August 2019

Closeup of high end audio hifi knob


October 2017 testimonial of a Baby Reference V2 pre amplifier from Rikard in Sweden
After waiting for way too long, I finally got my Baby Reference v2 today…. things took longer than expected, but I didn’t want to stress Jonathan and here we are today…

As always when connecting new gear I’m worried that I will not be able to hear any difference or that the difference is going to be too subtle to be worth the investment, but I plugged it in and let it play….

My Baby Classic with the v2 transformer was as I’ve said before already a big step up from using the built in volume control in my DAC. Well, if I thought that jump was big, it’s nothing compared to the steps things just took with the absolutely amazing Baby Reference v2.

I could use all superlatives in the world to describe it and still not be sure if it made it justice. I’m very very impressed!

Actually, for some time I have felt that things could sometimes be a bit too harsh sounding, and this is something I have been thinking about how I could address. I did not at all expect the Baby Ref V2 to solve this for me, but it sounds like it did just that! I think the word “analogue” is being overused all the time these days to describe our digital experience, but I’m afraid that’s the word I want to use here as well. It’s very non-fatiguing, very smooth, very warm and addictive. I just want to keep cranking that volume up!!

As a passive (transformer based) preamp you would expect it to just get out of it’s way kind of…. and maybe that’s what it does… maybe it allows my DAC and amps to shine even better than they’ve ever done before. I don’t know. I just know that I’m very happy about this purchase. It’s not cheap for sure, nobody ever accused it of being cheap, but is it worth the price? That’s for everyone’s pockets to decide, but right now it feels like one of the best investments I’ve ever done.

If there is a better sounding preamp out there I DON’T want to know about it…. I’m deeply in LOVE with this one!

Its June

Closeup of high end audio hifi knob

I have not heard a better preamp, and I’ve been looking for more than 30 years.” Sam Tellig,Stereophile.

Users of Music First Audio products are not just customers buying into the latest fad, they are owners of a product that can be tailored to their needs, has been developed and hand built in England to the very highest standards, by the owner and second generation proprietor of the renowned and highly respected Stevens and Billington Ltd, who have been building high quality transformers since the 1960s.

 No active preamp sounds this transparentJason Kennedy,Hi-Fi +magazine.

Top100 HiFi_170

The expertise that can only truly be learned from decades of hard work, attention to detail, experience and skill have truly culminated in a series of audio products like no other. It is widely recognised and accepted that both sonically, and in terms of provenance they stand head and shoulders above the crowd by some considerable margin.”

And the sound quality winner, is Music First Audio. “ Hi-Fi Critic, passive preamplifier industry shoot-out

Any and all of the considerable success, loyal customers, accolades and awards which Music First has gratefully received over the years has not been achieved by vast advertising budgets, or employing a marketing team, but rather by adhering to a far simpler and more personal approach. It has relied on the listener. The customer is aware that they are using a product that simply delivers quite remarkably, the beauty of music as the artists recording intended, developed with the passion, integrity, and sole purpose of putting the music first .

Get in touch now to arrange a home demonstration, and listen to the game changing hi-fi equipment your ears have been waiting for.

It just feels like you are closer to being in the Studio” Alan Sircom. HiFi +

it allows you to experience the finer details in a recording like no other preamplifier I’ve yet heard.  And that’s the crux of it really I think; If a product connects you with the music and the musicians on a level that is emotional and inspiring then you know you’ve found the product for you.


Preamplifier of the Year 2006 Hi-Fi News.
Preamplifier of the year 2005

Editors Choice 2004

Preamplifier of the year 2010 Hi-Fi World.
Preamplifier of the year 2006

Best of 2005 6 Moons.
Writers Choice award 2005

Class A recommended component Stereophile.

Hi-Fi Plus Top 100 2019

Av Showrooms  Gold Show Award “best Sound” 2014

The best Preamplifier ever made” David Price,Hi-Fi World.


May has arrived


Dear old Hastings is a nostalgic town. May brings our Jack in the Green festival which harps back to our pagan times. Any excuse to indulge the past!

So Nostalgia! Do you suffer? We do. Did you know doctors used to treat it as a disease? So powerful can it be that both advertising executives and politicians trade on it, (not to mention the music business). We hear you say what has this got to do with music or its reproduction? Well a lot more than you might think. Following a recent in-house straw poll we at MFA would be as bold as to say far more of your musical choice is influenced by this emotion than you or anyone else would care to admit. When we talked about it we were all surprised at how it affected our musical lives. Is this right?

Wether your nostalgia bug is good or bad depends if you can pass the new music test? Simply this means does your music collection also include new artists. Are you prepared to listen to and buy music by the up and coming, the unknown and the yet untrendy. I am glad to say we are all able to pass on this one, and in addition to pass the music store listen test! When was the last time you bought music you knew nothing about, after hearing it playing at the local record store? For good or bad we at MFA do this all the time! But more of this some other time. Back to nostalgia. 

As this is written we listen to the Bowie soundtrack to the BBC’s adaptation of the Buddha of Suburbia. Taken from a great book, a life affirming piece of television and the whole thing packed with nostalgia for people of a certain age!! The theme music is still relevant to his fans, and Bowie manages to take you back to the very early 70’s and into 1979 with catchy songs, post punk anthems, ambient themes and jazz funk. In the sleeve notes Bowie states “my personal memory stock for this album was made up from an almighty plethora of influences and reminiscences from the 1970’s”, he then goes on to list them. What a list and as they all could relate to the whole MFA experience its heady stuff. A much underrated masterpiece. Check it out (and the sleeve notes) ASAP.

Well as a good friend of MFA often says it may only be all memories these days but boy what memories, and lovingly brought back to life by musical nostalgia. So a little non complete list of the music that makes us go all nostalgic and reminiscent in our workshop:-

First two Roxy Music albums (featuring Eno).

Britten Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra and or Prokofiev Peter and the Wolf. 

Astronomy Domnie by Pink Floyd. 

Nick Drake (River Man in particular).

King Crimson (The Night Watch).

Heroes and Where Are We Now. 

From gardens were we feel secure by Virginia Astley.

Waterloo (Abba).

As well as the music the equipment used to reproduce it can take you back! We are famous for our use of tape sources at the hifi shows we attend. We make no apologies for using various tape decks as they sound to our ears very right. We are often accused of nostalgia for our tape use but the majority of our visitors get why we do it! Likewise older quad equipment is held by us in great reverence and used by us all at home and often at show demos.

But if old equipment, and the nostalgia it evokes, is your particular thing then the biannual Audio Jumble is a must for you! With second hand equipment for sale, which dates back to the beginning of audio, to digital devices which are no longer the state of the art, there is something for everyone. We often go to buy, but also to demonstrate, invariably using our equipment with vintage gear. The whole day evokes nostalgia but leaves you thinking has progress really contributed to better sound?

So as far as we are concerned nostalgia and its resulting reminiscing can be either good or bad. Good because so many great things come from the past, but bad if you spend all your time there and can not accept what good things are currently on offer.

April 13th Record store day!


Record Shop Day 2019 is on Saturday 13th April. Get yourself to your nearest store and indulge yourself in some hot wax! No need to wait for the day as anytime is good to buy the black stuff.

We need not remind you that we at Music First Audio take all things vinyl VERY seriously. So seriously that we make moving coil step up transformers. Why, because for us vinyl has always been a fantastic way to enjoy our music and remains so. Prematurely declared dead and gone, its revival in the last decade is worthy of its very own track on Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. 

Let’s look at why the appeal of vinyl remains so high! The long player is just about to celebrate its 70th Birthday which is absolutely astonishing. The days of 45 singles are now gone, but the LP remains so popular with both music fans, audiophiles and hipsters for good reasons. For us LP reproduction is all about sound quality, but we also appreciate the collectability and tactile quality that vinyl has to offer. Even second hand vinyl delivers. The buyer gets the hands on experience of record cleaning in all its various forms. Anyone for a quick rub down with D’Art du Son? OK streaming and downloads still account for the lion’s share of music purchases, but for sheer je ne sais quoi vinyl is the winner. Vinyl covers on your wall offer instant cool art. What’s not to love.

Vinyl under arm says so much more about the individual than what’s on their phone’s playlist. For the older generation it’s all about who they were and their social and artistic history. For a younger generation it is about buying into the artist and giving support in a tangible form. For everyone it’s about an art form that drives something inside us all, so whether you are an old vinyl hand or just starting out it’s a musical format with a lot to offer. 

Lately we have been getting into box sets of remastered works. A few years ago the Beatles mono remasters made a big impression on us and the recent remasters from Kate Bush are very high quality. We are always on the lookout for a good box set, but just as welcome are offers of single albums that once were only on CD but have now become available on LP due to demand. A recent purchase of the 1997 beyond the Missouri Sky by Charlie Hayden and Pat Metheny looks set to grace our turntable. Let’s hope the sound is as excellent as the CD.

Enjoy a trip to a record shop and perhaps try out a lovely Music First Audio SUT Moving Coil Step Up Transformers

Music First Audio March Blog

It is said that March comes in like a Lion and goes out like a Lamb. Somewhere in the month we hope a weather change happens! Winter becomes Spring. Living and working on the coast we have a heightened awareness of the seasons, and Spring always seems to us a change for the better. Longer days and some sunshine is a change we look forward too.
Fortunately or unfortunately change in life is a constant. Modern life (it is argued) is even more stressful for its ever increasing rate of change. Politically and economically the last few years seem to have been grand daddies of change, but thus has it ever been. We bet those Romans moaned about all the change as the empire fell about their ears. As difficult as change can be it does have upsides, and in music, as in life, it can lead to exciting times.
Those of you that lived through the 60s and 70s will be aware of the phenomena of progressive rock music. This was all about change. With each successive album the prog rock bands of the day set out their new progressive stall. It was all rather exciting or deadly dull depending on your taste. Along came change (in the form of punk) and things became much more exciting or downright uncouth -again depending on your taste. Such is life’s great changing tapestry. We recently visited a new record store near to us. The owner was at pains to advise us that he intended to buy in new and old progressive rock vinyl as he seemed to think there was an increasing demand for it among the younger generation. They liked exploring he said. We shall see on that one!
A recent record store purchase of Amandla by Miles Davis got us thinking about the great musical artists of change. Miles is a particular candidate for the top changing man. In the field of jazz he would be one of our top bets. Just compare his Blue in Green to Back Seat Betty. Light years apart but both extremely valid we would argue. Compare the difference in his clothing between these two songs! The man thrived on change, as did Bowie.
When you grew up with Bowie (as some of us did) you could not help noticing the changes wrought album to album. For us Bowie was the archetype man of change and his change seemed to fall into musical stages as his career progressed. We all have our favourite from the various stages of his life be it Ziggy Stardust era, the Berlin period, or his last great albums. Like Miles he was a musical changing man genius who is more than ever sorely missed by us. How we wish he had lived another decade as what musical changes he may have made?
Change of course is very much a part of Classical music. The classical musical world has its fans of the early classical period, whilst others are fans of the romantic catalogue, or 20th century classics. On our trips to the proms each year we are always amazed at programmes that may feature Thomas Tallis, Mark Anthony Turnage and finish with Tchaikovsky. Talk about a contrast! One genre of classical music is built all around change, but in very minute measure. Minimalist music exists in its very small changes as the music progresses. Like change itself you either love it or loath it but you can’t but be impressed by how such a subtle change to a repetitive theme can be so mesmerising and so beautiful.
So as we look forward to the change to longer, sunnier days of Spring think about all those musical changes over the centuries, and those artists who were and are still at the forefront of musical change. So many great musical artists have managed to crossover from one genre to another whilst remaining faithful to the art form. Let us know who you favourite changer is? Don’t forget next month sees 2019 Record Store Day. Time to buy some more music? Why not try a change?

Music First Audio February Blog


Bang slap in the middle of February comes Valentine’s Day – the day when we all go nuts for love. At Music First Audio we like to celebrate this special day not least because so much of the music we love is about the subject. Try looking for those songs which don’t feature a reference or love theme. If the song is not about love then it might be about jealousy, suspicion or dare we say heartbreak. As night follows day, heartbreak follows love in our great cannon of love songs.

But let’s put the emotion to one side for a minute and concentrate on music and why love seems to dominate music of all persuasions. Our great bard hit it on the head in his ever-popular crowd pleaser Twelfth Night with his famous phrase “If music be the food of love play on”. This play features love triangles, misadventures and romantic mistakes and can leave the audience in a complete whirl. The content reflects a night when passion, misrule and love come to the forefront. The play is often given a sound track which works so well with the love theme.

These days modern love songs are as much about lust and plan old sex rather than love in its purest sense. Nothing wrong with that but listen to a modern rap lyric about love and then listen to Rogers and Hart “My funny Valentine”. You could be forgiven in thinking they are not about the same thing and you could be right. Whether performed by Ella, Frank, Chet Baker or Miles “Funny Valentine” is just pure class. So what about songwriters who dare to break away from this universal emotion and write a song about something else. The Beatles were great exponents of the love song but supposedly at the suggestion of Paul’s aunt they wrote a song not about love. The result was Paperback Writer – a song that in a way perhaps led to their confidence to write about the taxman and a benefit for a retiring circus act. Music can be about other subjects but those subjects need to be loved by the songwriter. Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” is a political and environmental tome but even this song towards its end features her “old man” being taken away in the eponymous taxi. Did she love him or was he off his rocker? Certainly you can feel her love for her subject in the song.

Of course the theme of love is not just confined to song. Love features a lot in classical music particularly opera and ballet. Check out the incidental music to Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”. This music is not only full of love themes but is very exciting when necessary and achingly tender as well. A great alternative, on Valentine’s Day, to those who have had their fill of “silly love songs” (thanks again Sir Paul).

So if February be our “love” month let us celebrate it with plenty of the food of love ……music. We are not known as Music First for nothing. Or should that be love first audio. Whatever your music love – love it with all your passion. We do.

All the best

From all at Music First Audio