JE AUDIO HP10 PHONO PREAMPLIFIER REVIEW


There is no doubt, that analog interest was highly revoked in past few years. I guess, that we can soon call it a decade. Some claim it, that the very reason is the rising sales of the vinyl, others see it as more social momentum, the need of returning to physical media. The expenditure of streaming services had took away the feeling of proud ownership as well as the magic of tactile interaction. And of course let us not forget the very core... There are music lovers and audiophiles, that believe only in the potency of proper music's delivery via the black disc. For many of them, vinyl records were the only viable music medium, like forever...

The power of globalisation and internet had opened up the doors to discovery of vast array of high-end audio products, that can deliver a mesmerising performance at all price points.

We're witnessing the price extensions from few hundreds dollars up to the six digits for phono preamplifiers only and that makes it hard for many people to draw an objectively conclusions as well as healthy reasoning regarding to the performance and actual value.

With its given $3300 price JE Audio HP10 phono preamplifier takes an interesting market spot, where the competition is quite fierce. But, John Lam certainly did his homework before releasing his phono preamplifier on the demanding high-end audio market. HP10 is feature packed, musical and highly adjustable. There is a lot of bang for the back associated with this phono preamp from Hong Kong, as you'll read on.

MEET THE HP10


HP10 was designed from the ground up a high-quality, high-performance phono preamplifier. HP10 implements low noise solid-state semiconductor input stage for first signal amplification and a tube amplifier output buffer.


Both MC and MM inputs have a separate MC and MM phono circuits. Each of them are having sole stages, thus no interfering of the jointed parts and modules happens. This ensures the shortest possible signal path as well the absence of any switching.

The separate MC and MM input amplifiers uses passive RIAA equalisation. John Lam has chosen this particular approach in order to avoid coloration of the sound, that can be easily traceable with the RIAA equaliser with an active feedback.


The tubes!? The 6H30 was chosen for its low distortion, extended bandwidth and low output impedance. As you'll read on, the 6H30 contributes a grand portion of HP10 sonic potency.


At the back of the HP10 there are two unbalanced inputs (MM and MC) and two outputs (unbalanced/balanced). On the front panel MM gain can be set to 35, 40, 45dB for unbalanced output and additional 6dB for balanced output. MM Input Impedance extends to 1k, 22k, 47k, 68k, 100k Ohm.


MC GAIN is also selectable between 60, 65, 70dB for unbalanced output and additional 6dB for balanced output. MC Input Impedance allows 10, 33, 100, 250, 500 Ohm settings.


PH-10 also have a subsonic filter, that starts to roll off at 20Hz at -12dB/octave. It is suggest to switch it on only when your vinyl disc creates subsonic noise.

And two other features/knobs, that are more then worthy of mentioning are invert polarity and mono switches. They are self explanatory, but highly

THE DESIGN


Let us look closer at what is happening under the hood of JE Audio HP10 phono preamplifier...

In a conventional phono amplifier as shown in Figure A below, MC input signal will be first amplified by a MC amplifier with 20dB gain before passing to a MM amplifier for an additional 40dB gain so that a desirable 60dB gain is achieved. The MM amplifier employs active feedback RIAA, ie, the RIAA equalizer is placed in the feedback loop of the MM amplifier.


The HP10 phono amplifier in Figure B is different from the conventional phono amplifier in three areas: (1) passive RIAA equalizer is use, (2) MM and MC are two independent amplifiers, and (3) a tube buffer amplifier is used.

The sound of phono amplifier with active and passive RIAA equalizer is different. And we prefer the sound from passively equalized phono amplifier. But the penalty is slightly higher noise level. If the design is carefully done, the signal-to-noise ratio is still excellent for a passively equalized phono amplifier.


In the conventional phono amplifier, there is a switch (usually a relay) to select between MM input signal and MC amplifier’s output signal, which is about in the order of few millivolts. At this low level, the quality of the switch contact will affect the signal’s purity. In view of this, the switch in the HP10 phono amplifier is placed at the output of the MM and MC amplifiers. The signal level is now in the order few hundred millivolts. Hence, the switch contact has much less influent to the sound. But the price to pay for better performance is the need of having two separate independent amplifiers. They are implemented by ultra low noise solid-state semiconductor devices.

A 6H30 tube buffer amplifier is used at the output. The 6H30 has very wide bandwidth, low distortion and low output impedance. It is ideal for use in audio application. It greatly enhances the sound of HP10 phono amplifier.


Above is a complete functional diagram of the HP10 phono amplifier.

MUSIC


Paragraphs above should offer enough insights regarding the technical operation of the HP10 phono amplifier. Its time to focus on the music and how did HP10 acted with the transcribing of the beloved music from the black grooves.

Hans-Martin Linde, Konrad Ragossnig ‎– Musik Des 18. Jahrhunderts Für Flöte Und Gitarre

We might have tons of different preferences, when it comes to the evaluation and critically judging of any high-end audio product. Yet, there is no simpler logic and more direct challenge, than the reproduction of the real live instruments.

Musik Des 18. Jahrhunderts Für Flöte Und Gitarre offers a purity and directness, that will instantly reveal the very nature of phono preamplifier. Among many factors, the trinity of timbre, tone and colour represents a ground stone for any critical testing. We can only know and speculate so much, when it comes to studio recorded music. On the other hand, with acoustical instruments we'll always have a clearer and direct reference. If we're constantly exposed to live, un-amplified music, then we're creating a library of impressions, that are crucial with the objective comparing.

JE Audio HP10 zesty nature vibrantly encapsulated both flute and guitar. The series of individual notes were reproduced with same quality as when the multiple notes have blended into a harmonic whole. HP10 proved to be constant in potency of octave-to-octave rendition, without overblowing any specific frequency spectrum. That phenomena can be to quickly associated with phono preamplifiers regardless of the price.

PH10 have disappeared within its given operation (without subtle sound mechanics traits) and had let the music flow freely, without adding the very own signature to the guitar and flute and in absence of changing their core resonating frequencies. Quite a feat for this price range!

Talk Talk - Spirit Of Eden

Most of you will instantly recognise Talk Talk band for their hit song It's My Life, that put them on the world's charts. Less known is their mysterious and mystical album Spirit Of Eden. This album is a complete shift of the band's recognising direction and differs a lot from any of their previous releases. Mark Hollis had stepped outside of the typical era mood (Roxy Music etc.) and had embraced more instrumental, jazz like ethereal compositions with the unsettling and poignant tone.

Its a great album, with great virtual stories to tell. But... That's not all. The Spirit Of Eden offers a unique sonic escapade, that expands into a little universe of captivating harmonies and melodies.

This record is a great asset, that helps to explore and evaluate any phono amplifier in-depth. Multi instrumental compositions and variety of instruments creates a complex and challenging sonic kaleidoscope. I simply like and love the depth of this recording.

JE Audio HP10 phono preamplifier had portrayed the instruments and sense of space with a stand out ability. My listenings were highly involving, prolonged and HP10 had captured the very essence of the music, without any push forward attributes.

Its never easy to get the right grip of distorted, electrical guitar and render every other instrument right, yet HP10 was not shay at any moment in forming a vibrant and resonating energy of analog distortion and keep the balancing act with everything else.

The level of information coming from HP10 were on par with even most costlier phono preamps. HP10 comes with a surprising density, that elevates the Spirit Of Eden experience with augmented impact, that is not usually associated at this price range. Most importantly, JE Audio HP10 phono preamplifier involving factor is more then just worthy of mentioning. The interactive part of the music and performer glides along, as the music (and its message) expands. Combing these into a furtive outcome is quite something...

Cowboy Junkies - Whites Off Earth Now!!

I've grew up with this iconic record, that encompass one of the most poignant explorations of the blues arraignments. There is something utterly strange and beautiful about Margo Timmins' vocal, that revoke the core of a haunting and mystical story of the last album track, Crossroads by one and only Robert Johnson.

This album is special in many ways, but most importantly for its one of the kind rendition of the songs and the unique sound. Do the homework and research the backgrounds. There is so much to explore in audiophile and musical terms within this record. From the all the spatial details, sense of space, decays/delays. and unifying lyricism. Anyhow, as primal as this records might appear, there are plethora of informations to be deciphered from the black disc.

JE Audio HP10 phono preamplifier has shown its virtues with ability to deliver the sense of atmospheric space with a healthy dosage of acoustical cues, that've rendered Whites Off Earth Now!!'s one of the kind haunting mood with a great intensity.

There is something about the spectral shading, that makes this record so different. When we step into Cowboy Junkies' realms, everything expands into a multiplex subtle nature of sounds, harmonies, melodies and energy. HP10 captivating ability, to both shape and pin-point vocal and instruments in the vast black space was noted more then once in my listening notes.

Whites Off Earth Now!! comes with a highly challenging relief sonic structure. The HP10's hybrid nature seems to be the very reason for not only a great depth positioning ability, but also for the highly believable three-dimensionally.

I'm always trying to find something special and stand out in the products under the review, that stood out of its given price range and there are quite few in my descriptions above...

CONCLUSION


The key words for JE Audio HP10 phono preamplifier are the simplicity and involving performance. Pricing comes as the sweet cherry on top of this elusive analog package.


HP10 encapsulates the most important attributes of the phono stage dedicated role and offers a no brainer, front panel adjustments.

Perhaps back in time, audiophiles would stick longer with one cartridge or even own only one. In this era, no matter the budget range, a lot of people wants to enjoy the variety. There are not only quite an abundance of used iconic cartridges on the market (a hit and miss affair), but one can get numerous high quality, high performing new cartridges for reasonable prices.


JE Audio HP10 brings all of the settings on the front panel. For many of reasons (some of the mentioned in the paragraph above) straight on tactical interface, that lets all of the adjusting, comes as mandatory these days. I'll not go into the subject of "sealed" logic of some five digits phonos, where one, occasionally almost need a mechanical degree and set of opioids to unveil and adjust the jumpers, dip switches etc.

Inspiringly for the price, HP10 delivers multiple settings straight on and such is the sound performance. Straight, musical and direct dosage of music's enjoyment.

HP10 also embraces the positive attributes of tubes and semiconductor to deliver low noise, highly musical performance with more then enough gestalt to captivate one into the prolonged and enjoyable listening.

Matej Isak

PRICE


$3300

FEATURES 

  • Input: one set of MM unbalanced input and one set of MC unbalanced input. 
  • Output: one set of unbalanced and one set of balanced output. 
  • MM and MC amplifiers are separate independent amplifier for improved sound. 
  • Passive RIAA equalizer is used. The RIAA accuracy is within ±0.3dB. 
  • Five input matching impedances for MC cartridge (10, 33, 100, 250 and 500 ohm). 
  • Five input matching impedances for MM cartridge (1k, 22k, 47k, 68k, 100k ohm). 
  • Three choices of gain for MC cartridge (60dB, 65dB and 70dB). 
  • Three choices of gain for MM cartridge (35dB, 40dB and 45dB). 
  • Subsonic filter, phase invert, MONO and mute functions are available. 
  • Ultra low noise solid-state semiconductors are used for signal amplification. A high bandwidth, low distortion 6H30 tube buffer amplifier is used. 
  • Five different low noise precision DC regulated power supplies are used. 
  • Audio grade low noise power transformers are used. 
  • Audio grade signal capacitors, resistors and semiconductor devices are used. 
DIMENSIONS

NET WEIGHT (Specifications subject to change without prior notice.) H=143mm, W=450mm, D=392mm 11.6kg /25.6 pounds

CONTACT


JE Audio 
Unit L, 5/F, Block 1 
International Industrial Center 
2-8 Kwei Tei Street Fotan, Shatin 
Hong Kong

Telephone: +852 3543-0973