Phono stages Group Test - Icon Audio PS3

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ICON AUDIO PS3  £1,399



The Icon Audio PS3 is a no compromise design based around four ECC 88s and a 6SN7 output valve. The PSU contains an oversize power transformer and an EZ80 valve as rectifier. Regulation is via a 5687 valve, controlled by an ECC83. A chrome finished toggle switch on the front of the PSU activates blue LEDs positioned in the corners of the top of the chassis, as well as supplying power. A corresponding switch on the phono stage changes the signal from mono to stereo. To the left of this is a volume control, allowing the unit to drive a power amp directly if you wish to be a purist, on the right is another knob to select MM or MC input. This is fed from separate pairs of sockets for each type, mounted at the back, along with another toggle switch that allows the earth connection to be lifted, which sometimes improves the sound in some systems. It is a case of experiment for yourself


After the analytical Diablo, the more laid back and organic sounds emanating from the PS3 were a marked contrast. The PS3 did detail, oodles of it, but in a pleasantly understated way that reminded me of the exemplary manners of the Kora 3T Ltd. and its balanced and flowing account of the music fed into it. But this time there was seemingly endless depth, the sort that only thermionic circuits ever produce.


With Dusty Springfield, it wasn't the deep and elegantly presented bass or the gentle but distinct rustle of shakers that struck me, but to the way I suddenly cared about the meaning of the lyrics of the song - the recounting of the regret at the pain caused to a loved one by a thoughtless moment. I felt involved with the emotion played out by the singer, as well as physically carried by the sway of the rhythm. Back to the Chenier piece and the effect was stupendous, the sudden speed of a crescendo having a physical impact on the listener. The musical roller coaster ride builds to a new level each time before the finale. The Icon presented it with a scale that reminded why opera is sometimes prefixed with the word ‘Grand’.


The only quibble I could possibly have with this machine was the slurring of the ends of some of the very deep bass notes that populate ‘Electric Roundabout’. It was only slight, and had seemingly no effect upon the foot driving beats of the tunes, yet it was not quite as tight as it should have been. This is the one area where the PS3 is not a stellar performer, and where the Kora 3T at half the price beats it roundly. Overall though, the Icon Audio PS3 is an exceptionally good phono stage, and a compulsory audition for anyone looking for one of the best. I felt that it lived up to the reputation it has earned in the pages of this magazine.



verdict five globes

Sweet and sumptuous sounding phono stage with great scale and depth. Hard to beat anywhere near the price.


Icon Audio

+44 (0)116 2440593


- sumptuous triode sound

- depth and dimensionality

- facilities


- slight lack of low bass grip


Equalisation accuracy was fairly accurate from 5Hz to 46kHz for MM, our analysis showing some emphasis of the 75uS characteristic above 1kHz, which will add a little sheen. Equalisation accuracy for MC had output rising steadily above 1kHz to measure +1dB at 17kHz, at maximum (and minimum) volume settings. The volume control rolled off upper treble a little, by -1dB or so at 20kHz, when at centre with both MM and MC. Low frequencies roll off below 7Hz so warp signals will be attenuated little.


Noise was low via the MM input, measuring 0.7uV equivalent input noise, IEC A weighted. This is low so hiss will be inaudible with MM cartridges. On MC noise measured 0.09uV a little more than is possible with input transformers, but still relatively quiet. There was no hum either. Both MM and MC have very high maximum gain factors of x314 and x3000 respectively, so very low output MCs will be compatible. From just 0.1mV through the MC input the PS3 will deliver 300mV output to an amplifier, just enough to drive most to full output. Distortion and overload levels were fine.


The PS3 measures well in all areas, with a small amount of treble emphasis. NK

Frequency response MM 5Hz-46kHz

MC 7Hz-17kHz

Separation (MM, MC) 51dB

Noise (e.i.n., A wtd.) 0.08uV

Distortion 0.06 / 0.11%

Gain (MM, MC) x314 / x3000

Overload (MM, MC)

150mV, 15mV in / 30V out






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