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Keces Audio Ephono & Ephono Power.

Rating:
5/5,
  1. Paul Graham
    Keces Audio Ephono & Ephono Power Review.
    Written by Paul Graham
    Published Nov 19, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - I feel that the Ephono has replaced a weak link in the signal path of my system and replaced it with not a make-do or “So-so” phonostage, But rather it has stepped the game up for the rest of the system to get up to scratch.
    Cons - I would have said for ease of use to have the controls on the front panel somewhere but I feel that would take away from the lovely looks. If anything, Maybe a flap down panel on the front of the phonostage housing the MM/MC switch along with the Gain and Impedance switches. But this is coming from a reviewer who would like the ability to switch between carts/turntables on the fly, However I doubt most buyers would be bothered by this.
    Provided by Arthur at Keces Audio.

    Keces_Phono_Pre_1-740x467.jpg

    You can find them at the following web addresses -

    http://www.kecesaudio.com/

    http://keces-audio-usa.com/products/Phono-Pre – American Site ( For price reference )

    First I would like to say a huge thank you to Arthur at Keces for being both patient and extremely generous.

    The packaging these items came in was well thought out and well done. Proving excellent protection for being shipped overseas. It arrived unscathed in one piece.

    One of the first things I notice upon unpacking the parcel is
    Keces Audio components are aesthetically pleasing.
    I know “looks” are subjective. I am a man who likes robust simplicity that oozes style and quality.
    Keces have not failed in this department!

    The Ephono and Power Supply are not too big and fit on my desktop with no issues, Considering
    my desktop is already quite “busy” with other gear, This is quite the result.

    Setting everything up was pretty straight forward, As long as you follow the instruction manual from both Keces and your cartridge manufacturer you really can't go wrong.

    The Ephono took me a little by surprise to begin with as I am not used to anything but the very basic of phonostages, To the point that I only owned one that was not built into an amplifier.
    Flexibility is the word that comes to mind. I'll run down the specs so you see what I mean -

    Power supplied by High quality linear power supply. ( Ephono Power ).
    Over Temperature Protection ( “OTP” ) built into Linear Power Supply.
    Balanced and unbalanced outputs.
    Variable MC impedance adjustable by 56/100/220 ohms and MM 47K ohm.
    Gain selection of 40dB/46dB/52dB for MM Carts.
    Gain selection of 60dB/66dB/72dB for MC Carts.
    RIAA accurate to within 0.2dB.
    Both Chassis' are built from 3mm thick aluminium for effective shielding
    against EMI & RFI interference.
    Power and “Link” cable supplied are made to a high quality.

    As you can see, The Ephono is full of functionality and flexibility.

    So far, Colour me impressed, Very impressed!

    I tested the Ephono & Power supply in the following system:-

    Turntable -Technics SL1210 MIIID
    Arm - Silvernote 512S ( review coming up soon )
    Cart - Ortofon Quintet Red MC
    Isolation - isoACOUSTICS Orea Indigo isolation pucks.
    Phonostage - Keces Audio Ephono
    DIY Breakout Box with built in ground point.
    Linear Power Supply – Keces Audio Ephono Power
    Pre Amp/Headphone Amp - Schiit Jotunheim
    Power Amp - Rega Mira
    Speakers - Acoustic Energy AE100i
    Headphones - Sony MDR SA-5000
    Balanced from the phonostage onwards.

    Keces_Phono_Pre_3-1140x720.jpg

    Albums Listened to during review -

    Black Lion at Montreux.
    Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon ( 180gram ).
    Jean-Michel Jarre - The Concerts In China ( 180gram ).
    Mahler - 5th Symphony.

    The first thing I hear when I put my headphones on is the silence. The “darkness”
    as I call it is how I describe any noise or audible feedback, hum or hiss etc.
    With the Ephone, There is none. Hence the darkness.
    Just to be sure I also unplugged the ground cable from my Breakout Box and plugged it into the Ephono and it's the same.
    I use a breakout box for ease of use when writing reviews due to where everything is situated, But I digress.
    I get the same result with the gain dialled up on the headphone amplifier / preamp.

    So, Onto the meat and potatoes of this review... How does it perform?

    Let me begin by noting that my system has no tonal control or EQ of any kind. So at least from my standpoint, I'm adding no colouration of the sound at any point in the signal path.
    You could argue that the gain controls come into play here but in my experience of this system at least, It only nudges the power up, It has no effect on the tonal quality or presentation.

    I chose 4 of my favourite albums here as I wanted to get a true feel for this phonostage, And the fact that these are some of my “most listened to” albums, gives me a really good ear for any differences in what I am used to.

    And the differences are vast!

    The Rega Mira has a pretty good phonostage built into it and the other that I own is a basic NAD MM stage.
    Matched with a Rega Planar 3 running an RB300 with Shure M35, I really thought I had heard great sound and was having a brilliant experience with my Vinyl collection...
    The Ephono takes what I am used to being very good sound quality, Chews it up and unceremoniously spits out!
    I've heard people speak before about it being like hearing your collection for the first time again and always wondered if there was any truth to this.
    I get it. Trying hard not to get away from myself here, the best way I can describe it...
    My collection is more energized, Every genre I own, The Ephono has injected more body and depth to the sound but without sounding different or changed.
    I'm still quite new to this than a lot of you out there are but I'm not new to hifi, and I'm certainly not wearing a new pair of ears.
    I'm hearing little details in tracks that my previous systems were unable to retrieve or reproduce.
    Every little thing builds up to a larger picture and this is certainly true here.

    The Concerts In China is one of my top 5. It is a superb album and it's also a live recording. I always enjoy listening to this but most of the time found myself turning to my digital copy instead.
    I don't think this will happen so easily now. Every little instrumental strike, hit, stroke... They're all there either in the foreground or the background, Crystal clear to my ears.
    This system took me on a journey with this album and has opened my ears/eyes to what is possible, And what I have been missing for all this time!

    Bass levels are just right, Not overpowering, Just tight clean bass that drops when it needs to and handles it when it does.
    Highs are accurate, detailed, Almost clinical but not too much.
    Midrange is present in a natural and even way.
    Vocals come through with a lovely smooth airy vibe, Every breath, Every note natural and easy on the ears.

    Dark Side Of The Moon comes alive with an energy I'm not used to hearing on vinyl, Gilmour shines and shines and his riffs are sublime!, The bass levels here make a massive difference to what I hear and revitalises the experience.

    Mahler's 5th symphony hit me in the feels, And it made me think I may one day in the near future get myself to a classical concert ( another 1st when it happens )

    And Black Lion....
    Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE Jazz.
    This is one of my Go-To Jazz albums in my vinyl collection and it and this system did not disappoint.
    That beautiful bundle of instrumental magic combined with some fantastic Jazz vocals really bounce around
    and give a wonderful experience.

    After hours of listening, I check the sides and tops of the Ephono and Ephono Power.
    Cool as they were when I switched them on. This I like.

    Note the Ephono & Ephono Power sat in their home just behind my display at my desk....

    DSC_0026.JPG

    To Summarise,

    I feel that the Ephono has replaced a weak link in the signal path of my system and replaced it with not a make-do or “So-so” phonostage, But rather it has stepped the game up for the rest of the system to get up to scratch. On the headphone side of the system we're good, In fact we're golden. The MDR SA-5000's are not a headphone that is easy to please. The addition of the Ephono into the system has made my headphone experience a tear bringing, emotion stirring roller coaster. No complaints here!
    As for the speaker side.... It's great, Don't get me wrong, I love my Rega Mira and the various speakers I own. However, I couldn't help but feel they weren't doing the turntable/phonostage end of the system enough justice, By far, And struggled to keep up with the energy of the system.
    I have a hunch a new power amplifier and a speaker upgrade is on the cards, Or maybe a high end studio monitor setup with balanced input? Time will tell.
    Hint Hint Santa!

    Could I make any suggestions to Arthur and team on how to make any improvements?
    Simply put, No.

    What Keces Audio offer here is superb value for money,
    Second to none build quality and craftsmanship,
    A design that is simple yet very pleasing to the eye,
    The materials used are of the highest quality and the connections around the rear of both units are perfect.

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    I highly recommend Keces Audio as a company & the Ephono & Ephono Power.
    I give it a 10/10 and 5 stars for a brilliant all round product that packs a lot of functionality into it's frame.
    Definitely worth every penny!

    I would like to thank Arthur and everyone at Keces Audio for kindly sending this out to me to review,
    For allowing me to keep it and for being patient with me as I took my time getting this review out!

    All my best and until next time.
    Paul, The Audiophile Cafe.

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