It is always such a joy to find items in the high-price world of audio that are not so high-priced and still get you so much of what one can expect when handing out serious coin. Case in point: the Axiom II Passive Preamp Fully balanced/XLR version from Luminous Audio...
What you get here though is pure, unadulterated, sonic bliss. The kind of sonic excellence that allowed me to intensely enjoy anything I cared to listen to. Yes, it checks all the audiophile boxes in terms of sonic performance buzzwords but it gave me more than that. It allowed me to feel.
From the mind of Michael Bettinger and the manufacturing brilliance of Tim Stinson, the Axiom III possessed “extreme detail along with its phenomenal low-level resolution and effortless display of dynamic contrasts.” It’s streamlined and built for speed–no phono stages, DAC, balanced inputs or fancy casework–so the Luminous Axiom III is all about “sonic bliss.” A Reviewers Choice winner.
The Arion Mk.II is identical to the original version of this phono preamp (reviewed by MF for AnalogPlanet.com) except that it eliminates the MM input and features higher-voltage–rated dual-toroidal transformers and an upgraded MC input stage. MF echoed the manufacturer's claims, writing that the Arion exhibited "a sense of purity and low-level detail resolution that [was] highly dynamic and musically involving."