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The Sutherland Phono Loco Phono Stage all started with a design challenge to try a transimpedance amplifier for the first gain stage. Just an experiment. There was no concern for marketability. All design decisions were driven by optimizing circuitry for performance. Where ever that might go. Tossing aside marketability is an amazing freedom!
Circuit design can rise to an art. There is an aesthetic quality of ‘rightness’ when everything snaps into place. That only happens when there is a dialogue. The designer starts the conversation and the circuit speaks back. Many cycles of back and forth. That leads to refinement and elegance. Marketing did not participate in the conversation.
The first prototype led to a passionate listening marathon. There was a relaxed, effortless quality that was oh so seductive. That same thing happened with beta testing friends.
The design freedom delivered sublime performance… BUT came at a cost! Not 1 in a 1,000 people could plug their turntables into it! The circuit requires a balanced signal from the cartridge. And that requires balanced signal interconnects from the turntable. The Phono Loco has ONLY XLR input jacks! Right there, marketability was thrown under the bus.
There were other breaks with conventional expectations. There are no loading options. The cartridge sees a ‘virtual short’. The input signal is the cartridge’s current output. It’s output voltage is always zero because it is driving a short.
There is no conventional way to express (or adjust) gain. Most MC cartridges will work well at the medium gain setting. There is also a low (-6dB) setting and a high (+6dB) setting. That’s it for adjustability.
It lives up to it’s name. The Phono Loco is loco for users, dealers, reviewers, distributors and Sutherland Engineering.
More importantly, the Phono Loco took full advantage of it’s off the chain freedom. The Phono Loco XLR Phono Stage delivers an exquisitely beautiful performance.