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
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.
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.
"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.
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.Associated gear Click to view my Virtual SystemSimilar products