The road to nirvana

My journey into Photography, Horology, and Audiophilia

The Acoustic Signature Tango Phono-preamp

The Acoustic Signature Tango Phono-preamp The Tango is Acoustic Signature's MM/MC phono-preamp offering that features a variety of loading options for both MM and MC. This is accomplished via a pair of DIP switches at the back of the unit.

For MC cartridges, you can select the input resistor for 10 ohms, 100 ohms, and 1K ohms. For my test, I switched between 100 ohms and 1K ohms to match my Zyx R50 Bloom cartridge. For MM cartridges, you can select a variety of input capacitance from 50 pF up to 350 pF in 50 pF increments. My Clearaudio Aurum Alpha wants 100 pF, while the Shure M92E datasheet recommends from 200 pF to 300 pF setting. Both of the cartridges' requirements are well met by the Tango. The input resistor for MM cartridges must be set to 47K via the DPI switches.

While the Tango offers versatility in loading options, it does not offer convenience if you plan to hook up two turntables at the same time. The reason being is that it only has one pair of RCA input. A pair of RCA output and a ground lug with a great knob, completes the signal I/O portion. The remaining input, is a DIN type connector which is used to supply power to the Tango via an umbilical cord from the separate power supply unit. The power supply unit comes with a separate IEC power cord as it features an EIC input. Should you wish to use your favorite botique power cord, just plug it in.

The construction of the main unit showcases the German quality and built. At the front of the unit, a green LED indicator lights up upon application of power. There is no power switch, so I assumed this was designed to be normally left powered up.

One thing I liked about the Tango is that it's completely rid of noise. My previous Musical Fidelity X-LP would pick up an FM station and can be heard clearly if I turn my volume all the way up. The Tango designers were successul in making sure it is not susceptible to, or has minimized, noise pickup. I first ran it through it's paces by using my Clearaudio Aurum Alpha, which is mounted on a headshell that made my switching between the JVC QL-Y66F and Technics SL-1350 uber easy. What I discovered is that using the same cartridge, the Technics is somewhat leaner than the JVC, not by a mile, but certainly discernible. The Tango is lively and very dynamic, the bass is solid and and there's convincing instrument separation, never muddy.

As I continously play vinyl, and switch MM cartridges and turntables, there's one conclusion I'm arriving at... The cartridge+turntable characteristics plays the dominant factor in the reproduction. The Tango does not seem to add a flavor of it's own, which is what I prefer. For example, I cannot expect the Tango to "fix" the leanness nor the sibilance when using the Kenwood KD-26R with a TP4 cartridge.

The next test is with my Clearaudio + Tangent + Zyx R50 Bloom combo. I configured the DIP switch for MC operation and 100 ohm setting. Again, the Tango shows its tranparency by letting the Bloom, bloom. This is a great result, revealing the different sonic signatures of the turntables I've been testing so far. I briefly switched to 1K ohm, and I would be lying to myself if I said I heard a difference. With my music preferences ranging from Classical to Heavy Metal, the Tango has been performing well with every material I threw into it. So far I've been hearing good quality and detail, together with the dynamics and "fun" factor, the Tango did not disappoint.

Equipment used

  • Kenwood KD-26R w/ TP4 cartridge
  • JVC QL-Y66F w/ Clearaudio Aurum Alpha, Empire 880P cartridges
  • Technics SL-1350 w/ Clearaudio Aurum Alpha, Shure M92E cartridges
  • Clearaudio Champion w/ Tangent arm and Zyx R50 Bloom
  • Sonic Art hybrid interconnects for the Clearaudio setup
  • Clearaudio SmartWire going to the preamp
  • 26 DHT preamp
  • JE Labs 2A3 DX DHT amplifier
  • DIY speakers w/ Altec 406-8Y + Oxford mid-horns + Fostex FT-17H tweeters