Classic Audio by Michael Fidler

Review Index

MC Pro Phonostage

Sound Matters, February 2024

Having reviewed the MM SPARTAN 15 the year before, Marc Henshall of Sound Matters also tried out the MC PRO moving coil phonostage, demonstrating the very low noise floor in a video review.

Sound Matters logo

The MC Pro won’t win any beauty contest for its external aesthetic; the chassis is sturdy and well-built, albeit fairly unassuming. One thing I do really like is reassuringly robust front panel switches — too many of these devices have flimsy buttons and dials that don’t feel like they can last the pace! When all is said and done, the MC Pro is the quietest, most transparent phono preamp I’ve heard. There is no overriding sound signature other than it simply gets out of the way, allowing you to hear the music precisely as it was intended.

Quiet passages of music benefit the most, but equally, with such incredible headroom, louder passages and very dynamic recordings are allowed to raise the roof in the most remarkable way. The MC Pro deserves a more beautiful housing; that much is undeniable, and I don’t think Michael Fidler himself would refute this. Perhaps as the company continues to grow, this may come in good time. For now, though, his priorities are exactly in the right place.

Marc Henshall, Sound Matters

PDF archive in case of broken link.

SPARTAN 30 Headphone Amplifier

Audio Appraisal, February 2024

An early production SPARTAN 30 was sent to by reviewed by Ashley Cox at Audio Appraisal at the beginning of 2024, resulting in a generally positive review for the product.

Audio Appraisal logo

The Spartan 30 isn’t perfect. It’s a tad pricey (though by no means unreasonably so) as it is a low-volume handmade unit. There’s no remote control, no gain control independent of the master volume, no balanced input and no balanced headphone output. But it is wonderfully tactile in a way that most rivals aren’t, with its chunky switches analogue volume knob and chunky enclosure.

It will play nicely with any compatible source device, and it provides clean, uncoloured attenuation or gain from input to output, which is precisely what a preamplifier is supposed to do. There might be a plethora of head amps on the market, but the Spartan 30 is better than most of them. So despite its lack of convenience features and amplifier compatibility concerns, it’s a viable product that I hope will grace many systems.

Ashley Cox, Audio Apraisal

PDF archive in case of broken link.

SPARTAN 15 Phonostage

Sound Matters, November 2023

Marc Henshall at Sound Matters took the opportunity to review the SPARTAN 15 phonostage, including a YouTube video.

Sound Matters logo

The first thing that struck me about the Spartan 15 was just how quiet it is when idle; clearly, Michael’s two-stage amplification design and choice of components are paying off from the very start. On firing up a number of very familiar records, I was equally impressed with the playback performance. Transients are sharp, fast, and incredibly clean, bringing a sense of confidence to the overall presentation. The clarity in the low-mids, in particular, is exemplary, allowing me to hear more precise and clean bass notes compared to much of the competition.

In my humble opinion, the chassis design is a little rudimentary and utilitarian compared with some of the competition. But with this in mind, for an extraordinarily reasonable price, you get a British, handmade, boutique HiFi preamp that comfortably rivals models costing many times the price. If you’re looking for the most neutral-sounding MM phono stage in the sub £500/$500 price bracket – you owe it to yourself to test-drive a Spartan 15 — particularly if you own a large collection of vintage mono records.

Marc Henshall, Sound Matters

PDF archive in case of broken link.

MM PRO Phonostage

Audio Appraisal, October 2023

Having kept the MC PRO phonostage he reviewed a few months earlier, independent reviewer Ashley Cox asked to try out out the it's sister, the MM PRO.

Audio Appraisal logo

So what does it sound like? Clean, accurate, and as good as the rest of your system. You can’t characterise the sound of the MM pro because it doesn’t have a ‘sound’. It is ruler flat from subsonic into ultrasonic frequencies (besides the intentional subsonic filter), is impossible to overload with any magnetic cartridge or record, has more than enough output to drive any line stage into clipping with a sufficient input signal, is so quiet as to be inaudible beneath the quietest pressing, and has almost immeasurable distortion.

I challenge you to find me a phono stage at any price with a specification that equals or exceeds that of the MM Pro. Believe me, I’ve looked, and I’ve been doing this a long time. As far as I can determine, £600 is enough to buy you the finest moving magnet phono stage currently in production or that has ever been produced.

Ashley Cox, Audio Apraisal

PDF archive in case of broken link

MC PRO Phonostage

Audio Science Review, August 2023

Once enough completed units were on the racking, an MC PRO moving coil phonostage was sent to Amir at Audio Science Review for independent verification, confirming the high performance with a Golfing Panther rating.

MC PRO Audio Science Review

The MC Pro is a very accurate phono stage with very low noise and distortion. Company has full set of specifications which means great attention was paid to these factors. I like the unique design with extra features and of course, XLR balanced output. The cost is up there for a non-high-end phono stage but I think it is justified given the performance and features.

It is my pleasure to add the Classic Audio Michael Fidler MC Pro phonostage to my recommended list.

Amir M, Audio Science Review

PDF archive in case of broken link.


The Ear, August 2023

Chris Beeching of the Ear expressed interest in reviewing the MC PRO moving coil phonostage, so as a little extra he also received a SPARTAN 5 moving magnet at the other end of the price scale to compare and contrast.

MC PRO ear magazine title

Both units were positively reviewed and awarded 'best buy' status, particularly in relation to their very low noise floors.

MC PRO Phonostage

Audio Appraisal, March 2023

After reviewing the SPARTAN 5 in November 2022, Ashley asked to review the MC PRO as well, publishing his review after 3 months of continuous listening and comparison that led him to conclude it was the best dedicated MC phonostage on the market.

Audio Appraisal logo

I have spent the past three months trawling through every phono stage on the market, trying to find something with a specification that comes close to that of the MC Pro. In that time I have played numerous albums with several cartridges, and not once has this little box provided anything less than stellar performance. It’s not going back.

My search of the market left me empty-handed. The MC Pro currently offers the finest technical performance of any phono stage I can find on the market at any price. It is a product that will shake up this stagnated industry for the better. It demonstrates that real-world performance is not wizardry or pseudoscience, but competence and ability. The audio industry needs more of both if it is to stand a chance of survival, and Michael Fidler is a clear frontrunner.

Ashley Cox, Audio Appraisal

PDF archive in case of broken link.


Sound Perfection Reviews, March 2023

Oscar had been following Classic Audio Ltd. for a while when he asked to review a phonostage for SPR. We decided on both the SPARTAN 5 and the MM PRO in a head-to-head comparison against his current phonostage.

Sound Perfection Reviews logo

Both pre-amps just get out of the way of the music and do what a good pre-amp should, but they do it better than many. Spending time to match components, and designing an optimised circuit really does pay off. If you want colouration, go elsewhere, if you want accuracy and longevity, you cannot go wrong with Classic Audio Ltd.

I honestly didn’t know what I was missing out on before listening to these in my system, plugging my Pro-Ject Phono-box back in makes the system sound broken and lacking dynamics and detail. This is not something I was fully prepared to hear, and I certainly didn’t expect such a stark difference between the pre-amps.

Oscar Stewart, Sound Perfection Reviews

PDF archive in case of broken link.

SPARTAN 5 Phonostage

Audio Appraisal, November 2022

Audio Appraisal's Ashley Cox published an excellent no-nonsense review of the SPARTAN 5 phonostage a month after it was released in September 2022.

Audio Appraisal logo

The Spartan 5 is a diminutive little box, in which is a simple but objectively and subjectively top-class circuit typology designed by a man who clearly knows his stuff where the humble vinyl and its playback transducer are concerned.

If the Spartan 5 demonstrates what he can achieve on a budget, I very much look forward to seeing what he comes up with next. The Spartan 5, £150 is available now from Classic Audio Ltd. If you’ve been eyeing up another model, even one that is considerably more expensive, the Spartan series should be underlined at the top of your shortlist. They represent high-end objective performance and save you a boatload of cash. Highly recommended.

Ashley Cox, Audio Appraisal

PDF archive in case of broken link.

SPARTAN 10 Phonostage

HiFi Pig, January 2022

HiFi Pig reviewed the now discontinued Spartan 10 phonostage shortly after it was officially released in January 2022. This was the company's first review.

HiFi Pig logo

Never heard of Michael Fidler? Take note, this is an excellent first product from a young man about to release lots of new products. The first is this MM phono-stage. Everything is there for £350 in this tiny box, including a subsonic filter dealing with that horrible and inaudible 8-12Hz vinyl noise, plus another low-frequency crossfield filter that just works to reduce audible low frequency noise. All it needs to do is sound good, and luckily it ticks all boxes for me.

Janine Elliot, HiFi Pig Magazine

PDF archive in case of broken link.