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Supratek Preamp Owner Opinions/Discussion

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9 minutes ago, THOMO said:

The wiring Nazis!

I guess some people can't handle the thought of what they perceive to be an unorthodox approach-despite the logic /rationale/experience behind it.

Same sort of narrow and mean mindedness that lies behind opponents of same sex marriage.

 

No, it's nothing like that. ANY tech or engineer that sees heavy components (plastic film caps, high power resistors, et al), floating, unsecured in a chassis will recoil in horror. Worse, in one of the ones I worked on, were the results of unsecured, hot running, 10 Watt resistors, that had caused severe damage to one of the plastic capacitors. The filament supply regulator heat sinks are fully enclosed and run very hot. None of this is acceptable.

 

It's not "unorthodox". It reeks of a builder who has never learned or understood proper construction methods. Look under the chassis of a Weston Acoustics product to see how it should be done. 

 

 

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Bilbo   
3 hours ago, Gremrock said:

Does anybody in SE QLD area have the new 6SN7 based model?

 

I don't have the new circuit but a Supratek Chenin (6SN7 based) that has been tube rolled to my taste and I'm in Brisbum. 

 

PS*  The manual I have says gain is adjustable up to 30dB and I use it at it's lowest output to match the gain of the Sanders Magtech power amp.

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THOMO   

I have had plenty of trouble with components failing and creating a big molten mess in very neatly wired valve amps.Never had any trouble with my Supratek shortest path wiring in all the years I have owned it.

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Gryffles   

I don't think the wiring looking messy is the issue. More the unsecured components, use of glue to secure large caps etc etc.

 

Bet they sound good like most suggest. I've never heard one

 

 

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6 minutes ago, THOMO said:

I have had plenty of trouble with components failing and creating a big molten mess in very neatly wired valve amps.Never had any trouble with my Supratek shortest path wiring in all the years I have owned it.

 

A sample size of one, is not representative of much. I had two in my workshop, with similar problems, both owned by two brothers. Now, they may have been really unlucky and your experience was normal. I doubt it though. I've been a tech for a very long time and I know what to expect when I see construction problems like that. And yes, I, too, have seen products develop into a big molten mess, even in well constructed POWER AMPS. I have never seen it in a properly constructed PREAMP though. 

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Steve M   

I won't go into the wiring debate again, except to say it is a small chassis 30cm x 30cm for the amount of unique circuitry that Mick Maloney has been incorporated in there. The guy has 40yrs of valve amp building behind his belt, and knows exactly what he is doing. With point-to-point wiring done his way you have the advantage of the shortest wire loom. Also, Supratek has a worldwide reputation for excellent sound with hundreds of preamps out there, and there are people with $M dollar systems using them.

 

Besides that, my ears are telling me the latest Supratek 6SN7 circuit has the potential to exceed all comers - at any price.

 

It is not fair for this topic to turn into another bash-fest. How would Earle Weston like it if we all started discussing his creations based on circuits or sound preferences good or bad? The thread is about people's experiences with the different Supratek models, isn't it?  

 

Steve.

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3 minutes ago, Steve M said:

I won't go into the wiring debate again, except to say it is a small chassis 30cm x 30cm for the amount of unique circuitry that Mick Maloney has been incorporated in there. The guy has 40yrs of valve amp building behind his belt, and knows exactly what he is doing. With point-to-point wiring done his way you have the advantage of the shortest wire loom. Also, Supratek has a worldwide reputation for excellent sound with hundreds of preamps out there, and there are people with $M dollar systems using them.

 

Besides that, my ears are telling me the latest Supratek 6SN7 circuit has the potential to exceed all comers - at any price.

 

It is not fair for this topic to turn into another bash-fest. How would Earle Weston like it if we all started discussing his creations based on circuits or sound preferences good or bad? The thread is about people's experiences with the different Supratek models, isn't it?  

 

Steve.

 

Im sorry Steve but if you think that construction is taking advantage of the shortest path possible then you're wrong......   That is by no means anywhere near what's claimed as "short path wiring".    Far from it!  

 

 It may have world wide attention but that's about as far as it goes.  I'm sorry but my experience with Supratek doesn't mirror yours.   It's tonally different but definately not ground breaking.  

 

 

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Steve M   

Not saying its extreme short signal path like 47 Labs Japan for example, just what happens inside a small 30x30cm chassis results in short wires and a random look, but is beneficial to good sound. 

Edited by Steve M

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40 minutes ago, Steve M said:

With point-to-point wiring done his way you have the advantage of the shortest wire loom.

 

This is proper point to point wiring.

 

Cheers George

6037e894b3a53eea66866b16c563c77e.jpg

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Al.M   

I've had 2 Suprateks in my system and heard several others in another persons system and all sounded fantastic, along with other points of comparison like Tram 2 tube preamp which was close to a Supratek, a bunch of older cheaper and mid end Audio Research and other brand preamps both tube, solid state, hybrids which were good but no where near Suptratek or Tram 2, and experience of $15k rrp Conrad Johnson tube preamp which was very good but not like a Supratek.

 

The problem with all of our subjective sound comparisons in such discussions is that while many of us may think a certain product is the current end point even with many years of hifi experience, to answer the OP it really is still only more or less limited comparison of all the potential products out there. What we need is more input from those who have tried dozens of comparable and compatible preamps both tube and SS at realistic price points or at very least those preamps that are within ones financial reach or that are regularly obtainable.

 

So we need reliable comparisons of say Suprateks vs $5-20k+/- Conrad Johnsons, Audio Research, Earl Westerns, China sourced preamps, Audio Space, Trams, MEs etc...whatever.

 

On the construction quality side of things it should be easily understood that where sensible improvements are highlighted then they should be taken on-board as suggestions and not critism of the sound or decision to own a product.

Edited by Al.M

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12 minutes ago, Al.M said:

 

So we need reliable comparisons of say Suprateks vs $5-20k+/- Conrad Johnsons, Audio Research, Earl Westerns, China sourced preamps, Audio Space, Trams, MEs etc...whatever.

 

Emphatically agreed.

 

 

12 minutes ago, Al.M said:

On the construction quality side of things it should be easily understood that where sensible improvements are highlighted then they should easily be taken on-board as suggestions and not critism of the sound or decision to own a product.

 

Precisely. If Supratek built really nicely crafted products, I would be the first one to sing it's praises. Poor build quality can sink a product. 

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Steve M   
7 hours ago, Al.M said:

I've had 2 Suprateks in my system and heard several others in another persons system and all sounded fantastic, along with other points of comparison like Tram 2 tube preamp which was close to a Supratek, a bunch of older cheaper and mid end Audio Research and other brand preamps both tube, solid state, hybrids which were good but know where near Suptratek or Tram 2, and experience of $15k rrp Conrad Johnson tube preamp which was very good but not like a Supratek.

 

The problem with all of our subjective sound comparisons in such discussions is that while many of us may think a certain product is the current end point even with many years of hifi experience, to answer the OP it really is still only more or less limited comparison of all the potential products out there. What we need is more input from those who have tried dozens of comparable and compatible preamps both tube and SS at realistic price points or at very least those preamps that are within ones financial reach or that are regularly obtainable.

 

So we need reliable comparisons of say Suprateks vs $5-20k+/- Conrad Johnsons, Audio Research, Earl Westerns, China sourced preamps, Audio Space, Trams, MEs etc...whatever.

 

On the construction quality side of things it should be easily understood that where sensible improvements are highlighted then they should easily be taken on-board as suggestions and not critism of the sound or decision to own a product.

 

This is a balanced viewpoint with no barrows to push, well said. :thumb:

 

In the league of special sounding preamps that take a jump from the norm that Al M is discussing, the Supratek and Tram2 stand out as something VERY special. I have heard some other preamps up to the $40K mark and I am sure they are excellent in their own right, and while I have not heard them in my system, I get the impression they do not take huge leaps ahead of the Supratek or Tram2.

 

I would strongly contend that out of all of our audiophile components (besides your loudspeaker of choice, which has the greatest effect), the preamp has the most influence on our systems - so choose one carefully. I put my faith in Supratek ...like the Tram2 preamp it takes the leap to another level of goodness.

 

Steve.

Edited by Steve M

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Al.M   

Here's a whole bunch of past discussion links below both here on SNA and overseas. As always among different products there are various opinions and usually one has to go with whether history is behind that product or not and that is the case with Supratek. Don't forget Supratek is a one man preamp boutique, not a major manufacturer like Auido Research etc.

 

http://www.canuckaudiomart.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2450 very good review comparisons against top end Audio Research preamps at the time in 2006

 

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/supratek-vs-thor

similar reviews in 2004.

 

SNAer below in 2014 exhaustively searches for $15k preamps considering Supratek among many contenders and this is a good summary of alternatives.

 

Edited by Al.M

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@ $20k, look at the AVM ovation pa8. It does volume control with a BB PGA chip.  None of this BS coloration and degradation you get from a typical volume pot. Digitally spot on to within 0.5db throughout the range and consistent SQ  quality for life of that product!

 

That's if I had $20k lazily lying around in my pocket that's not doing anything....which I don't and never will!  And want glowing warm bottles :unsure:

 

Want Aussie build, somewhere in that thread Electra was mentioned, at less than 1/3 or 1/4 Of the AVM.

 

Want something highly colored thats easy on the ear,  check out a Manley, price competitively with the Electra.

 

The AVM Ovation pa8 will leave the other 2 behind, in a league of its own, aaaand forget the Supertech if you want bottle,  Tonally all wrong IMO especially if you had the AVM in the mix!   The Manley and the Electra are just different flavour, just like some SS pre that found its way into this mix!  

 

Thats my experience,  and I don't own any of these or "push barrels" 

 

 

Edited by Addicted to music

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THOMO   

Sometimes there is no pleasing the traditionalists.Yes Supratek takes an unorthodox approach to  wiring but I have spoken to Mick Maloney about this and it is a deliberate approach because 40 years of experience taught him that doing it this way sounds best.

What do you do when your prototypes done this way sound better than something with nice neat wiring layout?And with Supratek it is first and foremost about the sound.If it wasn't he would have been churning out circuit board based products years ago.

 

It reminds me of the furniture designer /maker James Krenov who insisted on doing things a bit differently and who copped a lot of flack from traditionalists for doing so.Things like using solid timber doors rather than frame and panel or veneer board-something that was considered structurally incorrect.Anyway he ignored the critics and went on to become the most  famous and influential furniture designer/maker in the last 50 years and his book The Impractical Cabinetmaker has been hugely influential on a whole generation of furniture makers.

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12 minutes ago, THOMO said:

Sometimes there is no pleasing the traditionalists.Yes Supratek takes an unorthodox approach to  wiring but I have spoken to Mick Maloney about this and it is a deliberate approach because 40 years of experience taught him that doing it this way sounds best.

 

No. It is straight-up laziness to fail to secure heavy and hot components properly. It has nothing to do with sound quality. 

 

12 minutes ago, THOMO said:

What do you do when your prototypes done this way sound better than something with nice neat wiring layout?

 

I accept that a neater layout MIGHT affect the sound. Maybe. However, there is no excuse for failing to secure heavy and/or hot components from damaging themselves and the parts nearby. Properly securing 10 Watt resistors in one of the preamps I repaired would have prevented damage to expensive capacitors nearby and would not affect the sound. 

 

12 minutes ago, THOMO said:

 

And with Supratek it is first and foremost about the sound.If it wasn't he would have been churning out circuit board based products years ago.

 

If a designer doesn't wish to use a PCB, then he/she can still construct a decent, reliable product, using point to point wiring. Earle Weston does it like that, as do many other designers.

 

12 minutes ago, THOMO said:

 

It reminds me of the furniture designer /maker James Krenov who insisted on doing things a bit differently and who copped a lot of flack from traditionalists for doing so.Things like using solid timber doors rather than frame and panel or veneer board-something that was considered structurally incorrect.Anyway he ignored the critics and went on to become the most  famous and influential furniture designer/maker in the last 50 years and his book The Impractical Cabinetmaker has been hugely influential on a whole generation of furniture makers.

 

My limited knowledge of Krenov is that he was almost instantly highly regarded by most in the industry. 

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Steve M   

In my current Supratek preamp said 10w resistor is sensibly hanging in air to keep it cool and with half inch of stiff lead out wire each side, it has zero chance of compressing or making contact with other components. Like I said the guy knows what he is doing, the trouble is some of them have been fiddled with by amateurs over time who press wires or move components around causing the problem. I have owned up to a dozen Supratek preamps over a span of 25yrs - no failures were experienced other than the odd valve rush noises due to gain mismatches, biasing issues or valves on their way out. One Syrah unit I sold to a guy in Fremantle 16 yrs ago is still going strong and has NEVER been repaired. The guy is a guitarist musician and he feels nothing else he has tried sounds as real to him on strings and vocals.

 

There are probably 600-800+ Supratek preamps out there in the Worldwide market place and most people are happy with theirs - resale value of s/h units seems to be around 70% of new price, so that tells you something very positive about Supratek.

 

*Anyway, can we get back to the sound of the different Supratek preamps and variety of tubes used which is what the OP is seeking ...

 

Steve.

 

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Steve M   

As I am probably second to none in terms of experience with these units and to assist Gremrock about the sound of the various Supratek circuits and the valve varieties used, my mini review of them is as follows:

 

1. Original Syrah circuit with 6SN7 (commencing circa 1998), wonderful sweet valvey sound that marked Supratek as something special in the USA market. Word of mouth firstly in New York and then elsewhere in the USA via the huge 'Preamp Deal of the Century' thread on Audiogon, resulted in many (hundreds) of happy audiophile campers. These early and later versions had complicated servo circuits that were adjusted/biased via some small blue trim pots, sounded excellent but the pots tended to fail or drift. Mick removed them in later circuits. The Syrah and Cortese phono version at the time were excellent if a little bass lite compared to later models, they had the valve magic in spades though.

 

The basic Syrah linestage preamp was renamed as the Chenin and Sauvignon in later iterations, with better bass and attendant improvements as circuits changed. All incremental though as the old ones still sound great.

 

2. The top of the line 300B Grange ($9K USD) came along a few years later ...similar circuit to above but much more evolved power supplies, valve regulation everywhere, cost no object approach and closer attention to phase alignment etc. I had Mick's personal unit in piano gloss jarrah and 24 carat gold plating - looked magnificent. He stopped doing gold plate as the price of gold skyrocketted from $400 an ounce to $1,200 (we should have all bought more gold in those days!). He told me recently it would cost a few thousand dollars to gold plate a Grange these days. Anyway, my then Grange could be swapped between 300B; PX4 or 45 DHT tubes for a different sound ...I sat with TJ 300B meshplates in them for several years and was as happy as a pig. Only changed to a later circuit on his insistence it was better, and it was, but only marginally so. I like the 300B sound a lot and in the Grange circuit it had both pristine clarity and 300B valve goodness.

 

3. I then owned a black Dual Cabernet with TJ or Shuguang 101D dht tubes. Sounded clear, precise and had a nice hear-through character, but I felt it was a bit lean and missing the soul of the 300B Grange. Here's a review from 6Moons.com and it tries to nail the sound of the DualCab 101D, and does so quite well - while Srjan's writing is somewhat eclectic/cryptic, I quite like the style of his prose ...

http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/supratek3/dualcabernet.html

 

4. After that, I owned a Cortese with 4P1L valve and at the same time around 2015, I had Mick build me a Dual Cabernet with the rare exotic 71A valve. Mick's approach in later years was to design circuits that were accurate, ones that measured well and gave those perfect square waves on his oscilloscope. His feeling at the time was that the 4P1L had the best attributes of accuracy aligned with a DHT sound. The concurrent 71A design at the time had the same attribute of the clean sounding 4P1L, but perhaps had more of a 300B quality. I liked them all to be honest, none of them are flawed and were sometimes just different.  

 

5. Now on to the current latest and best (2017) Supratek Cortese 6SN7 preamp. As I mentioned in my first post, I think that this is Mick Maloney's best creation both on a technical level (accuracy) and in terms of delivering the niceness that we expect from valves. To me it lacks nothing and has a scintillating quality with beautiful crystal clear detail, thumping good tight extended bass, a very open midrange, excellent tone and fantastic separation of the instruments and vocals within a wide and deep soundstage. I think that he has really sorted out 'correct phase' with this circuit, every part of the sonic spectrum seems separated and there seems to be no fuzziness around the voices and instruments being played. Btw, I am using a 6SN7 substitute with the current Cortese preamp, it is a 1930s NOS Kenrad VT-99 (6F8G) with a top-cap and used with an adapter base ...sounds really nice.

 

 

Steve.

 

 

Img0289.JPG

Supratek Grange Preamplifier in 24K Gold.jpg

 

Supratek Grange 300B DHT preamplifier ...exotic design with a Russian 6H8C/6SN7 + a 12BH7 driving the big 300B output valves. Total overkill and you will never see this in any other preamp on the planet. All the small tubes at the front are for the on-board MC phono - no step up transformer required here, full gain valve moving coil stage.

Edited by Steve M

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bzr   

That right there! :love:loveMan thats preamp porn if I ever saw it

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statman   

I try to avoid forums these days,  I dont have enough hours in the day as it is,  but one of my customers pointed out to me that the old "build quality" issue had been brought up again by the same old crew. 

I cant be bothered replying in detail, but let me say that this year i've had a couple of twenty year old + preamps come back for service.  They always need new tubes,  and maybe I'll replace a few electros if necessary, but it rarely takes more than a few hours to bring them back to as new condition. Yes the wiring looks confusing to most, but its actually pretty easy to follow if you have good tube design knowledge. Certainly a lot easier than trying to decipher a circuit board.  There are around 500 preamps around the world and they are all still functioning perfectly. Despite the "build quality" .

And I mostly do these services free of charge, because I know they will be easy. Exceptions are preamps modified by "gurus" , they usually sound horrible and are full of rubbish components that "sound better" .

Nearly 30 years of building preamps now, I must be doing something right, although some like to disagree. 

Now I've got to go and listen to a preamp I've just finished for a music lover, will leave the last word to the armchair critics. 

 

Mick Maloney- Supratek.

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11 minutes ago, statman said:

I try to avoid forums these days,  I dont have enough hours in the day as it is,  but one of my customers pointed out to me that the old "build quality" issue had been brought up again by the same old crew. 

I cant be bothered replying in detail, but let me say that this year i've had a couple of twenty year old + preamps come back for service.  They always need new tubes,  and maybe I'll replace a few electros if necessary, but it rarely takes more than a few hours to bring them back to as new condition. Yes the wiring looks confusing to most, but its actually pretty easy to follow if you have good tube design knowledge. Certainly a lot easier than trying to decipher a circuit board.  There are around 500 preamps around the world and they are all still functioning perfectly. Despite the "build quality" .

And I mostly do these services free of charge, because I know they will be easy. Exceptions are preamps modified by "gurus" , they usually sound horrible and are full of rubbish components that "sound better" .

Nearly 30 years of building preamps now, I must be doing something right, although some like to disagree. 

Now I've got to go and listen to a preamp I've just finished for a music lover, will leave the last word to the armchair critics. 

 

Mick Maloney- Supratek.

 

 

Nicely said Mick.

same reason I don't waste much time on Forums.

You now how the saying goes "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.

 

 

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