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Audio Note M9 RIAA Signature phono stage Review, Part 2: S9M Step-Up Transformer

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Audio Note M9 RIAA Signature/ Audio Note S9M Step-Up Transformer with captive Audio Note Pallas interconnect on the output (low impedance/high gain version ($19,240.65)

Note: the S9M which Audio Note provided was specifically wound to match the impedance of my Lyra Atlas SL cartridge, but was ideal for similar cartridges with low output and low internal resistance.

Audio Note S9M Step-Up Transformer

Faure, Piano Quartet, performed by the Festival Quartet (side 2)- dynamic swings were more obvious with the Audio Note S-9.  Sometimes this sounded wonderfully warm and musical – almost incredibly so, then the volume would swell and it could at times be a bit abrasive.  Piano was very real sounding, deep and full, with beautifully delicate phrasing.  The same was true of the strings when they were playing more softly.  Strangely, I heard the tape hiss with the S-9 that I did not notice earlier.

Koechlin, Jungle Book, side 4 – The midrange was big, fat and lovely; however, the lower midrange was a bit muddy and indistinct.  When things got loud, the sound could be irritating.  Unlike the M9, the S9H had no break-in at the factory prior to being placed in my system and I rather suspect that much of the problems that I was hearing were break-in related.

Rubbra, Symphony No. 8, (Lyrita)This began with a rich bottom end that signaled portent in much the same way as a good movie soundtrack.  The sounds of bass/cello were very effective in accomplishing this.  Instruments in the orchestra were clean and well defined in this very good but imperfect Lyrita recording, which I had thought it a bit muddy in the past.  It almost seemed like a fine Decca recording, especially when less was happening; however, when the full orchestra was blazing, the sound did not become irritating or bright as could happen, but there was the feeling that the sound was not as breathtaking as one might wish.  Yet, when the passage calmed down, the sound was really breathing.  The recording was revealed to not have a great deal of depth, but again in the second movement when the low end was given its head, the sound was really good.  The celeste was very clean, as was the brief bit of marimba and a triangle strike.

Beverly Kenney – Well balanced mono sound, very attractive female voice with substantial nuance.  Initially, I thought that the bass was a bit bloomy, but by track 3 that was gone. Note that this was the first record of the evening and the cartridge needed a bit of warm up.  Johnny Smith’s guitar sounded very warm, present and satisfying.

Art Pepper, Analogue Sounds (33 rpm) – The sound of this album was quite sensual and quite attractive.  Let’s start with the drums which were fine to begin with on this record.  How did snare, toms, and cymbals manage to pull in my ears so prominently?  This recording swung solidly.  Drumheads sounded palpable, almost vocal.  Then there was the sound of the full band which was very rich and solid, given a good kick by the drums.  Articulation was tight, but I could tell the different sounds apart, including the flugelhorn.  There was very good balance with the bass which is often more important with this band than the piano in terms of giving the ear an anchor.

Art Pepper sounded like Art Pepper even when he was playing tenor (as he does several times on this record).

Holst, The Planets, Malcolm Sargent conducting (EMI ASD)– The third movement on the first side of this record might be the first time that I have heard an ASD sounded really great.  This movement was very, very delicate, with lovely antiphonal choirs of strings and winds and great space.  When it got loud, it covered up the surface noise, but the sound of the strings began to push it for me and there was audible edginess which seemed not all that uncommon on ASD’s.  However, a lot of the time, the sound was quite good, a spacious realism though lacking in bass.  When “Jupiter” really got going, the cacophony was almost too much.  Once the moving hymnal theme got going, it was a real tearjerker.

Bruckner, Ninth Symphony, Jochum (DGG, large tulip label) – The sound was very delicate, especially the scherzo with pizzicato strings at the beginning of the piece.  The soundstage was huge but as was typical of these early large tulips, the sound was somewhat bass shy.

Sibelius, Symphony No. 7, Maazel (Decca) – This recording was more forward and not suffering from any deficiency in the bass.  This recording was forward with astounding presence and attack but not edgy.  The stage was very wide.  This was very much a Decca.  While it did not have the delicacy of some of the Ansermet’s, it was quite effective in getting the music across.

2 Responses to Audio Note M9 RIAA Signature phono stage Review, Part 2: S9M Step-Up Transformer


  1. Gary Fawke says:

    I appreciated your review of The ANs9 transformer, I also purchased my s9 without the pallas cable, and using various cables to connect s9 to phono stage noticed similar improvements.

  2. Fred Crowder says:

    Gary,

    As you can probably discern from the review, I spend an inordinately long time listening to the equipment being reviewed prior to ever putting pen to paper. Nonetheless, I always appreciate independent confirmation of my conclusions from readers, so many thanks for your comments. What cabling do you prefer? I have tried many and have yet to find anything which I prefer to the Nordost Odin 2.

    Fred Crowder

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