Much of my listening was conducted with the Clearaudio da Vinci V2 mc and Sound Tradition MC-10 step-up. In this context, there was more than enough gain to be had, and the remaining issue revolved around the choice of volume control. I tried a few buffer stages and linestages, solid-state as well as tube, and the sonic character of each unit was clearly audible. In particular, the coupling with Schiit Audio’s Freya preamp was a clear winner. The Freya is another miraculous product, supremely musical when operated as a tube preamp, and just as affordable as the TPAD phonostage. The low end firmed up and the big tone character of the Freya’s 6SN7 tube complement shone right through, with doublebass reproduction taking on a satisfying flesh-and-bones illusion of the real thing.
After experimenting with a variety of line preamps and buffer stages I inferred that the inherent character of the phonostage was quite neutral and that it would not in general dictate the sonic flavor of the front end in use. Having said that, I don’t mean to imply that its tube lineage was ever in doubt. Imaging was very much tube-like with excellent soundstage width and palpable image outlines. Image focus could have used a bit more control, which I rated as a 7 out of 10. And for some reason, the depth perspective wasn’t fully fleshed out, possibly a function of the 6DJ8 used.
The presentation was well integrated from top to bottom with the orchestra’s power range being nicely complemented by pretty well-defined bass and sparkling upper registers. A key performance aspect that endeared this phonostage to me was its ability to extract plenty of passion from vinyl. A startling aspect of that was the TPAD’s ability to scale the range from soft to loud without any complaints or increases in the distortion spectrum. I would venture to say that such dynamic excellence can be directly attributed to the Borbely circuit.
In many respects, the TPAD 1000 wasn’t far behind much more expensive phonostages, and generally impressed me as a solid class B performer. I don’t know what more you could ask for at this price point. It strikes me as a significant accomplishment at what is a bargain-basement price in the audiophile arena. To my ears it sounds far better than your average entry-level phonostage, and I imagine that sonically it should walk all over comparably priced solid-state units. Be sure to check it out if you’re in search of a budget phonostage that doesn’t much sound like one. The TPAD 1000 gets my vote for budget phonostage of the year.
Specs & Pricing
Voltage gain: 34dB at 1kHz
Input impedance: 47k ohms
Dimensions: 12" x 3" x 8"
Weight: 12 lbs. (shipping weight)
TRITSCHLER PRECISION ENGINEERING
P.O. Box 39
Enon, OH 45323
Speakers: German Physiks HRS-130, OB3 (DIY)
Power amplifier: Merrill Audio Veritas and VTL Manley Reference 200/100 monoblocks, NYAL Moscode 600 (modified)
Line preamplifier: Lamm Audio L2.1, Schiit Audio Freya, Brown Audio Labs SP-1B, Experience Music AVC, Blue Velvet (DIY)
Analog source: Kuzma Reference turntable and Stogi Reference 313 VTA tonearm, Clearaudio da Vinci V2 mc, Sound Tradition Live MC-10 step-up transformer
Cables: FMS Nexus-2, Wire World, and Kimber KCAG interconnects, Acoustic Zen Hologram II speaker cable
AC power: Monarchy Audio AC-Regenerator, Sound Application power line conditioners