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Friday, July 14, 2023

The NEW Hagerman Cornet MM Tube Phono Preamp

A new piece of gear for my system arrived today. The newly released 4th generation Cornet MM tube phono preamp from Hagerman Audio Labs. It looks stunning next to my Audio Technica LP-7. I’ve been wanting a true tube preamp for my turntable for some time, so I’ve done my homework on this one. I like the circuit for many reasons, it appears to be an intelligent design, more than what I will get into here but in summery it utilizes a pair of 12AX7’s for amplification with passive RIAA equalization between the class A stages. A 12AU7 is used as cathode follower in order to drive the output. I was pleased to see it arrived with modern Russian made Mullard tubes instead of the JJs pictured on their website. Mullard tubes are known for their low noise and linear bandwidth for high fidelity applications. The circuit board layout looks like it was engineered with the best practices in mind. I like the symmetry, spacing and big ground planes. The 15v wall wart which powers the preamp is a hefty 36 watt big boy. The switch mode circuitry which takes the 15v and converts to high voltage for the plates of the tubes runs at 50Khz, which is out of the audio band, as opposed to a “linear” supply which technically switches at 60hz and often induces that hum we all dread. So how does it sound? The tubes had about 30 minutes on the odometer before I went through a few LPs, and the sound doesn’t disappoint. The Monty Alexander Trio Live at Montreux’s all analog LP’s first track, “Nite Mist Blues” is a lively track that I just love and I never heard it sounding better! It will be interesting to hear what develops as the tubes break in and I am able to sample more tracks. If you’re looking for an excellent designed true tube MM phono preamp for a reasonable cost, you’d be crazy to not give the Cornet some serious consideration.