I’ve been listening to the 810LP for several months with associated components of reference quality. The 810LP is completely at home in the context of the Basis Inspiration turntable and Air Tight PC-1 Supreme at the front end, and Constellation Centaur monoblocks, Lamm ML2.2 SETs, and Rowland 725s driving Magico Q7 loudspeakers through top- of-the-line MIT interconnects and cables. That, alone, says much about this phonostage’s fundamental quality. Moreover, my listening impressions of the Magico Q7, described in the previous issue, were formed with the 810LP in the system.
The 810LP is astonishingly quiet, even at the upper end of its gain range (I used 68dB of gain). The lack of background noise was instrumental in the 810LP’s ability to make instruments seem to hang in space completely independently of the loudspeakers and surrounded by the recorded acoustic. This quality is related to the 810’s outstanding resolution of low-level detail, such as spatial cues, that would be otherwise masked by a phonostage that didn’t have as quiet a background. I could hear deep into an instrument’s decay, giving the presentation a highly nuanced, filigreed quality. Joe Morello’s ride cymbal, for example, on Analogue Productions’ new 45rpm reissue of Dave Brubeck’s classic Time Out was startling in its immediacy and delicacy, and in its resolution down to the lowest levels of shimmer. Very fine details of timbre, space, and micro-transient information were vividly portrayed, but with a complete ease and naturalness. It’s difficult to overstate the value of these qualities to the listening experience. When playing LPs with super-quiet surfaces (everything that has been coming out of Quality Record Pressings) at high levels, the 810LP’s low noise floor produced near-digital quiet between tracks.
In addition, the completely silent background seemed to present a colorless canvas on which the music was portrayed. The lack of an omnipresent whitish “rush” set the stage for a stunning sense of transparency to the source. The 810LP simply disappeared from the signal path more than any other phonostage I’ve heard in my system—it imposes so little of itself tonally, spatially, and dynamically. If the recording is rich in tone color, warm, and full, the 810LP sounds rich, warm, and full. If the LP contains lots of fast transient detail, the 810LP conveys that quality with aplomb. The Simaudio has no discernable sonic signature that it imposes over all recordings.
When listening to a variety of power amplifiers and preamplifiers with the 810LP as the source, I heard significant differences between each amplifier’s tonal balance, dynamic speed, and spatial presentation. The 801LP allowed each amplifier’s unique signature to emerge without imposing a marked signature of its own.
The 810LP has an extremely extended, open, and detailed top end that contributes to a sense of spaciousness and air. The top end (and midrange, for that matter) is pristine, with a crystalline- like clarity. The lack of grain and glare produces absolutely gorgeous string sound—liquid, full-bodied, and rich, yet at the same time highly resolved.
As noted previously, I was particularly taken by the 810LP’s reproduction of cymbals. The resolution of fine detail against a silent backdrop, the openness and extension, the air surrounding images, and the lack of synthetic artifacts all combined to render cymbals with a stunning naturalness.
The midband was equally impressive. The impression of the phonostage getting out of the way was remarkable, allowing me to hear through the system back to the recording chain. The 810LP maintained super-delineation of separate instruments and voices, never congealing the soundstage even during the most complex passages. I heard nuances of orchestration in Holst’s The Planets (Mehta, Speakers Corner reissue) that completely captivated me. There’s a track on Jennifer Warne’s The Hunter (“Somewhere, Somebody”) in which she’s accompanied by a male voice almost in a dual-lead, with both voices positioned exactly in the center of the soundstage. The 810LP does an amazing job of creating the impression of two separate sound sources.