Six Acoustic York phono stage
I have to admit, at first I was sceptical. An unremarkable looking little box from a virtually unknown company? How good could it be, especially compared to my beloved Gold Note PH-10? But, as the saying goes, don't judge the book by its cover. So here we go.
Design and features
York is a solid state MM/MC phono preamplifier with one single ended input, fine gain adjustment and various cartridge loading options, which are set by using a series of DIP switches on the bottom of the unit. A short manual explains the controls and operations of the phono stage and a PDF on the Six Acoustic website even shows exact switch positions for various popular MM and MC cartridges, taking the guesswork out of the process. I was glad to see my Hana SL MC settings included in the list.
The unit is made of anodized aluminum with lightly brushed finish. It features low quiescent power consumption, low noise circuitry and architecture for deepest "quiets", as well as very strict adherence to RIAA curve. York includes in the box DIP switch adjustment tool, 4 little rubber feet and an 18V DC power supply.
Front panel features the fine gain adjustment knob, the MM/MC button with two LED lights and the power switch. The back panel is very simple with just the DC power input, the output and the input with ground. The bottom panel, as mentioned above, has the two sets of DIP switches (R + L) for the input load settings.
Listening and performance
I started by setting the DIP switches to the correct positions for my cartridge loading specifications. After powering down everything in my system, I connected my turntable's phono cable to the input on York's back panel, then connected its output to one of the inputs on my amplifier, set the MM/MC switch to On and the fine gain adjustment to the center position, which corresponds to no boost/reduction. I turned the unit on first, then powered up my amplifier.
My first record of choice was Supertramp's "Breakfast In America" (Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab – MFSL 1-471). Not only is this album great in terms of music, but this particular Mobile Fidelity reissue is of outstanding quality. It's very quiet, with virtually no surface noise, no usual pops and clicks. It's perfect for critical listening. After playing around with gain adjustment, I settled in to listen to the record. From the first notes of "Gone Hollywood", I immediately noticed the balance and transparency of the sound. I honestly did not expect this level of detail and clarity from York and was pleasantly surprised. Every track that followed brought more listening pleasure, with great details, precise imaging, excellent instrument separation, full and controlled bass.
These observations were confirmed with the next test record - Dire Straits "Brothers In Arms", specifically the new half-speed remaster from the legendary Abbey Road Studios
(Vertigo – ARHSDLP004). Over the years I have heard a few versions of this album, but I can honestly say this is the best one yet. And York phono preamp did not disappoint here either. Due to low noise floor, I was enjoying all the little hidden details and nuances, happily tapping my foot to "Money For Nothing". The trumpet in the beginning of "Your Latest Trick" and the saxophone throughout the rest of it both sounded clear and without any harshness or distortion.
Keeping my turntable at 45 RPM, I moved on to a very special record in my collection - "Malena / Nublado" EP by Argentinian group of musicians called Serà Una Noche (MA Recordings – M052AV), led by percussionist Santiago Vazquez and recorded by Todd Garfinkle of MA Recordings in a small church 150 km outside of Buenos Aires in the Summer of 1998. The second side of the record has an amazing Tango instrumental called Nublado. It features a bandoneon, a guitar, a cello, and a clarinet with some percussion and tabla. Each instrument was very clear and distinct and the ambience of the recording space was very present. Another very enjoyable record.
Next, I decided to play something heavier and put on a recent reissue of John Norum's 1992 album "Face The Truth" (Music On Vinyl – MOVLP2759). Featuring John on guitar, Peter Baltes of Accept on bass, Hempo Hildén on drums and Glenn Hughes (ex-Deep Purple) on vocals, it's a great sounding and dynamic hard rock record. Switching into high gear right from the get go, the title track had me immediately nodding and bobbing my head. Other notable tracks on the album include power ballad "In Your Eyes", Thin Lizzy's cover of "Opium Trail" as well as anthemic "We Will Be Strong", featuring Norum's former (at the time) Europe bandmate Joey Tempest on vocals. The York faithfully and accurately reproduced each instrument and soaring vocals within a clearly defined soundstage.
It was already close to bed time by time I finished my first listening session with York phono preamp. I enjoyed it very much and was looking forward to continuing with more records.
The next day I began with a future jazz record by Malia and Boris Blank (of Yello) called "Convergence" (EmArcy – 374 593-2). I've been a fan of the Swiss duo Yello for many years, but somehow this record slipped my attention when it was first released in 2014. But, better late than never, right? If you are a fan of Yello, like me, I highly recommend this album. Its title accurately describes the music. It's a convergence of two distinct elements - Boris Blank's electronic music and British-Malawian singer Malia's soulful and seductive jazz vocals. The result is nothing short of spectacular. Of course, pristine production quality and dynamic mastering heighten the enjoyment. And once again, York preamp let this record shine and delivered clean, uncolored and balanced sound throughout the entire frequency spectrum.
Keeping with the Yello theme, I put on their 1987 record "One Second"
(Vertigo – 830 956-1). Another well produced recording that I enjoy very much. I was especially interested in hearing how York would reproduce the powerful and explosive percussion of the Latin-themed track called "La Habanera". And once again the phono stage did not disappoint. The bass was tight and punchy! Another outstanding track on this recording is "Rhythm Divine" sung by Shirley Bassey. Her powerful and emotive voice filled the room and was reproduced with great accuracy.
Another favorite rock record I tried was Uriah Heep's "Demons And Wizards"
(Mercury – SRM 1 630). The acoustic guitar intro of "The Wizard" brought another smile to my face. It was clear and precise. And as David Byron's voice came on, it felt real and natural. As other instruments joined, they all sounded distinct and separate within the soundstage.
As you can tell, I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the York phono stage. It punches well above its weight and can easily compete with other phono stages that are more expensive. Will it replace my beloved Gold Note PH-10? No, the Gold Note has everything I need in a phono stage. But York is a serious contender with a great value for its money. Sure, it does not have a beautiful TFT screen, two inputs, balanced output and 6 EQ curves. but it has lots of cartridge loading options and its sonic performance is very admirable. Plus it costs $499 CAD, which is a quarter of the PH-10's retail price. If I were looking for a new phono stage at this point, I would seriously consider it and so should you.
For more information, please visit www.sixacoustic.ca.
Gain settings: 40 dB (MM) and 60 dB (MC)
Gain Trim: +12 dB / -4 dB
RIAA Accuracy: 20 Hz - 20,000 Hz (±0.01dB)
Input Impedance 20 Ω - 47 KΩ
Input Capacitance 0 pF - 470 pF
SNR @ 40dB gain: >100 dB
SNR @ 60dB gain: >80 dB
Connectivity: RCA input/RCA output
Dimensions (WxDxH): 6.5"x7.2"x1.3" (165x183x30 mm)
Weight: 1.3 lbs (600 g)
Warranty: 2 Years
Manufacture: Made in Canada
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