EAR 834P Signature Phono preamp

Written by on 08/14/2012 in Timeless Classics - No comments

I remember it so well. My very 1st dedicated phono stage. After a long and admittedly over stayed welcome with various preamps from NAIM, the little EAR834P came as a heavenly tonic to a dried out desert roamer. One of the rewards Hi-Fi enthusiasts keep seeking, is exactly one like this. Hearing that magical improvement over all previously known standards just hits home like no other.

I sort of knew what I was in for beforehand and bought the little EAR having never heard it myself. Back then and to this day, all you see about it is praise all round. The boys at Stereophile Magazine wrote about it plenty and in-fact reported on the 834P before it even hit the markets proper. They heard it at Hi-Fi ’96, one of the biggest trade shows at the time where the room that won “Best Sound of Show” ran a 834P into the newly released Audio Research Reference One Line Stage.

As can almost be expected from a tri-12AX7 design, it’s main strengths are through the velvety smooth midrange. It has an inviting tranquility about it that makes you forget about the hi-Fi only to realize several hours of listening later you must have spun some vinyl in that time! It is unmistakably valve, but never bloomy or dripping with ripeness. Just the right balance in my book of audiophile wishes.

With the correct cartridge, the little EAR has enough gain to just get away with the MM setting before everything is swamped in hum and noise. I tried it like this feeding it my Shelter 7000 MC’s 0,5mV output and almost unbelievably it did very much the same thing my $8000 Manley Steelhead does!

You need to hear a medium output MC driving an MM stage on the 47Kohm load setting when the matching is just right. Stuff starts happening that can’t be described in normal Hi-Fi terms. As does the Manley, this little 834 also responded with a generous sound-stage way larger than life with palpable images projected as far as onto the side walls of my room. Images float freely as entities detached from the loudspeakers, yet part of an enticing musical whole extending way deep into a lively sound-stage.

The bass could be tighter and better extended and defined, but it won’t be missed in any system made up of components with values similar to the 834’s. In fact the bass reminded me somewhat of the lovely over tones I experienced when I briefly owned the hugely under rated Audio Research VS115 tube power amplifier. There is a musically inspiring aspect about tubed bass that renders the best solid state’s clinical precision somewhat lifeless.

The only negative aspect about the little EAR I could come up with is that it is or looks somewhat insignificant considering it is not dissimilar in appearance to a Project phono box costing ten times less. But please, don’t let the diminutive chassis imply anything but the contrary! The EAR834 was and still is a huge product with a footprint that will bewilder many others costing five times more!

The EAR834P is available locally. Please inquire for a price in ZAR.

About the Author

Audio Engineer, Critic & Retailer twenty-seven years in the making.

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