EAR-Yoshino 834P
Positive Feedback, Vol. 7 #1

by Jennifer E. Crock


Nope, I’m not done yet! Every once in a while a real audio gem comes along that represents a really good sound value. Sometimes when I discover such a product I go beyond the usual expectation of purchasing one for my own system. Being in the audio manufacturing business, as opposed to the audio reviewing business, I have a number of my own dealers and a few retail customers with whom I share products of merit. This is only a small part of JENA LABS business, but because it does generate some profit, I want you, the gentle reader, to know about the whole situation and not come back later screaming that I used my position with Positive Feedback to blatantly sell goods. ‘Nuff said.

Last year I was introduced to a product through the PF review process that I liked so well that I became a dealer for it. Not only that, I introduced it to two of our cable dealers who have themselves now become authorized outlets for this product. Well, what, says you, is the product? The E.A.R. model 834P and 834P w/level RIAA phono stage preamp.

If you have a CD only system, are satisfied with the sound and the format, go ahead and turn the page. I’ll see you over in the Taddeo Digital Antidote 11 review. But if you have a vinyl front end, or are interested in adding one, you might want to read on.

The 834P is robustly built black box a little bigger than a brick. It provides gain and RIAA compensation for either low output MC type cartridges or higher output MM type. Three 12AX7A tubes do the voltage gain, and an honest to goodness real audio input transformer is used in the MC position to provide low noise matching for the low output associated with this family of cartridge. As implied above, a version of this device can be had which incorporates a built in volume control.

Now, to be honest, the unit without the volume control is a just a little bit better overall, due to expected potentiometer coloration, but the prospect of doing away with normal pre-amp altogether might raise an eyebrow or two. The audio circuits are the same in both versions, so no difference is found outside of the dual section stereo volume pot and its short internal hook up wires. Power enters by the usual IEC socket, and is converted to useable voltage in a low stray field toroidal power transformer. A high quality PC board holds the balance of the parts. RCA jacks are of the molded plastic frame variety that mount directly to the PC board. A small rotary switch on the front panel turns the unit on and off. On the version with volume control, an additional front panel knob is found. From turn on, it will begin operation in about 20 seconds, without any clicks or thumps, but if started from cold it should be left for a few minutes of warm up to fully stabilize before playing music. It really blooms after about an hour. I just leave mine running all the time.

The 834P, like other E.A.R. products is designed by Tim de Paravicini. I have had the pleasure of meeting Tim and really enjoyed talking engineering with him. Audio is a field where almost anybody can throw a few parts together and be in business. This simple act does NOT, however, make them a qualified designer. Rest assured that Tim absolutely does NOT fall into this semi-amateur category. He combines an excellent solid traditional engineering comprehension and plenty of creativity with the good judgment needed to design high value and highly reliable products. This is a rare professional blend, indeed! In addition to home stereo electronics, Mr. de Paravicini also designs and manufactures a complete range of recording electronics which have earned a reputation around the world as being just about the best there is. You may recall that the Water Lily Acoustics recordings which I have highly praised in the pages of this magazine were recorded on equipment built by E.A.R.


Well, so much for the small talk. You want to know, "how does it sound?" In a word, neutral. Very quiet. Very dynamic. Very dimensional. This is not a device that will shout out to you and say "tubes are in me". It has none of the classic soft tubby and over rich character typical of older, or less expensive modern tube designs. It is solid and firm in the lows and very fast in the top. The mids are liquid and emotional. The frequency spectrum and dynamic expression work in harmony, with no one aspect of the sound standing out as better than the other parts. Conversely, nothing is obviously lacking either. This is one sonically well balanced design!

The synth and cymbals on Lori Anderson’s Sharkey’s Day are hot and really tingly, but never to the point of fatigue. This indicates speed and bandwidth without transient ringing and overload. The hall space on Proprius Label’s famous Contate Domino is well defined and large. Reverb seems to go on forever and those palpable voices... they just appear from space and demand that you believe. Rough Trade, For Those who Think Young, is an interesting album in that on some otherwise pretty good systems it can sound almost flat and 2 dimensional. A really good phono pickup helps with this record, but if the phono stage is in the least bit lacking you never hear the space and dynamics that are hidden. Note that the E.A.R. pulls almost as much space and rolling bass slam out of this disc as does my Vacuum State Research reference preamp - and one of those (custom built all the way, believe me!) would set you back about 30 grand! Vocals are smooth and well placed in space, if recorded well. It even works with both male and female voice, rendering either with a flair. K.D. Lang’s "Save Me’ on Ingenue and Eddie Arnold’s "Cool Water’ on Cattle Call bring tears to my eyes.

Lesser equipment just puts the tunes in the room. This one moves me.


I have seen the 834P shipped with two different brands of tubes. Direct sonic comparison of the two standard varieties reveals only trivial differences, so you need not worry about what brand of tube will arrive in your 834P.

One of the pleasures of owning tube gear is to enhance performance or fine tune the sonic signature by the process of installing specific tubes of known character. Changing the generic tubes to an expensive premium graded variety such as offered by Gold Aero, or installing a set of your favorite NOS brand offers you an easy method of both tuning the basically neutral character of the 834P and expanding on its already abundant sonic virtues.

In my own unit, I am using Gold Aero Platinum grade, Chinese origin tubes, about 1989 vintage, These are the ones with the large silvery colored getter on the side of each plate. These tubes are fast and detailed. They present an incisive soundstage with really excellent localization queues. Bass is rock solid and free of flab or tub. Mids are precise, and topped by nimble highs. The extremely rare Siemens 12AX7A of the 1970s have a similar sound, and are my true favorite, but good luck finding enough of them to weed out the also-rans. One of my customers is using Telefunken diamond bottom tubes in his 834P. These tubes are legendary for their warm and comfortable treatment of the music. While not as precise in the localization of the soundstage, the music will seem to have a more ‘wrap around’ or enveloping character. Fatigue from this tube is zero, but there is no real tradeoff in lack of high frequency resolving power. Tubes of this sonic family are the ones to choose if your system has just a tad bit of bright, but you wish to lose nothing in the cure.

I’ve listened to 834P in direct comparison to several other commercially produced phono stages, some in its own price range of about a thousand dollars, and others up to about twice its price. While not an exhaustive survey of all available phono stages, the 834P easily bested every unit in this price range of those auditioned. These comparisons were not just done at my home, but at several locations in systems of widely varying basic nature. The 834P shined brightly in every application. This direct experience of hearing the 834P in systems with tube and transistor amps, and all types of speakers including electrostatic, planer magnetic, and dynamic cone, leads me conclude that it is basically right, and not dependent on the coloration of some other piece of the audio chain to correct an inherent error.

Is it as good as some of the really high buck gear from say Audio Research, or perhaps some of John Curl’s expensive phono stages? Well, not really. But it will stun you how close it comes! For the price of one of these really high end phono stages you can buy the 834P, put in some killer tubes, get yourself a Benz Glider and mount it up to any of the several really good arm/table combinations now on the market and hey, there you are! Great vinyl system for about three or three and a half grand!

E.A.R. also has a line stage pre-amp. Though it has been out a few years, I have not yet heard it. I have made arrangements to audition one in the near future, and will let you know what I hear when I hear it. Based on my experience with the 834P and the great price/performance value it represents, I have high expectations for this line stage.


You can read both the lines and between the lines on this. It’s no secret, I believe the 834P to be the phono stage steal of the decade. Did I mention that its made in England?