I had a brief listen to the PhonoBlocks tonight and in this regard I make the following preliminary comments:-
It is very difficult to place my finger on the sound of the phonostage – it just seems to play the music in a very “gentle” way. Detail is excellent as is depth of image, width and height of soundstage. All comes through in a very unforced manner in that the music flows gently from the loudspeakers. I will change back to the Manley Steelhead soon for a more in depth comparison however initially I would say the Steelhead lacks the smoothness of the PhonoBlocks and emphasises the upper frequencies a little more than the PhonoBlocks.
I am struggling to fully interpret the smoothness of the PhonoBlocks which is still full of detail and perhaps the lack of harshness conflicts with so many phonostages which emphasize detail but introduce edginess in so doing – Steelhead, I think does this (by comparison). On first listen the PhonoBlocks seem to lack inner detail but yet everything is there easy to follow and in fact there is more to hear than initially thought.
It is something quite different from all other phonostages and I imagine a very difficult to get right smoothness with detail.
At this stage my only real dilemma is regarding the gain which seems less than I am used to. At first the I had the gain set at 55dB (same as Steelhead) but quickly increased this to 60dB and still I feel I need more. Cartridge is the Shelter Harmony – soon to be Koetsu Jade Platinum (0.3 mV) and my concern is I will need even more gain which brings me to a request.
I would like to try a gain of 65-70 dB and need some feedback as to how to achieve this with the blank supplied.