It has been a couple of months since I last reviewed the new Grado phono amp, PH-1. Much to my delight, I received a new Grado Statement Sonata phono cartridge to use with my PH-1 phono amp. The Statement Sonata is a low output (0.5mV) cartridge that requires much more gain than the Reference Sonata (4.0mV) that I have been using for the last year or so. The PH-1 has two gain settings to accommodate both models.
A little apprehensive to change cartridges because of the already high quality of sound I was getting, I had to take John Grado's word that this would be even better. The Statement Sonata was to be used so I could evaluate the high gain section of the PH-1 vs the low gain, which I had previously reviewed. So, the change took place and I sat down for a long listening session
First, I used the low gain setting just to see if I could get any sound out at all. Though there was enough gain to be able to hear the music, it lacked the detail and immediacy that I had with the high output Sonata, but as soon as I switched it over to the high gain setting, the music was right there. Right before my ears, as if performing live, was Dan Fogelberg singing and playing away with some of the best bluegrass performers ever assembled. Using the High Country Snows album as my primary test disc for this listening session I heard such great detail and separation that it literally blew my hair back. Every minute detail, down to Dan's breathing between lines, fingers plucking strings, and bows being drawn against strings was there to be heard. Most impressive was the separation of all the instruments and the assorted lead/background vocals. The Sonata was clearly an improvement but the PH-1 also clearly allowed it to be. There was plenty of gain without distortion or smearing.
Excited, as a guy can get without the little woman involved, I called some of my local suedo audiophile friends (I am the lone true Audiophile in Three Forks, Montana). They sat down and listened intently and were amazed at the overall sound quality of the record player (thus Suedo, eh!). Paul Simon's Graceland was as lively as it should be. Elvis Costello's Spike, in particular Stalin Mallone rocked. Now it takes a lot to get any kind of "wow" from these guys, after all they think I'm nuts to spend the kind of money I have in my system, but this time they were genuinely impressed. They even asked, when we were going to do it again?
One of the most impressive things I heard form the Statement Sonata and the PH-1 was the deep, tight, realistic sounding bass. Deep and real. Real and deep WOW. That is not to slight the fantastic job that the combo did in all other areas. I would right more now but John tells me that another cartridge will be on its way and I'm drooling on what I already have heard. If the new cartridge betters this sound then John may have to come out to Montana to wrestle it back. See you soon John and THANK YOU for the opportunity to audition this setup.
To Summarize get the Statement Sonata and PH1 phono amp for total vinyl enjoyment. You will not be let down!!!
Todd Green, Sales Manager, Headroom Corp.