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Thread: LCR phono stages - opinion

  1. #1
    Join Date: Apr 2015

    Location: london

    Posts: 113
    I'm martin.

    Default LCR phono stages - opinion

    Anyone with experience of these? They range form super expensive to relatively affordable / SS or valve / East Europe / China...
    I tried the search function but nothing comes back.

    Anyone built one?

  2. #2
    Join Date: Jul 2015

    Location: essex; uk

    Posts: 121
    I'm richard.

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    Hi. I got mine from divine audio via winning ebay bid. Its a Lounge Audio LCR MKIII - built in the USA. It replaced a Musical Fidelity XLPS-v3 and its an excellent upgrade in all departments but none more so than the huge difference in channel separation.

    Regards Richard

  3. #3
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 3,244
    I'm Tom.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bbbiker800 View Post
    Hi. I got mine from divine audio via winning ebay bid. Its a Lounge Audio LCR MKIII - built in the USA. It replaced a Musical Fidelity XLPS-v3 and its an excellent upgrade in all departments but none more so than the huge difference in channel separation.

    Regards Richard

    The Aurorasound Vida is an LCR phono stage, I had one and it's superb. They are tricky to make as the design typically requires custom transformers wound to very tight tolerances, something that's not straightforward to organise and typically very expensive. The Aurorasound is the best stand-alone phono stage I've owned, out of quite a few! It's not cheap though.

    I have been curious about the LCR phono stage sold by Valab (Vintage Audio Lab) in Taiwan, I've bought quite a bit of stuff over the years from its proprietor, most recently a truly superb single ended solid state amp modelled on the Pass Aleph Mini, and I trust that it would be excellent https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Valab-LCR...sAAOSwkjNZuwQS - it certainly got a super write-up recently http://www.troelsgravesen.dk/LCR-RIAA-shootout.htm Troels puts it almost on a par with the EAR 912 which is astonishing considering the relative price differential.
    Last edited by montesquieu; 03-03-2018 at 21:03.
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers with Tannoy ST25 supertweeters; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 9 inch and Ikeda IT-407 12 inch tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Miyajima Takumi, Ikeda 9TT, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912 + Miyajima ETR-Mono SUT; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; tube preamp - Gate Audio tube; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 Mk I tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage from Gate Audio preamp; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink.

  4. #4
    Join Date: Apr 2015

    Location: london

    Posts: 113
    I'm martin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bbbiker800 View Post
    Hi. I got mine from divine audio via winning ebay bid. Its a Lounge Audio LCR MKIII ...
    I've come across that one and seems like a great deal for the money. Would you say that the sound is characteristically "LCR" or the difference is just what one would expect between different phono stages?

  5. #5
    Join Date: Apr 2015

    Location: london

    Posts: 113
    I'm martin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by montesquieu View Post
    I have been curious about the LCR phono stage sold by Valab (Vintage Audio Lab) in Taiwan, I've bought quite a bit of stuff over the years from its proprietor, most recently a truly superb single ended solid state amp modelled on the Pass Aleph Mini, and I trust that it would be excellent https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Valab-LCR...sAAOSwkjNZuwQS - it certainly got a super write-up recently http://www.troelsgravesen.dk/LCR-RIAA-shootout.htm Troels puts it almost on a par with the EAR 912 which is astonishing considering the relative price differential.
    Thanks for this - most useful. I've been wondering about this one. I'll head straight to the Troel's shootout instead of bed reading ;-) . I might take a plunge with the Valab.

  6. #6
    Join Date: Apr 2015

    Location: london

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    I'm martin.

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    From Troel's link - "But still, the Valab is doing better than anything else I've heard before the 912 and Grail. Highly recommended! For the money a total steal." Indeed, a rave review!

  7. #7
    Join Date: Dec 2015

    Location: Alicante. Spain.

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    I'm Adrian.

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    I second Toms opinion about the Vida. I love it ++
    Technics SP10 mk2
    Jan Allaerts MC 1 Boron mk1 cart
    Miyajima Shilabe cart
    Hashimoto HM-X SUT
    Siggwan (gimballed not unipivot) Cocobola 12"
    Aurorasound Vida LCR Phonostage
    The Truth linestage
    Dave Slagle Autoformer Volume Controller
    Cary 805c SET amps
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    Townshend Isolda speaker cables
    Cardas Golden Presence interconnects

  8. #8
    Join Date: Jul 2015

    Location: essex; uk

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    I'm richard.

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    Quote Originally Posted by martinswimmer View Post
    I've come across that one and seems like a great deal for the money. Would you say that the sound is characteristically "LCR" or the difference is just what one would expect between different phono stages?
    HI Martin - it's dangerous for me to say that it is typically LCR as the Lounge is the 1st of its type I've owned!! . All my previous stages ranged from budget - Project, Slee, MF to a more expensive Leema. The Lounge is comfortably better than those. Compared to the MF there is more detail and realism; more bass and much better separation and depth of image. Voices have a little more warmth but the top end is not at all tiring. So, yes I'm keeping mine. Worth noting it's poor out of the box but it steadily improves with more hours - it needs around 40hrs and then over time you notice small improvements - I'm roughly at 60+hrs. They also do a 'Gold' and I think they are working on a tube version.

  9. #9
    Join Date: Oct 2016

    Location: Bolton, England

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    I'm Andrew.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bbbiker800 View Post
    it's dangerous for me to say that it is typically LCR...
    I'm not sure there is a "typical LCR" sound. The technology required to perform RIAA equalisation is basically simple - it's a curve with three "corners", and only first-order filters. A first order filter has a slope of 6dB/octave and can be made with a resistor and a capacitor, or with a resistor and an inductor. Probably 99% of all the phonostages ever made have filters made with resistors and capacitors. The rest of the phonostage's technology could be based on valves, or bipolar transistors, or op-amps, or FETs, or any combination of any of those. The EQ could be in a feedback loop or not in a feedback loop; it could be implemented as one filter network or split into two or three networks. Basically, the number of possible combinations of circuit elements and design approaches is enormous. Among the hundreds (or more likely hundreds of thousands) of possible design choices there is LCR vs. CR. I think it would be very difficult to hear a "sonic footprint" from adopting LCR amongst all the other design choices.
    Tim de Paravicini used inductors in his RIAA eq networks as long ago as the 1990s (or earlier?) but most people have avoided them due to the range of difficulties that they present - weight, cost, size, tolerance etc. Anyway, now the term "LCR" has become a marketing tool recently. That's fair enough: with so many phonostages on the market you have to do whatever you can to make yours stand out from the crowd.
    Personally, I don't believe that that one design choice - to use inductors - is the silver bullet which produces vastly superior phonostages.

  10. #10
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

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    I'm Tom.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RothwellAudio View Post
    I'm not sure there is a "typical LCR" sound. The technology required to perform RIAA equalisation is basically simple - it's a curve with three "corners", and only first-order filters. A first order filter has a slope of 6dB/octave and can be made with a resistor and a capacitor, or with a resistor and an inductor. Probably 99% of all the phonostages ever made have filters made with resistors and capacitors. The rest of the phonostage's technology could be based on valves, or bipolar transistors, or op-amps, or FETs, or any combination of any of those. The EQ could be in a feedback loop or not in a feedback loop; it could be implemented as one filter network or split into two or three networks. Basically, the number of possible combinations of circuit elements and design approaches is enormous. Among the hundreds (or more likely hundreds of thousands) of possible design choices there is LCR vs. CR. I think it would be very difficult to hear a "sonic footprint" from adopting LCR amongst all the other design choices.
    Tim de Paravicini used inductors in his RIAA eq networks as long ago as the 1990s (or earlier?) but most people have avoided them due to the range of difficulties that they present - weight, cost, size, tolerance etc. Anyway, now the term "LCR" has become a marketing tool recently. That's fair enough: with so many phonostages on the market you have to do whatever you can to make yours stand out from the crowd.
    Personally, I don't believe that that one design choice - to use inductors - is the silver bullet which produces vastly superior phonostages.
    Indeed it has been something of a badge or differentiator, I guess encouraged by the fact that many of the recently released phono stages boasting LCR have been high end and expensive eg the Vida, Zanden or some Allnic models. (The Lounge was the first LCR phono stage I'm aware off at the 'affordable' end of the market, and the Valab is only the second).

    By contrast, the EAR 912 has been an LCR phono stage since its release nearly 20 years ago, as was the earlier 88PB (no surprise really as Tim de P is known for his custom wound transformers - incorporating high-quality inductors is probably straightforward for him than for any other manufacturer currently) but you have to look inside and view the inductors to confirm that, and it's not in any of the sales literature relating to either model. Maybe it should be! (The phono stages in the 88PB and 912 do differ BTW with the 88PB being a hybrid valve + FET, and later the 912 all-valve).

    Personally (and having been through quite a few phono stages) I'm quite enamoured of the LCR approach, though totally take Andrew's point that it's all round execution that matters, not any specific technology. I clipped this summary from the web:

    In analog history, nearly every commercial phono stage has been based on using RC filters to achieve RIAA equalization. An RC filter is one that uses resistors and capacitors to achieve each of the three 6db per octave "shelves" in the frequency response that constitute an RIAA correction. Most such RC-based RIAA networks require the use of a fairly high value resistor in series with the phono signal coming out of the first gain stage. And some require the use of at least one capacitor in series with the signal, as well. The advantage of an LCR network, used to achieve the exact same RIAA correction, is that it places only an inductor in series with the system, which has very low DC resistance compared to the resistor mandated in RC type RIAA networks. Capacitors and resistors are used as well, but all of these are in parallel with the signal, connected to ground. Theoretically that does less "damage" to the signal, where "damage" can mean different things to different audiophiles. Proponents of LCR type RIAA correction circuits believe that they sound better, pure and simple. However, implementing such a network presents a lot of problems to the designer. Thus = expensive.


    Certainly the Lounge Audio and the Valab appear to be attempts to disprove the latter statement and at least in the case of the Valab, to rave reviews. (I have heard variable reports about the Lounge Audio - Petrat had one for a bit).
    Last edited by montesquieu; 05-03-2018 at 14:10.
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers with Tannoy ST25 supertweeters; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 9 inch and Ikeda IT-407 12 inch tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Miyajima Takumi, Ikeda 9TT, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912 + Miyajima ETR-Mono SUT; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; tube preamp - Gate Audio tube; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 Mk I tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage from Gate Audio preamp; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink.

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