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Reviewer: Stephæn
Financial Interests: click here
Analogue Sources: Nottingham Analogue Studio Space Deck driven by Walker Audio Precision Motor Controller. NAS Space Arm with The VTAF® from Pete Riggle Audio. Dynavector 17D2MKII, Dynavector 20xl, Denon 103, Audio Technica OC9 cartridges.
Digital Sources: Wavelength Audio Cosecant USB DAC v3 (Transcendental 16/44.1 DAC module) fed by iBook G4 with dual 500GB LaCie Firewire drives; Tube Research Labs fully modified Sony SCD-2000ES (for SACD playback). Secondary: TRL-modified Alesis ML-9600 high-resolution master disk recorder.
Preamps: deHavilland UltraVerve, professionally-modified/upgraded Eastern Electric Minimax (larger PS, 12FQ7 ready, gain cut to 9dB); self-modified Jolida JD-9A, Herron Audio VTPH-1MC and Monolithic Sound PS-1/HC-1 phono stages.
Amplifiers: Wright Sound Company WPA 3.5 monos and AudioSector AMP-1 integrated amplifier. Secondary: Outlaw Audio RetroReceiver.
Speakers: DIY Altec 604 MLTL. Secondary: Zu Audio Druid Mk.4; Sound Dynamics RTS-3; REL Strata III.
Cables: Cardas, DIY WM-XTC, Audience, and Zu Audio Libtec cables; Cardas Golden Cross, Audience Au24, Audience Maestro [on loan] and TG Audio Lab custom copper interconnects. Secondary: Analysis Plus cables and interconnects.
Stands: Two three-tier Grand Prix Audio Monaco units on GPA Apex footers
Isolation: Main: GPA Monaco. Secondary: Lovan Affinity Pro6 Series rack, Acoustic Dreams Dead Ball Isolators; Neuance platform
Powerline conditioning: BPT 3.5 Signature; cryo'd Pass & Seymour wall outlets; Audience, T.G. Audio Lab SLVR, Analysis Plus Power Oval, and Zu Audio Birth and Bok power cords [both on loan]. Secondary: Brick Wall PW8R15AUD
Sundry accessories: HAL-O® Vacuum Tube Dampers, Herbie's Way Excellent Turntable Mat, VPI 16.5 record cleaner, Shun Mook Valve Resonators, Auric Illuminator, and Walker Audio Vivid CD & DVD Enhancer
Music makers: Epiphone Dot (Gibson ES-335 knock-off) and Chet Atkins CE (nylon-strung classical) electric guitars; Fender Blues Jr. amp; Privia PX-555 keyboard and 1906 Ellington upright piano.
Office system: Soundquest R601 Tube Hi-Fi FM/AM Classic Radio and a Gibson J-100 acoustic guitar
Room size & treatments: 26' x 19' x 9' (a fractured 'L', nominally 16' x 19' with 12' feet of the 19-foot dimension opening to the 20-foot section of the 20' x 12' kitchen/eat-in area); concrete slab, sheet rock walls. ASC Tube Traps and Sound Planks, Echo Busters absorbers, Shakti Hallograph Soundfield Optimizers and Acoustic Revive RR-77 Ultra Low-Frequency Pulse Generator.
Review component retail: $1,600

All three images in this review open to full size in new windows

The Allnic H1200 is the most engaging phono stage I've heard since the Art Audio Vinyl Reference at $5000 (give or take several Franklins). And although I did not say "most accurate", this device does walk the fine line of not hiding recorded flaws behind a veneer of honey while remaining rich in tone. Even as it renders sonic blemishes for what they are, it almost always makes them approachable in a way that most 'revealing' sources don't. The H1200 is not sonically aloof. Nor is it difficult to appreciate what it brings to your relationship with music. Which, in a word, is accord - a state in which things are in harmony with one another. A rare find at a fair price. A sure thing.

So there you have it. End of story. Seriously. Sort of ...
Through nearly three months of listening, an extended list of recordings was auditioned. Primarily I used the Dynavector 20XL (the low-output 0.3mV version) for the evaluation. Copious notes were taken. Others were invited to loiter, snoop and offer a verdict. And as the very end of the audition period closed in, we all had a lot of good things to say. In fact I really had nothing bad to say though I did wonder whether the manual's stated voltage gain of 70dB in the MC section was accurate because it seemed to be a bit shy of that level in my system when I got around to trying the Dynavector Karat 17D with its 0.23mV output. While it was just enough to goose the 17D and the presentation was very smooth yet detailed, some of the gain, dynamics and top end that was available with the 20X was now missing. This could be a loading issue as the Allnic (ideally?) wants to see 30 ohms (which Dynavector recommends for the 20X) while the 17D has a recommended load resistance of 100 ohms. On the other hand the H-1200 manual states, "... the MC step-up transformer in the H-1200 can accept cartridges with up to 300 ohms internal impedance." In the end, the 20XL struck me as a much better match.

Other than that lingering question, I was good to go. It was two weeks before deadline and I was eager to share the good news. Ready to roll, up with the sleeves, fingers on the keyboard even. But like many writers, I had to dawdle for just one more moment. Checking e-mail that you just checked minutes before is always a good time waster. Hmmm. A forward from our esteemed e-publisher, of an e-mail from the North American distributor of Allnic. The distributor basically said that he knew I was working on the review but wanted the process to cease. They planned to drop the unit in favor of an improved version to be introduced in late fall or early 2010. He added that he hoped this request presented no issues.

No issues?
I had to chuckle. In my mind's eye I could already see Srajan responding to that request with a proper German aide memoir. Sorry for the bi-lingual clutter but since Srajan's in Switzerland now, I don't know whether he went Teutonic or Romantic with the vernacular. If I had to guess or die, I'd surely bet on the former given the circumstances. In any case, I'm sure that words were said* and that many of those words revolved around 6moons' clear and openly documented review process. Anyway, by the time the news got to me, Srajan said it would be my choice to carry on or drop the whole thing.


* I indeed didn't mince words and reminded Allnic that we don't look kindly on being solicited for a review, then have the plug pulled in the midst of it. Not knowing at exactly what stage of the process Stephæn was at that juncture (lots of notes already taken or still in the earlier phase), I left it up to him to either honor the work already put in and see it through; or to avoid committing more effort in vain. - Ed

After a couple of days I responded: "I already have a lot of time into this. The first unit, which arrived burned in at my request, suffered from a channel imbalance. The replacement (which obviously did not get the pre-shipment conditioning) sounded like crap and had to be beat up on for 200 hours before it came 'round. Two-plus months of note taking and listening sessions followed, both alone and with well-eared guests. I have also fielded a dozen reader inquiries: 'Do you like it? When will the review go live? Is it better than ...?' The message was clear. Our external clients were waiting and some would be frustrated if we pulled out completely.

"So, on the one hand we owe follow-through to our readers and supporters. They have every right to expect delivery of the narratives that 6moons promises based on its agreements with industry representatives. On the other, there's no point in putting massive effort (and that's what it is for some of us) into discussing, in-depth, a product soon to be relegated to unobtainium-ville. I've decided to take the middle ground and hereby choose to write a capsule; a very brief summary of my experience with the device under test."

Which is too bad, on a number of levels, but I will sum up thusly:
Three years ago I gave the Art Audio Vinyl Reference a Blue Moon award. In closing, I wrote, "I want one". I meant it. Events conspired and that desire was never fulfilled. The H1200 is the most engaging phono stage I've heard since. It costs nearly $4,000 less. What if the only question about whether it falls short of the magical mark or makes your musical (and financial) day were to hinge on your preferences in two areas?

1) In most any system, I predict that the soundstage will take numerous steps back. It did in mine but was still amazingly transparent and showed skill and sense in achieving a well-balanced combination of musical precision and emotional dexterity. Yes, even when it came to complex passages. In an already laid-back system, the recession could be too much. Should you prefer to move forward a few rows, I have found that a judicious swap of cabling (or tube/s) elsewhere in the system can help to bring the soundstage closer to preferred perspectives. One quick example would be to compare the Audience Au24 speaker cable to my DIY WM-XTC home-brew (aka: White Lightnin', which Jeff Day wrote about here). The WM-XTC brought the soundstage forward. Does that mean it's better? Wrong question. But it is different. Just don't forget that this process is all about what you want.

2) Some visitors found the device overly courteous in two areas: Too much top end civility and too little hustle, said they. Okay, they didn't really say hustle. They said thrust but this is a family e-zine. A few questions made it clear that they were referring to momentum, drive and ultimately, flow.

I took issue with the first kvetch as I don't cotton to any graininess on the top. Consequently, I judged it to be surprisingly refined - an unusual characteristic at this price point. Color me impressed. But we did agree that the H1200 had some inhibitions not found in the Vinyl Reference, the JoLida JD-9A, the Audio Horizons TP 8.0sMCp or the Herron Audio VTPH-1MC - when using the stock power cord provided by Allnic. The machine is, thankfully, quite responsive to appropriate discipline. In short, using the Analysis Plus Power Oval exacerbated the damping. Not appropriate. Going to the Audience PowerChord or the TG Audio Labs SLVR was beneficial, especially when it came to properly addressing the momentum factor. Does that mean it's better? Yes, that did make it better. Beat, tempo and flow are not options. What's on your agenda?

Sorry, but that's it.
There may be more flaws but they did not make themselves known in my system. For the record, the unit did not go on tour (as is often the case when I have something in for review). I was gonna do that next week but...

What I liked most about the H1200: It was tonally accurate, offered wonderful textural layering, kept proper time, knew how to phrase and was eminently approachable. Once tweaked, the H1200, like the Vinyl Reference, also validated my sense that real music doesn't simply show up as the result of hitting the right notes at the right time. It must flow and unfold. And like the still-in-production Vinyl Reference, the soon-to-be-discontinued Allnic was smooth, intimate and ever so slightly dark in the best way possible way. All this while remaining dynamically adept and perceptive of nuance.

Allnic obviously has a talented designer in Kang Su Park and should continue to develop a well-deserved following. Given their resolve to discontinue the H1200, I am sure the company has a great deal of confidence about its intended surrogate and I wish them well. However promising that revision may be, let's just say that my long-term experience in this hobby is prodding me to hedge my bets and hold on to a sure thing.
Allnic responds:
Hi Stephæn,
Just wished to thank you for the H1200 capsule. We have approximately a 5 month supply of the H1200. Below, please find KS Park's response to your question about gain.

Best regards,
David Beetles
Hammertone Audio

Dear David,
Today I measured the H-1200 again. It has exactly +39dB gain in the nude M/M section( from +40dB it is within allowable range). So, with our new step-up of +32dB (40 x step-up ratio), total MC gain is +71dB.

Best regards,

Allnic Audio Labs website