The Aavik R-580 doesn’t offer very much in terms of equipment features, but it’s the lowest noise phono stage I have ever heard. It even makes the fine Jan Allaerts MC2 Finish Gold suitable for everyday use – something I haven’t experienced before. And more importantly, the R-580 inspires all the cartridges I’ve combined it with to sonic excellence. The Aavik enthralls with its dynamics, its fantastic detailing and its generous spatial imaging: a forthright step on the way to analogue heaven!
Magazine: Hifistatement / Author: Dirk Sommer
At first glance, it can neither be recognized where the components of Aavik’s new electronics line are located in the company’s own hierarchy nor exactly what type of device it is. The R-580 is a phono stage and is equipped with everything that Aavik or Ansuz respectively have to offer in terms of „Noise Cancelling Technology“.
When I reviewed the Ansuz PowerSwitch D-TC Supreme I already came to know that developer Michael Børresen most of the time relies on the same basic circuitry for his electronic components. The main difference between devices of different price and quality levels is the number of assemblies he grants them to immunize them against external influences such as contaminated mains power or RF noise. In the case of the phono stage, these include the Ansuz Active Tesla Coils, the Ansuz Square Tesla Coils, and the Ansuz Dither Circuitry. For all components of the 180 series, the 280 series and the 580 series, the enclosures made of NBCM – a natural-based composite material – are added to minimize mechanical resonances, whereas that of the 580 series phono stage is the only one to feature in addition a titanium inlay for vibration control as well as a copper inner case. Auralic has already shown with its G2.1 series that shielding copper housings can have a very positive effect on the sound.
On the outward appearance, Aavik relies on neat understatement: The front is adorned with a large dot matrix display with red LEDs, while two push buttons allow direct access to the standby and muting function. Together with a third button, one can also navigate in the menu and select the input impedance, the brightness of the display and the duration of its activity, as well as display the current firmware version. Even if you call a huge music room your own and the listening position happens to be far away from the audio system, you shouldn’t have the slightest problem in reading the information on the large display. The load impedance for the cartridge can be set to 50, 75, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800 or 900 ohms, or 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10 kilohms. The simple facade nevertheless hides a great variety. However, the values also quickly make it clear that the R-580 was designed exclusively for use with moving coil cartridges: The standard value for MM (moving magnet) cartridges, 47 kiloohms, is not offered. In addition, the Aavik operates with a fixed gain of 65 decibels, and that is clearly too much when paired to the more powerful output voltages of moving magnet systems.
I have to admit that I was quite disappointed when I took a look at the back of the R-580. The fact that there is only one stereo input can, in my opinion, easily be forgiven. But the circumstance that the R-580 only connects to the tonearm cable via two RCA jacks doesn’t make sense to me. After all, the generator of a cartridge is a free-of-ground, balanced signal source. Michael Børresen of course knows that, too, and that’s why the RCA jacks conceal a discreetly designed, floating, balanced input circuit, which operates with ultra-low noise bipolar transistors. By connecting several pairs of transistors in parallel, an extremely low-noise input section was thus created: The signal-to-noise ratio is said to be 94 decibels at one kilohertz. Considering the balanced signal routing via RCA, the shielding of the tonearm cable and the ground wire of the tonearm should ideally be connected to the phono stage via the grounding cable alone. Therefore I asked Morton Thyrrestrup to include a suitable tonearm cable in the shipment right away, as cables are readily available in the group of companies, which also comprises Ansuz. He recommended a Signalz Interconnect Tonearm D-TC2, which takes up the number two in the product hierarchy, offering connections for a PowerBox, but which remained unused here.
As expected from a component developed by Michael Børresen – I was already given the opportunity to familiarize myself with the Ansuz PowerSwitch and the Børresen 01 Silver Supreme -, there are also innovative and exciting solutions to be found in the R-580, some of which he specified to me in a telephone conversation: In the input stages of phono preamplifiers commonly MOSFETs are used, while he uses in his circuitry however bipolar transistors and namely BISS types. The acronym stands for “Breakthrough In Small Signal”. The noise level of these transistors approximately equals that of a two-ohm resistor, being therefore extremely low. The disadvantage of such a circuit design is evident in the cartridge having to be protected from voltage feed from the amplifier by a capacitor. In a floating, balanced circuit using BISS transistors, however, one could do without the capacitors. Therefore, in the Aavik phono preamps arrays of BISS transistors selected in pairs form these floating, balanced input stages. To the best of his knowledge, no other circuitry can achieve such a good signal-to-noise ratio, Michael Børresen explains…
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