Sutherland Director and Ph.D preamp and phono stage

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Like The Director, the Ph.D. is clean, controlled, almost polite. It never gives the impression - like a good London cartridge - that some near-insane creature is about to burst from your speakers. Which can be a demerit if you listen exclusively to early Stooges or Ozzy or Hasil Adkins. Be that as it may, the two Sutherland pieces are eminently satisfying, and yet so deliciously quirky (without stinking of hand-built, catastrophe-in-waiting, audiophilic shoddiness) that I can't see any vinyl lovers resisting their two most obvious charms: utter adjustability and lack of coloration. The only downside is that, because the Sutherlands are mail-order-only, you have to take my word for it.

Additional Resources
• Read high end stereo preamp reviews here.
• Read audiophile power amp reviews from the likes of Mark Levinson, Krell, Linn, Naim, Pass Labs and many others.

The Director's Power Supply Dilemma 
Although The Director was originally designed to use the all-battery power supply of the PhD phono preamplifier - consisting of 16 alkaline D-cells, with no recharging mechanism - for its total isolation from the AC mains, it required higher power consumption. After much hand-wringing, Sutherland opted for a high-bias current, discrete circuit. Eschewing the conventional approach of a voltage regulator for mains isolation because its output was still too close to the noise on the AC power line, they opted instead for an active constant-current regulator followed by multiple layers of passive pi RC filters. According to Sutherland, 'The constant-current regulator gave very high impedance isolation from the AC power line. In this case, high impedance is very desirable as it represents the electrical "distance" from the AC power line. However, the active preamplifier circuit requires a low-impedance power source. A low impedance gives the circuit direct and quick access to power. The original high impedance current source is transitioned to a low impedance voltage source using a shunt voltage regulator. This combination of an active, high impedance current source, passive pi RC filtering, followed by a low impedance shunt voltage regulator gave us the electrical (and sonic) equivalent of battery power.'


sutherland-amp.gifIf noise is the only thing that annoys you about vinyl (not the mechanically-induced swoosh but the by-product of adding so much gain), then Sutherland has dealt with it so effectively by going battery in the Ph.D. that you will need convincing he hasn't simply unearthed the old dbX system - yes, it's nearly that silent in the background. The Director matches it perfectly, but the ergonomics take a while to appreciate. These product are so clever that the design brilliance almost overshadows their raison d'etre: LP playback. Throw in near-total adjustability, and you have a phono system for the cognoscenti. Oh, and it plays line level sources just as well.

Additional Resources
• Read high end stereo preamp reviews here.
• Read audiophile power amp reviews from the likes of Mark Levinson, Krell, Linn, Naim, Pass Labs and many others.


Alternatives - The Director:
Audio Research SP16L ( 1999) Line stage version of SP16
AudioValve Eklipse ( 2100): All-valve and astonishing good value, especially with Sunilda 
EAR 912 ( 4950): No contest - buy this if you want a quiet phono stage and preamp in one chassis

Alternatives - Ph.D.:
Audio Research PH5 ( 1799): Simply sensational tube phono stage; KK bought one!
AudioValve Sunilda ( 2100): Two sets of inputs, comprehensive adjustments, all-valve, a bargain
EAR/Yoshino 324 ( 2068): For the inveterate cartridge changer, settings galore


THE DIRECTOR SPECIFICATIONS 
Inputs 4 high level inputs 
Volume Steps 31 steps of 1dB in the range of -27.3dB to -57.3dB
96 steps of 0.5dB in the range of +20.7dB to -27.3dB 
Maximum Distortion Less than 0.01% total harmonic distortion plus noise
'A' weighted, output level 2.5volts RMS, 1kHz 
Maximum Gain DIRECT +20.7dB 
ATTN +3.8dB 
Input Impedance When configured DIRECT 42k ohms 
When configured ATTN 29k ohms 
Output Impedance 270 ohms 
Output Voltage 8V RMS maximum
Dimensions 7x4.25x15in (WHD)
Shipping Weight 29lb (14kg)


Ph.D. SPECIFICATIONS 
Gain Settings 45, 50, 55, 60dB 
Cartridge Loading 100, 200, 1k, 47k ohms 
Noise Less than 150uV 'A' weighted, 47k ohms, 50dB gain
Less than 400uV 'A' weighted, 200 ohms, 60dB gain
THD and Noise Less than 0.02%, 'A' weighted 
Indicators Green: Power On
Yellow: Standby
Red: Low Batteries 
Size 17x4x14in (WHD)
Weight 38lbs net (with batteries installed) 
41lbs shipping 
Power Requirements 16 Alkaline 'D' cells 
Battery Life Greater than 800 hours (actual listening time)


We listened to:
LPs
Ray Charles & Cleo Laine: Porgy & Bess (Classic/Rhino/Jazz Planet JP-1831) 
The Crickets: Bubblegum, Bop, Ballads & Boogies (Philips 6308 149)
Jefferson Airplane: Takes Off (Sundazed LP5186) and After Bathing At Baxter's
(Sundazed LP5187)
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble: Couldn't Stand The Weather (Pure Pleasure PPAN39304)

Review System:
AudioValve Sunilda and Audio Research PH5 phono stage
SME 10 turntable/SME Series V tonearm
SME 30/2 turntable/SME Series V tonearm
Transfiguration Temper V, Denon DL103, London Super Gold and London Maroon mono cartridges
Musical Fidelity mW25 and Marantz CD1-2/DA12 CD players
McIntosh C2200 pre-amp
McIntosh MC2102 power amp
Rogers LS3/5a speakers
Wilson WATT Puppy System 7 speakers
Transparent Ultra balanced cable
Transparent Reference speaker cables

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HTR Product Rating for Sutherland Director and Ph.D preamp and phono stage

Criteria Rating

Performance

4

Value

4

Overall

4

Disagree with our product rating? Email us and tell us why you think this product should receive a higher rating.


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