MoFi UltraPhono phonostage... Sound quality?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by dogpile, Mar 14, 2017.

  1. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Sorry, I would rather not do that. Someone else that owns it might oblige though.
     
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  2. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    No problem, just curious, it will show up sooner or later in a review.
     
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  3. Mono button, dip switches for loading, MC capability... sounds like a very flexible unit. It would be interesting to hear others observations on the MC capability, as you know the Mani has MC, but it is not its bread and butter, although it has performed acceptably for me on both my ATMono33 (LOMC) and ATMono3/LP (HOMC). I have never tried the Mani with my DL-110 or DL-103... one of these days I will though.

    Thanks for sharing, this seems to be getting good press from users so far, and at the price point we may be seeing another contender.... I may be looking for a Mani replacement / upgrade, but where I am using the Mani (the woodshop), I want the same flexibility and it seems like the Mofi has that. As well as an upgrade in SQ, always welcomed.
     
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  4. Two questions swimming around in my head now after reading the thread so far: what does the Ultra give SQ-wise for $499 over the Studio for $249.... and likewise how does the Ultra stack up against the iPhono 2 at the same price point....

    ... sounds like this will come over time as the Ultra is not as widespread among users yet. One thing that has me scratching my head - I looked at Crutchfield, MusicDirect and Mofi websites, and none have pictures of the dip switches? Maybe I missed something though.
     
  5. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Download the manual and loading PDF from the website if you want a diagram and details of the loading options. Ultra Phono, besides having a headphone amp, has better SNR than the Studio Phono.
     
  6. Yeah, I saw the manual, I was just referring to a pic.
     
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  7. MikeJedi

    MikeJedi Forum Resident

    Location:
    Las Vegas
    Love my Studio Phono ! Best one I have ever owned IMO Still dont know how they managed to sell this thing for only 249 !!! Lol
     
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  8. MikeJedi

    MikeJedi Forum Resident

    Location:
    Las Vegas

    My Dl110 sounds great thru my studiophono FWIW
     
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  9. vinylbuff

    vinylbuff Forum Resident

    Location:
    North Port Florida
    Patient_ot mentioned that the Ultra phono is quieter........it's like an additional 6db quieter. My Ultra is ultra quiet and I notice more precise soundstage, but that could be the Ania mc cart. too. I looked at the iphono 2 but the Ultra phono has the built in headphone amp and the mono switch which helped sell me. I'm glad I got it. With the RP8/Ania/Ultraphono, I think I'm done upgrading in this lifetime. (edit): No, I am done upgrading......:agree:
     
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  10. Chester0711

    Chester0711 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Minneapolis,MN
    Okay, so bare with my very remedial language to describe what I am hearing but....

    Using a Denon Dl-103 (LOMC)....

    After a weekend of touring the Mofi- Studio Phono through all types of music I can honestly say that it opened my eyes to how much a phono stage can truly change a listening experience. I had a Marantz 2220b with an integrated phono stage which sounded pretty good to my untrained ears. I then picked up a Yamaha A-S500 and the integrated Phono sounded okay but was heavier on high end and bright. I decided to check and see what an external stage would do so I dipped my toe in and tried a Cambridge Audio CP2 as it was available to me at a very discounted price. It sort of took me back to the Marantz SQ but to be honest, if the Marantz was still a part of my chain (I am using it on my other table in basement room) I may have preferred it, which led me to believe that a Phono Stage in the Sub $300 level probably would not add much and I would just settle on the CP2 for the time being until I had the jack really elevate things.

    I have to admit though, the punch (here is one of those terms that I am using and not sure if it is right) that I enjoy so much (love punchy base, not throbbing, but that soft thud you get,,,again terms) was almost completely missing with the DL-103 and the CP2 coupled together. I started to think, should I go back to an AT440Mlb....but I liked what the Dl-103 was providing so far as a different sound from the AT440Mlb. The 440 sounded very refined and a little bright, which I thought I liked until I heard the Dl-103 which sounds like it covers a broader sound ( again, terminology)

    I used the CP2 for a little over a month all in and a new opportunity came to purchase a Mofi Studio Phono....at a slightly reduced rate as it was a demo. Within two albums the punch was back....almost to the extent that it immediately put a smile on my face. I also felt as though I was getting more oomph (I know the understanding of proper terminology is horrible....is there a dictionary of audio sound quality terms?) in the overall sound. The second the stylus hit the vinyl it sounded like more was being picked up off the record....it sounded amplified? not sure, anyhow it caused me to turn it down a bit, which led me to turn it back up once I realized how good it sounded.

    So yet another discovery...in the rabbit hole.
     
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  11. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    @Chester0711, those Cambridge phono stages have way too much capacitance for an AT cart. If you have a removable headshell and are able to swap carts easily, try that 440 with loading plugs down to 32k-39K OHM into the Studio Phono. It'll sound like a different cart.
     
  12. MikeJedi

    MikeJedi Forum Resident

    Location:
    Las Vegas
    Fwiw. There is a new review of the StudioPhono on vinyl meplease.com. :)
     
  13. Chester0711

    Chester0711 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Minneapolis,MN
    @patient_ot I noticed it didn't sound quite right with the AT440....it was used very briefly with that cartridge. Maybe a day or two of spins and barely remember the sound. I new I was getting a new setup and this may be temp. Used mostly with the Denon DL-103 and new setup, but thanks for the tip off because I may have tried to use it with the AT440 on basement setup once that's ready to go!
     
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  14. brendans

    brendans Forum Resident

    Location:
    colorado
    I have a Studiophono and iphono2 in the house that I’ve been comparing (Planar 3 with LOMC Denon DL-301mkii) and that vinylmeplease review mirrors my experience pretty much exactly. The MoFi isn’t quite as quiet and the Ifi has slightly better extension but they really sound very similar. I will say that the MoFi was used and the iFi was new and could still use some break-in, but the Studiophono seems like a great buy. I decided to keep the Ifi but could probably be happy with either.
     
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  15. johnny q

    johnny q Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bergen County, NJ
    Almost 4 months later and I am still loving my StudioPhono! As others mentioned, "quiet and punchy" sums it up. And no RFI issues like the Mani, despite being near laptops, routers, cell phones....all types of nasty's. I am using 46DB gain with my 3.0MV moving magnet and it performs great. I bumped it down to 40DB and it did not sound as good. This is probably the most significant addition I have made to my system in terms of sound quality. What I love about it is - it didn't change the sound signature of what I was getting before - it simply gave me more of that "goodness." Happy camper over here.
     
  16. Seancito

    Seancito Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Richmond, Virginia
    Silly question: I have the MoFi Studio Phono and I have it set for a standard moving magnet cartridge. I have a Shure V15 V-MR with a Jico SAS stylus. You mentioned trying the 440 cart with loading the plugs down to 32k-39k ohm. I have read the instructions that come with the MoFi, but how would one do this with the Studio Phono?
     
  17. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Loading is going to be different for every cartridge. I use a set of loading plugs. You'll want to turn everything off or unplug it when you install the plugs. Depending on your system and cartridge, loading might not be needed.

    This site describes the method in detail:

    Parallel Resistive Loading
     
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  18. Nielsoe

    Nielsoe Forum Resident

    Location:
    Aalborg, Denmark
    The ifi needs break in. I don’t think I ever experienced any piece of hi-fi that improved as much as the ifi with break in.
     
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  19. Seancito

    Seancito Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Richmond, Virginia
    Oh ok. I thought you were talking about adjusting the switches on the bottom of the MoFi, and I didn't see an adjustment for the minor amounts that you were talking about. That is a little above my head, but I am fine right now with my Shure V15 V-mr cartridge. I think the output is around 3.5 or less. I tried adjusting it a bit with the MoFi, but it sounded fine with the standard loading for moving magnet.
     
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  20. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Right, you are talking about gain adjustment there. I am talking about lowering the resistance of the 47K OHM setting for MM carts.
     
  21. Mrtn77

    Mrtn77 Forum Resident

    Location:
    European Union
    Here you go :
    [​IMG]
    Source is this. An amateur review with comparisions to the Schiit Mani
     
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  22. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    No personal offense to whomever wrote that review but it uses a whole lotta words to basically say nothing.

     
  23. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    Thanks, the MoFi came out looking pretty nice in the end.

    Did you look through all the parts? Agreed about all the system descriptions and such, it's a little to follow if you are just interested in the Mofi review, but did try it in a variety of settings and does finish up with a conclusion section for all the pieces tested...



    As there are a lot to cover, I shall be brief with each entry, and sum up my findings in my Conclusions section.

    [​IMG]StudioPhono + Shindo Monbrisson
    Through the line section of the Shindo Monbrisson, the StudioPhono performed brilliantly. As with the Schiit Saga, I was particularly impressed by the way it separated the orchestral instruments and defined them in space. In Finlandia, I definitely could visualize the front, middle and back of the orchestra. As also with the Schiit Saga, the bass reached impressively deep and was suitably taut. The Shindo's warmth and sweeping power in the bass, however, was like a great air cushion and immeasurably enhanced the StudioPhono. However, when it came to the Budapest Quartet, there was still a little lingering leanness.

    MoFi StudioPhono + Harmon Kardon Citation I
    The performance was still very good, warmer than with the Schiit Saga. However, the line stage of the Citation I, though still warm, lacked the depth of the Shindo, and at higher volume things became just a little ragged
    . The lower brass in Bruckner 4th did not have quite the desirable heft.

    Interlude: MoFi StudioPhono chez Andy
    I took both cartridge and phonoamp to Andy's for a brief listen. On the Garrard 401, the Shelter 201 replaced a Decca cartridge. In his more forgiving system, the sound was quite listenable, without any undue leanness. The Shelter, however, did not have the color and force of Decca. Andy actually thought the StudioPhono to possess a reasonable warmth, whereas he was not too enamored of the starker sound of the Shelter. We noted the calibration may not have been precise.

    Round II (Shelter 201, Denon DL-304, MoFi StudioPhono and Full-Function Preamp Use)
    Up to this point, I had used mostly the Shelter 201. Then, I added to the source my Thorens 125/SME 3009i/Denon DL-304, likely better in every way than my go-to Audio-Technica.

    StudioPhono
    As mentioned in Part I, the StudioPhono had no problem whatsoever with the low-output Denon DL-304. Indeed, through either the Shindo or the Harman Kardon, the sound acquired a new smoothness and have a subtler inflection, while retaining all the positive attributes mentioned above.

    Shindo Monbrisson
    I then turned my attention to the performances of my preamps in their intended full-function mode. Most interestingly, much as I like my Shindo, I did not find running the Shelter 201 into its MM section to be decisively superior to using the StudioPhono. Although it produced fleshier images and a fuller tone, the Shindo was darker, less detailed and somewhat colored. It also did not reveal space in the highly accurate manner that StudioPhono did. With the MC Denon DL-304, which I first ran through the Western Electric 285L and then through the Shindo's own input trannies (which I prefer in this case), it was a different story - clearly superior to Shelter 201, through the Shindo MC stage it in almost all aspects of performance surpassed the StudioPhono, which however still managed to have image definition and layering precision to its advantage.

    Harmon Kardon Citation I
    Used as full-function preamp, the Shelter 201 performed much like with the StudioPhono, with just the right added warmth. Unlike the Shindo MM section, the Citation I was almost just as good in the areas where the StudioPhono excelled, and a little better it other parameters - not surprising given the Citation's modernist tube bent. I did not get to use the Citation with DL-304 as it would necessitate trials with SUTs.

    [​IMG]Round III (Schiit Saga; reunited with StudioPhono in System III)
    At the end of my last trip (see Schiit Saga, Part I; link on top), I left the Saga in my Reference System III, but was not happy with the phono setup. Equipment:

    Analog 1: Pioneer PL-50/Raos MC Mono
    Analog 2: Thorens TD-309/Denon DL-A100
    Phonoamp 1: 47 Lab Shigaraki
    Phonoamp 2: AQVOX 2CI MkII vs MoFi StudioPhono
    Digital: Sparkler S303
    Buffer: Schiit Saga
    Preamp: Langevin 102
    Amp: Wavac MD-811
    Loudspeakers: YL Acoustics 4-way Horn Speakers

    This time, most of the time I was preoccupied with System II, but as the StudioPhono was soon to be retired from this station (which has too many good phonoamps and preamps), I refocused on System III.

    I swapped in the StudioPhono for the AQVOX, using the same Gotham DGS-1 cable to the Saga. But I also swapped out the phono cable, switching from Mogami 2534 to Gotham GAC-2. That did it! A Miracle! Unlike the duo's performance in System II (again, see Part I link), the sound was synergistic, indeed superb. It even had gravitas in the Bruckner 4th. And in Pollini's Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1 (EMI HMV Concert Classics), the strings now sounded much sweeter, the woodwinds natural and the piano focused. Most amazingly, even though I knew the StudioPhono was good in the bass, I was surprised that the system had a sweepingly solid bass foundation much like the Shindo - for this credit must go to the Langevin 102 preamp.

    Note on Remaking of System III I also did a bit of re-cabling for the rest of the system. For the Sparkler CDP, I installed the Gotham DGS-1, to excellent effect. Now, only a small trace of dryness remains, even in big-boned pieces like Finlandia (PO/Ashkenazy, Decca) and Brahms 3rd (VPO/Giulini, DG) - some of this is definitely the inherent character of Sparkler; and some of this may be due to the recording (the DG is certainly drier than the Decca). I also installed the (DIY) Belden 8451 (another unsung hero; good at cooling things down) and it similarly improved the mono LP playback. I hereby declare this system ship-shape. Done!

    Yes, the Schiit Saga forced me to re-cable the system, almost from top to bottom, but it is eminently worth it, and it is staying in the system (saves me space)! More below in Talk Cable and Conclusions.

    Round IV (Shelter 201 with Nagra PL-P in System IV)
    The Shelter 201 did well in my newly promoted System IV (here.)

    Round V (Linn LP-12 Lingo/Ittok LV-II/Air Tight PC-1 in System II)
    This is part of Restructuring. System I right now is seeing less action, so I decided to move the Linn LP12/Ittok/Air Tight PC-1 to System II. Also, in System II, my Thorens 125/SME 3009i/Denon DL-304 is doing so well that I did not want another Denon cartridge in the system, Hence, I moved the Thorens TD-124/SME 3012/Denon DL-103 to System I. Suffice to say, the sound of the Linn/Air Tight was just absolutely splendid through the Shindo. Even more detailed, warmer and sweeter than the TD125/SME/Denon DL-304, the PC-1 exudes a subtle elegance. More on System I later.

    Cable Talk: Gotham GAC-2, DGS-1 vs Mogami
    I have been using professional cables for the last 20 years. Prior to Gotham, I used mostly Mogami (2534 and 2549) but that changed after Gotham. Generally speaking, Mogami is neutral but a little on the "white" side, suitable for warm tube and vintage gears. While Gotham is just as neutral, their cables have a bit more warmth and excelled at the frequency extremes: an airy and extended treble and a tactile and deep-reaching bass. I have used the (Austria made) shielded 4-conductor GAC-4 and 2-conductor GAC-2 for the longest time in HK. The GAC-4 is a little airier than the GAC-2 and hence preferred by most HK audiophiles. Here in the US, I bought a roll of GAC-2 (earlier) and coaxial DGS-1 (later) each and have been using them mostly in my systems. With my sensitive horns, the GAC-2 is more than transparent enough, with a wide soundstage and excellent imaging. The DGS-1 is less so in those parameters, but even more direct and emotive (a parallel would be non-oversampling in digital). Due to the large number of equipment that I have, I cannot make Gotham cables fast enough, and so sometimes in less critical stations/areas use other makes, including Mogami. This was the case when I first tested the Schiit Saga at Station III (see part I, link above). This time I shuffled things around and re-cabled with Gotham and things got much better. With neutral gears like AQVOX, Schiit Saga and MoFi StudioPhono, Gotham works well but Mogami doesn't. It should also be noted that some of the current Gotham cables (like the Ultra Pro series) are even more resolving, but I wonder if it has gone overboard (I have the GAC-1 Ultra Pro, which I like, but Andy thought it too bright).

    Conclusions

    • Shelter 201 This round hasn't changed my impression of this cartridge. This is a commendably highly resolving cartridge with a very neutral tone. It is sensitive to VTA. Although generally MC-like in resolution and musical enough, it is not quite as nuanced in microdynamics and tonality. Should be partnered with warmer gears.
    • MoFi StudioPhono The StudioPhono finally found its footing in the round. Perhaps further run-in helped. The StudioPhono has outstanding resolution - image specificity and definition in space are world class. Its bass quality and reach are irreproachable. This is very neutral phonoamp and care should be taken with cabling and partnering gears - not for people who prefer warmth. It is not quite an EAR 324 (from memory) but a seriously good bargain that performs way beyond its price point.
    • Shindo Monbrisson As usual, it was big, bold and colorful (or as Art Dudley would say, force and touch), but with the Shelter 201 it surprisingly sounded colored and uneven. This is in fact a little puzzling, as before I had used it with numerous MM's to great effect. Even so, it shone with low output MC's. My fondness for it has not abated.
    • Harmon Kardon Citation I Compared with older vintage preamps, the Citation I is a model of neutrality. Its phono section is just superb, very neutral, not unlike the StudioPhono with tube warmth added. Its line section is neutral too, but gets a little taxed when the going gets rough, lacking the Shindo's sweeping power.
    • Schiit Saga As before, I am convinced the Saga is like a surgical instrument. While it sometimes demands one to think out of the box, it is a valuable piece of kit. As I said before, if your system needs more details, it is a good choice; but if your system could use more warmth, stay away.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2018
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  24. dbesh2

    dbesh2 New Member

    Location:
    Clovis, CA
    Another $50 would bring me a Vincent PHO 8. Outside of the dedicated power supply, should I expect much AQ improvement over the base StudioPhon0 for MM use?
     
  25. JustGotPaid

    JustGotPaid Forum Resident

    My new mofi studio phono stage arrived a couple of weeks ago. $300 Canadian from Toronto is a great price! I have 10+ hours on it and must say this thing is excellent. I really like it so far. The loading, gain, and subsonic options are a must imo on any phono stage. Mono switch is a bonus.
    Has good bass, sound stage, detail, and handles Mick's vocals on "She Was Hot" very well. My ears are not fatigued at all even at full volume.

    One thing I noticed is the manual states subsonic is activated when "depressed" ... meaning button in down position. However, this is backwards as it looks as if the subsonic filter is engaged when button is in up position. When pressed down I can see the speaker cone shake a tad. When not pressed the cones stop any shake and clearly follow the bass notes. No big deal but you guys might want to check this too.
     
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