Known primarily for its digital, networking, and DAC products, SOtM has built a strong presence in the audio market. Over the years, I have tried and tested a number of SOTM products, and there’s always something unique about the way the company approaches the design of certain products that consistently come with great, engaging sound.
The sPQ-100 is the latest product, but surprisingly they have taken a different approach by entering the world of vinyl playback in an attempt to deliver the best possible sound at the most affordable price.
I usually review much more expensive products, but I have often been asked to evaluate a truly affordable, but high-performance phono preamplifier. The SOtM sPQ-100 very much meets these requests.
Many analog aficionados, music lovers, and audiophiles either want a second phono preamp to enjoy the music, test out the various pressings, or something they can recommend to their family members or friends to get them started in this enticing world of analog.
As you can read, the SOtM sPQ-100 is a very potent phono preamp, and there is little that could be said about an entry-level model.
Below is a breakdown of the technical specifications of the SOtM sPQ-100, starting with the most important features.
- Support various types of EQ curves through selector switches
- MM/ MC cartridge selection
- Input impedance/capacitance selection
- Bass boost level selection
- Bass turnover frequency selection
- High frequency roll-off frequency selection
- Total gain selection
- Wide input voltage range
Design and construction
The SOtM sPQ-100 follows an instantly recognizable, minimalist SOtM design. Housed in a rugged all-aluminum enclosure, the SPQ-100 exudes ruggedness despite of its relatively small size.
Impedance and gain matching
A standout feature of the sPQ-100 is its impedance and gain matching. It offers a wide range of impedance settings for different types of cartridges, allowing you to fine-tune analog setups. As with other products, this flexibility is a testament to SOtM’s commitment and dedication to delivering a product that adapts to the unique preferences of the owner.
Support for MC and MM cartridges
The sPQ-100 phono preamplifier is versatile in its cartridge support and can accommodate both moving coil (MC) and moving magnet (MM) cartridges. This capability ensures compatibility with a wide range of cartridges, further increasing its appeal to analog enthusiasts seeking versatility at affordable prices.
Navigating the sPQ-100’s user interface is a breeze. Intuitive switches on the top of the chassis provide control over cartridge settings and playback parameters, making it easy for the user to find a perfect match with the designated cartridge.
With the SPQ-100, SOtM supplied sPS-500 power supply. The sPS-500 is an audio power supply designed specifically for high-performance audio. It is designed to eliminate noise from powered devices as well as noise generated by an AC power source.
Using SOtM’s unique noise reduction and sound enhancement technologies, as well as high-quality audio components it’s a great match for SPQ-100.
The sPS-500 is designed to easily handle a variety of AC input voltages – the output voltage can be changed to 7Vdc, 9Vdc, 12Vdc, or 19Vdc depending on the power specification of the audio device – and the 50W output power is flexible enough to be used for different audio systems. The device is also designed to provide more stable performance through the input, output, overcurrent, and overheating protection circuits.
And now to the heart of the matter – the sound quality. The SPQ-100 phono preamplifier offers a remarkable listening experience for such a compact and affordable phono preamp.
Its carefully designed circuitry and ultra-low noise components contribute to a sonic transparency that brings out the beauty of analog playback with ease.
As you’ll read in the next section, from singular instruments to complex musical passages, music comes to life with ease, revealing nuances and details that immerse the listener in the core of the music with ease. That alone is worth all the highlights.
Jonas Hellborg – Elegant Punk
With the SOtM sPQ-100 phono preamp in the analog chain, Jonas Hellborg’s “Elegant Punk” takes on a whole new dimension in its price range. The precision and depth of bass response are something for the size and price. Every pluck of the bass strings resounds with the requisite power and clarity, easily enveloping the listener in a sonic embrace that you can’t only hear, but feel. Something you wouldn’t expect from phono preamps under 1k.
Surprisingly, the sPQ-100 unleashes the necessary potential of the low frequencies without overpowering them.
Laurence Rosenthal – Rashomon
For those who appreciate the fine detail and breathtaking speed in vinyl playback, Laurence Rosenthal’s “Rashomon” is an aural revelation. But for the magic to unfold, it needs a proper phono stage. The SOtM sPQ-100 reproduces the subtle nuances, from the flickering of strings to the rapid crescendos, with unexpected clarity and speed. With the sPQ-100, I never felt musical subtleties being lost, and the SOtM phono stage made “Rashomon” a captivating journey through the intricacies of this masterful composition.
Gregorio Paniagua – La Folia De La Spagna: Unleashed
Once again, the SOtM sPQ-100 exceeded expectations. Gregorio Paniagua’s “La Folia De La Spagna” unleashed natural ambiance and holographic soundscapes with ease. Although the SPQ-100 isn’t at the level of top-of-the-line phono preamps, it revealed the ethereal beauty of this album complete and enticing.
I didn’t expect the SOtM phono stage to breathe life into every note as easily as it did. The impressive spatial imaging and holographic scape were there, with more than enough focal points and nodes to create the needed sonic illusion. That alone is a masterstroke for this compact phono preamplifier!
Ray Brown & Laurindo Almeida – Moonlight Serenade
For guitar music buffs, “Moonlight Serenade” by Ray Brown & Laurindo Almeida takes center stage. With the SPQ-100 at the helm, the delicate overlays of notes and nuanced timbres of the guitars come through especially well. The strums and plucks laid down by SOtM ring out with a dash of realism and actuality, bringing the listener much closer to the heart of the music than it should be at this price point.
Patricia Barber – Nightclub
Patricia Barber’s “Nightclub” (1Step – Impex) holds a special crux when it comes to realistic vocal reproduction.
The SOtM sPQ-100 continued to excel with the reproduction, not only preserving the authenticity and emotion in Barber’s vocals. It also managed to reproduce subtle nuances and inflections without restriction, so that every word rang out with realistic decay and delay. Another mark that deserves recognition.
Leopold Stokowski – Orchestral Masterpieces From The Ring Of The Niebelung
Leopold Stokowski’s interpretation of “Orchestral Masterpieces From The Ring Of The Nibelung” has long been my reference recording when it comes to judging the capabilities of a phono preamplifier. This iconic performance, recorded in the mid-20th century, demonstrates Stokowski’s remarkable ability to bring Wagner’s epic opera to life through a full orchestra, albeit without vocals.
Played back through a high-quality phono stage and preamplifier, this recording comes into its own, and with the SOtM sPQ-100, it quickly becomes clear that despite its modest size, it can deliver unique dynamics when combined with the sPS-500.
Stokowski’s conducting style is characterized by dramatic crescendos and passionate, vibrant sweeps, and these junctures are ideal for scrutinizing how the phono stage can capture every nuance of dynamic changes and how objectively it can deliver an emotional listening experience.
Surprisingly, the sPQ-100 acted rather impressively here as well, with enough emphasis to cement the necessary dynamic impact.
The transparency and detail of the SOtM sPQ-100 preamplifier allowed Wagner’s multi-layered orchestration to come to the fore, defining the orchestra and its parts much more clearly than expected in the sound sphere.
The PQ-100 was able to bring out subtle nuances and textures in the “Ring” that even some pricer phono preamps cannot decipher and go unnoticed.
Nor is it easy to emphasize the orchestral pit, which is closely related to the level of focal points and nodes that the phono stage can present, allowing the listener to pick out individual instruments, sections, or complete “bubble” of the orchestra with ease.
SOtM sPQ-100 kept bold with its core fixed on the tempi and delivers enough to The Ring Of The Nibelung grandeur and subtlety.
The SOtM sPQ-100 phono preamplifier stands out with what it offers for its price. As mentioned throughout the review, this compact but highly potent phono stage combines a carefully executed design, flexible adjustment options, and most importantly, unparalleled sound quality for the money that will surprise even more demanding vinyl lovers.
The sheer flexibility and the ability to use not only the standard RIAA curve but in combination with the high-frequency cut, bass turnover frequency, and bass gain level to adjust the AES, NARTB(NAB), TELDEC, CCIR 78, IEC N78, Columbia LP, RCA Old Orthophonic and LONDON LP curves make the sPQ-100 a true analog hub for vinyl collectors.
On its own, the sPQ-100 delivers powerful performance, but when paired with the sPS-500 power supply, everything gains even more focus, weight, and a different atmospheric perspective. With the sPS-500, there’s simply more to the music. A good power supply is the heart of any electronic device and sPS-500 is a proof of concept.
The SOtM commitment to pristine music reproduction continues greatly with the sPQ-100, at a fraction of the price of many phono preamps on the market.
It is much easier to manufacture and develop an expensive phono stage and challenge the competition. It is much, much more difficult to develop something remarkable at an entry-level price. The SOtM SPQ-100 is an excellent example of this, going far beyond expectations and the stated price.
For what it represents, I wholeheartedly give the SOtM SPQ-100 the 2023 Mono & Stereo Highly Recommended Product Award. ❖
- sPQ-100 – $600.00 Tax excluded
- sPS-500 – $500.00 Tax excluded
- User interface
- Power on/off switch
- Operating indicator LED x1
- MM/MC selection switch
- Input impedance/capacitance selection switch
- MM : 47KΩ, 100pF, 150pF, 220pF, 330pF
- MC : 15Ω, 20Ω, 100Ω, 500Ω, 10pF
- Bass boost level selection switch
- 14.5dB, 16dB, 20dB @ 20Hz, 33dB @ 7Hz(no bass shelf)
- Bass turnover frequency selection switch
- 250Hz, 354Hz, 500Hz, 800Hz
- High frequency roll off frequency selection switch
- 1592Hz, 2122Hz, 2500Hz, 3183Hz
- Total gain selection switch
- 40dB, 50dB, 60dB, 70dB @ 1KHz
- Tolerance : ±10%(all switch location)
- Input/Output signal
- Stereo RCA jack with earth terminal x 1
- MM input
- Signal level : 3mVac ~ 10mVac @ 1KHz
- Recommended impedance : 47KΩ
- Recommended capacitance : 100pF ~ 330pF
- Frequency response : 20Hz ~ 20KHz
- MC input
- signal level : 0.1mVac ~ 1mVac @ 1KHz
- Recommended impedance : 15Ω ~ 500Ω
- Frequency response : 20Hz ~ 20KHz
- Output signal
- Stereo RCA jack
- Output signal level : 9.5Vac Max
- Output impedance : 20Ω typical
- Frequency response : 20Hz ~ 20KHz
- SNR : 100dB typical @ 1KHz max output level(MC, RIAA, 50dB Gain setting)
- Tolerance : ±10%(all signal level, gain and frequency)
- DC power input
- Input voltage : 7Vdc~9Vdc
- Input current : 1A max
- 5.5mm OD, 2.1mm ID adaptor jack
- Operating environment
- Operating temperature : 0 ~ +40℃
- Storage temperature : 0 ~ +40℃
- Operating & storage humidity : 10% ~ 90%
- 106 x 48 x 245(mm)
- 1.5kg >
Address : #202, (Ssangyong-Dong)
84-9, Wolbong 4-ro,
Higoto GmbH(digital-highend) www.digital-highend.com