And for a lot of analog enthusiasts, adding digital circuitry to an analog signal path is downright heresy. But the thing is, the analog playback experience can be greatly enhanced with what digital signal processing (DSP) and software can provide. It’s just that, to the best of my knowledge, not a lot of companies are providing this functionality right now.
But Shannon Parks of Parks Audio is providing this functionality with his compact and clever Puffin DSP phono preamplifier. The Puffin will play the output of essentially any kind of phono cartridge, whatever its power output or load requirements are. The Puffin will let you equalize its output for a very wide variety of vinyl EQ settings, such as those found on Columbia 78rpm records, Teldec/DGG LPs, or the standard RCA RIAA curves. And if you happen to have an album that was mastered out of phase, the Puffin will let you correct that as well.
And, believe it or not, that’s just a few of the functions the Puffin is capable of. You can EQ the output for your room, play mono records with a mono cart, grade the quality of a record, and even keep track of the playing hours of your cartridge. And, as if that weren’t enough, you can buy a version of the Puffin that will send a 24-bit/96kHz output signal to a DAC through a digital coax or Toslink cable.
All of this functionality comes from a single black box with two buttons, one adjustment knob, an LCD screen, and one RCA input. And the price starts at $489 (the unit I am reviewing, with Toslink output, sells for $639). But how does it sound? How easy is it to use a Puffin when you have multiple turntables and cartridges? Be sure to check back later for a review!