A new Sutherland phono preamplifier is always great news! We follow Ron Sutherland very closely because we’re big fans of his philosophy and radical, technical approach to phono equipment. Here at maPlatine.com, we think his creations are among some of the best on the market. Since the famous Hubble model was discontinued several months ago, the company has been working on a worthy replacement. And now it’s here: the DUO.
The first thing to say about this preamp is that Sutherland has not skimped on the components, and especially not on the chassis, which has taken a radical new approach. It has one box per channel – a real dual chassis! The channels do not share a single component, which means that the coil output signals remain entirely separate until they reach your amplifier inputs. This creates the perfect conditions for a wide, precise sound stage. The power supply consists of a low consumption DC unit that is built into the chassis. As always, this is separated from the sound card. They are even separated by a 10 cm gap. Each impressive chassis actually houses two entirely separate sub-chassis. These are fully non-magnetic and insulate the circuits from all electromagnetic and electrical interference. The FR4 fibreglass printed circuit boards are of a remarkably high quality and are twice as thick as their 20/20 counterparts. This significantly reduces unwanted capacitance caused by conventional printed circuit boards. All the components are of an exceptionally high quality, specifically thanks to their technological properties and tolerance (1% metal resistance, polypropylene capacitor, 1% capacitance, etc.).
Gain and load can be set via DIP switches. For each of these two elements you can choose from 5 values: 40-60 dB for gain and 100 ohms-47 K Ohms for the load! This opens up several options when it comes to MM and MC cartridges.
What I like about Ron Sutherland's products is the remarkably simple design and ease of use. It couldn't be simpler – just adjust the settings, plug it in, and the music will start! Don't bother looking for a switch – there isn’t one. Anyway! You’ll forget all about the technological side of things when the music starts playing! Simplicity might seem like a given, but it can be hard to find in rival products. In my humble opinion, a lot of products complicate things too much by overdoing it on the technology. What I mean by that is when you're listening to a record, you want to hear what’s been cut into the grooves, not what’s been soldered to the preamp’s printed circuit board!
This is why we think it’s a good idea to use high quality power cables (such as the PS AUDIO). These dramatically improve transparency and clean signal transfer. However, it should be noted that the following review was conducted using the standard power cables.
As we expected, from the opening bars we were blown away by the sound stage and stereo sound. It was as if the speakers had been moved back a least a metre!
It has all the balance and timbre quality we’ve come to expect from Sutherland preamplifiers. The dynamic range is remarkable and evenly spread across all registers. Reproduction has a rare nuance and subtlety that not many solid state phono preamps are able to achieve. The high quality power supply is practically inaudible, proving silence truly is golden! There is no distortion or noise whatsoever affecting the sound quality of the music. This preamplifier really is very neutral, fading into the background to let the qualities (or flaws!) of the cartridge shine through.
The Sutherland DUO is without a doubt one of the best phono preamplifiers on the market. Its ‘dual mono’ design, technological features and versatility – it can be used with MM and MC cartridges of all price ranges – make it a truly exceptional product. This is a high-end but still highly affordable preamp – a maPlatine.com top pick! Highly recommended.
Stereophile - Product of the Year - 2017
Stereophile - Class K - Recommended Component Franck
Compatibility: MM and MC
Adjustable gain: 40, 46, 52, 58, 64 dB
Loads: 100, 200, 475, 1k, 47.5 KOhms
Power supply: DC
Consumption: 5 w
Weight: 5.5kg (x2)
Dimensions: 43 x 31 x 6.5 cm (x2)