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Audio Exklusiv P2 Phono Preamplifier Review

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The Technicals

According to my email conversations with Andreas Schönberg, who is the current owner of Audio Exklusiv, the design goal of the P2 is to reproduce music “as lifelike and pure as possible.” In other words, he wants music to be reproduced the way it was intended without making any additions or subtractions to the analog signal. Under the hood, what may appear as an arbitrary arrangement of components by the designer has actually been meticulously thought out and tested down to the last detail. Nothing is left to chance. The P2 uses non-inductive Vishay and Holco resistors (some with tolerances at tight as 0.1%), and MKP, MICA and Paper in Oil capacitors. Although both channels share the same printed circuit board, P2 is a dual mono design with both channels completely separate from each other.

Audio Exklusiv P2 Phono Preamplifier Internals

The P2’s power supply utilizes two oversized transformers which are isolated separately in shielded boxes. The incoming AC power goes through choke filtering, and capacitors with a total reserve of 60,000uF supplied by multiple banks of Panasonic FC-Capacitors, which is more than that found in some power amplifiers. A special “capacity multiplier” circuit extends this capacity resulting in the absence of any noise in the final operating voltage, very much like a battery but without the disadvantages typically associated with some battery powered units such a lack of dynamic contrast, and a lifeless presentation. The P2’s design utilizes an active 2-way servo circuit for DC in order to avoid the use of coupling capacitors at the output (only one capacitor can be found in the signal path). Amplification is achieved through three gain stages: The first stage is a J-Fet Cascode circuit for the MC section; the MM has two stages, J-Fet Cascode, and a Bipolar + MosFet Cascode circuit. For the MC stage, the circuit is working in full amplification utilizing all three gain stages regardless of the front panel gain settings. For the lower gain settings, the P2 uses a voltage divider, which according to Andreas, has the advantage of maintaining a constant level of negative feedback so that the P2 will sound the same operating in any gain settings.

The P2’s design has avoided the use of mechanical switches (which are subject to corrosion) where ever possible; gas filled reed relay switches enclosed in solenoid are employed to preserve signal integrity.

Andreas Schönberg has paid particular attention to the isolation of mechanical vibrations and resonance control for the chassis. Andreas explained that a piece of audio equipment is nothing more than a complex frequency response system which is affected not only by component vibrations (such as cabinet, circuit boards, sockets or wiring and transformer vibrations) but also by the actual airborne sound. All of these vibrations will contaminate the audio signal and therefore, must be reduced or eliminated altogether. The proprietary damping material found on the underside of top cover, as well as the component feet have been deployed to achieve this very effect.

Audio Exklusiv P2 Phono Preamplifier Vibration Reduction

To further enhance the effects of vibrational isolation, Andreas has also designed a full line of accessories, including a component platform called the “d.C.d Base,” component feet called the “d.C.d” Feet, as well as the “Silent RCA” plugs designed to be plugged into unused RCA inlets. However, since I am reviewing a component and not the accessories, I decided not to incorporate them into my review even though they were provided for me by the distributor.

For the most part of this review, the majority of the listening was done with a Lyra Olympos cartridge mounted on a 12” Schroeder Reference arm. Other cartridges I tried include the Clearaudio Goldfinger V2, the My Sonic Lab Ultra Eminent BC, the Lyra Kleos and the all new Lyra Atlas.

With gain and loading accessible through the front panel, the P2 was versatile enough to accommodate all the cartridges I tried with it. The same cannot be said for some of the phono stages I have used in the past. For instance with the Rossner and Sohn Canofer-S ($ 7,200) which I recently reviewed, did not have enough gain to drive the My Sonic Lab Ultra Eminent BC cartridge which has an output of 0.29 mV (more like 0.19 mV in reality), and was barely enough to drive the ZYX Universe cartridge with an output of 0.24 mV. The same can be said for the FM Acoustics FM-122 Mk II ($ 16,500), in which the unit had to be sent to a factory-authorized service center which changed internally an internal resistor before the gain could be boosted to a level high enough to drive my My Sonic Lab cartridge. The P2 provides a range between 51 dB and 71dB to work with, which means it will likely work with cartridges between 0.15 mV and 0.9 mV, which pretty much covers the entire spectrum of popular MC cartridges on the market.

What about noise? Hardly any. Even with a low output cartridge such as the My Sonic Lab Ultra Eminent BC which required the gain to be set at the highest level, I could detect almost no hiss or hum unless the volume was cranked above the 60% level on idling, where a faint hiss could be heard from the speakers. The P2 is probably not as quiet as the Canofer-S, or the Burmester PH100 (currently under review), but it is easily on par with the Audia Flight phono or the Sutherland PhD, and certainly much quieter than any tube phono stage on the market, including the excellent-sounding Audio Research Reference II SE (currently under review), the Manley Steelhead or the Aesthetix Rhea.

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