I heard it at an NJ Audio Society meeting and it sounded quite good... We compared it directly to a Manley Steelhead with Harry Weisfeld's new top-of-the-line TNT TT and Vandersteen 4 speakers.
It was better focused than the Manley, transients were sharp and quick and the bass was tight and deep. Although it's soundstage was not as expansive as the Steelhead, many members preferred its honest presentation.
The one drawback we found, was that if one of the many "D" cells dies (16 total, if I recall correctly) the unit will not play, because they are in series. And of course this happened at the meeting and sent the gracious host scrambling to find more D batteries.
Running a preamp on battery power is no big deal, and has been done for years...the circuits draw little power. The idea of using a signal-sensing automatic turn on also is not new...just about every subwoofer plate amplifier has this feature. Putting these two features together in a preamp is a good idea. It's a clever piece of equipment, and must be fun to own.
All that being said, how does it sound? Good enough to justify the price?
Surprised Twl hasn't stepped in here. He runs his entire system on batteries, although I think they're a little more sophisticated than D cells. I'm sure this gets him cleaner signals and a lower noise floor.
We just put a new 12V halogen light fixture in the room next to our system. Despite the dedicated audio AC circuit and a $2K power conditioner, the hash is still getting through. Anybody got a battery big enough for a 240wpc SS amp?
Except for the need for periodic replacement (which really isn't very often-- the lifespan of those D cells is probably better than most power tubes!!!!), batteries are superior to AC power any day in every way. The currents that are required in a preamp are in the range of a few milliamps, which a battery of this size will just laugh at. They are capable of delivering orders of magnitude more than this.
Hi, yes I also use battery powered stuff. I like it alot. I even use battery power on my power amp. If it is lacking in any transients/dynamics/bass impact, I sure don't know about it. IMO, it is superior to what comes out of the wall any day of the week. I get instantaneous current delivery like you wouldn't believe. Zero grunge. No power transformer hum fields. No rectification or ripple. Pretty damn good in my opinion. I wouldn't go back to wall power again. I'm using lead acid RV/marine type batteries with over 650 cold-cranking amps and deep-cycle capability. These babies rock! And they really keep the noise floor dead quiet. Of course, I'm only powering a 2 watt 45 OTL SET with them that draws 3.8amps at 12vdc, so you could say that I have plenty of reserve power. Probably won't be drawing too hard on those 650CCA anytime. But if they can surge 650a, I think they'll deliver 3.8a pretty freely. My dynamics and bass impact are plenty good. No problems at all.
I currently use the PhD. I am using Grado Statement1 with it and it sounds really good to my ears. The batteries last like forever. I changed it once in the last 3 or 4 years.
I did change the loading on the Grado Statement1 as 47k didn't sound right to me.
I owned and enjoyed the PHD for several years, and only replaced all the batteries once,and just for OCD reasons.
It performed flawlessly and I enjoyed the sound,really can't find anything to fault with it, except for the fact that changing gain and cap cards was a bit of a chore.
The person who bought my PHD is certainly very pleased with it,I can't see why anyone wouldn't be pleased with it.
So why did I switch to the Steelhead?
I was in upgrade mode and wanted to assemble a new system starting with the speakers and working backwards to the source.
Switching to the Steelhead was as much about pride of ownership as it is about sound quality.
The Steelhead has no hum issues is as quiet as the PHD in my estimation and isn't a let down or step backwards.
As pretty as the PHD is inside,there's much to enjoy when looking at the internals of the Steelhead control section and the separate power supply.
The Steelhead is built like a fine piece of pro audio gear, which is fitting due to it's pro heritage.
My Steelhead was used when I bought it, and it's the 1.5 version, the second MC inputs are configured for my Esoteric cd player.
I've had it for nearly 2 years now and recently because of OCD I did a tube replacement from Manley, who are the best in customer support, whether you bought your unit used or new, they never fail to get back to you if you have any questions.
Do I miss the PHD?
No,I have no regrets.
Both phono stages performed well, gave me no problems, and either unit would be a great addition to any vinyl set up.
Which sounds better? Is something I can't answer because I never had both units at the same time to compare.
I owned a PH3D and have used a PH3 in my system. I enjoyed both of them, and I still regret selling the 3D. It was an excellent phono stage for the price.
I have limited, experience with the Steelhead but found it to be a extremely well built unit. The sound reproduction was great - more lush and "wet" than w/ the Sutherland units, as would be expected from a tube amp. But with my tube rig, I prefer the neutrality of the SS phono stage and the dead black background is a major consideration. While the CHinook was not noisy, it was more noisy than the PH3 when used w/ very LO cartridges.
I think that the selection of either of these (or any) phono stage depends on the rest of your system. If I had to pick one for all around use, it would probably be the PH3 with the 3D as a close second (first for value)
I can only reinforce the many positive attributes of the Phd in the posts above. I had a Phd for over a year with a Michel Gyrodec and Rega RB 1000 and Lyra Helikon/Skala. The Phd was an upgrade from a Project Phono box and as you can imagine the improvement was awesome and this got me truly into the vinyl bug/upgraditis. I sold the Phd for no apparent shortcoming and moved on to a Nagra VPS. There is much to commend the battery driven Phd : inky dark backgrounds , an effortless, almost liquid quality to the music. If you want to nit pick, it lacks that extra bite in LFE and the dynamic contrasts are a wee bit muted compared to Phonos costing a great deal more.
If you want meaningful advice, what's the rest of your vinyl chain and what phono are currently using etc
If you are buying used its a no brainer. Strongly recommended.
I have the Sutherland PHD. I also own the EAR 324, Lehmann Black Cube SE, and a Fosgate Signature (all are excellent, but different). It really is a split don the middle of the best that solid state and tubes have to offer. It is my favorite sounding phono stage, although I use the 324 due to ease of use. Any talk of softening of transients seems like something that somebody made that up in their head. Yes, i"m making that up in my head. If batteries hurt the sound, you probably wouldn't find it on high end gear designed by respected designers. Those guys have egos too.
I am probably one of the first overseas buyer of the PhD, and I bought it "blind" without listening to it first, and even way before Michael Fremer reviewed it
Anyway, it was one of the best audio components & hifi investment I have ever made.
The purity & honest presentation of the PhD has to be heard to be believed, and obviously, the batteries got a lot to do with it. I had 7 wonderful years with it, and upgraded to the AMR PH-77 two years ago.
The PhD is now residing in my friend's rig, and he is thoroughly enjoying it ;)
In a recent thread on akarma, it appears that one can do a minor upgrade to the PhD, by changing out 2 Op Amps on the output section of the motherboard.
Changing from OPA134PA, to OPA627AP at positions U7 and U10 on the motherboard. They are simple 8 pin plug an play, no soldering involved.
This upgrade has Ron Sutherland's blessings, and he said it's a worthy upgrade. The original factory installed op amp chip is about $3 each, the better OPA627AP replacement about $22 each at Digikey.
I;m going to be doing this upgrade myself soon. Mark
I'll have to try the upgrade and hear the difference.