Parks Audio Puffin Phono Preamp

the thin end of the wedge
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jdjohn
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Parks Audio Puffin Phono Preamp

Post by jdjohn » 14 Dec 2018 17:35

Anyone here tried one of these? http://parksaudiollc.com/
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It's technically a DSP. It takes the analog phono signal, converts it to digital, does some DSP, and then converts back to analog before sending the signal on. I know that's heresy from a purist's standpoint, but these seem to get rave reviews.

Much of the appeal on these is being able to tilt the frequency curve, apply straight tone controls, or even apply various older RIAA EQ curves to old 78s, for example. I know some will say "just use your amp's tone controls", or "if you need an EQ, use an EQ". But if your amp doesn't have tone controls, or you don't want/need an EQ in your chain for other sources like digital or a tuner, this might fit the bill. I think we all have certain records (particularly older recordings), that need a little something (added OR subtracted) from one end or the other.

I think one could argue that using tone controls, or an EQ, is not very different than using this device. Both are adding another touch-point in the signal chain. A potentiometer, slider, or additional RCA cables/plugs (for separate EQ) all have the possibility of adding noise. But of course digital sampling inherently removes some audio information, so there is a trade-off either way. There are no dip switches in the Puffin, btw.

I think the primary target for this would be people who use separates, not integrated amps or receivers with on-board phono stages, nor receivers/amps with the aforementioned tone controls and/or loudness button, unless the units have a tone control by-pass feature.

A lot of the reviews have the word 'fun' incorporated. Hard to tell if that is from tweakers who can play with all the different settings to their heart's content, or maybe it makes listening fun again with a more balanced sound after getting things dialed-in for a particular record, cartridge, or room acoustic. Either way, it is interesting, and I know there are a lot of Parks Audio Budgie fans out there, so it comes from a respected maker. Actually, best I can tell, the Puffin replaces the Budgie (i.e., the Budgie is no longer being made).

patient_ot
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Re: Parks Audio Puffin Phono Preamp

Post by patient_ot » 14 Dec 2018 22:32

If I was spending 99% of time creating needledrops, I'd want something like this. Since I'm not, it's not really for me.

JaS
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Re: Parks Audio Puffin Phono Preamp

Post by JaS » 15 Dec 2018 12:48

As someone who hasn't even had an amp with tone controls for 30 years (and doesn't miss them) I'm strangely drawn to this 8-[

I'm not really the target audience though as I even find adjusting the volume control distracting :)

abril
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Re: Parks Audio Puffin Phono Preamp

Post by abril » 15 Dec 2018 13:43

I'm not really the target audience though as I even find adjusting the volume control distracting
Oh no not another question about balancing the input levels :roll: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: Parks Audio Puffin Phono Preamp

Post by JaS » 15 Dec 2018 16:00

Would one Puffin per input be a flock or a gaggle :-k

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Re: Parks Audio Puffin Phono Preamp

Post by AlwaysAirborne » 15 Dec 2018 19:42

I like that it looks like a guitar effects pedal. You could put it on a small pedal board next to your SugarCube SC-1 and phono pre.

jdjohn
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Re: Parks Audio Puffin Phono Preamp

Post by jdjohn » 15 Dec 2018 23:10

JaS, they mate for life, so only come in pairs :D

Well, Amazon makes it way too easy, so guess what arrived at my back door today 8)

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Re: Parks Audio Puffin Phono Preamp

Post by JaS » 16 Dec 2018 13:21

jdjohn wrote:
15 Dec 2018 23:10
Well, Amazon makes it way too easy, so guess what arrived at my back door today 8)
Excellent, let us know how it sounds.

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Re: Parks Audio Puffin Phono Preamp

Post by jdjohn » 18 Dec 2018 17:24

First impressions are very good with the Puffin. My current comparison is a Rogue Audio Triton, and there is not a huge difference (i.e., the Puffin holds its own). I really love the Triton, but of course the flexibility and tweaking ability of the Puffin definitely has a place, and is its strength.

Naturally, a 'set it and forget it' person will not get the full potential of the Puffin, and would miss its value. It is meant to be adjusted, and those adjustments can vary by album and, of course, cartridge.

My initial test was with the "Queen's Greatest Hits" double LP, which I always found to be a little flat for my taste. I have a Bulgarian pressing of it, so not sure if that makes any difference. After playing with a few different settings on the Puffin, I finally followed a suggestion in the owner's manual that provided the sound I was looking for. By adding a little 'Air', and then tweaking the 'Hi' and 'Low' settings, the album came alive for me. Not to the extent of sounding fake, but just a little more sparkle and air around everything. The 'Air' setting is meant to replace capacitance loading, but with no hard-and-fast rules, you adjust by ear. The 'Hi' and 'Low' settings are described as '4th order Butterworth filters', but I think of them more as a type of crossover point setting for lows and highs. I initially started with adjusting 'Tilt', 'Treble', and 'Bass', but ended up using the other settings instead; there's no doubt that further tweaking can be done, and the combinations are really endless. The 'TF' setting allows for adding harmonics (they are subtle), and that was interesting.

My first round of this was done with listening to playback through my speakers, but I think my next step will be to use headphones instead of the stepping forward-and-back with speakers...too much walking :lol:

I'll continue to experiment and compare, taking full advantage of the 30-day trial period, but so far IMO it is a really neat unit that is more than a gimmick - it produces really good sound. If you have any inkling that something like this could be of use to you, I'd say go for it. There is a time investment involved here in order to get the full benefit and best sound to your ears - similar to tube rolling, but cheaper, easier, and quicker!

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Re: Parks Audio Puffin Phono Preamp

Post by abs1 » 18 Dec 2018 18:27

I'd like to see it compared to the analog Schiit Loki.


Cheers,
Al

jdjohn
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Re: Parks Audio Puffin Phono Preamp

Post by jdjohn » 18 Dec 2018 18:54

Al,

The Loki looks to be a pure tone control/EQ device, whereas the Puffin is a lot more than that. I'm not knocking the Loki, but simply pointing-out they are different birds (pun intended) :D

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