Bill Hutchins is a fine fellow. His audiophile brand, LKV Research, has been merrily upsetting apple carts for the last few years with their over-performing and under-priced phono preamplifier. Newport saw Bill with two new bits, a line-topper phono preamp and a new line stage.
The Veros One, at $6,500, is nearly three times the cost of the 2-SB. That upgrade gets you quite a few bells and whistles, including on-the-panel dials for loading, a choice of output curves, and significantly improved SNR and cross-talk numbers. Like the 2-SB, the Veros One is fully balanced (though it does include SE inputs/outputs), and has four gain levels, from 34dB (SE) to 68dB (balanced).
The curves are interesting. The first is the standard RIAA curve, but with the extremely tight alignment you’d expect from Bill. The second is called “contour”, and Bill describes it as more warm, more tube-like. I didn’t get a chance to hear both, but if it does what I think it does, system-matching just got a lot more interesting.
The $3,500 Line One is the other new kid on LKV’s block. Like the two phono pre’s, the Line One is also fully balanced, dual mono, zero feedback and fully Class A, leveraging low-noise JFET circuitry. Each channel has two balanced and four single ended inputs as well as two balanced and two single ended outputs. Gain is user-selectable and either low (4dB) or high (10dB). The volume control is an ELMA stepped attenuator.
The LKV gear was matched here with Pulsar loudspeakers from Joseph Audio. The amplifier was a vintage Conrad-Johnson tube amp. The source was a VPI Classic 2 with a JMW tonearm and a Lyra Delos cartridge. Kimber Kable and Cardas wire was used throughout. An MIT Z-Center power distribution system anchored the rack.
It’s almost unfair to judge a Joseph Audio room — especially one using the Pulsars. I own a pair, after all, which should tell you something about my preferences. The sound here was rich and dynamic, with great drive and warmth — this was a little slice of heaven. We just gotta hook Bill up with some great vinyl and we’ll be all set. 😉
Anyway, I’ve been a fan of all three brands — LKV Research, Joseph Audio and VPI — for some indeterminate time now, and hearing them altogether like this is not only a treat, it’s an outright embarrassment to mega-priced gear everywhere.