I went through the same motion with you...Not a bit impressed.. I ended up going back to my Klyne, one of the most neutral and dead silent phono section one can own .. Trust your ears..
10 responses Add your response
I've used Kondo-sans step-ups for over 8 years now and would not listen without one in my system BUT it really is synergistic with a Kondo-san MM phono stage IMHO. Yes, it can be used with any other MM phono unit but to get the best out of the Kondo step-up hear one with a Kondo IO-j cartridge into an M7-Phono and your world will change forever.
There are other step-ups that you may consider and my be just as good or better.
DaVinci Audio makes one, but very expensive and allows impedance changes.
Shindo Labs makes one also, but they are intended for their SPU's.
Also Auditorium 23 makes several that are good.
If you can find an Expressive Technologies SU-1, it is very good.
I will be listening to many of these this coming weekend.
Some step-ups are a try and see basis if it sounds good with you cart as some are voiced to sound a certain way with some carts.
I know for a fact that the ANUK AN-S8 comes specifically load matched for the ANUK IO line of cartridges. They only made the S8 in the low or 1 ohm impedence configuration. That means the S8 will likely best all others when using an ANUK IO cartridge with it. I understand that Kondo also load matches his step up for exclusive use with the IO-J, but its somewhat adjustable at the same time. I have been told that when you make a step up adjustable you lose something through all the switches and all the additional leadout wire and taps. For the best sound a step up should be made to handle one kind of load. You lose versatility for sure, but for better sound who cares?
Thomas,one thing for sure is the Japanese definitely have their own set of tastes,in this hobby!!Not a bad thing,and fascinating,but different.
As to your querry,you have answered your own question,IMO.It is "system" dependent,and by this I mean the "analog chain".The Kondo does sound superb,with it's intended design of cartridges(like the IO-J),but you are going to have to be very careful when treading here.
Best of luck!
I've been there, back again, and there again.
I started with a pair of ANUK step-ups, moved on to a pair of Altec 4722s from EIFL which I used with my old Shelter 901. Later I got two different sets of Jensens, and the much-ballyhooed Stevens & Billington TX-103s which I then put into the Bent Audio Mu enclosures.
At that point I acquired an Aesthetix Io Signature, and all thoughts of using a step-up went out the window. From using inductive loading, sometimes combined with extra resistors either at my phonostage or at the transformer primary, I went to using no loading at all, and became an apostle of the all-active MC stage... all active tubes up to 80 dB (phono section alone)! I was plagued with RF (you can see many of my old posts on this topic), but I had achieved crystal-clear well-water sound rippling out of my speakers... the Io Sig opened up my records like nothing I'd ever heard before.
This despite the fact that some people say that low-output MCs HAVE to have step-ups... that they were designed for that kind of loading. This might not be true of all modern LOMCs, but my cartridge fetish in recent years has been for various flavors of Ortofon SPU and the revered Denon 103 and 103R.
So one day my friend, who had been clamoring to do so for months, brought over his Shindo Monbrison all-in-one handbuilt tube preamp. The Monbrison has a built-in phonostage of high repute. It even has a built-in hand-wound amorphous core step-up for the MC input, optimized for the SPU. WOW!!! Dead silent, 3 huge boxes (including my BAT linestage) replaced by one, small, dark green one, built like a jewel. I sold my 3 boxes the next day and ordered a Shindo Monbrison from my dealer, and haven't looked back.
When I play my Denon cartridges, I use the Auditorium 23 step-up optimized for the Denon, and it's pure music. My SPUs go into the built-in MC input on the Shindo. My Denon 102 (for mono) goes directly into the MM input. And I've never been happier.
So I guess I'm back in the step-up world. But you need really really high-quality iron. And you need to choose a transformer that is perfectly optimized for your cartridge (remember that when they first marketed the MC, in the form of the SPU, it came with built-in transformers in the massive headshell... SUT matching is the key, because you need to match gain and loading perfectly, and you cannot adjust it, and it has to be high-quality to boot). Nothing against active loading - everything in the audio world depends on the implementation, and I have nothing but respect for the Aesthetix way of doing this. It's just that I've found a way - an older way I guess - that produces even more music with 66.6% fewer interconnects, a lower electric bill and more peace of mind...