Review: Allnic H 3000 phono preamplifier Tube preamp

Category: Preamps

Allnic H 3000 Transformer Coupled Phono Stage Review

Caveat Emptor: Consumer Review. I bought this product, I have no affiliation with the manufacturer or dealer other than as a consumer. You may follow the link to my moniker in the systems for details of my system. Mistakes and errors are my own, I tried to proofread as best I could.

Time owned: Allnic H 1500: over a year, Allnic H 3000: weeks, but listened to a lot of records over the holidays. Best to write while the comparisons are fresh in my mind. The H 3000 will probably only get better with age and break in.

Music Preferences: jazz, rock occasional classical. "stuck in the 70's"

Comparison to other comparable components: deferred as a flame retardant, read review

Meandering Preamble:

In doing the upgrade waltz, I would read about the pockets of DIY aficionados who would build weird preamps with strange tubes and transformers. They worked feverishly at this task, compared notes, and most of all listened intensely to their products to find the best combos of sound. They were dead serious about music and they were craftsmen. Names like Sakuma, Shishido, Hashimoto, Tango were held in reverence.
When I read about LCR RIAA units, which were difficult to build and execute, but had the most subliminal sound, I wanted to acquire a unit and see what it sounded like. Tango made some of the original 600 ohm RIAA transformer units and they were associated with the hyper expensive Wavac products.
When the Allnic 1500seII came along, I decided to try it. The Allnic 1500 utilizes an input transformer for MC Cartridges, WE 417a type tubes and a pair of LCR transformer type RIAA correctors hand wound by designer and builder Mr. KS Park who was the designer and builder of the highly regarded Silvaweld products from Korea.
After upgrading the rectifier to a Mullard and tubes to WE 417a's, the Allnic 1500 just creamed any phono stage that I had heard up to that time. The music had organic flow, life, saturated tone, complexity of timbre, and dynamics. I don't want to recite a litany of phono stages I have heard. I don't want to become the object of a flame war. I have heard some phono stages regarded as among the best, but not heard many others also considered the best. Suffice it to say that in my system the Allnic 1500seII was better by no small margin than the ones I have heard.
The Allnic 1500 spoiled me from considering any kind of passive RC type phono stage, no matter how highly touted or carefully constructed the RC type might be.
Of course, I noted that Allnic also produced the H 3000 that was ALL transformer coupled without any capacitors in the signal path. I was intrigued and decided I would eventually acquire one.
Acquire one I did, from Hammertone Audio in Canada, who have picked up the only North American franchise that I know of for Allnic products.



General Description:

I am not a circuit expert but like the H 1500, the H 3000 has two chassis. The power supply chassis has a 5AR4 tube rectifier and power transformer with an additional choke transformer. The main chassis is much larger and contains the amplification tubes two NOS Mullard E810F per channel and two additional tubes per channel for power supply regulation for a total of eight tubes on the main chassis. The main chassis also has six transformers per channel and no capacitors in the signal path. The main chassis is heavy for a phono preamp with all the transformers at about 36 pounds. The E810F are small pentodes. I don't know if they are strapped for triode operation or pentode, but they are very quiet. The tube sockets are the gel impregnated Allnic types that isolate the signal tubes from microphonics. The tubes in the main chassis also have their own transparent tube pods with aluminum tops, like they have just been beamed in from a Star Trek episode, which further shield and isolate the tubes. The looks are impressive, with an open main chassis holding the transformers and tubes and a heavy brushed aluminum front. There are two current meters and a central knob for selecting the inputs, which consist of two MM inputs and two MC inputs. There is one set of balanced outputs and one set of unbalanced outputs with small levers to choose either the balanced or unbalanced output. The input transformer for MC cartridges on this model has four choices of transformer input, 10db, 20db, 26db and 30db to accommodate cartridge matching. The H 3000 does benefit from swapping out the standard JJ rectifier to a Mullard 5AR4 or 5V4g type, and the power supply (from the manufacturer) will also take 3 amp rectifiers for those who like to experiment. As far as I know, all transformers are ultra high quality types wound for this circuit by Mr. KS Park.


How does it sound compared to the 1500? More of the good stuff that is great about the basic LCR model: quieter, more dynamic, more nuanced, bigger sound stage with that sense of flow and saturated tone that seems to be the specialty of the transformer coupled device.
Transformers seem to hold and release energy in a manner that is most compatible with a variable music signal. The H 3000 reveals extreme detail without fraying the threads out of the musical tapestry. It makes you feel that you are experiencing a whole-ism and not a separated aggregation of parts, yet all of the parts are distinctly delineated with a lovely 3D core. Everything is perceived, but nothing is sharp or edgy, just a brew of tones beginning and tapering where they should. High frequencies and upper midrange are wonderful. They can pierce when the music does, but don't engage in gratuitous laceration. Transients are molten nuggets of tone, not mosquito bites. Holo-deck sound staging from the two vinyl channels make multi channel nearly superfluous.
The H 3000 reveals stunning nuance and transitions that open up previously closed or fused harmonics. Lower midrange and bass are a rich and sweet. They make me feel the music as much as hear it. I can hear little growls, snaps and crunches coming from bass guitars that I previously couldn't, so texture is abundant. Horns and strings still bite, but sound natural. Piano reproduction has excellent dynamics and decay. Overall, the effect can be hypnotic.
The H 3000 does extremely well with my Clearaudio Harmony Mg (hi impedance hi output MC) and a NOS Benz MC3 (medium impedance low output MC). I did not try any MM cartridges.

Specific Recordings:

"Rickie Lee Jones", the album dear to the heart of senile audiophiles. With the 3000, the piano became full size and Rickie's wispy, sometimes recessive voice became fully fleshed out, like front stage at a small night club.

Weather Report "Heavy Weather": expanded in sound quality, even though the record sounds good on just about anything. The instruments can be followed as fully fleshed out solos and the bass is to die for.

Grateful Dead "Live Dead" Dark Star, one of the best recorded live performances and sounding great on anything, managed to expand again and get even trippier and huger with the 3000.

Cat Stevens "Tea for the Tillerman": His voice has a reinforcing accompaniment on several cuts of this record. Some I could hear as a separate voice with the 1500, but all became distinctly divided with the 3000. Because they follow the primary so closely, I suspect that some are electronically (by octave and slightly by time) shifted replicants of his own voice for reinforcement and transition.

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Eugene Ormandy, Philidelphia Symphony Orchestra Columbia: Great sounding on the 1500, Orchestral presence, nuance and spread better with the 3000, the chorale's majesty really breathes with life.

Miles Davis "Agartha" side 3: another live recording, it expanded in sound quality, the scraping and hum of Davis synthesizer stand out, it becomes a right spooky presence, the guitars charmingly thrashing and assaultive.

Pointless Rhapsodizing:

With the H 3000 in place, the vinyl system commands complete attention when on, you either listen to it completely or not at all. It is so spellbinding and exhilarating to hear good vinyl on this system, I have found myself forcing myself to shut it off. It is scary at times, like I am going just way too deep to a point of no return.
Is there anything I don't like about it? It doesn't wash my records.

Preliminary Pointless Philosophizing:

Some audiophiles want perfect dynamics, some want perfect tone and timbre. As things go, tone and dynamics can require different ways and means and at times seem mutually exclusive. Tone fanatics use horns and single ended amps. Dynamics freaks like huge solid state behemoths and mostly solid state audio chains. I would put myself in the tone camp, there is nothing like wonderfully rendered tone, timbre and imaging to make the final limbic connection between me as a listener and the music. The H 3000 delivers tone and timbre in spades, but also retains dynamic finesse.

Pointless, Invidious and Speculative Comparisons:

The H 3000 is an expensive component. What most people want to know is where the H 3000 would stand in relation to the popular range of expensives. Since I haven't heard everything, I can't say. However, from topography, build and pedigree, I speculate that it is beyond the sound quality of the common popular expensives and is knocking elbows with the artisan exotics: the Wavac, Da Vinci Grandezza, Audio Tekne, Zanden, Audio Note and Trulife brands. I probably will never hear any of these other exotics without plane tickets to accommodating audiophile's homes or decent audio show setups. As I stated earlier, I don't want to get into a flame war with trawling manufacturers or their representatives, but if somebody wants to know what I have owned and heard, they can e-mail me.

Final Pointless Philosophizing:

The cheapo-phile anthem tends to be that you get 95 percent of the quality with the RatShack receiver. Paying for expensive boutique components is an indulgence of the rich or a fool parted from his money, or somebody bent on status over substance. Occasionally this is true, often it is not.
It is possible to find components that move you so much closer to the event horizon of the music that it hard to figure out how they do that. Sometimes they cost real money, you can't describe them in canned formulas based on simplistic economic models or comparisons.
My rational mind still rejects the notion that a piece of plastic with grooves and a diamond scraping along can replicate music, and there is still a lot of stuff I can't or won't afford.
If you value getting closer to that event horizon, than the money, if you can afford it, can be well spent. After all, it is my time and experience. I can cheapen it or enrich any way I can manage and tolerate.
Also, after all these years in audio, I believe that in order to render art, you should strive for art objects in the electronics.
The H 3000 isn't a product made by a nerdy electrical engineering major fondling his oscilloscope who got older but not wiser. It is a cultivated, creative, considered object, a kind of magician's piece spun from material reality to render music. It is meticulously planned, crafted and built to promote a vision about how reproduced music can sound. I think it succeeds. It is a m----------r of a component.

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A wonderful well written and articulate review Carl!

I would like to update you and the readers with the gain levels of transformer inputs . Instead of the 10,20,26 and 30dB gain levels illustrated, the actual transformer gains are 20, 24, 26 and 30dB.

We are most pleased you are enjoying our flagship phono stage .


Carl, good to hear. I owned a H-1500. Did an AB at a friends house who had the H-3000. From memory, there was no comparison. The H-3000 was just much much better that I had to sell the H-1500. It just made the H-1500 sound confused. Mind you, the H-1500 had killed many brand name, highly rated, world class phono stages in my system (let's not mention names here too).

FInally last week, my H-1500 has left the system. I am eagerly awaiting my new H-3000 to arrive..........soon.

Finally, thanks for the review. Makes me want the H-3000 yesterday.
Carl, very good review. Your description of what you are hearing with the H-3000 parallels the results I am getting with the H-1500 phonoamp. I was fortunate enough to have a friend loan me his H-1500 as he was moving up to the H-3000. I kept the phonostage as I could not go back to my solid state Jasmine phonoamp which I thought was very good. I also used a Manley Shrimp linestage which had been modified with upgraded parts and NOS tubes by Israel Blume. It outperformed the stock Shrimp in all sonic parameters. I still have not decided to part with it because I liked this piece so much.

I went further and purchased the L-1500 linestage & Verito cartridge. This is the best sound I have ever experienced in my home environment. The Allnic phonostage & linestage were revelatory in that they allowed me hear more fully the capabilites of my Frankenstein monoblock amps and Zu Druid speakers.

Up until the Allnic inclusion, my amps and speakers had not been as satisfying as I thought they were capable of and I was looking for alternative amps and speakers. Not any more! It is possible that some Druid owner's may give up prematurely on these speaker's as I almost did before feeding them with a potent & nutritious signal.

The Allnic pieces have yielded dynamic bass without overhang or bloat, which I did not think my 8 watt SET amps were capable of nor my Druids could deliver. What is most satisfying is the top end extension, especially on cymbals and triangles that are as clear as glacier water but without that glaring sizzle that hits you in the back of your neck and makes you grimace. Separation of instruments is exceptional.

There is a record by Chico Freeman on the India Navigation label entitled "Spirit Sensitive" it is free jazz but not too way out. There is one cut where Chico plays bass clarinet in unison with Cecil McBee playing upright string bass with a bow. Previously the two instruments seemed like they were pasted one on top of the other, like a giant bass clarinet. The Allnic's allowed each one to be distinguished, additionally you can hear when one instrument starts a micro moment before the other further distinguishing the two instruments. You hear the reediness of the clarinet in contrast to the resonance of the bow against string bass. This gives the performance a voluptousness and excitement not previously experienced.

I bought the record Jazz at the Pawnshop over 20 years ago. It has sat mostly unplayed. Understandable with all the exciting vinyl coming from Music Matter's and Classic records, etc. For kicks I put it on and again another revelation. Before this was just an audiophile record you put on for sonics. Now the club ambience is exceptionally palpable. I hear much more clearly than before the ice tinkling in glasses of the patrons and in one instance someone drops a glass and it shatters. The heightened sense of reality by revealing the clubs ambience more clearly gave me a different perspective on the performance. What is outstanding is the portrayal of drums & cymbals. They ring with a golden shimmer and clarity. The trailing aftertones are not lost but slowly fade away into silence. The stick against the drumhead or the rim is propulsive. These features makes these Danish Jazz musicians fun to listen to unlike previously. Why should hearing all of the micro details outlined really matter? It tells me that the equipment is not veiling, hindering or somehow obscuring the passing of the signal. This is what I have been missing for too long and have now obtained.

I did not intend this post to be so long. As I started to just give a brief comment my fingers took over. My apologies for the length of the post and diverting attention away from the H-3000 to H-1500.

Carl, I congratulate you on your ability to move up to the H-3000. But for me, I'm staying put. I hope more people get a chance to hear what the Allnic pieces are all about.
Thank you for your comments, Montepilot and Genesis. Thanks for the correction about the input gains, David, I glossed over the markings on the trannies too quickly and got the numbers mixed up.
I like your descriptions of the 1500 very much, Montepilot, it reflects my own experience with the 1500 in my system. I could live happily with the 1500, but for the 3000 to improve on it is quite amazing to me. The sound emerges effortlessly from a vast ocean of timbre, cool!
Great to see you are enjoying your vinyl more than ever. I tried looking up this company about a year ago without success. Good to know that they are represented here now. Hope you make it back to Chicago again so you can hear the Beveridges. Bob
Hi, Bob,

I guess I am permanently stuck on vinyl. I am not a digiphobe, I have a wonderful sounding digital system. I just don't seem to listen to it much as long as there is a vinyl record available. I compared the excellent CD mastering of Miles Davis "Amandala" again with the H 3000 vinyl rendition. With the CD, it is an enjoyable piece. With the vinyl, the depth and involvement are so great "Amandala" is disturbing, edgy, and mysterious as well, something that does not quite come through on the digital version to the same extent. The vinyl has more juice.
I talked with Kip recently, who admires your Beveridges greatly and is restoring his own. I would love to visit again with you and your lovely wife. I may be going to my convention again this fall in Chicago, thank you for the invitation.
Carl, fabulous review . By the way what phono were u using before changing to allnic? Have u compare to phono from Nagra VPS, Tron seven reference, raven phono, aesthetix etc. Your feedback is appreciated
Thank you, Audioblazer. If you could PM me, I will answer your question. I don't want to publicly be dropped in boiling oil by mnfctrs or fans by mentioning the brand names publicly.