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Thread: Paradise Phonostage - REVIEW

  1. #1
    Join Date: Nov 2010

    Location: Yorkshire

    Posts: 6,450
    I'm AnDreW.

    Default Paradise Phonostage - REVIEW

    I make no excuses for errors in this text. These are my notes typed up over several days.

    THE PARADISE PHONOSTAGE


    Vocals are another area in which the Sugden+SUT setup shine. This combination can produce a very initimate portrayal of both male and female vocals. I have several reference records for female vocals. Firstly listening through the Paradise Janis Joplin (Mercedes Benz) you can hear Janet sitting not more than six feet in front of you in the Studio a very initimate presentation you can hear the echo of the studio as she sings. The Sugden+SUT produce exactly the same presentation but with slightly less echo effect in the studio as Janis sings, this I believe is the Paradise doing what it does best and extracting more microdetail than the Sugen+SUT setup.

    This happened again when listening to a very intimate recording of Ernestine Anderson on the Sessions, Live album by Cal Tjader. I found myself getting annoyed with the members of the audience creating noise as they shifted positions in their chairs, this spoiled the intimacy of Ernestine as she sang Love Walked in. Again the Paradise digging deep into the mix of the record and presenting microdetail aplenty. The Sugden+SUT combo gave a virtually identical presentation of Ernestine singing but the background audience noise was less well defined. I must admit at this point to being completely spoilt with these two very fine phonostages and I'm quite literally splitting hairs here trying to find a difference. I'm afraid I can't really split the two phonostages in this department. I tested the intimacy of male vocals by listening to Richard Burton as he narrated his way through The War of the Worlds, again just like with Janis Joplin the studio can quite easily be pulled out of the mix and again I have to say that I couldn't really pick a winner between the two phonostages. Mr. Burton was slap bang in the middle of my soundstage as if he was sitting behind a studio mike narrating the very end of Victorian society from a martian invasion. Excellent stuff.


    In my SS reference system my Sudgen+SUT combo have ruled supreme for quite some time and fended off many pretenders to their crown. This combo is extremely detailed and very forensic in nature these two qualities are extremely important to me when listening to heavy metal (deep purple/black sabbath/iron maiden etc) or when I choose to listen to Guitar Virtuoso's (Steve Vai/John Petrucci/Eddie Van Halen etc). Guitars with this combo are usually presented with lightening fast speed, very sharp note edges, raw, full of emotion, fast, visceral, impact like a sledgehammer. So I plumbed in the Paradise and listened to a night of guitar orientated rock music. To start with I was immediately dissapointed with the presentation that the Paradise conjured up. I would actually say that guitars are sounding a little "blunted" not as raw as they should be. Impact and speed were lacking. I initially thought that this must be a fluke but it started to occur from one album to the next. I heard this occur on several tracks from something as benign as the solo in Forgotton Sons (Marillion - Script for a Jesters Tear), to Eruption (Van Halen - Van Halen) where the fret work sounded a little laboured and not as precise as the Sugden+SUT combo. Poor old Richie Blackmore on Live in Japan (Deep Purple) sounded muddled with notes sounding congested and bloated. On some tracks with the Sugden+SUT combo you can hear the individual picks at the fret with the plectrum, not so with the Paradise. I'm afraid the Paradise could not match the Sugden+SUT combo in this department, a rare loss for the Paradise and one where the Sugden+SUT combo show it a clean pair of heels.


    Switching over to some Jazz music =again I could not distinguish a clear winner bewteen the Paradise and the Sugden+SUT combo. Both produced a coherent, intimate soundstage with Miles Davis sounding excellent on the Lift to Scaffold LP. The paradise again doing what it does well and finding extra detail and adding a touch more timbre to Pierre Michelot's double bass. The Paradise seemed to produce a slightly less fuller sounding version of Miles Davis playing whilst the Sugden combo seemed to project his playing further into the room. Both the Paradise and Sugden+SUT combo produce a soundstage that could be easily disected easily allowing you to follow say the brush work of Kenny Clarke on drums or the bass playing of Pierre Michelot. Now switching over to that old favourite Take 5 by Dave Brubeck. Well this was a revelation the drum work on this track never sounded so clear, the snare drum had a very nice "snap" which panned over very convincingly from left to right in the sounstage. Thats something the Sugden+SUT can also produce but not to the same extent as the Paradise. Moving back to Cal Tjader and his album Sessions, Live. The Paradise produced some exquisite xylophone playing at the end of Crows Nest this was magical and I found myself floating off with the notes as they delicately faded into the ether. The notes seemed to last much longer than normal and I found myself being able to listen and define the structure of each note with great clarity. This is something that the Sugden+SUT can also do but not to the same extent as the Paradise. Moving to another recording this time the Avishai Cohen Trio. This album is great if you want to gauge the timbral qualities of double bass playing, checking out the definition of notes on a pianoor simply how much a cymbal can shimmer. Again both the Paradise and the Sugden+SUT were on a equal footing possibly the bass not sounding as full or bombastic as the Sugden+SUT combo but once again I'm being extremely critical of the Paradise. Time to make a decision. Once again I think it's the Paradise's ability to dig a little deeper and its laid back approach which seem to lend itself as a better phonostage for Jazz music. Again very very difficult to pick a winner but I would again have to conclude that the paradise only just won out and thats by a hair's breadth.


    Moving over to classical. The paradise has a laid back approach that in some instances lacks any welly which can give a rather dissapointing presentation of
    whats on the vinyl. This was especially true whilst listening to the HiQ Supercuts recording of Previn's version of The Planets. The paradise did a fine job but was lacking in OOooommpppphhhh and urgency, the Sugden+SUT combo seemed to generate more urgency, a bigger soundstage aand with its ability to sound more visceral did a better job of pinning me back in my chair. Altough not a purely classical album I did listen to Variations by Andrew Lloyd Webber, here his brother Julian Plays various Cello solo's and I must say the Paradise produced a very fine, taught cello performance, something the Sugden+SUT combo matched but I think the Paradise just seemed to purvey something a little more fuller. Next, moving over to Nigel Kennedy's old chestnut, Vivaldi's four seasons. Listenin through the Sugden+SUTproduces a very highly energetic Concerto No 1 in E, the paradise disappointed me and presented this in a slightly laid back presentation, loosing some of the vibrancy that I know is in those grooves.

    SUGDEN

    loudness - Silent to high levels but the Paradise is better
    Presentation - Visceral, PRaT in abundance (betters the Paradise)
    Microdetail - Matches the Paradise but lacking with some recordings.
    Bass - Cavernous, textured, timbre, outshines the Paradise
    Electric Guitar - Lightening fast, sledgehammer impact, raw, visceral
    Vocals - Equal to Paradise (initimate, detailed, excellent timbre)
    Jazz - Equal to Paradise in 99% of things but the paradise just seems to a better jazz transcriptor.
    Classical - Equal to the paradise, better when extra welly needed.
    Soundstage - Wide, Tight, coherent, vocalists pin pointed centrally,forensically disects and presents whatevers on the vinyl.Can sound a little veiled with microdetail retrival.


    PARADISE

    Loudness Silent in operation at higher volumes than the Sugden combo

    Presentation Laidback, musical, great PRaT (Sudgen combo better)

    Microdetail The Sugdens+SUT equal and in some instances it's superior

    Bass Light, less depth not as textured, not as good as the Sugden+SUT

    Electric Guitar Blunted, lacking impact, less visceral

    Vocals Equal to the Sugen+SUT (intimate, detailed, excellent timbre)

    Jazz Xylophones, double bass, edges to piano notes, brush work
    on drums all excellent. The microdetail just aces the paradise


    Classical Lacking in some of the more bombastic recordings. Superb
    with cello, and violin work. Disappoints when "oommpph" needed



    Soundstage Wide, coherent, laid back, lacks urgency sometmes, can be
    very intimate when needed, excels with microdetail retrival
    sounds more muscial than the Sugden combo.

    CONCLUSION


    I have to conclude that for the more heavier, visceral stuff such as Prog metal, Thrash metal then the Sugden+SUT outshines the Paradise. The same can also
    be said for Bass in that the Sugden combo outshines the Paradise. If I only listened to vocal music then I could use either phonostage as they both (to my ears) produce identical results. The Paradise is a better transcriptor of Jazz music than the Sugden+SUT combo. The paradise in marginally quieter than the Sugden+SUT combo in operation so gives I would say produces a marginally quieter soundstage,in fact on a decent well recorded piece of vinyl the Paradise was silent on some pieces of vinyl whilst the Sugden+SUT produce some surface noise. We are only talking very small amounts here but I do appreciate that this will be quite important to some folks. Even without correct cartridge loading the Paradise phonostage is one hell of a piece of kit and that's why it's now sitting pride of place in my valve setup.

    I still think I prefer the Sugden+SUT in my main SS setup as I feel it has a superior presentation of complicated prog music and more visceral attack, it's
    considerably less laid back than the Paradise and markedly more forensic. This makes the Paradise the perfect phonostage for listening to Jazz, vocals, accoustic, folk etc where it seems more at home with it's laid back approach and superior ability to extact detail from vinyl. These abilities, to my ears give the Paradise phonostage improved musicality over the Sugden+SUT combo, which means the Paradise sounds better in my valve kit than my SS kit. I think these characteristics are especially important for intimate live recordings of which you find quite a lot of jazz/accoustic/folk/vocal recordings.

    To conclude I think I have found a Reference level phonostage which now sits proudly in my valve setup, it can do 95% of what the Sugden+SUT can do, it would outpeform a Sugden Phonostage on its own. This was achieved on a cartridge load which didn't quite match my Ortofon Cadenza black!!!!! This is one hell of a piece of kit and can be improved. This is the 3 box version, it's an unknown if the 4 box version will outperform the 3 box version. Additionally, I will not be having IEC sockets in mine,there is a new op-amp upgrade, and the potential to add Eichmann silver RCA connectors into the phonostage and a myriad of other little tweaks which could improve the performance further. If you get chance BUY!
    SS CD Teac VRDS25X(Mega Modded) DAC Caiman SEG+Anker PSU DECK 1210 Mat Analouge Studio Crystal Mods MN Base/Bearing/Platter+Ebony arm Board Feet Isonoe PSU Paul Hynes SR7EHD-27XL/DCSXL Ag DC lead/Jaeger(low-impedance) connector/3 StageRegs/Recapped PCB+No Pitch/Strobe/Light ARM SME V(Kondo Ag Rewire&Tags) MCOrtofon Cadenza Black CABLES Arm Yannis SPD-4 IC Yannis 222 Litz+Ag bullets Power WAR PRE ATC SCA2 SPEAKERS ATC 50ASL STANDS Atacama PHONO Sugden Masterclass PA4 SUT Ortofon ST80SE POWER PSAudio P10

    Valve PRECroft Epoch(Mega Modded) AMP Sondex S100 SPEAKERS Tannoy 15"MG+RFC Warwick cabs+ Reference XO DECK Garrard301 MatTeunto GunMetal Bearing401 PlinthMoldovan Arm SME 3012(Ikeda Ag wired) PSUPheonix PSU+Tachomter MCAg Meister SPU/DECCA Maroon CABLESArm Yannis 420.5 Litz+ Speaker3mm2Ag IC Oyaide FTVS-510 AgWBT 0110Ag Phonostage4Box Paradise


  2. #2
    Join Date: Oct 2010

    Location: North Bucks, UK

    Posts: 571
    I'm Ron.

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    A very good review Andy, informative, straight no chaser, and what is more important to me you used a wide variety of music genre instead of being welded to just a review based on rock music (nothing wrong with rock by the way) but there are music appreciating people out there who listen to a varied diet and reviewing a peace of music based purely on Rock or Classical or Jazz does not give the complete and full picture. Happy further listening over the Holiday period mate... don't get pissed and eff up the needle or sit on a hot soldering iron

  3. #3
    Join Date: Nov 2010

    Location: Yorkshire

    Posts: 6,450
    I'm AnDreW.

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    Ron,

    Many thanks for the kind words. I could have gone on much further and compared avante gard rock (David Bowie, Roxy Music), folk (Joan Boaz, Dylan), disco (Chic,blondie) electronica (Kraftwork, Jan Michelle Jarre) to name but a few from each genre. The question has to be when do you stop?? I'm using the paradsie in my Valve setup at the
    moment and it sounds very good. As stated in the review the loaner version I have at the moment is not the same version I ordered and potentially could sound even better. The cartridge loading was not optimal either. I'm very very lucky in that I have two systems, I'm even more lucky to have happened upon this piece of kit. Thanks Si (if your reading).
    SS CD Teac VRDS25X(Mega Modded) DAC Caiman SEG+Anker PSU DECK 1210 Mat Analouge Studio Crystal Mods MN Base/Bearing/Platter+Ebony arm Board Feet Isonoe PSU Paul Hynes SR7EHD-27XL/DCSXL Ag DC lead/Jaeger(low-impedance) connector/3 StageRegs/Recapped PCB+No Pitch/Strobe/Light ARM SME V(Kondo Ag Rewire&Tags) MCOrtofon Cadenza Black CABLES Arm Yannis SPD-4 IC Yannis 222 Litz+Ag bullets Power WAR PRE ATC SCA2 SPEAKERS ATC 50ASL STANDS Atacama PHONO Sugden Masterclass PA4 SUT Ortofon ST80SE POWER PSAudio P10

    Valve PRECroft Epoch(Mega Modded) AMP Sondex S100 SPEAKERS Tannoy 15"MG+RFC Warwick cabs+ Reference XO DECK Garrard301 MatTeunto GunMetal Bearing401 PlinthMoldovan Arm SME 3012(Ikeda Ag wired) PSUPheonix PSU+Tachomter MCAg Meister SPU/DECCA Maroon CABLESArm Yannis 420.5 Litz+ Speaker3mm2Ag IC Oyaide FTVS-510 AgWBT 0110Ag Phonostage4Box Paradise


  4. #4
    MartinT Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by REXTON View Post
    SUGDEN

    Presentation - Visceral, PRaT in abundance (betters the Paradise)
    This I agree with. I have yet to hear an active stage that has the absolute visceral clout - dynamics - of my Hashimoto SUTs. Now I've heard a couple of FET input phono stages recently and they are very good indeed, in fact they come very, very close. They do some things better, but they don't quite manage the incredible dynamics.

    I'm a little concerned about your conclusions, Andy. Do you feel that the Paradise is sufficiently ahead of the Sugden+SUT to give you overall satisfaction?

  5. #5
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Sheffield - UK

    Posts: 5,558
    I'm Mark.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MartinT View Post
    I'm a little concerned about your conclusions, Andy.
    Hmm... I am too, though probably for different reasons.
    ------------
    The terms 'incisive' and 'PRaT' are not ones I would personally have associated with Sugden gear I have heard, rather the opposite in fact. Perhaps Andrew's phono is unlike Sugden's other equipment though, I've not heard it.
    Last edited by YNWaN; 25-12-2013 at 09:30.

    100% Analogue

  6. #6
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: South West England

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    I'm Guy.

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    I may have missed it somewhere but which Sugden & which SUT are you comparing it to?

  7. #7
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: Cricklewood

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    I'm ILOB.

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    I think there in Andy equipment list PHONOSTAGE Sugden Masterclass PA4 SUT Ortofon ST80SE
    Last edited by John; 25-12-2013 at 10:14.
    Loves anything from Pain of Salvation to Jeff Buckley to Django to Sarasate to Surinder Sandhu to Shawn Lane to Nick Drake to Rush to Beth Hart to Kate Bush to Rodrigo Y Gabriela to The Hellecasters to Dark Sanctury to Ben Harper to Karicus to Dream Theater to Zero Hour to Al DiMeola to Larry Carlton to Derek Trucks to Govt Mule to?

    Humour: One of the few things worth taking seriously

  8. #8
    Join Date: Jan 2008

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    I'm Guy.

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    Ok, thanks.

  9. #9
    Join Date: Nov 2010

    Location: Yorkshire

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    I'm AnDreW.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MartinT View Post
    This I agree with. I have yet to hear an active stage that has the absolute visceral clout - dynamics - of my Hashimoto SUTs. Now I've heard a couple of FET input phono stages recently and they are very good indeed, in fact they come very, very close. They do some things better, but they don't quite manage the incredible dynamics.

    I'm a little concerned about your conclusions, Andy. Do you feel that the Paradise is sufficiently ahead of the Sugden+SUT to give you overall satisfaction?
    The Paradise in some instances is streets ahead of the Sugden+SUT combo and in others lacking BUT it's not been setup perfectly for my carts so I would suspect that my findings are skewed. My quest for a new phonostage started when I finished my Garrard 301. I wanted something that I could potentially use
    with both my system. I've found that the Paradise suits my valve gear far better than the Sugden+SUT combo so it does give better satisfaction than when the sugden+sut are plumbed into the valve gear but not when it's plugged into my SS stuff. Overall I'm very happy and can say that the Paradise won't be going anywhere fast.


    Quote Originally Posted by YNWaN View Post
    Hmm... I am too, though probably for different reasons.
    ------------
    The terms 'incisive' and 'PRaT' are not ones I would personally have associated with Sugden gear I have heard, rather the opposite in fact. Perhaps Andrew's phono is unlike Sugden's other equipment though, I've not heard it.
    Hey remember that's only my view, perhaps you have gear that is far more transparent than mine. At the end of the day I spend hours every day listening to the Sugden+SUT combo and I'm very happy with it. Listening to John Petrucci playing Flight of the Bumblebee at a zillion notes per second may change your mind. Or maybe not. I've had some stupidly expensive phonostages sitting in both my valve and SS setups and both the Paradise and Sugden+SUT have fended them off. I've not written up every single record that I reviewed as it would be pretty boring. I listened to over 50 in the end. Everything from Sitar music (Meditations in Indian Sitar Music) to spoken word (Railways in Aspic - BBC recordings), to 1st pressing of Prog, Thrash, Folk etc. The Paradise as stated does 95%+ of a Sugden+SUT combo and whilst not properly cartridge matched. This is one HELL of a phonostage.
    SS CD Teac VRDS25X(Mega Modded) DAC Caiman SEG+Anker PSU DECK 1210 Mat Analouge Studio Crystal Mods MN Base/Bearing/Platter+Ebony arm Board Feet Isonoe PSU Paul Hynes SR7EHD-27XL/DCSXL Ag DC lead/Jaeger(low-impedance) connector/3 StageRegs/Recapped PCB+No Pitch/Strobe/Light ARM SME V(Kondo Ag Rewire&Tags) MCOrtofon Cadenza Black CABLES Arm Yannis SPD-4 IC Yannis 222 Litz+Ag bullets Power WAR PRE ATC SCA2 SPEAKERS ATC 50ASL STANDS Atacama PHONO Sugden Masterclass PA4 SUT Ortofon ST80SE POWER PSAudio P10

    Valve PRECroft Epoch(Mega Modded) AMP Sondex S100 SPEAKERS Tannoy 15"MG+RFC Warwick cabs+ Reference XO DECK Garrard301 MatTeunto GunMetal Bearing401 PlinthMoldovan Arm SME 3012(Ikeda Ag wired) PSUPheonix PSU+Tachomter MCAg Meister SPU/DECCA Maroon CABLESArm Yannis 420.5 Litz+ Speaker3mm2Ag IC Oyaide FTVS-510 AgWBT 0110Ag Phonostage4Box Paradise


  10. #10
    Join Date: Nov 2010

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    A new four box version of the paradise is on its way to my house soon. This means an update to my review and more hours spent listening to vinyl. Life is hard!
    SS CD Teac VRDS25X(Mega Modded) DAC Caiman SEG+Anker PSU DECK 1210 Mat Analouge Studio Crystal Mods MN Base/Bearing/Platter+Ebony arm Board Feet Isonoe PSU Paul Hynes SR7EHD-27XL/DCSXL Ag DC lead/Jaeger(low-impedance) connector/3 StageRegs/Recapped PCB+No Pitch/Strobe/Light ARM SME V(Kondo Ag Rewire&Tags) MCOrtofon Cadenza Black CABLES Arm Yannis SPD-4 IC Yannis 222 Litz+Ag bullets Power WAR PRE ATC SCA2 SPEAKERS ATC 50ASL STANDS Atacama PHONO Sugden Masterclass PA4 SUT Ortofon ST80SE POWER PSAudio P10

    Valve PRECroft Epoch(Mega Modded) AMP Sondex S100 SPEAKERS Tannoy 15"MG+RFC Warwick cabs+ Reference XO DECK Garrard301 MatTeunto GunMetal Bearing401 PlinthMoldovan Arm SME 3012(Ikeda Ag wired) PSUPheonix PSU+Tachomter MCAg Meister SPU/DECCA Maroon CABLESArm Yannis 420.5 Litz+ Speaker3mm2Ag IC Oyaide FTVS-510 AgWBT 0110Ag Phonostage4Box Paradise


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