Josh said: The DS Audio pairings are an acquired taste, and something that will take (or at least took me) some getting used to; but will quite possibly elevate your experience of your favourite recordings to new heights.
The gist: Phono separates that cost a lot.
Jason said: EAT has managed to use vacuum tubes -- that century-old technology -- as the gain devices of a great-sounding, thoroughly modern phono preamplifier.
The gist: Modern phono stage with a hint of tube lushness.
Oliver said: I found that its combination of inherent musicality and a smooth, open midrange communicated the music in a way that reminded me of a good tube preamp. Furthermore, its low noise floor and compatibility with a wide swath of phono cartridges mean that it will work well in a variety of systems. I could live with the HP20 as part of my system, and contentedly, too.
The gist: Midrange-centric phono stage is a good value, too.
Edgar said: However, the biggest kudos must go the design team and its clever all-round execution of the levitation system which, while in situ, worked flawlessly.
The gist: It floats!
Thom said: In all, the NAD C 558 is a great turntable that’s far above entry level. I could see myself using one for years to come. I recommend it to anyone returning to the vinyl fold, or coming aboard for the first time. It’s simple, it’s elegant, it works marvelously well.
The gist: Priced right and with sound that’s a cut above.
Thom said: It’s a solid performer with many pluses, only a few minuses, and it’s compatible with many current and vintage turntables. If you want a cartridge with extended but not overblown bass, a midrange that favors the higher side, and mostly silky highs, the MP-110H might just be the ticket.
The gist: Low-cost but high-performing cartridge.
Jeff said: The Pro-Ject Classic SB is for those whose systems would most benefit not from an upgrade of speakers or amplifier, but from the addition of an analog front end that’s more than just a simple platter on a basic plinth.
The gist: A little better than entry level for Pro-Ject.
Edgar said: In my relatively new analogue playback system, the Shelter Audio Harmony MC cartridge most definitely stays as the last piece of the puzzle in what I’m sure will be a long, utterly rewarding and, umm… harmonious vinyl journey.
The gist: Checked off all the boxes to make Edgar’s new vinyl setup.
Thom said: No other entry-level phono preamp I’ve heard betters its design, its construction, or, most important, its sound. At $399, it’s a stone-cold bargain.
The gist: Hard to believe a Simaudio can be had for this amount of money.
Thom said: If your budget can’t stretch to $299, check out the Rainier for half that. But if you can afford $299 and you want the ultimate in detail, smooth response, and great tracking from a MM cartridge, audition the Sumiko Oyster Moonstone. It’s fabulous.
The gist: Top of the Oyster series is solid buy.
Thom said: I think Sumiko might have a hit on its hands. The Oyster Rainier offered a lovely, warm sound with a wide range of recordings, but could still kick up its heels as required.
The gist: Sumiko hits a low point . . . in price, that is.
Jason said: The Reference Starling slapped me in the face. While I know that Sumiko has been in the cartridge business forever, and obviously should know by now how to make a good cartridge, I hadn’t expected this level of performance for a (pretty much) affordable price.
The gist: If you’re in the budget cartridge market, Jason thinks you should spend a bit more and get this.
Jason said: What a firecracker of an audio component.
The gist: Jason was convinced this cartridge is worth the tall asking price.
Garrett said: I encourage anyone looking for sophistication, a wide timbral palette, and evenhandedness throughout the audioband to seriously consider it. Its merits don’t leap out at you, but its rewards are rich, deep, and lasting.
The gist: Garrett’s favorite cartridge at this price point.