Naim NAC 282 – Pre-Amplifier
Lehmann Audio Linear Headphone Amp
Ovation High Fidelity 1501/1701
Ovation Model 1721 Power Amplifier
DEAL OF THE DAY
NAD M51 DAC/Preamp
How It's Made - McIntosh Tube Amp
Allnic H3000 Phono Stage Review
This is the follow up to my review of the entry point H-1201, except this time we hit the opposite end with the range topping H-3000. The difference is that this is an all out assault on the phono stage market complete with LCR technology – which is not easy to implement without noise, especially with valves.
The first thing that struck me when removing the packaging was the sheer size and weight of this thing, It’s a full width item with a high front profile. The front panel hides the valve and transformers from view when on a rack. It also houses the very tacticle selector switch for the two MM and two MC inputs, the switch itself is a sign of Allnic’s commitment to superb case work and quality. Also on the front we have the really useful mute switch which is seen on all Allnic phono stages. As with the H-1500 this phono stage also has its own power supply box which has a single valve inside, transformer and power button on the front.
I first heard the phono stage when Richard from Lotus HiFi brought the range around to review, I couldn’t resist hearing how the H-3000 sounded compared to my H-1500, so I pulled out my most familiar record. It is a record I have carted to almost every Hi-Fi show I have ever been too and plenty of WigWam bakeoffs. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – A purple velvet box set of eight LP’s – all previously unreleased recordings. It has a wonderfully recorded version of Little Wing recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in 1969, I know it inside out and can almost tell how it will sound on a system without hearing it!
I put the needle down and silence insued, later as the track reached its end I knew it was the best I had ever heard the recording. I usually expect the bass guitar to boom or get blown out of proportion and the vocals to blend in with the other instruments. The bass was very controlled and I could hear more texture to the sound, Jimi’s vocals just hung in their own space without being clouded by any other part of the Music. After Richard left I spent the next few days following the Audiophile cliche of playing lots of familiar records and enjoying the new presentation. I had not heard sounds hang in their own space before with such control, the H-3000 somehow managed to take complex pieces and lay them out with real space. For example the excellent Kyung-Wha Chung and Andre Previns Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto on Decca, an excellent performance and great recording, I have never heard the separate parts so clearly and separately before, where in past the piece can sometimes blur in to one sound the H-3000 took it all in its stride without any sense of being stressed at all.
An area that shows the ease the H-3000 can have is compressed modern recordings, usually they just go flat and you get no sense of dynamics at all. However with the LCR’s party trick of great dynamics compressed music comes so much more to life with the subtle loudness differences being heard easily – turning poor recordings into listenable and enjoyable music.
I became worried, if it can do this to compressed music does it over emphasis dynamic music? The answer is a firm no. One of the most dynamic pieces of music I have is a Venetian Snares track called Szerencsétlen from his album Rossz Csillag Alatt Született, this is breakcore and really not for everyone, at a previous bake off it made a wammer jump with its dynamic weight going from quiet to loud, it also tends to clear a room of people. As a test it passed with flying colours, it still had the great punch and timing but I never considered it over the top or too obvious. I was also able to hear such amazing detail that I had not heard before, you could hear exactly how the track was laid out and what produced every sound and how. Not bad when you have 20-30 different sounds going off at the same time at crazy speed.
By this point I knew how serious a piece of kit this phono stage is. I found it very hard to find any fault using as much of my music collection as I could play before I had to hand it back, this might sound like gushing praise, but it does have a slight sting in its tail, that is the price. This is a serious phono stage for people who are near the end of the audiophile journey and people who realise that the more you get from your front the end the more you can give your amp and speakers. The price is £8995 which to most people is a very good entire system, yet putting it in mine I am wondering how easy it is to sell a kidney and how much I would get.
An infectious bit of kit that you keep wanting to hear more of. If you have a collection of older recordings with different curves to RIAA then the the H-3000V is for you for an extra thousand and some change, very useful if you need it and if you need it then the money in your records will probably more than justify the cost.
So what was it like going back to my H-1500?
At these sorts of prices the difference between the H-1500 and H-3000 isn’t as far as the H-1201 and H-1500. The higher you get the more you polish that sound, but you are not reinventing the wheel. The H-1500 sounded less polished and less refined, taken out of context I never found the H-1500 to be anything but excellent, but when compared the H-3000 is clearly better and another great step up the ladder.
Since doing this review I heard from Richard that there are now a few more rungs to the Alnic ladder. The head amp is an active stage using nuvistor tubes instead of the step ups inside the H-1500 and H-3000 apparently raising the sound even more. They have also just released the H-5000 showing just how far Allnic are willing to take vinyl replay, I just can’t wait to hear one.
Contact Richard at Lotus HiFi for more information.
Discuss the review here
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