I have had a fair amount of experience with Boulder gear and I have always enjoyed its neutral presentation. Boulder gear does not colour the sound but strives to present what it is given with great presence and dynamics. Resolution is very clear. I opted to begin with the 1970 Polydor live album of Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen. ‘Feelin’ Alright’ has always offered great energy and power right off the vinyl and the 508 acquitted itself as expected. The sound was visceral and very organic. The horn section was brassy and powerful. This is a large band and choir and the soundstage reflected the expansive scale of the production. Joe Cocker is one performer I never had the chance to see live and the 508 delivered an electric performance off of this very well engineered album that is likely as close I will ever get to being there under the circumstances.
One ‘audiophile’ album I have always enjoyed is Shelby Lynn’s Just a Little Lovin’[UMG] It is a wonderful thing when a recording can capture the space of the room, and the title track is an excellent example of this. The 508 brings the space to life with terrifically accurate decay on the drumstick on the snare drum rim. The sound of this snap moves around the room and is gone just as the next snap occurs. The upright bass brings another example of the terrific organic feel as hand meets string and wood. Shelby’s lost and forlorn vocals carry great emotion as regret and loss flow through her to the listener. Once again that sense of dimensionality is so pervasive. You can ‘see’ the room, which is a real testament to the purity of the signal being sent by the 508.
Gerry Rafferty’s City to City [United Artists Group] is a soundtrack of your life record that I have enjoyed for forty-two years. It is not so much a collection of ten songs as a two-sided bounty of memories. Playing ‘Baker Street’ and ‘Right Down the Line’ back to back brought back the summer of 1977 in clear definition. This was perhaps the finest rendition of these songs I have heard on this original vinyl release through any stereo system. The signature saxophone on ‘Baker street’ had soul and swing alongside the rasp of the reed as the song queued up visions of lonely early morning streets after a summer rain. Images of lives in twilight come to the fore in this poignant song. When a piece of gear can put you inside the music, that is the goal and the fulfilment of listening. The 508 with its simplified yet refined and sophisticated design delivers the goods with aplomb.
I have a first-class phono stage – the well regarded Simaudio Moon 610LP – and it is, in a word, superb. It also offers a ton of loading settings and short signal paths that I can use for a myriad of cartridge reviews. Consequently, I am very pleased with what I have. However, the 508 gave me pause. If I were simply enjoying my system without new gear rotating in and out, I would be more than tempted to make a switch. The 508 is that special. It is, in the world of Boulder products, an actually affordable device. A four-figure bargain designed by one of the world’s leading aspirational brands. No corners were cut, and yet signal paths were shortened, and circuits were refined. The result is a unit I will unequivocally recommend. Take time and give it a listen. You may very well keep it.
Inputs: 1 pair, via 3-pin XLR
Outputs: 1 pair, via 3-pin XLR
Input Impedance, Maximum MC: 100 ohms, MM: 47k ohms
Output Impedance: 100 ohms, balanced
1 kHz Gain, RIAA MC: 70 dB, MM: 44 dB
Frequency Response: RIAA ±0.5 dB, 20 Hz to 20 kHz
Distortion: THD 0.01%
Noise (EIN): MC 116 nanovolts flat, 20 Hz to 20 kHz
Maximum Output Level: 16 Vrms
Power Requirements: 100, 120, 200, 240 VAC, 50–60Hz
Power Consumption: 15W Maximum
Dimensions: 29.2 cm W ×24.1 cm D ×5.8 cm H
Weight: 5.2 kg)
Manufactured by: Boulder Amplifiers Inc.
Distributed in the UK by: Padood
Tel: +44(0)1223 653199