To S. Andrea Sundaram,
Thank you so much for your enlightening and thorough review of the ADL GT40 way back in 2011. I have been using the GT40 since about that time, and your review hit on all the reasons why it has been the perfect component in my simple, modern vinyl/digital system for over three years. I haven't seen any other components that offer the GT40's combination of DAC and ADC to allow the ripping of vinyl to hi-res WAV files. I think I'm looking to upgrade, and I wondered if you had knowledge of any similar products?
I say "I think" because I have been very happy with my system but am wondering what would be a logical upgrade. I rarely pay attention to the 80,000+ MP3s in my iTunes library, and instead only listen to vinyl LPs, usually ripping them as I listen. I only listen to WAV files ripped to 16-bit/48kHz in my iPhone 6 Plus and on the iPod in my car. The vinyl leans towards classic rock, jazz, and some classical. I'm collecting Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab records, vintage vinyl, and new pressings of contemporary bands.
My setup is simple: Rega P3-24-> Ortofon Bronze cartridge-> Bellari VP130 preamp-> ADL GT40-> Mackie HR824 MK2 powered monitors. Accessories: Spin-Clean MKII; Zerostat Milty 3; Primacoustic Recoil Stabilizers; HiFiMan HE-400 headphones.
I'm wondering if you thought the system would be most improved by better powered monitors (Genelec?); or with an improved turntable (Well Tempered Lab?); or an upgrade from the ADL GT40, if there is one.
When it came out, the GT40’s combination of features might not have been quite unique, but it certainly was rare. However, given that you are using an external phono stage, you do have other options. For A/D/A duties, you could look to professional or home-studio equipment, but the headphone amp will probably not have been a design priority, if it even works when you’re not connected to the computer.
The first similar product that comes to mind is also by Furutech -- the Esprit. Fellow SoundStage! writer Vince Hanada favorably reviewed the Esprit in 2013. In particular, he found it to be very quiet, which was one of my complaints about the GT40. It also has greater flexibility in setting recording levels, and gives an indication of clipping. For those reasons, it may be worth an audition. Furutech has also announced the Stratos, which appears to be an upgraded version of the GT40. No one I know has heard it, so I can’t offer any guidance on that product.
I haven’t heard the monitors you own, but they have a good reputation. Besides, it makes more sense to me to improve the front end, so that the recordings you have made from your LPs won’t let you down, if you eventually upgrade speakers or headphones. All of the equipment you’ve listed offers very solid performance. It may be worth looking into upgrading the phono stage, or adding structural modifications to the turntable/tonearm -- there are lots of these available for Rega turntables. The best way to start is to think about where your current system isn’t entirely satisfying: noise performance, neutrality, drive, etc. Then think about which component is most likely to affect that performance parameter. I hope that helps, and good luck. . . . S. Andrea Sundaram