Here at Soundings, one of the best parts of the job is getting to hang out with other industry folks that love hifi just as much as we do. Often times we have to wait until our annual reunion at RMAF to see these friends. Recently, however, we were fortunate enough to be able to have both Jon Derda and Ian Forte from MoFi Distribution at our store to show us what new, cool things they have to offer. This audio adventure included parts and pieces from almost every 2-channel audio category. Jon and Ian sent us new electronics from Primare, a tonearm from Jelco, and the Nova power conditioner along with a wonderful Ascension power cord from Isotek. MoFi also brought their new turntable and phono stage, the StudioDeck (with UltraTracker cartridge) and StudioPhono for audition.
MoFi Distribution is the sister company of the legendary recording label, Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs. Since they share this awesome lineage, MoFi Distribution’s goal is to make available audio equipment that will faithfully represent their amazing recordings. I will attempt to describe some of the sounds that we experienced, but I know that I will not be able do them justice. Regardless of what our opinion is, I highly recommend anybody to come into the store and we will do our best to recreate what we heard. Expect to see more information on each of these items in the coming weeks.
We decided that it would be fun to start out with the new turntable. The StudioDeck turntable and tonearm were designed by MoFi Electronics with the help of legendary turntable engineer, Allen Perkins (Spiral Groove Turntables). One of the goals was to make sure that the design was easy to use, be at a reasonable price point, and not give up the fun qualities that vinyl is known for. The StudioDeck ($1,499 with cart) has many features that are usually not found in an entry level turntable like its delrin platter and HRS-designed, self-leveling feet . The UltraTracker moving magnet cartridge is also from MoFi. This cartridge had a really fun sound that made us want to keep playing records. We listened to a couple full albums while demoing. We have other cartridges that will pull more detail from a record, but they may not be as fun and engaging at this price point. When we connected it to their new StudioPhono ($299), it was apparent that MoFi has underpriced this piece of gear. It sounded amazing. We compared it to nearly every other phono stage in the store and were pleasantly surprised at its ability to keep pace with the more expensive items we have on display. It will easily beat the built-in phono stages found in many AVRs. Since it was designed with the help of Tim De Paravicini of E.A.R. Electronics, I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised.
Next we moved to the Jelco tonearm. We have all been waiting a while to hear this one. One of the most popular turntable configurations that we offer at Soundings is the Woodpecker turntable from Dr. Feickert paired with the Jelco SA-750LB tonearm. Jelco had not updated this model in nearly 30 years. Now comes the anticipated SA-850L with a new knife-edge bearing design. MoFi has taken the ‘850 to even greater heights by bundling it with the Easy VTA adjustable mount. This allows for much more precise VTA adjustments on the fly. Jon described this new sound best as “having more meat on the bone than the old design.” I couldn’t agree more. The sound stage was much larger than before and way more dynamic too. Not too shabby for $1,635 including the easy VTA adjuster. Several configurations are available.
Primare is a brand that Soundings has been proudly carrying for many years. They recently gave their 2-channel lineup a major overhaul and the core components from their “30″ series have finally arrived! This includes the new Pre35 preamp ($4,495), the new R35 phono stage ($1,999) and the highly anticipated A35.2 ($3,500) stereo amp. The preamp provided to us has the optional DAC and Prisma streaming board installed to complete the package. The phono stage has been completely redesigned and is a step up in sound quality, for sure, from the R32 that preceded it. However, the R35 is brand new and was not yet broken in, so we did not listen too critically. We expect the sound to improve further once we have some more hours played on it. We will report back with the results.
The Primare amplifier turned out to be the real star of the show. It features Primare’s latest UFPD-2 amplifier technology. The same technology is utilized in the flagship A60 amplifier. It allows the A35.2 to deliver 200 watts into 8 ohms or 400 watts into 4 ohms. You can also bridge this differentially balanced amplifier to mono and have it pump out a whopping 800 watts at 8 ohms into a single channel! The class-D amplification also means that it still runs cool and can be kept inside a cabinet if needed. For $3,500, this amplifier is a real bargain.
We didn’t want to stop listening to the new Primare gear stack, so we decided to check out the Isotek power conditioner on the same system. Here’s the gear we started with:
Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Concert Grand Speaker
Primare Pre35 preamp
Primare A35.2 stereo amp
Bluesound Node 2i
Chord Qutest DAC
Isotek Aquarius Power Conditioner
Isotek Titan High-Current Power Conditioner
We did some more listening to get a solid baseline on the sound quality and then swapped the Isotek Aquarius and Titan for the more advanced Nova power conditioner. What a huge difference! The Nova improved the overall bass response, widened the sound stage and provided a quieter presentation over the other Isotek pieces. We have done countless tests to prove that an Isotek power conditioner will make your system sound better than using a basic power strip or plugging directly to the wall, but we were surprised that this more compact device for similar money could outperform what we had been using. We took it further by adding the Ascension power cord. This improved the system even further. The Isotek power cords have a very smooth character that is difficult to describe in words, but easy to recognize once you hear it. You could use this cord on any power conditioner and get great results. Both products come highly recommended for any system that needs power conditioning and surge protection.
We did many more comparisons and many great conversations while we had the pleasure of hanging out with MoFi, too many to list here. I would strongly encourage anyone who reads this to give us a call or come in the store for a demo. We will happily share with you the experiences we’ve had and can setup the same demos so you to enjoy them too. Thanks again to MoFi for everything they do.
MoFi Electronics: https://www.mofielectronics.com/turntables