The unit is 10.125 in. x 10.125 in. x
3in. high and is matte black with ‘no frills’ metal casework.
Its one distinguishing feature is its very bright 'eye' centered on the
front panel. When it appears red, the unit is playing on A.C. current.
When you place your hand in front of the eye, it turns green and plays
on its internal batteries, disconnecting the A.C. completely. It plays
a little over three hours on full charge. When the unit is flashing red,
it the unit is charging. When operating in the charging state, you’re
listening to A.C. operation. The unit comes with a wide variety of gain
and loading settings on the rear. The factory settings were 50,000 ohms,
fine for my Shelter 7000, and a gain setting of 40dB, which I adjusted
to a 57.5dB. Yee derived much of the circuitry from his more expensive
($2,800.00US) SuperNova. The dual mono designed Nova Phenomena has all
discrete circuitry with nary an op amp in sight. Now we listen.
I used Acoustic Zen’s Absolute
power cord and single ended interconnects for the review. My Avid Volvere
turntable was ready and it was time to start. I let the unit burn in for
about a week and started to listen critically. My immediate response to
what I was hearing was one of relaxed neutrality. What do I mean by that?
The sound, while utterly smooth, was also delightfully transparent, allowing
details and spatial cues to be clearly perceived without that “HERE
I AM” quality that overly aggressive equipment can produce. This
in no way diminishes its ‘live’, dynamic presentation. You
ARE there. Whether listening to an intimate performance of the Modern
Jazz Quartet or the delicacy of a Fasche trumpet concerto, or the rockin’,
Ry Cooder in Bop Till You Drop, or the power and drama of Also Sprach
Zarthustra, the Nova Phenomena brings forth all the magic that’s
in the recorded performance. Instruments are clearly defined with ample
air and the soundstage seems to be quite convincing with good depth, width
and appropriate height. Timbres of instruments are accurately rendered
across the frequency range.
As I previously indicated, tonal neutrality
is maintained and the unit will portray what’s on the record without
glamorizing any sonic aspect thereof. If a recording sounds cool or dry,
it will be accurately rendered without coloration. Don’t blame the
sound on the messenger, but on the message. This unit is not a tone control.Lastly,
the quietness of battery operation is simply gorgeous. Backgrounds have
a velvety blackness with instruments emerging organically with a quiet
power and reality. The unit is quite good on AC, but on batteries, it
is something special.
folks out there are of the opinion that battery operation is detrimental
to the accurate portrayal of dynamics. Well let me disabuse you of that
notion. This reviewer could not find fault with the dynamic presentation
at all. As with all equipment reviews, each system will respond differently.
I suspect, in this case, that this phono stage might expose characteristics
in other parts of the audio chain that one may be made aware. As this
reviewer and other reviewers have commented on in the past, personal preference,
system synergy, along with economic realities will all factor into making
one’s choice on equipment.
I suspect that there are better phono stages out there but one would have to spend many times the ($999.00US) price of this one. The Nova Phenomena will be my new reference for both performance and price. How fortuitous running into you at CES 2007 Michael Yee. A stunning achievement. Congratulations. I’m nominating this for an AUDIOPHILIA STAR AWARD. Keep Listening
[It is with great pleasure that we award The Audiophilia Star Component Award to the Musical Surroundings Nova Phonomena phono stage. Congratulations! - Ed]
Manufactured by Musical Surroundings
5662 Shattuck Ave.