I had a nice 3-day cycling getaway with my buddy Chad as we cycled around the greater Seattle area over the weekend.
The weather was mostly beautiful and we covered a lot of miles.
Chad is a craft beer aficionado, so we made a few rehydration stops at a couple of his favorite breweries along the way.
Fremont Brewing is located right off a major bike path, so it was a handy place to stop. We particularly enjoyed trying their Dark Star beer while we were there.
Lucky Envelope Brewing was another stop, and I particularly enjoyed their Helles Lager during our stop there.
After a refreshing three days of cycling, I thought it would be fun to get back at my audio pursuits and give the Soundsmith MMP3 phono preamp a listen in my vintage Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre system where I’ve been playing the new Soundsmith Zephyr Mk III moving-iron phonograph cartridge that is also in for review at Positive Feedback.
I have a really positive first impression of the Zephyr Mk III phonograph cartridge from Peter Ledermann after listening to it for the first time in my Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre based audio-visual system.
Mounted on my Artisan Fidelity Thorens TD124, the Zephyr Mk III phonograph sounded rich, warm, natural, and eminently musical, and I was smitten right away.
I’ve been listening to the new Soundsmith Zephyr Mk III phonograph cartridge using my Leben RS-30EQ phono stage, and thanks to the Zephyr Mk III’s highish 2.4 mV output, I was able to enjoy its charms without the use of a step-up transformer, which is a big plus in my book.
The Leben RS-30EQ phono stage is a match made in heaven for the Soundsmith Zephyr Mk III phonograph cartridge, and I’ve never heard it sound as good as it does with the Zephyr Mk III.
After a suitable system warm-up period, I did a quick listen to refamiliarize myself with the Leben RS-30EQ’s performance with the Zephyr Mk III phono cartridge.
The Fairytales LP by Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz (above) sounded ravishingly beautifully, with silky rich highs, and tone “to die for”.
Likewise, Alone & Acoustic by Buddy Guy & Junior Wells (above), sounded rich, natural, tonally gorgeous, timbrally realistic, and nicely dynamic, which really drew me into the music.
I haven’t listened to Jazz at the Pawnshop much in a long time, but I really like the way Arne Domnérus, Georg Riedel, Bengt Hallberg, Egil Johansen, and Lars Erstrand play jazz, so I decided it was time to give it another listen.
Jazz at the Pawnshop was recorded live by Gert Palmcrantz at the Jazzpuben Stampen in Stockholm, Sweden, back in December of 1976, and Gert really did an exquisite job on the recording, capturing the ambience of a live performance is an intimate setting to perfection. If you don’t have this in your LP collection you should correct that, as it’s beautiful music recorded perfectly.
Like everything I’ve listened to so far with the Zephyr Mk III phonograph cartridge, Jazz at the Pawnshop was exquisitely musical, with ravishingly good tone, and it did a really nice job of capturing the sense of speed that the tempo was conveying, which is an important musical attribute to get right.
The new Soundsmith Zephyr Mk III may be the high-output phonograph cartridge for music lovers with a Leben CS600 integrated amp and RS-30EQ phono preamp, as it’s made every LP I’ve listened to with it sound like a musical masterpiece.
I’ve got a lot more listening to do with the Zephyr Mk II before I can characterize its performance more completely, but it sure is nice to be off to such a good start!
Next, I installed Peter Ledermann’s Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II phono preamp in place of my Leben RS-30EQ phono preamp, and I used the same shielded Duelund DCA20GA tinned-copper interconnects that I use for my Leben RS-30EQ so that I would be comparing apples-to-apples.
At first I was getting a low level buzz from the MMP3 Mk II through the system when connected in the same way as the Leben RS-30EQ, but after fiddling with the grounding of the tonearm, the MMP3, the Leben CS600 integrated amplifier, and the Thorens TD124, I was able to find a grounding combination that banished the buzz, and the MMP3 became dead quiet.
I’ll have to go back and give the RS-30EQ a listen with the new grounding scheme and see how that works.
I can say that the MMP3 Mk II sounds really nice, with overall tone nearly the equal of the Leben RS-30EQ, and that’s cold out of the box with no warm-up or run-in time on the MMP3 Mk II.
The Soundsmith MMP3 Mk is meatier & punchier in the lower midrange and bass, and the bass response is very articulate while playing the tunes.
Overall the MMP3 is more resolving than my Leben RS-30EQ, and also emphasizes the first attack of musical notes more than the Leben does.
On Alone & Acoustic the Soundsmith MMP3 injects more excitement and timbral texture into the music, which suits Alone & Acoustic particularly well.
On Chet Baker’s Chet the MMP3 Mk II gives the bass line a driving force that propels the music along, and injects dynamics into melody lines in such a way that makes them really come alive.
The Leben RS-30EQ is softer and lusher sounding with the Zephyr Mk III phonograph cartridge, and the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II is a little more direct sounding, highlighting timbral textures, as well as giving a larger sense of space for recordings.
Ok, those are some very preliminary first impressions of the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II phono preamp from a fairly short listening session, and I’ll have a lot more to say over time as I gain a greater understanding of its musical & sonic performance over a variety of music genres, as well as when pair with the new Soundsmith Carmen Mk III phonograph cartridge that is also in for review.
I really like the overall musical & sonic balance I’m hearing from the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II, and I suspect it will continue to improve as it gets some more warm-up & run-in time on it, so it is a pretty safe bet to say the MMP3 Mk II represents a really good value at $800 USD.
I’ll also be giving the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II phono preamp a workout in my Westminster based system, so stay tuned for more impressions in time.
As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!