CAF 2013: Bob’s Devices

Bob Sattin of Bob’s Devices has this great big white lab coat he wears around audio shows. It’s sorta funny, sorta serious, but the idea is that Bob is the guy that’s gonna fix your analog setup. Sort of. Say rather, he’s gonna make it sound fabulous. For those not in the know, Bob makes step-up transformers for analog rigs. That is, his Devices are those things that take the signal from your low-output moving coil cartridges and matches them to your low-gain phono stages. Why do you need them? Noise, mainly. Most moving coil signals put out high current, but minuscule voltage; to get that signal “big” enough to drive an amp or pre, they have to be amplified — which amplifies any noise right along with it — or have that current converted into voltage. Which means a transformer.

Bob’s been building step-ups for years now, and his little widgets have received consistently favorable reviews by just about anyone who’s used them. His latest “best” unit leverages Cinemag 1131 “Blue” transformers, which are custom-made just for him (price to you is $1,195). The windings on those are switchable (and includes a ground lift!), with ratios of either 10/20 or 20/40. Don’t know what that means? Here — take the ratio (the number on either side of the slash mark) and multiply it by your cartridge’s output voltage in mV. If the result falls between 2.5 and 10, we’re “in the zone”! However, the closer you get to between 5-7, the better. Got it? Excellent!

Bob was also showing off a brand new version of this SUT he calls “Sky 30”, with new (also switchable) windings of 1:15/1:30 ($1,250).

Another new bit — the on-the-tonearm SUT built specially for VPI unipivot tonearms! It attaches directly to the tonearm/armboard assembly, taking the wire coming directly off cartridge as an input and sending the signal out the back-end via RCA outs. Come on. That’s hot! You know it’s totally hot! And for $1,650, it’s yours. Remember — with this, you only need one pair of fancy interconnects, not two (into the SUT and then out into your phono pre).

Speaking of fancy interconnects, Bob had some branded audio cables on hand, including a top-of-the-line shielded solid-silver ones ($795/.7m RCA):

This Solid Silver custom terminated interconnect is Bob’s top-of-the-line cable. It features a pair of pure silver 22 awg conductors and triple-shielding consisting of a silver plated OFC braided shield coupled to an Aluminum/Mylar shield and a Teflon PTFE shield. Covering the shield is a braided nylon sheath encased in a clear PVC outer jacket. Internally, this cable has 5 polyethylene air tubes separating and isolating the conductors.

Also on display, a VPI Traveler in a textured white finish.

I brought home both the VPI and an 1131 to try out — stay tuned for that.


  1. That step up / break out box for the VPI is SWEET! Does he make a lower end version for us poor folk?

    • Actually, the arrows point to the end of the cable that does not have the shield connected to the negative side. In this case, the grounding scheme was a “hub” grounding scheme where the SUT ground was the center of the grounding hub. All the ground wires were centered on the SUT ground, therefore the arrows pointed away from the SUT in both directions.

      • In the second case where the SUT was mounted on the VPI tonearm base, the phono preamp was used as the grounding hub so the arrows pointed toward the SUT output. Arrows don’t mean direction of flow.

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