MoFi MasterPhono Phono Preamplifier Page 2

Fit and finish of the full-width but slim MasterPhono is excellent and the wooden end cheeks are available in Walnut or Black. Two earth terminals are fitted to the rear panel – one connected to signal ground and one to chassis ground, and they therefore sit at slightly different electrical potentials. Owners can experiment to achieve the lowest hum and noise in their own systems.

sqnote Open World
With the MasterPhono connected to my regular Yamaha C-5000 preamp [HFN Aug '20], I fed it from both a Michell Gyro SE/SME 309/Ortofon 2M Black MM into its unbalanced phono input, and the new Musical Fidelity M8xTT [see p48], with Clearaudio MC Essence pick-up [HFN Aug '17], into its balanced XLR input. The MF deck was agnostic in terms of earthing but the Michell/SME system was quieter with the deck earthed to the chassis ground terminal and the arm to the signal ground.

With either turntable, it was apparent the MasterPhono is mostly transparent, your front-end determining the levels of detail heard. That said, a subtle frisson of midband warmth gives vocals and acoustic instruments an appealing richness. That's not to say this phono stage is all warm and fluffy, as it's not. Rather, it has an open, detailed and sweet nature that sparkles by just the right amount at the right time.


The MasterPhono includes traditional 'voltage' inputs and low impedance 'current' inputs for, typically, low output MCs. Both are available on RCAs and XLRs though the latter are only truly balanced with MCs. Outputs are also on RCAs/XLRs

The treble is fairly even-handed, offering a pleasing crispness but with a highly alluring level of sophistication. Obviously, this depends on optimising the loading and gain for your chosen MM/MC but the remote is a boon for dialling-in the ideal settings while you stay seated. Neither does this phono stage favour MM over MC types, or vice-versa, so it will give fine results if you are running multiple decks, or arms, equipped with a range of pick-ups.

Fruit Punch
The percussion effects on The Kane Gang's 'Motortown' [Miracle; Kitchenware Records KWLP7] were clean and snappy, but not lacking in body. This is an old 1980s pressing whose transient detail often sounds slightly blurred, but the MasterPhono endowed it with an almost digital sense of clarity – in a good way.

At the other end of the frequency range, the bass seemed equally crisp and focused. Whether acoustic, electric or synth-based, basslines were delivered with real confidence. The solid lows of Let's Eat Grandma's 'Sunday' [Two Ribbons; Transgressive Records TRANS565XD] sounded fruity and fulsome, with a well-judged balance between weight and tunefulness. The MasterPhono also teased out percussive and contrasting ambient detail from the recesses of the soundstage. It seemed to want to let me to know they existed, just in case I hadn't noticed.

Breath Test
It's the midband that is the real star of the show, however. The MasterPhono's lifelike revelation of textures makes it easy to concentrate on the way sounds are being formed, as well as the sounds themselves. Its perceived dynamic range is also impressive, so the intake of breath from a close-mic'd singer is as vivid as the manic pounding of a kit from an over-enthusiastic heavy metal drummer. Kasey Musgraves and her solo piano accompaniment on 'Rainbow' from the Golden Hour LP [MCA Records B0027921-01] was sublimely rendered, and both were locked solidly between the speakers.


Remote functions for phono preamps are rare, but MoFi offers armchair access for input, gain, loading, subsonic filter, mono/stereo, mute and display brightness

Then there's the deep, wide and well-ordered soundstaging. 'Broadcasting House' from Public Service Broadcasting's This New Noise live LP [Test Card Recordings TCRVA05] starts gently with piano, bass and drums next to the usual array of speech samples the band is known for. However, towards the close when the BBC Symphony Orchestra comes in, my listening room was seemingly filled with the atmosphere and majesty of the Royal Albert Hall. Even the round of applause at the end appeared to be coming from all around the room.

Although my Clearaudio MC Essence's 11ohm source impedance is above that recommended for the phono stage's current input (a 1-2ohm low-output MC would be ideal), I was still intrigued to try it. The results were instructive, for while the sound gained extra punch and pace, and the stereo image spread even further than via the voltage input, there was still a slight loss of treble clarity and bit more stridency across the upper midband.

Clearly, the MC Essence is not ideally suited to drive this near-shorted 'current' input, but it felt as if the MasterPhono was still pulling more from the cartridge. So if you have an MC with the recommended impedance of just a few ohms, the current input would be the one to try first. For 98% of other MCs, the MasterPhono simply sings via its traditional voltage inputs!

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Thanks to its various balanced/SE inputs and outputs, excellent range of adjustments and some novel new features, MoFi's smart-looking MasterPhono is a pleasure to use. More importantly it's a superlative performer, able to deliver all the detail, punch and musical emotion of your vinyl collection. The £6k demanded isn't exactly pocket change, but if you have the budget, then an audition is mandatory.

MoFi Electronics
Chicago, USA
Supplied by: Karma-AV Ltd, York
01423 358846