Review: Superphon Revelation mkII Preamplifier
In the mid 80s Stan Warren started producing preamps under his own company known as Superphon. All in all for the next few years he produced the Revelation Basic,with outboard power supply, then to the Revelation MK II and the Revelation MK II in Space Case. The pictures show the different variants of the Superphon Revelation line of preamps.
Stan is back at it again with the Revelation MK III, which is the latest from him. I have not yet heard the MK III, but if anything like the previous Revelation units, it is no doubt a stellar performer. However without a phono section on board, it holds little interest for me. After 50 years in this hobby, I am way to deep into vinyl to retreat now at this late stage. But thats me, and for most mavens the Revelation MK III could be your next preamp.
This review will deal with the Revelation MK II and its Space Case brother.
Recently acquired the PS Audio HCA 2 power amp as I wanted to try this newer technology. My inital observations was this is a very fine amp, but then again there are a lot of very nice amps out there. Different preamps were tried with the HCA 2 including a PS Audio preamp, as well as a Threshold and other high end preamps. During the evauation process a Revelation MK II came my way and thus was tried with the HCA 2.
In the initial stages nothing to rave about. However about 24 hours later, this changed and rather dramatically so. To say audio nirvana came around big time is a major under statement. The Alon Model 1 speakers came to life as never before. The imaging, sound stage, depth you name it was and remains very present. Vinyl playback will equal anything out there and CD playback is so damn near analog in presentation I have to visually check to see if it is the CDP or the turntable that is selected.
So thinking I may be duped by this evalaution, I removed the Revelation MK II and inserted another preamp and everything went back to the previous signature. So back to the Revelation MK II and the magic returned. Hmmmmm??!!
It has been years and I mean years since a component such as this has had this type of impact in my systems. After all 50 years into this hobby I am little more than outright jaded in evalautions.
Before we proceed much further listed below are the LPs and CDs used for this review.
Bob James - Hands Down (Columbia FC 38067)
Hiroshima - Self Titled - (Arista MFSL1-525)
John Coltrane - Blue Train - (Blue Note BST 81577)
Wes Montgomery - Bumpin' - (Verve V6-8625)
Bill Evans - Paris Concert Vol. 1 & 2 (Muscian 60311/60164)
Rickie Lee Jones - Self Titled - (Warner BSK 3296)
Wynton Marsalis - Live Blues Alley - (Columbia PC2-40675)
Eric Gale - Forecast - (KUDU Records KU 11)(CTI Records)
Kenny Burrell & Grover Washington Jr - (Blue Note BT 85106)
Earl Klugh - Finger Painting - (Blue Note MFSL 1-025)
Larry Carlton - Friends - (Warner 23834-1)
Sadao Watanabe - Autumn Blow - (Inner City IC 6064)
Doobie Brothers - Minute by Minute - (Warner BSK 3193)
Santana - Zebop - (Columbia FC37158)
Pat Metheny Group - American Garage - (ECM 1-1155)
Frederick Fennel - Cleveland Symphonic Winds - (Telarc 5038)
Paul Desmond/Jim Hall - Complete Recordings - Mosaic(MR6-120)
Time Out - Dave Brubeck Quartet (Columbia CS 8192)
Paul Desmond - Self Titled (Artist House AH - 2)
Bill Evans - California Here I Come (Verve VE2-2545)
Art Pepper - Blues For The Fisherman (Mole 1)
Ben Webster At The Renaissance (Contemporary Records OJCCD-390-2)
The Royal Ballet Gala Performances (Classic Compact Discs CDSCD 6065)
Jurassic Park Motion Picture Soundtrack (MCAD 10859)
We Get Requests - The Oscar Peterson Trio (Verve 810047-2)
You Won't Forget Me - Shirley Horn (Verve 847482-2)
On Every Street - Dire Straits (Warner Brothers 26680-2)
Trio Jeepy - Branford Marsalis (Columbia CK44199)
Paris Jazz Concert - Louis Armstrong (RTE 1001-2)
Braveheart Motion Picture Soundtrack - London Symphony Orchestra (London LC0171)
Patriot Games Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA 07863 66051-2)
Highlights From The Plugged Nickel - Miles Davis (Columbia CK 67377)
Private Investigations Best Of Dire Straits (HDCD) - Dire Straits (Warner Bros 49891-2)
Straight Up - Bob James Trio (Warner Bros 945956-2)
Land Of Giants - McCoy Tyner (Telarc 83576)
New York Reunion - McCoy Tyner (Chesky 5173324)
Gladiator Motion Picture Soundtrack(Decca 2894670942)
Copland - Appalachian Spring (Telarc CD 80078)
F. Fennell - Holst Suites (Telarc 80038)
Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture (Telarc 80041)
John Williams - American Journey (Sony 89364)
Bizet - Carmen (Telarc 80048)
Live At Sweet Basil - McCoy Tyner Trio (Evidence ECD 22106-2)
On the technical side is presented below from the owners manual:
The design goals for the REVELATION II preamp are the same as for the original REVELATION BASIC. Low noise and distortion, wide power bandwidth, high overload thresholds, and accurate phase and frequency response.
In the REVELATION II, the methods of realizing these goals have become more sophisticated and a new weapon in the war against grain and intermodulation products has been employed. Each of the four gain stages features matched J-FET input devices, current mirror loading of the differential input, and FET current regulators for the input and voltage gain stages. There is a discrete, high performance voltage regulator for each stage with separate left and right channel filter and storage capacitors. The regulator correction stage also uses FET current regulation. Lastly, the regulator pass transistors are 8-amp, Darlington types.
The high noise immunity of the J-FET allows us to operate the differential input stages at higher than normal idle currents. This in conjunction with the current mirror loading yields a wide band, linear stage with benefits that are easily audible as a grain-free and lucid sound that never fatigues. The parts selection process was crucial to the realization of the design goals. Each part in the REVELATION II was chosen for superior sonics in blind testing sessions. Repeat testing revealed that solid dielectric capacitors, (tantalum, silver mica,) consistently sounded cleaner and less 'smeared' than other types.
All low level signal devices are either metal or glass. Diodes used for bias networks are glass also. Selecting parts for the best dielectric properties has become a crucial new process, and will be more so as the circuits become ever cleaner and more transparent. The optimization process didn't stop at the circuit board, however. The rotary selectors are low coloration, all wiring is teflon, low-loss and very low-loss jacks are used for cable connections. Even the auto-mute is a grounding type so the audio doesn't go through a relay! All grounds return to a single point, and phono inputs are isolated with separate ground returns. In short, everything is done for a reason! We've done our part, the REVELATION II is your ticket to years of trouble free musical enjoyment: So enjoy!
Phono Input Impedance - 47 KOhms
Line Input Impedance - 25 KOhms
Phono Gain - 37.5 dB @ 1KHz
Line Gain - 20 dB, 20 -20KHz
S/N Ratio (phono) 77dB
S/N Ratio ( line) 97dB
Phono Overload - 166 MV@1KHz
THD - 003% @ 2V 1KHz
Maximum Output - 12.5 VRMS
Power Bandwidth - 2Hz - 500 Hz
Output Impedance - 600 ohms
Power Consumption - 10 watts
Weight - 8 pounds.
Now onto the operating section of the Superphon Revelation MK II:
To use the SUPERPHON REVELATION II preamp, please observe the following procedure. First, inspect the unit to insure that there is no visible damage to the chassis. Any damage should be reported to your dealer or shipper immediately. Next, set the volume controls to minimum and put the mute switch in the MUTE position. Now you can plug the preamp into the nearest electrical outlet. If at all possible. do not use an extension cord. It sometimes helps to plug your amp into a different outlet so that large current draws by the amplifier will not starve the preamp causing an intermodulation product to be introduced into the power line. The preamp will turn on and begin warming up as soon as it is plugged in.
Remember the preamp is designed to stay plugged in at all times. This keeps the capacitors fully formed-in and maintains even operating temperature and bias levels. The advantages of fulltime operation are longer life and better sound. In fact, a 'cold' preamp will sound dry and a little rough until it has been on for a few hours.
New units will need several days to reach optimum sound and will continue to get smoother for the first two weeks. After initial break-in. an average preamp will sound smooth in about twenty minutes and reach optimum in about an hour.
It is normal for the pilot light to stay dark until the MUTE/PLAY switch is moved to the PLAY position.
So now you want to know how to hook it up, right? Relax, it is even easier than it looks and you will find that flexibility is limited only by your imagination.
PHONO: Connect the leads from your turntable to the low-loss phono jacks on the rear panel. If the turntable has a third wire ground, connect it to the black ground post. To avoid hum, it is prefferable to place the turntable to the left of the preamp as you face the front panel. This way, the leads won't pass near the preamp's internal transformer.
COMPACT DISC: Another pair of low-loss jacks is provided for the CD player. The CD wiring path is teflon braid so as players get better. you will have the quality signal path necessary to hear them at their best.
The CD jacks are immediately adjacent to the phono jacks.
TUNER: Locate the input jacks labelled 'TUNER' on the back panel, and then just connect the leads. You are now ready to set either SOURCE switch to the TUNER position and play.
VIDEO: This input is provided for VCR hook-up. If you have a high fidelity VCR, you can route the audio output signal to these jacks and enjoy thrilling reproduction of movie sound tracks.
AUX: This is an extra input for any high level signal source. If you have a play only deck or more than one video player, you can use this input. The aux input is also useful for external signal processors. An example would be to connect the output of tape-l to the signal processor and wire the output of the signal processor to the input. Place the SOURCE-2 selector switch in the aux position and the SOURCE toggle switch in the SOURCE 2 position. You may now use any input on the SOURCE 1 selector and hear the chosen input through the external processor. Many similar hook-ups are also possible, you just have to use your imagination!
PLAYING TAPES: Connect the signal output leads from your tape deck to the TAPE 1 set of jacks labelled 'PLAY'. Set the SOURCE-2 selector switch to the TAPE 1 position and the SOURCE toggle switch to SOURCE 2. You may now play your tapes. You can connect another deck to the TAPE 2 jack set labelled PLAY. To access the other deck, you need only set the SOURCE 1 selector to TAPE 2 and the SOURCE toggle to SOURCE 1.
RECORDING TAPES: To make recordings from any signal source, just connect the record in or line in of your tape deck to the TAPE 1 output jacks on the preamp. Place the SOURCE 1 selector to the desired position and the SOURCE toggle switch to the SOURCE 1 position. You may now recordl Of course, a second deck can be connected here too! just use the TAPE 2 record out jacks and use the SOURCE 2 selector to choose desired signal source. You may use one input to record and the other for listening. Just use the SOURCE toggle switch to decide which one you want to listen to.
DUBBING: Dubbing from one deck to another is easily accomplished by the flexible switching possible with the REVELATION II. Just connect the play deck to the TAPE 2 input jacks on the rear panel. The TAPE 1 output jacks are now connected to the record deck. Set the SOURCE 1 selector to TAPE 2, set the record level and record! You can still listen to any other source by setting the SOURCE 2 selector to the desired position, and the SOURCE toggle to the SOURCE 2 position.
You now have the basics of operation, this concludes the operation section.
Have this unit running 24/7 now for well over a month now and it continues to amaze me on its outright musicality and clearly can compete with anything up to the $2,500.00 dollar range. I have always held that the Klyne SK5a was dollar for dollar the best preamp ever made. I still find that to be true. However with that being said the Superphon Revelation MK II is clearly in that leaque. Years ago I sold the Klyne so it's not here for a heads on comparison and I regretted forever the sale of the Klyne. Although the Revelation MK II has put that grin on my face that I had with the Klyne, so long ago.
I have been trying to find a fault with the Revelation MK II and for me, there is not a fault with which I could lay to it.
Piano music is one of the most difficult instruments for any system to accurately reproduce. On the Bill Evans Trio LPs and the Dave Brubeck Quartet LPs, the Superphon Revelation MK II gave a solid rendering of the piano, with all its shades, tones and octaves. A mesmerizing presentation with extraordinary layering of the piano. This is seldom found in any preamp, at any price, but was in abundance with the Revelation MK II.
It should be noted that the Revelation MK II could be ordered with dual volume controls or the standard Volume and Balance control. The unit in the space case has the twin volume controls, while the other has conventional set up of Volume and Balance control.
The Space Case Revelation MK II, is a wood case in either Walnut or Oak, with the preamp itself in this wood case. Top and bottom metal panels are not present,but the case sides remain in place. It was felt that by removing the top and bottom metal panels allowed the preamp to remove another veil of transparency. This added another $150.00 to the base price of the Revelation MK II.
So there you have it. A preamp from the mind of Stan Warren, that has stood the test of time and continues to deliver the promise.
PS Audio HCA 2,Audio Analogue Pagannin CDP,Sony MDS 480, XM Radio Tuner, Goldring GR1.2 turntable with Rega RB 250 arm and Goldring Electra cartridge, Musical Concepts Interconnects.
Threshold,Krell,Levinson,Conrad Johnson,Dolan,Muse,PS Audio,Van Alstine,etc