Like Ice in the Sunshine
Anyone toying with the idea of getting a phono preamplifier for anything up to €1,000 faces a selection about as massive and diverse as the pasta section of an Italian supermarket. It’s a medley of almost identical circuit boards where by and large the only real difference among them is the styling of the packaging — that is, the housing. But AVM wouldn’t be AVM if the Inspiration P1.2, which has been on the market for just under a year, didn’t know just how to clearly set itself apart from all that same old, same old shipped out of the Far East. Even visually, the Malsch-based manufacturer’s smallest product is instantly recognizable as an AVM design. As with the more “adult” members of the product family, a solid aluminum extruded profile is used to create interference-resistant housing for the sensitive inner workings. No visible screws detract from the swish finish of the front, and only a vibrant blue LED lets you know whether the Inspiration is awake or asleep.
All the necessary operational controls can be found on the back: the operating mode button and three pairs of RCA connectors for MM and MC systems. Hang on just a sec. That makes six connectors, doesn’t it? Yes, exactly six. In theory, four would suffice. The other two are the most practical solution I’ve ever come across in terms of adaptability and terminal resistance on a small phono box. No plastic jumpers and no fiddling with a magnifying glass and DIP switch. Günter Mania, the mastermind behind AVM, has employed the ingenious solution, which is also popular among many DIYers, of implementing the terminal resistance as RCA plugs. There’s no faster or easier way of adapting a system. The 100-, 200- and 1,000-ohm adapters included as standard should be sufficient for most systems. Anyone who needs different values can just reach for the soldering iron and do it themselves. The 1,000-ohm variation is the perfect match for my Benz ACE, and the little Inspiration is feisty and dynamically enthralling in the way it plays directly from the box. And it comes across as so pert and firm that it reminds me of Kate Moss’ behind in the 1990s.
My ears had to readjust a little in terms of the playback of the presence range. In direct comparison with the Dynavector (FIDELITY No. 28), the AVM emphasizes the midfrequency range somewhat more powerfully, but in the process doesn’t manage to achieve the same swinging, dry punch as the device from New Zealand. If, however, you give the Inspiration P1.2 enough time to settle in without unplugging it, you’ll witness its gradual transformation from a little ice princess into a seasoned opera diva with every hour that passes. Despite microscopically precise attention to detail in terms of the orchestra and the spatial precision of the choir, Soprano Maria Callas’ performance is given exactly the right amount of tenderness and sensuality that makes me cherish this record. The P1.2’s personality also works extremely well with recordings of small jazz combos. The tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves adopts the lead role, for example, in Gettin’ Together exhibiting rough and occasionally husky panache without the focus being deflected away from the peppiness and energetic gusto of the overall arrangement.
The little AVM delivers a formidable performance. As it happens, you can find many phono preamplifiers out there that sound really good and are affordable to boot; but I can think of only a handful that can boast similarly perfect workmanship, wonderfully straightforward handling, and flawless sound for the price of the AVM. Or, to put it a different way: Even though the Inspiration P1.2 is the smallest and cheapest product in the range, it still exhibits all the hallmarks of Günter Mania and Udo Besser’s philosophy. It truly is an AVM. Hat’s off, gentlemen!
AVM Inspiration P1.2 phono preamplifier | Warranty period: two years | Price: €700
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