The Phono Box ultra 500 is one of the most striking — and hardest to photograph — phono products I’ve ever used. Clad in chromed metal and designed to do one thing and one thing only (make your records sound awesome), this $399 little box delivers in scads.

First, let’s talk a little about what a phono amp does. Most high-end turntables consist of a platter, a motor, and a needle. The electronics necessary to turn the grooves on the vinyl into audible sound aren’t quite there. Instead, you get a need that vibrates along a magnet in order to recreate the sound on the disk and then a simple circuit will send that sound out to an amplifier. This means the signal coming out of a regular turntable is about the level of an unpowered microphone. You need something powerful to amp up that signal and make it listenable.

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