Clearaudio Nano V2 Phono MM/MC phono stage

CL 40 PS NANO
NZ$ 525.00 ea (incl. GST)
Clearaudio

"Take the best and make it better, only then is it just good enough." Peter Suchy

New

The Clearaudio Nano V2 provides real high-end performance at a truly budget price.

Clearaudio has achieved this breakthrough by using a simple, elegant and astonishingly effective design perspective. The printed circuit board is embedded within a massive precision-CNC-machined aluminium block that forms a resonance-free chassis. The miniature size of the Nano V2 ensures outstanding technical results and unheard of quietness within its price range!
 
The latest sophisticated surface-mount technology is used in conjunction with precision electronic components and extremely short signal paths, leading to a pure, hum and noise-free music reproduction. The fully dual-mono design features separate left and right switches for input loading, gain control and MM / MC selection, and a subsonic filter.  The Nano V2 will extract the best results from virtually any phono cartridge.

Sixmoons: "The Nano is a fantastic value; offering great versatility in a tiny package for a tiny price," ns.

The Clearaudio NANO-PHONO provides real High-End performance at a truly budget price.
Clearaudio have achieved this breakthrough by using a simple, elegant and astonishingly effective design perspective. The printed circuit board is embedded within a massive precision-CNC-machined aluminium block that forms a resonance-free chassis. The miniature size of the Nano-Phono ensures outstanding technical results and unheard of quietness within its price range!

The latest sophisticated surface-mount technology is used in conjunction with precision electronic components, such as BURR-BROWN (Texas Instruments) integrated circuits, and extremely short signal paths leading to a pure, hum and noise-free music reproduction.
The fully dual-mono design features separate left and right switches for input loading, gain control and MM / MC selection, extracting the best results from virtually any cartridge!

The Nano Phono is also available with a practicable headphone - output (Nano Phono Headphone).

About the size of a deck of cards, the appropriately named Nano Phono uses a body of CNC-machined aluminum. Its sophisticated surface-mount technology boasts BurrBrown integrated circuits, very short signal paths, and dual-mono design. In spite of its petite profile it answers a variety of cartridge needs by including input loading resistors, mm/mc jumpers, and a subsonic filter. It also offers variable gain via a top-mount control wheel.


Hi Terry, 
......and my comments on the Clear Audio Nano;

"sehr klein, sehr gut"

Cheers Steve

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Testimonials

Features

The Nano V2 its meticulously selected SMD components are assembled by hand in Erlangen and tested several times. The reward of these efforts is a signal to noise ratio of up to 84 decibels. The input impedance is set using plug-in links, so there is no loss of quality when using different moving magnet and moving coil cartridges.

The Nano Phono Headphone additionally contains a powerful headphone amplifier within the solid aluminium housing for private listening at the highest fidelity.

Specifications

AMPLIFICATION @ 1 KHZ

34 dB to 48 dB (MM mode)

54 to 68 dB (MC mode)

INPUT IMPEDANCE

MM mode - 47 kOhm / 220 pF

MC mode - Individual / User

MM / MC INPUT switchable by jumper (at bottom)

SUBSONIC FILTER switchable by jumper (at bottom)

RIAA delay time: 75 μs / 318 μs / 3180 μs

RIAA ACCURACY ± 0.4 dB @ 20 Hz - 50 kHz

THD < 0,006% MC ("A" weighted @ 1 kHz / -1 dB @ Max)

HEADROOM 18 dB / MC

SIGNAL TO NOISE RATIO 70 dB ("A" Weighted) - 81 dB ("A" Weighted)

CHANNEL SEPARATION > 80 dB @ 1 kHz / opposed channel hot-wired

MAX. OUTPUT VOLTAGE 10 V eff. (1 kHz)

POWER SUPPLY ± 18 V DC / 300 mA (external power supply)

INPUT / OUTPUTS unbalanced (RCA)

POWER CONSUMPTION

Max. consumption: 2.3 Watt

Consumption in operation: 2.3 Watt

Standby mode: < 0.3 Watt

Off mode: 0.0 Watt

TOTAL WEIGHT 500 gram (Phonostage and power supply)

DIMENSIONS (W/D/H in mm) 85 x 106 x 25

Reviews

Frederic Beudot
Frederic Beudot

....as it turns out, the Nano is such a good bargain that I decided it was worth sharing the news.

.....but what keeps amazing me is how well the Nano performs at just a fraction of the price.

....but responded with greater bass weight and extension, better macrodynamics, sweeter treble and lower noise.

The Nano confirmed that it performs on par or even slightly ahead of the phono boards inside my McIntosh MA2275 and Musical Fidelity A5 integrateds. That may seem like faint praise but the phono stages in those two are actually well regarded and often compared to phono pres costing to US$700. Hence the performance of the half-priced Nano was more than respectable.

I would be hard-pressed to name anything that will give you more bang for the buck than this unique combination of built quality, versatility, low price and sweet dynamics.

Like Linnman on staff who reviews only what he has first purchased, this is not really a formal review. Nobody from clearaudio or their US distributor contacted 6moons to have the Nano phono preamplifier reviewed. I simply bought it for personal use like any normal citizen as I was moving from my phono-equipped integrated amplifiers to separates deprived of phono capability. As it turns out, the Nano is such a good bargain that I decided it was worth sharing the news. Summarizing the Nano is very simple. It is the tiny box that could far more than it should.

I ended up purchasing the Nano without first hearing it because I was looking for a phono stage below US$500 that would accommodate MM and MC cartridges and provide enough flexibility to adapt to overall system gain and cartridge changes that constantly plague a reviewer's system. Hours of web searching did not turn up a flood of options and the Nano was one of the few. A set of tiny jumpers underneath allows MM to MC switching and rumble filter activation as needed. In addition, MC cartridge loading can easily be adapted by inserting resistors in the designated loading slots.

As of August 18th 2008, all Nanos will ship from Germany with a set of 4 resistors to change the load to either 50, 200, 400 or 1000 ohm. Being from June 2008, mine did not include said resistors but all it took was an email to US distributor Musical Surroundings and a set was on its way a few days later. A clever knob on the top of the unit allows for continuously variable gain from 34dB to 67dB to put the final touch of versatility on this budget unit.

At 80 x 100 x 20mm (3.1 x 3.9 x 0.79"), I knew the Nano was not going to be big but the cardboard box holding the external power transformer had me fooled for a minute. Once the box opened, I confirmed that the Nano was indeed minuscule, barely exceeding an Apple i-phone. The surprise was how much the tiny box  weighs, betraying a more solid construction than expected. I could not find the exact weight mentioned but when grabbing the Nano, it feels like a solid chunk of metal, not a box full of air and components. The nice benefit of small size and heavy weight was that the Nano quickly disappeared under the turntable without a problem but was never dragged down by the heavy Zu Varial interconnects I use it with.

I started listening to the Nano with the Ortofon 520mkII that came standard with my Acoustic Solid turntable. The Nano confirmed that it performs on par or even slightly ahead of the phono boards inside my McIntosh MA2275 and Musical Fidelity A5 integrateds. That may seem like faint praise but the phono stages in those two are actually well regarded and often compared to phono pres costing $500 to $700. Hence the performance of the half-priced Nano was more than respectable.

Compared to the McIntosh's phono stage with its pair of NOS Mullards costing more than the Nano itself, the clearaudio lacked in midrange transparency but responded with greater bass weight and extension, better macrodynamics, sweeter treble and lower noise. Like the A5, the Nano had greater authority down low than the Mac and sounded warmer but like the A5, the Nano could not quite match the overall ability to convey micro information as the McIntosh can. All three units conveyed similar senses of space but the Nano clearly won with its macrodynamic ability which, although not as impressive as the best phono preamps I have heard, was unexpected from this tiny package and its generic-looking power transformer.

At that point I felt the Nano could reasonably compete with the famed Bellari VP129 and Project Phono Box SE -- trading some resolution for warmth and dynamics -- but I was wondering if its added versatility was really worth the extra $100 it commands over those two references among budget phono pres.

All this changed a few days later as I installed the Denon DL103 (standard version) that had been delivered at the same time as the clearaudio. I have heard this cartridge many times in multiple settings and have always been amazed by its price-to-musicality ratio. I don't know of any other cartridge at this price that can so effortlessly extract music from the grooves. Tones are gorgeous, dynamics quite engaging and although extension at both ends of the spectrum is somewhat truncated, it sure beats the entry-level Ortofon hands down. People who do not like the DL103 usually focus on its lower resolution vs. more recent designs and an upper midrange that can at times call attention to itself; but more often than not they've just heard it with the wrong loading.

I have heard the DL103 strapped to over US$2000 worth of step-up transformers plus preamps and then it clearly did better than with the clearaudio (more transparency, more dynamics, more resolution, more life), but what keeps amazing me is how well the Nano performs at just a fraction of the price. I started listening to it with the standard 47kOhm loading and the sound was rich and warm but lacked top-end air at times. Once the cartridge and Nano were burnt in though, this small problem went away (it took about 20 hours for the tonal balance to settle down). Inserting various loading resistors under the Nano did not seem to improve the DL103's performance. Some of them actually resulted in a tremendously recessed background and flat sound. So I did all my more critical listening with the standard 47kOhm loading against all expectations.

The overall warmth of the Nano and slightly emphasized upper bass complemented the DL103 nicely even if it was at the expense of overall tonal honesty and transparency. That seemed a very slight price to pay considering that the Nano preserves most of the beauty delivered by this cartridge and in many ways actually does a much better job at it than many other budget MM/MC pres. So far, of all the budget pre-amps I have heard with the DL103, only the US$700 Project Tube Box SEII succeeded at avoiding dullness. Properly loaded, the Nano now joined this very short list. Granted, the Nano does not resolve like the Project nor does it have the same tonal exactitude but I easily forgive those very small shortcomings. It errs towards warmth rather than leanness but doesn't sacrifice the fundamental tonal elegance of the Denon. That it's priced to seduce only adds to its appeal.

As I was listening to some of my more familiar LPs, I played with the gain control of the Nano to see if it would change the overall gestalt of the presentation. I can happily report that I heard no difference in energy and dynamics with low or high gain. I was therefore able to keep this setting to its lowest level to minimize noise and overall system gain (as it sits today, my system has too much gain to start with, limiting the usable range of the volume knob of my preamplifier - being able keep the Nano's contribution at a low level was a welcome and unexpected relief to this state of affairs).

On its own, the Nano is a fantastic value (NZ$595), offering great versatility in a tiny package for a tiny price. As importantly, it also offers a very pleasant and easy-going presentation. The Nano is warm and dynamic if not ultra detailed and will be a perfect match for many entry-level cartridges that usually shine more with their treble peakiness than tonal precision.

The other value the Nano brings to the table is the very real ability to explore the realm of more refined and expensive MC cartridges without breaking the bank. The Nano is not a giant slayer; there are plenty of other options above US$600 that will give you more overall performance. Still, I would be hard-pressed to name anything that will give you more bang for the buck than this unique combination of built quality, versatility, low price and sweet dynamics.

at its price the Nano Phono is a well-crafted, entry-level miracle.

The superb Nano Phono is a great fit...the Phonomena or Graham Slee slip back in the picture.

It is unwaveringly musical with boatloads of inner detail.

In spite of its petite profile it answers a variety of cartridge needs by including input loading resistors, mm/mc jumpers, and a subsonic filter. It also offers variable gain via a top-mount control wheel.

Entry level phono stage challange:
Clearaudio Nano Phono
v Musical Surroundings Phonomena II v Graham Slee Era Gold MKV

 The three phonostages represented in this survey cover a range of reasonable price points. They are basic though distinct in operation and are externally adjustable for use with the majority of cartridges. All are solid-state units equipped with the standard RIAA equalization curve and, with the exception of the unique Graham Slee unit, are switchable between moving-magnet and moving-coil cartridges. My “control” phonostage for this survey was the well-regarded JR Transrotor Phono II, which at US$1500 is not outrageously expensive either. My impressions of each phono preamp (listed in order of price) are a summary of listening sessions with three cartridges—two moving magnets, the Ortofon 2M Black (5mV) and the Clearaudio Maestro Wood (3.6mV), and a medium-output moving coil, the Benz Micro Glider SM (0.8mV).
 

Clearaudio Nano Phono
(US$350)
About the size of a deck of cards, the appropriately named Nano Phono uses a body of CNC-machined aluminum. Its sophisticated surface-mount technology boasts BurrBrown integrated circuits, very short signal paths, and dual-mono design. In spite of its petite profile it answers a variety of cartridge needs by including input loading resistors, mm/mc jumpers, and a subsonic filter. It also offers variable gain via a top-mount control wheel.
The Nano Phono outputs a lot of sound from its Lilliputian body. In the midrange it leans toward the delicately sweet and less aggressive end of the sonic spectrum. It doesn’t place a wrong foot tonally and its subtractions always favor musicality.
On a direct-to-disc track like Fanfare for the Common Man from Sonic Fireworks [Crystal Clear Records], the Nano sweetens up the Atlanta Brass ensemble to such an extent that it almost sounds velvety and rounded. While the Nano may lack muscular dynamic swings and crunchy crescendos, it is unwaveringly musical with boatloads of inner detail. It’s at the extremes that the Nano can run a little short of breath. Its top end is somewhat dark and transients lack some speed and sparkle. The bass of the 45-rpm pressing of “If It Be Your Will” [Famous Blue Raincoat] was neither as deep nor as complex in timbre as I’ve heard it sound. The Nano’s largest performance-related “issues” are its slightly narrowed soundstage, slight compression of micro-dynamic gradations, and softer definition on percussion timbres and transients. It’s not perfect, but at its price the Nano Phono is a well-crafted, entry-level miracle.
 

Phonomena II
($600)
The sequel to the original Michael Yee design, ....It was a bit cooler and brasher on brass fortissimos, but its sound was alive with dynamic energy..... Warnes’ vocal during “If It Be Your Will” was slightly chilly at peaks, ..... I found the Phonomena II’s perspective slightly forward, during Holly Cole’s rendition of “Take Me Home” it produced a thrillingly wide vocal image—a standout in this group—revealing every nuance in Cole’s expressive voice. It wasn’t as butterscotch-smooth as the JR Transrotor seems to be, but some may prefer the Phonomena for its greater transient speed...... Personally I would have liked to hear a little less brightening of the massed string sections during the fourth movement of Solti and the Chicago Symphony’s rendition of the BeethovenNinth [Decca], but this is a quibble. 
 
 
Graham Slee Era Gold V
(US$1095)
Graham Slee’s phonostage is dedicated to moving-magnet cartridges. The Era Gold V is fixed-gain-only—purely for use with cartridges outputting between 2–10mV at a loading of 47k Ohm. However, Slee offers a moving-coil step-up transformer.

The sonics of the Gold V were in the same league as those of the Phonomena II. The V had a leaner, more articulate character, but it didn’t do soundstaging and vocal-image scale as spectacularly well as the Phonomena II. On balance the Phonomena was a bit more romantic, the Slee a bit more cerebral.  On a track like “Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night,” the Gold V was a shade cooler, a bit jumpier, and slightly more forward in perspective,

Wrapping Up
The sonic distance between these fine phonostages is real, but are these subtleties worth sweating over? I’d say that you won’t need golden ears to hear what I heard, so which one’s for you? Budget always counts, but much will also depend on your ongoing commitment to LP playback. Keeping it basic? The superb Nano Phono is a great fit. Considering a near-term major turntable, arm, or cartridge upgrade? The Phonomena or Graham Slee slip back in the picture.

Testimonials

......it sounds great.

Hi Terry,
The lovely little Clearaudio Nano -2 phonostage arrive last week and this weekend I got my TT set up and had a proper listen to it. Very pleased to have a vinyl source back up and running and it sounds great.

Cheers,
Rob