What Hi-Fi (UK)

Vertere Acoustics Phono-1 MKII


This plain-looking box turns out to be a carefully considered product with a wide range of settings that ensures electronic compatibil­ity with most pricecompa­tible MM/MC cartridges.

Vertere Acoustics’ Phono-1 MKII may not look anything special, but if you’re after a phono stage at anywhere near the £1000 mark, it simply has to be heard.

That clean front with its solo power switch isn’t the panel to focus on. With its initially dizzying collection of dipswitche­s, the underside of the case is far more interestin­g.

Take a careful look and it all starts to make sense as you discover adjustment­s for gain – from 45.4 to 61.4db in 12 steps – as well as a multitude of settings for capacitanc­e and resistance.

Get these adjustment­s right (check your cartridge’s technical specificat­ions for the values required, but feel free to experiment) and we think you’ll be able to optimise the Vertere’s performanc­e for most cartridges on the market.

Neat, thoughtful design

Take a look at the back panel and it’s all pretty straightfo­rward. There’s the input and output in standard stereo RCA form, and a grounding terminal with a generously sized nut with which to clamp down.

Unusually, there’s also a Ground switch with three positions, to give the user options should hum be an issue with their particular set-up. We found this useful with our reference Technics SL-1000R record player, which hummed until we tried a different Grounding switch setting.

There’s no point in having a phono stage of this level if the rest of your system isn’t suitably talented. As mentioned, we use our reference record player, the Technics SL-1000R (using a Kiseki Purplehear­t MC cartridge) along with Vertere’s MG-1 MKII/SG-1 MKII turntable/arm package with the in-house Mystic moving-coil cartridge fitted.

The rest of the system is made up of Burmester’s 088/911 MKIII pre/power and ATC’S SCM 50 speakers.

An enthusiast­ic approach

It says much about the performanc­e of the Phono-1 MKII that it sounds right at home in such capable and high-priced company. This is an upfront and lively performer, one that certainly sounds more enthusiast­ic and exciting than the Cyrus Phono Signature (£1495) – our current favourite phono stage around this level.

We play Nirvana’s Nevermind and love the Vertere’s drive and attack. It preserves so much of the recording’s energy and delivers it with confidence. This disc shows off the Phono-1’s surefooted timing and its ability to render complex rhythms in a composed and entertaini­ng way.

Tonally it’s certainly brighter than our reference Cyrus, but this won’t spill into being an issue unless the rest of your system already suffers from excess aggression. Regardless of the deck used we consistent­ly get a balanced sound and excellent resolution.

This Vertere is a highly detailed performer, but its real strength is that all that informatio­n is organised into a musically cohesive whole. By the end of our listening sessions, we forget about analysing its performanc­e and end up simply enjoying the music. We can’t ask for more than that.

That rings true no matter what music we play. Orff’s Carmina Burana comes through with its fierce dynamic swings and manic energy intact. We have no issue with the way the Vertere lays out the large-scale soundstage, nor its precision in locating sounds. In fact, we love both of those things. It’s all nicely expansive and convincing­ly layered.

Equally, the likes of Bruce Springstee­n’s Born To Run shows that the Phono-1 MKII has no trouble rocking out when required either. The album’s production isn’t the cleanest around, but there’s still enough in the way of insight and excitement to leave us satisfied.

Putting the music first

There’s no doubt that the Phono-1 MKII is a terrific performer for the money. Supply it with a suitably capable deck and you’ll get a sound that will have you listening well into the night. It’s insightful and reveals far more than most alternativ­es, but the Vertere’s real strength is that it never trades musical enjoyment for analysis. That’s a surprising­ly rare trait in premium hi-fi.

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 ??  ?? Good ergonomics – not least on the grounding post
Good ergonomics – not least on the grounding post
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