I used to own an Art Audio Vinyl One. A good sounding phono preamp which I think is or was a K&K oem piece.
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I am the newish importer of Art Audio (in year 2). The Vinyl One was made by K&K in the US more than 10 years ago to keep costs down. K&K no longer has a relationship with Art Audio.
The Vinyl Reference was discontinued when Vinyl One production went back to the UK. This corresponded with a price increase. You can find a review of the Vinyl Reference at The Absolute Sound.
We have since added the Vinyl One Copper Reference (I know the name is confusing) which is our ultimate expression using silver foil caps. Spectacular phono stage. I currently have my show demo for sale at $4250.
Everything I know says the Vinyl One is technically the better unit but Vinyl Reference is still excellent.
Fair...the K&K Vinyl One was not built quite to the same standard as the UK built Vinyl Reference.
The circuit is better on the Vinyl One but was made using less expensive parts to hit a more appealing price point.
The parts on the Vinyl Reference are going to be better as there was less of a focus on keeping costs down. Even the face plate on UK based models are better quality made by Sheffield Steel which was known for extremely high quality steel production.
Ultimately, when all production went back to the UK, Tom scrapped the Vinyl Reference and used the superior circuit with superior parts. This is a big part of the reason the price has gone up.
I have the Vinyl One Copper Reference and it is built like a tank.
Well, it's a used unit but the tubes have lass than 100 hrs so there is some burn in time. I can say it is one hell of a phonostage. It is not as laid back as the Vinyl one (I like laid back) It is incredibly detailed and has great soundstage and depth. Tonally it is excellent just has a bit of emphasis in the presence region.