Mobile Fidelity’s Impressive Studiodeck turntable and Studiotracker cartridge were reviewed in Issue 156, and rightly applauded for their build quality, excellent sonics, and set-up ease. During the process of putting my final touches on the Studiodeck review I must have inadvertently stepped on shamrock because right before I was ready to (regrettably) box up the Studiodeck, I found a compact little package waiting for me out on the doorstep. Imagine my good fortune, the Mofi Studiophono had arrived in the nick of time as not only was it potentially a great phono stage, it was a perfect excuse to keep the audition going a bit longer and have the Studiodeck sitting in my system for another few weeks. If you are still catching up on Mobile Fidelity’s latest equipment offerings, let me give you a quick recap. Mobile Fidelity, that brand you used to associate with high-end LPs, has now – via its Studiodeck and Ultradeck product lines--positioned itself as purveyor of the whole analogue front-end experience. The higher echelon ‘ultra’ line and the budget friendlier ‘studio’ series both include the full turntablist monty: cartridge, turntable, and now phonostage. The Studiophono reviewed here – like the rest of the Mofi equipment family – is a long time coming and the product of several years of meticulous research, development, and design. This prolonged design effort was led by the legendary audio electronics whisperer Tim De Paravicini and that alone demands a closer look, if only to appreciate his valued mark on the Studiophono.
Tim De Paravicini is a global analogue renaissance man of sorts who has travelled many roads over the past decades, working with EAR, Musical Fidelity, and Luxman, to name a few of his more recognisable stops. Tim was commissioned some years ago by Mobile Fidelity to completely rebuild a critical component of Mofi’s vaunted GAIN 2 mastering chain: a Studer A-80 ¼’’ reel-to-reel. Based on the success of this venture De Paravicini was uniquely suited to captain the design of the Studiophono as he understood the technical aspects and standards Mobile Fidelity sought to deliver better than anyone: to create an ultra-wide bandwidth, high transparency phono stage truly faithful to original master recordings. Tim de Paravicini oversaw all circuit design and part selection to accomplish Mofi’s mission for the Studiophono. Quite an unexpected and welcomed pedigree for a £249 component, I think you might agree.
The Studiophono is a perfect aesthetic compliment to the Studiodeck turntable and makes a handsome second step in your analogue chain. While sharing a visual connection to the Mofi turntables, the Studiodeck was not engineered with any specific sonic synergy in mind and was intended to be a piece of equipment that can stand on its own and be added into any system. The vibration resistant metal chassis is well propertied at 3-3/4’’W x1-1/4’’ H x6-5/8’’ D and with its low profile can squeeze into most tight spaces and does not necessitate its own shelf on your rack. On the operations side the Studiophono allows a wide array of gain (between 40dB and 66 dB) and loading adjustments (75 ohms-47Kohms) that will accommodate virtually any moving magnet or moving coil cartridge. Without making any adjustments Studiophono is set to operate out of the box with most high-output moving magnet or moving iron phono cartridges. If use of a low-output moving coil cartridge is desired, quick and easy adjustments are made on the underside of the unit with a bank of DIP toggle switches that you thankfully don’t have to be a PhD to figure out how to use. For the power supply, the Studiophono is equipped with a balanced external power supply that was chosen to keep noise away from the low-level circuitry in the relatively small chassis.