It’s not just the distance or the cultural differences that gives Japanese audio hardware its exotic appeal. It’s a combination of that nation’s hard-earned reputation for attention to detail with the general impression that they are even more obsessed with sound quality than we are. The last is probably not true, but to put a video of your loudspeakers being installed on YouTube, even if they are JBL behemoths, is pretty darn keen, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. They also have a penchant for tube electronics, which is always a good sign, even if it results in crazily expensive products once they get to these shores. Sadly, not that much genuine Japanese tube gear gets here these days.
Puresound builds a range of tube-powered electronics, but that doesn’t mean that proprietor Guy Sargeant limits his horizons to audio that glows: the Aurorasound VIDA is a solid state phono stage, or ‘VInyl Disc Amplifier’. And a pretty sophisticated one at that despite the idiosyncratic, but ultimately cool styling. For a start, it provides RIAA filtering with an LCR circuit using a coil that not only results in “much fulfilling midrange” but also provides a constant impedance at its output. It’s a system devised by Western Electric (the one-time megalith of American audio electronics) that avoids the use of capacitors and resistors in the signal path. The VIDA uses Lundahl filter coils that look much like that company’s popular step-up transformers, but perform RIAA equalisation. Here the extra gain required for moving coil cartridges is performed actively. The circuit is pure DC with no capacitors in the signal path, which is achieved with semi-conductors rather than conventional components as a result of Aurora’s founder Shinobu Karaki’s experience working for Texas Instruments before he made his hobby a full-time occupation.
The VIDA’s front panel is encumbered by one of the ugliest badges in the business but everything else is lovely.Well, almost; quite why the mute button has to be so big and yellow is a mystery. The row of toggle switches select between MM and MC inputs, mono and stereo, subsonic filtering, high and low input impedance, and a degauss/demagnetise option. Each operates a relay for long-term reliability. The MC impedance settings are limited to 10 and 100 Ohms, which is a bit limiting. Those interested in seeing how their cartridges might perform with other impedances might be tempted by the six position option mentioned on Aurora’s website. Stereo/mono is a useful feature if you have many mono recordings, and I have heard older vinyl recordings that would benefit from subsonic filtering. A mono phono amplifier is crying out for more tone curves than just RIAA, however. The degauss option is said to be beneficial once every six months.