Reviewer: Frederic Beudot
Financial interests: click here
Digital Source: Auraliti PK90, SOtM sDP-1000EX
Analog source: VPI Scout 1.1, Nagra VPS [in for review], Zu-DL103 mkII, Dynavector 10x5 mk5, Ortofon Quintet Black
Preamplifiers: SOtM sDP-1000EX, Burson Conductor
Amplifier: Triode Labs EL84TT, FirstWatt F5
Speakers: Ocellia Calliope 0.21 Twin Signature,
Headfi: Burson Conductor, AKG K701
Cables: Genesis Absolute Fidelity (speaker), Zu Varial, Ocellia Silver Reference
Power cords: Genesis Absolute Fidelity, Ocellia Reference, Zu Mother
Powerline conditioning: Isotek Nova
Sundry accessories: Isolpads, ASI Heartsong racks
Room size: 21'x13'x7.4'
Review component retail: LCRMk3 $300, Copla MC step-up $270, Lounge phono cable $27/3ft

Until a year ago, I had not heard of Lounge Audio though over the past few years, they seem to have been slowly making their way to the forefront of affordable phono gear, by earning serious recognition at shows and through online reviews. As I am probably not the only person for whom Lounge Audio and designer Robert Morin are fairly new and unknown, I asked Robert to tell me a little more about themselves. Here is what he had to say: "I grew up with my dad, a professional musician. I followed in his footsteps. While taking music classes in college, I had a small recording studio. When I realized that I was better at dealing with the electronics that made the music than being a musician myself, I focused my life in that direction. I started building audio gear in 1991 while working at Alesis Studio Electronics. In the early 2000s, I was working with an equalizer and began to experiment with inductors. I realized that they produced great sound. I began thinking that I could implement the same idea in a phono preamp.

"Looking at available LCR preamps then, I couldn't believe the prices! I started building my own as a hobby which soon became an obsession. I started selling over eBay and very slowly revenues became good enough to make a viable small business. Of course I could not handle all aspects of the business. My wife, who had supported and motivated me for years to do this, joined me about a year ago.  She organizes, takes care of the accounting and of much of the assembly. She helps with prototypes and also brought in our daughter-in-law to create and maintain our website. We also have a great bunch of old friends that help us here and there where and when needed. We work with local metal houses in Los Angeles and a company in Oregon to supply our circuit boards. Of course most of the electronic components are not from the US but we really go through a lot of effort to select them carefully from all over the world including countries in Asia and Eastern Europe. We manually match some key parts. I think that all this care and commitment produces good products. The fact that we decided for a direct sales business model within the US keeps us closer to our customers. Their feedback is very valuable to us. It can be rewarding to deal with very strong-minded audiophiles with very particular trained ears and very specific gear along with newcomers to the vinyl world who might have 'entry level' gear and perhaps different sound expectations which as yet are not entirely defined. The challenge is gratifying either way."

Being a small outfit, Lounge opted for the only reasonable option. They sell direct through their very well designed and informative website, allowing prices to be kept low and value beyond anything you could purchase via traditional retail. The downside is of course that you can't listen before you buy but Lounge do offer a 15-day return guaranty as well as a one-year warranty (they even pay for return shipping in case of a warranty repair).

Lounge's line is very simple - a few phono accessories and cables as well as the two phono electronics under review. The LCRMk3 is a phono preamp for high-output cartridges while the Copla is the matching step-up amplifier that adds gain to low-output cartridges before feeding their signal to the LCRMk3. Both have single unbalanced i/o and both are powered by 18VAC wall-wart transformers. I could leave it there and let it seem that the Lounge gear is no different from hundreds of other budget phono electronics one can purchase over the Internet. Just so, the designer of Lounge gear has made some very deliberate technical choices that place his designs in a very different category both technically and most importantly, sonically.