Audio Horizons Introduces a Superb New Hi End Phono Preamp, the TP 8.13
If your have read the reviews of the Audio Horizons TP 8.0sMCpn in 10 Audio, 6 Moons, and StereoMojo then you know it got rave reviews. Now, Joseph Chow introduces an even finer phono preamp, the finest he’s ever designed, the new TP 8.1 and the top of the line Audio Horizons TP 8.13 (in balanced mode, the 8.13B). This tube phono preamp raises analog reproduction to new levels of excellence. Its superiority over the previous top of the line TP 8.0sMCpn is unquestionable.
If you would like more information about the TP 8.13 please visit our website at the address above. Highlight the web address above and then right click your mouse and it will provide a direct link to our website.
How good is the Audio Horizons TP 8.13 tube phono stage? Let’s compare it to two well known phono stages, one a solid state phono stage with a MSRP of $7500 and the second a tube phono stage with a MSRP of $5400:
ss Model X tube Model Y TP 8.13 $7500 $5400 $2995
RIAA: +0.5/-0.3 20-20kHz Passive +/- 1 dB
Gain: 50, 55, 60, 65 dB 68 dB 60 or 66 dB
THD: 0.0042% 0.03% 0.08%
S/N: @ 65 dB gain 70 db 76 dB/85 dB
Now let’s compare the cosmetically new and newly designed single-ended 8.13 with the old, highly praised TP 8.0sMCpn:
TP 8.0sMCpn 8.13
RIAA Frequency Response /- 1dB +/- 1dB
Total Harmonic distortion 0.06 % 0.08 %
Signal to noise ratio 82 dB 85 dB
Channel separation 70 dB 73 dB
Ouput impedance 25k ohms 390 ohms
MM gain 40 dB 40 dB
MC gain 58/61.6/67 dB 60/66 dB
Power consumption 25 Watts 30 Watts
As you can see, the TP 8.13 has more gain, better channel separation and therefore a wider soundstage, and better S/N figures for a blacker background than the former top of the line 8.0sMCpn. But as we all know, specs are not the whole story. Sound is. Well, sonically, the 8.1 and 8.13 are superior to the 8.0sMCpn in all respects.
Some reviewers have said the TP 8.0sMCpn compared favorably to the much more expensive Manley Steelhead ($7500), arguably one of the finest phono stages around. If that’s true, then given the improvements to the 8.0sMCpn manifest in the TP 8.13cv we have reason to believe the TP 8.13cv and 8.13cvb are among the very finest phono stages presently built.
Prices for the 8.1 integrated moving magnet (MM) version begin at $1495.The Audio Horizons TP 8.1 is a terrific sounding phono preamp.
The 8.1 and 8.13 boasts a new improved power supply and the 8.13 adds a tube buffer stage with a third tube for added smoothness, textural richness and body and brand new, hadsome slim line cosmetics.
Like the newly designed Audio Horizons TP 2.3 tube preamplifier, the TP 8.13 is a superb phono stage at a reasonabnle price given its excellence. We are so convinced that you will agree that we offer a free home audition.
After five years, we can continue to make this offer and pay the freight to you because almost 90% of those who audition our components end up buying them. Our difficulty is getting people to ask for the audition; it is not closing the sale.
Versions of the TP 8.1 and TP 8.13
Like all of Joseph Chow’s zero feedback designs, these phono stages are very sensitive to cabling and tube complement. Because they are so transparent, different tubes and cables will alter its sonic signature significantly. Obviously, the finer the tube and cable the more the TPS 8.0 will show to advantage.
Specifications and Performance
There are four versions of the TP 8.1. Prices are for the MM or moving magnet version. The MC or moving coil version comes with matching impedance plug tailored to optimize your cartridge.
The TP 8.1 priced at $1495 in MM version, $1895 in MC version
The TP 8.1S adds a superior solid silver-Cardas copper wiring harness for increased purity of tone, micro-detail retrieval, and enhanced harmonic structure and textural richness. The 8.1S is priced at $1745 in MM version, $2145 in MC version.
The TP 8.13 adds an additional tube buffer stage to the 8.1 for added body, warmth, and tonal richness. It also lower capacitances in ways than permit a broader range of interconnects to be used with excellent results. The TP 8.13 is priced at $1890 in MM version, $2290 in MC version.
The TP 8.13S adds the harness upgrade to the 8.13 to combine the benefits of both the added tube buffer and the solid silver-Cardas copper harness. It is priced at $2140 in MM version, $2540 in MC version..
With upgraded Clarity MR caps, add $250. The Clarity caps will add a higher level of smoothness and coherence to the music.
With upgraded CuTF V caps, to our ears, the finest caps we’ve heard, and with the primary resistors upgraded to Vishay premium caps, add $755. This upgrade involves upgrading all the capacitors to the superb copper film CUTF V cap, and upgrading all the key resistors in the signal path to premium Vishay resistors. The result is a dramatic improvement in tonal purity and focus, a clearing away of a film in front of the musical performance and an increased sense of presence and immediacy. The improvement from this upgrade is quite dramatic,
Specifications, as we all know, are no guarantee of a component’s performance excellence. For example, decay time is difficult to measure and yet clearly it is a significant factor in whether a component captures the slow, evolving lingering notes of a musical phase or not—too fast and the swiftness of the decay dries out the music and robs it of its intangible musical flow, that which defines the intangible superior musicianship of one musician over another; too slow and the music begins to lose its clear edges and the micro-detail that permits us to distinguish one instrument from another. Here, we know that tubes have a slower decay time than solid state equipment, which is why, in some intangible way, for many listeners they provide more musical satisfaction.
Similarly, our instruments for measuring the ability of a component to capture harmonic texture is poor, and yet we know that the ability of a component to capture harmonics—that is, the reedy quality of a clarinet, the brassy blare of horns, or the resinous quality of a cello is indispensable to our musical enjoyment. Again, we know that tubes do a better job of capturing harmonics than solid state equipment, but again, if we could measure this superiority in a satisfactory fashion, solid state manufacturers could have a means by which to know whether they are approaching closer to the goal of excellent harmonics.
For more information on this subject, visit our link to the Audio Horizons TP 2.3.
But having said that much that increases our musical enjoyment is hard to measure is not the same as saying that specifications are not good indicators of performance in many areas. Because they are, some manufacturers, even high end manufacturers, will not supply you with these specifications, or they will report the measurement in an unconventional way that confuses the reader and leads him to believe that the performance is better than it is.
For example, we know that signal to noise (S/N) levels are almost infallible measurements of the quietness of a component, of whether the sound comes out of a black silence or not, and hence of its ability to reach in and capture those subtle micro-details that allow us to differentiate one instrument from another in an ensemble. Here, the numbers not only do not lie, they expose nakedly the limitations of the component, which is why they are often omitted by reviewers. For this reason also, many manufacturers do not report these numbers.
You can visit the websites of any number of Stereophile’s A rated phono preamps and search in vain for a S/N spec presented according to a simple standard. When they do show up, they often frame the measurement in language which is indecipherable to a lay person by using an input figure, for example, or that are vague and unclear by not specifying the output voltage. For example, the standard S/N measurement is reported in decibels (dB) taken at 1 volt output (v), so a S/N of -90 dB at 1 volt, could be reported that way or as -90 dBv. Should a manufacturer take the measurement at say 3 volts output, he will gain an additional 9 dB over the figure he would have achieved at 1 volt. For example, -90 dB at 3 volts output is equivalent to -81 dBv. If someone reports -80dB but supplies no other information, we really do not know what that voltage is when measured at 1 volt output.
There are a number of other specifications whose translation into a sonic equivalent is clear enough to be comparative, and thus evaluative--for example, Channel Separation or Crosstalk, Dynamic Range, Total Harmonic Distortion. And these, too, will often remain unreported even in components costing thousands of dollars. Instead a host of other measurements will be reported that are less sonically critical or that have less value to a prospective buyer in making his evaluation.
We at Audio Horizons believe you ought to have all the key specifications presented in a clear and intelligible form so you can compare Audio Horizons components with other components, at least with respect to the sonic and musical performance delivered by that specific parameter.
Let us say a few words about specifications and what they mean:
RIAA is the standard curve used by recording companies when recording, and it is the ability to track this frequency response curve that is critical in capturing the balance inherent in the live recording. Since few transducers—cartridges and loudspeakers--do a very good job above 20,000 Hz, and since below 20 Hz, subsonic noise, such as rumble and other resonances, may show up, phono designers often construct their designs to filter out frequencies below 20 Hz. Thus the frequencies between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz are most critical. Many tube phono preamplifier manufacturers, even in the Stereophile Class A, do not report this figure. The Manley Steelhead priced at $7500 does and we cite those figures above.
Signal to Noise is one of the areas where tubes are hard pressed to match solid state equipment because of the inherent residual noise level of tubes. In doing a little research for this ad, I reviewed four of Stereophile’s Class A rated tube phono preamplifiers ranging in price from $5000 and up. Here’s what I found: Not one of them reported their S/N figures in a way that included the voltage out or in a way that would permit informed comparison with other phono preamplifiers. Despite that limitation, not one of them reported an S/N figure higher than -85 dB. The most expensive unit reported their S/N to be -83dB. The lowest reported S/N was -80 dB. I also researched a highly regarded Class B unit costing under $1500. Again, the dB figure of -80 was reported without elaboration.
The S/N for the TPS 8.0 in all stock versions is very high, higher in the ‘n” version, and even higher in the 8.13 versions. Compared to a DAC, these specs are nothing to write home about, but for a tube phono preamplifier they are remarkable and audible, delivering a low noise floor rarely found in tube phono preamplifiers. This high S/N figure translates into an extremely quiet, highly resolved and richly textured sound. The smooth articulate midrange is made more full-bodied and sweet by the fact that all “n” versions of the TP 8.0 come with the upgraded Dynamic cap that we have found raises the TP 2.0n preamplifier to an even higher levels of performance.
Like all of Joseph Chow’s designs, the sound is spacious because the soundstage is wide and deep. This is to be expected given that the figures for channel separation, rarely reported in tube phono preamps, are extremely good. As a result, this phono preamplifier captures some of the superior spaciousness we thought reserved only for digital sources.
In listening to a Joseph Chow design, one is always struck by the lack of compression and the ability of the component to capture the extraordinary dynamic contrasts of live music. Much of this is due to Joseph Chow’s refusal to use feedback. Like his TP 2.0 tube preamplifier and his TD 3.0 tube DAC, this is a zero feedback design. As a result the dynamic range figures approach those found in the TP 2.0, praised so often for its extraordinary dynamic range.
Finally, and this is something someone will notice within a couple of minutes of listening to one of these phono stages, they are all very articulate, with clean, clear but soft musical edges and with a transparency of reproduction rare in any component, let alone a tube phono preamplifier. Again, this is due to Joseph Chow’s ability to coax stellar performance worthy of a solid state design out of tubes and to translate this into low distortion for a tube design.
If you are one of those people like me, with a large collection of LP’s but who finds himself listening to them less because his solid state phono stage sounds compressed and lacking in all those wonderful intangibles that define digital sources, then you really should audition one of these phono stages. It won’t give you everything a digital source will, but it will give you enough of them not to be disappointed by the contrast. And it will preserve all those wonderful analog virtues—soft musical edges, a tendency to caress the notes instead of clip them, and an intangible musical flow that just makes even a dramatic work easier listening than the same piece played over a digital source.
Please don’t take my word for how fine the TP 8.1 and 8.13 are. Listen to one of them yourself over your own sound system playing your favorite LP’s. We’ll even pay the freight to you.
To qualify for a free audition, you must have an Audiogon Positive score of 30 or better and no Negatives
Or as we indicated, you can purchase one of these phono stages and if within 20 days you are not completely satisfied with it, you can return the unit for a full refund of the purchase price. No questions asked. We’re so confident you’ll like it, we’ll even prepay the freight.