I once read about the FM Acoustics and Sutherland phono amps, real high end stuff. The writer did not compare them to the Vendetta
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Have you heard the American Hybrid Technology's AHT Non-signature? I heard it only once and only for a few blissful minutes! It was the finest, most realistic portrayal of a musical event I had ever experienced! Go see if you can borrow and audition one. A store in NYC called "TOYS FROM THE ATTIC" still carries it. Check out their website: www.tfta.com.
Good luck on your quest!
As you might guess the the AHT and Vendetta have each gone through numerous modifications. The design of the Klyne has probably been more stable. A friend with excellent ears has compared the most recent Klyne against an earlier Vendetta which he subsequently had updated to the latest T version (Teflon caps in RIAA, better wire and connectors, power supply changes). He preferred the Klyne over the earlier Vendetta but strongly preferred the T version of the Vendetta over the Klyne. I have heard an early AHT Non-Signature in my system and found it to be quite lovely, particularly its tonal balance; however, it lacked the speed and transparency of the T version of the Vendetta. The Vendetta was also much quieter. I understand that Lloyd Walker has purchased AHT from Dan Fanny and that the latest version of the AHT is very good, but I have not heard it. I hope that someone will comment on the Connesseur, FM Acoustics, Groove and Vanden units, all of which I understand to be excellent.
Some further SS phono stages worth mentioning:
1. Scan-Tech Connoisseur Definitions 4.0
2. Spectral Special Edition Phono
3. Blue Amp dual mono phono preamplifier 42
4. 47 Labs PhonoCube
5. Progressive Audio Phono 1
6. Gryphon Orestes LE
These are all very expensive, very high-quality units with completely different design philosophies. I have heard 2 of them (3. 5.), and will get 4. from the EU distributor in the weeks to come. I would really appreciate any comments about any of these units as well as the ones mentioned already as SS phono units are my main focus right now.
For Fcrowder, here are my comments on the FM Acoustics. FM Acoustics Ltd. makes two phono units: the 122, and the 222. The more expensive model (222) is not quite as expensive as the Scan-Tech or the Spectral, but is still very expensive (the last price I have is DM 26,000). Unusual feature: the FM Acoustics units are the only ones I know that allow the user to adjust the RIAA equalization parameters without discrete increments. Their circuit design has little to do with the mainstream. The sound: one gets an unhindered look into the recording venue, the instruments are precisely focused and placed, and there is much detailed sonic material and ambience. The musical program is relayed with a fascinating lightness and delicacy. The sound is not anemic, thinned-out, or unexciting, but there are some who think the FM Acoustics phono units "paint in pastel colors," and that there is too much air throughout, with an "uncanny airiness in the bass." Despite that, the units have a powerful coarse and fine dynamic, a solid bass fundamental, and effortless elegance. I would rate the 222 in the "top ten" phono units I have heard, but did not purchase it for three reasons: I did not like the previously-mentioned "pastel" tonal coloration and airiness, I do not need adjustable RIAA EQ, and it does not suit all of my musical tastes. I nevertheless appreciated its synthesis of analytic transparency, "Spielfreude" (please, someone translate!), and freedom from stress.
fcrowder, why not tubes? i have the aesthetix io in totally stock form, and it is wonderful. very quiet and able to drive the lowest output cartriges, the only drawback is rack space and heat.
the very best dynamics of any audio product i have heard, with tonality and a "breath of life" to the soundstage that ss can only dream of. i've had 2 trouble-free years with the io and can't imagine a better phono stage.
the stock io can be improved with additional power supplies and tube rolling.
you must have your reasons for ss direction but if you haven't heard the io you owe it to yourself to try it.