AUDIO-TECHNICA AT-PEQ3 PHONO PREAMP
"How about a sweet sounding starter phono preamp that lists for $119...? It's the Audio-Technica AT-PEQ3, a little plug'n'play box with a wall-wart power supply that's quiet, sounds clean and surprisingly dynamic, and get's the job done remarkably well."1
Audio-Technica has a penchant for coming up with wonderful bargains and delightful performers - like the Audio-Technica AT-PEQ3 phono preamp. Small in size, attractively encased in polished metal, complete with RCA interconnect and AC/DC adapter - it is ready to plug and play music after a short break-in period. Initially it sounds brittle at the top, hazy and cantankerous but after using it a while it starts to morph into a bundle of surprises.
To initially test the Audio-Technica AT-PEQ3 phono preamp we used it with a Nagaoka NP300 phono cartridge mounted on a Sota Sapphire turntable with LP Gear S Arm with removable headshell. These equipment are thirty times more expensive than the Audio-Technica AT-PEQ3 phono preamp and will likely not be used with it but we wanted to hear how it would cope with high-end audio.
Next we tried it with an Audio-Technica AT440MLA phono cartridge. It mated very well indeed with its sibling. The details, the sound stage and depth were there. Vocals were especially very convincing. Bass was tight though not visceral and did not have the wallop that we would have liked. You could detect a slight sizzle at the top end in some recordings but it was not irritating at all. With the Graham Slee Era Gold Mk.V phono preamp, the highs are pristine and without distortion and the sound stage is wider and deeper - but then it costs over ten times more.
We have been intrigued by the new Ortofon 2M Red cartridge so we used it with the Audio-Technica AT-PEQ3 phono preamp. Initially we thought that the Ortofon 2M Red cartridge offered outstanding clarity. After extensive listening comparisons however we've concluded that the Ortofon 2M Red interprets music differently. It spotlights certain aspects of a performance. For example when playing the same recording, the rhythm guitar would be more prominent while with all the other cartridges the guitar was less so.
The Audio-Technica AT-PEQ3 phono preamp also provided us an opportunity to evaluate a new inexpensive phono cartridge that we are developing with a Japanese partner. The inexpensive cartridge offers clarity, layering, wide sound stage, cohesion, balance, rhythm and harmonic integrity - just using a conical diamond.
Audio-Technica AT-PEQ3 Phono Preamp Specifications
- Input type: RCA gold plated
- Impedance: 47k ohms
- Rated input level: 2.5mV @ 1kHz, max 60mV
- Output type: RCA gold plated
- Maximum output level: 150mV @ 1kHz
- Frequency response: RIAA 20-20,000 Hz +/- 0.5dB
- Signal-to-noise ratio: 80 dBu (JIS-A)
- Mains connection: External power supply, 18 V 100 mA
- Mains voltage USA, Canada: 120 V, 60 Hz
- Power consumption: 20 mA
- Dimensions: 1.75"w x 1.18"h x 3.60"d
- Weight: 160 g (5.9 oz.)
- Furnished accessories: 1.0 RCA interconnect cable,
- Break-in period: 100 hours (Recommended by LP Gear)
- Warranty: 1 year
Footnote 1: Michael Fremer, Stereophile, Vol. 32 No.12 (December 2009).