Accustic Arts REFERENCE TUBE PHONO-II fully balanced Phono w/ dial adjust gain

AA 26 PS REFPHON
NZ$ 19,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Accustic Arts

High-End from ACCUSTIC ARTS® is expected to sound natural and detailed,

New

Magazine AUDIO tested the TUBE PHONO II - ACCUSTIC ARTS® TUBE PHONO II received the “Sound recommendation”. Audio-employee Lothar Brandt came to the following conclusion: “The puristic Phono-Only-Pre made in Germany is outstanding crafted, uses transistor and tube technology in an optimal way, shines with top results and sounds simply convincing. What once again proves that the good old tube is not a rushing, distorting, ‘roaring’ relic, but can also be used in a fascinating modern fashion in this sensitive area. Everything in the sign of sound.”

Magazine STEREO comment: This is, quite simply, a magnificent phono preamplifier. Thanks to its ingenious technical concept, which congenially combines selected solid-state devices and tubes, as well as high-quality components, the TUBE PHONO II achieves a superlative sound image in every respect.
LABORATORY COMMENT: Low distortion and high signal-to-noise ratios prove the quality of the circuitry, as does effective channel separation. Stable output stage with low impedance for RCA and XLR...... Matthias Böde

Our technicians already had plans in the pipeline for a pure phono preamplifier long before we decided in 2015 that the time was right for the new TUBE PHONO II. And what could be a better venue for the world premiere of an analog high-end audio product than the audiophile hifi show HIGH END 2016 in Munich/Germany?

Just as the word "TUBE" indicates, we have also opted to use excellent tubes selected for their sound for our first phono preamplifier in combination with the finest transistor technology. ACCUSTIC ARTS® insiders will know that the Roman figure "II" signals that the TUBE PHONO II is a member of the reference series.

As with all ACCUSTIC ARTS® products, the focus with the TUBE PHONO II is on excellent measured values and an exceptional acoustic pattern and easy and uncomplicated operation of the unit. Friends of analog technology naturally have the choice between moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC) pick-up systems and can adapt the required capacity or impedance by means of the chromed rotary knob. Long live the vinyl! We are happy about that.

TUBE HYBRID TECHNOLOGY - HOW THE TUBE PHONO II WORKS:
Accustic Arts‘ Phono-Pre is a three-stage concept, in which incoming connections from moving coil cartridges first meet an extremely low-noise operational amplifier (OP) from Linear Technology, which raises their level by about 20dB. After that, a Burr Brown amp, which is set to the MM impedance of 47 kilo-ohms, boosts the signal by a whopping 35 dB. MM cartridges avoid the first stage. The passive RIAA equalisation is done with only one resistor in the signal path, the remaining components working against ground. The equalisation „swallows“ about 20dB level, which is more than compensated for by the following tube stage – in fact two carefully selected tube stages, which are matched in pairs and supplied by a separate toroidal transformer.
The „medium impedance“ RIAA circuit is ideal for controlling the tubes, which finally serve the actual low impedance output stage, which acts as a potent impedance converter. There are two separate signal paths, so that the TUBE PHONO II can be connected to conventional unbalanced and XLR cables simultaneously. Accustic Arts cites a broad range of features of the „tube-hybrid“ structure as the reasons for the seamless dynamics and ultra-smooth sound, with fine detail as well as an extremely low and good-natured distortion spectrum. 

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Features

Audiophile reference phono preamplifier with a so called “tube hybrid” concept

Advantages of this “tube hybrid” technology: 
- very high bandwidth 
- very low distortion factors and a “good-natured” distortion spectrum 
- analog and very precise sound performance

Easy change of tubes without any adjustments just “plug and play”
Extremely precise RIAA equalisation of +/- 0.17 dB or optional +/- 0.12 % dB (SE version)
Fits to MM and MC cartridges
Front panel, Dial selectable, Capacity and Impedance settings.
Professional Class A output stage using technology derived from studio engineering
All used components are of outstanding quality and additionally selected, e.g. 1% high precision foil capacitors, 1% metal film resistors (SE version with 0.5 % high precision 

Specifications

Inputs: 
   1 x MM phono input, unbal. (RCA)
   1 x MC phono input, unbal. (RCA)
Outputs: 
   1 x balanced line-out (XLR)
   1 x unbalanced line-out (RCA)
Input impedance:  (front panel. dial selectable).
   MM: 47,5 kΩ / 60 pF – 160 pF – 280 pF – 380 pF (selectable)
   MC: 100 Ω, 235 Ω, 475 Ω (selectable)
Gain: 
   MM operation: 95.6-times / 39.6 dB   
   MC operation: 960-times / 59.6 dB (factory setting) 770-times and 1460-times (optional)
RIAA precision: +/- 0.17 dB or +/- 0.12 dB (SE version)
Output resistance: 
   balanced: 2 x 50 Ω
   unbalanced: 50 Ω
Signal-to-noise-ratio: 
   MM operation: -83 dB (A weighted, 500 mV)
   MC operation: -74 dB (A weighted, 500 mV)
Distortion (THD+N): 
   MM operation: 0.007 %
   MC operation: 0.03 %
Tube type: 2 x dual triode E83CC / 12 AX 7 – selected and matched
Power consumption: approx. 20 watts
Dimensions: 100H x 482W x 375D mm 
Weight: 12 kg

Reviews

The SCIENCE of ART - This is, quite simply, a magnificent phono preamplifier.
Matthias Böde

SUMMARY: Everyone in the room immediately realised that something special was happening, and so we put on one after another of our oft-heard test favourites: Chadwick’s brilliant “Jubilee” projected a sweeping orchestra into the listening room, followed by Diana Krall’s sometimes cheerful, sometimes melancholic “Love Scenes”, while the Vivaldi violin concertos, which rushed from fragrant and lively to forceful, plunged into the expressive world of the baroque. Throughout, the TUBE PHONO II maintained a dignified aura of unassailability and perfection, effortlessly conveying every mood and thus underlining its musical range. With this phono stage, anything goes, even hard rock, as it proved with “Jacob’s Ladder” by Rush.

Speaking of competitors, the Accutsic Arts has few to fear; for our testing, our hitherto solitary top reference Brinkmann Edison was used as a benchmark, and there was no need for any further comparisons – the two were on a par. While Edison was a bit more committed, the TUBE PHONO II delivered even the finest. There’s no question about it: the art of sound comes from skill and science and that’s just what Accustic Arts delivers

EXTENDED REVIEW: Accustic Arts has long since established itself among the top German manufacturers. Will the new TUBE PHONO II phono preamplifier live up to this exalted reputation?

The components of high-end specialist Accustic Arts often occupy the top positions in our tests and as a result can be found among the top references, as is the case with the TUBE PREAMP II/AMP II preamp/power amp or the TUBE DAC II D/A converter, the company’s current “Reference Series”.Now it has a newcomer with similarly lofty ambitions, the TUBE PHONO II phono preamplifier at just under NZ$20,000.

As is usual with the company’s products, the black or silver casing of this 12kg unit is made from thick aluminium profiles, with a “tube” logo milled into the lid.
Together with the typical large and flawless chrome-plated knobs on the front panel, this is a real eye-catcher, and an external statement of the efforts made within. Two pushbuttons allow temporary muting of the device and activate or shut down a tube stage (see box), which is as sophisticated as it is artfully integrated into a matrix of top-quality op-amps. That way the solid-state electronics, which are not affected by continuous operation, can remain warm, while the tubes are protected against unnecessary wear, LEDs indicating the operating status.

Practical values

The switch for MM and MC cartridges, for which separate RCA sockets are provided, is recessed into the rear panel of the TUBE PHONO II: the owner should choose between them before connecting the cable, because the simultaneous connection of two turntables isn’t permitted.

However, the separate adjustment according to capacitance (MM) and resistance (MC), which is done via the substantial outer buttons, is a good idea. With selectable 60, 160, 260 or 360 picofarad capacitance, the moving magnet input can be used even with bright-sounding cartridges, but while 100, 235 and 475 Ohm input impedance is offered for moving coil cartridges, some might still wish for a few more intermediate steps in this adjustment. The uppermost value is, by the way, twice as high: with the switch in the “V1” position its is, like the smaller impedances, applied directly to the RCA-MC input, but in the “V2” position it combines with the capacitive load between the first and second amplifier stages, which should enable the opening up of the sound image of high-impedance moving coils without the slight tonal brightening usually associated with them. Yes, the Accustic Arts engineers may be real bean counters, but clearly they fought for every bit of sound quality from the TUBE PHONO II.

The 40 and 60dB basic amplification for MM/MC are chosen correctly, but for the MC input you can also increase or decrease this standard value, which is best suited for average cartridges giving average levels, in 3dB steps via internal DIP switches. That’s because a larger widening of the MC gain range would have required unacceptable compromises in the circuitry – but, on request, the customer can have the preamp set up for a different basic value. You want 68 dB for your quiet Audio-Technica ART1000 or 54 dB for a comparatively loud EMT TSD75? No problem – and the +/-3dB switching remains. We like that – the freak in us is once again satisfied!

Set up was quite straightforward, as is usual for the brand’s components: a red adhesive dot marks mains phase, and with the preamp connected and warmed up, off you go! No buzzing, no noise – the TUBE PHONO II did exactly what was expected of it.

Every disc in top style

Our expectations, raised by the price and our inspiring experience with the other “references” of this manufacturer, were

entirely met. First on the turntable was Lyn Stanley’s brand-new album, “The Moonlight Sessions Vol. One”, a 45rpm disc pressed in a quality-conserving” One Step “process. Things couldn’t get any better, not least because the record revolved on Transrotor’s Rondino Nero, with an SME 3009 arm carrying the turntable manufacturer’s top MC cartridge, the “Figaro”, the “Fine Line” diamond stylus of which slipped smoothly through the flawlessly cut groove. In fact, the Accustic Arts made this audiophile jewel shine with all its sparkling, shimmering vitality and elegant grace, outlining the almost perfect analog recording in its full three-dimensionality and making clear the distances between the musicians. We have rarely heard vinyl sounding so good!

Everyone in the room immediately realised that something special was happening, and so we put on one after another of our oft-heard test favourites: Chadwick’s brilliant “Jubilee” projected a sweeping orchestra into the listening room, followed by Diana Krall’s sometimes cheerful, sometimes melancholic “Love Scenes”, while the Vivaldi violin concertos, which rushed from fragrant and lively to forceful, plunged into the expressive world of the baroque. Throughout, the TUBE PHONO II maintained a dignified aura of unassailability and perfection, effortlessly conveying every mood and thus underlining its musical range. With this phono stage, anything goes, even hard rock, as it proved with “Jacob’s Ladder” by Rush.

Accustic Arts does it all.

And how does the TUBE PHONO II deal with moving magnet cartridges? Just as well: as Diana Krall’s famous “Live In Paris” album revolved on the Transrotor, now fitted with Clearaudio’s Super-MM Charisma V2, the Accustic Arts created a very transparent image between the loudspeakers with the lively “Deed I Do”, its nuances underlying the unrestrained joy, verve and sure handling of the track. The phono stage gave free rein to the driving rhythm of the fast-paced piece, but also did not forget all the filigree reverberations and lip noises: sometimes suppressed by lesser amplifiers, they’re, essential for the realistic spatial representation and the natural fluidity of the performance. Here, they were all present and correct – and how!

Speaking of competitors, the Accutsic Arts has few to fear; for our testing, our hitherto solitary top reference Brinkmann Edison was used as a benchmark, and there was no need for any further comparisons – the two were on a par. While Edison was a bit more committed, the TUBE PHONO II delivered even the finest. 

There’s no question about it: the art of sound comes from skill and science and that’s just what Accustic Arts delivers
….. Matthias Böde