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Phono Stages - Icon Audio

The output level from a turntable is lower than other "line level" music sources (e.g. hi-fi streamer, CD player), so to use a turntable, your hi-fi amplifier needs to have a "turntable" or "phono" input, which indicates it has a built in phono stage. However, these are generally built to cost (a tick on the features list) rather than being optimised for performance. As such, we recommend using a dedicated phono stage for the best sound quality. We are passionate about vinyl and analog, so if you need advice on matching a phono stage to your turntable and cartridge, please call or e-mail for advice.

Icon Audio is dedicated to the design of pure valve amplifiers and hi-fi separates. Inspired by vintage valve amplifiers with the finest circuit designs and build quality, Icon Audio believes the warm valve sound offers much musical enjoyment.

Icon Audio have been designing amplifiers since 1999 in the UK. From the beginning their amplifiers were awarded “best buy” and “five stars” by British Magazines like HiFi News, HiFi Choice and HiFi World. Recently, the MB845 mono blocks became "Reference Standard" in the HiFi world along with PS1 and PS3 phono stages.

Since the beginning, their product selection has included a range of integrated valve amplifiers that are widely considered to be class leaders, alongside a selection of premium "monoblok" valve power amplifiers and valve pre amplifiers and phono stages. Icon Audio have also released valve based CD players and high sensitivity hi-fi loudspeakers designed to match very effectively with valve amplification.

Unlike some other branded valve amplifiers that are put together cheaply or require manual biasing of the valves, most of Icon Audio's designs are "self biasing", meaning that you don't need to go through this process so regularly. As with all valve amplifiers, we always recommend allowing them to warm up for 5+ minutes before playing music, and such patience is richly rewarded.

The rated power of a valve amplifier tends to be lower than comparable solid-state integrated amplifiers, but providing effective matching between valve amp and speaker, this is not a concern, and in most scenarios, few other amplifier designs can beat the warm, lifelike sound of awell set-up valve amplifier. 

For advice on speaker matching, that's what we're here for! If you'd like to upgrade to a valve amplifier, call or e-mail us for specialist expert advice. We also have several Icon Audio models on demo in our showroom where you can listen and try before you buy.

Some turntables feature an on board phono stage, which will allow for direct connection to an amplifier. Many amplifiers also include a “phono” amplifier internally, enabling a direct connection from a turntable. However, as mentioned, there is a wide range of separate standalone phono stages available, varying in price, size and quality to suit every taste and budget. Using a good quality separate unit can have a profound effect on the overall sound and tonality of your system, and can also be used to augment and adjust a system which is tonally too bright or too lacklustre. For example, a system which is too bright may benefit from a valve-based phono stage to remove some harshness and to offer more tonal warmth to your music. We appreciate that matching your kit can be a complicated and daunting process, so our knowledgeable team is always happy to offer recommendations or to arrange a demonstration.

The separation of components and units is a key technique in hi-fi. Power supplies are typically noisy and produce unwanted resonance, which can interfere with audio signals and the sound you achieve from your hi-fi. Separate pre and power amplifiers are preferable to integrated amplifiers, as the separation of power supplies for the pre and power circuitry prevents unwanted resonance effecting performance. This same logic applies to a standalone phono stage, and is perhaps even more significant due to the analogue nature of vinyl records, and the adverse effect that any unwanted resonance or vibrations can have on a cartridge’s ability to track and play back vinyl records. By housing the phono stage in a separate unit, the stage’s power supply is essentially isolated from the turntable, making it easier to prevent any undesired effects of resonance on you enjoying your record collection.

It is essential to match your phono stage to your phono cartridge, in order to ensure that they are compatible. Some Moving Coil (MC) cartridges are very low output, and so will need a correspondingly high output phono stage able to boost the signals to an audible level. There are also some High Output Moving Coil cartridges, whose output levels are closer to levels found in Moving Magnet cartridges, and higher than those typically found in standard Moving Coil cartridges. Some phono stages are suitable for use with these High Output cartridges, but not every type of Moving Coil cartridge. It is vital to check that your phono stage matches the power output of your cartridge, although if you have a Moving Magnet (MM) cartridge then there should be no issues with pairing.

Phono Stages - Icon Audio

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