There’s an old adage about self-reliance that states: “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll go bankrupt on the East coast.”
Similar to commercial fishing, as a hobby, high-end audio can cause financial hardship and even bankruptcy. Trying to get better sound can quickly become an addiction that’s like a drug: it puts a hook into you and, in very short order, every cent of your disposable income is being spent on chasing the sonic dragon.
Thankfully, there are still some audio products being made which deliver great sound at sensible prices. Hafler’s new PH60 solid state Moving Coil (M/C) phono stage is one such product.
In 1954, David Hafler founded Dynaco with Ed Laurent. During the next three decades, the Dynaco brand name became synonymous with low priced / high quality tube gear and their Do-It-Yourself (D.I.Y.) home-build DynaKits.
Introduced in 1959, Dynaco’s Stereo-70 [ST-70] EL-34 based vacuum tube power amplifier is still highly regarded for its excellent sound and low price. When production of the ST-70 stopped, Dynaco had sold more than 350,000 of them; which makes it the highest selling tube amplifier in history.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, David Hafler’s DH-101 pre-amplifier, matching DH-200 power amp, and the 225w/ch DH-500 stereo amp were all big sellers. These tube units were praised for their exceptional value and amazing sound quality by audio reviewers and enthusiasts alike. Sadly, Hafler died in May 2003.
In 2014, the Hafler brand name was bought by Vancouver-based Radial Engineering Limited. Radial had previously been the Canadian importer for Hafler’s units. Following in Hafler’s footsteps, today Radial continues to offer superb sounding audio products at real world prices.
Radial has recently released a new line of Hafler-branded solid state components. With chassis dimensions of 4½” x 1¾” x 6”, the PH60 Moving Coil (M/C) phono amplifier is a compact unit. Priced at $599 USD, it comes standard with a 3 year warranty.
Hafler also manufactures the PH50 Moving Magnet (M/M) phono stage and two phono step-up transformers. All of these units are assembled entirely in Canada.
Aiming to induce as little sonic “coloration” as possible, the PH60 is an active Moving Coil (M/C) phono pre-amp that uses a Class ‘A’ output transformer-less (O.T.L.) head amp’s circuit. It comes in one colour: matte black.
The PH60 offers cartridge loading options of 50 Ohms, 100 Ohms, and 200 Ohms. More exotic cartridge loads can also be handled by soldering resistors into the “custom” positions on the circuit board. My review unit was factory set to the 100 Ohm load level.
The front face has two buttons: one for power; and the other for a switchable “low cut” high-pass filter that’s designed to cut low frequency rumble and excessive bass energy. The rear face offers a pair of RCA input jacks, a pair of RCA output jacks, a ground, and a 15 volt 400mA power supply plug. It’s a breeze to set-up. So… how does it sound?
I tested the PH60 with a half-dozen different turntable rigs, but primarily used my heavily-modified Rega P25, RB-600 tonearm, and a Sumiko Black Bird M/C cartridge set-up for listening sessions. This Rega rig seemed an appropriate ‘table to mate with a phono stage in this price range.