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REVIEW: Hagerman Technology Cornet Phono Preamp

Model: Cornet
Category: Phono Preamp
Suggested Retail Price: $95 - $595 - $695
Description: Hagerman Cornet Phono Pre
Manufacturer URL: Hagerman Technology
Model Picture: View

Review by amandarae (A) on August 27, 2006 at 14:28:12
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for the Cornet

Being familiar with the signature sound of my Trumpet phono preamp or lack there of, I was intrigued by the reports of people who built the Cornet 2 preamp. The Cornet 2 is one of the mid-price phono preamp (Original Cornet is the other one) in the Hagerman Technology line of phono preamps. According to Mr. Hagerman, it is basically the same as the original Cornet in circuit topology but it deviates from the similarity in a way that several upgrade features for the original were already incorporated to the 2 as standard in the circuit layout namely CCS and stereo/mono switch as notables.

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I built my Cornet2 with the stock parts list of resistors but with the Auricap capacitor upgrades as listed in the “Modification” section of the manual. I opted for the black Hagerman chassis as well.

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Building the Cornet 2 is easy if you have some electronics background. The manual is clear and concise of the steps that are necessary to be successful in completing the project. The PCB was labeled clearly and the instructions to populate the circuit board up to wiring the transformer were straight forward. In retrospect, I populated, soldered, wired, and completed my preamp (assuming all parts are already on hand) in a day and a half including soaking the PCB with alcohol for a few hours to clean unwanted solder fluxes on the board.

I run my stock-Auricap upgraded Cornet2 for three weeks and was very happy with the results. Compared to the Trumpet, it is not as good in the bass region and how the Trumpet presents a smooth non-fatiguing presentation. It also lacks the Trumpet’s wider soundstage. The Cornet 2 has a wide soundstage, do not get me wrong, but the Trumpet at the time of my comparison in my system clearly has the advantage. I bought identical sets of tubes for the Trumpet and Cornet (JJ 12AU7’s and Sovtek 12AX7LPS) during my comparison by the way. A Sovtek 5Y3GT was the rectifier tube used in the Cornet2.

On the fourth week, I change all the stock resistors in the signal path with Rikens. I run it for about a week and then listened for improvement. IMO, there was none whatsoever. I left the Rikens in place since I do not want to solder and de-solder again that might lead to weakening the circuit board traces.

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From a month and a half and onwards, I tried Hovland, then the Jensen Aluminum PIO, then the Jensen Copper PIO, and lastly the Mundorf SIO in the output (C208) cap position replacing the Auricap. In the inter-stage (C203) position, I tried the Orange drop, the stock ceramic, and the Sonicap Platinum replacing, again, the Auricap.
I also replaced the Auricaps on C202 (RIAA) and C204 with Sonicap Gen II film capacitors.

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My observations after rolling the capacitors are as follows. There was a big change in level of quietness (noise background) from using the Sonicap Platinum in the C203 position compared to the Auricap. The Orange Drop on the same position did not produce the same result. In the C208 position (output), the Hovlands sound much better than the Auricap and/or the two types of Jensens I tried. The Jensens were fine but seems to have a slight “chugging along” character. It does not give me the same impact in the bass region and brass instruments seems to be tamed a little bit. It has a sonic signature for sure but in my system, I did not like the outcome using these capacitors in the output. The Hovlands sound very nice on the C208 position. In my system, it has all the qualities that I was looking for. Despite of the accolades, the Hovlands are no match to the Mundorf SIO.

I found Sovtek 12AXLPS and Amperex BB large ring getter works well in my set up with the Sovtek 5Y3GT as rectifiers. I also like the Mazda 5Y3GB/RFT in the rectifier position or the Bendix 6106 in the same position with Tungsram 12AX7 and RCA 5814.
I tried RCA, Telefunken, Mullard, Amperex, Matsushita, Raytheon, and GE in the 12AX7 positions, as well as RCA, GE, and Sylvania 5751’s. In the 12AU7 position, I tried Amperex Globe, Telefunken (smooth and ribbed plate), Raytheon, GE, RCA, EI, and JJ.

Comparison To The Trumpet (Post Cap Upgrade)

With the right tubes, the Cornet 2 is very close to the sound of the Trumpet in my system from the midband up to the high band. The main difference is that the bass impact of the Trumpet in my set up is first rate. I can get the Cornet 2 closer to the bass quality of the Trumpet by using 5AR4 as rectifier but it looses the accuracy on the mid and the highs in return, meaning the bass seems to be prominent than the rest. At about 100 hours on the caps (Mundorf and Sonicap), the results are very convincing. It seems that each day, there were some minute improvements as the caps burned in. It could be that or from the tubes settling as well.

At present, I am leaving the (Sonicap/ Mundorf) configurations as is. I am content with the outcome of my investment and will greatly welcome additional improvements as the caps reach users reported burn in time. Even if the “burned in” settling of the caps were a myth, I will not lose sleep from the outcome of my project.

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IMO, the Cornet 2 is a real bargain in terms of the price performance ratio. It is a tweakers dream as well since you can try many different combinations of caps and tubes without abandoning your mistress. The preamp is an ease to build and sounds wonderful. The first week of operation might surprise you but if you give it a couple of weeks, the sound that this preamp is capable of will begin to bloom and form its character. Afterwards, the improvement is astounding and will continue to do so for about a month. Rolling the caps provides immediate feedback. But it will be a mistake to judge its impact to the overall sound of the preamp if you run it only for about 24 hours.

The Cornet 2 is a DIY product that you can enjoy and learn at the same time building it. With the quality of the PCB and the solid design concept producing predictable result (great sound!), it is difficult to understand why people who are shopping for a phono preamp within its price range failed to consider it. With this type of quality available to DIY nowadays, there seems to be only one reason why the same people did not hear about this product; "They forgot to do their homework"?


Teres 255, OL Silver, Denon 103R, Benz Ace, Shelter 901

Hagerman Trumpet, Cornet 2, Supratek phono

Supratek Chenin Full Function Preamp

Linkwitz Orions

Tribute Step Up Transformer wired to 10X

Thanks for reading my report!


Product Weakness: DIY
Product Strengths: Great Sounding Tweakers Delight Preamp

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: ATI 6012
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Supratek Chenin
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Jolida JD100A
Speakers: Linkwitz Orion
Cables/Interconnects: SoundKing
Music Used (Genre/Selections): jazz etc.
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Hagerman Technology Cornet Phono Preamp - amandarae 14:28:12 08/27/06 (15)

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