TAS Recommended Component 2020
Phono stages are very special to me. I have a large record collection and
never made the switch to digital. I had a field day when everyone was
selling their records to Goodwill. $1 each. I fear these good old days are over
as others are discovering the magic of vinyl. I have been building phono amps for
many years and have tried many and built many others My favorite is to use
tubes for all of the amplification. The main downfall of this approach is that
tubes can be noisy. Phono amps multiply the signal many times over. Much more than
other types of amps. Noise is multiplied as well. So what is the solution? I
use a modern power supply which is voltage as well as current regulated
The transformer type and size is also a huge consideration. Not only do the
different types sound different. Each has a certain noise it emits. I use a Torrid transformer
They are more quiet and linear than other types. They cost more, but are worth it in sound
quality. You may need to utilize a head amp if you are using a cartridge of less than .4mV if tube noise becomes objectionable. Please visit www.auralthrillsaudio.com to see all four award winning phono
Nichicon KG Series, designed for high-grade
audio equipment, offers three sound quality variations.
- Capacitance range 680 to 33,000µF
- Voltage range 16V to 100V (Type I, Type II, and Type III)
- Temperature range -40ºC to +85ºC
These are awesome and make electrolytic capacitors
sound deep and rich. Four supplied 12ax7 tubes provide plenty of quiet
All traces on the board are made of Silver for detail and power. I
have built and listened to at least 10 different circuits until I
settled on this one. Because of the feedback RIAA circuit It has that
you are there quality.
All Parts are hand selected to insure a large soundstage. Every power circuit in this amp is
voltage regulated and the power circuit is also current regulated. This
regulation makes the unit especially quiet.
NOW WITH MUNDORF CAPACITORS
The film capacitors used in this model are the great sounding new Mundorf MCap Evo. These film
capacitors are some of the best sounding around at this or many other price points.
These well know audiophile resistors sound great. I have used them
exclusively for over ten years. They have a nice warm well defined sound. All PRP capacitors
are rated at 1% of their value. This creates two equal stereo circuits when
results in a superior soundstage.
HOW CAN THIS AMP BE ANY GOOD AT THIS LOW
As you can see, I have not spent a great deal on the cosmetics of the unit. No fancy case, no fancy
knobs, no fancy finish, only quality parts. I have used parts from suppliers all over the world.
Included are parts from Japan, Germany, China, and USA to keep costs down. I have used a
standard chassis instead of paying hundreds for a custom job with printing. You will not find
this unit anywhere else. It may be the best deal in the audio business. Most people do not know that you can buy film capacitors from $.98 to $150/ea. and more for the same value.
Capacitors make one of the most profound effects in amplifier performance. I use the
very well regarded Mundorf Evo Cap in all positions. Great performance
at a decent price.
Computer designed power suppliedRegulated voltage and current suppliesBlack caseMundorf Evo
Nichicon Muse electrolytic capacitorsWima CapacitorsPRP resistorsFully regulated voltage and current power supplySuper quiet RIAA circuit built in (radio industry association of AmericaMM and MC47K loading4X 12AX7No power cord includedBest sounding unit around
Here are the latest customer reviews:
Just wanted to let you know I received the unit in great shape. I am leaving in the morning on vacation
and won't get to listen much until I get back. From what I have listened so far, all I can say is awesome,
awesome, awesome. I will just rotate my Moving coil cartridges. I have some older preamps for MM.
Other cartridge Ih ave is Low output moving coil Grado Sonata. Haven't tried it yet.
Thank you for everything. Don't know what brand of tubes are in it, but they sound excellent to me.
I changed the setting back to M C @ 100 ohms after trying a higher setting,I
took the sot out of the configuration, I warmed the amp up with one side of
Bach and then I played my reference album, Dark side of the moon.
HOLY MOTHER OF GOD this would equal the most discerning systems at any cost,
the separation and darkness of the sound stage just blew my mind I am not
changing the cartridge, it could use a little more mv output to be perfect but
it is not worth the effort as this turntable is a bear to change. Thank you
for leading me away from the H O M C, I did buy the denon 103 r and I am going
to install that on a Thorens 160 that is being refurbished and up graded with
todays technology or possibly a VPI classic if I can get the right price on
that and sneak it into the house so my wife doesn't see it.
At any rate I could not be happier with this very fine pre amp you would be
hard pressed to find one that functions as flawless at any price. It is a
great product and you are a absolute pleasure to deal with.
I will send you the tracking # when I go to the post office, but now It is
Douglas Robert Hounsell
Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 2:25 PM
Good afternoon Tom,
The preamp is here and I must say I am quite impressed with the
build quality and construction of piece. First rate and it looks
great in the rack. However looks aside after plumbing it up into
system the real proof of your Phono pre with the balanced outs
is what really matters to me! After listening to a MFSL Rolling
Stones “Let it Bleed” I was quite pleased, then on to Stealy
Dans “Aja” I was rapidly becoming an Aural Thrills Audio fan
big time. The punch combined with a subtle smoothness is
magnificent. Lower register notes on piano are outrageous clean,
tight and dominate. I am fully aware how difficult it can be to
accomplish this as I worked my tail off with Leon Russell’s
engineer one evening getting this very thing “right” at a show I
produced and engineered some years ago. Thank you for your
devotion to what matters in your craft. Perfection takes its
toil on the less passionate but their always will be folks like
me that understand and appreciate folks like you. Now on to the
Beach Boys “Pet Sounds”
[Quoted text hidden]
What Makes Aural Thrills Different
Check my feedback on both Audiogon and Ebay, 100% POSITIVE over twelve years!
The unique feature of Aural Thrills Audio is the fact that
ALL EQUIPMENT (Except sending components) in my reference audio system has been developed by
From the phono stage, pre amp, mono blocks and cables, to the final sound
of the speakers. Each product has been developed and tested by one person.
This gives me a unique understanding of the reproduction of sound. With
four years of college ear training, ten years as a professional musician
in NYC, and unmatched passion, I feel that I have the tools necessary to
create the finest reproduction equipment in the world. I have spent the
last ten years learning the intricacies of tube amplifiers. Every part.
Every wire. Every component. They all matter. Connecting all of this
equipment with compatible cables has become a daily obsession. As one of
my customers said, "I live audio."
In these days of endless loops of frustration, you can
count on getting a real person when you deal with Aural Thrills. No press
1, press 5, etc. You get a real person from the beginning. Someone who can
answer all of your questions. Emails are answered many times a day. Leave
your number and I will call back, really!
Lastly, it is my commitment to make sure that every product
is made to my standards. Every product guaranteed to bring a smile to your
face. Every order processed with the passion that only hand made goods can
deliver. I put my reputation on the line with every product I make. I try
my best to do all that is needed. I also try my best to keep prices
reasonable. Please consider that you are buying more than a
constructed product. You are buying my mind, my craftsmanship and my ears
which have worked on each component obsessively for countless hours.
Cable Design Theory
Aural Thrills Audio only sells
very special cables! Designed to provide your system with the ultimate
sound. They will not degrade the signal as many other cables tend to do.
Why? Our cables have been specially designed to provide a clear, deep
sound by utilizing solid core technology. Stranded wire has many points
where the wires touch each other. This creates a smearing effect as the
signal jumps from one wire to the other. The larger the wire, the more
this effect becomes evident. Research also shows that stranded cables
creates time distortions due to the uneven manner in which the signal
Next we must look at the wire size. I am
always amazed by the "oh wow" reaction of audiophiles upon seeing a very
fat cable. In true American fashion, the belief that if a little is good,
more is always better comes to mind. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE
TRUTH! The major portion of an audio signal actually travels as a wave on
top of the wire, much like a train travels on top of the tracks. A very
small part of this wave travels inside the wire. Since the wire actually
slows the signal down a time distortion is created between the signal on
top of the wire and the part of the signal in the wire. The best way to
minimize this effect is to use a small diameter wire so that very little
signal is traveling through the wire itself.
The third item in cable construction to
consider is the material surrounding the wire. Some companies use many
layers of coverings to convey the image of huge size. Again, this is not a
good thing. These layers act as huge capacitors for the signal. Capacitors
store and then release their energy. The result is a smearing and time
warp creating a cloudy sound. The cleanest sound is achieved by using
Teflon. Teflon will not absorb any of the signal. This means the total
signal arrives at the same time. None is released later causing
To shield or not to shield? In most cases
adding a shield to a cable takes away a little bit of the spaciousness
from the sound stage. Unshielded cables are great for Solid State
equipment using lengths of under nine feet. They deliver a spaciousness
and clarity of sound that most people find very appealing. When using Tube
equipment or cables over ten feet shielding is needed. The transformers of
tube amplifiers are gigantic EMI producing machines. Using an unshielded
cable with tube equipment will result in an induced hum. Always use a
shielded cable with tube equipment. Cable runs of over ten feet tend to
act as huge antennas picking up local radio stations. (RFI) To avoid this
you MUST use a shielded cable. Lastly, phono cables must be shielded.
Cartridges produce very small amounts of voltage. some moving coil
cartridges produce only .2mv. This low voltage is very fragile and must be
protected from your local radio stations which will overpower this
Cable Break In
All cables take a certain amount of time to burn in.
This may sound crazy but it is true. I have heard many theories for this,
but the one I tend to go with is the alignment of atoms within the wire.
It changes as the wire is subjected to electrical charges and ends up
aligning in the direction of electron flow. Most cable will sound good for
the first hour or so. Then they start to degrade. They become bright,
edgy, distorted, and closed in. The worst sound is at about 50 hours of
play. Slowly the sound will began to improve and at about 100 hours things
will start to really improve. The one exception to this scenario is Silver
wire which breaks in much more slowly. We do offer a burn in service using
the Hagerman professional model. It takes 48 hours to complete the
process. The cable is subjected to a frequency sweep which contains
signals above and below the frequencies of Human hearing. Although
additional break in is still required, this really speeds things up.
Amplifier Design Theory
I am committed to simple
designs which do not feature a lot of additional circuits. I love the
early designs. They tended to stick to the basics and did not add a bunch
of "correction" circuits. I have constructed and listened to most types of
tube audio designs. The more circuits that you add, the more they start to
sound like solid state. If that is what you want, why not just buy a Solid
State unit? My amps use the old designs but with an important twist, high
end parts. Modern capacitors and resistors are faster sounding, but still
retain the tube qualities we all love. The best of old and new. I usually
prefer tube rectification (changes AC to DC) but occasionally solid state
rectification is better. When developing these amps I always make each
version and listen.
I want to talk about amplifier
test numbers. I am aware that this is a delicate subject which can
sometimes lead to hostilities. I must tell you that I am not the
engineering type. I design and build my amps much like I played my
Trumpet. I was taught music theory and after teaching my ear to recognize
what the theory sounded like, I never thought of theory again. I have done
the same in amplifier design. I know what each circuit sounds like.
I have built and listened to them using the electrical theory that I have
learned. After hearing what each theory sounds like, I no longer want to
talk theory. I only want to talk sound.
The early amplifiers were somewhat low in power. Only a
few watts. Many different types of tubes were used and each had its own
charms and weaknesses. Soon, amplifier makers found that customers were
power hungry. The war was on and nothing will ever stop it. If some is
good, more must be better. It is American as Apple Pie. In the quest for
more power I feel that certain intangibles were lost. The simple beauty
and clarity of a few watts were slowly, a watt at a time, changed to brut
force power. Even non audiophiles could hear the difference. I think they
got it right the first time.
This is my pride and joy, no, my obsession. As you can see, all components (except sending units)
have been constructed by me. This gives me a unique perspective on sound
reproduction. I am an avid record collector of 50's Jazz as well. I
have a good collection of the regular labels, Blue Note, Verve, Pacific
Jazz etc. and also a bunch of not so well known labels and artist. You
would not believe how good some of these 50's recordings sound. Most
were recorded with tubes so they just seem to sound right in my all tube
My system generally looks terrible. I am always trying new
combinations of circuits and design ideas. It's all about sound.
As you probably noticed, I watch movies with this system as well. I really believe that the sound is
superior to five channel home theater systems. The soundstage is more
real, not manipulated and much closer to reality. A good Stereo VCR is
close to a record for sound quality. Rich, warm, just awesome Analogue. I
hate to admit it but I have become a fan of the musical.
The mono blocks are Aural Thrills Audio 300B, push pull units. Each puts out a big 25 Watts but
still retains the beauty of the 300B. As you might expect, the filaments
are AC powered. PP configuration cancels out noise and the sound is big
and rich. These amps sound like the reason you wanted a tube amp to begin
The speakers are a very efficient 96db. Max continuous power is 45 Watts. 25 Watts will blow you
out of the room. My love of early design, low powered tube amps led me to
these back end loaded horn design. The drivers are full range which
eliminates the need for a crossover. My theory for audio is always "less
The bass that comes out of these speakers is unbelievable. The transmission line design is tuned for
50Hz. The sound coming out of the lower outlet is also delayed a little
bit. This creates a wonderful ambience for Jazz and Classical. These
cabinets have been constructed of 1" Baltic Birch Plywood. A very dense,
slow growing species imported from Russia. Unlike normal plywood, any
voids in EACH layer are cut and filled with a plug. You can see that there
are no areas without wood, on each layer! The speakers weigh about 175
pounds each. As is the case with a single driver, imaging is spooky. Final
finish will be done soon
A VPI TNT with speed controller mounted on a Lead filled VPI stand is the basis for all of this great
sound. A Graham tone arm is used. I love this arm. It is very easy to
mount a cartridge and alignment is accomplished to an amazing accuracy. I
usually use Low Output MC cartridges. Mounted now is a Benz Gold. A very
nice cartridge for the money. The table is connected to an Aural Thrills
Phono Stage by an all Silver Aural Thrills tone arm cable with five pin
Cardas connector. Next the Phono stage is connected to a Two Stage Cathode
Follower pre amp of my design by a pair of Aural Thrills Bass Boss cables.
Output to the 300B mono Blocks is handled by an Aural Thrills, Tube
Powered Active cable. All amps are connected directly to a dedicated line
by Aural Thrills 10awg Power Cords.
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