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The Cornet3 is a 3rd generation tube phono preamp for vinyl playback.
122 backers pledged $45,727 to help bring this project to life.

About

Cornet3: A DIY Tube Phono Preamp project video thumbnail
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$45,727

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What is it? Who needs it?

The Cornet3 is a radical evolution of the highly acclaimed circuit I  developed and introduced about a dozen years ago. If you are seeking top-notch electronics to bring out the best in your turntable and vinyl collection, look no further. For those of you with moving coil cartridges, I am including the Piccolo2, a re-designed active head-amp with up to 26dB gain, built into a matching enclosure. The combination of these two units delivers absolutely fantastic performance. Of course, you can pledge for the Piccolo2 all by itself.

Piccolo2
Piccolo2

Who am I?

Hi, I'm Jim Hagerman. Last year I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for the Bugle2 (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1907446723/bugle2-a-diy-phono-preamp), a budget solid-state phono preamp. It received an overwhelmingly positive response and sales are still on the rise. And here I am doing it again! I've been designing audio (and other electronic) circuits for 31 years now. Check out my websites (www.hagtech.com, www.haglabs.com) for more information. 

Breakthrough?

How did I get the cost so low? By thinking outside the box, I was able to eliminate the two most expensive components in a tube preamp - the power transformer and metal chassis. The critical high voltage supply is now created using a boost converter running at 44kHz.  And this is not a cut-rate design where tubes are starved by running them at low voltage.  No, the Cornet3 B+ supply feeds the tubes properly with a +200V rail, the way they are meant to be operated.  The result is a robust, powerful, wide-band, low distortion sound with superb bass.  The other benefit of such a compact design is that it could fit into a small plastic enclosure.  Basically, these two tricks cut the cost in half without any loss of sonic performance. 

Why vacuum tubes?

Most solid-state devices used for amplification are highly non-linear. The fix for this is negative feedback. It works just fine. However, if you want to push the envelope and do even better, you need to find amplification devices that are more linear. At this point in history (iPhones and iPads), the best available device is still the vacuum tube triode. Yes, they are troublesome to work with, requiring high voltages and heater supplies, but the extra effort is worth it. They provide the cleanest, most open, transparent, and musically enjoyable sound possible. For a state-of-the-art example, see my Trumpet Reference (www.haglabs.com/reference.html). 

Why Kickstarter?

I intend to use the same style translucent plastic case as I did with the Bugle2. This is not a standard option, so I need to order 1000 pieces minimum. The idea is that Kickstarter will get me enough pledges to justify this $15,000 investment. A simple financial analysis shows I must sell 47 of each kit to break even, or a total of $23,500. But I'm going to take half the risk here (it shouldn't all be on your shoulders) and am setting the bar at $11,750. 

Cost?

I realize these items are not cheap, relative to most Kickstarter gadgets. However, you would have to spend well over $2000 to get the equivalent performance from anyone else in the industry. That makes the Cornet3 and Piccolo2 incredible bargains. 

Cornet3 (phono) Features?

  • 43dB gain (perfect for MM carts)
  • 47k input impedance
  • 1k output impedance
  • 10Hz - 600kHz bandwidth
  • +/-1dB equalization accuracy
  • -67dB noise floor (ref 5mV)
  • <0.05% distortion
  • 9VDC universal power supply

Piccolo2 (step-up) Features?

  • 0dB, 13dB, 21dB, 26dB gain (adjustable)
  • 1k, 470, 220, 100, 47 ohm input impedance (adjustable)
  • 300 ohm output impedance
  • 6Hz - 800kHz bandwidth
  • 24VDC universal power supply

Recommendations?

My DIY kits are not for beginners! You should be skilled at soldering with several previous kits under your belt before attempting one of these. The Cornet3 employs a high voltage power supply, which could provide a shocking surprise for a novice. If you are at all in doubt, please order the assembled version. On the other hand, if you are an advanced DIYer, you could attempt installing the circuit boards into a chassis of your own choice (i.e. wood).

Production?

Once the project has successfully completed, I will order the custom enclosures, boards, and enough parts to deliver all rewards.  Enclosures take 4-6 weeks and are the long-lead items.  All units will be assembled and tested at my factory in Hawaii.  Kits will be done first and I ship in the order given by Kickstarter.  All items are shipped via USPS. 

Customer Comments on the Bugle2?

  • It's a GREAT product and slays the much more expensive Sutherland easily!
  • Just started to use it yesterday. You promised me it will sound 10X better than my NAD 2 phonostage. Well, you were all wrong! It is 100X better. WOW!
  • This was the first electronics kit I have ever built. There were absolutely no problems. Now I'm hooked!
  • Just to let you know I received the Bugle2 yesterday. Plugged it in, played it and compared against my Project Phono Box. The Bugle2 was much more musical, clear, transparent with a much wider dynamic range. The music sounded so much more melodious and sweet. Thank you for building such a wonderful product!
  • Just received it today and all I can say is WOW!!! Bypassing my Onkyo AVR and using the Bugle2 essentially transforms my 30 year old basic Technics turntable into a wonderful sounding system.  Now I got the vinyl bug.

Risks and challenges

There are very few risks involved with this project. I already have both machines fully designed, built, and tested. Development is complete, it is only a matter of production now. And this is not the first time I have delivered a high performance device on Kickstarter. My Bugle2 project went almost flawlessly, with all rewards delivered in a timely manner.

Of course, there are always the unforeseen issues that pop up. The Cornet3 is a bit of a global design, with parts from the USA, Japan, China, Russia, etc. Given the flux of international politics these days, you never know what sanctions may be enacted that impact business. For example, my preferred vendor for vacuum tubes is the Reflektor factory in Russia. If things go bad, I switch to EI (Yugoslavia). Same goes for the other parts. Only the enclosure is single-sourced. They delivered great service last time, I expect the same again. If there is a problem, I will find a solution.

The biggest concern for me is if the number of backers is much higher than expected. This will unfortunately lead to production delays. Not in parts procurement, but in assembly, kitting, and test. The more backers, the longer it will take to deliver all of the rewards. At this point, the factory production capacity is about 100 units per month. Some backers will have to wait longer than others and I may not hit my expected delivery targets.

Here's how it is going to play out if funding is successful: It takes up to 2 weeks to transfer the money through Amazon. At that point I have access to the funds and can start ordering parts. Enclosures are first, as they have the longest lead time. Then I order circuit boards. Finally, I order the rest of the parts, but I will not delay. If there are any shortages, it is nice to have the extra time to find alternate vendors or alternate parts. In the meantime, I will put together the product manuals and assembly documentation. Everything will come together about 6 to 8 weeks after funding date. At that point I will put make all of the kits and get them shipped out. Then I can focus on the assembled versions, which take longer. I do not just build and ship. I measure all of the tubes on my VacuTrace and perform electrical and listening tests on final products to insure quality. When you get the reward, it is ready to plug and play.

All rewards ship via USPS, either 1st class airmail or priority (depending on weight). I use padded envelopes to prevent any damage. It worked before and it will work again.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Sticker with my company logo and a big mahalo!

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    Piccolo2 MC Preamp DIY Kit - all the parts you need to build it yourself.

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    5 backers
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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Piccolo2 MC Preamp Assembled - tested and ready to go.

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    7 backers
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    Cornet3 MM Phono DIY Kit - all the parts you need to build it yourself.

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    41 backers
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    Pledge $400 or more About $400

    Cornet3 MM Phono Assembled - tested and ready to go.

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    35 backers
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Piccolo2 + Cornet3 Combo DIY Kit - all the parts you need to build both.

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    13 backers
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    Pledge $650 or more About $650

    Piccolo2 + Cornet3 Combo Assembled - tested and ready to go.

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    15 backers
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Funding period

- (30 days)