Bob Sattin is one of those guys I always see at the shows, but I’ve never really introduced myself to him. That’s a bit ridiculous, considering that I’ve been calling myself the Vinyl Anachronist for 21 years and here’s someone who is totally dedicated to vinyl playback and has created some truly outstanding products…especially in the field of step-up transformers. So at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I made a commitment to march up to him and his Bob’s Devices booth at the marketplace and say, “Hi Bob, I’m Marc.”
Bob and His Devices Bob always brings a variety of products to hi-fi shows—LPs, headphone systems, turntables, phono preamplifiers and accessories. He’s also a dealer for VPI, Miyajima, Hana, Nitty Gritty and more. But Bob’s Devices is centered around his affordable yet well-built step-up transformers that have been met with enthusiasm in the industry, especially with the Part-Time Audiophile staff. While I love flipping through LPs as much as the next vinyl nut, I had a specific reason for talking to Bob. I told Bob that I was starting to think about the addition of a step-up transformer to my analog rig. I’ve fallen in love with the Denon DL-103 cartridges and all the modded versions that are currently available, but the 0.3mV output of my stock version makes me wish I had a little more juice from my preamps. I’ve used an SUT only one other time, and that was to address an impedance mismatch between a Koetsu cartridge and the inboard phono pre on a Yamamoto Sound Craft preamplifier, not to increase the gain. Yamamoto-san made me a custom SUT and it fixed everything.
Not an Either/Or Proposition That impedance issue underlines the fact that SUTs aren’t always about boosting gain. Bob told me that if he wanted to get one message out to vinyl lovers, it would address the myth that you need either an SUT or a phono preamplifier. You can use both, as I did, and as I want to do now. I’m currently using a phono preamplifier that I love, but I don’t feel comfortable with setting the volume knob at way past midnight in order to get decent sound pressure levels. A simple SUT, such as the Bob’s Devices Sky ($1250) is probably the answer.
I’m making arrangements with Bob to finally try one of his products, and I’ll be reporting on the results. I’ve been looking at SUTs for a while now, and many of them are quite expensive. Bob’s Devices offers well-built, effective step-up transformers and I can’t wait to give one a try.