Berendsen Analog One Phono Preamplifier
|Berendsen Analog One Phono Preamplifier
Keeping LP playback alive and well in the new millennium
“Things aren’t what they seem to be.” This phrase is true when it comes to the LP. The advent of the CD was supposed to be the death knell for the LP and subsequently all hardware associated with LP playback. Of course there isn’t that much new vinyl being produced today as compared to its heyday. But when you consider the millions of LPs out there that contain some of the best music of the past century, it is easy to understand why there is still a great interest. Young people with iPods are getting into LPs simply because they like the music contained in the grooves. I got into CDs only because a lot of the newer music I liked was not being offered on vinyl. Don’t write me off as a CD basher, the quality of CDs and CD playback equipment has improved dramatically in recent years. I guess it is safe to say that if people love music they will deal with whatever medium there is to reproduce it. This brings to mind that there are still quite a number of companies that make hardware for LP playback and more seem to be popping up each year. It is ironic that in the so called twilight era of the LP some of finest turntables, tonearms, cartridges, and phono preamplifiers ever made are being produced.
Let me focus in on one component of the LP playback chain, the phono preamplifier. For those of you who are new to LP playback the phono preamplifier is the electronic hardware that amplifies and equalizes the small signal coming from the phono cartridge. The level of amplification (gain) is designed to be high at low frequencies and gradually diminish as the frequencies become higher. There are predetermined frequencies where the gain changes according to standards set by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). This is where the term ‘RIAA equalization’ comes from. The primary objectives of good phono preamp design are low noise, low distortion, accurate RIAA equalization, and proper interface to the phono cartridge. How well these objectives are met varies greatly. It becomes quite evident when you consider the price of a phono preamp can range from less than $100 to about $30,000. Let me assure that you don’t have to spend anywhere near $30,000 to experience musically satisfying LP playback. The Berendsen Analog One is certainly proof of that.
Berendsen is a German audio electronics company. Sven Berendsen, the owner and chief designer, has formal training in electronics and music. He has dedicated himself to making equipment that accurately reproduces the recorded event at reasonable prices. Randall Marder, a long time audiophile and owner of Distinguished Audio Imports LLC, recognized the value of the Berendsen product line and became the US importer.
The Analog One at $1895.00 is Berendsen’s top phono preamp. It is a very well constructed one piece unit. Internally it is dual mono construction all the way to the AC power input connector. Cosmetically the preamp sports a ¼” thick silver-gray faceplate with a black steel chassis. The push button power switch is located on the faceplate to the far left. There is a LED below the power switch that glows red when the unit is powered on. There are two LEDs on the far right that indicate whether the preamp is in the moving magnet (MM) or moving coil (MC) mode. All connections are made on the back panel via RCA jacks. The exception is the AC power input which is an IEC connector. Looking from left to right there is the ground post, MC input, MC R- Load, MM input, L- Load, main output, push button switch for MC or MM input selection, and AC power input. The impedance of MC input is 1.43Kohms. This impedance can be lowered by inserting loading phono plugs into the R- Load jacks. The Analogue One comes with a phono plug loading kit that has resistances of 10 ohms, 100 ohms, 600 ohms, and 1khms. This should cover most MC cartridges out there. The impedance of the MM is set to the standard 47Kohms.The L- Load jacks allow the user to put capacitance across the MM input to compensate for the inductance (L) of moving magnet cartridges. There isn’t a capacitance phono plug loading kit that comes with the preamp. You will have to make your own or have someone do it for you.
The Analog One has design features that I really like. There is a separate front-end amplification stage for moving coil and moving magnet cartridges. Moving magnet and moving coil have quite different phono preamp interface requirements. When you have separate stages you can optimize each stage for the task it must perform. This is what is done in the Analog One. Another feature is the ability to change the gain via jumper plugs to match the output level of the phono cartridge. The user’s guide provides instruction on how to set the jumper plugs. The output of the front-end stage drives a highly accurate passive RIAA equalization network which is buffered by the output amplification stage. All of the amplification stages are class A biased with single end output stages. The single ended output stage is a nice touch as opposed to the more common push-pull type. Push-pull output stages tend to reduce the even order harmonics disproportionately with respect to the odd order harmonics which can affect tonality.
Internally the Analog One has a well designed layout that uses high quality parts. The amplification stages are made of discrete transistors and exhibit very low noise. The power supplies are massive for a preamp. The two toroid power transformers are very well shielded and positioned away from the sensitive amplification stages. I experienced no internally generated hum. There is 37,800uF of filter capacitance which is more than what is found in many power amplifiers. Voltage regulation is handled by three terminal integrated circuit regulators. All in all this is a very well executed design.
The Denon DL-S1 phono cartridge that I use has a very low output of 0.15mV at 5cm/sec. The impedance of the cartridge is about 40 ohms. This places quite a demand on a phono preamplifier in terms of noise performance. The Analog One was set at the highest gain setting. The cartridge resistive loading was 1.43Kohms which is the impedance of the MC input. The noise performance was on par with my Klyne 7PX 3.5 and the Whest 2.0.
I’ll get to the point and say that the Analog One is one fine sounding phono preamp period. Even though the Analog One is a solid state preamp it is by no means sterile sounding. The sound is slightly on the warm side of neutral. It is not as warm or tonally vivid as some tube preamps tend to be. Micro and macro dynamics are handled well. The natural reproduction of the musical event is quite good, although it is not in the same class as the Klyne 7PX3.5 which is more than twice the price. One would be hard pressed to find a preamp, regardless of price, that can match the Klyne in terms of naturalness. The soundstage reproduction capability of the Analog One is basically a function of the recording. There is no apparent exaggeration of stage width or depth. Instruments are clearly defined in the soundstage. In the area of detail there is plenty. However it is musical detail. The detail is rendered as part of the musical event and not as an entity unto itself. The Analog One is a very balanced design in terms of overall sonic performance. It essentially reproduces what the recording has to offer.
If you are looking for a great sounding phono preamp in the $1000 to $3000 range, I strongly suggest that you give the Analog One an audition in your system. I think you will find the experience to be a musically satisfying one. Highly recommended.
H. Courtenay Osborne
Inputs: 1 pair MM RCA; 1 pair MC RCA
Outputs: 1 pair line RCA
Input sensitivity MC: 0.15 mV – 2 mV
Input sensitivity MM: 3 mV – 7mV
De-emphasise: according to RIAA
Linearity: < +/- 0.05 dB
S/N-Ratio: > 74 dB
Input impedance MC: 1.43 k Ohm
Input impedance MM: 47 k Ohm
Gain matching, internal: +/-6 dB
Amplifier operation: Discrete single-ended class A
Impedance selection: Via additional RCA-jacks
Toroidal transformer: 2x30VA mu-metal shielded
Filter capacitance: 37,800 µF
Weight: 17.5 lbs./8Kg
Size: 17.5″ x 10,2″ x 2.6″/445x260x65mm
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