Purchased new and in person from LKV Research in January, 2015 (including the then just announced design improvements to reduce the noise floor and to include a jfet-based third gain stage originally designed for LKV’s state-of-the-art Veros One phono preamp), and recently upgraded by Bill Hutchins with premium parts to further improve the sound - see description below - at an additional cost of $1,500. I’ve really enjoyed this preamp with every cartridge I’ve run through it (including Sumiko Blackbird, Lyra Delos and Lyra Kleos SL), but recently went in a different direction with my system (tubes) at much greater cost, and now need to replenish my Hi-Fi fund to buy more vinyl. I would keep this and set up another vinyl system – I just don’t have the space. LKV’s detailed specs available here.
If you’re reading this far, you probably know what the stock 2-SB sounds like – and it does sound great. See Michael Fremer's review here. My initial notes as expressed to Bill at LKV were:
“First, there is more musical detail across the frequency range from the lowest bass to highest treble. I was expecting this, as the 2-SB is obviously a much more substantial than any of my prior phono stages. However, the overall quality that I was not expecting, or at least not expecting to the degree that I'm hearing, is that there is much more nuance to all musical elements from bottom to top. It’s somewhat hard to describe, but I would describe the quality as experiencing much more of the performance of each musician (or the group as a whole) than I’ve ever heard my system convey before. When a drummer slightly alters the timing of their beat - I feel it. When a guitar player comes in - I hear the "attack" and its timing in relation to the rest of the music much more clearly (not to mention the best tone I've heard in my system). The aspect of this quality that most surprises me - and maybe the most pronounced - is with vocals. I hear the subtle difference when a singer comes in either slightly ahead or behind the beat, either slightly louder/closer or lower/further away from the mike, when they slightly alter the tone of their vocal or delivery - I feel like I can really appreciate what the singer is conveying. As a result, I'm enjoying the vocals and lyrics in my music more than ever before. Overall, everything sounds less "smeared" together and more like individual musicians performing music together in a room. Every now and then I come across an album - King Sunny Ade's Synchro System is one surprising example - and it's thrilling to hear it in a way that I've never heard before.”
As you can tell – I was pretty stoked by this thing. The upgraded unit sounds even better – with more “swing” to the music. Less noise. Greater sense of dynamic impact. Greater amounts of micro detail across volume levels, and with a fun flow to the music. I ran it mostly via the XLR inputs to take advantage of Mr. Hutchins’ balanced system design – but it also sounds great via unbalanced RCA. Of course, your mileage may vary based on your preferences, music and system.
Any questions, please don't hesitate to ask in the comments. I think the condition is closer to a 9 than an 8 - but would rather be conservative. The only visible imperfection i see, in just the right light, is a slight "squigle" in the finish on the top of the unit (shown in one if the pictures below - if you can't see it, it's because it's so minor). This unit has never been shipped - I would prefer to meet for delivery within a 250-mile radius of Augusta, ME than deal with shipping. If shipping is required, must ship via UPS or FedEx fully insured to verified US address, only, at Buyer’s cost. I have brand new boxes from LKV and pack with great care. Comes with owner’s manual and measurement data (stock unit condition as well as pre/post Upgrades). No returns.
Upgrade Summary: Modified by Bill Hutchins in May, 2020, with the following upgrades (w/ design benefit in parenthesis):
Summary: “The major addition is to substitute Teflon caps for the stock WIMA caps in the RIAA equalization filter. This is the place in the total unit circuitry that is most demanding of capacitor performance and most critical for sound. Using the Teflon caps there will give real sonic benefits.” “The two most significant improvements are swapping in the Teflon caps adding the 3 terminal regulator in the power supply. The teflon caps are unfortunately very expensive and we need 4 caps (0.1uF each) in each of four filters for a total of 16.” “Some of the parts ... will have to be soldered to the underside of the circuit boards...you won’t see them unless you unscrew and lift up the boards.”
· Add PP bypass caps for 4 for the large electrolytic caps. (improvement in power supply ripple suppression)
· Replace existing Zener resistor voltage divider with 3/5 terminal IC regulators. (increase in voltage stability and ripple suppression)
· Add 2 filter resistors at power output parts (improvement in ripple suppression)
· Substitute 4 Vishay 50 ohm film/foil resistors for metal film resistors of same value at inputs of stages 1 and 2. (increase in clarity, lower noise)
· Replace WIMA polypropylene caps in each of 4 RIAA equalization filters with teflon (PTFE) Solen audiophile caps (total 16 caps needed). (This is the most critical place in whole unit for caps. Careful matching and trimming required for accurate equalization. Improved clarity definition and detail, particularly in high frequencies)
· Bypass WIMA coupling caps with small value Polystyrene/polypropylene caps. (Increase in clarity)