The AT8000 MM/MC Phono amplifier is still alive - and now kicking ass!

We received a nice email this week from a happy person, who said:

Hello Astin Trew,

Just wanted to say what a lovely phono amp this [AT8000] is, by far the best I've ever had (and that includes the Naim Superline at £2,000 without power supply) it's enabled me to play and enjoy less than perfect albums, with its warm but detailed sound. Have you stopped making this? I got mine second hand.

best regards, D.R.

Well, D.R. is half right with his question regarding availability of the original AT8000, we have indeed stopped making it to the same specification he has bought second hand; that's because we are making it better! The AT8000 has undergone a spring clean, and the main improvements in performance are due to the use of upgraded audiophile components along with several other performance enhancing modifications. We think its price/performance ratio is pretty unbeatable for musicality, and if marketed in a bigger box, one would be comparing it with phono-stages up to two or three times its price. Instead, we have kept the original compact slim box form to save you space - and your hard earned cash.

If you want to hear a phono-stage that will keep a smile on your face for hours on end, do go and take a listen to the AT8000 at one of our Dealers, or perhaps ask for a 14 day at home trial from the likes of www.soundfidelity.co.uk.


Steve reviews his AT8000 phono amp.

We don't get 'reviews' sent in from Astin Trew customers - well that's to say we didn't till Steve sent in this one!

' My search for the best performing phono stage for under £1000 has resulted in me trying units from Musical Fidelity, Tom Evans and Highphonic. Disappointingly none of them gave me the presentation I was looking for particularly in the bass.

I was attracted to the HiFi World 5 star review which described the Astin Trew AT8000 as one of the best phono stages under £1000 with nothing to criticise at the price. It also has symmetrical balanced outputs which is unusual at this price level.
The standard of finish is very high and much better than some of the others I tried. Yes the transformer is inside the same case. This does offer the benefit of when the electronics ask for more power its immediately on tap. Therefore there is no further transformer box to accommodate. The delicate electronic stages are inside a Faraday cage to help protect the delicate analogue signal. The analogue output signal is very quiet so you won’t experience the noise of some valve stages.

How does it sound? In one word, ‘musical’. I am listening to it now as I write this. Pace and rhythm are spot on to give you that boogie factor. The soundstage is very wide with what I would describe as walk in sound staging. There is also low listening fatigue so you can listen for hours and suffer from that just one more record syndrome. The range of output and loading options is great to the best from your analogue front end. I settled on medium gain and 100 Ohm loading for my Lyra Delos.

Astin Trew did suggest I try the balanced outputs because they do sound different. I do prefer the balanced output which gives a more powerful presentation with better bass performance. This stage also responds well to better cabling and I settled on a home made solid core silver mains cable and Nordost Tyr XLR as my interconnect.
I would summarise the AT8000 as a product that doesn’t attract attention to itself. It does things in a manner that doesn’t attract attention to itself so you can get on with enjoying the music. If you want to improve on its performance you can, but it’s going to cost you a lot more money.' Steve Paines UK

Thank you Steve, for taking the considerable time and trouble to write that - we are so impressed, its going into the 'Reviews' section of our web site as well - together with the photographs Steve has taken of the AT8000 in action! (email available if anyone wishes to validate authenticity).


January and the Hi-Fi shows start in a month!

Christmas and New Year have come and gone, 2011 beckons with green economic shoots and here at Astin Trew we are busy designing new and exciting products for you - the first of which (new range called 'concord') will be on show at the Bristol Show in February this year.

As Manufacturers, we do not get a lot of customer praise or feedback, its so nice when we do, to know that our products are bringing joy and musical satisfaction into peoples lives. We recently got this unsolicited email:

Dear Sir,
You may remember me contacting you about the AT3500 CD player last Friday 14 January 2011. I have enclosed below a brief appraisal of how I came to buy the CD player and my impressions. Please feel free to use all or part of it as you see fit.

I have had the Hi Fi bug in a small way for over 25 years. Nothing special, simply due to funds being tight, but I had over the years, built up what I considered to be a pretty good bargain system - Cambridge 840A amp Cambridge 740C CD player, PMC GB1 speakers, and an InspireTurntable. All connected with Chord Company interconnects.

I thought it might be time to start another upgrade and started to look at what was available. I came across the name Astin Trew and remembered seeing it some time ago. I liked the sound of the name so I did a bit of investigating and found out that they seem to have something of a penchant for marrying valves and solid state together. Anyway, I looked at the reviews and in the end plumped for the AT3500 CD player. No audition you might say? Well, I’ve spent many an hour in the past auditioning kit in the shop only to get it home to find it doesn’t sound the same, but no worries. I found I had the option of returning it if I didn’t like it. What could be better? What had I to lose? So, it duly arrived and I hooked it up, loaded up a CD and sat down.

It blew my socks off. I thought I had a somewhat decent sound before, but this was something else. Open and detailed, yet also powerful or subtle when the music demanded, but it also had soul. I was hearing things I had never heard before, in a way I had never heard before. I’ll agree that the sound is a little forward, that suits me fine, but it was never tiring. From classical to big band and jazz, to pop and rock, it was the same. I think one reviewer decribed the sound as musical. I think that’s the best description I can give as well. I’ll add "involving" to that though, as I virtually listened to my CD collection non-stop for 2 days. In fact it’s like having a new CD library.

Now, the upsampling facility. Does it make a difference? Yes it does, but with varying results. Some tracks on a CD sound better with it on, others better with it off. One thing is for certain. It’s nice to have the option. Did I make the right purchase? Yes I did. It’s head and shoulders above the Cambridge 740C so I think it was money well spent. My next task is to replace the Cambridge 840A amplifier but that will have to wait a while.

Yours Faithfully, Mark Jurkiewicz

Well thank you Mark, another satisfied customer. And he can factory upgrade his AT3500 to the PLUS version if he wants to, at some future date!

Yes, our first venture as an exhibitor, to the Great Bristol Show; and we'll be showing two systems, together with ClairAudient loudspeakers from Audience, Acoustic Signature Turntables and Vovox signal and power cables. We are going for 'best sound in show', why not visit our room (312) and see whay you think - PRIZE DRAW - yes, we are giving away a £500.00p voucher to one lucky winner, to spend on any of the brands represented in our room! Now that must surely be the best reason to visit out room. See you there!


Winter weather and the AT8000

Belated Happy New Year to all our Astin Trew blog readers. With all the snow and foul weather in January, we hunkered down and just got through it! Apologies to anyone who did not receive their Astin Trew product during the 'snow time', the likes of UPS could not collect or deliver to our premises for a 10 day period during the worst of the weather.

One knock on effect has been the delay of the launch of our new AT8000 mm/mc phono amplifier. This is now nearing completion, with numerous small improvements made since the first prototypes were shown in October last year. It is now a more musical phono stage, and competes at its £880 UK recommended retail price with competition selling up to £2,500. We are very pleased with its performance, particularly through the XLR balanced outputs, where we have lost the 'clinical' sound, so many balanced outputs have. The AT8000 should be with our dealers in March. Look out for reviews in the magazines, if this 'floats your boat' - better still, borrow a sample from your dealer on sale or return and try it in your system!


It is show time and what a time we had.

All around Europe, our Distributors are showing off, demonstrating the Astin Trew products. As you can see from the above, David Price of Hi-Fi World magazine thought our room at the UK show 'rather fine' and I was almost embarrassed at the number of people returning for a second or third listen, who said our room was one of the best sounding at the show, regardless of system cost. Yes, I used good loudspeakers, from both Dutch Speaker Systems (DSS) and Revolver, and excellent cables from Vovox (Swiss made), but no room treatments, so I would say the natural flowing Astin Trew sound took center stage.

Two weeks later I was at the VAD Hi-Fi show in Eindhoven, Holland, this time supporting my Distributor Music2, who was demonstrating the Astin Trew products alongside some very high end products, including turntables. It it is so gratifying to hear that the AT3500plus CD player sounding so similar to analogue LP in its flow and inner detail, but with a more solid base. Of course I know this from all our work on the development of this player, but hearing the results in a different country, in front of an appreciative Dutch audience, was worth every penny of the flight cost and 'working weekend'!! Thanks Marco and your team at Music2 for the invite and hospitality.

Other shows I have not been able to get to this month have been in Switzerland, Poland and Greece. Maybe next year?

HOT NEWS. We are launching the AT8000 phono stage amplifier in November, to match the AT1000 pre-amplifier and AT2000 integrated amplifier. Watch this space and our web site for updates.


We were hit by the 'dreaded' swine flu in the Astin Trew office over the last few weeks. Back to full strength now I am glad to say - with back-orders fulfilled and on-going developments back in full swing.

We have asked our dealers if they would like to report on any interesting Astin Trew related stories that might be of wider interest, and I thank Ralph at Artisan Audio for kicking this occasional series off for us:

"As an analogue specialist, I’m not sure how qualified I am to blog about the new AT3500 plus in comparison to the AT3500. My start position is that all CD players are at a disadvantage relative to vinyl replay. My focus when choosing CD players has always been to identify where the law of diminishing returns kicks in, and to my ears that has, in recent years, been the AT3500.

For fun, a few months back I ran the digital output from an AT3000 into a Benchmark DAC-1. This is a product that John Atkinson raved about in Stereophile and is still used by that title as a reference. Comparing the output from the AT3000 with the output from the Benchmark I was unable to discern any significant difference between the two. That’s how good the entry level Astin Trew machine’s DAC is.

Fascinated to explore what benefits the plus offers, I set up both machines on my rack, using identical interconnects (Discovery Essence) and mains cables. Amplification was the high resolution Quicksilver Full Preamp and Triode power amps through the revealing Klipsch Jubilee speakers.

I have two copies of a number of CD titles, so was able to set identical albums running in synch and switch between the two machines at will. An element of blind testing was introduced by having an assistant switch between the two sources. I also enlisted three passing visitors to participate in the trial.

First music choice was GRP’s Sounds of ’93. Initial impressions, on mostly instrumental cuts, were that the two machines sounded very close tonally. Over several tracks, listeners consistently preferred the plus, describing the replay as “sounding bigger.”

Next, Ian Shaw’s “Famous Rainy Day” CD – beautifully recorded to analogue tape using valve microphones with very spacious, acoustic guitar arrangements and subtle percussion. Again the perception was that the two machines had similar tonal presentation. The bass sounded “tighter” on the plus, there was slightly more sparkle on the cymbals and a sense that each part was more easily followed.

Finally, playing System X’s “Beat the System,” there was an appreciation that the leading edges of notes – particularly slap bass, drums and latin percussion, had a faster rise time and greater dynamic impact via the plus.

In a subsequent customer evaluation, the reaction was similar. Initial impressions were that the two machines sounded similar, however after ten minutes of relaxed listening there was a consistent preference for the plus. Probably due to its better handling of the high frequencies that provide subtle nuances and cues about location of instruments which the brain processes sub-consciously. Somehow it just feels more natural.

In our previous A/B comparisons, the standard AT3500 trounced a heavily-promoted CD player of European origin and in a recent home demonstration we did, matched a very pricey high-end Japanese transport and DAC, whilst delivering more tuneful bass.

The plus goes one step further and now carries our highest recommendation. We believe that the plus will hold its own in A/B comparisons against all but the most expensive players."

Ralph Bagge
Artisan Audio

More next month, happy listening

Michael Osborn.


More feedback on tube rolling and 'plus' upgrades.

Firstly, here is an email from one of our customers who has been busy 'tube rolling', that might be of interest to Astin Trew CD player owners.....

Hi. I had a conversation with a member of your staff earlier this week about buying a black AT1000 to match my AT3500 CD player.

During the conversation we got into the subject of 'tube rolling" in the AT3500. I mentioned I think that a friend was going to lend me a NOS Mullard gold pin E88CC to try in the AT, which had a factory fitted Philips JAN tube when it was supplied. I may be wrong, but I think I agreed to let you know how it worked out.

In short, I'm quite impressed with the Mullard. It is I think different to the 6922 - less 'glassy' on some not so well mastered CD's, quite 'bassy' - its as if I had a subwoofer - which I don't. That is not to say that the bass is all loose and uncontrolled. It isn't. It is also interesting that the sound produced using the upsampling button is very different with the Mullard. with the Philips tube the upsampled sound was quite 'ethereal'. I didn't like it at all, and never used it. With the Mullard, using upsampling changes the sound stage, but it doesn't lose body.

I'm running the AT into a Quad 24 Pre, Quad II/40 power amps and a pair of Martin Logan speakers.

Anyway, I'd recommend that if people want to try different tubes in the AT that they put a Mullard on their list. They may or may not like the sound, but at least they will get their money back if they decide to sell the thing on, as they are pretty hard to get hold of.

One final thing. The Mullard I'm listening to tested out at the lower end of the normal range for anode current, so it is probably past its best. I would like to hear a good one.

Anyway. Back to more listening. I'm glad I bought the AT. I had (well I still have) a Linn Ikemi, and TBH I much prefer the AT.

Cheers, Iain Lockerbie
PS you did say that there were some upgrades in the pipeline for the AT3500. Please let me know when they will be available.

We can now confirm that yes, there is a new AT3500plus product available, and it will be reviewed in the May issue of Hi-Fi World magazine; and here is some background and a description of the two new updates for the AT2000 amplifier and AT3500 CD player, now available:


Both the AT2000 and AT3500 represent good value designs in their standard forms, offering a high level of musical satisfaction. Since the AT3500 CD player was launched, we have known and have been suggesting that there are NOS (new old stock) valves available, such as the Philips JAN 6922 that offer a significant improvement to the ‘standard’ Electro-Harmonix valve supplied.

During the last year, we have also been experimenting with a considerable number of other component upgrades, as part of our continuing development programme for future product.

It became clear to us that some of the more obvious ‘improvements’, whilst perhaps offering some small additional insight into the music, were not very good value for money – and these included exchanging power supply capacitors with acknowledged ‘better’ audio types and changing the filter I.C.’s on the DAC with higher cost audiophile components. Put together, they do offer an improvement, but double the price of the machine.

It was the ‘smaller’ changes we made that really offered a considerable difference, and at a reasonable cost. We therefore decided that whilst we were not going to become rich offering these ‘good value’ upgrades, they offer such a good value relative to the standard product price, that this would be a popular option for many customers.

These we call the plus versions, and they come with a certificate showing that they are an Astin Trew authorized upgrade. The plus modifications are offered on new machines or as an upgrade path for both the AT2000 and AT3500 after purchase.


We replace a number of the critical capacitors in the signal path with Auri-Cap polypropylene types, as already used in the standard AT3500. All line level signal cable is replaced (and hard wired) between input and PCB’s with super pure single crystal cable. Valve dampers are fitted.


All line level signal cable is replaced (and hard wired) between input and PCB’s with super pure single crystal cable. Eleven critical I.C.’s on the DAC board are damped with custom heat sinks, bonded into place with thermally conductive adhesive. Philips JAN 6922 valve is fitted.


Both products sound significantly improved in many, if not all areas of musical reproduction. These are some of the comments we have had fed back to us from dealers and reviewers:

* there is a deeper ‘blackness’ to the background

* bass is tighter and goes much lower

* instruments are much better placed within the sound stage

* there is more 'in-focus' detail

* there is better ‘timing’ of the music

* the overall musicality of the products is not changed.

Michael Osborn,, Dir. April 2009

Both plus modifications add just over a couple of hundred pounds to the product price, but do offer a substantial improvement and make a super upgrade to the standard products, if you want the very best musical enjoyment from these two products.