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Starting from the outside, the FL phono is an impressively well-built unit and I particularly like the fact that the main unit is narrower than normal to allow the external power supply to sit next to it on a regular shelf. The front face is literally carved from thick billet aluminum for classic, sober and elegant looks. The blue logo on the front is reasonably unobtrusive but some listeners will miss the ability to dim or completely turn it off when listening at night.

Speaking of the power supply now, as in every well conceived piece of equipment it is overbuilt and provides separate toroidal transformers for the analog stages and logic circuits. The analog circuits especially are fed from a 50VA transformer orders of magnitude over-sized for the task but guarantying unhindered dynamics while playing a critical role in the silence of operation the FL Phono excels at.

Staying with the external features for a moment longer, the FL Phono offers two separate inputs which can be ordered as two MM boards, two MCs or, as did my review unit, be fitted with one each. Two very minor critiques - the phono boards do not offer the possibility of balanced connection (folks considering spending over $6000 on a phono stage are more likely to run tone arms and pickups wired for balanced operation); and the access opening to the wealth of loading options is located in the back of the main unit, making adjustments to the small jumpers’ positions not particularly convenient especially on a crowded rack. When one pays that kind of coin and a manufacturer goes through the trouble of offering so many adjustments, nothing is more frustrating than being prevented from enjoying said flexibility due to poor accessibility (the E03 enables changes from a rotary switch on the front panel, the latest McIntosh preamps actually offer the possibility to change loading from the remote and ditto the Abbingdon Music Research – it’s something to ponder for an eventual MkII version of the FL Phono).

Rounding up the presentation, I should also mention that the FL Phono offers both balanced and unbalanced outputs. Audia Flight recommends the use of balanced connections especially for longer cable runs. I think I heard a faint difference between both connection types, XLR being just slightly more transparent - perhaps. I doubt I could reliably tell them apart in a blind test. As befitting this level of equipment, all connectors are high quality, gold plated and chassis-mounted and the metallic footers also include rubber dampers for better vibration attenuation (although as often I found, inserting six Isolpads under the gear’s footers brought a small but audible improvement in focus and transient precision).

Moving inside, the FL Phono uses different input boards for MM and MC cartridges as mentioned earlier. Those offer 44dB and 64dB of gain respectively and capacitive / resistive loading options. For those who get a kick out of such details, the input stage for MC cartridges uses Audia Flight’s current feedback design while the MM circuit utilizes a differential transistor circuit. Both input stages are then followed by a completely passive RIAA equalization and IEC subsonic filter (20Hz cut-off, activated with a switch on the front panel) to finish with Audia’s latest current-feedback output module so poetically dubbed MCF NG1 and allowing balanced connection as well as a +10dB gain boost for cartridges with extremely low output.