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Kevin Edwards, founder and managing director of Talk Electronics in Surrey, is introducing a new range of ‘budget’ products under the brand name Edwards Audio. Unusually for such an enterprise the intention is to manufacture everything locally in the UK rather than design it here and have it made overseas.
   The manufacturer says this ensures better control of manufacturing quality. But as discussed before in the pages of HFN, the cost benefit of manufacturing in places such as China is fast reducing anyway due to increasing labour costs and the diminished value of the pound. Local manufacturing also allows small-batch production rather than committing to shipping containers loaded with a product that may or may not prove to be a hit! We’ve speculated before that the current global economic upheaval might actually result in a return to British manufacturing. And in its own small way Edwards Audio could be an early sign of such of trend.

GLOWING IN THE DARK
Edwards Audio’s first product is the MC1, a compact MM/MC phono stage in an extruded aluminium case measuring 11.5x4.8x16cm (whd). The front and end caps of the box are made of acrylic in an opal white colour, the fascia lighting up with a ghostly glow once the unit is powered via its accompanying ‘wall wart’ power supply. The manufacturer claims this is no off-the-shelf plug top power supply, by the way, rather it has been custom made incorporating a split rail design with gold-plated PCB and high quality diodes.
   Benefiting from Talk Electronics’ buying power, the MC1 itself uses good quality components throughout, with a buffered output section boasting a low output impedance to reduce the effects of interconnect cables and improve output current.
   I rather liked the MC1’s illuminated fascia, but if you’d prefer it didn’t light up there are instructions provided for removing an internal jumper to disable the LED inside. Similarly there are instructions for moving internal jumpers to switch the unit into moving-magnet mode; out of the box the unit is set for low output moving coils.

REFERENCE TEST
I compared the MC1 directly with a highly regarded Graham Slee Gram Amp 3 ‘Fanfare’ MC phono stage priced just £17 less. The source was my familiar Townshend Rock Reference/Excalibur arm, currently fitted with Ortofon’s ruby-cantilevered Kontrapunkt B.
   Within just a few bars of music I was bowled over by the MC1, it being immediately apparent that it was a ‘class act’. Listening to ‘Couldn’t Bear to be Special’ from Prefab Sprout’s Swoon album [Kitchenware, KWLP1], the sound was deliciously smooth and refined. Detailing was wonderful, an expansive soundstage revealing plenty of air and space around individual sounds of keyboards, harmony backing voices and the choppy rhythm guitar chords that pop out of the mix. Paddy McAloon’s voice had more body and better projection than with the excellent Fanfare, along with improved bass detail and greater sophistication.

VERDICT
Thanks to its particularly fine sound quality and the fact that it’s part of a well-established brand in Talk Electronics (furthermore it’s backed by a most generous 10-year warranty) you can buy the Edwards Audio MC1 with confidence. For vinyl enthusiasts desiring a high-end phono stage but on a restricted budget, I recommend it highly. There’s a MM-only version (the MM1) available alongside it at just £150, and a power supply upgrade unit is on the way too.

 

Originally published in the July 2009 issue