TRINITY PHONO PREAMPLIFIER REVIEW PART ONE


How about taking things to the new realms? Well, meet the TRINITY Microphone Preamp, which was designed from the ground up to be sort of a “Swiss Army Knife” for low-level analog audio signal processing. 

Dietmar Bräuer if well known for providing devices with no measurable distortions over the full audio bandwidth. Wait... in the dynamic range of 140dB!!!

The preamplifier under the review is based on Trinity Audio proprietary fully balanced low noise Gain Stage. The overall architecture creates a quad balanced amplifier, where only the two input bias resistors and capacitors, as well as the DC servo references, are connected to ground. This quad balanced configuration has always a minimum gain of 12dB, whereby 6dB is lost in the double terminated output attenuator. 
So if we're talking about state of the art 21st-century approach, this is preamplifier was designed from the very beginning to raise the bar to the "as good as it gets" plane...


Among the multiple functions, the most interesting feature that concerns audiophiles and music lovers is the DC-coupled RIAA vinyl equalizer.

This is what the review will explore in-depth. TRINITY Microphone Preamp was envisioned and designed from the ground up as a true distortion-free preamp with four different fully balanced signal paths. PHONO preamp also comes with manual volume control and the output level can be adjusted in 1dB steps.

DC coupled XLR “Load” connector, which is wired in parallel to the 1st connector allows to select 8 different input resistances for the different modes. For instance: 200kOhm for the NAB, 47KOhm for MM, 2kOhms for the microphones and any value for the MC or music instrument pickups. 

THE TONEARM CABLE PARADIGM SHIFT


Silence is golden
But my eyes still see
Silence is golden, golden
But my eyes still see

The very first sobering fact with the Trinity phono preamplifier was the included tonearm cable. I'll try to address some of the points, but the most intriguing part was riding almost a zero noise sonic wave. But let me unfold this step by step...

When the balanced wired tonearm is wired correctly there should be almost no hum. As we all know it, this is not exactly the standard. The norms are sadly on the opposite side. 

MC load resistor should damp the resonance circuit build by the coil inductance and the cable capacitance. The cable capacitance depends on the cable construction and the cable length. Dietmar is very evocative about the MC cartridge manufacturer's specification of a particular loading if they do not know the cable capacitance.

Dietmar writes: "There are different ways to optimize the system. A test LP can be used combined with measuring the frequency response, and look that there is no gain peaking at higher frequencies or the special “signal injection transformer” instead of the turntable.


Trinity tonearm cable is based on the painstaking R & D. Dietmar has designed his first cable for highly sensitive measuring systems. Due to the design with an integrated carbon layer between the dielectric and the braid, the electric charge is minimized by movement or pressure.

For the final balanced design, he decided to use expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE). This unique insulation provides excellent signal control for applications where tight impedance control is necessary.

For anyone in doubt about the A simple test is to roll the cable between thumb and trigger finger to hear the charge injection in the cable, but reduce the volume.

Dietmar has designed electronics for space applications and they've had a test for this. In the experiment, they've dropped a steel ball from a one-meter height on the cable and measured the “generated” voltage peak with an oscilloscope.

Of course, this is not advised to perform at home since after such a test the cable is useless since the dielectric layer is pressed down and the characteristic impedance is lost. That is also the reason why you have a minimum bending radius for coax cables, which is normally 10 x of the diameter.

In audio, most cables have no controlled impedance. Only the 75Ohm and 110Ohm for the digital interface are specified and Trinity high-end audio analog cables are specified to exact 100Ohm impedance. With the controlled impedance there is the advantage of having always the same performance from the first meter to the last meter.

But things are even more complex. With a twisted pair of the cable, the impedance depends on the counts of twists per meter, meaning that twisting two wires by hand is just not enough.

Interestingly and intriguingly. Oliver Heaviside patented a design for a shielded telegraph transmission line in 1880. In 1929 Bell Labs’ Lloyd Espenschied and Herman Affel developed the broadband coaxial cable with an air-like dielectric spacer.

Drawing the line, there seems to be not so many new discoveries as claimed and nonetheless advertised. Rarely we do see the data like S-Parameter, Phase stability, skew, attenuation, bandwidth and so on. Dietmar points out how there are countless electrical parameters you can measure, but in reality, such data is shared sparsely regardless of a price sticker...

THE SYNERGY 


It was suggested to connected the Trinity preamplifier directly to the power amplifier. With the gain select switches, the gain can be adjusted in 6 dB steps and with the 8 Steps output attenuator, the level can be fine-tuned in 1dB steps.


The striking fact and discovery that friction noise of the needle in an empty groove is much higher than the noise of the preamplifier even with 96dB gain was a sobering act to say at least. 

So in an upwards position, the noise was practically inaudible, followed by noise raise as soon as the needle hit the grooves. 


What this translates to!? It means that the record itself is the limitation. In our correspondence, Dietmar assured me that even a copper master needle's voice is much higher than the noise of the electronic.

Among the most important features of the Trinity phono preamplifier is surely the non-usual high gain, which completely eradicates the need for step-up transformer! A 350µV @1kHz pickup creates at full gain and no attenuation 1Vrms output level.


But the splendid insights are not over yet. The gain stages are based on the gain stages of the Golden Reference line (€47.100,00) and not on the gain stages of the Reference line!!! Trinity phono preamplifier implements six of these gain stages in parallel.

I was advised to use the Trinity phono preamplifier as based on the fact state in a paragraph above only Golden Reference Edition preamplifier wouldn't degrade the performance of this MIC-RIAA preamp.

I've inquired about the possibility of connecting this preamplifier as line stage preamps and Dietmar replied that technically it wouldn't be a problem to implement such a feature, but not at 4990 Euro. For yours truly this is already one of the rare and true bargains for the money!


Anyhow. For a bare line preamp, the input and therefore the output level would be too high since the output attenuator covers only 8dB in 1 dB steps. The striking insight continues... The architecture of the output attenuator is exactly the same as the volume control in the Trinity Reference Line. That means the attenuator would need at least 32dB attenuation range to work with such high-level signals, otherwise one could only select between very loud and extremely loud. Theoretically, in this scenario, it could work as the buffer of the DAC with the integrated volume control, but the volume control itself would degrade the pure and unaltered signal flow.


As you can see in the attached photos, under the solid aluminum chassis there are 40ICs per channel mounted on an 8-layer PCB and a complicated ground scheme. I cannot recall a smilier count of active electronic being used for any high-end audio product.

For anyone that will audition the Trinity preamplifier, do note that the AC coupled inputs are covered with a rubber element since the carry 48Vdc phantom power if selected. These inputs should not be used with a pick-up at any point!

LISTENING


If we assume that our average listening sound pressure level is around 80-85dB with peak levels up to 100dB and the minimum threshold is rough -10dB it can be assumed that the normal human has a hearing range of -110dB.

Consequently, the harmonic distortions of the playback electronics must be below -110dB especially around 3kHz, otherwise, the distortions are audible. This is exactly why the mastering engineers and music producers put such importance of equalizing at 3k. It's a well-known rule. Consequently, our auditory system can tolerate higher distortions at lower and higher frequencies. Not that they're not important, but they've had a lesser impact on the overall perception. 

The perceptual distinctions of sound are closely connected with the harmonic content. It becomes more complex with spectral content as it can be easily seen on the FFT. Any changes in spectral content will result in the physical characteristics of the sounds. 

Trinity preamplifier distortion-free nature allows unique distinctions, that can easily open up even some of the academic discussions. 

The complex harmonic tones emanate the pitch that usually corresponds to the lowest octave of the original tone. 

In the past decade, it was discovered how the auditory system uses harmonicity to combine various frequency particles that originated from the fundamental frequency and our perception is heavily biased in this regard.


So the intricate story unfolds even further... On the ultimate plane of analog reproduction, it's not all about the speed pitch stability of the turntable. This should be not questionable at all, but mandatory. When critically observed, the pitch variance is then associated even the most exotic and exuberantly priced phono stages and Trinity is redefining the game in this regard. 

So, if even a single note of a particular musical instrument is not amplified properly, a complex tone that is combined from variates of harmonic frequency components is distorted, thus not sounding remotely close to the original. 

This makes you wonder about what is truly derived from the black grooves and this topic is something that should utterly concern all of the analog aficionados and connoisseurs. Many record collectors love to talk about the recording of different violins like Stradivari, Guarneri, Amati, etc. But if the spectral content is not presented properly, what exactly is a subject of such supposedly elaborate listening and how exactly the geniuses of Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman, Anne Akiko Meyers, Aaron Rosand, etc. can be appreciated!?


This certainly recalls the unpleasant high-end wine anecdote... It's said that far more of the Pétrus '47 and '61 has been enjoyed that than what was ever bottled...

preference for harmonicity may be dependent on musical experience, the use of harmonicity in auditory processing is probably not dependent on this specific experience. Instead, its use is driven by the adaptation of the auditory system to the acoustic properties of objects in the environment. The preference for consonance reflects the central role of harmonicity in auditory perception, both for the identification of sounds and the segregation of sounds from different sound sources.

THE END OF THE GAME!?


The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.
(The Merchant of Venice - William Shakespeare)

Well... In so many aspects if not all it feels exactly like this; like the end of the game, especially when gauged upon what's out there.  

One thing that any writer (reviewer), regardless of an industry he's working in shouldn't afford to lose is objectivity. And the objectivity is intimately connected with genuine enthusiasm. If one acts like a closed book, the mind will only allow following the existing schemes and norms. For such a blindfolded mind, any sort of lurking into the unknown is forbidden and so to speak a dangerous affair to be dealt with.


On the contrary, the curious mind will be granted with perhaps not always an easy path, yet with the discoveries being worthy of every sneak to peek over the safety net, blindfolded fence. 

When something is constitutionally challenged the objectiveness shouldn't even be a subject of discussion. The result of technical profundity should be the absence of fatigue. And within audio realms, such absence translates into the distortion less sonic performance. Yes, we've heard that before right!? Well, this time we're dealing with a very different player...

This is where the Dietmar’s first rule fill-up the industry gap most appropriately: “I do not sell parts I sell know-how.” And the second ruling of “be the first or be better” dispense the weight, especially for the purist and perfectionist as Dietmar. Anything mediocre and just as good as the competition doesn’t cut it or make any sense to the Trinity owner and CEO. Dietmar has worked for over 30 years in a different state of the art research labs and for him “being better” in the electronic design doesn't translate to being better in marketing. 

While many high-end audio brands advertise the ultimate transparency the reality strikes hard when it comes to the real world hard facts and listening challenge. I've been doing what I love the most, in the way or another for over three decades, but I've had rarely, or frankly not ever so far stumbled upon a product that has changed my paradigm shift so radically as the Trinity Preamplifier. 

Trinity 5K phono preamplifier uses the same topology as the Trinity Golden Reference Edition Phono (€47.100,00)  This is not only a piece of stunning information to contemplate but something extremely important industry-wise. I have a little doubt, that intuitive readers might follow up on such rare discovery. I have a bit more doubts that industry, in general, will be moved by this provokingly challenging and outstanding product. 

Of course, the initial trigger comes from the PRO Audio industry as otherwise and most likely the product like Trinity Microphone preamp wouldn’t see the light of a day.

Then again... even from a pro audio perspective, the Trinity preamplifier is no ordinary device. Many aspects like solid aluminum enclosure milled from one solid block or a high quality lacquered surface instead of typical more cost-effective anodizing are not normally associated with the professional audio products. And that's just about scratching the surface.


Perhaps only a product like this can act like successfully as a bridge device that can form the actual juxtapositions of high-end and pro audio seamlessness.  

Trinity preamplifier is the only product in the whole existence of Mono and Stereo to be granted with all of the four awards at once.  And I'm giving it out already in the first part of the review!!! For what it represent technically, price/build quality wise and most importantly in what way the music is relived in the absence of any kind of sonic anomalies, traits or distortions, the Trinity Microphone Preamplifiers deserves all four accolades in the form of Mono and Stereo Best Buy Award, Highly Recommend Product, Upper Echelon Product, and Editors Choice award. 



I'm rarely gobsmacked, but the level of a factual high-end audio momentum that Trinity Preamplifier can deliver is unsurpassed and compared to the most of the sky-high priced upper echelon phono preamplifier, a complete bargain to start with. 

Do you want a fool bloodied 21st century, an uncompromised high-end audio product that yours truly won't even blink twice to personally recommend!? 

Well, here you have it... You'll certainly need to follow a few guidelines mentioned throughout the review and do your homework when it comes, for example, to the selection of the proper cabling.

But, once the needed is followed up, the Trinity Microphone Preamplifier delivers something utterly bold and provokingly different. It creates an unmatchable bond with the music that will be very, very hard to match or surpass. 

Stay tuned for more in due time. In part two, I'll conclude with the actual music references and pin-point how and where TRINITY Professional Line Microphone AMP excel...

Matej Isak

PRICE 


- TRINITY Professional Line Microphone AMP / 4.990,00€*
* Recommended Retail Price incl. 19% German Tax

INCLUDED



CONTACT

Trinity Electronic Design GmbH
Johann Wieser Ring 11
DE-85609 Aschheim

Phone. +49 (0)89/996 582 27
Email: link 

THE MEASUREMENTS 


- Some of the most impressive measurements data is below. For the complete measurements do visit Trinity website.