I feel very fortunate to be a part of the preliminary listening group for the new Grado Phono Stage. The wooden box that houses the electronics looked very familiar - it is the same as the box for the RA-1 headphone amp. Not one to care about looks as much as sound; the PH-1 in its pre-production form has all the possibilities of being a good-looking unit. More importantly it sounds fantastic. It has 2 gain settings; the lower of the two fit my Rega Planar 11 with a Grado Reference Sonata cartridge best. The first thing I noticed was how relaxed yet detailed the sound was. Instruments were alive and full - sounding convincingly real. Soundstage was full and accurate. It did not hide flaws but allowed those albums that were produced better to stand out. Each instrument had its place and yet the whole sound remained coherent. Detail was very good with tight deep bass complimenting the sweet mids and smooth highs. It reminded me of why I kept my vinyl and own a turntable - they can sound every bit as good as digital reproduction yet have a natural sound that digital sometimes misses. This is the sound I grew up with and love.
The Grado PH-1 had plenty of gain and when I switched it to high gain it was far too much for my setup. Thus it spent 98% of its time in my rig with it set at low gain. I hope to audition it further with one of the new Statement series cartridges (low output) from Grado and see just how good the high gain setting works, as well.
I spent two very enjoyable evenings listening to the phono amp and look forward to owning one. The naturalness (is that a real word???) and ease of sound reproduction really was music to my ears. I am very familiar with the phono stage in my Krell pre amp and the Grado blew it away. In comparison the Krell was hard and not nearly as musical.
For those of you with high-end tastes and a bit less of a budget, this will be a steal of a deal. I have long looked for an inexpensive phono amp to add to my system and was always either disappointed by the sound quality or unable to cough up the cash to suit my tastes. My wallet and ears finally agree - and it is small enough that my wife won't even notice that it is there! Maybe she'll hear the difference (no, not a chance) and she won't notice the 5 spot missing from the joint account (right!). What she will have is one happy camper listening over and over again to the music that makes me happy. Thank John Grado for another excellent product!
Todd Green, Sales Manager, Headroom Corp.