Black Ice Audio F 159

I recently purchased a Black Ice Audio F 159 Phono stage to potentially replace my reference phono stage. I will confess, having dealt with Jolida for years (now Black Ice Audio), I went for the upgrades right out of the gate. I had Jerred put in the Vishay resistors in the signal path, all 18 of them. This is a $750 upgrade over the stock version. Once I received it, I cheated and put in a pair of NOS Siemens 6922 gold pins I had kicking around.

The stage now has 50 hours on it, half way to break in for the Vishays, the tubes are now settled in. I love this phono stage. Very musical, very clear, great pace and drive, all one could ever want, and it still has 50 hours to go on the Vishays. I am hearing things in my reference recordings I have never heard before. I will say that the Fosgate circuitry is worth its weight in gold. I am discovering my vinyl once more-and enjoying it more than ever.

On to the Fosgate Phonostage crosstalk and azimuth adjustments. Once done and tuned in (you do need a record with a 1000 Hz tone), there is a difference between in and out. It is subtle to be sure, but it is there. On my system you gain a bit more spaciousness in the instruments, and a bit deeper and wider soundstage. Yes you will need high resolution speakers to hear much difference as it is subtle. No you do NOT hear the electronics in operation. That one is quite an achievement as usually you do, especially at the price of this unit. I opt normally to keep it on-I very much like the effect as it doesn’t detract from the emotion and experience of the music.

Tube selection is important if you are using MC or MM cartridges. The stock tubes are okay, I recommend NOS tubes for more air and delicacy. The circuit is a hybrid Cascade circuit with two 6922 tubes with zero negative feedback feeding into MOSFETs. The tubes are always in the circuit, 40db gain uses one tube, 60 db gain uses both. My only complaint was the 60db, my cartridge is .32mv output, it works, but barely. I have to modify the output of my Decware preamp to compensate.

To summarize:

Pros: Very quiet, big soundstage, lots of depth and air, fantastic on vocals, great bass response with accurate and extended highs. Very delicate highs with good extension.
Cons: Stock tubes okay-recommend replacing if using MC or MM. Do not use cartridges with less than .32mv output.

System:

Decware CSP3 preamp, Monoblock Decware SE341.5 amps, F159 phono stage, GyroDec Orbe SE with modified 10” Rega arm, Cardas Ruby MC, speakers are Quad 57 (rebuilt) with 15” subs driven by McIntosh 2002. Crossover to the subs is a First Watt BAT 4.

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