Athur Salvatore Review in Phono preamps section
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).
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.
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.
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)?
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).
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”.
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 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.