Clones Audio PA1 phono preamplifier review

When my corespondency with Funjoe entered to the topic of vinyl playback, he pointed the direction toward his development of phono preamplifier with full enthusiasm and dedication. It took quite few moons and suns in between for arrival of final production model. As with so far I’ve expected Clones Audio productive output to come as refined, well thought out and always on the musical side of high-end audio reproduction. So how well will AP1 stand out to the roots and how much of company DNA will it hold?


PA1 Bring back Vinyl to your Life.... 

Internally adjustable with DIP switches, the PA1 phono amplifier can bring new life to most any MM or MC cartridge.The external power supply is carefully stabilised eliminating cross-talk effects. Musical, detailed and dynamic.


Clones Audio PA1 works with 68ohm output impedance, 33ohms, 100ohms, 1K ohms, 47Kohms cartridge loading and MC 1100pf, MM 100pf cartridge capacitance. User selectable gain let you choose between 48dB, 52dB, 63dB, 70dB and 74dB.

This should cover a wide array of cartridges both classical and contemporary. Having on my hand quite few different ones and from various price ranges it was an interesting try out of AP1 flexibility. 

Lots of Japanese cartridges are working at (or very near) 0,3mv output and I really know them well and how they sound From Zyx, Miyajima Lab, classical Denon DL-103, Takeda San’s Miyabi etc. 

When you know the “voicing” of the cartridges by heart then having new phono preamplifier in the system will show up very quickly the difference of transcoding the information from black discs being mediocre or something worthy of extra attention. There is no such thing in the world of glorious high-end audio analogue reproduction as neutral cartridge. They all come with some tuning or “flavour”, that might suit the certain system or designer personal taste. Still, some of them do work differently and more close to the way the real music actually sound. For me this is the real quality I’m looking for. Japanese products could be known for their recognised warm sounding midrange, that captivated the minds of so many audiophiles and music lovers over the years, but its not something, that stands as default anymore. Transparency, neutrality and extended dynamics found their way into the language of modern cartridges sound output. Its no longer fixed poetry rhythm output. These days variety is a fact even for Japanese created objects of sonics art reproduction.  

Returning to the high-end audio vinyl reproduction chain. Lots of music lovers and audiophiles neglect the importance of phono preamplifier. Many people spends a lot of funds on cartridges, giving them utmost importance as analog front end first meeting point. They’re forgetting about the basic and most important thing. The gain structure! Phono preamplifier should always builds upon quality of the gain and convey it without loosing the energy. If tiny signal coming from the cartridge is not amplified in the right way, then all collapses and music to easily become just a pale shade of what its supposed to sound like. The complexity of proper gain structure is something, that should take a whole elaborated article of its own. Its a structural part, that should always be a primal urge of any audio designer. Not exotic materials or chassis. The basic dealings with delicate gain dictates the quality of amplified signal. And with mili volts under the hood, there is no other logic or logical order. It’s a universal must thing to do. 

With Clones Audio PA1 I’ve managed to find easily suitable loadings, that brought enough gain and open musical nature to variety of musical material. Funjoe respected the technological correctness and logical progression of gain stages and results revealed promising outcome. Dip switches are located under the top plate and few screws turns away. 


Well designed phono preamplifier should not collapse at any music material. To often we hear repeated slogans of how only classical music can be the real reference in judging everything. It is true, that classical music usually offers the widest dynamic range and so called bandwidth impact, but not everything is about and only around these remarks. For example. A simple, vocal or instrumental music carries complexity of their own. The harmonically aligned structure of the tone, timbre and dynamic are demanding attributes for everything to come in right place at reproduction. Human voice might be among our closest references to the real thing as its reproduction shows instantly any flaw in doing so. It is a serious, demanding task and even for example Suzan Vega’s Tom’s Dinner will reveal any short comings coming from phono preamplifier or for that matter any component under the review. 

Clones Audio PA1 embraces a lot of things in the right direction. PA1 is not trying to be pompous. Funjoe clearly set the limits of what can be done at this price point and as always so far succeeded with an added step up performance and value for the money. This is something I’ll always respect highly. Being positively surprised by the unexpected, better performance, brings peace to my mind and faith for the healthy, steadily growing pace of our beloved high-end audio industry and ever intriguing vinyl social phenomena. In that purse we do need individuals and companies, that are pushing the limits farer. Results of these constant urges raises the bar up by each year. This situation is evoking a collective advancing impact, that brings benefits to both manufacturers and end users. 


Clones Audio PA1 continues the story of previous products. The red continuing focus point is musicality. PA1 shares Clones family DNA and Funjoe vision of sound. As with all new products creational phase it took quite some time to make it right and as we discussed in our corespondency with Funjoe the “making” period was long and elaborated. Set with lots of trials and errors. From getting the loadings right and last, but not least making power supply in the right way this was a project taking a lot of dedicated time. 

As you’ve already noticed PA1 comes in two separated boxes. This was not planned from the start, but the actual testing pushed things further and for having the best outcome it was needed to separate things in two boxes.


Simon Rattle conducts Schumann Vinyl LIMITED numbered edition 180 g vinyl came at the right time to meet the “transcoding” analogue heart of Clones Audio PA1  I’m always enliven by the latest NEW releases on vinyl regardless of where are they coming from. Some might seen the contemporary vinyl releases as elitist take and projected money making. I’m trying to see in a broader bigger way as the matter of an cultural impact. Regardless of story behind. Berliner Philharmonike recording is a content musically rich and PA1 locked to what it was important for music to become alive.

Music can be enjoyed on vinyl highly even if the sources of the masters were completely digital. This was proven many times and intriguingly in 99% comparing the analog and digital format I do prefer same music replayed through vinyl. Even if the masters were coming from state of the art DAC’s and at highest resolution. There is something about digital to analog conversion not done completely right, that industry still didn’t figure out to the full extend. Real potential is still to be unlocked.  

One of my all time favourite albums comes from what it seems eternal duo of Amy and Ray. Indigo Girls Nomad Saints album cuts trough me each time I'm listening to it on vinyl. Genuinely emotional interaction never fades away. Perhaps its even getting more weight and importance in connection to the inner depth. Here, the pure poetry and energetic, lyrical genius comes out bursting. With phono preamplifier these emotions are either conveyed or the sound performance is in lacking of right connection. It’s all coming down to the culmination of strengths rather then weakness.

Clones Audio PA1 operates on the plane of direct involvement and interaction. The energy transfer is there and I’ve managed  easily to feel the emotional exchange. This is the stand out attribute, that even some of quite more expensive phono preamplifiers are lacking off. 

Digging out for some of my older recordings from Ella Fitzgerald quickly reminded me on what matters the most when listening takes place. Genuine talent and wholeheartedly performance can be soul moving. Ella was a true diva back in her time and often not unspoken way. 

AP1's tone, timbre and pace were on the very right track. With clear focus on the music and with energetic impact. Of course not as elaborated and profound as with phono preamplifiers costing few thousands EUR. Yet, still with very own potent swing, that captivate ones attention and enjoyment of the “right" listening. 

It was both fun and involving to listen my favourite vinyl records through the PA1.


Clones Audio PA1 phono preamplifier is nice and logical addition to the already established company product line. With the emerging vinyl sales high-end audio market is hungry for the components associated with the vinyl reproduction. Along with cartridges and turntables, the unavoidable purchase for full analog rig is phono preamplifier. At the times when everything is turned around and judged by the style, performance and price Funjoe striked with the Clones Audio PA1 phono preamplifier. This two boxed phono is a serious player, that can show a great insight into the world of high quality, high performance vinyl playback. 

As so far with Clones Audio gear I can openly recommend this latest addition. PA1 stands out with the analog musical reproduction coming in the affordable, yet sophisticated way of keeping many of analogue music format lovers interested for a long time. 

Build as usually with the sturdy black anodised chassis, Funjoe attention to details, tuned by heart and with PA1 ability to move you this phono preamplifier will last, resonate and let you “play” around with wide array of cartridges of MM and MC origin. 

After Funjoe homework, mine was being done. I’m happy to confirm, that he still got the mojo and continuing the clear and lucid path he envision. 

Text: Matej Isak


Cartridge Loading: 33ohms, 100ohms, 1K ohms, 47Kohms

Cartridge Capacitance: MC 1100pf, MM 100pf

Selectable Gain: 48dB, 52dB, 63dB, 70dB, 74dB

Output Impedance: 68ohm

AC Voltage: 115V or 230V

Power Rating: 5W
Net Weight: 1.5kg (Set)

Dimensions: 124(w)x45(h)x128(d)mm (Each Unit)
* 5 year warranty