Transparency? Well, let me put it this way, while reviewing the Andros, music was always so involvingly there that “transparency” as a category of reproduction never occurred to me throughout the evaluations, which is to say that nothing made me think about it one way or another. There are many other components I’ve heard that excavate detail with rather more obviousness than the Andros, but none that has dug out anything the Andros has missed. On Way Out West, you clearly hear the players mutter to one another (or themselves) while they perform; on his recording of the Opus 131 with the full complement of the Vienna Philharmonic strings, Bernstein’s hushed breathing is still there, as loud as it needs it to be but no louder; on that spooky Belafonte recording of “Dark as a Dungeon,” when the thunderstorm approaches and it starts raining, the differentiation of sounds emanating from outside the studio and those from inside is wholly unambiguous, the storm manifestly approaches from a distance. When the rains starts, it’s light at first then obviously gets heavier as the song reaches its conclusion. I’ve rarely heard this last effect reproduced to more convincing effect than here, the rain sounding like real rain.
Every now and then (mostly then) I sometimes wondered if the Andros could be a tad bit more dynamic, detailed, or “fast.” But when I played the same sources on components that brought out these qualities, they sounded all to varying degrees wrong: too much, too hyped, too everything . . . and soon found myself returning to the Andros for music as it really is. More than once I recalled an observation my colleague Robert Greene made of a component that especially struck his fancy: “It sounds totally unscrewed around with,” he said, which for him is fulsome praise indeed. And which brings me full circle to my opening theme and why the Andros made me wonder how many artifacts of reproduction we take for granted as being the only way things can be because they are so routinely the way things are, as opposed to the way they might be.
A hundred shy of four grand is nobody’s idea of a bargain for a stand-alone phonostage. But having been privileged to hear—at extended length in systems and surroundings with which I am intimately familiar—phono preamps costing tens of thousands of dollars that I would not choose over the PS1, I have no hesitation judging it to be worth its asking price, particularly when you factor in economy of scale, its domestic origin, its quality of parts, and its hand-built craftsmanship. The last thing I played before wrapping up this review was an old Musical Heritage Society recording called Christmas at Colorado State University, featuring the university’s (I assume) student choir and chamber orchestra and also its glorious Casavant Organ, widely recognized as one of the world’s greatest. The program opens with a powerful rendition for organ alone of Adeste Fidelis, which gives way to the chamber choir singing a cappella the French children’s carol “Il Est Né” (“He is Born”), and oh my, the way they sing it: with sweetness, innocence, and purity of tone, as befits the lovely melody and the lyrics, sounding out from medium distance, at once focused yet utterly open and radiantly clear. The music, the performance, the recording, and the reproduction were so beautiful that I played the cut three times before returning to the task of finishing my review.
Inputs: Moving magnet and moving coil
MC stage: Transformer
Tube complement: Four JJ ECC83S/12AX7
Frequency response: +/-0.5dB referenced to the RIAA curve
Dimensions: 17" x 5" x 12"
Weight: 20 lbs.
Thousand Oaks, California