PART ONE- COINCIDENT STATEMENT PHONO STAGE
PART TWO- JADIS JP-80 (HEAVILY MODIFIED) "PHONO STAGE"
PART THREE- JADIS JP-80 VS. COINCIDENT STATEMENT "KAMIKAZE"
PART FOUR- COINCIDENT STATEMENT PHONO STAGE (LATEST VERSION)
PART FIVE- CONCLUSIONS
The Coincident Statement (CSPS) is the finest commercially available phono stage I've ever heard. It is also superbly built (two chassis, hard-wired, 61 lbs combined), and it has the added flexibility of high quality volume controls, and even an extra input, for those who do not want a line stage, for whatever reason, in their system. There's also a mute switch, and even two sets of outputs for biamping. The Statement currently sells for $ 5,500, though that price may change, without notice, because of volatile exchange rates. (For more such details, and pictures, you can go the Coincident website.)
As configured, the CSPS is only meant to be used with low output MC cartridges. This is because it has internal MC SUTs, which are the exact same as are used in their (Class A Upper) Statement Transformer, along with the same loading options. In my own system, going direct, I was never able to use all the available gain, even with the lowest cut records. Its actual performance is relatively easy to describe, which is usually the case with electronics that are outstanding compared to their peers, and have no obvious weakness(es), and/or compatibility problems (like SET amplifiers).
The CSPS is highly neutral (or "characterless"), very clean, extended at both frequency extremes, virtually noiseless, highly dynamic, fast, detailed and large sounding, yet with excellent focus, and has a very low sound-floor. Importantly, it is never adversely effected by loud and complex recordings. If the CSPS has any obvious "weak link", I, and my associates, were never able to hear it, and I used a wide variety or recordings to expose it on an ultra high-resolution system. In short, the Statement excelled in every area.*
The only real problem I ever had was when my initial MC loading was set too low, so the sound was "dead" for a while. Once I raised the setting one and then, later, two clicks up, that "problem" completely disappeared. The lesson here is obvious; always experiment yourself to find the optimum setting.
*I have been informed that the output capacitor in the CSPS has been changed from a Mundorf, which I heard, to a Solen Teflon, which should provide an improvement. I haven't heard the latest version with the Solen.
When it comes to phono stages, the first audiophile choice is whether to "go direct" (into the power amplifier), using the phono stage alone (if even possible), or to add a line stage into the signal path. Assuming the latter, the next decision is whether to purchase a "traditional" preamplifier (phono and line stage combined), or separate units. Then comes whether to go tubes or transistors and, finally, the budget.
When considering everything (overall performance, flexibility and build quality), the closest competition to the CSPS is the Aesthetix IO Signature (with volume controls and a 2nd input). Unfortunately, this version of the IO sells for $ 11,500, which is more than double the CSPS. However, in my opinion, their large difference in cost is due to the CSPS being an outstanding value for its selling price, and not because the IO is, in any manner, overpriced.
While "the basics" of the two models are similar, the circuits are very different; with the CSPS using a MC SUT and a two tube (per channel) signal path, while the IO uses tubes for everything, and has a much more complicated signal path (8 tubes per channel), though it does offer higher gain (but at the expense of higher noise). Both models have now passed "the test of time", which means you can't go wrong with either of them.
I haven't compared them myself, but from everything I've heard (and read) from other audiophiles (public and private), I believe the CSPS has a slight performance advantage (though with the trade-off of some gain). This is NOT "definitive", as it would be if I made the comparisons myself, on a high quality system I was familiar with. If I had to speculate, I would say that the extra (3rd) gain stage in the IO, which is one of the reasons why it costs more than the CSPS, also has a sonic "cost", along with the extra 14 dB of gain. Replacing the IO's MC stage tubes on a regular basis, because they get noisy relatively quickly, may also be an important factor for some.
What about other "all-out" phono stages (since no less expensive, let alone "budget", model comes close to the CSPS in our experience)?
There are some other excellent models available (like the Manley Steelhead), but none of the models I'm familiar will match the performance, let alone the cost/performance/ratio, of the CSPS. The one possible exception is a (two chassis) "custom model" made by Tom Tutay, which impressed me when I heard it briefly in my own system a few years back. The "basic model" cost $ 3,600 at the time, with (extra cost) options of Teflon caps, extra inputs etc. It has 60 dB of gain, and uses tubes in the MC stage. It's very well built, but quite rudimentary in appearance. Being custom made, there will be a relatively lengthy wait to get one, after a deposit. If interested, there is information how to reach Tutay in the Links File (see below).
This brings us to the other option: Traditional Preamplifiers (with MC stages). Here, when not counting "custom-made models" (Nick Doshi Alaap etc), there are two models, with prices at either extreme, which, in our experience, dominate the field. At the lower end is the Doge 8, which sells for less than $ 1,500. Considering everything (performance, build quality, flexibility, "looks" & inflation), the Doge 8 may be the best preamplifier value in the history of audio.
The only real competition the Doge 8 has, from between $ 1,000 to $ 5,000 (the CSPS), are from the best used preamplifiers of the past (MFA Luminescence, ARC SP-10/11, CAT etc.), and even then there will be trade-offs and "taste" involved. In fact, the second dominating preamplifier, which, we can finally state, is unquestionably better than the Doge 8, is in a completely different price league...
The Audion Quattro (4 chassis version) is still the finest traditional preamplifier we know of, but it sells for $ 15,000 (with the two chassis version selling for $ 12,000). As far as I know, there is also an extra charge, $ 2,500, for the all-out version with Teflon caps and better volume pots (which is the model that we designated "Class A" in our Reference Preamplifiers). It would be fascinating to compare the all-out Quattro with the CSPS and Coincident Statement Line Stage, but we know of no one, with complete objectivity, who has yet done so. (Audion also has standard phono stages, without volume pots, but we haven't heard them.) Finally, it may be important to note that the Quattro has no actual gain in its "line stage".
Below $ 1,000- Used models dominate, and there are plenty of choices; see Class C Phono Stages and (some) Class C Preamplifiers, plus new models like the Jasmine and some other interesting models, mainly coming from Asia.
$1,000 to $ 3,000+- The Doge 8 dominates here, and it is new, but some used models, from the 1980's and 1990's* (from ARC, MFA, CAT, Counterpoint etc), may be preferable to some audiophiles with specific tastes and requirements. The Doge 8 is a "game changer" and it's worth going over the budget to get it.
$4,000 and above- The Coincident Statement Phono Stage also dominates its price range, below and above. It's even good enough to make a time/money sacrifice and spend more than the original budget for it. Further, for those fortunate audiophiles with budgets of $ 10,000+, it is important to note that the Statement Line Stage could then be included in the deal. This would mean another 20 dB of gain (more than matching the Aesthetix IO), and even improved sonics, as per my February 2011 review (above) of the Line Stage (more about this important issue in Part Three).
$10,000 and above- There are three serious choices here: The Aesthetix IO Signature is a proven top performer and a safe choice. However, the combined Coincident Statement Phono/Line Stages cost $ 1,000 less, has even more gain, and most likely outperforms the IO to boot. Since it uses a MC SUT, there are also less (noise-prone) tubes to regularly replace. The final choice is the Audion Quattro, which is still the "champion" of its kind, but it costs $ 5,000+ more than the other two, and we don't know yet if that extra investment also gives you better sonic performance (though it definitely outperforms the "standard" IO). It also has less gain than either of them, and no gain in its "line stage".
*The phono stages from this era will be even better than we remember, since they were only heard with their own line stages, which were of varying quality. It's definitely possible that one (or more) of these models had an amazing phono stage, which was "sabotaged", at the time, by their own mediocre line stage. The superb line stages available today will finally allow them to shine.
In my experience, the Coincident Statement Phono Stage sets a new performance standard in the audio marketplace, at not only its own price point, but far above it. It can even be further improved with the addition of its sister Line Stage. For those audiophiles searching for the highest performance, combined with simplicity and outstanding value and build quality, the CSPS is the end of the proverbial rainbow.Top
While Part One of this article/review meets all of the usual requirements for thoroughness (a description, evaluation, comparisons and overall perspective), some readers may have noticed a critical omission, along with two carefully phrased qualifiers. To be specific:
1. There was not a single mention of the Jadis JP-80, which has been my personal "Reference" phono stage for more than 20 years, and
2. When describing the Coincident Statement Phono Stage as "the finest available", I also used the qualifiers "commercially available" and, later, "in the audio marketplace".
Further, in both instances, this was deliberate on my part, because these two items are directly related.
For years now, I've struggled with the complicated issue of my JP-80, which is a "one of a kind" component (as far as I know). As it is, gutted and ultra-modified, and long without a line stage;
1. Is it still a preamplifier or is it now a phono stage? Also,
2. Can it even be a "Reference", since it can't be purchased, for any money, new or used?*
In fact, my Jadis JP-80's inclusion in this website's (then) "Recommended Components", was the initial catalyst for the changing of this designation to, instead, "Reference Components" (though the change took 4 years).
The Relevant Incident- I had a short conversation with Ken Stevens, owner/designer of Convergent Audio Technology, which manufactures tube preamps, at the Las Vegas CES, in January 2004. Stevens complained to me (in a friendly fashion) that it was "unfair" for me to "recommend" a preamplifier that was not only unavailable*, but, more importantly, totally impractical in the audio marketplace, since it had no line stage, no volume controls and no cathode follower circuit, which meant only a very few amplifiers could even work with it. Stevens told me that no "real world" preamplifier (coming from a responsible manufacturer or distributor) could ever sound as good (everything else being equal) as my (gutted and modified) JP-80, since it would have "to work with everything", a major disadvantage.
While I kept the Jadis JP-80 as a "recommendation", and then later a "reference", Stevens frank and direct arguments have been on my mind for the last 7+ years. Accordingly, after some further thought, and my experiences with the Coincident Line Stage, I've decided to make another change, which I also should have made years ago. The Jadis JP-80 is being removed from "Preamplifiers", where it never belonged in the first place, and being placed in "Phono Stages", where it clearly belongs, since the line stage is long gone (for almost 20 years). My only regret is not doing this much earlier. So, I guess I had a "blind spot" when it came to the JP-80. Moral- Don't get "emotional" with components.
*As I have written previously, the main "purpose of this website is to help the readers listen to, evaluate and understand the performance of audio components", and not "to sell" specific models (like the mainstream audio press). So, the fact that my modified Jadis is unavailable, in the audio marketplace, is completely irrelevant to what I am attempting to accomplish.
This now leads us to a description and evaluation of my personal Jadis JP-80, and then a direct comparison with the Coincident Statement Phono Stage.Top
This (now) phono stage, which began its "life" as a traditional preamplifier many years ago (1989), has been continually upgraded and modified for over 20 years. Despite numerous challenges and comparisons, from the finest preamps and phono stages I, and my associates, could find, it has remained my personal "reference" since 1989. To be succinct: My JP-80 has been, and is now, the finest MM phono preamplifier I've ever heard. While it will be "impractical" for some systems, it works extraordinary well in my system, and any other that is similar to it in design.
My current "reference" JP-80 uses only two tubes in the signal path, both of them a 12AX7. The other four signal path tubes in the stock JP-80 have been removed (all 3 in the line stage and the phono stage cathode follower). There is a V-Cap Teflon capacitor (.47uf) coupling the two remaining tubes and another V-Cap Teflon (2uf) at the output of the second tube.
The RIAA equalization is accomplished with feedback, using Stanley Lipschitz's formula. All the power supply capacitors are film based. Only the selector switch is still in the direct signal path, with every other switch bypassed, including the volume controls. In fact, there are no resistors in the entire direct signal path*.
The complete JP-80 direct signal path is now this:
Finally, just in case I haven't been direct enough at this point, I want to make my opinion clear: The Line Stage in the JP-80 (or the later JP-80MC), and the Moving Coil stage in the JP-80MC, are both mediocre. Anyone using either of these stages, let alone both of them, has no idea of the outstanding potential of the JP-80's Moving Magnet stage.
*For the most complete description of the modifications I have performed on the JP-80, please go to The Modifications File. However, I can't stress enough that no one** should even attempt these modifications, some of which are extreme, without a great deal of knowledge and experience in such matters.
I made several comparisons between these two models (A/B/A/B/A). The system was exactly the same, with the single exception of the MC SUT. The JP-80 used the Bent Silver, while the Statement obviously used its own internal transformers. (The separate Statement MC Transformer had a serious hum problem with the Jadis at the time.) It is critical to note that both of these phono stages went directly into the amplifiers, so no Line Stage was ever used. Further, Coincident has since changed the output capacitor (to a Solen Teflon) in the current model.
So, after all the comparisons, using my most familiar and challenging recordings, which was better?
The Jadis JP-80. The differences between them were not huge or "dramatic", but they were still important, and very similar in type to the what I had heard when I directly compared the original Coincident Frankenstein amplifier to the current version (with the shiny stainless steel chassis). The JP-80, when compared to the Statement, was...
1. A little cleaner, faster and immediate.
2. A little more delicate and detailed.
3. A bit more defined, extended and solid in the bass.
4. A little more organized and less homogenized.
5. A little more dynamic, and
6. The sound-floor was also a little lower.
Overall, the Jadis was more refined, natural and less "electronic". In degree, I would say the differences I heard between the two phono stages were somewhat more noticeable than those between the two Frankenstein amplifiers mentioned earlier. If I employed the same analogy I used with them, I would say that the Jadis JP-80 was the "next page or two", but definitely not a "new chapter".
Of course, I must also point out that the Jadis had only one volume setting, so I couldn't adjust it to sound its best with high-cut records. It also had less gain that the Coincident, which created another problem with my low-cut records. "Practicality" obviously favored the Coincident, but the comparisons were "best to best".
In general, the Jadis JP-80, as currently modified**, combines the most desirable qualities of the finest triodes with the basic strengths of the fastest and purest transistor models (Spectral). In short, the JP-80 is the closest to "the best of all worlds" ideal that I've yet heard from a phono stage or, in other words, it's "like nothing is there". It is very similar in nature to the (latest version) Coincident Frankenstein and the matching Statement Line Stage, which also provide that same ultra-rare sense of a complete absence of an "electronic character".
I can understand some readers being frustrated, like Ken Stevens, because my top reference phono stage is something that is extremely difficult to obtain, and even if it is, it must be placed in a system that is specifically designed to accommodate it. However, I can promise you that "frustration" is not my intent. This high level of performance exists, and it would be a dereliction of my obligations as an audio journalist to minimize or, even worse, ignore this reality. Even more importantly, there are scientific and technical reasons why these sonic differences exist, and they should be discussed.
So, after all these years, the Jadis JP-80, albeit heavily modified, is still at the top. While this may appear strange, or even impossible, to an audiophile who only follows the mainstream audio press, it isn't unusual in "real life", where advancements don't automatically materialize every month or year. (However, it is critical to note that the Jadis was always kept "up to date" over the years with further modifications.)
**Jadis JP-80 (MC) "Lazy Man"/"El Cheapo" Modification- If someone already owns this model (or can purchase one for a low price), and believes my complete modification is too difficult and/or costly to duplicate, but still wants most (not all!) of the sonic improvements, for the least cost and hassle, then I would:
1. Bypass the internal MC Stage by using the front switch. (Free!)
2. Bypass the internal Line Stage by using the tape outputs, and not the main outputs. (Free!)
3. Change the (4) stock MM coupling and output capacitors to V-Cap, or Solen Film, Teflons. ($ 1,000+)
4. Change the stock electrolytic decoupling capacitors to large Solen (metallized) Film caps, along with .1uf bypasses. ($ 300+)
5. Bypass the MM Cathode Follower tube, which is the third 12AX7. ($ 100+ in labor)
6. Get the finest NOS 12AX7 tubes you can find. Only 2 of them are necessary after #5. ($ 200+)
Further- This modified Jadis will now require a MC Step-up (for a low-output MC) and a Line Stage, and they both must have outstanding performance. This will considerably raise the amount of the total investment.
Finally, I'm happy to report that one (curious & tenacious) manufacturer has decided to seriously investigate what actually differentiates the Jadis from its peers, including his own phono stage. This effort may make it possible to design and market a new phono stage with the unique advantages of the JP-80, and maybe even "then some". Time will tell.
This then leads us to Part Three, but first we must go to an important...Top
During and after the above comparisons were made, I wrote some detailed notes and then went on to what I felt were more important and compelling issues at the time (the Lenco Turntable etc). Just as important, while I knew the combination of the Bent/Jadis was better than the Coincident MC/MM combination, I wasn't able to tell whether it was the Bent, or the Jadis, or both of them, which was actually better.
In fact, I realized that it was possible that one of the two stages was even inferior to the Coincident (which was what actually happened). Further, I knew all of my questions would be answered if I could eventually get the Coincident MC Transformer to work with the Jadis, which I did later that year, in the fall. I refused to speculate when it was unnecessary to do so, so I posted my general impression of the Coincident phono stage ("outstanding") and went on. Meanwhile...
Even though it is purposely never expressed in Part Two, I was really enthusiastic about the results of the comparisons of the two phono stages, because the Coincident, while finishing in "second place" at the time, still demonstrated a level of potential I had never experienced before. Translation- When compared to the Jadis (with the Bent), the Coincident Statement actually had unprecedented performance, if one took into account its inherent, comparative and technical disadvantages.
This was my thinking...
The Coincident Statement came into the competition with the Jadis with three distinct disadvantages:
1. It had a resistor based volume pot in the signal path, while the Jadis was "direct", and
2. It had a cathode follower tube in the signal path, while the Jadis' cathode follower had been removed back in the 1990's, and
3. It did not have Teflon output capacitors, while the Jadis used V-Cap Teflons.
It is important to remember that in the past, the Jadis also had these same 3 disadvantages. Further, I had heard all the improvements when these three "disadvantages" were each removed in turn, and though my memory isn't infallible, I had the strong belief that the cumulative improvements I had heard with the Jadis were definitely greater than the Coincident's current sonic disadvantages. The implications of all this are critically important...
This meant that, at least in theory, if both the Statement's resistor volume pot and cathode follower were removed from its signal path, and the output capacitors changed to Teflon, the Coincident should then outperform the Jadis. (Also, the Jadis used the best NOS 12AX7 tubes I could find, while the Coincident had the best current Chinese 12AX7 tubes that Blume could find, which I doubted were as good as my NOS equivalents.) If I had to put all of this in numerical terms, you could state that the Jadis was currently 5% better than the Coincident, while the Coincident had three potential improvements (plus the better tubes) which could enhance its performance by 10%.
Around the time I was making the comparisons, I called up Israel Blume, the owner/designer of Coincident, to inform him of my initial observations. At first, as could be expected, Blume was surprised and disappointed, especially since his phono stage had always come up on top, not only in his own comparisons, but those he had heard about from his customers and others. However, I reminded him of the important technical advantages that the Jadis possessed, not only in relation to his own phono stage, but all of the others as well. Blume decided to think things over (while also asking me to confirm my findings, which I did). Shortly thereafter, Blume and I had an in-depth conversation about the technical differences between the two models, specifically focusing on the JP-80's extreme Kamikaze modifications, with the result that Blume eventually decided to implement all of them in his (personal) model.
When I offered to do these modifications in my home, with the existing unit, Blume declined, since he wanted to hear everything for himself (step by step). Besides, he told me, in the case of his phono stage, he thought it would be far more complicated than just bypassing a tube, since the circuit he used was different than the JP-80, so unknown problems could arise. Further, he had a stock ("control") phono stage always available for direct comparisons (if and when necessary) with the modified version. I reluctantly agreed with Blume, and he promised to let me know the results of each of the various experiments. (Meanwhile, the phono stage I had, completely stock and never even opened up, was shipped out to someone else.)
After a number of starts and stops, Blume eventually worked out the entire modification, which has become much more than just bypassing the cathode follower tube. This means that this modification can not be done by someone handy with a soldering iron and some free time. Blume informed me he made a surprising number of changes, mainly to eliminate the frequency aberrations directly caused by the removal of the cathode tube. He also ended up replacing the critical output capacitors, both in type and value, and this particular change was even incorporated into the most recent "stock" Statement. (The capacitors were Mundorfs and now replaced with Solen Teflons.)
I now have possession of a modified Statement, which I have named "The Kamikaze" (for obvious reasons). However, I can't listen to it yet because the latest output capacitors, the Solen Teflons, still have to be shipped to me. As far as I know, only two "Kamikazes" actually exist as of now, the model in Blume's own system and the one I have, which should be operable within a month. However, my model will still have to be broken-in before serious testing (and comparisons) can begin.
So this is where we stand as of now and, for good measure, Phono Stage "X" has even been formally identified. Finally, because he was prominently mentioned above, I decided to allow Israel Blume to respond to what was written about his phono stage and the Kamikaze version as well. As far as I know, none of this important information can be found on the Coincident website.
"The Phono unit that Arthur reviewed was from our first production run. Shortly thereafter there were a few very important upgrades incorporated into the unit.
1. Output cap was improved.
2. The input power supply capacitors were moved from the power supply chassis to a more direct connection right at the input circuitry.
The result is a noticeable sonic improvement in all the areas of performance discussed by Arthur when he compared the original Phono Statement to his Jadis. The gap, while fairly subtle before between the Statement and his Kamikaze Jadis, has been greatly reduced. It is even further diminished when the Statement Phono is mated to the Statement Line Stage, since the volume pots of the Phono can be eliminated from the signal path. Volume is then adjusted with the transformer coupled pots of the Line Stage.
I will leave it to Arthur to articulate the sonic difference between the Statement Kamikaze to his Jadis, both mated to the Statement Line Stage and a final comparison between the current production Statement Phono to his Jadis. These evaluations will prove revelatory."Top
After a lengthy rough patch, the direct comparisons between these two unique components have now been completed. I did these comparisons by myself first, and then later with one of my most experienced associates. I also took great pains to make sure the comparisons were completely fair; the exact same tubes, cables, system, volume levels etc. (Both models went through the Coincident Statement Line Stage, necessary for level matching and optimizing their performance.) We even used the Coincident Statement MC SUT, with the Jadis, for confirmation. So, after all this, I can now report that there was an unambiguous "winner" of this shootout. To end any suspense, the victor was, once again,...
The Jadis JP-80.
As for the details, the Jadis was noticeably more immediate, dynamic and full-range etc. In fact, the performance gap between these two models was far greater than with the now current "stock" Statement phono stage, which I recently heard in January 2012. So, in effect, the "Kamikaze" transformation, which I had such high expectations for, ended up being a real disappointment, since it actually degraded the performance of the Statement overall, instead of improving it.
However, there was still one very interesting observation: The Kamikaze's midrange, by a very small margin, was the finest we have ever heard. It actually had superior inner detail, transparency and better recreation of timbre, than the JP-80, our long time reference standard, though not by much. Still, this area is the JP-80's strong suit, so this development, however subtle, was totally unexpected. This still makes it an achievement in our eyes, especially considering that the midrange is where most of the music exists. As for a description...
The Kamikaze sounded a touch more like a good SET amplifier in the midrange than any other phono stage we've ever heard. However, that SET would be a model from an earlier generation, because both of the frequency extremes were compromised, still easily giving the overall advantage to the Jadis JP-80 (and also the current Statement). Further, when we eventually went back to the Jadis, during our A/B/A comparisons, its relative disadvantage was so subtle that it became basically inaudible in less than a minute (which is a Level Two Improvement), making it almost meaningless. But it did exist, which is the main point. Then there is the other serious issue which must be addressed in this review.
I want to now take a step back to gain a larger perspective. If we consider this Kamikaze "experiment" to be a "failure", it must have had a technical and scientific cause(s), which we must now try to discover, explain and understand, even if there is some speculation involved. This is my thinking on this issue at this time...
These two phono stages are very similar. They both have:
1. Only two 12AX7 tubes;
2. An extremely simple circuit;
3. Only high-quality Teflon coupling capacitors;
4. No resistors in the direct signal path;
5. Direct (hard) wiring;
6. All film power supply capacitors;
7. Huge power supplies, and finally, of course,
8. No Cathode Follower.
However, there is one critical difference in their designs: The Kamikaze uses passive RIAA equalization, while the JP-80 uses standard active feedback. Logically, using the process of elimination, this must account for their large sonic differences.
So, to quickly summarize all of our previous results...
1. Coincident Statement Phono Stage (Latest Version)- Passive Equalization + Cathode Follower = Outstanding Performance
2. Jadis JP-80 Phono Stage (Highly Modified)- Active Feedback + No Cathode Follower = Outstanding Performance
3. Coincident Statement "Kamikaze" Phono Stage- Passive Equalization + No Cathode Follower = Disappointing Performance
What does all of this mean?
Simple: Removing the cathode follower is incompatible with passive RIAA equalization.
In short, you can't have both of them in a successful design. Any sonic advantages received by removing the cathode follower, or active feedback, will be eliminated when both are implemented simultaneously (even with a gigantic power supply). In fact, if the Kamikaze's power supply, built to such heroic standards, is still inadequate for this daunting task, so must every other phono stage power supply in existence, or at least that I'm aware of. Accordingly, this "Passive RIAA/No Cathode Follower Incompatibility" will now be my "Rule", until I actually hear a phono stage overcome it with my own ears.
As discussed above, and particularly in the Second Intermission, the Coincident Statement Phono Stage has had several changes since I originally heard it in early 2010. I was able to hear the latest version, with all the changes, and compared it directly to the Jadis JP-80, my current Class A (Upper) "Reference", which has also had a few changes since 2010. The results of these comparisons are described below.Top
Two direct comparisons of the phono stages were conducted; the first was with a long-time associate present, and the second by myself a week later, for confirmation. The system was exactly the same for both of the comparisons, with the exception of one important component (the MC Step-Up Transformer), which is discussed below.
There were two differences between these 2012 comparisons and those made back in Spring 2010:
1. Both phono stages had their signals going through the Coincident Statement Line Stage, in contrast to the 2010 direct connections.
2. The reference system was bi-amped, in contrast to 2010, when just one amplifier, the Coincident Frankenstein SET 300B, played the speakers full-range.
I felt these two changes were necessary, and would present a greater challenge to the phono stages, while also revealing more of their ultimate performance capabilities.
The results of the 2012 comparisons are similar to the 2010 comparisons. My associate and I both felt that the Jadis JP-80 (heavily modified) is still superior overall to the Coincident Statement, but this time there are some important caveats, which did not exist almost two years ago.
The Jadis still has a noticeable edge in transparency, immediacy, purity, delicacy, inner detail, separation, focus and individuation. It is also better at reproducing natural ambience and a real sense of space. The differences between them are similar to what one hears when comparing an outstanding push-pull tube amplifier to an outstanding SET amplifier, assuming the speaker is "SET friendly". Still, the two components were so alike in basic sound that it required actual A/B comparisons to hear these differences convincingly, meaning they were not "obvious".
However, unlike in 2010, this time the Coincident Statement has two noticeable sonic advantages to the JP-80, which many audiophiles may feel are critically important.
First of all, the Statement has the "largest sound" that I have ever experienced. It is very noticeable when the volume is set to a natural level and/or louder. It was the very first attribute that my associate and I heard during our initial A/B comparison (we both commented on it within literally seconds). It is so noticeable, I believe anyone can hear it, which is the strongest verbal description I can imagine. Considering that the Jadis is itself excellent* in reproducing a large image, it's possible that the Coincident Statement may be in a class by itself in this area. (For an analogy, think of a "50" screen compared to a "65" screen.)
*In the past, the only preamplifier I heard that had a larger image than the JP-80 was the (ultra expensive and rare) Jadis JP-200, though the difference was not as pronounced as with the Coincident Statement (at least at that time). The only other preamplifier that may have had a larger image than the JP-80 was the MFA Luminescence. Critically Important- The Coincident Statement, JP-200 and the Luminescence all have dual-mono power supplies. The JP-80 does not.
The Statement's second area of improvement was in the mid to deep bass (20 to 80 Hz), which now had more weight and impact than the Jadis, though the quality of the bass was around the same. This was also easily noticeable. Once again, the Coincident may be unique when it comes to the combination of outstanding bass quantity and quality. From my own perspective, the observation is simple: I've never heard anything like it before. (From a different angle, I would be shocked if Harry Pearson, who has always been obsessed with deep bass and a "big sound", didn't go literally crazy if he heard the current Coincident Statement.) I must finally stress that neither the huge image size, nor the extraordinary bass, existed in the "original" Coincident Statement, which I auditioned back in Spring 2010.
I have a tiny caveat concerning the Jadis' areas of superiority; They were most noticeable at very low to "average" sound levels. Once the sound was "loud" (90dB or higher), the improvements I described were less noticeable to us. However, the Coincident's superiority in the bass was almost always noticeable, though its "giant image size" could be compromised when the volume setting was lower than what most listeners would consider "normal". This means that it is particularly important to optimize the volume setting of the Statement Phono Stage for each LP to hear it at its very best. I have no explanation for these observations, which both of us heard.
Finally, it must be remembered that the Jadis used the superb Bent Audio Silver SUT, while the Coincident has its own (internal) SUT. When the Jadis also used the Coincident SUT, all of the sonic differences, that I described above, were noticeably reduced (though never eliminated), which means their respective MM stages are amazingly similar in overall performance, in fact, even more so than I original thought.
What are the implications of all this?
If you listen to a large variety of music, especially with plenty of acoustical instruments (classical, jazz), then the Jadis (only if used with the Bent) will be superior almost all of the time. However, if you mainly listen to music that is recorded and/or cut loud (rock/pop music), with only a few soft volume periods, then the Coincident will be superior most of the time. This should be obvious, since the unprecedented strengths of the Statement will then be easily noticeable, while its relative weaknesses won't be as audible.
As for myself, I will be keeping my Jadis/Bent because I fit in the former listener category above. I particularly enjoy "Ancient Music" and other small ensembles, though I also greatly enjoy large orchestral works and soundtracks as well. While everyone will not agree with me, I strongly believe that my requirements are more challenging overall than those of the latter listener category. This means that the Jadis remains in Class A (Upper), while the Coincident remains in Class A (Lower).
Finally, I also realize that many more audiophiles are in the latter listener category, so I wouldn't be surprised if most listeners preferred the Coincident Statement in a direct comparison, especially if it was only "rock music" that was auditioned. Even listeners with similar tastes to mine may still prefer the Coincident, because it truly has a "big sound", which can even be overwhelming at times. To be able to "overwhelm" a listener, while still reproducing almost all of the subtleties, is an ultra rare, if not unique, accomplishment, but the latest* Coincident Statement Phono Stage has done it.
*I was informed that this "latest" version of the Coincident Statement has been shipped out since September 2010.
Primary Music auditioned for the comparisons:
THOMSON-PLOW THAT BROKE THE PLAINS-STOKOWSKI-ANALOGUE PRODUCTIONS AP 001*
MEDIEVAL CHRISTMAS-BOSTON CAMERATA/COHEN-NONESUCH 71315
LA SPAGNA- ATRIVM MVSICAE DE MADRID/GREGORIO PANIAGUA- BIS LP-163/64
*Has both very soft and very loud passages. A superb component and/or system test record.Top
This survey began in the summer of 2011, though the first listening auditions took place in spring 2010. I have now heard every possible combination, and the results have been confirmed with a number of my listening associates. In 2012, I heard the latest Coincident Statement, plus the "Kamikaze" version of the same phono stage. Those results have now been posted, but while they are important and edifying, they have not changed my original overall assessments, which were posted in Parts One & Two, which were, and are:
1. The Coincident Statement is the finest phono stage commercially available that I've heard, or am aware of, and at any price. The current version is even a noticeable improvement over the early model which received the original evaluation. For all the details, see Part One and Part Four (for the latest model).
2. The Jadis JP-80 (MC), if gutted and highly modified, has slightly greater overall potential performance. However, this will be a major project, will cost much more ($ 10,000+), and the JP-80 still requires the Bent Silver SUT and (probably) the Coincident Statement Line Stage (both of which I already have) to reach this high level of performance. It remains my personal "Reference". For all the details, see Parts Two, Three & Four.
3. The Statement and the JP-80 are superb performers, the finest I've experienced. However, they still have flaws, however subtle, and advantages over each other, and the "Kamikaze" even has a very slight advantage over both of them in the midrange. Considering the great lengths taken in their design and execution, it is reasonable to assume that a phono stage, without any flaws, is still impossible to manufacture at this time.
Finally, what about the "Kamikaze"? Does it have any utility? I thought about this, and came to the conclusion that only someone who listens only to chamber music, and also only uses speakers like the original Quad, or a single-driver (without a sub), may be happy with it. However, this is sheer speculation on my part, because I wouldn't enjoy it myself even in this extreme circumstance. The Kamikaze is just not practical* for a serious music listener (but it sure sounded "great" in my audio imagination!). For all the details, see Part Three.
*I have been informed by Israel Blume that the two Kamikazes (one was Blume's) have both been converted back into stock models, and none now exist. Further, also according to Blume, no Kamikaze will ever be built again.Top
THE REFERENCE COMPONENTS
REFERENCE PHONO STAGES
THE RECENT FILE
The Supreme Recordings
My Audio Philosophy
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