LCR Phono – Lounge Audio

As we know, phono EQ is implemented via RIAA equalisation, usually using RC (resistor-capacitor) filter circuits.

However LCR EQ (using inductor-capacitor-resistors) is regarded by some as the better way of implementing this – the Holy Grail of phono EQ.

The advantages are said to be:

  • Lower losses = more gain
  • Lower impedance, especially in the lower frequencies = more ‘power’
  • It sounds better!

Drawbacks:

  • High cost
  • Limited product choice
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The Lounge Audio LCR (sitting on Sorbothane hemispheres) alongside my DIY Phi-42 phono preamp

Ready-made LCR phono stages are costly, eg. Allnic, Aurorasound, AudioNote, Zanden…etc

You may want to DIY your own LCR phono – using components from say, S & B, Silk, Sowter or Intact Audio.

409KH_Fig3

RIAA Equalisation (de-emphasis) is essentially a couple of low pass filters – lifting bass and dropping treble (20dB each).

However, since around 2011, there has been an affordable off-the-shelf option – the Los Angeles-manufactured Lounge Audio ‘LCR Phono Preamp’.

This is a Solid State Moving Magnet phono preamp with 40dB of Gain.  For Moving Coil, you need to add a MC gain stage or Step Up Transformer.

The in-built LCR phono equalisation is based on the respected Tango design (like most other LCR phono implementations).

Parts selection and design are what you might expect for an audiophile device (eg. Class A biased opamps, film and foil caps, bulk foil phono loading, careful Grounding).

Power supply is just a 16vac ‘wall wart’ plug-pack – PSU rectification and regulation are done onboard.

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Currently, the Lounge Audio LCR MkIII costs US$300. (Less than one-third of the parts-cost alone, of my own DIY Phi-42 phono stage.)

So, how does it sound?

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Fidelity Research FRT-4 Step Up Transformer + Lounge Audio LCR Phono, used with my MC cartridge.

The Lounge LCR ‘breathes’ power from mid-bass down.  It is a lot of fun to listen to, because low frequencies have rhythm and authority.  Plenty of percussive punch, orchestral ‘ebb and flow’ and weight.

This dynamic ‘freedom’ aids the midrange too, with ‘breathy’ voices and good sense of ‘openness’ and ‘ambience’.

Guitars and strings have tonal warmth and HF tone is fine too, with plenty of instrumental detail (at least a match for my Phi-42 phono in this regard) and no harshness or fatigue.

It is unfair to compare with a much more costly phono stage, but the Lounge LCR perhaps has less clear and focussed stereo imaging, is less ‘transparent’, less dynamic ‘contrasts’ and sense of ‘depth’.

‘Soundstage’ is comparatively smaller in scale – than the Phi-42 phono.

Nevertheless, the Lounge LCR MkIII is (i) very engaging and enjoyable musically (ii) impressive dollar value.

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18 thoughts on “LCR Phono – Lounge Audio

  1. I’ve tried the Lounge LCR as well. I thought it was pleasant sounding but too colored for my taste. To me it lacked transparency and softened the leading edge of all notes. That made the sound too “round” and too “warm” for my taste, although it did not sound small or weak or harsh. I much preferred Elliot 06 phono kit that I assembled. My wife did as well so the Lounge went back.

  2. G’day all, an interesting review and comments. I also have the Lounge MKIII and like it, but don’t love it. Likewise it sounds ‘soft’ to me like there is what sounds like subtle upper treble roll off. It just doesn’t sound quite right to me, being perfectly honest, and I will add I hate the blue LED edge lighting!

    I am also a fan of the DIY ESP P06 phono stage, having built quite a few over the years, and in comparison it is a phono stage that I love. Herman, a question please, what HF filter component values did you use on your P06? I think that the original 820 ohm/82 Nf filter sounds much more agreeable than the newer alternative network values. Regards, Felix.

  3. Felix,
    I have been using the new values but will take your advice and try the old values in the P06 phono. Thanks for advice. Which brand/type cap did you use for the 82 Nf? regards, Herman

    • G’day mate, just standard good quality MKT capacitors. I’ve been through my boutique capacitor phase and gone back to more standard but good quality capacitors. The only type of capacitors that I will insist on are WIMA polypropylene types for cartridge loading applications over those horrible ceramic types often supplied in otherwise good audio kits! Matching component values between channels is important and worthwhile too. I’m not sure why I detect such a big difference in the ‘sound’ of the two HF filter networks for the ESP P06 as they are supposed to be equivalent but the newer HF network just sounds horribly cold and sterile to my ears! It’s a strange one! Regards, Felix.

  4. Classic – I appear to be following in your footsteps, Owen. Just ordered an LCR III to replace my clearaudio nano (I want a touch more “jump”) and was looking through reviews only to end up here. By the way the Mauhorn/Tangband combo is only getting better and better with run-in. My next step is to wire them with air-insulated solid core silver from drivers to amp – any advice/recommendations?

    • Hello Rob – thanks for dropping in!
      Let us know what you think, when you have had a good long audition.

      I found the LCR Phono to be very ‘open’ in dynamic headroom. However, some may find the LF power delivery a little too ‘warm’ or resonant in balance.
      Cheers.

      • I certainly will. I’m counting on the warm LF to balance out the slightly tipped-up sound of the ortofon bronze mm I use and the slight bass roll-off that comes with my flea amp (I’ve been correcting this by keeping the speakers tight against the wall but that makes the soundstage a touch flat when I’m playing digital). The nano is great value and has *heaps* of gain, but I suspect it would would fit a more standard mid to high power system better than my set up.

      • Hi Rob – although the Lounge LCR does have an attractively warm balance, I think it’s main attribute is the easy way it ‘breathes’ in the lower regions – the way that an inductor/coil typically does this, is different from a simple resistor-capacitor (RIAA) filter circuit. A Transformer Vol Control does this. This is subtle, but is something that sounds more like real music to me 😉 Cheers.

  5. HI Owen – it turned up this morning and I’ve been playing records all day. The term “breathes” is dead-on. It’s got that same open, flowing quality that differentiates wideband drivers and horns from more usual speakers, and that separates low power set amps from the big expensive solid state amps (my last power amp was a plinius).

    It fits perfectly with the changes I’ve made to my stereo over the last few years in that I suspect it wouldn’t measure as well as the component it’s replaced but, like you say, it sounds more like music to me.

    Of course now you’ve got me wondering about whether I should try a TVC…

      • Sorry to hear that Owen – I hope you’re better now. I’m still really impressed by the LCR. I’ve also gone back to an aluminium platter from an acrylic one which seemed to open the sound up a bit more too. Not so keen on the felt mat though – any thoughts on a good substitute?

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