A special insight into the Classic PHONO
Following the success of the new Classic Line products, and products such as the Classic PREAMP, Classic AMP and TUBE DAC, it was time to get analog and upgrade the Nagra VPS. The VPS was introduced in 2007 following the success of the Nagra PL-P phono stage, originally introduced in 1998. The mission of the Classic PHONO was to offer the features and style appreciated in the VPS but to take them to a new level, using principles applied in the design of the HD Line of products. The design process is based on extensive computer simulation followed by prototyping. The prototypes are then measured in depth before being listened to. The Nagra team undertakes an iterative process in which a new prototype is made, or changes are made to an existing prototype, followed by measurement, listening and so on.
The listening sessions are either recreational where we want to be more emotionally driven, or formal, where we always use the same tracks at the same levels and a discussion is made by the panel to decide on next steps. The Classic PHONO development took place after the release of the Nagra HD DAC X at the end of 2018 and spanned several months with a product release in September 2020.
It is no secret that Nagra has invested a lot in transformer design and production. Our company is fortunate in having its own transformer workshop, nestling in the heart of the factory, in a very protected part of the building. The step-up transformer is the first component that the delicate LP signal reaches and thus it needs to be extremely well designed and built. The signal coming out of the cartridge is very low and fragile. There are different options to amplify it, the best solution by far being to use a transformer. The transformer not only provides passive gain, it also isolates the cartridge from the phono stage and unwanted hum or radio frequencies. This is the optimal way to extract the best from the cartridge. The original Nagra transformers used in the PL-P and VPS were derived from the legendary recorders’ microphone input stage. A commonality with microphonic and LP signals is their very low voltage and fragile nature. However, in the Classic PHONO we wanted to have a fresh approach and we decided to use the same toroidal core as is found in the Nagra HD PREAMP and Nagra HD DAC X. In the end the transformer offers 16 dB of passive gain with a spectacular phase and frequency responses - two equally important parameters in a transparent sound reproduction, among others.
The Classic PHONO comes with an internal power supply derived from the Classic PREAMP but further filtered to operate in a phono environment. The Classic PHONO will deliver fantastic results connected directly to the mains. However, it will express its full potential associated with the Nagra Classic PSU super-cap power supply. The Classic PHONO and the Classic PSU can also be upgraded mechanically using the Classic VFS vibration dampers to offer more soundstage and bass definition.
Review of the Classic PHONO of STEREO MAGAZINE, Germany
More amazing Classic PHONO reviews
(...) this phono preamp is simply the highest note of the magazine in 25 years of existence!"