SPL Phonos Phono Preamp
Let me put this very succinctly - I'm blown away by the SPL Phonos phono preamp. I've been playing around with several phono preamps the past few months to find one that's a great fit for my system. I have an AMG Giro turntable with a Koetsu Rosewood (standard) cartridge. My amp is a Gryphon Diablo 120 feeding Clearwave Symphonia loudspeakers.
SPL is a German brand active in the pro audio community. I never heard of this brand until looking up some reviews/surveys on phono preamps, where the SPL phono preamp received several accolades. I was able to buy one from Vintage King Audio, and there was a 30 day return policy in case I didn't like it.
The SPL is a medium-sized unit - larger for instance than the small Rega, Simaudio Moon or iFi phono preamps, but smaller than many others that are the size of your average CD player or line stage preamp. The SPL has switchable gain, 3 different capacitance choices for MM cartridges and 6 impedance choices for MC cartridges, including 220 ohms which I chose for my Koetsu. There is also a useful subsonic switch that provides cutoff of frequencies below 20Hz, helpful in reducing rumble. It's available in red, silver and black finishes. I think the main sonic feature of the SPL is the use of what is called the Voltair circuit - a higher than usual voltage circuit.
This phono preamp created the most dynamic sound I've heard from vinyl. The bass is very present and powerful, and provides a great foundation for the music. There is an abundance of clarity and detail, but not in a manner that screams "transparency". Rather, this preamp is very balanced and smooth, and nothing sounds exaggerated or out of place. There is plenty of space between instruments, and the sound never becomes congested - something I absolutely do not like.
The real bottom line is that I'm having a blast listening to vinyl in my system. It's hard to stop listening to records at night, and that's a great sign that the sound is serving the music well.
I suggest looking at the SPL if you're in the market for a $2k to $3k phono preamp. Obviously, I've not heard all the phono preamps in this range, but I've heard 3 others (and even one other that was $4k), and the SPL was the best choice for my system and listening preferences. It's certainly worth a close look.