Vertere Acoustics introduces the new Calon high-end phono preamplifier

23.05.2024

Press release | Calon delivers a truly great sound with amazing transparency and dynamics from Vertere’s latest record players. A demonstration is strongly suggested.


More than being excellent technically, Calon's real benefit is its ability to deliver the goods while drawing the listener deeper into the emotion and power of the music. Calon is a product for the heart as much as the brain.

The case is machined from non-magnetic (Austenitic) Stainless steel, which brings a high level of shielding without the ferromagnetic eddy current and field hysteresis problems iron or steel would bring. The knobs are super-polished stainless steel.

Each part of the circuit has been created to maximise performance and be part of a high-end whole. The gain structure has been carefully calculated, designed, and implemented to deliver the best transparency, detail resolution, and dynamics from any cartridge.

The cartridge input first enters a gain stage with user-selectable gain (default, +10dB, +20dB). Then, it is subjected to an RIAA ‘filter’ where, in an ideal manner, the HF section is passive and the LF active. After this is another user-selectable gain stage (0dB, +2dB, +4dB, +6dB, +8db) leading to the output RCAs and the balanced output line driver stage. Both outputs are on (except when muted), but connecting and using one at a time is best.

Calon includes a switchable subsonic filter to reduce the wasted energy and headroom caused by (subsonic) noise below normal audibility, which some turntable/arm/cartridges generate in excess. The circuit is linear phase and has a practically unmeasurable effect above 20Hz. In addition, the output of Calon can be 180° phase inverted for those rare records recorded/mastered with incorrect absolute phase.

Calon is user-configurable for most Moving Magnet and Moving Coil Cartridges available. The front panel knobs allow the choice of nine input impedances and nine options of capacitance together with 15 choices of gain. For example, it will enable a somewhat peaky (with a rising HF response) Moving Coil cartridge to be tamed by adding capacitance rather than by reducing input impedance. Lowering the input impedance tends to 'slug' the sound, reducing musical performance and drama and lowering the brightness. Adding capacitance while keeping the input impedance higher allows the entire performance to shine.

The power switch has three convenient options: Power off, Power on but output muted, and Power on output on.

Calon gets the best from any high-quality record player, with maximum transfer of dynamic range and supreme detail resolution.

Touraj commented, “We are still learning how much info is contained in the groove. Calon allows us to get closer to getting all of it.”

Audio circuits
The audio circuits with their respective power supplies are on two identical four-layer gold-plated circuit boards, which is an ideal dual mono configuration. Four layers allow ideal grounding and ground planes as shields within the board itself. It provides control of the ground and power impedances to optimise signal path and ground path flow. Populated with a choice of through hole and surface mount devices using whichever is optimum for the circuit requirement. The active devices are laser-precision-trimmed high-end integrated circuits that deliver virtually identical performance statically and dynamically under differing signal levels and temperatures.

Circuit design is one thing, and circuit optimisation is another. Choice of components to achieve the required performance and neutrality is a skill that requires a massive resource of available components and almost infinite time, or it requires vast experience and skill. It's easy to 'throw' loads of costly components at a circuit to get the necessary performance, but this usually means missing the target price point and not constantly hitting the target performance. Touraj has the experience and knowledge to understand the balance required between power supply and primary circuit and the choice of components wherein to deliver an accurate, musical and fun performance.

Both audio PCBs are shielded separately by Austenitic Stainless Steel shields. These shields, combined with the use of high-quality components and special solder, guarantee consistent optimum performance for the long term.

Control circuits
The control circuit includes the logic and the many relays, which means Calon is easy to use, visual, quiet in operation and stable.

Power supply
There are two toroidal transformers, one supplying low-voltage AC to the L&R Audio Boards and one supplying low-voltage AC to the logic and relay board. AC is supplied to the circuits so rectification, storage, and regulation can be as close as possible to the required circuits.

An iron shield ‘hides’ the transformers electromagnetically to maximise the overall signal-to-noise ratio.

Balanced Phono – some thoughts
There has been a trend among hi-fi enthusiasts in recent years to consider balanced connections as good and single-ended connections as less good. Examples are often quoted of recording studios where most audio connections are balanced. Cables in the professional world are usually very long, and noise pickup can be problematic. Balanced connections are far better at rejecting common mode noise, which is why they are ideal for long cables. Balanced connections are also hugely practical for microphones, which are often phantom-powered. There is practically no advantage to using balanced short interconnects (except if the designer has obsessed over the balanced circuits to the detriment of the single-ended ones).

Making a traditional analogue preamplifier fully balanced from input to output is practically impossible, as balanced volume controls don’t exist. Even in the unlikely event of someone making one, the channel and plus / minus tracking required would be beyond the tolerances of a volume potentiometer.

Balanced phono is even more complicated, as although a cartridge's output is floating, it is not balanced about ground/earth. Yes, having a discrete plus and minus connection for L&R and a separate ground wire all the way back to the phono preamp is essential for optimal performance, but just putting XLRs on the cable doesn’t make it balanced.
Vertere Calon
Technical Specifications
Type: MC/MM phono preamplifier, main phono circuit on two separate gold-plated PCBs
Power Supply: two linear, internally mains voltage switchable, transformers
Gain Settings: 45dB to 73dB in 15 steps
Input Impedance Settings Resistance: 100R to 47k in 9 steps
Capacitance: 100pF to 1.0uF in 9 steps
Frequency Response: 20Hz–20kHz +/-0.2dB
Noise: <-83dB - AWD
THD+N: 0.01%
Finish: front panel options silver or black
Dimensions: 412x290x88mm WxDxH incl. switches and feet
Weight: 7.0kg

Background to the design
Phono stage design is rather challenging, as the circuit must work with the minuscule cartridge signal, which is typically only a fraction of a millivolt. That tiny signal must be cleanly amplified a thousandfold and equalised to the exact RIAA curve to represent the original recorded music faithfully.

Vertere's Calon design achieves this, providing the complete enjoyment that is often missing even in high-quality vinyl playback systems.

The dual-mono main circuit and the use of the highest-quality components maximise dynamic range and deliver supreme detail resolution. Calon's accurate RIAA circuit uses only the tightest tolerance components, ensuring a refined, natural timbre that brings the music to life.

Touraj explains the source of some of his background knowledge: "Our collaboration with music industry engineers has given us invaluable insights into the art of cutting. This knowledge has enabled us to advance our record player design in many ways to extract the maximum from vinyl records.

For example, with his remixes of the Beatles albums, Giles Martin – son of the late Sir George – used a Vertere MG-1 record player, including SG-1 tonearm and PHONO-1 preamplifier throughout, to check and approve the acetates and the test pressings.

We've worked closely with the multi-award-winning mastering engineer Miles Showell since February 2017. Miles has been using his own extensively customised Neumann VMS 80 lathe, incorporating Vertere cables, to cut standard and half-speed masters for the likes of ABBA, Cream, The Police, and The Rolling Stones, as well as the 50th-anniversary release of The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beatles, otherwise known as The White Album.

Working closely with Miles has led to the first releases on our record label, Vertere Records. Releases: a three-track EP, two albums by Scottish band Caezar, and the first album by Dutch singer/songwriter Elles Springs, which was specially tape-transferred and then half-speed mastered and cut by Miles for our label.

By involving ourselves at every stage of the record-making process, we can ensure our players bring you as close as possible to what the artists and engineers wanted you to hear."


About Vertere
Reducing engineering to its fundamentals, to get you even closer to the original recording.
When aiming to reproduce the complexities of music, it's all too easy to introduce even more significant complication in the engineering of audio equipment, putting in place one element to solve the problems until the whole design escalates into something fiendishly intricate - and expensive.
That's not the Vertere way: coming at the whole problem with decades of audio and mechanical engineering experience, plus close collaboration with the recording and mastering industry, we step back, take a long hard look at the fundamentals, and look for simple, elegant solutions.
That may sound like a simple "less is more" philosophy, but we prefer to look at it this way: the best audio equipment shouldn't add anything to or remove anything from the original recording. Instead, it should affect it as little as possible; bringing the listener ever closer to what the artist, producer and mastering engineer wanted you to hear.



For further info: to Vertere Acoustics website


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