Review of Quadratic MC-1 SUT With Comparisons to Other SUTs

Got a Quadaratic MC-1 from TTVJ (Todd the Vinyl Junkie) last week, and I have to say it's perhaps the most interesting SUT I've heard. It offers 12x and 24x taps and retails for $1800. 

Versus Lundahl LL1931 and LL1931Ag:
The Lundahl premium amorphous cores yield exceptional clarity and resolution. Clarity kings. When the music gets busy they don't blur details or smooth edges - every instrument remains separate and defined, almost like it was playing on its own. The Lundahls have a sort of "crystalline" tone. They're not at all cold, bright, or dry but they're not bringing any warmth either. My problem with Lundahls has always been about how they're a little anemic in the lower midrange and bass, as compared to any of the other SUT brands. In the end this always leaves my a bit cold, and I move on to another SUT.

By comparison the Quadratic is the 1st SUT I've heard that actually beats the Lundahls at their strength. And to this prodigious resolution & clarity, they add the most powerful bass response of any SUT in my collection. The only issue I'm facing right now - does the Quadaratic actually have TOO MUCH low end energy? And would it be better balanced with a little more top-end sparkle?

Versus other CineMags - 3440A Red, 1254, 1131, Bob's Devices Sky 20/10 and Sky 40:
I'll just come out and say the 3440A Red is crap compared to anything else listed here, and nothing more will be said about them. The rest of these models are all blue-label CineMag cans, like the Quadratic itself! However, the Quadaratic's cans are significantly taller and larger than the other CineMag models - at least twice their size, in fact. The blue-label 1254 and 1131 are very close in performance to the Skys, with perhaps the slight edge given to Skys in smoothness and refinement. All of these are very nice transformers. The 1131/1254/Sky strength is midrange; they'll give you plump, rich, fleshy tones. No hint of grain nor dryness. The midrange is "wet" and lovely; reminiscent of the tone of a beautiful vintage tube amp. Pair these up with a Koetsu and go swimming in it! The low end is a little bloomy and rounded, but not in an offensive way - it's got a good level of energy that keeps in proportion to the music. Highs are sparking without going over the top. These transformers are voiced to sound extremely pleasant and a bit "fun". Soundstage and resolution is good, much better than the 3440A Red (oops I said I wouldn't mention it again), but falling a bit short here of the other brands & models in this list.

Versus other blue-label CineMags, the Quadratic MC-1 midrange feels just ever so slight drier. Still no grain, fortunately - it's completely smooth and clean; not at all like some gear which seems to have a "sandpaper" effect on female vocals. In clarity and resolution, the MC-1 wins, and quite easily at that. In bass quality and quantity, it wins easily again - the roundness and mild sloppiness of sibling CineMags is completely absent here. And it's kind of astounding just how MUCH more bass impact & slam the MC-1 offers over other CineMags. Soundstage - yet another win. The other CineMags have to rely on their lush midrange and sparkly highs to compete here - if anything the MC-1 might feel like it lacks a bit of top end sparkle. However, overall its feel very much like the Quadratic MC-1 is a premium level SUT, residing squarely above the other CineMag models in their hierarchy. 

Choir Audio SUT-H7 (Hashimoto HM-7):
Choir Audio (now defunct) used to see this nice box outfitted with Hashimoto's top HM-7 transformers. I'm probably in the minority opinion about the Hashimoto HM-7. I can't explain it well, but they sort of bore the crap out of me. I've tried the HM7 many times through the years, to similar effect. They do everything fairly well, and they have no single glaring weakness - it's just that to me, they don't do any one spectacular thing to stand out, and I suppose I'm someone who WANTS their SUT to have SOME kind of discernible personality. People who want their SUT to "get out of the way" might really love these. But if you go too far into that philosophy, then pretty soon you're constantly talking about "wire with gain", upgrading your cabling to Monoprice, abandoning all vinyl for digital, and sharing pics of your Benchmark gear & measurements at parties :lol:

The MC-3 is the older version of the MC-4 - with 28x, 18x, and 10x taps on the MC-3 versus 30x, 24x, 18x, and 10x on the MC-4. The EAR has become my all-around reference SUT. My favorite. Its midrange is akin to the CineMag Sky, but even slightly better - wet, lush, slightly sweet and warm. In a word, beautiful. However, it significantly improves upon the shortcomings of the Sky with better extension on both ends, better clarity, a cleaned-up low end, and bigger soundstage. Highs are sparkling and gorgeous. It's not bright or fatiguing, though on certain hash recordings it can start sting you (which is probably true to what's on the record). This SUT has soul, solid technical chops, and excellent tap flexibility. A wonderfully balanced, musical performer.

Compared to the MC-1 it's very apparent the EAR MC-3 has more emphasis on the upper range frequencies, and MC-1 on the low end. However, besides bass, the MC-1 also wins on overall clarity and resolution (though the EAR is no slouch). The EAR has a sweeter, wetter midrange and more sparkling, beautiful highs. In some systems the MC-1 might actually impart too much bass power and impact - in such system, you might find the MC-1 more fatiguing. In other systems, the EAR's treble might get to you after a run of rough pop & rock recordings at high volume levels, whereas the MC-1 would allow you to keep going...and going. 

Koetsu SUT (latest version of the old Rosewood boxes, not the new metal box version):
As with their cartridges, the Koetsu SUT carries an element of mystery. Who makes the SUT? Probably a Japanese transformer winder, but whom? Could it even be Hashimoto?

For a couple years, I've kept my Koetsu SUT paired to the Blue Lace and FR64S arm (silver wiring) in the front arm slot. I haven't even tried it with a non-Koetsu cartridge; that just seems wrong somehow. The Koetsu SUT's main competetion in this slot has been the EAR. It's a surprisingly close competetion - the EAR is a bit sweeter, the Koetsu SUT is actually a bit more detailed. They're both amazing in this slot. But I've mostly kept the Koetsu SUT & Blue Lace pairing consistent, which frees up the EAR to benefit other cartridges (Benz, Ortofon, Shelter, other Koetsus) on a 2nd arm - usually an FR64fx, but occasionally a Graham Phantom II Supreme. The Koetsu SUT seems to work with the top Koetsu in a way that particular supports the Koetsu Platinum's sonic signature - especially in helping to bring out detail & treble energy - so I haven't been too tempted to try it elsewhere.

I've briefly tried the Quadratic MC-1 in this slot on the Blue Lace, and it did very well. I have lingering concerns the relaxed top end of the MC-1 might prove too much in combination with an already relaxed Platinum-magnet Koetsu, but it was still a very enjoyable and interesting listen. In general, the Blue Lace & MC-1 combination favors the low end frequencies. I'll have to spend more time to see how the MC-1 plays out in this slot. And the MC-1 might also be an interesting mix with a non-Platinum Koetsu, which I haven't tried yet. My one non-Platinum Koetsu Onyx (perhaps Samarium Cobalt magnets?) is definitely less relaxed than the Platinum magnet'd Koetsus, so it could be interesting. I'd also be interested in hearing the MC-1 paired with a non-Platinum Rosewood or Urushi.

Additional Thoughts:

At this time, the Quadratic MC-1 is competing with the EAR MC-3 for top billing in the back arm slot, which has been dominated lately by a Benz Zebrawood L and Benz Ebony L on the FR64fx (silver wiring). Compared to Koetsu, the Benzes give the MC-1 a bit more top-end energy to work with. The Quadratic vs. EAR matchup is pretty interesting, and I'd say the Quadratic has a real good shot at winning, but that certainly doesn't mean the EAR is at risk of going away. I love and appreciate the very different perspective both of these fantastic SUTs provide for my music collection! It's clear that they both outclass the Lundahls, other CineMags, and Hashimoto on this list. I also have an EAR MC-4 on order with TTVJ, to ensure I'm not missing out on anything in the newer model!

A note on SUT boxes: I don't like the tiny little lightweight Bob's Devices boxes. They always end up tipping over once hooked up to cables. And they don't look great. By contrast the EAR has been a pleasure to use - beautiful chrome fascia, and a LOT of weight in its box (clearly uses internal weights). It's the heaviest SUT box. It sits flat, hides the cabling out back, and looks pretty. That's what a SUT box should do. The Koetsu, Choir Audio and Quadratic boxes also function extremely well in this capacity. I also think the Koetsu and Quadratic boxes, like the EAR, are particularly handsome. 

I've only had the Quadratic MC-1 for a week, but in short I've really enjoyed it and am glad I bought it. It's looking like it'll be getting a lot of play time here!

My gear, besides SUTs:
Rack: CMS Maxxum
Tables: Clearaudio Innovation Master, SOTA Nova V
Cartridges: Shelter Accord and Harmony; Benz Wood SM, Ebony L, Zebrawood L, and LPS; Ortofon Cadenza Bronze and A90; Koetsu RSP, Onyx Platinum, Onyx (?), Coralstone Diamond, Blue Lace Diamond
Tonearms: Fidelity Research FR64S (silver wire), FR64fx (copper and silver wire), Graham Phantom II Supreme, Clearaudio Universal 12" w/ VTA 
Cabling: Audioquest WEL Signature, Wild, and Synergistic Research Foundation cabling, Bob's Devices SUT interconnects
Phono Stages: VAC Renaissance SE phono stage (used almost exclusively in MM mode, bypassing its Lundahl LL1931), Hagerman Trumpet MC, Sonic Frontiers Phono 1 SE+.
Preamp: VAC Master
Amps: VAC Signature 200iQ monos, Rogue Apollo Dark, Phison A120.2SE
Speakers: Tannoy Canterbury SE


Thanks, that was a very interesting and well-written comparison.

I have an EAR MC4, and have been thinking of adding another SUT to the collection, but your comments suggest that there is not much to be gained.

I did own the Hashimoto HM-7 briefly and agree with your comments - I found it rather warmish and a bit dull, and happily agreed to sell it on when someone asked to buy it.

I really like the 1254 SUT, it is my go to SUT over a owned HM-3 and has been a much enjoyed SUT within my Hi Fi Group where when loaned for their use. It has been compared in Group Demonstrations against other SUT's and Head Amp's, and has the Groups good appraisal as well.

I have not had a demonstration of the EAT Head SUT, but the Group have, as a infrequent attendee owns the device, this is the model the unanimous vote goes toward from the Group, as being the most impressive, abeit, a very rare to discover for sale item.    


Yes the 1254 sounds largely like the Skys, and is a fantastic value for the money. Those transformers just sound pleasing with a wide range of cartridges and systems. I brought a Sky 20 over to my friend’s Pipedream / VPI / VanDen Hul system, and it did the same things there that I was used to in my own system. Good musical performers!

It says a lot for the EAR that is has the same "species" of sound to this, but makes it even better! Strangely, the Quadratic MC-1 is what I’d expected to have the same kind of sound to its smaller CineMag siblings, but in fact it sounds quite different (in new & interesting ways to me).


Thanks! And yes, your EAR MC-4 (based on my MC-3 experience) is an amazing piece of gear that will be tough to beat. The Quadratic MC-1 simply gives a different perspective. I like having both for now...we'll see if one is favored or not over the long run.

I was afraid the MC-4 had been discontinued by EAR, but according to TTJV they're still being produced, with a backlog. I'll probably end up getting mine in a couple months. 

The Koetsu SUT sounds extremely pristine & beautiful with my Blue Lace, but over time I do sometimes find myself wishing for more "engagement factor" than that combo provides...perhaps it is a custom/tweaked Hashimoto in there after all?

And sorry for the duped post, guys...look like it's a problem for others too right now.

I have shared in a dialogue about Cinemag SUT Tranx, their is a suggestion that the specific differences for certain tranx tht separate them from each other is that there is a Hand Wound and Mechanical Wound Version, with the Hand Wound having the Prime Position in the range.

The EAR Head can command close to £2000 when it very rarely seen, so that has been a greatly appreciating item in value, which should keep the original and loyal purchasers quite happy .

I'm sure a Ikeda IST 201 would bring a unique quality to the Demonstrations as well, but it is quite expensive, if only a loan could be arranged.   


Thank you - I actually wasn’t aware of the old EAR "Head" which you reference! And it’s from 1979, my birth year :)

From a google search, here’s what Tim (RIP good sir) said about this unit, years later:

I will try to find old literature, how dare you say I did not design lock stock and barrel everything in the HEAD TX4? I do all my own transformers not like my competitors who go to mr transformer man please make me transformer! I designed the step up device in 1979 to be the best in the world period. More bandwidth more headroom better square wave etc. Still no one has matched it. If I had to market today I would have to price it at £3000. I made about 200 units. I will not disclose winding details or core type other than usual mumetal 78% Nickel. The highest inductance core material.

And this:

No, the G88 had space and ultimately cost consideration. The G88 uses what essentially is the current MC4. A small notch down from the HEAD

Wow, so it’s even a notch above the MC-4. If I see one pop up on the market, it’s a definite buy!

My experience with Lundahls (which use amorphous cobalt cores and indeed sound very different from laminated cores) and other SUTs makes me think the choice of core material and its size has a VERY large impact on the sound - certainly much more than wire quality. Sounds like the EAR "Head" has a very special core.

And I agree that the Ikeda could also be interesting. 

Isn’t any SUT going to color the sound differently when driven by for example a Benz cartridge (high internal resistance, richly colored) vs an Ortofon A90 (low internal resistance, very neutral), not to mention the inherent character of any phono stage vs any other? I just wonder how a novice might be able to use your written descriptions of different SUTs taken out of the context of cartridge and phono stage, thoughtful though those descriptions may be.


That’s fair. I don’t claim this to be anything approaching a scientific or exhaustive analysis of SUTs. However I do feel that much like cartridges, SUTs have their own sonic fingerprint which is distinct and durable across systems. A bad electrical mismatch is relatively easy to do and will invalidate listening impressions, but I’ve cut these out of my summaries.

The Benz iron-cross models (everything below the Gullwing / Ruby / LPS) actually have fairly low impedance coils which match wonderfully to a SUT. The Ebony (0.26mV, 5 ohms) and Zebrawood (0.4mV, 12 ohms) are electrically much closer to the Ortofon A90 and Koetsus than their Ruby siblings. The Benzes definitely bring some warmth, but I also think the long standing reputation they have for warmth and richness is a bit overdone, and they have a healthy high frequency response. As opposed to Koetsu Platinums - yup, THAT reputation for warmth is well earned! And incidentally, I gave up on matching my Benz LPS to a SUT - that was not a good time!

Anyways, I’ve run my Ortofon A90 and a VanDen Hul Colibri XGW (borrowed from a friend) on the EAR MC-3. These cartridges are not on the "warm" side of the spectrum, at least not compared to my other cartridges. That said, I enjoyed them quite a bit, and I liked the EAR doing its thing (which was still recognizable) on them too. I’ve also compared the Sky 20 vs. Lundahl SUT on my friend’s Pipedreams system (VPI and that same VanDen Hul), and the heard almost exactly the same large sonic differences I noticed between the 2 SUTs in my own system (I greatly preferred the Sky). He also uses a VAC MM phono/pre (again, it’s fair to restate how tethered my experiences are to this), but everything else is pretty wildly different.

Yes RIP Tim P and some of our favorite recordings made on gear w his transformers ;-) Water Lilly, and more.