Evaluation of the Coincident Statement Phono Stage


I am evaluating this unit as I will eventually end up with 4 arms and need another phono stage to go along with my AMR PH77. I will start by saying all evaluations were performed using my Kuzam 4 Point arm, MC Anna Cartridge and an Artisan Fidelity SP10 MK3 NG TT fed into my AMR DP777 used as a Preamp and my Graaf Modena amp feeding some modified Axis Voice Box Speakers.

The music selection I used was Sade, Enya, Jennifer Warnes, FIM's Telarc 1812 Overture (Eric Kunzel Conducting) 1st 1000 pressings.

The unit is built nicely, not exceptionally, but nicely, the packaging is very nice in my opinion and it should arrive to any location safely.

Upon my first listen I suspected that this unit had SUT's installed (later confirmed), I recognized that tell-tell signature of a SUT in the chain. The unit was powered for about 5 days and played off and on and this unit does have some time on the clock.

The overall signature is just to the warm side of neutral offering a nicely filled soundstage with a very nice flow to the music. The soundstage is nice sized and the unit offers a nice fullness and weight to the music with a nice amount of information being conveyed along with adequate dynamics. I will note that the phono stage is very very quiet, noise is NOT an issue with this unit.

Listening to the unit compared to the PH77 was pointless as the AMR is simply altogether in a totally higher league in areas of information retrieval, speed, dynamics (micro and macro), shading, instrumental and vocal vibrato, PRAT and the ability to scale...etc. In all fairness it also costs twice the amount of the CSPS. I consider the PH77 a reference unit, to my ears the CSPS is not in the league of a DSA II or Burmester phono stage but again we are talking 11k and up-to +30K.

I used my ifi iPhono for comparisons from here on out and that was interesting. I made digital file copies to compare and they are SURPRISINGLY close. Once the iPhono is run in with over 100 hours it is very different sounding than when new. It is also quite sensitive to loading, 100 ohms sounding a little dead and 300 just too lit up and ethereal (in my system) whereas 250 ohms was perfect in weight, excitement and PRAT.

The CSPS offers a more cavernous sound, i.e. I can hear a bit more of the venue and it has a tad bit more decay in some instances and a tad (but noticeable increase in overall beauty with female vocals). Tube Magic? I have heard this before with my former Graaf GM70 and Ortofon ST80 SE SUT. It can be beguiling, but I find it not real sounding and it tends to make everything sound slightly time delayed and homogenous and thus a bit more electronic. The iPhono had the weight and fullness of the CSPS without the opaqueness I perceived in the CSPS. The ifi, however, did not quite have the decay or minutiae in low level vibrato.

Where the iPhono was clearly superior was speed, overall information retrieval and bass solidity and control especially on the 1812 piece. The ifi peace also did not suffer from the perceived rhythmic slow-down thus I found my right foot tapping and myself smiling where this really was not the case with the CSPS.

I am not knocking the unit, but I think what I am finding is that I may prefer the greater speed and (to me) realism of non SUT based phono stages be it all tube, (SOME all SS) or a hybrid.

To sum up I think it is a very pleasant sounding unit that does not offend in any area and the small things I hear were more omission than commission.

If you have a brighter sounding system or you prefer an Art Audio Diavalo to say the Reimyo PAT777 300B amp I would say check out the CSPS:)

Hope this was of help to someone. Happy listening.
audiofun
2 Threads very important!!
My bad on that, I intended to place it under "Review". It's been a while since I posted and I literally forgot a formal "Review" section existed until after I posted in the general area.
A well-written, fair-minded and informative review/comparison... maybe worth posting twice!

Provided that one can afford a certain level of equipment, I also have never heard an SUT-based solution for LOMC amplification that can equal the best all-tube or tube/SS hybrid solutions. The rise-time delays and diminution in amplitudes that are inherent in transformer signal induction limit what SUTs can achieve.

That said, for those with some budget constraints, SUT-based phono setups can be and are a viable entry into the LOMC world.

Again, nice review.

Dougdeacon:

Thank you for your words as my sole intent was to be accurate and fair as I shared my insights. I have found others (non-professional) reviews to be extremely helpful from time to time and wanted to receiprocate.

Happy listening!
Doug
Interesting post and comment on SUTs that not all will agree with including some top end Japanese manufacturers that only offer MM inputs in their phonostage eg Shindo, Ongaku and a few others. I suspect I am firmly in the SUT camp. I have the option of plying my Lyra Atlas through either the MC or MM input of my Nagra VPS phono, the latter with an Ortofon SUT. Same cart same system yet to my ageing ears the SUT has more sparkle and realism. YMMV.
Cheers
Pradeep
Sorry to digress from an excellent review
Sunnyboy1956:

Is it possible that what your hearing are the possibly higher performing transformers in the ST80 as opposed to the in-built SUT's on the MC input of your VPS?
Sunnyboy- there are two other question I would ask before assuming that the SUT is what is making the difference. In no particular order: do you have enough gain thru the MM input to let that cart shine and how does the different loading thru the two inputs, if they are different, affect the sound? I don't know anything about that phono stage but most do not have enough gain to properly support an LOMC thru their MM input. Non SUT MC phono stages almost/always have an additional gain stage and different loading options
I have the option of plying my Lyra Atlas through either the MC or MM input of my Nagra VPS phono, the latter with an Ortofon SUT. Same cart same system yet to my ageing ears the SUT has more sparkle and realism.
As Audiofun noted, the VPS uses internal SUTs on its MC inputs, so all you've done is compare one SUT with another. The greater sparkle and realism of the Ortofon vs. whatever transformer Nagra uses tells us nothing about how an active MC stage might compare.

Regarding Shindo, I've heard the Monbrison + SUT (don't recall which, sorry) vs. my Doshi Alaap (all active gain). It wasn't close. The owner put his kit up for sale and ordered an Alaap.

The best SUT-based solution I've personally heard was Swampwalker's now-departed VAC Renaissance. Like your Nagra, it uses internal SUTs for MC gain. It was very credible, one of only 2 or 3 preamps I've heard that play in the same league with an Alaap, but it ultimately fell short in speed, dynamics and lowest level detail. The result of that comparison session is listed in Swampy's current system. ;-)
I have a problem with the sweeping generalization, within this thread (and others), that active step-ups are inherently superior to passive step-ups, usually described as MC transformers (SUT).

It appears that ALL the anecdotal evidence is based on the performance of full preamplifiers, and/or phono stages, where the active step-ups are fully integrated with the MM/RIAA stage. This means the step-up's own unique performance can NOT be separated and/or independently evaluated and verified.

This is the equivalent of claiming that either transistors or tubes are inherently superior in all line stages when the only components evaluated are some high quality integrated amplifiers.

The four finest INDEPENDENT step-up devices I have ever heard are all step-up transformers (Expressive Technology, Bent SILVER, Coincident & EMIA/Slagle). The closest active device I've heard to these four was the ZYX CPP-1, which was excellent for sure, but there was still a noticeable performance gap. Other excellent active step-ups have also failed to measure up to the finest transformers over the years.

As far as I'm concerned, until an independent active step-up, which can be used with any MM phono stage, proves to be superior to the finest SUT devices that have been available over the years, then such a claim of superiority is premature, if not misleading.

In fact, if an active device is so obviously superior, I don't understand why there are not several such components available today, especially considering the enormous amount of money that audiophiles are willing to spend today on superior performance. I would certainly be interested in such a component myself.

Finally, there is another critical issue/question that is directly related to this general discussion of MC amplification, which would require another thread: Is it possible that "all in one" (single/or inseparable gain stage) MC(/MM) step-up/phono amplifiers are inherently superior to any separate MC step-up and MM amplifiers being used together, no matter what their cost/quality? That appears to be the unspoken theory/belief behind this entire thread (and many others I've seen). If so, maybe it should be discussed in greater depth.

http://www.high-endaudio.com/RC-Step-ups.html
Arthursalvatore:
Hi. I want to say that this was a review of my impressions of the Coincident CSPS, not a commentary on the efficacy of SUT's. I waited for a long time to read a non-pro review of the CSPS and when it didn't happen I took it upon myself to share my "real-world" listening impression of this unit with others who like me may have desired a consumers viewpoint.

Arthur wrote:
"It appears that ALL the anecdotal evidence is based on the performance of full preamplifiers, and/or phono stages, where the active step-ups are fully integrated with the MM/RIAA stage. This means the step-up's own unique performance can NOT be separated and/or independently evaluated and verified." You may want to re-read the review and some comments:

I clearly stated that I used my former Ortofon ST80 SE ($1,680.00) with the MM input of my Fully active (formerly owned) Graaf GM70 Phono stage and the MM input of my Fully active iFi iPhono MM input. In both cases the MC input outperformed (based on what is important to MY ears) the MM inputs with the OUTBOARD SUT.

Dougdeacon wrote: "Regarding Shindo, I've heard the Monbrison + SUT (don't recall which, sorry) vs. my Doshi Alaap (all active gain). It wasn't close. The owner put his kit up for sale and ordered an Alaap."

Also recall that I wrote: "I think what I am finding is that I may prefer the greater speed and (to me) realism of non SUT based phono stages be it all tube, (SOME all SS) or a hybrid. "

Arthursalvatore wrote: "In fact, if an active device is so obviously superior, I don't understand why there are not several such components available today, especially considering the enormous amount of money that audiophiles are willing to spend today on superior performance. "

It is FAR FAR more difficult and costly to design and build a well executed “QUIET” completely active phono stage than it is to place a xfrmr in the circuit. It is less expensive to install a lundhal (very nice quality) or a Chinese xfrmr in a circuit as I have seen done before. Allnic, Hagerman and others produce standalone head-amps.

Transformers are wonderful devices but realize I also own 3 OTL amps. Transformers are answerable to hysteresis, parasitic capacitance, inductance, insertion loss core material.., etc. Active devices tube or solid state are no panacea but to my ears thus far they ring truer when dealing with voltages at the millivolt level. Now maybe when I get the Ypsilon and MC20 I will hear differently.

I wanted to address some of the assumptions I perceived you as having made. This is not a rule, each of us liked what we like and that is COOL. I have NEVER looked to the masses to inform me of what is right or sounds good. I know what I hear.

I would, however, humbly ask that if this is a topic which is important to you that you start another thread. I would like this review to remain on topic and not get bogged in the mire of ideologies. I believe you when you say you prefer SUT's 😊

Happy Listening!
Arthursalvatore:
Hi. I want to say that this was a review of my impressions of the Coincident CSPS, not a commentary on the efficacy of SUT's. I waited for a long time to read a non-pro review of the CSPS and when it didn't happen I took it upon myself to share my "real-world" listening impression of this unit with others who like myself may have desired a consumers viewpoint.

Arthur wrote:
"It appears that ALL the anecdotal evidence is based on the performance of full preamplifiers, and/or phono stages, where the active step-ups are fully integrated with the MM/RIAA stage. This means the step-up's own unique performance can NOT be separated and/or independently evaluated and verified." You may want to re-read the review and some comments:

I clearly stated that I used my former Ortofon ST80 SE ($1,680.00) with the MM input of my Fully active (formerly owned) Graaf GM70 Phono stage and the MM input of my Fully active iFi iPhono MM input. In both cases the MC input outperformed (based on what is important to MY ears) the MM inputs with the OUTBOARD SUT.

Dougdeacon wrote: "Regarding Shindo, I've heard the Monbrison + SUT (don't recall which, sorry) vs. my Doshi Alaap (all active gain). It wasn't close. The owner put his kit up for sale and ordered an Alaap."

Also recall that I wrote: "I think what I am finding is that I may prefer the greater speed and (to me) realism of non SUT based phono stages be it all tube, (SOME all SS) or a hybrid. "

Arthursalvatore wrote: "In fact, if an active device is so obviously superior, I don't understand why there are not several such components available today, especially considering the enormous amount of money that audiophiles are willing to spend today on superior performance. "

It is FAR FAR more difficult and costly to design and build a well executed “QUIET” completely active phono stage than it is to place a xfrmr in the circuit. It is less expensive to install a lundhal (very nice quality) or a Chinese xfrmr in a circuit as I have seen done before. Allnic, Hagerman and others produce standalone head-amps.

Transformers are wonderful devices but realize I also own 3 OTL amps. Transformers are answerable to hysteresis, parasitic capacitance, inductance, insertion loss, core material.., etc. Active devices tube or solid state are no panacea but to my ears thus far they ring truer when dealing with voltages at the millivolt level. Now maybe when I get the Ypsilon and MC20 I will hear differently.

I wanted to address some of the assumptions I perceived you as having made. This is not a rule, each of us likes what we like and that is COOL. I have NEVER looked to the masses to inform me of what is best or sounds good. I know what I hear.

I would, however, humbly ask that if this is a topic which is important to you that you start another thread. I would like this review to remain on topic and not get bogged in the mire of ideologies. I believe you when you say you prefer SUT's 😊

Happy Listening!
Arthur,

Thanks for your views and experience, however some of your assumptions are incorrect... at least in my case.

I've used a pair of Bent Silvers (with five different types of loading resistors... months of experimentation to find the best). I've played them into the MM inputs of my Doshi Alaap preamp and compared directly with its (actively amplified) MC inputs. This particular SUT does not compete with the speed, dynamics (macro and micro) or low sound floor of this particular active MC stage.

I've also used the ZYX CCP-1. If that's the finest active MC stage you've heard, well... you need to hear some others. The CPP-1 is a decent if "polite" MC phono preamp (I concur that the Bent Silver's can better it) but it doesn't come close to the Alaap's active MC stage.

Of note, my Alaap is a pre-production model from 11 years ago. Doshi has since made several upgrades. I've had him do as many as my unit will accommodate, but there are some that it cannot. Also, my unit is an integrated phono/line preamp (with separate power supply). Doshi now also offers separate phono and line stages, each with its own separate power supply). Each of these changes made sonic improvements, which I've heard in multiple systems. From experience I can confirm that any new Alaap provides even better performance than what I've described.

As to availability, the Alaap has been discussed on this forum for ten years. It's readily available and quite a few members here own one. It can be purchased as a standalone phono stage, as one half of a phone + line stage pair, or as part of an integrated, full-function preamp.

As I'm the one who introduced you to the ZYX UNIverse-X-SB and first reviewed the UNIverse II-X-SB, both of which you subsequently reviewed and lauded, I hope you'll take these findings seriously. I've no loyalty to any particular brand or type of equipment. My loyalty is to the best available sound within my budget and I've described what I've heard.

Cheers,
Doug
It is FAR FAR more difficult and costly to design and build a well executed “QUIET” completely active phono stage than it is to place a xfrmr in the circuit.
+1

It's not easy and it's certainly not inexpensive. But it can be (and has been) done.
To Audiofun:

Thank you for the reply and your time and effort for your review above.

>>>I want to say that this was a review of my impressions of the Coincident CSPS, not a commentary on the efficacy of SUT's.

I understand, but the thread has since evolved. There was your original post and then 8 replies before mine. The first four replies dealt with the Coincident, while the last four were about the efficacy of a SUT, with no further mention of the Coincident.

>>>I clearly stated that I used my former Ortofon ST80 SE ($1,680.00) with the MM input of my Fully active (formerly owned) Graaf GM70 Phono stage and the MM input of my Fully active iFi iPhono MM input.

True, but the MC step-up you prefer is strictly INTERNAL, while the "outboard SUT" is EXTERNAL, which is the main point of my post.

>>>I would like this review to remain on topic and not get bogged in the mire of ideologies.

I agree, but this already occurred prior to my post. I was simply attempting to provide a broader perspective.

I don't have an "ideology" concerning this issue of step-ups. I don't claim that a SUT is inherently superior in all cases, though the 4 finest EXTERNAL step-ups I've heard were all a SUT. This issue is important for those audiophiles who already have a MM phono stage and require an external MC step-up.

To Doug,

Thank you for your reply as well.

>>>some of your assumptions are incorrect... at least in my case.

Maybe, but I don't believe so.

>>>This particular SUT does not compete with the speed, dynamics (macro and micro) or low sound floor of this particular active MC stage.

I accept your conclusion, but you are also comparing an external SUT with an internal active step-up, this time inside the Alaap, which is again the main point of my post.

The Alaap internal step-up also can not be used with other MM phono stages (such as my Jadis), so its actual performance as well can not be independently evaluated.

>>>I hope you'll take these findings seriously.

I ALWAYS take your "findings seriously", which should be obvious to anyone by now. Your influence on me is so documented that we've even been accused of collusion (by a moron) in the past!

To Everyone:

I did my best to make myself clear in my post above, but I obviously failed, since no one directly addressed my concerns. So I'll try again...

My concern is that there is an implied consensus, or "rule", that appeared to become the heart (or primary "lesson") of this thread, which I disagree with due to the lack of relevant and direct evidence.

I believe it is unfair and misleading to make any generalization concerning EXTERNAL step-ups based on comparisons only with INTERNAL step-ups, but this is exactly what is described in the respective iPhono and Alaap comparisons.

A clear distinction must be made between External and Internal step-ups because of the existence of dedicated MM phono stages.

This is why I used my "integrated amplifier" analogy. Can there ever be a consensus concerning separate line stages based only on what is observed with the line stages inside integrated amplifiers?

External active step-ups must be compared to External passive step-ups (a SUT) before coming to a general consensus as to which is superior as an External step-up. It is prejudicial to assume that just because an active step-up is superior internally, it must also be superior externally (or because a SUT is inferior internally, it must also be inferior externally).

I also have a problem with this statement as well.

>>>It is FAR FAR more difficult and costly to design and build a well executed “QUIET” completely active phono stage than it is to place a xfrmr in the circuit. +1

That is true of course, but Spectral and other solid-state companies built "completely active" models decades ago. I know because I actually sold them (as well as hearing them almost every day, and they were "quiet"). I was never that impressed with their sonics, but they did exist.

ARC, MFA, Counterpoint and others also built some high gain models using tubes, which I preferred, although none of these models equalled the performance of the Jadis with an excellent SUT.

However, I never mentioned building a "quiet active phono stage", but instead an external, active MC step-up device, which can directly replace a SUT. A high quality SUT can sell for $ 5,000 or more these days. So there's plenty of room to build a competing active step-up, with no RIAA/MM stage, or line stage or volume pots etc.

I don't understand how someone can design and build a complete MC phono stage, with outstanding performance, and not be able to also design and build a dedicated active MC step-up with the same level of performance as its own internal version. If not, why not?

Finally, Doug claims to have heard some outstanding active EXTERNAL step-ups, which he described as much better than the ZYX. Maybe they are also better than the Bent Silver SUT. If so, I would like to look into these components myself.
Arthur,

To continue our many years of profitable non-collusion (lol)...

It's true that this thread has not addressed active external MC gain stages. That would be far afield from the OP's original intent, which was to review the CSPS as it is sold and make sonic comparisons to other MC+MM phono stages.

I don't understand how someone can design and build a complete MC phono stage, with outstanding performance, and not be able to also design and build a dedicated active MC step-up with the same level of performance as its own internal version. If not, why not?
One reason might be a perceived lack of market. The large majority of MM-only phono stages offer less than world class performance. Why build a world class MC-only device with no RIAA equalization when the true market for such is so small?

Another (related) reason would be if a designer believes it critical to use optimally matched components. Doshi, for example, spent 5-6 years optimizing the impedance, gain, power modulation and grounding interactions between his MC and MM sections (and also between his MM and line sections) before offering his first preamp to the public. Several of his subsequent product upgrades further refined these areas. I helped Beta some of those and can attest to the significance of swapping just one resistor for another in a key location. Splitting a carefully integrated design apart and selling pieces of it, to be plugged into who-knows-what, may simply not interest a designer who operates at that level. So far as we know, Stradivari did not sell standalone finger boards to be glued onto the violin body of the user's choice.

Finally, Doug claims to have heard some outstanding active EXTERNAL step-ups, which he described as much better than the ZYX. Maybe they are also better than the Bent Silver SUT. If so, I would like to look into these components myself.
Actually, I never said that and never have heard such.
The crazy expensive Audionote M-10 phonostage is a MM stage that is intended to be used with, presumably, their own external step up transformers (also crazy expensive). I have heard this setup in a nice sounding system, but, I have never had it at home. If I were interested in that setup, I would actually prefer that the preamp come with my choice of step up built into the unit (one less set of interconnects and RCA jacks, presumably ideal location/orientation of the step up to minimize hum and RFI issues).

I did get to try the top end Audionote stand alone step up in my system, but, I cannot really comment on how it sounds. Not too long ago, I bought a custom-built preamp. Although I did not really want a phonostage built into it, the designer convinced me to get it that way because the addition would not be really that expensive. To try out the phono section, I borrowed the top-of-the-line Audionote step-up from my local dealer. Unfortunately, the combination of the external step-up and the built-in phonostage resulted in a slight bit of hum. I was too lazy to exhaust all ways to kill the hum and simply resorted to just using the new preamp as a linestage and using my phonostage(Viva fono) which has a built-in step-up transformer.

As a general note, I like systems with tube-based phonostages fronted by step-up transformers. I have not any sort of rigorous and exhaustive comparisons with other approaches so this is a general observation.
From my reading and some limited experience, it appears that SUT selection is very cartridge specific and that interconnect effects are "multiplied" when you go that route. If you have the time, patience and $$ to make those determinations, then so be it. In my case, I do not. I have been very happy w the active devices from ZYX (both the head-amp and the Artisan phono stage) and my all active Doshi, driven by a ZYX cart.

Of course, if you are a committed analog first guy w a world class TT/arm/cart, you may want to go w an SUT, recognizing that if you change carts, you may need to get a new SUT.
I have gotten very good results with the two cartridges (Lyra Titan and Transfiguration Orpheus L) I use with my phonostage with a built-in SUT and matching has been no problem because it is quite insensitive to loading changes and no additional loading works well. A friend, who put Jensen transformers in his phonostage, gets really nice sound with it regardless of what cartridges he uses (Transfiguration, Lyra, Dynavector).

I think that Art Dudley of Stereophile is correct in suggesting that regardless of the theoretical ideal in matching gain and source impedance of the cartridge with particular transformer characteristics, it doesn't matter that much; as he put it: "I never met one I didn't like" (or something like that).

I don't see why transformers are any more specific in matching requirements to the cartridge and the rest of the component chain than ANY other type of phono amplification, whether it is active solid state or active tube stage.