Perreaux Audiant VP3 phono preamp

23.11.2015..
Perreaux Audiant VP3
Perreaux Audiant VP3

The title of this review should be Perreaux Audiant VP3 Vinyl Preamplifier as defined by the company itself, maybe to emphasize its noble function: taking care of the signal coming from the analogue source, properly meant as the groove of the vinyl record. We are not dealing, luckily, with a machine that behaves only as a link between cartridge and amplifier. I read the presence of the term vinyl as a designing statement, like: “Gentlemen, music lovers, we are aware of living in a digital era, but here we treat the analogue world!”.

 

Perreaux’s managers do not hate digitizing, though. In fact, this splendid electronic device has no knobs or buttons. The standby mode and the selection of the functions Moving Magnet, Moving Coil and Mono are made in a touch mode. The chassis is solid with a gray aluminium top hosting the company’s logo. The base is black and has to be loosen in order to get inside and look at the circuitry. The expedient is genial since the massive aluminium panel becomes effective as cooling surface of the components, with the complicity of the empty cavities of the internal volume and of the two lateral grids that allow a good aeration. The components are of top quality and mounted with a disconcerting order and rationality. The supply circuit is dominated by a Noratel toroidal transformer, which gives an abundant and refined energy reserve to the entire electronic apparatus. The spatiality of the components gives the advantage of getting the same result with the connections and the switches placed on the rear panel, with the prerogative of keeping the phono cables separated one from the other. In this way, we get imperceptible levels of noise and maximum separation of the channels, absolutely necessary for the Perreaux Audiant VP3, which has been designed to allow the connection of two cartridges at the same time. On the rear panel, we can also find the on/off button, the IEC socket, a trigger input to drive the standby through another component that can be audio or of home automation. This input accepts a 3,5 mono jack and relative voltage from zero volt DC to twelve. From three to twelve volts the device comes out from standby to get it back at zero volts.

Close to the trigger is a RS232 port that gives to the VP3 an external serial control finalized to personalized installations. A control set is available on Perreaux’s website. The authorized personnel can also use the port to update the software. Now let’s talk about the phono inputs and outputs. There is a pair of RCA inputs for the MM cartridges and a pair for the MCs. They are distant for reasons of acoustic isolation. Also the outputs are numerous: an unbalanced pair and a balanced XLR pair. Another mono cartridge output can be connected to the input of the right channel of the Audiant VP3, while a high output MC cartridge can be connected to the MM inputs.

A mass terminal ends the progressions of the endings. All the connections are of top quality and golden plated. Among them are placed some dip switches dedicated to the gain adjustment, to the RIAA and to the resistive and capacitive loading of the cartridges. The exceptionality of the commuters is that they are all twins. Therefore, the loadings must be handled for each channel, both in input and output. In order: with the MM configuration, the obtainable gain varies from 36 dB and 11,9 mV of sensitivity, 40 dB and 7,5 mV, 44 dB and 4,7 mV, 48 dB and 3,0 mV. With the MC the scale is 56 dB and 1,2mV, 60 dB and 0,7 mV, 64 dB and 0,5 mV, 68 dB and 0,3 mV. The fourth switching of the gains is dedicated to the selection between the normal RIAA and the IEC RIAA equalization curves. Through other commuters, we can obtain the following loads: for the MM 47 kOhm, 1 kOhm, 10 kOhm, 22 pF, 47 pF, 100 pF, 220 pF, 470 pF. For the MC 47 kOhm, 10 Ohm, 30 Ohm, 100 Ohm, 250 Ohm, 500 Ohm, 1 kOhm, 47 pF. The possibility of combining all the described values, offers us a high customizing loading of all the cartridges included the toughest for internal impedance, frequency response and output value.

The dimensions are important too: 431x67x277 mm (WxHxD). The weight is 7,5 kg.

In the package are also a common mains cable, a delicious and elegant user’s manual, two pages with the excellent measurement charts: harmonic distortion, frequency response and analysis of the spectrum, both for MM and MC inputs. “Impressive!”

 

Considering the work in progress of my audio system, I will describe its composition: Da Vinci Audio In Unison 001 turntable with separate motor, DIY intermediate flywheel, a support Aerex Engineering flywheel, belts in Kevlar and silk. The tonearm is a Da Vinci Grandezza Reference 12’’, the cartridges Supex 900 Super and Koetsu Rosewood. The step-up transformers are Audio Tekne MCT9401 and Supex SDT77. Transformer preamplifier and tubes Audio Tekne TP8301 MKIII. The power amp for the mid-high range is the Audio Tekne IT2. Muriano’s Traslatore amp with NTS (Natural Transfer System) Research technology for the mid-low range: an amazing electronic device with an alternative design about which I will tell you soon. DIY loudspeakers with high efficiency Altec and Klipsch drivers. Enigmacoustics Sopranino supertweeter. Audio Tekne, Western Electric, Vermouth Audio, Audio Consulting and DIY cables. Stands and supports in Salentine stone, Iroko and beechwood.

Even if the Perreaux VP3 has not reach the performances of the integrated phono stages by Audio Tekne, has proved itself to be as one of the best preamp I have ever tested so far.

 

The phono stage is a component with designing difficulties since it has to take care and handle an electrical signal of infinitesimal value. The signal is powered by the interaction of an irregular vinyl surface and a tiny stylus that crosses a mechanical/electric system (cartridge), which is sensitive to the materials (coils, cantilever, suspensions, body) and to the external agents (magnetic fields, resonances, humidity, temperature, etc.). Then it is subjected to new solicitations made by the tonearm and by the levels of impedance and capacity of cabling and endings. In our case, the wide range of setting modes gives to the user an important tool to get an extra fine interface of the cartridge. You have to keep in mind that a happy electric match gives you a happy listening experience.

For this reason I suggests you to let your hearing and musical sensitivity to choose the loads of the cartridge.

 

The Perreaux phone stage requires a very long run-in. I mean days, not hours. My test has begun using the MM input and the step-up transformer. In this condition, it has given the best performances mainly in terms of gain and dynamics. With a signal already expanded and made linear, the device can work in syntony and focus on the fundamental aspects of the sound, without any dispersion of strength and capacity. I have “played” a lot with the resistive and capacitive loads, detecting differences in every match. The connection of the VP3 to my system has amazed me. Its super modern line and the components have made me think of an industrial product, precise, metronomic and forced. On the contrary, the sound and the tone are natural and it is noiseless. Great skill. Without noise, the music comes out from the black holes in a more holographic way. In Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 in G major performed by Philharmonia Orchestra directed by Otto Klemperer, EMI Records 1962, you can feel the depth and the width of the scene. In some passages you can detached the movements of the feet of the musicians and the leaf through the scores. You can perceive the Concert Hall with its cavernous features. Also the tone accuracy is very good. The strings have a genuine brilliance and the brass section is compact and vibrant. It is easy to distinguish the orchestra units. The Perreaux has no hesitation at full volume. Mahler is often difficult to be reproduced because his orchestra works have many thunderous eruptions and anguished crescendo that put to the test our audio systems. Our machine is impassive. In Ella & Louis, Verve Hi-Fidelity Records, 1956, Fitzgerald’s voice is not open and pure as usual. The darken tonalities give her an incredible sensuality and presence. Armstrong’s trumpet is more golden and intense.

All that happens only if you use a step-up. If you use the MC input directly, the response of the Perreaux loses some energy and vitality. I think that the amplification stage of the signal is based on transistors and opamps. That does not help the performances and the VP3 becomes more “normal”. I mean, the machine always keeps offering amazing performances as for transparency and refinement. The sound orientation tends however to prefer the mid high frequencies and the overall outcome becomes thinner although enjoyable.

 

The fifteen and warm days of my test have been too short, unfortunately. Anyway, the Perreaux Audiant VP3 has proven to be a great electronic gear with flexibility as its strong point. Its numerous matches, besides allowing the interchange of several cartridges, represent an educational full immersion to deepen all the aspects related to the electrical variations of the components that are interfaced. What counts in the end is that, once everything is well adjusted, it disappears leaving on the stage only the performer: its majesty the vinyl. Long live the King!

 

 

Official technical specifications

 

Inputs

Audio Inputs: 2 Unbalanced (RCA) (selectable)

Input Sensitivity:

MM input 3.0mV to 11.9mV (selectable)

MC input 0.3mV to 1.2mV (selectable)

Gain

MM input 36dB to 48dB (selectable)

MC input 56dB to 68dB (selectable)

Input Impedance:

MM input 1kOhm to 47kOhm (selectable)

MC input 10ohm to 47kOhm (selectable)

Input Capacitance:

MM input 22pF to 470pF (selectable)

MC input 47pF (selectable)

Input Overload Margin: 22dB

Trigger Input: 1 mono 3.5mm (⅛") jack

OFF voltage 0VDC

ON voltage 3-12VDC

 

Outputs

Audio Outputs: 1 Unbalanced (RCA), 1 Balanced (XLR)

Output Impedance: Balanced 30ohm, Unbalanced 100ohm

Rated Output: 0.75Vrms

Maximum Output: 10.3Vrms (14.5Vp-p)

 

Preamplifier

Total Harmonic Distortion (THD+N): Typically 0.002%, 1kHz at rated output,

20Hz to 20kHz <0.05% at rated output

RIAA Accuracy: ±0.5dB, 50Hz to 20kHz

Signal to Noise Ratio (un-weighted): 87dB

 

General

Mains Fuse Rating: 0.5A (slow blow)

Dimensions: 431x67x277mm WxHxD

Weight: 7.5kg (16.5lb)

 

 

Official Italian dealer: to Art of Music website

Official current price in Italy: 2,250.00 EUR

Associated equipment: to Giuseppe "MinGius" Trotto's system

by Giuseppe Trotto
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