This plain-looking box turns out to be a carefully considered product with a wide range of settings that ensure compatibility with most price compatible cartridges.
Vertere Acoustics’ Phono-1 MkII may not look anything special, but if you’re after a phono stage at anywhere near the grand 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 with 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.
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.
Moving Magnet Yes
Moving Coil Yes
Line level in 0
Remote control No
Dimensions (hwd) 5.5 x 21 x 23.5cm
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. 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.
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 at 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 deck used we 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 sound stage, nor its precision in locating sounds. 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.
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.
- Sound 5
- Features 5
- Build 4