Classic Audio by Michael Fidler

SPARTAN 20 MM & MC Phono Stage by Michael Fidler


Now available in the UK only direct from Classic Audio Ltd. for £450, the SPARTAN 20 moving magnet and moving coil phonostage combines the MM section featured in the critically acclaimed SPARTAN 15 with a new selectable discrete MC head amplifier. The expanded design allows for a two-turntable setup, with separate inputs for each cartridge type, while retaining the same precise RIAA equalisation, low noise, and an extra LF X-Feed setting, to bring deeply transparent listening to a wide range of setups.

SPARTAN 20 phonostage front panel

Front panel, showing controls

As a result of exhaustive optimisation in the moving coil head amplifier and its careful integration into the already very capable double-stage moving magnet circuitry, the SPARTAN 20 offers a comprehensive and practical feature set that promises a very accurate and engaging sound reproduction ...

SPARTAN 20 phonostage rear connections

Rear panel, showing connections

These features, in tandem with the excellent technical performance soon to be described, make the SPARTAN 20 an ideal candidate for those considering a venture into the world of moving coil cartridges while retaining compatibility for moving magnet devices that they may already have. It also represents a solid choice for those looking to upgrade over integrated phono circuitry, or even bring a second turntable into their setup with a minimum of fuss. Although it doesn't feature any magical components or endless loading and gain of options questionable use, it realises far better objective performance than many 'high-end' offerings advertised at many times the price, all culminating towards a greater intimacy with the original sound.

SPARTAN 20 phonostage silver version

Silver face version, one of only four to be made

The first production batch of SPARTAN 20s are currently available in the UK only with black and silver laser-etched front faces, at an introductory price of £450. Units are expected to be available to worldwide in the latter half of 2024, with a slight 6% price increase to combat inflationary pressure on the business.

Build quality

The SPARTAN 20 takes its form in a compact enclosure that fits well into all manner of setups and permits it to be situated close to turntables to minimise cable length and potential interference. The thick sandblasted all-alumium metalwork brings the total weight to a solid 780 grams, while fully shielding all the sensitive circuitry contained inside, including, but not limited to these high-quality components:

SPARTAN 20 PCB layout

Hand-assembled PCB

All SPARTAN 20s are carefully hand-assembled from scratch in Kent, England, with parts chosen for their maximum contribution to the end result of the design. This puts it in contrast to many marketing-oriented products that select parts for their individually impressive characteristics, or simply great expense to justify a higher price, that don't translate to a better final performance when viewed holistically. Instead, the SPARTAN 20 contains a selection of parts that have a proven track record of stability, reliability, and consistency that when put together in the right way realise a level of performance that offers great value for money.


Parameter Measurement
Gain at 1kHz, 10kΩ line load 40.8dB (110x) MM, 61.6dB (1210x) MC
RIAA accuracy ±0.1dB, 40Hz to 22kHz
Channel balance ±0.1dB, at 1kHz
Crosstalk, MM input <72dB 20Hz to 22kHz
Signal-to-noise ratio, MM input 78dB, 220Hz to 22kHz, 5mV cartridge load
Signal-to-noise ratio, MC input 77dB, 220Hz to 22kHz, 500µV 10Ω/22µH
Overload margin, MM input 25.5dB (19x), ref 5mV at 1kHz
Overload margin, MC input 24.6dB (17x), ref 500µV at 1kHz
Maximum input at 1kHz 94mV RMS MM, 8.5mV RMS MC
Maximum input at 10kHz 450mV RMS MM, 41mV RMS MC
Maximum output, 3kΩ line load 10V RMS, 20Hz to 60kHz
Maximum THD, MM input <0.0006%, 40Hz to 22kHz, 10V RMS output
THD at max output, MC input <0.001% at 1kHz, worst <0.004% at 10KHz
MM input loading 50kΩ + 120pF
MC input loading 120Ω + 800pF
Output impedance 100Ω, or 200Ω dual mode
Minimum line load impedance 3kΩ, or 5kΩ with 10kΩ
Subsonic filter 22Hz, 3rd order, 20dB reduction at 10Hz
Low frequency crossfeed 100Hz or 200Hz, 10 or 14.7dB at 40Hz
Power supply Split linear ±17V
Power consumption 5W at full output, 0.2W powered off
Dimensions (W*H*D) 172*60*150mm