Spartan 10 phono stage by Classic Audio Ltd, personal review

andypmart

Standard Member
Personal review from the perspective of being a happy owner.
My current setup is a Rega P6 with a AT VM95ML cartridge or a Nagoaka MP110 and I have sitting new in box a AT540ML. My understanding is all three cartridges are recommended for my turntable. I was using the phono stage in my Elex R amplifier. From an older setup I had a Schiit Mani phono stage but found I preferred the phono in the amplifier. As I have small children occasionally at my house who have inquisitive hands etc. that I'd stay on the relatively lower cost MM cartridges, as the cost to replace/repair MC cartridge is not viable. This review is from my perspective as a purchaser of the product.

I decided early this year to see if a upgrade to a phono stage would make any further improvements.

I initially trialled a IfI Zen Phono but that went back within days, found it very bright and shrill? With lack of clarity in lower bass levels. On vocals they seemed to be distant and soundstage that seemed compressed. Then came a loan of a Rega Phono MM , I had high hopes for this considering "Rega Synergy" but found there was no significant improvement over the inbuilt phono stage on amplifier,
I then borrowed a Tisbury Audio Phono but again no significant upgrade.

Around March this year I began to hear good reviews about a new phono stage being produced by Classic Audio called the Spartan 10

This is a MM only phono stage, the specifications looked really interesting, plus it contained a low frequency cross feed switch plus a switch for mono records. I am not technical at all but know from long experience what sounds good or not so good to me. From the blurb it is built using high quality components chosen for sound quality plus it is supplied with a linear power supply. So how does it sound, or rather how does it not sound firstly, there is no hum whatsoever if you increase your volume to sound deafening levels on amplifier, not that I had any significant problem on any other phono stages but it was noticeable that this was dead silent compared to all others.

The sound quality, well bass is noticeably tighter and defined than all other phono stages and the treble just that cleaner and expressive, but not clinical or harsh, a bigger, more expansive sound stage, on some records it's almost surround sound. There is a more clearly defined separation of instruments around that sound stage. I listen to a lot of classical, jazz and film score music and this is where the Spartan 10 really excels/shines. Vocals are excellent, expressive, clear and concise with definition and excellent depth. I'm hearing things in vinyl records that I have never heard before, such as hand claps that actually sound like hand claps, cymbals that "shimmer" the artists breaths, even their lips, or clothing when they are slightly moving for example, it's like being in the same room as the artists.

Personally I don't like the aesthetics, the case is bright aluminium and front bezel is brushed aluminium, possibly easy to scratch. I'd also much prefer the option of black casing to match other components in my system. Secondly the LED is annoying, why so big and bright orange colour? A discrete small dim LED or nothing at all would be preferable in my opinion. The feet on the case seem to be hard rubber/plastic, softer to provide isolation? Lastly I seem to have micro vibration of the case, you can feel it if you lightly touch the top of the case, it doest seem to affect anything sound wise and if you use a small weight that disappears.

Well the honest truth, it's a keeper! Personally I don't think you will get a better MM phono stage even at a higher price point.








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Numpty112233

Active Member
Lol I'm guilty of writing one of those good reviews you mention ;-)
Your findings and conclusion mirror my own.
I hear rumours of a cheaper Spartan 5 and an MC version soon to be launched
 

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