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TIMESTEP T-01MC MOVING COIL PHONO STAGE
A STEP IN TIME
Tony Bolton tries out a new phono stage for Moving Coil cartridges.
One of the interesting things about some audio equipment is the unusual route that technology can take from its initial implementation, through to its usage within the audio field. In the case of the Timestep T-01 MC phonostage it is the use of low noise circuitry and power supplies that were developed by the company to improve the reception of signals from weather satellites.
Timestep are more recently known in the audio field as developers and manufacturers of power supply units for the Technics SL1200 series of turntables. This is their first commercially available phonostage, although owner, Dave Cawley, told me that he built his first one as far back as 1981, to partner a Dynavector Ruby Carat cartridge.
Several designs later, the T-01 MC became a reality, boasting discrete dual mono circuits fed by a custom made toroidal transformer. RIAA equalisation is passive and gain provided by four Toshiba FETs (Field Effect Transistors) per channel. The signal inputs via lossless gold plated PTFE input connectors and by a Dale CMF55 input matching resistor. Resistance is factory set at 100 Ohms, which matches most modern moving coil cartridges. Other values can be provided on request. Dave says that this resistor, and the Wima polypropylene RIAA capacitors, were the two most sonically influential choices of component in the finished design.
The power supply uses four Shottkey diodes made by Vishay, and is accessed by an IEC socket at the back right of the casework. Between this and the four gold plated phono sockets for the signal, is a Ground Lift switch. This disconnects the internal electronics from the earth, should an earth loop be causing hum, but keeps the chassis earthed through the mains for safety.
The slim casework (measuring 445 x 310 x 48mm, w x d x h) is made from high grade aluminium, finished in black. The only control is the power-on knob on the front left, which is accompanied by an orange LED, that is set to glow gently, not light the room up like a stage set.
After switching on, the instructions advise that the unit is given two minutes to warm up. After then it reaches full performance within about 20 minutes. They also suggest that the running in period will take up to two weeks. I didn’t get to complete that entirely, but I feel that the performance had settled down and matured enough that I was probably 95% of the way there.