Athur Salvatore Review in Phono preamps section

    Note from Doge Audio: please scroll down to see comments on Doge 8
    In order no to be transparent and not take a sentence out of its context, we found important to let the text before and after the paragraph about Doge 8. The statement about Doge 8 came after the description of top recommended phono Stage Coincident at $5,500
    We have preferred to put the review of Doge 8 here rather than redirect you to Arthur website because high-endaudio.com is an extraordinary bible for audiophiles, but also extraordinary messy presentation as Arthur on purpose wanted it to look vintage style. Of course we don’t make any secret and you can read it as well on www.high-endaudio.com directly, (if you find it ūüėÄ )¬†

     

    COINCIDENT STATEMENT PHONO STAGE

    The Coincident Statement (CSPS) is the finest commerically available phono stage I’ve ever heard. It is also superbly built (two chassis, hard-wired, 61 lbs combined), and it has the added flexibilty of high quality volume controls, and even an extra input, for those who do¬†not¬†want a line stage, for whatever reason, in their system. There’s also a mute switch, and even two sets of outputs for biamping. The Statement currently sells for¬†$ 5,500, though that price may change, without notice, because of volatile exchange rates. (For more such details, and pictures, you can go the Coincident¬†website.)

    As configured, the CSPS is only meant to be used with low output MC cartridges. This is because it has internal MC SUTs, which are the exact same as are used in their (Class A Upper) Statement Transformer, along with the same loading options. In my own system, going direct, I was never able to use all the available gain, even with the lowest cut records. Its actual performance is relatively easy to describe, which is usually the case with electronics that are outstanding compared to their peers, and have no obvious weakness(es), and/or compatibility problems (like SET amplifiers).

    Performance Details

    The CSPS is highly neutral (or “characterless”), very clean, extended at both frequency extremes, virtually noiseless, highly dynamic, fast, detailed and large sounding, yet with excellent focus, and has a very low sound-floor. Importantly, it is never adversely effected by loud and complex recordings. If the CSPS has any obvious “weak link”, I, and my¬†associates, were never able to hear it, and I used a wide variety or recordings to expose it on an ultra high-resolution system. In short, the Statement excelled in every area.*

    The only real problem I ever had was when my¬†initial¬†MC loading was set¬†too low, so the sound was “dead” for a while. Once I raised the setting one and then, later, two clicks up, that “problem” completely disappeared. The lesson here is obvious;¬†always¬†experiment¬†yourself¬†to find the optimum setting.

    *I have been informed that the¬†output capacitor¬†in the CSPS has been changed from a¬†Mundorf, which I heard, to a¬†Solen Teflon, which should provide an improvement. I haven’t heard the latest version with the Solen.

    The Competition & Alternative Options

    When it comes to phono stages, the first audiophile choice is whether to “go direct” (into the power amplifier), using the phono stage alone (if even possible), or to add a line stage into the signal path. Assuming the latter, the next decision is whether to purchase a “traditional” preamplifier (phono and line stage combined), or separate units. Then comes whether to go tubes or transistors and, finally, the budget.

    The Closest Competition

    When considering everything (overall performance, flexibility and build quality), the closest competition to the CSPS is the Aesthetix IO Signature (with volume controls and a 2nd input). Unfortunately, this version of the IO sells for $ 11,500, which is more than double the CSPS. However, in my opinion, their large difference in cost is due to the CSPS being an outstanding value for its selling price, and not because the IO is, in any manner, overpriced.

    While “the basics” of the two models are similar, the¬†circuits¬†are very different; with the CSPS using a MC SUT and a¬†two¬†tube (per channel) signal path, while the IO uses tubes for everything, and has a much more complicated signal path (8¬†tubes per channel), though it does offer higher gain (but at the expense of higher noise). Both models have now passed “the test of time”, which means you can’t go wrong with either of them.

    I haven’t compared them myself, but from everything I’ve heard (and read) from other audiophiles (public and private), I believe the CSPS has a slight performance advantage (though with the trade-off of some gain). This is NOT “definitive”, as it would be if I made the comparisons myself, on a high quality system I was familiar with. If I had to speculate, I would say that the¬†extra (3rd)¬†gain stage in the IO, which is one of the reasons why it costs more than the CSPS, also has a sonic “cost”, along with the extra¬†14 db¬†of gain. Replacing the IO’s MC stage tubes on a regular basis, because they get noisy relatively quickly, may also be an important factor for some.

    What about other¬†“all-out”¬†phono stages (since no less expensive, let alone “budget”, model comes close to the CSPS in our experience)?

    Other Phono Stages

    There are some other excellent models available (like the¬†Manley Steelhead), but none of the models I’m familiar with match the performance, let alone the¬†cost/performance/ratio, of the CSPS. The one possible exception is a (two chassis) “custom model” made by¬†Tom Tutay, which impressed me when I heard it¬†briefly¬†in my own system a few years back. The “basic model” cost¬†$ 3,600¬†at the time, with (extra cost) options of Teflon caps, extra inputs etc. It has¬†60 db¬†of gain, and uses tubes in the MC stage. It’s very well built, but quite rudimentary in appearance. Being custom made, there will be a relatively lengthy wait to get one, after a¬†deposit. If interested, there is information how to reach Tutay in the¬†Links File¬†(see below).

     

    Traditional Preamplifiers

    This brings us to the other option:¬†Traditional Preamplifiers (with MC stages). Here, when¬†not¬†counting “custom-made models”, there are¬†two¬†models, with prices at either extreme, which, in our experience, dominate the field. At the lower end is the¬†Doge 8, which sells for less than¬†$ 1,500. Considering everything (performance, build quality, flexibility, “looks” & inflation), the Doge 8 may be the best preamplifier value in the history of audio.

    The only real competition the Doge 8 has, from between¬†$ 1,000 to $ 5,000¬†(the CSPS), are from the best¬†used¬†preamplifiers of the past (MFA Luminescence, ARC SP-10/11, CAT¬†etc.), and even then there will be trade-offs and “taste” involved. In fact, the second dominating preamplifier, which, we can finally state, is unquestionably better than the Doge 8, is in a completely different price league…

     

    The¬†Audion Quattro¬†(4¬†chassis version) is still the finest traditional preamplifier we know of, but it sells for¬†$ 15,000¬†(with the¬†two¬†chassis version selling for¬†$ 12,000). As far as I know, there is also an extra charge,¬†$ 2,500, for the all-out version with¬†Teflon¬†caps and better volume pots (which is the model that we designated¬†“Class A”¬†in our¬†Reference Preamplifiers). It would be fascinating to compare the all-out Quattro with the CSPS and Coincident Statement Line Stage, but we know of no one, with complete objectivity, who has yet done so. (Audion also has standard phono stages, without volume pots, but we haven’t heard them.) Finally, it may be important to note that the Quattro has no actual gain in its “line stage”.

    Summarizing the Above Choices

    Below $ 1,000- Used models dominate, and there are plenty of choices; see Class C Phono Stages and (some) Class C Preamplifiers, plus new models like the Jasmine and some other interesting models, mainly coming from Asia.

    $1,000 to $ 3,000+-¬†The¬†Doge 8¬†dominates here, and it is¬†new, but some¬†used¬†models, from the¬†1980s and 1990s*¬†(from¬†ARC, MFA, CAT, Counterpoint¬†etc), may be preferable to some audiophiles with specific tastes and requirements. The Doge 8 is a “game changer” and it’s worth going over the budget to get it.

    $4,000 and above-¬†The¬†Coincident Statement Phono Stage¬†also dominates its price range, below and above. It’s even good enough to make a time/money sacrifice and spend more than the original budget for it. Further, for those fortunate audiophiles with budgets of¬†$ 10,000+, it is important to note that the¬†Statement Line Stage¬†could then be included in the deal. This would mean another¬†20 db¬†of gain (more than matching the Aesthetix IO), and even improved sonics, as per my¬†February 2011 review¬†of the Line Stage.

    $10,000 and above-¬†There are¬†three¬†serious choices here: The¬†Aesthetix IO Signature¬†is a proven top performer and a safe choice. However, the¬†combined¬†Coincident Statement Phono/Line Stages¬†cost¬†$ 1,000¬†less, has even¬†more¬†gain, and most likely outperforms the IO to boot. Since it uses a MC SUT, there are also less (noise-prone) tubes to regularly replace. The final choice is the¬†Audion Quattro, which is still the “champion” of its kind, but it costs¬†$ 5,000+¬†more than the other two, and we don’t know yet if that extra investment also gives you better sonic performance (though it definitely outperforms the “standard” IO). It also has less gain than either of them, and¬†no¬†gain in its “line stage”.

    *The phono stages from this era will be even better than we remember, since they were only heard with their own line stages, which were of varying quality. It’s definitely possible that one (or more) of these models had an amazing phono stage, which was “sabotaged”, at the time, by their own mediocre line stage. The superb line stages available today will finally allow them to shine.

    In Conclusion

    In my experience, the Coincident Statement Phono Stage sets a new performance standard in the audio marketplace, at not only its own price point, but far above it. It can even be further improved with the addition of its sister Line Stage. For those audiophiles searching for the highest performance, combined with simplicity and outstanding value and build quality, the CSPS is the end of the proverbial rainbow.

    Important Note- There were more developments to this story. They are now completed, and posted in 2011/12