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!
- High cost
- Limited product choice
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.
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.
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?
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.