The reviews are true about the EAR Phono Classic

A couple months ago, I bought the EAR Phono Classic (Phono Box outside the U.S.), an upgrade from my long-standing phono pre-amp, the first iteration of the Acoustic Signature Tango. For my low-gain version of the Grado Sonata 2, I was told to set the Phono Classic for MC to get the necessary boost. I did so and started playing a lot of music.
I liked the amp and it sounded different than my Tango, but at times I felt not necessarily that much better. I found myself spending a lot of time trying to pinpoint what, exactly, was missing.
Herb Reichert reviewed the piece in Stereophile and said he much preferred the MM setting, except when used with a SUT.
Last night, for the first time, I depressed the switch in the back to MM and turned the front knob on the EAR to maximum volume and then played a record.
OH MY GOD! I was up all night. Using the MM button completely transformed my system. I couldn't believe the realism, depth, image - all that stuff - pouring out of my speakers unlike ever before. Hearing Zoot Sims on the unjustly forgotten classic "A Gasser" by Annie Ross practically had me in tears.
In short, Herb was right: The MM setting - for whatever reason - is radically better than MC on this amp. It turned the EAR into a world class piece, probably the finest piece of equipment I've ever owned next to my Pulsars.
I have no idea why the settings on the same amp would produce such startlingly different reproduction, but there you have it.


I've played around with a Friend's Phonobox and it is a very good phono stage at the price.


But it's not so much that the MM input is better than the MC input, but the internal transformers are not particularly good. Using a good external SUT with the MM input will produce much better results with an MC cartridge. I used an EAR MC4 (as does the friend who loaned me the unit) which is a significant upgrade (although it does effectively double the price of the phono stage).


But your Grado Sonata2 looks like it needs a 47k loading, so using a SUT is probably not ideal for it, even though it has low output. Going directly into the MM input probably would sound better for that cartridge, assuming you can get sufficient gain, which appears to be the case from your comments.


If using an MC cartridge with the EAR Phonobox (or Phono Classic in the US) better results can be obtained with a good external SUT. It can also be improved significantly by switching it internally to work with 12AX7s, instead of the less common tubes it ships with. Current production Tung Sol 12AX7s are inexpensive and are an excellent upgrade for the phono stage.

Thanks! I have a wonderful set of Brimar Yellow T 6060s in my integrated that I guess I could move in there down the road. I have others, as well. RIght now, I'm just going to enjoy the new love with the MM setting. It has the necessary gain, turned up all the way. It just sounded insanely good last night.

@beeswax - So your cartridge is MC but you are using the MM input of EAR PhonoBox with volume all the way up? Then I am assuming you're controlling the volume with a separate preamp?