Review of Quadratic MC-1 SUT With Comparisons to Other SUTs

Got a Quadaratic MC-1 from TTVJ (Todd the Vinyl Junkie) last week, and I have to say it's perhaps the most interesting SUT I've heard. It offers 12x and 24x taps and retails for $1800. 

Versus Lundahl LL1931 and LL1931Ag:
The Lundahl premium amorphous cores yield exceptional clarity and resolution. Clarity kings. When the music gets busy they don't blur details or smooth edges - every instrument remains separate and defined, almost like it was playing on its own. The Lundahls have a sort of "crystalline" tone. They're not at all cold, bright, or dry but they're not bringing any warmth either. My problem with Lundahls has always been about how they're a little anemic in the lower midrange and bass, as compared to any of the other SUT brands. In the end this always leaves my a bit cold, and I move on to another SUT.

By comparison the Quadratic is the 1st SUT I've heard that actually beats the Lundahls at their strength. And to this prodigious resolution & clarity, they add the most powerful bass response of any SUT in my collection. The only issue I'm facing right now - does the Quadaratic actually have TOO MUCH low end energy? And would it be better balanced with a little more top-end sparkle?

Versus other CineMags - 3440A Red, 1254, 1131, Bob's Devices Sky 20/10 and Sky 40:
I'll just come out and say the 3440A Red is crap compared to anything else listed here, and nothing more will be said about them. The rest of these models are all blue-label CineMag cans, like the Quadratic itself! However, the Quadaratic's cans are significantly taller and larger than the other CineMag models - at least twice their size, in fact. The blue-label 1254 and 1131 are very close in performance to the Skys, with perhaps the slight edge given to Skys in smoothness and refinement. All of these are very nice transformers. The 1131/1254/Sky strength is midrange; they'll give you plump, rich, fleshy tones. No hint of grain nor dryness. The midrange is "wet" and lovely; reminiscent of the tone of a beautiful vintage tube amp. Pair these up with a Koetsu and go swimming in it! The low end is a little bloomy and rounded, but not in an offensive way - it's got a good level of energy that keeps in proportion to the music. Highs are sparking without going over the top. These transformers are voiced to sound extremely pleasant and a bit "fun". Soundstage and resolution is good, much better than the 3440A Red (oops I said I wouldn't mention it again), but falling a bit short here of the other brands & models in this list.

Versus other blue-label CineMags, the Quadratic MC-1 midrange feels just ever so slight drier. Still no grain, fortunately - it's completely smooth and clean; not at all like some gear which seems to have a "sandpaper" effect on female vocals. In clarity and resolution, the MC-1 wins, and quite easily at that. In bass quality and quantity, it wins easily again - the roundness and mild sloppiness of sibling CineMags is completely absent here. And it's kind of astounding just how MUCH more bass impact & slam the MC-1 offers over other CineMags. Soundstage - yet another win. The other CineMags have to rely on their lush midrange and sparkly highs to compete here - if anything the MC-1 might feel like it lacks a bit of top end sparkle. However, overall its feel very much like the Quadratic MC-1 is a premium level SUT, residing squarely above the other CineMag models in their hierarchy. 

Choir Audio SUT-H7 (Hashimoto HM-7):
Choir Audio (now defunct) used to see this nice box outfitted with Hashimoto's top HM-7 transformers. I'm probably in the minority opinion about the Hashimoto HM-7. I can't explain it well, but they sort of bore the crap out of me. I've tried the HM7 many times through the years, to similar effect. They do everything fairly well, and they have no single glaring weakness - it's just that to me, they don't do any one spectacular thing to stand out, and I suppose I'm someone who WANTS their SUT to have SOME kind of discernible personality. People who want their SUT to "get out of the way" might really love these. But if you go too far into that philosophy, then pretty soon you're constantly talking about "wire with gain", upgrading your cabling to Monoprice, abandoning all vinyl for digital, and sharing pics of your Benchmark gear & measurements at parties :lol:

The MC-3 is the older version of the MC-4 - with 28x, 18x, and 10x taps on the MC-3 versus 30x, 24x, 18x, and 10x on the MC-4. The EAR has become my all-around reference SUT. My favorite. Its midrange is akin to the CineMag Sky, but even slightly better - wet, lush, slightly sweet and warm. In a word, beautiful. However, it significantly improves upon the shortcomings of the Sky with better extension on both ends, better clarity, a cleaned-up low end, and bigger soundstage. Highs are sparkling and gorgeous. It's not bright or fatiguing, though on certain hash recordings it can start sting you (which is probably true to what's on the record). This SUT has soul, solid technical chops, and excellent tap flexibility. A wonderfully balanced, musical performer.

Compared to the MC-1 it's very apparent the EAR MC-3 has more emphasis on the upper range frequencies, and MC-1 on the low end. However, besides bass, the MC-1 also wins on overall clarity and resolution (though the EAR is no slouch). The EAR has a sweeter, wetter midrange and more sparkling, beautiful highs. In some systems the MC-1 might actually impart too much bass power and impact - in such system, you might find the MC-1 more fatiguing. In other systems, the EAR's treble might get to you after a run of rough pop & rock recordings at high volume levels, whereas the MC-1 would allow you to keep going...and going. 

Koetsu SUT (latest version of the old Rosewood boxes, not the new metal box version):
As with their cartridges, the Koetsu SUT carries an element of mystery. Who makes the SUT? Probably a Japanese transformer winder, but whom? Could it even be Hashimoto?

For a couple years, I've kept my Koetsu SUT paired to the Blue Lace and FR64S arm (silver wiring) in the front arm slot. I haven't even tried it with a non-Koetsu cartridge; that just seems wrong somehow. The Koetsu SUT's main competetion in this slot has been the EAR. It's a surprisingly close competetion - the EAR is a bit sweeter, the Koetsu SUT is actually a bit more detailed. They're both amazing in this slot. But I've mostly kept the Koetsu SUT & Blue Lace pairing consistent, which frees up the EAR to benefit other cartridges (Benz, Ortofon, Shelter, other Koetsus) on a 2nd arm - usually an FR64fx, but occasionally a Graham Phantom II Supreme. The Koetsu SUT seems to work with the top Koetsu in a way that particular supports the Koetsu Platinum's sonic signature - especially in helping to bring out detail & treble energy - so I haven't been too tempted to try it elsewhere.

I've briefly tried the Quadratic MC-1 in this slot on the Blue Lace, and it did very well. I have lingering concerns the relaxed top end of the MC-1 might prove too much in combination with an already relaxed Platinum-magnet Koetsu, but it was still a very enjoyable and interesting listen. In general, the Blue Lace & MC-1 combination favors the low end frequencies. I'll have to spend more time to see how the MC-1 plays out in this slot. And the MC-1 might also be an interesting mix with a non-Platinum Koetsu, which I haven't tried yet. My one non-Platinum Koetsu Onyx (perhaps Samarium Cobalt magnets?) is definitely less relaxed than the Platinum magnet'd Koetsus, so it could be interesting. I'd also be interested in hearing the MC-1 paired with a non-Platinum Rosewood or Urushi.

Additional Thoughts:

At this time, the Quadratic MC-1 is competing with the EAR MC-3 for top billing in the back arm slot, which has been dominated lately by a Benz Zebrawood L and Benz Ebony L on the FR64fx (silver wiring). Compared to Koetsu, the Benzes give the MC-1 a bit more top-end energy to work with. The Quadratic vs. EAR matchup is pretty interesting, and I'd say the Quadratic has a real good shot at winning, but that certainly doesn't mean the EAR is at risk of going away. I love and appreciate the very different perspective both of these fantastic SUTs provide for my music collection! It's clear that they both outclass the Lundahls, other CineMags, and Hashimoto on this list. I also have an EAR MC-4 on order with TTVJ, to ensure I'm not missing out on anything in the newer model!

A note on SUT boxes: I don't like the tiny little lightweight Bob's Devices boxes. They always end up tipping over once hooked up to cables. And they don't look great. By contrast the EAR has been a pleasure to use - beautiful chrome fascia, and a LOT of weight in its box (clearly uses internal weights). It's the heaviest SUT box. It sits flat, hides the cabling out back, and looks pretty. That's what a SUT box should do. The Koetsu, Choir Audio and Quadratic boxes also function extremely well in this capacity. I also think the Koetsu and Quadratic boxes, like the EAR, are particularly handsome. 

I've only had the Quadratic MC-1 for a week, but in short I've really enjoyed it and am glad I bought it. It's looking like it'll be getting a lot of play time here!

My gear, besides SUTs:
Rack: CMS Maxxum
Tables: Clearaudio Innovation Master, SOTA Nova V
Cartridges: Shelter Accord and Harmony; Benz Wood SM, Ebony L, Zebrawood L, and LPS; Ortofon Cadenza Bronze and A90; Koetsu RSP, Onyx Platinum, Onyx (?), Coralstone Diamond, Blue Lace Diamond
Tonearms: Fidelity Research FR64S (silver wire), FR64fx (copper and silver wire), Graham Phantom II Supreme, Clearaudio Universal 12" w/ VTA 
Cabling: Audioquest WEL Signature, Wild, and Synergistic Research Foundation cabling, Bob's Devices SUT interconnects
Phono Stages: VAC Renaissance SE phono stage (used almost exclusively in MM mode, bypassing its Lundahl LL1931), Hagerman Trumpet MC, Sonic Frontiers Phono 1 SE+.
Preamp: VAC Master
Amps: VAC Signature 200iQ monos, Rogue Apollo Dark, Phison A120.2SE
Speakers: Tannoy Canterbury SE



Thanks Lew - it’s true, these comparisons are largely strapped to my VAC Renaissance SE as the MM stage @ 47K loading. I’ve had many other phono stages at lower price tiers, but the VAC clobbered them all, and gets all the play time. The SUT interconnect also has a big impact. I’ve learned to keep that cable low capacitance, and as short as possible, or else it WILL let its presence be known.

The Renaissance phono stage is definitely on the "romantic" side of the spectrum. However the SE upgrades clean it up towards neutral, offers gobs of detail, and I’m confident it’s not doing anything weird or "unconventional" to the signal. It just sounds beautiful! Very low noise floor for a tube stage, too. 


No experience with Jensen MC SUTs yet. I keep wanting to try their better MC transformers, but it hasn’t happened yet. I’ve enjoyed gear which uses Jensen transformers in other roles; I know they make good stuff!



@mulveling Really fantastic review! It’s great to hear from someone who has listened to so many SUTs head to head and reflect on the experience. As @tomic601 indicated, it’s refreshing beyond words to read such a fair and balanced assessment which is based solely on listening and not hyperbole derived on what you read from other’s reviews.

@mulveling I have to say, I’m really disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm and engagement on this thread following all the efforts and truly useful listening comparisons you’ve conducted and decided to share. This should be the essence of what this forum is about, and on any other audiophile forum this thread would have garnered far more interest and participation.

I feel this is sadly becoming emblematic of the state of this forum as pages upon pages get devoted to gear that in many cases the OP has never heard but is gushing over based on reading reviews. I’ve been spending less time on this forum over the past year and may totally fade away as posts like yours are few and far between and we are otherwise faced with reading bickering, hyperbole, and heavy-handed opinions without any listening basis whatsoever.

3easy, isn’t it a bit premature to bemoan a lack of attention to Mulveling’s nice post? There is a lot of meat here to chew on, and we haven’t even heard from some of the pros, like Intact Audio and Atmasphere. I was only trying to point out, as M understood, that it is difficult or problematic to describe the SQ of a SUT out of the context of a system in which you heard it. 

People who want their SUT to "get out of the way" might really love these. But if you go too far into that philosophy, then pretty soon you're constantly talking about "wire with gain", upgrading your cabling to Monoprice, abandoning all vinyl for digital, and sharing pics of your Benchmark gear & measurements at parties :lol: