I compared several of the low cost solid state phono pres' you mentioned here as well as a few others and found them to be somewhat dry and lifeless to me. I ran them against a Dyna PAS 3-X, which easily bested them all IMO. I have a friend who owns and operates a small audio endeavor, who swears by the ASL unit(he uses one at home). Be aware it runs less than the advertised gain, so unmodified you'll need a fairly high gain MM to get the best sonic benifit. Also, could be a tweaker's delight. They sell almost immediately here when they come up for sale used. I have not heard it yet myself yet I plan on giving one a serious listen by this summer.
Thanks for the info, Sober1, pretty well what I expected, but I needed confirmation: I'll be picking up the Mini Phono post-haste. So far, I've liked all ASL gear, as they're just so damned musical! And as you say, tweaker's delight, even if it's such simple stuff as tube-rolling. Too bad it wasn't in my stocking this X-mas.
Kickin' it back up the ladder. Any fans of the Rotel out there? Any fans of the ASL? Any alternatives in this price range? Details please...I've rediscovered the wonders of cheap n' cheerful equipment, audio fun and sheer musicality with my purchase of the Wave 8s a couple of years ago and now of the Wave 20s...
I haven't heard the ASL mini-phono but I did get a chance to hear a lot of their gear over Christmas break @ a dealer's store. I had actually gone in to listen to single-driver speakers & found that his only tube gear line was ASL. He had the $500 transformer volume control unit & a large # of ASL amps. All sounded excellent for their price ranges. As I was leaving he showed my the ASL mini phono & I held it & took a good look at it. This dealer has no vinyl as yet so we could plug this device into his demo system.
However, the unit seems to be well made & if memory serves me correctly has a separate power supply box.
If the passive pre & the ASL amps are any indication of how ASL gear sounds then the mini-phono should sound excellent for its price range.
I know that this is not much so FWIW.
Much appreciated! Even if you haven't heard the Mini Phono, I have in fact been considering buying the passive pre to go with it eventually anyway, so your take on this is very helpful. There's one area where the ASLs will go toe to toe against anything out there, and that's timing and musicality. I carried my Wave 20s to a friend's house the other day who uses 120-watt SS monoblocks, and after hours of breathless, astounded listening, he said "I'll just have to kill you and keep the amps." I think the ASL gear has made being an audiophile (a pernicious disease) the most fun I've ever had in audio. Of course, if the Rotel has fans, or any other pre in this price range, I'd love to know about it.
My take on the ASL TIDT passive pre ($500. It has a big brother which sells for $800) is that it had exemplary sound! Very transparent, very dynamic & (like you said) the music had very good timing to it, lots of high freq. extension & there was nothing obvious lacking in the bass either. I'm sure that the single-driver speakers also had a lot to do w/ my enjoyment of the music.
For $500, I feel that you cannot go wrong. Hope that helps some.
Tell you the truth, the ASL T1DT was at the top of my list, but now I've discovered the existence of the Bottlehead kit preamp, and I'm salivating: it's cheap - $150 - and (therefore) fun, and it looks so retro cool. And if you're going to go single high-sensitivity driver, then you've gotta hear the ASL Tulip 3.5-watt singled-ended 2A3 amp: simply one of the best I've heard in my 25 years of listening to "high-end" audio. I can also speak for the Wave 8s (no longer made) and 20s, though these wouldn't be as refined as the Tulip, just ballsier. Any other cheap phono experiences out there? I'm building a cheap n' cheerful state-of-the-art rock'em sock'em system, thanks to the likes of ASL.
I had an ASL mini-phono for a while, hooked to an MMF7. For the $$$, it's hard to beat. Has that great tube sound and is relatively quiet. You need an HO MC or an MM cartridge for it though. It's advertised at 57db of gain, but I think 37-39 is more accurate. It was a good starting pre for me until I could get the CJ EV1, which is an incredible tube pre for the $$.
Thanks Arafel, I've just bought the Mini Phono and I can't wait to try it! Your experience with it pretty well matches other reports of its exaggerated output, but that's OK since I'll be using it with MMs.
This thing is astonishing. I haven't got very many hours on it yet, but the level of detail is incredible at this price point (and at any), and good Prat. Not many hours yet, and I have to say that so far it's light in the bass. But it's tube-smooth, dynamic, lively. Needs more burn-in I think to see if the low-bass, which would not be noticeable in smaller speakers, fleshes out. That's it for now.
Glad you like it. John!
Is it headed for the "giant-killer" designation??
Let us know how it sounds after break-in. Thanks!
I'm not ready to give it "giant-killer" status yet, though this may be because I have access to so many giant-killers and I haven't had a chance to burn it in yet. But I think it is definitely a keeper, and if my experience with other ASL tube equipment is anything to go by, there will be a transformation soon. I can say that it is very detailed and very clean, with the usual tube ability to paint the soundstage. I just ran a Supex 901 MC into it with no volume or noise problems. Now I believe the Supex, from ear alone (I bought it NOS but without the paperwork - perhaps someone can help me here) has an oputput from .8 to 1 millivolt - so this is quite something. But I bought the Mini Phono from a good dealer who had sold it to me with a matched pair of tubes chosen for their specific Mini Phono characteristics (the North Audio manufacturer lives in town), at a slight premium. For $200 I don't believe anything out there can touch it, though I can't say for certain: for those who like tubes and need a budget phono stage, then this is it. More when it burns in! I can't believe it works so well with my Supex!
I'm falling in love with this thing, though I'm not certain what's going on. I just made an armboard for my Ariston RD80 (Linn LP12-like) out of Purpleheart, an exotic purple hardwood. I put the Black Widow tonearm on it, and mounted the Grado Platinum on that. Plugged into my ASL Mini Phono, there is a beautiful resonant quality to the music, like a fine cello, or other lacquered woody instrument. It's beautiful. ASL Mini Phono or Purpleheart armboard? More listening required. The bass has made an appearance, it's still burning in. For this type of resonant magic, a tubed component is definitely necessary: so if that's the type of magic you want and this is your budget, this is it. Great clarity and detail too. Be aware I had NOS Philips tubes matched, measured, fitted when I bought it.
I use Mullard 12AX7 on my mini phono and it improves the bass a little. I use Shure V15 type V cartridge and my Sonic Frontiers SFL-2 preamp volume is at 12 O'clock level. I wonder if there are mods to improve gain on the mini phono.
I have heard that the new Mini Phonos have had their design chaged to increase output. Though my Mini Phono has been found wanting in certain comparative tests, I still love mine, as I find it gets the timing right, and is sufficiently detailed (very for my tastes) and provides excellent imaging information. Though I often turn my preamp up to 2 o'clock (!), with my matched Philips tubes I find there is no noise penalty. If you do find tweaks anywhere for the Mini Phono, let me know. Until then, I continue to happily use mine, as I have not even been tempted so far to even open it up to see what's inside!
I'm late to this forum, but recently bought an ASL Mini Phono. I'm a big fan of tube phono stages and figured this was a bargain for $200. I'm not aware of any other $200 tube phono stage with a decent power supply like this one has. Mainly, I want to see how good this unit can sound with some modest upgrades.
I'm going to replace the cheap Bennic caps with 0.1 uF KY40 for the input and 1.0 uF Dynamicaps for the output. I'm also going to change all the resistors to low noise PRP and swap in Silver Mica and Relcap for the RIAA caps. I'll also upgrade the cheap Wincap electrolytics with some decent Panasonic.
All told, I plan to spend about $75 on parts. If it compares favorably with a Bottlehead Seduction, I'll be very happy.
I'm sketching out the circuit diagram. I'd be happy to share it with anyone along with my modifications which are easy to do. Just shoot me a message.
Hi Mark, I've been traveling and hadn't noticed this post. I'd be very interested in your findings on this phono preamp. I just got an ASL AQ 2006DT full-function preamp with phono stage, and it already sounds excellent, with the usual ASL musicality and PRaT which just presses my buttons. Perhaps your tweaks would work on it as well. Keep us posted.
John, the Mini Phono is quite a bit different than your preamp. If you're serious about upgrading the circuit, Jim McShane
has the experience and the track record to help you. I've worked with him in the past and can vouch for his expertise. He'll need a link to the circuit. You'll find that here: ASL AQ 2006DT
I know some time has passed on this thread but does anyone else have any thoughts or experiences on the ASL Mini Phono they would like to share? I'm getting more addicted to tubes and was thinking about getting the ASL Mini Phono to replace a Cambridge Audio 640P Phono preamp I currently have. I'd be using a Ortofon OM20 or OM30 MM cart with it. Arm is an Origin Live modded Rega RB250. Tubes would be newer JJ, Ruby, or Tung Sols.