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Phono Stages up to £499
Project Phono Box E
The Phono Box E is a starter MM stage, it’s available in either black or white casing and is a very good first step into phono stages, being ideal for entry level turntables. It comes with a plug top power supply to keep noise to a minimum (although in exceptionally high noise locations we would recommend one of the models below with metal case work, for their improved screening).
Project Phono Box E MM phono stage: £50.00
Project Phono Box MM
The Phono Box MM is a moving magnet only phono stage from Project. It’s housed in a very small metal case which provides good shielding, and has an external wall wart type power supply, both of which help keep noise to a minimum. Inside it uses surface mount components (see picture below) to keep the signal paths very short and a dual mono layout for good channel separation.
Project Phono Box MM phono stage: £60.00
The Fono Mini A2D is the latest version of the classic Rega budget phono stage and is ideal for all budget turntables. This new design incorporates an analogue to digital convertor and USB output, so it can be used directly into your computer for making recordings, or conventionally into your hifi system via the phono sockets. Unlike many other USB phono stages a level control is provided so you can set the optimum output level for making the best of your LP recordings -
Inside it’s very neatly constructed, in the above picture the power supply is at the bottom left, the phono sections at the top left and the Burr Brown analogue to digital convertor is just behind the USB-
It comes in a nicely extruded black aluminium case and is very well made in the UK as you’d expect from this vinyl specialist company. Power comes from an external mains supply (included) to ensure noise is kept low and the main unit measures a diminutive 11cm x 10cm x 3cm.
Rega Fono Mini A2D MM phono stage with line and USB output £90.00
Project Phono Box
The Phono Box III is an evolution of a classic budget phono stage, perfect for use with budget turntables and systems. Unusually for this type of design it can be used with both MM and MC cartridges via a rear mounted switch. It is powered by an external plug top power supply (included) to help reduce noise and is available with either silver or black front panels.
Project Phono Box Mk3 MM & MC phono stage: £89.00
The Apprentice mk3 is the latest phono stage from Edwards Audio. It is an evolution of the original Apprentice design, which has always been one of our favourite budget MM stages, and has been very highly praised by the press in the UK and abroad. The mk3 has dispensed with the switched mode ‘wall wart’ power supply and now features a true internal linear power supply whilst retaining the very short signal paths and clever audio design. This has necessitated a slightly wider case and a small price increase, but the benefits from the reduction in noise (switch mode supplies for generate a lot of high frequency noise) are very worthwhile and further enhance the abilities of this giant killer phono stage.
The resultant sound has improved resolution and tonality over its (already excellent) predecessor, and retains the exciting yet easy to listen to balance that has always made this design such a winer.
Edwards Audio Apprentice mk3 MM phono stage: £99.95
Edwards Audio Apprentice MC
The Edwards Audio Apprentice MC phono stage is derived from the Edwards Audio MM1 and uses a similar circuit topology with passive treble and active bass equalisation. Unusually at this price level it uses a second stage amplifier to buffer the equalisation network and ensure a low output impedance, whilst the MC gain uses a third separate op-
Housed in a tiny case with attractive acrylic fascia and 5mm machined aluminium trim, it has a convenient MM/MC switch on the front. A regulated ‘wall wart’ power supply helps keep the box small and noise low.
This is an excellent phono stage that is perfect for the audiophile on a budget.
Edwards Audio Apprentice MC MM & MC phono stage: £179.95
The Fono MM is the latest all new stand alone phono stage from Rega (which confusingly has the same name as its predecessor). It is housed in the new look Rega aluminium casework and measures a diminutive 18cm wide, 14cm deep and 4.5cm tall. Inside surface mount components are used to ensure a very short signal path, polyester capacitors are used in the signal path and polyproplyene are used in the EQ network. An external ‘wall wart’ power supply/transformer helps keep noise to an absolute minimum.
Rega Fono MM mk3 phono stage: £199.00
Rega Fono MC
The Fono MC is a new MC (only) phono stage which features polyproplyene capacitors throughout the RIAA and signal coupling, with a discrete FET input and a MUSE op amp. Dip switches on the rear allow adjustment of gain, load and capacitance. More details will follow asap.
Rega Fono MC phono stage: £249.00
Edwards Audio MM1 mk2
The MM1 is a fantastic moving magnet phono stage, and whilst its set at a very reasonable price it contains design elements you wouldn’t normally see at this price, including features such as a dual rail power supply, ensuring that it has tremendous headroom. The power supply is incorporated inside the box, rather than external -
The Tube Box S features a pair of ECC83 triodes as the output stage (one per channel) of this MM and MC compatible phono stage. Underneath there are small switches for impedance, capacitance and gain, making it easy to match to most cartridges available. A separate plug top power supply is supplied which keeps it compact and reduces noise. A choice of Silver or Black fascia is available.
Like the Tube Box S featured above, the DS features a pair of ECC83 triodes as the output stage (one per channel) of this MM and MC compatible phono stage. On the front is the rotary control for loading of MC cartridges and on the rear is a selection of jumpers enabling adjustment of capacitance, gain and rumble filter.
A separate plug top power supply is supplied which keeps it compact and reduces noise. A choice of Silver or Black fascia is available.
The MC1 Mk2 is a new one box phono stage from Edwards Audio. It can be used with both MM and MC cartridge, changed via internal jumpers to keep the optimum signal path, along with adjustments for loading capacitance. Internally the parts specification is very impressive, there’s a gold plated circuit board, carefully selected resistors and capacitors and an over sized power supply.
This is a very quiet design with incredibly accurate RIAA response that falls within 0.25dB across the audio range, and uses their hybrid EQ network with passive treble and active bass equalisation. Externally the casework brings a new look to the Edwards Audio range, an attractive machined black aluminium fascia with inset backlit acrylic fascia gives it an appearance, that like its sound, is well beyond what the price tag suggests.
Edwards Audio MC1 mk2 MM & MC phono stage: £399.95