometimes. I mean it does things that makes me cry and laugh at the same time. It is dynamic and explosive like nothing I have ever ever heard. I will write a small review at some point but I know for sure that I am at the end of my vinyl quest. YES, I am there REALLY!

The high frequency is silky smooth, see-through and ultra detailed. The hf area contains plenty of harmonics that I have NEVER heard before. The mid-band is near transparent with a life-like quality, solidity which is dimensionally so correct that it can/does throw you sometimes. It does not sound like vinyl or audio but music with precision. It's really hard to explain but you lose that feeling of playback system and end up with music. I don't care about interconnects and mains cables as the MC REF V MK4 transends all of that 'stuff' which is so secondary to music. The bass is without a doubt the very best I have heard from my TT setup. The bass is pin-point accurate, deep, pitch perfect and has that 'chest-thump' when needed that phonostages never seem to do properly. Yes, some phonostages produce good bass but it's either flabby or you can't pin-point where the bass is coming from. With the MC REF V MK4 you can hear where everything is coming from because there is so much space around the instruments you feel you are sitting in the performance.

Blue-starfish was right about the qualities of the MC REF V. It is utterly quiet, explosive in dynamics, detailed beyond what you might think vinyl is capable of - in fact it takes vinyl to another level, no make that 5 levels.

Yes, it is basic in terms of facilities but then what do you want? Knobs and stuff to detract you from that lack of audio quality OR pure audio quality without the crap that others put on to bump up the price?

The PS.30RDT Special Edition is a great design. Simple, understated and minimalistic. The gain and load underneath and that is it.

The MC REF V MK4 is the same. You get 2 mono channels. Both are matched and contain everything to get that channel working. There is PLENTY inside one of those boxes to the point that there really isn't that much space to put anything else in. What is amazing is listening to one channel of the MC REF V MK4... it is better than 2 channels of anything else I have heard! It sounds silly but it is quite striking just how much the MC REF V Mk4 resolves.

And as for the's £9990 in the UK and some dealers in the US are selling it for $20,000!

At £9990 it is the biggest audio bargain going since the NAD 3020 :))

The MC REF V MK4 is for me so far ahead of the game it makes others look totally overpriced.

I have a major listening session coming up with a couple of friends who are going to bring some 'stuff' with them to compare - should be a fun evening