The Vincent Audio PHO-8 is a well finished and appointed dual-chassis phono preamp that belies its entry-level price. Sporting attractive 10mm-thick faceplates, it bears a striking resemblance to Vincent Audio’s Premium Series components. The phono section is gain-and-load-optimized for both moving-magnet and moving-coil cartridges—a convenient front-panel pushbutton lets you choose between them. PHO-8’s construction is sturdy and the neat interior layout reveals the short signal paths and bundles of high-quality parts necessary to achieve the critical low-noise operation that elevates quality phono preamps from the norm.
Rather than toss in a pedestrian wall-adapter power supply—generally underpowered and noisy little varmints—Vincent Audio, to its credit, opted for a hefty external power supply housed in a separate chassis. This three-pounder has a considerable transformer and superior power regulation to thank for its mass, but you’ll likely thank it for doing its job—reducing AC power line ripples and interference to a minimum. The PHO-8's power-supply unit connects to the phonostage unit via a five-pin DIN-plug. The two units can be stacked if space is at a premium, but that somewhat defeats the purpose of chassis isolation. The PHO-8 also includes a detachable IEC-style power cord and a rear-panel fuse.
The sonic personality of the PHO-8 leans gently to the romantic side of the spectrum. The PHO-8 offers a fine balance of warmth and resolution without conveying overly hard edges or pointed sonic corners. This contrasts with some phonostages that tend to veer uncomfortably close to a drier and more clinical portrayal of music—components that somehow illicit greater apparent detail from the grooves, while leaving some of the midband blood and heart of the performance behind—or, in other cases, attenuating the ambience and air of a recording. The PHO-8 reproduces percussion transients, rimshots, guitar-pick clatter with lifelike speed and detail that don’t stab at you. Bass is firmly controlled. Soundstage width is very good, and with its relaxed character there’s an added sense of depth and dimensionality. For comparison sake, it’s a bit warmer but perhaps not as finely focused or extended in the bass as the recently reviewed Clearaudio Basic Plus, but more dynamically punchy and fleshed out than the Musical Fidelity V-LPS. (Issue 206)
The PHO-8’s extension at the extremes has limits in absolute terms, but to be clear it’s not as if the Vincent steeply cuts off the high treble and low bass. It’s just somewhat rolled, which creates a light shading of upper-harmonic boundaries to string sections and winds and a rolling back of the throttle on the resonance of bass viols and piano. Voice reproduction is well-grounded and focused. Marc Cohn’s throaty voice and gritty delivery isn’t a slam-dunk for phono preamps by any means. His voice is filled with so much natural texture that any associated treble peaks or colorations from electronics tend to bleach the sound, but I thought the PHO-8’s midrange energy and balance were an excellent match for vocalists in general and this singer specifically [Marc Cohn, MoFi].
Vincent - PHO-8
- Brands Vincent Audio
- Product Code: PHO-8
- Availability: In Stock