Once in a while something extraordinary walks through the door at Austin Stereo. Case in point, the Audio Note M8 preamplifier. This version has the phono stage which the Orion Blue Book says lists for a cool $35,000. Yes, that is 3 zeros after the comma. I was truly speechless for a second.
First, I would like to make clear the owner graciously consented to this blog post.
The M8 is shockingly heavy for a preamplifier, and for the best of reasons. It is chock full of high quality, hand crafted parts with enough silver wire to make a Hunt brother hyperventilate. And it sounds marvelous.
All is not perfect, however. The case is only so-so. And the reason for the visit was a very small toggle switch in the back that had been sheared off. Small exposed switches on very heavy gear seems to be sub-optimal. So much for perfection.
A pair of photos, hastily shot on the workbench:
Note the dual mono construction with 3 (count 'em: 3!) transformers per channel. Yow. It is probably not clear from the photos, but the construction is essentially double decker with extremely large (presumably) silver foil film caps hiding underneath several of the boards.
$35k is a bit much for a preamp, but this one delivers high quality sound with more than a whiff of unobtanium. It does not rate particularly high on the bang for the buck meter, but Mike and I gave it two thumbs up for uncompromising quality.