17 November, 2014

Miyajima Zero, Berkeley Alpha, Precision Fidelity

Home Visit: Miyajima Zero, Berkeley Alpha, Commonwealth
Brief Review: Precision Fidelity C4 C8

You may remember my shidi Andrew, the bon vivant I have written about before. Well, after a lengthy period of renovation, he is back in his wonderful apartment, and his hifi corner also had received the royal treatment, including dedicated electrical supply and custom racks with slate platforms. As you can see from the pic, Andrew firmly believes in polygamy. On this occasion I heard:

Analog Source 1: Pioneer Exclusive P3/Miyajima Zero
Analog Source 2: Commonwealth/Thomas Schick/Shure M3D
CD Transport: Krell MD-10
DAC: Berkeley Alpha
Preamp: Mark Levinson ML-6B with MC card

Phono Preamps: Precision Fidelity C4 and Marantz 7T used as phonoamps
Amps: Mark Levinson 23 monoblocks
Speakers: MBL 101E (old version)

The power line upgrade and custom racks must be some of the reasons why the performance of his system has improved significantly. I have never liked the MBL 101, especially the older versions, because one could easily hear the discontinuity between the ribbons and the woofers. This was certainly the case before renovation. Surprisingly, this problem has been ameliorated to a large extent, quite listenable now!


  • Berkeley Alpha DAC This must count as the greatest improvement, fully deserving of the accolade it has received (see TAS). It replaced a Weiss Minerva. Andrew is a vinyl addict and he didn't like his previous setup but he now finds it possible to enjoy CD through the Berkeley Alpha. I completely agree. The sound is much more natural, while just as resolving. I have always found Weiss to be antiseptic and over-rated. Here is yet another proof!

  • Commonwealth Transcription TT (left pic, click to enlarge) is a rarity, one oof the few with a 16" platter. Sound with Thomas Schick 12" arm and vintage Shure MM (M3D) cartridge was weighty and soulful. One could listen for a long time. Yes, bigger is better.

  • Miyajima Zero The mono playback sound on the Pioneer P3 (right pic, click to enlarge) was vivid, with great attack and presence perfect for jazz. One could understand why Andrew is mono crazy now! Previously, I had heard his entry-level Kotetu (but with shell replaced) which was amazing in its own right, but the Zero takes it to another level.
  • Precision Fidelity strikes again! Sometime ago, I brought back for Andrew from NYC a C8 (seen on the floor next to the MFA Magus), but this one (used as a phonoamp) is a C4 that belongs to his "cousin", sifu Yu. Sound as phonoamp shows up the transistor Marantz 7T, which is not nearly as emotive as its tubed predecessor, the 7C. More below.
  • Still, I don't think the Brubeck Time Out mono (see above on the Pioneer platter) I brought back for him sounded nearly quite as tactile as at my place in NYC with his Decca ffss III (here). The Decca ffss III is not a mono cartridge, but its mono origin shows, and I don't think I have yet heard it bettered by any mono cartridge.

pics: L, innards of the well-built C8; R, front, on top of Shindo. Click to enlarge.
Brief Review: Precision Fidelity C8
Before Andrew asked me to bring back his C8, I knew nothing about the brand. I played with the C8 for months in NYC. During this period, I also used my Shindo Monbrison as well as a variety of other preamps and phonoamps. Suffice to say the C8 was never shamed. The C8 is a later hybrid design, rather like ARC's and Counterpoints of the period. Its sound was very balanced, with quiet background. I could not fault it for much, except perhaps its  lack of the ultimate dynamic ability. A great buy as a full-function preamp or a phonoamp if you can source one.

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