Cable Monkey

Aqvox Phono 2CI mkII

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I have had this phono stage for nearly 12 months now having purchased it last spring. However it is only in the last week that I have had enough confidence in it to write anything down. Reason was I was never sure it was better than my incumbent stage, a Kinshaw Perception Phono. It showed hints of its potential but putting the Kinshaw back in always left me feeling relieved. I even sold the Kinshaw at one stage but it proved unsuited to the buyers cartridge and developed a very minor fault (broken link). Providing a refund and getting the stage back was like seeing an old friend for the first time in a while! The problem was the Aqvox had a very definite character that announced itself every time I listened. Shut in, slightly rolled off and with more hum than the Kinshaw. It was less apparent with my AT3PTG with a slightly elevated top end but the Transfiguration Aria which should be the better cartridge by some distance was totally hamstrung by the stage.

And so to the reasons I am now writing this. On the Aqvox website there is some information on getting the best from the stage. One element is dip switches to bypass the output caps. As I have a passive transformer pre, there is no risk of damaging anything. I needed a star drive bit the right size and when I eventually found it I took the top off and did the work. I also looked inside at the switch mode PSU and extensive filtering on both the PSU board and interface to the signal board. Something stirred but didn't awaken, I don't like SM supplies, a throw back to their early days when they were unreliable and a bitch to repair (my job). Anyhow I connected it up, quickly plugged it in and Eureka! Solid deep bass, lovely mids and plenty of smooth treble. Very happy and somewhat bemused at that change in character I bolted the lid on and reconnected. I plugged it into its normal power socket and left it on overnight before listening again. On my return to the listening seat I listened and, while happier I got that sense of it being shut in again. I had a think and suddenly it dawned on me. I use one of the Earls power filters. In a discussion we had by PM I remember him stating that in any system you could hear what it was doing though some didn't like the effect. I have always liked the effect, but I also remembered what I saw. The Aqvox has very effective filtering built in. Perhaps an external filter was just too much. I plugged the item direct into the wall and was greeted by a repeat of my Eureka moment! Can that happen? Well it did. I want to use it in fully balanced mode next, but for now I feel I have a quality stage that is performing at its maximum at long last.

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Can I ask whether you are using this in balanced mode or not? In RCA mode, I found it average at best. In balanced, it was very different indeed - far superior!

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I am using the balanced input via the adaptors. That invokes the current amplification mode which is what sets it apart at its price point. I know the guy who sold it did so because he switched to MM and I know there are better MM stages out there (including the Kinshaw). My intention is to run it via the balanced outs as well, even if I have to use balanced to RCA leads. I have enough odds and ends knocking about to throw quite a nice pair together at zero cost so that may well be how I spend my evening!

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When I had mine I ran it out of my vpi with their balanced junction box into the aqvox with balanced cables and balanced out. This gave a very wide soundstage with awesome resolution.

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Putting that through Google Translate it looks as if they have ditched the switch mode PSU for a linear one with off board transformer. I can't tell if the cabling suggests they have bypassed that input power filter too!

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A quick update, I have used the balanced outs and am having a very interesting experience. I am listening to records displaying a 3 dimensional quality I have not heard on them before. If you value that quality, this stage really is something!

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A quick update, I have used the balanced outs and am having a very interesting experience. I am listening to records displaying a 3 dimensional quality I have not heard on them before. If you value that quality, this stage really is something!

Hi Henry,

I found the aqvox to have a really wide stage. Not so deep but really wide beyond my speakers by 5 feet.

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Hi Henry,

I found the aqvox to have a really wide stage. Not so deep but really wide beyond my speakers by 5 feet.

I'm in a box bedroom so width is not something I experience! I get a holographic experience that I am sat in the centre of with some recordings. It is very compelling.

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I'm in a box bedroom so width is not something I experience! I get a holographic experience that I am sat in the centre of with some recordings. It is very compelling.

Nice. Can't beat a good 3d image IMO.

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I'm in a box bedroom so width is not something I experience! I get a holographic experience that I am sat in the centre of with some recordings. It is very compelling.

Hi Henry

Very glad that you're enjoying the aqvox, mate!

All the best,

Adrian

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Hi Adrian, I have finally gotten there although it has taken a while. To be honest I've done nothing more than to figure out that it is a bit different in concept and so needs to be treated differently. Primarily, it doesn't need special treatment or power conditioning. That is taken care of already. Secondly, if you can bypass the output capacitors when using it single ended, then do. Finally it really shines when used as a balanced stage which considering its pro pedigree shouldn't be suprising. Sadly that makes it less useful as MM stage but at least the option is there should I need to use my spare (Shure V15/IV) and the Kinshaw is elsewhere. And if I didn't thank you then for carrying the Aqvox, boxed, with you to London on a visit so I could collect I will now. Thank you.:^

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Thanks for the review most helpful.

I have 5 phono stages and must thin the herd, I have one of these so must digh it out for a re-listen. I might keep this and sell the others 

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