Put on a record like the 45rpm reissue of Muddy Waters Folk Singer to hear the 810’s phenomenal sense of space and depth. The snare drum lights up the acoustic and defines the space. Or listen to just how far back in the soundstage the tambourine is in “Jupiter” from The Planets. This LP has tremendous dimensionality that the 810LP reveals in all its glory.
The 810LP’s bass tends to be tight and defined rather than big and bloomy, a character that conveys the tonal and dynamic shadings of great acoustic bass playing. The bass has a dynamic agility and “speed” that reveals more of the attack and decay of plucked doublebass and, with that quality, greater swing and rhythmic expression.
It’s not my intention to fuel the tired analog-vs.-digital debate, but when it comes to pure naturalness of timbre, or the recreation of the acoustic in which the music was performed, or the ease with which detail is presented, LP playback unquestionably trumps CD. I was late in discovering the fabulous 1983 recording 88 Basie Street by Count Basie, recorded by the great engineer Alan Sides. I knew the album from the XRCD version, and I judged it easily one of the best-sounding CDs in my library without having heard the LP in my system. A friend knew someone with duplicate LP copies, and arranged for him to send me a used original 1983 Pablo pressing. Played on the Basis Inspiration ’table, Air Tight PC-1 Supreme cartridge, Stillpoints rack, and Simaudio 810LP phonostage, 88 Basie Street came to life in a way that this premium CD never did. The timbres of the brass and woodwinds was more natural and organic, the sense of space around each instrument became tangible, Basie’s piano had more warmth, the soundstage became three-dimensional by contrast, and the impression of contemporaneous music-making suddenly became vivid. All from a 29-year-old, used, standard-pressing LP.
The Simaudio 810LP is technically impressive, particularly its heroic power-supply design and vibration-isolation measures. It’s also solidly built, and offers such a wide array of gain and loading options that make optimizing its performance for any cartridge a snap. Purely on paper, this is a lot of phonostage.
The 810LP’s sound quality is world-class by any measure. It combines a dead-quiet background, a pristine clarity of timbre, outstanding dynamics, and an expansive and well-defined soundstage. Even under the microscope of the Magico Q7 loudspeaker, the Simaudio 810LP impressed not just with its audiophile attributes, but more importantly with how musically compelling it made LP listening. Since receiving the review sample an increasing amount of my listening time has been to analog, and I’ve been buying more LPs than ever before. Moreover, I have no itch to say “yes” to review offers of mega- priced phonostages. The 810LP is that good.
I know I’ll get letters objecting to my calling a $12,000 phonostage a bargain, but how else can you describe a flexible, beautifully built, statement-grade product with this level of sound quality—and from a venerable company with a 32-year track record?
SPECS & PRICING
Type: Solid-state phonostage preamplifier
Gain: 40dB–70dB in 16 settings
Inputs: One pair single-ended (RCA), one pair balanced (XLR)
Outputs: One pair single-ended (RCA), one pair balanced (XLR)
Cartridge loading: 16 settings from 0pf to 1120pf (capacitance); 64 settings from 12.1 ohms to 47k ohm (impedance)
Signal-to-noise ratio: 115dBr (full-scale at 40dB gain); 95dBr (full-scale at 70dB gain)
RIAA accuracy: +/- 0.1dB, 20Hz–20kHz
Power consumption: 10W
Weight: 40 lbs.
Dimensions: 18.75" x 16.81" x 4"
Digital Sources: dCS Vivaldi system (transport, upsampler, clock, DAC); Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Series 2; iMac server with Berkeley Alpha USB interface
Analog Source: Basis Inspiration turntable with Basis Vector 4 tonearm, Air Tight PC-1 Supreme cartridge
Preamplifiers: Rowland Corus, Constellation Perseus
Power Amplifiers: Jeff Rowland Design Group 725, Lamm ML2.2, Constellation Centaur monoblocks
AC Conditioning and Cords: Shunyata Triton and Talos, Audience aR6TS conditioners; Shunyata Zitron Anaconda and Audience Au24 AC cords
Cables: Shunyata Anaconda interconnects and loudspeaker cables; MIT MAX2 and MA-C interconnects, MIT MA-X SHD loudspeaker cables; AudioQuest WEL Signature interconnects, Transparent XL Reference interconnects; AudioQuest Diamond USB digital cable
Equipment Racks: Stillpoints
Isolation: Stillpoints Ultra SS and Ultra5
Acoustics: ASC 16" Full-Round Tube Traps, 10" Tower Traps
Accessories: VPI 16.5 record-cleaning machine; Mobile Fidelity record brush, cleaning fluid, stylus cleaner