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February 2013 Issue
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I would like some advice on a pre-amp for my recently purchased XTZ AP100 Class A power amplifier. I understand that a valve pre amp works really well with a transistor power amp, so would you suggest any? Maybe the Icon Audio?

Also, what might be a good passive preamp as I see online there are scores of them, ranging from stepped attenuators and cheapish ones from the Far East, and also well reviewed stuff from Luminous Audio in the States, and numerous home grown items!! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

I would also like to take this opportunity to give thanks to Robert at Inspire, along with Jeff Spall at Audiomods, who both were superb with their advice and help in getting my Rega clear up and running! Both companies a credit to the British hi-fi scene!

Best regards,

David Prior


Icon Audio LA4 MkII preamplifier, with its 6SN7 valves, has a lovely smooth,

liquid sound that suits Naim power amplifiers, making for a great hybrid



The Icon Audio LA4 MkII is a good match for Naim because it has large bass, and that suits the Naim style, plus incredibly smooth and open midband due to those early, low current-density, 6SN7 triodes. There’s plenty of gain too.

Icon Audio make a good passive preamp and Creek have their remote controlled OBH-22 that uses an Alps motorised volume control pot. We don’t know the Luminous Audio product but it looks interesting. 

Another very interesting product to come our way, tested and reviewed last month, is the Furutech Esprit. This makes a very strong proposition: it is a preamp, it has USB record and playback, and it converts analogue to digital, so you can record from it. Not bad for £835. It has a squeaky clean transistor sound, so will not add the lush smoothness of a valve preamp, nor the sense of air and space, but for USB it is unrivalled.  




I was totally bowled over to win the prize Tellurium Q phono preamp in your magazine competition and wanted to let you know that my life has been changed profoundly as a result.

Your timing could not have been better. Over the last couple of years I have been trying to get my love of music back (new Sonus Faber Liuto towers and a Naim Supernait) and had come to the decision that I had to go back to vinyl. So my LP12 had to come out of retirement. But that involved so many practical issues – including no phono input on my amplifier, nowhere to put it, plus I didn’t know the condition of the turntable, arm and cartridge – each time I thought about it I was getting nowhere.

My first breakthrough was at the National Audio Show. I met up with Peter Swain from Cymbiosis who had last looked at my turntable in the 1980s and he proposed an examination of my system and discussion of the options in his listening room. I agreed.

Two days after that I took the call from your office to say that I was going to receive the five star award winning Tellurium Q Iridium phono preamp as a prize. Once I had been convinced that it wasn’t a hoax call (sorry) and I re-read the review (April 2012) I realized that my problems were probably going to change at some speed as a result. That was an underestimate.

First step was a call from Geoff Merrigan at Tellurium Q who has been fantastic from that day. Tellurium Q upgraded the phono to the very latest version (which improves upon the one reviewed) and made some helpful suggestions about cables. But most importantly sent the parcel for next day delivery!

I was waiting by the door when the postman came... and spent the next couple of hours moving everything and cabling up. Totally unfairly I tried out the system stone cold, no run in and so I was not expecting to listen – just check I had wired up OK.

But instead...words fail me. I had tears in my eyes and lost every bone in my body. It is astonishing, beautiful and sublime. Everything just fell away and left me listening to the music – it was an unearthly experience.

And as you recall I had pre-booked to take this same turntable to see if it was a runner. I was in total confusion. But loving the music. The soundstage was wide and deep, placement solid and the sound was an analogue joy. It was somehow just ‘right’. I could see why the review was so positive and there was nothing to say that was negative. It was all totally positive for me too.

When my wife came home she had a similar reaction. Most of my vinyl is quite old but well looked after. I played her ‘take five’ from her very early copy and she couldn’t move from the seat. She said ‘I don’t see what can be improved’.

Three hours with Peter Swain a week later showed me the possibilities. Each option demonstrated carefully and as a result I retained the Linn Ittok arm, updated the LP12 bearing to a Cirkus and changed the power supply and mat. The Linn Asaka cartridge was pensioned off and I invested in a beautiful Dynavector XX2. 

At the end of the session Peter switched the system to a ‘good’ £400/500 phono stage (that I might have bought). For the first time I saw the huge contribution of the Tellurium Q Iridium to the sound. Without it the delicacy, subtlety and beauty just fell away. It was just hi-fi – no longer ‘Heaven on Earth’.

When I spoke with Geoff he said that they are just a very small company and they only produce a device if it is the absolute best they can do. Colin Wonfor is responsible for the way the system works. And everything is made here in the UK with real care.

All I can say is that their care and Colin’s technical skill really shows through. If you want to get joy from vinyl and get the opportunity to try the Iridium out – don’t miss the chance. The difference it makes is fundamental and needs to be heard. I can’t find the words to explain what it does to me.

I am now looking forward to trying their upcoming DAC, which is one of their latest projects, as I know that it too will be worth waiting for.

This has been a tough year for me personally and there are times when I just need to find some peace away from things. So without exaggeration I can say it is life changing for me to be listening to music on vinyl again with this system. I have found joy and unblocked deep emotions. Does music get any better?

Thank you for changing my life - Geoff, Colin, Peter and everyone at HI-Fi World.

Peter Willmott



The Tellurium Q phono preamp won as a prize by Peter Willmott was an

"analogue joy" he says. 


Thanks for letting us know about your experiences Peter. It’s always good to hear about what went on. Almost turns Hi-Fi World into OK magazine! NK



As a result of an article in the December issue, I have bought the Ortofon 2M 78 cartridge and find it to be excellent. It tracks well at the recommended 1.8 g on conventional 78s and acetates while reducing the surface noise which I think shows that the stylus profile is accurate. 

I bought it partly because I use the Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge for stereo LPs.  I noted that Ortofon also list a 2M mono cartridge for mono vinyl. However, although the cartridge body appears to be the same as that for the 2M 78 unit (at £80), the cost of the mono version is £230 with a replacement stylus price of £175.  That seems to be unreasonable in comparison.

  I am sure that all original mono LPs and 45s need the larger stylus. What the more recent audiophile mono LPs need could be anything.

George Hulme




Ortofon's 78 rpm cartridge works well, says George Hulme.  


You're faster than us George! We will be reviewing the Ortofon Mono and 78 cartridges soon. The spherical tipped Mono did not work so well on a microgroove test disc, unlike the MC Cadenza Mono we tested, so we await Ortofon's comments. I believe it is purposed for old mono records, not new ones like the forthcoming Beatles Mono LPs. NK



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