Parks Audio Puffin Phono Preamp

Anyone here tried one of these? http://parksaudiollc.com/

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It's technically a DSP. It takes the analog phono signal, converts it to digital, does some DSP, and then converts back to analog before sending the signal on. I know that's heresy from a purist's standpoint, but these seem to get rave reviews.

Much of the appeal on these is being able to tilt the frequency curve, apply straight tone controls, or even apply various older RIAA EQ curves to old 78s, for example. I know some will say "just use your amp's tone controls", or "if you need an EQ, use an EQ". But if your amp doesn't have tone controls, or you don't want/need an EQ in your chain for other sources like digital or a tuner, this might fit the bill. I think we all have certain records (particularly older recordings), that need a little something (added OR subtracted) from one end or the other.

I think one could argue that using tone controls, or an EQ, is not very different than using this device. Both are adding another touch-point in the signal chain. A potentiometer, slider, or additional RCA cables/plugs (for separate EQ) all have the possibility of adding noise. But of course digital sampling inherently removes some audio information, so there is a trade-off either way. There are no dip switches in the Puffin, btw.

I think the primary target for this would be people who use separates, not integrated amps or receivers with on-board phono stages, nor receivers/amps with the aforementioned tone controls and/or loudness button, unless the units have a tone control by-pass feature.

A lot of the reviews have the word 'fun' incorporated. Hard to tell if that is from tweakers who can play with all the different settings to their heart's content, or maybe it makes listening fun again with a more balanced sound after getting things dialed-in for a particular record, cartridge, or room acoustic. Either way, it is interesting, and I know there are a lot of Parks Audio Budgie fans out there, so it comes from a respected maker. Actually, best I can tell, the Puffin replaces the Budgie (i.e., the Budgie is no longer being made).
"This may not matter to you, but it does to me for various reasons, many of them illogical or irrational, but the vinyl hobby is not really logical or rational..." - member on Vinyl Engine
"Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to." - Cicero, in Gladiator
Regarding collectibles: "It's not who gets it. It's who gets stuck with it." - Jimmy Fallon

Comments

  • jdjohnjdjohn Posts: 1,780
    I'm reviving this thread after a year-and-a-half :) I did purchase one of these units soon after my original post. Amazon made it WAY too easy. I recently blew the dust off my unit, did the firmware upgrade, and now I'm reminded of how good this preamp sounds.

    Recalling my first impressions, they were very good with the Puffin. My comparison was to a Rogue Audio Triton, and there is not a huge difference (i.e., the Puffin holds its own). I really love the Triton, but the flexibility and tweaking ability of the Puffin definitely has a place, and is its strength. Now I've also compared to a PS Audio Stellar Phono Pre, and still the differences are slight...at least with MM carts.

    A 'set it and forget it' person will not enjoy the full potential of the Puffin, and would miss its value. It is meant to be adjusted and tweaked, and those adjustments can vary by album and, of course, by cartridge.

    There is a new SPDIF digital output option with newly purchased units, but first generation units can be modded. Shannon has a parts list (w/ links to Mouser, etc.), and instructions for the mod on his website.

    The firmware update includes several new modules. The 'Magic' pop/click filter is new, and the 'Grade' module, which has been interesting to me. My newly-pressed album of a modern band only graded near C+, and my 'vintage' pressing of a Zeppelin album rated A+. Another new option (that I haven't fully tried) is 'Room EQ', which is supposed to correct for room resonances...very interesting.

    Of course the original DSP options/settings are still there, and very handy. The 'Air' setting basically mimics capacitance settings, a 'Tube2H' option replicates a 2nd-harmonic tube effect, and there are tone control and frequency 'Tilt' settings. The most current user's manual is here: http://parksaudiollc.com/manual.pdf which shows all the settings.

    Bottom line from me is that this is a legit phono preamp option.
    "This may not matter to you, but it does to me for various reasons, many of them illogical or irrational, but the vinyl hobby is not really logical or rational..." - member on Vinyl Engine
    "Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to." - Cicero, in Gladiator
    Regarding collectibles: "It's not who gets it. It's who gets stuck with it." - Jimmy Fallon
  • I tried one of these. It sounded really nice, but as jdjohn mentioned, I am one of those “set it and forget it” guys, so I felt like I wasn’t using it to its full potential. As a result, I ended up getting a cheaper phono pre that sounded just as good to my ears. If I was more willing to put in the time and effort to play with adjustments, I bet the Puffin would beat my phono pre, but it’s just not something I care to do. It also has some cool click removal features in the new firmware.

    Shannon, owner of Parks, is a very swell guy. Super helpful, friendly, and communicative throughout the buying process and after. If you could use a DSP/phono pre and like the adjustments the Puffin offers, definitely drop Shannon a line.
  • The only thing missing from the Puffin is an app to allow control from a wireless device. This could be done easily and not affect signal quality at all. Control from your listening position would put it over the top as a DSP unit of choice.
    HT Optoma HD25 LV on 80" DIY Screen, Anthem MRX 300 Receiver, Pioneer Elite BDP 51FD Polk CS350LS, Polk SDA1C, Polk FX300, Polk RT55, Dual EBS Adire Shiva 320watt tuned to 17hz, ICs-DIY Twisted Prs, Speaker-Raymond Cable

    2 Channel Thorens TD 318 Grado ZF1, SACD/CD Marantz 8260, Soundstream/Krell DAC1, Audio Mirror PP1, Odyssey Stratos, ADS L-1290, ICs-DIY Twisted , Speaker-Raymond Cable
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 26,923
    The only thing missing from the Puffin is an app to allow control from a wireless device. This could be done easily and not affect signal quality at all. Control from your listening position would put it over the top as a DSP unit of choice.

    but... but... I mean...rekkids, man! The ultimate you can't run that from your armchair source! ;)

    ... and, yeah, yeah -- I know there were programmable, random-access turntables... a few have drifted through here. Heck, there's still an Accutrak here -- because I don't have the heart to junk it. :p

  • muncybobmuncybob Posts: 2,453
    While I'm very happy with my phono stage on my preamp, this has me very interested to see if I'm missing anything.
    Yep, my name really is Bob.
    Parasound HCA1500(indoor sound) and HCA1000(outdoor sound), Dynaco PAS4, Denon DP1200 w/Shure V15 Type V and Jico SAS stylus, Oppo BDP93, Marantz UD7007, modded Polk SDA 2B.
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 26,923
    Yeah, I'd like to hear one myself. :)

  • muncybobmuncybob Posts: 2,453
    I sent them an email to see if they are interested in a loaner to us to try out.....all they can say is no, right?
    Yep, my name really is Bob.
    Parasound HCA1500(indoor sound) and HCA1000(outdoor sound), Dynaco PAS4, Denon DP1200 w/Shure V15 Type V and Jico SAS stylus, Oppo BDP93, Marantz UD7007, modded Polk SDA 2B.
  • muncybobmuncybob Posts: 2,453
    Here is the reply. It's off to Amazon I guess:

    Thanks so much for the email, Bob. I'm afraid I don't do demo units, but for folks who are really curious, grabbing one from Amazon is as easy as can be. There's a 30 day return policy, too.

    The Puffin added Magic pop and click attenuation a few months back with my latest firmware update, and folks can't stop raving about it. You'll not be able to go back once you've used it - instantly makes *all* your records sound better.

    Manual:
    http://parksaudiollc.com/manual.pdf

    Amazon reviews:
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07DKHM2HS/#customerReviews

    Warm Regards,
    Shannon Parks
    www.parksaudiollc.com
    Yep, my name really is Bob.
    Parasound HCA1500(indoor sound) and HCA1000(outdoor sound), Dynaco PAS4, Denon DP1200 w/Shure V15 Type V and Jico SAS stylus, Oppo BDP93, Marantz UD7007, modded Polk SDA 2B.
  • DaveHoDaveHo Posts: 2,937
    This just seems wrong on so many levels. Not that we enjoy pops and clicks, but analog should be analog, damn it.
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 26,923
    edited September 2020
    DaveHo wrote: »
    This just seems wrong on so many levels. Not that we enjoy pops and clicks, but analog should be analog, damn it.

    Heck, nowadays they make analog radio receivers that do all of the heavy lifting by DSP -- so-called SDR (software defined radio). None of that old-fashioned detection or superhetereodyne business! :|
    (well, OK, that's not quite true, but, past a certain point, it's DSP)

    https://www.pentek.com/deliver/deliver.cfm?DI=1&FN=DgtlRcvrDSP.pdf
    https://hackaday.com/2017/05/16/if-the-i-and-q-of-software-defined-radio-are-your-nemesis-read-on/
    https://hackaday.com/2020/02/01/a-mini-sdr-receiver-using-an-audio-dsp/
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