Sutherland TZ Direct
Flagship Trans- Impedance Input Phono Pre-amplifier
If you are considering this phono pre-amplifier, you probably already know about the provenance of the designer Ron Sutherland. Suffice to say, when a talented designer spends his time designing ONLY phono pre-amplifiers, the products are a result of a specific expertise which is rare to find even in the world of high-end audio. When a designer offers the world detailed images of the internals of his creations, you know that there’s real engineering going on here and that he is wanting you to understand the workmanship and thought that has gone into his designs.
Then when you listen to the equipment, the joy and celebration of this lifetime of work is evident. The fact that this level of equipment is so reasonably priced compared to others is also a testament to the intention and honour of the designer. Ron Sutherland has been one of the pioneers of this new transimpedance circuit design which is now slowly finding its way into the mainstream. The TZ Direct is the result of a long journey of attempting to make ‘the perfect phono pre-amplifier’ and not only incorporates the latest circuit design & component quality, but it has been ‘voiced’ by Ron to perform at the highest level as a communicator of emotion.
Ron’s words: “The TZ DIRECT advances our phono preamp range. It combines our most refined transimpedance input stage with a second gain stage derived from our legacy line stages. Each of those stages contributes to the musicality. Working together, the music effortlessly flows into your system.”
We agree! This phono pre-amplifier is an analog master class for any system.
I would like to congratulate you on the remarkable TZ Direct. I’ve finally had enough time to wrap my “ears” around the unit and must admit, I am somewhat at a loss for words describing the sound. I believe this is because the unit just gets out of the way and lets the recording define the sound. I’ve tried to find the unit’s sonic signature, but to no avail. What this means is that the rest of a person’s system will impact and define the sound, not the TZ Direct. You really can’t put back into the music what was taken away. The TZ Direct just seems to take what it is given by the phono cartridge and sends that signal to your other equipment, and there, well, anything can happen.
The sound is well extended at both ends of the spectrum. I am especially sensitive to harshness in the treble region, most noticeably female vocalists and horn sections of jazz bands. Yet, I don’t want any detail or articulation covered up for the sake of smoothness. Here, I sense a complete lack of harshness or brittleness while retaining the detail that is there. On brushed cymbals, I can almost make out how many bristles are on the brushes. Closely recorded female vocalists retain plenty of articulation without emphasizing any sibilance that might be on the recording.
I am also sensitive to an overall sound that can only be described as thin. Quite a few audiophile systems in the pursuit of detail minimise the harmonic overtones that are so important to complete a musical expression. Horns should have a richness, double basses can resonate considerably, all depending on the recording of course. Female vocalists should sound like they have a complete body, rather than just a skeleton. I want music, not the shell of music. So when I listen to familiar music, I listen for a thinness or a richness to sneak in, from what I am defining as neutral. In listening to the TZ Direct, I don’t sense any addition or subtraction in this tone. A positive side effect of this, is that one can listen to vinyl for long periods of time without developing aural fatigue, assuming the rest of the system is up to snuff.
One last thought… I noticed a lot less congestion on complex classical music. There is plenty of air around the instruments and now I can make out more of each individual instrument. WIth well-recorded jazz, the decay of drums, cymbals, and bass, are wonderful, really helping the listener with the sense of space.
Ron, congratulations again. I hope this product is very successful for you. I couldn’t be happier that I own it.