Classic Audio by Michael Fidler


Testimonials - December 2022 to April 2023


Australia April 2023

Just wanted to write and say I got the Spartan 5 on 21 April, and have been really enjoying it - loving the sound from my vinyls!

Spartan 5 phonostage

SPARTAN 5 in Patrick's setup

For a relatively low-budget music lover starting out with a hi-fi set up, the Spartan-5 has been a fantastic addition to my set up. I hear instrumentation and nuance that I didn't before, and more clarity overall.

Patrick, Australia


UK February 2023

I purchased the Classic Audio Spartan 5 phono stage after reading a glowing review on the Audio Appraisal page.

I was a little worried about whether improvement would be found, as my Arcam FMJ-A19 amplifier has a reputedly excellent phono stage , especially as I was buying the product blind and on the strength of one review.

After listening to the Spartan 5 , I was very impressed, particularly as it cost only £150.

Lead vocals are more pronounced, with a greater sense of inflexion, tone and clarity. Also , you are more aware of layered vocals in a song, something I noticed with Whatever Happened to Benny Santini by Chris Rea. What had previously sounded like one vocal became two separate ones; the recording having Chris Rea harmonising with his own lead vocals. Instruments alongside vocals were clearer and one could perceive how a vocalist was singing in time to ,or along with, a guitar, an organ or whatever it was. Generally, detail is improved but the smoothness of the Arcam amplifier hasn’t been lost and, though there is more detail, it isn’t dry, forward or bright, just sweet and enjoyable.

There is definitely a greater sense of space around instruments and the sound stage has widened, though not in a way to lose the cohesion and holistic sound of the Arcam. One thing that gets more and more evident is a subtle change in the timbre of vocals, which makes everything sound more natural; something difficult to describe until one hears it.

There is also much more ‘slam’ to drum hits and cymbals: with the drums you hear the echo as the stick hits the skin of the drum. Background piano notes have suddenly come to the fore and are far more pronounced; the same as background violins / strings which are more noticeable and the notes seem to last longer.

A lot of these improvements are quite subtle but they contribute to improving the sound of the Arcam and my overall feeling about the Spartan 5 is that it puts a smile on your face as you hear details, you were vaguely aware of in the background, much more clearly and you’re left a sense of how enjoyable and musical the product is.

Although an upgrade sceptic, I have done much to upgrade my system over the years with varying levels of success. The upgrade to the Spartan 5 has definitely made a significant difference to my system, improving the sound of the cartridge and amplifier without altering their intrinsic qualities.

It is difficult to quantify sound improvement in terms of pounds spent, but, at £150, the Spartan 5 , to my mind, is excellent value : a veritable bargain.

Thank you so much,

Nigel, Wales


UK February 2023

So all set up and also compared against my previous phono stage, and happy to report all is good! Much more clarity, openness and detail which is exactly what I was hoping for, so very happy with my choice.

Spartan 5 phonostage

Colin's SPARTAN 5

All in all a very happy customer.

Colin, Leicester


UK January 2023

Just a quick note to say the phonostage arrived safely, and I gave it its first run today, I must say the first few listens I am very pleased with results, first I notice that my vinyl from a playback point of view is a lot quieter and sound seems really controlled.

Spartan 5 phonostage

SPARTAN 5 in Phil's setup

I have have used the mono switch a couple of times and my original Beatles albums from the early 60's sound pretty amazing less distorted and a lot quieter too.

Phil, East Yorkshire


UK January 2023

My initial impressions of Michael Fidler's Classic Audio Spartan 5. No LF crossfeed in this version, but you do still get the all-important mono switch. Michael has written a very good explanation of why this is a good idea when playing mono records.

I've tried it in two configurations of my "upstairs" setup. A note of caution - the source in both cases is a Garrard Synchrolab idler drive (K9 cartridge and VM95ML stylus) so any low frequency differences are going to be hidden by rumble! But other than that it's not a bad TT. Yes, I know I'm insane. A Planar 2 would be quieter, but I like it.

SPARTAN 5 phonostage

SPARTAN 5 in Chris's setup

Setup one was with a very elderly Naim NAC 32 (plus homebrew PSU) and an NAP 90, comparing against the NA322 boards in the 32. Using the Spartan instead gave a slight increase in high frequency detail. Not huge but worthwhile. I lack the test equipment to be objective about this, but bearing in mind this design uses a single op-amp, it's a remarkable achievement as the NA322 imo is a good phono stage. But the best is yet to come ...

Config 2 is with a Rega Brio (original clamshell version). Unsurprisingly the Spartan beats the Brio's internal phono stage hands down, with loads more HF detail and better imaging. I reckon a fair bit of that is having a power supply which is unaffected by whatever the Brio's PA stage is doing. It's cleaner, more detailed, but doesn't remove the Brio's verve. Here's the best bit: the Brio plus Spartan is right in contention when trialled against the 32/90 - in fact, after a day's listening, the Spartan/Brio combo is my preferred setup of the two. The Brio is a vivacious but not overly accurate amplifier, and with the Spartan you still get the boogie factor but with more information.

So, if you're after an external phono stage to improve on an integrated one, it's definitely one to put on your shortlist. I listen to a lot of old stuff so the mono switch yields benefits - really worth having if your amp doesn't have one. The reduction in vinyl roar (OK yes and rumble!) is considerable, and it's nice not to have pops and clicks flying all over the soundstage while the music sits in the middle.

Chris, Worcester


UK January 2023

All I can say is 'wow'. It took me a while to hear the difference between my built-in phono stage and the S10, but not with the pro. The bar has been raised and the game changed.

From the first track it was clear there was more sound being produced. An album, Avatar's Hunter Gatherer, I listened to only a few hours before it sounded better. More notes, more sound, more clarity, and the instruments sounded more individualised. How this is so much better than the S10, I do not know, but it is. I had to then see how it did with female vocals, so another album went on before dinner and wow, goosebumps. Evanescence's Fallen, specifically My Immortal was sublime, and in all honesty never sounded better. The CD was horrid, as it was right in the middle of the loudness war of the 2000s.

MM Pro phonostage

MM PRO in Michael's setup

If you're on the fence, buy one. In no way shape or form would you regret it. Yes, £600 is a significant amount of money, but I feel it’s excellent value. Somehow it sounds like it should cost more. I’ve been chasing a sound for a few years now, using the Audeze LCD 2s, and to me nothing else has ever sounded as good as it does with the MM Pro. Yes, I’ve spent a lot getting there: a £2000 amp, £1200 turntable and £1500 speakers, so that £600 isn’t seeming so much anymore. A change in speakers, as I find the Dali Rubicon 2 a bit fatiguing, and I’m probably done with upgrades.

What Michael Fidler/Classic Audio Ltd has achieved is truly great. When I ordered the S10 I did wonder what a Rega Aria or the iFi Black Label 3 would be like. I’m not wondering anymore. This for me is as good as it gets, and I didn’t have to break the bank. I’ve read this back and sound like a fan boy, but when something is this good it’s hard not to.

Michael, Manchester


UK January 2023

Firstly I would like to thank Michael for the privilege of sending me one of his fantastic products namely the Spartan 5.

SPARTAN 5 phonostage

SPARTAN 5 in Alex's setup

From the onset the sound of my system was transformed the clarity the separation of instruments the absolute minimisation of surface noise it totally transformed all of my LP's. This phono stage will be going places as I doubt there is another unit in this price bracket than will come anywhere near it. Absolutely brilliant product and highly recommended.

Alex, Lincolnshire


Italy January 2023

The Spartan 5 is all of what I expected to be and more. The balance between channels is spectacular, the RIAA curve very accurate so I can hear good music without resonances or particular frequencies going over, and there is no limit to the output power in difficult recordings. The bottom end is extended and powerful, while maintaining a sweet, transparent top.

SPARTAN 5 phonostage

SPARTAN 5 in Stefano's setup

All of that paired to a very quiet background noise, that has been possible thanks to the precious subsonic filter, the choices and tweaks between the zones where the amplifier works i.e. low distortion.

Very well done, worth the wait (for a product like this!!!), and the money; no question.

Stefano, Italy


UK December 2022

Just to let you know, I have been going through my vinyl collection again. The S10 is marvellous paired with the Technics SL100C and a Ortofon bronze cartridge. There are deeper bass notes and more clarity in the upper frequency.

SPARTAN 5 phonostage

SPARTAN 10 in Ray's setup

Well pleased I made the decision to buy, even though it was Christmas day. Thank you so much for taking the time out to post it.

Ray's system

Ray's custom turntable

Excellent product, and I feel privileged to have the last one.

Ray, Kent

The end of an era... Onwards and upwards!


UK September 2022

As promised, a short review of the Classic Audio Spartan 5 single-stage phono preamplifier.

My system: AT LP5x with VM95 in RigB housing with basic VMN95E stylus. Spartan 5 into a Marantz PM5005 amp’ driving a pair of bookshelf DALI Spektor 1. Basic interconnects. I contacted Michael Fidler in June to enquire about the Spartan 10. At £350 it was over my budget and disproportionate to the rest of my system. He did however put me on the waiting list for the more frugally priced Spartan 5 which was in development and became available at the end of August. Mine arrived on September 1st.

The build quality of this tiny unit is excellent, as is its presentation in a smart silver case with a brushed finished fascia plate secured by hex head screws. As you can see in the photo, it sits on my Topping DAC with no unsightly overhang.

SPARTAN 5 phonostage

SPARTAN 5 in Neil's setup

Now I’m not blessed with *les oreilles d’ors*, but I have retained good hearing in both ears despite my being 53 years old and an ex-clay shooter. I can still pick up 14.2 kHz with both lugholes. These are my findings thus far:

For starters, much more detail is discernible from the pressing. Me and a mate listened to Head Over Heels from TFF’s Songs From the Big Chair and heard percussive sounds that we hadn’t heard before. And we’ve been listening to this masterpiece since 1986 on CD and vinyl.

I’m trying not to sound pretentious which is always difficult when laying down personal perceptions of something so subjective as sound reproduction. But this is how I heard it so here goes. On the y axis, the Spartan 5 stratifies and therefore separates the voices and instruments into an amplitude-based priority. Simultaneously, it images superbly in the x and z planes for an exquisite soundstage. Although this last comment applies more to when using speakers than my modest Fildelio XH2HRs. Genre-wise, I’ve put Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, Sibelius’ No.s 3 & 7 (Rattle / Bham S.O.) and Further Definitions by Benny Carter and his superb orchestra. My comments about detail, stratification and soundstage apply to all.

As I type, the sax’ intro of TFF’s The Working Hour is playing and making my hairs stand on end.

This tiny device has greatly improved my vinyl listening experience so far. I’ve only had it a week or so and already I’m VERY impressed. I’m not affiliated with Michael Fidler and Classic Audio UK but would urge those on a budget who are looking to enhance the vinyl aspect of their set-up to seriously consider this big / little box of tricks.

Neil, Audioshite!™ Facebook page

Recent December 2022 to April 2023