I’ve received and completed my Piccolo 2 kit! Assembly was straight forward, and all the required components were included (always somewhat of a risk when you get a little bag of 40+ loose resistors.)
I finished the kit a few days before my new cartridge arrived, so I tested it out on my 4.0mV AT440MLa. I set the loading and gain to their lowest values (0dB and 47ohm) and started up a record. I was immediately afraid I’d done something horribly wrong, as the sound was AWFUL! After some quick internet searching, I found that 47K Ohm was a more appropriate load for my MM cartridge. I switched the Piccolo2 up to the max input impedance, and all was well. I didn’t try any gain, as 4.0mV is pretty hot already.
I received the Denon DL-103r a few days ago, and have since tested it a little bit. One of the selling points (to me) of the P2 is the adjustable Gain and input impedance. I found I liked the sound best at 1K ohm and 20dB gain (although @ 20dB I had to crank my volume up more than usual and I noticed a very faint hum). 26dB is not quite as bad, but the 60 Hz hum is still present. I am not too worried about this, because I am using some stupid 1.5m RCA cables (temporarily) and the P2 is right next to my Coronet 2’s power transformer. I expect things to behave better once I move everything to its final resting place.
**Mini-Review** I liked that the JFETS on the Piccolo2 came pre-mounted (SMT). The kit was easy to assemble, taking a few hours over 2 evenings. The RCA connectors (although not gold plated) appear to be high quality. The 2 switches have positive detents and the supplied knobs are exceptional (heavy aluminum construction with good knurls.) The plastic case is ‘ok’ and is a perfect fit. If I don’t remove the PCB to place it inside my Coronet2, I’ll likely paint the plastic (which is a frosted clear.) My one major complaint (or suggestion) is the lack of any stickers/labels/markings on the case. I’d LOVE to have some circular labels to indicate the switch values (currently I am using some high-end audiophile custom labels –see attached.) The sound quality is exactly what I expected (I have heard that these carts take about 10 hours to fully break in.) Comparing the DL-103r to the AT440MLa (P2 @ 26dB& 100K and 0dB 47K respectively) I was amazed at the details I could hear. My normal ‘test’ record (one that I know so completely well that I can usually ID sound improvements on) is 180 gram re-issue of Dark Side of the Moon. Both carts sounded good, and the P2 was completely transparent. However, on The Great Gig in the Sky, Clare Torry's vocals seemed to lift off of the album and be in their own separate space with the Denon MC cartridge. Playing back the same segment with the MM cart, her vocals seemed very much part of the overall background sound. The difference was so striking, that I wasn’t sure which I preferred… After multiple listens, I very much prefer the MC cart (and the P2 made switching between the two very easy).
Denon DL-103r MC Cart, Ortofon SH-4 Headshell, Pioneer PL-540 Turntable, Piccolo2, Coronet2, Adcom GTP-500 Preamp, Tubelab SE 300b amp, Tri-Trix Speakers.