Seta - Balanced Direct Coupled Ultra Wide Bandwidth Phono Preamplifiers

       The Lino C 2.0 Current-Mode MC Phono Preamplifier

  • The Absolute Sound - 2019 Golden Ear Award Winner
  • Stereophile Editors' Choice Recommended Components, "Class A" Phono Preamplifier, 2019 - 2021


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    Current-Mode Design for automatic gain and cartridge loading

    The Lino C uses current-mode (transimpedance) circuit technology. A current-mode MC preamplifier amplifies the current rather than the voltage from the cartridge. Consequently, gain and cartridge loading are automatic. This also improves the cartridge's mechanical damping and tracking. With the Lino C's balanced current-mode inputs, ultra-low-noise, hum-free operation is assured.

    Current-mode design improves cartridge tracking through superior damping

    Shown below is the waveform obtained from playing the Hi-Fi News Analogue Test LP 300 Hz +16 dB track (vertical mark in center is the oscilloscope's trigger level setting cursor). At this LP modulation level, the cartridge was mistracking slightly, indicated by the deformation of the waveform. Tracking is improved with the current-mode Lino C, compared to our conventional voltage-mode Lino.

    This is not because of lower distortion in the preamp. This is lower distortion in the signal coming from the cartridge itself, because of more effective electromechanical damping of the cartridge moving coil generator and stylus motion. Not magic, just simple physics... but the effect on the sound quality seems magical!

    Seta - Balanced Direct Coupled Ultra Wide Bandwidth Phono Preamplifiers

    Seta - Balanced Direct Coupled Ultra Wide Bandwidth Phono Preamplifiers

    Some comments from Lino C owners:

      "I have now put in some good hours listening to the Lino C. My initial listening sessions began with the Hana ML cartridge connected to the Lino which is a step above my Linn phono stage in terms of transparency. The presentation was more resolving and made for greater ease of listening.

    I then proceeded to listen to the ZYX 4D cartridge installed with the Lino and the performance improvement over the Linn was nothing short of revelatory. The level of control and linearity across the entire frequency spectrum was significant along with the improvement in three dimensionality around the instruments/vocals and sound staging. The sense of air and space around the presentation makes for a highly realistic listening experience and has taken my system performance up to another level.

    I am now enjoying my record collection in a whole new way which is what this hobby is all about. I have a renewed desire to listen to my existing collection and purchase new recordings just to hear how the Lino C will present these in my system.

    Thank you for making such an outstanding product and pricing it within reach of the average audio enthusiast (in terms of means) like myself. The Lino C has exceeded my expectations to the point where I simply cannot go back to listening to a voltage input phono stage. The Lino C is a keeper!

    Your customer/product support has been outstanding and will be recommending your product to my audiophile colleagues here in NZ." - Kumaren P.



    "Additional listening time has been beneficial for feeling the "correctness" of vinyl playback through the Lino C 2.0. During most listening sessions [with the Lino C 2.0], I forgot about evaluating the reproduction and just sat back to enjoy the music - what I wanted to do anyway.

    After the extended listening using the Lino C 2.0, I did my usual swap back to the original preamp to validate my perceptions and found the Pass XP-15 to be murkier than I recalled. My overall sense was that the XP-15 was holding on to notes too long, causing overhang to obscure micro-details. A different interconnect may have helped the XP-15 a bit, but I did not get the same overall feeling I wanted to listen to it for a long time compared to using the Lino C 2.0.

    I am very happy with the Lino C 2.0. I think I will enjoy it for a long time to come." - HC



    "I am super happy with my new Lino C - the build quality is outstanding and the current-mode design works extremely well with my low impedance Moving Coils. I am particularly pleased with the partnering of the new Hana ML and the Lino C - an excellent high end combination at such a modest price. In the first two weeks of use, the combination of Hana ML and Lino C continues to amaze with silent black backgrounds and three dimensional pinpoint positioning of the soundstage. Vocal air and imaging are truly outstanding." Edward T. (Australia)

    Mechanical

    Beautiful brushed-aluminum chassis. Connectors are the best available, professional quality Neutrik gold contact XLR. Special non-marring isolation feet are directly coupled to the Lino C's rigid and massive internal chassis conferring immunity to external mechanical vibrations. Internal blocks of antistatic HDPE coupled to the chassis provide additional mass loading and vibration damping.

    What is the Lino C's gain?

    A current-mode phono preamplifier's signal gain depends on the characteristics of the phono cartridge used. Generally speaking, lower output MC cartridges have lower internal impedance to current, and consequently will exhibit higher signal gain. This is advantageous since lower output cartridges do require greater gain. For example, the Lino C's gain with an ultra-low output cartridge can substantially exceed 80 dB. For typical MC cartridges, gain will be in the 65 to 75 dB range, depending on the Lino C's gain-structure adjustment setting.

    Compatible Phono Cartridges

    Transimpedance preamplifiers require a low impedance MC cartridge. A certain few MC cartridges may have trouble driving a transimpedance phono stage, and a closed-down upper octave response will result. The general rule of thumb in choosing a compatible cartridge is: the manufacturer's suggested load resistance is 100 ohms or less (e.g., 100, 50, 25, 10 ohms, etc.). Another specification is the cartridge internal impedance (which is related to, but different than the load resistance): 10 ohms or less, and the lower (e.g., 5 ohms, 2 ohms) the better. If either or both of these are true, it's likely that the cartridge will be an optimal match; and these values are typical of most moving-coil cartridges. If you have any questions feel free to contact us via email or phone.

    Rechargeable Battery Power Supply

    Rechargeable battery power is a key feature for substantially enhancing the performance of a phono preamplifier. The low-impedance (an effective sink for noise), internally located AGM battery is capable of supplying 50 amperes of current, outperforming all other types of batteries (and supercapacitors) used in audio applications.

    Locating the battery inside the preamplifier chassis insures that the battery is in the same electrical environment as the sensitive circuitry, eliminating potential sources of noise pickup. The battery is conditioned and kept float-charged by a proprietary circuit, rather than use an "off the shelf" microprocessor based conditioning and monitoring circuit, which would introduce unwanted noise.

    The external charging supply is automatically disconnected when an input signal is detected. Of course, the Lino C may be operated while the battery is charging, or even (if necessary, while waiting for a replacement) with the battery disconnected, by removing an internal plug-in fuse. Battery life is 3 to 5 years (or more), and is designed to be easily user-replaceable. We use a readily available type, commonly used for photovoltaic energy storage / alarm systems. It provides enough capacity to power the Lino C continuously for over 24 hours.

    But where are all the filter capacitors?

    The battery IS the filter capacitor!

    Seta - Balanced Direct Coupled Ultra Wide Bandwidth Phono Preamplifiers


    Seta - Balanced Direct Coupled Ultra Wide Bandwidth Phono Preamplifiers

    A rechargeable battery is more effective than hundreds of capacitors (this also includes supercapacitors).


    Seta - Balanced Direct Coupled Ultra Wide Bandwidth Phono Preamplifiers

    Seta - Balanced Direct Coupled Ultra Wide Bandwidth Phono Preamplifiers

    Three Levels of Galvanic Isolation for Unmatched Immunity to External Noise Interference

    The Lino C uses the same proprietary technology that's employed in our flagship Seta L20 transimpedance/voltage mode/moving-magnet phono stage for galvanic isolation.

    Besides the Lino C circuitry that automatically internally disconnects the battery charging power when an input signal is detected (and then, automatically recharges the battery when a listening session concludes), the external, universal-input-voltage, medical-grade DC power supply also provides its own additional galvanic isolation. And as in our Seta L20, an external signal port is provided (on the underside of the chassis of the Lino C) to connect an optional external "IoT" relay (Internet of Things - commonly used by electronic hobbyists for connectivity projects) for disconnecting the external power supply from the utility power line for a third, extreme "tweak" of galvanic isolation. Note: the external power supply also may be manually unplugged from utility power to the same effect, but the IoT relay insures that the battery is recharged automatically when your listening session concludes, avoiding exhausting the battery (a fully-exhausted battery will take up to 8 hours to recharge).

    External settings

    Gain-structure and mode settings are located on the bottom of the chassis. The set-it-and-forget-it gain-structure setting allows matching the overall output level of the Lino C to your other components. An additional, unique mode setting also allows configuring the balanced outputs for standard RIAA-equalized phono outputs or "flat" output (gain with no RIAA EQ) for optimal use in combination with digital audio and DSP-based RIAA. This can facilitate linking analog LP playback with the performance and flexibility of high resolution digital audio, should you desire to do so later in the future.

    Lino C advanced technical design features leading to superior sound quality not usually found at this price:

    • Balanced inputs* for lowest noise and outstanding signal linearity
    • Transimpedance, current to voltage converter input circuit configuration
    • Fully direct-coupled design from input to output (no DC blocking capacitors, resulting in better definition), balanced or unbalanced outputs
    • Balanced and single ended (unbalanced) outputs, on separate signal chains (may be used simultaneously if desired)
    • True differential summing single ended outputs - retains superior input common mode rejection and lowest noise on the unbalanced outputs
    • Ultra precision (0.1% tolerance) metal film low noise resistors used throughout
    • 4 layer circuit boards with internal, low impedance ground and power planes and engineered to have the smallest possible physical footprints for the shortest signal paths and highest structural rigidity, conferring ultra low microphonic pickup
    • German-made ultra-low-dissipation-factor evaporated metal film polypropylene capacitors used in RIAA network, same as in all of our other phono preamplifiers
    • Hand selected and matched components insure outstanding RIAA equalization accuracy

    Features leading to superior sound quality of the Lino C - not found in any other companies' phono stages:

    • Guaranteed 20 Hz to 20 kHz ± 0.1 dB RIAA equalization accuracy (typically better than ± 0.01 dB)
    • Every Lino C undergoes full multi-parameter quality control measurements for distortion, noise and RIAA EQ accuracy. A 20 Hz to 20 kHz graph is included certifying the RIAA accuracy and left and right channel matching of your own Lino C.
    • Ultra low impedance internal AGM rechargeable battery used as charge storage reservoir and power supply filter for ultra low noise
    • Proprietary, exclusive automatic analog battery charging and maintenance circuitry specially designed by Channel D and proven, refined and used in our phono stage designs for over 10 years
    • Battery charging supply is automatically disconnected internally using a combination of optical and mechanical relays for full galvanic isolation when an input signal is detected, resulting in improved immunity to external noise and electronic interference
    • Signal detection output underneath chassis permits automatically unplugging the power adapter (with optional external relay) as an extra level of galvanic isolation
    • Balanced outputs can be configured as "flat" signal outputs (linear amplifier with no RIAA EQ)
    • 12 mm thick internal metal bracing in the chassis base for high structural rigidity; antistatic 25 mm thick Tivar HDPE damping blocks coupled directly with chassis base and nonmarring conical vibration dampening feet for outstanding vibration immunity

    * Current-mode preamplifiers require balanced input connections. Optional RCA-XLR input adapters (with pin 1 open) are available for use with RCA-terminated interconnects. However, the best performance and guaranteed hum-free operation are achieved with a balanced interconnect between the turntable and Lino C. A high quality 1-meter long star quad shielded twisted pair RCA to XLR interconnect is optionally available; or use your existing XLR-terminated balanced cable. XLR pin 1 should only be connected to the cable shield, and not bridged to another pin. Please don't hesitate to contact Channel D via email or phone with any questions you may have.

    † RIAA accuracy is guaranteed by specification to be better than ± 0.1 dB, 20 Hz to 20 kHz; outstanding performance for any phono preamplifier. Lino C RIAA typical production accuracy is better than ± 0.01 dB, but not guaranteed to meet that specification. If desired, we can insure that your Lino C has better than ± 0.01 dB, 20 Hz to 20 kHz ultra-ultra-precision RIAA accuracy, including an expanded accuracy certification measurement graph. Additional fee applies.

    NEW improvements in 2020 production (Q2 and later, designated Lino C 2.2)

      Each active device handling the audio signal chain now has its own additional local, ultra low ESR, low inductance bulk storage located less than 2 millimeters away from each device. This improves dynamics and channel separation (which already were excellent) and slightly reduces harmonic distortion. All other active devices supporting other circuit functions (signal level detection, active input stage class A biasing) each have additional ultra low ESR, low inductance bypass.

    Why wasn’t this done previously? Selecting high performance components for power supply bypassing matters a lot, and during initial production of the Lino C 2.0 we were still in the process of evaluating dozens of different new MLC capacitors from different manufacturers, selecting for low ESR, inductance and DC bias sensitivity and eventually found some that were substantially better than others, that is, better enough to make a difference. These are all new components that only became available relatively recently. It wouldn’t have been worth it to blindly incorporate such parts without actual testing: spec sheets don’t provide the kind of information needed. Picking parts without careful testing might not have made any difference in the performance of the Lino C. In the process of this testing we found new parts that were absolutely perfect for the Lino C, and updated the PCB layout accordingly to accommodate them.

    There is now full isolation of the signal return path for the unbalanced outputs from the rest of the PCB directly to the driver circuitry, and greater isolation of pin 1 for the balanced outputs. There are additional circuit protection devices on all outputs, and better isolation of all inputs and outputs from EMI and RF. The galvanic isolation of the power regulation board is improved, as is the battery management.

    Due to improvements to the main circuit board, the impedance of the passive part of the RIAA network has been reduced by over a factor of 3 compared to the original 2.0 version. Lower impedance reduces the effect of capacitor dissipation which in terms of sound quality improves clarity and definition, while also slightly improving SNR. The lower impedance also allowed upgrading the active RIAA amplifier to a lower noise and lower distortion design. The revised 4-layer PCB improves loop current management, improving channel separation and reducing distortion. The RIAA accuracy is improved. Finally the RIAA board now has its own class A auto-bias circuit, since we found that was beneficial on the main circuit board, as well.



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    Questions? Phone 609-818-0700 (also found on our Contact page, with email contact information) 9:30 - 4:30 M-F Eastern USA time zone.

    Seta - Balanced Direct Coupled Ultra Wide Bandwidth Phono Preamplifiers

    Lino C 2.0 User Manual