iFi Phono3 Black Label Review

Discussion in 'Vinyl Nutjob World: Turntable and Related Gear' started by purr1n, Jun 22, 2020.

  1. Gaspasser

    Gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    This is a very important insight especially for people like me, who are looking to up their vinyl game. The only other logical approach I’ve come across is buying a Soundsmith cartridge (new or used) because their retip cost is very reasonable, usually 20-30% original price. I’ve not heard a SS cartridge, but I keep seeing them being recommended by a bunch a folks whose opinions I respect. Personally, if you and @JK47 like the DL103 to try and modify then I’m initially going that route.
     
  2. JoshMorr

    JoshMorr Friend

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    Another vote for the Denon. I also "upgraded" from more expensive 2M Black to a stock 103R. The conical stylus was a bit smoother and less detailed, but excelled at everything else. Soundstage and tone of a very expensive cart and 90% of the detail. Was always curious about the modded bodies, aluminum shells installed over bodies etc. Lots of options out there, just never got around to it. I recently loaned @brencho both the 2m Black and 103r when his cart was dismantled by a visitor so he might have some fresh opinions as well.
     
  3. Inoculator

    Inoculator Friend

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    I was unaware of this option, I may have to check this out. I was loving my new 103r (was still breaking it in), but then my turntable needed to be warranty swapped, and I still have not fitted my 103r back on my replacement deck in favor of breaking in the stock cart. Was considering paying $200 to Zu to have them upgrade the 103r...but might have to try this out first.

    As an aside, stock cartridge on my replacement Pro-ject Classic is a Sumiko Amethyst....not impressed. Can't believe they charge $600 for this cartridge. Granted it is not fully broken in yet, but it is very hollow sounding, and noisy as heck. Things just feel really sterile and lifeless.
     
  4. luckybaer

    luckybaer Friend

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    If you're a 1200GR/1210GR owner, the KAB TD1000 Tonearm Damping System is a fantastic addition. I can't opine on sonic improvements (I didn't do any comparisons before and after I installed the TD1000), but it definitely improved the movement of the tonearm and helped tracking on less-than-pristine LPs.

    I have a copy of Elvis Costello's "Get Happy!" that had an annoying skip in I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down. I could never get it to NOT skip with my Shure V15 Type III (very light VTF spec), and I could sometimes get it to NOT skip with an Ortofon 2M Red and AT VM750SH if I jacked the VTF up to .2 gr above the upper range of the recommended VTF (obviously a bad idea).

    After installing the TD1000, I was able to play the LP with the 1.0 gr VTF (low end for the JICO SAS VN35HE stylus) of the Shure V15 Type III.

    I imagine if the TD1000 can help a stylus navigate damaged grooves, it might help improve tracking on more pristine LPs?
     
  5. JK47

    JK47 The Beer Houdini

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    @ChaChaRealSmooth was gracious enough to drop this off at my pad for a listen. As I mentioned in a few profile posts, the iPhono 3 is pretty damn good. Over the last week I initially put it up against the Nighthawk for comparison, then added the EC Classic phono w/ DIY SUT (Cinemag 1254) to the mix.

    First off the iPhono is extremely quiet, slightly besting the Nighthawk (which is extremely good), and running neck and neck with the EC (they each had a slightly different kind of noise, ground vs emi or SUT?). The iPhono is technically excellent, and with the vast array of settings a real treat to play with.

    My only minuscule nitpick was that the mids always sounded a bit too crisp, almost raspy, and solid state, no matter what settings and combo of gear I tried. VPI Classic 1 w/ Zu Denon 103--> Pioneer M22/M25--> JBL 4312G, and zero headphone setups used... Friends don't let Friends vinyl with headphones... unless absolutely neccessary.

    The iPhono bests the Nighthawk technically, but I still feel the NH takes the cake in tone and BIG bottom end (although not as clean down there). The NH is like going to a band playing a 1000-2000 person venue and rocking out on the floor double fisting drinks, while the iPhono is like sitting in a box at a stadium concert drinking champagne. The NH is more up front and in your face, and the Iphono is more sterile and clinical. Overall I think the iPhono is definitely better in most regards, but not enough to make me want to go sell the NH and spend $1k on the iPhono (I might be tempted if it was $600), because I have the EC Classic Phono that I prefer immensely to both in MY system. It's almost like the EC merged the tone and fun of the NH with the technicalities of the iPhono, but better.

    However FWIW, YMMV, my system, your system, worn cartridges, cables, power supplies, moon phase, etc.

    This post was brought to you by:

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