Graham Slee - Elevator EXP - MC Step-up Amplifier
(1) open box model available at $888.00
The Graham Slee Elevator 'steps-up' the output of Moving Coil (MC) cartridges and provides settings for loading and impedance to ensure optimal matching. Designed for MC cartridges with outputs at or below 1.0mV, the Elevator brings the output of virtually any MC cartridge up to the equivalent of a MM cartridge and so it can be used with any Moving Magnet (MM) Phono Preamp, like Graham Slee's own MM-Only phono preamps!
When compared to a MM cartridge, most MC cartridges have very low output. The output of MM cartridges is generally measured in terms of millivolts (mV), with an average output of around 4.0mV. MC cartridges on the other hand are measured in fractions of a mV, with outputs varying widely, but many MC cartridges are around 0.5mV and some of the lowest down to below 0.2mV! With outputs that can be an order of magnitude lower than a MM cartridge, enormous amounts of gain must be applied to the output of a MC cartridge to bring it up to an acceptable volume. Because it is expensive to engineer a high-gain, low noise amplifier, the MC section in many phono preamps is given short shrift and starved in terms of both adequate power and also parts quality. This is part of the reason why Graham Slee phono preamps are so extraordinary at their price, since they don't have the added expense or noise of a built-in MC section they can outperform many pre-amps, even some twice their price. However, what do you do if you want to use an MC cartridge?
This is where the Graham Slee Elevator comes in. A very-low noise amplifier, the Elevator boosts the incoming signal by 22.5dB transforming even the most modest MM phono stage into a very respectable MC phono preamp. With an extraordinarily low input noise floor of -130dB and distortion less than 0.01%, the Elevator is quieter than virtually any component it will be used with!
The Elevator is quite different from other step-up designs on the market. Most step-up designs use a transformer to boost the signal, which would seem logical. Put one voltage in on one side of a transformer and another voltage comes out the other. Simple, effective and the manufacturer can choose whatever output gain they want, by simply having the transformers made to their specifications. Although this may sound like a perfect solution, transformers can affect the music in unforeseen ways. A transformer is simply wire coiled around a core, so the delicate low-level audio signals must travel through long runs of wire on both sides of the transformer before conversion. This process can expose the signal to RF interference and even hum from external sources, which means extra noise. A transformer can also introduce phase errors and hysteresis which will result in loss of resolution and soundstage size. Finally, transformers are not flexible when it comes to correct cartridge loading offering only limited compatibility with phono preamps.
The Elevator is NOT an MC transformer, it's actually closer in design to an audio amplifier. Using ultra-high bandwidth video amplifiers (yes, video!) to boost the incoming signals, the Elevator gives music the appropriate power, definition and transparency, while offering the flexibility to adjust loading specifically for your cartridge. Exceptionally built, the Elevator features premium audiophile grade parts and connectors.