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Gijo1977

Preamplifier Questions

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Hi all,

 

I have been on a bit of a mission lately to learn about the benefits/disadvantages of separates over integrated amplification, and my current integrated has probably been good enough to show me the next level..... particularly as it can provide pre amp duties while I trial various amp options. Currently the Graham Slee Proprius Mono's are bringing another 20% to the sounds, particularly in staging the music better front to back,( I think this is a function of the A/B amplification and the better presentation of Mids and base)

 

So I am trying to understand the pro/con for Tubes and solid-state options, pre-loved vs new etc.... and my research has really brought me to considering/reviewing a few different options as reference points. I have listed (in no particular order) the pre amps I have been using as reference points for research, particularly as I think they will be in my price bracket for this project.

 

The list:

Schiit Freya

ME14/15 (24/25)

Musical Fidelity (A5 Pre or KW Pre)

New Supratek Model TBA ~$2k - This is particularly interesting and I am not sure if anyone here has any more detail about this new model???

 

I am also interested to know what other options are out there for me to consider? Anyway I am sure there will be a bit of new knowledge coming my way :)

 

Dan

 

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If I was in your shoes the Schitt would be on my priority.  It ticks the box for me on volume control and you can run the FET  or the valve buffer.  

Ticks also the box of XLR input/output...... sold!    5yr warranty!  Can't go wrong.

 

You need to spend significantly more.  The other was an Electra HD Preamp, valve and is build right here in Melb.

 

3rdly, it was in the classified, a AVM ovation Preamp, one of the best preamps on the market that sets the bar for me!  Built quality is superb! It's up there with all the latest manufacturing techniques.

 

https://theaudiophileman.com/avm-ovation/

 

 

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I haven't heard anything about a new supratek, but there is/was a cabernet dual in the classifieds for $3k the other week, i'd be going second hand and getting a better model from them as I can't see a new one at less than half the cost bettering the Cabernet/Cortese.

 

As far as tubes go, I love them in a pre, but I think it comes down to musical tastes as the tend to be more laid back and suit softer music more-so (of the few I've tried) so if you're a jazz/blues/vocals sort of guy, i'd be hunting for something like the Supra's or the Linear1 I just bought, or the Stereoknight pre thats in the classifieds if you want a pre with more grunt (its like 25db gain or something where my new linear 1 has 9/15db options). I do find the Bel Canto pre is much better for hard rock/pop/metal (Ie nightwish, acdc, angels etc).

 

Could be worth a post in the hire section though as I'm sure theres a few good pre's in canberra that could be borrowed/brought over for a nice bottle of red :P

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From what I can see in your system with no specific mention of price etc, it looks like you are using your $2200 rrp NAD Class D 150w integrated amp as a preamp with the 25w mono Class A/B amps finding them better.

 

Based on your preamp suggestions it appears you want to spend around $2000, is that correct - you haven’t stated clearly? A recommendation has been made to look at a used $6k preamp in the classified section, is that too much.

 

There is potential to find a used $2-3k preamp that would potentially be 2-3 times that new price. 

 

So the used SNA Electra $1700 and Supratek $3000, MF $2000 in gumtree appear to be good options. In the gumtree there’s also Consanance and Copland tube preamps.

 

Other used preamp brands to look out for that do come up for sale are Conrad Johnson and Audio Research. There are also cheaper options like a Cary SL70 for $500 in the SNA classified, which should be about equal to the Shiit Freya that retails for $1200. Something like the Cary would suit your speakers in rrp price at the time and age.

 

The NAD Class d amp can also be used as power amp with a suitable new higher quality preamp. 

 

 

Edited by Al.M

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Some questions:

 

* Have you listened to the ME preamps?

* Which models/versions? 

* Did you allow a suitable warm-up time before evaluation?

* Do you require phono?

 

Some comments:

 

* The ME preamps are highly upgradable. Even the very earliest models can be upgraded to the latest spec.

* ME preamps are designed to be completely neutral, neither adding, nor subtracting anything from the signal. Some listeners prefer a more euphonic sound. 

 

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Any comprehensive review of preamps would be limited if it left out Accuphase and AR. Not saying they would necessarily suit your needs but failure to take them into account would not be conducive to your overall appreciation of what a good preamp can do.

 

There is a guy in Melbourne selling a number of very nice Accuphase preamps (plus power and integrateds) via Gumtree. A day trip might be very worthwhile (if ultimately costly). No affiliations.

 

By the way, what speakers are you using / likely to use?

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So I probably should have telegraphed the <$2k bracket originally.

 

At the moment I am working out the best pathway towards an upper mid-fi system, and my preference is probably towards getting better, if older, pre-loved equipment through here or gumtree.

 

As indicated above I have bounced all over the place, but the Graham Slee gear I have used to this point has all beed excellent and better than the NAD C388. I can accept that on balance the NAD has spread its retail value across, pre and power amplification, MM Phono, DAC and Headphone duties, so it is a no brainer that separates worth ~$1k per component should be in a different league.

 

Well I can confirm, to my ears at least that the GS Accession M is noticeably better than the NAD Phono stage (which is no slouch). The Proprius Mono's are also brining out more from the soundstage than the NAD. The Headphone stage was a little less pronounced when I side by sided them, yes the Solo units both sounded a bit better, bu not to the same extent as the other components.

 

As for what I have heard in the Pre-amp options - unfortunately its a big fat Zero, and as with most thingsI would love to test a few options in my system before committing the $$$.

 

As for the priority of my upgrades go, I was thinking speakers first, however The ones I have are still better than the Integrated I have, so I think the pathway is to improve the amplification and get the most out of my other bits first. To that end the Pre really needs to deal with a subwoofer and that may be the deciding factor?

 

Interestingly I was also recommended by my local HIFI store to trade the NAD uptown to an MF ~M6i level integrated...(not the 500i) but this may limit speaker selections in the future?

 

@Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trevor, I have not had a chance to listen to an ME pre, though they have been recommended to me by @cheekyboy as a good match to the Slee gear. I have found the ME gear a little hard to come by, particularly something that has all the upgrades in place. But not sure if you have an option for loaning them to punters like me :) Particularly while I still have Keiths little wonders on loan.

 

@Al.M you read into the pricing and stuff very well. I am pretty keen to exceed the quality of my speakers as I build up this system, and that is probably the single biggest reason I have not committed to the Freya or taken the punt on the Cary.... as I count be sure about their further/future longevity, but I am happy to learn about the Cary and what it might cost to bring it back into its best spec, tubes rolled etc... The Electra option is interesting, as there seems to be some limited commentary on the web about how good it is, but again there is not enough commentary about it in different systems and so forth to help me out.

 

The MF gear was really considered as I noticed the gumtree options, though I think the same amp may be also in an old post here? I wasn't sure that the KW pre might not be 'too much' pre amp for my need though..... is there even such a thing?

 

Thanks for the responses so far, I have a lot to learn and there are many schools of thought and teachers to learn from.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Gijo1977 said:

 

 

@Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trevor, I have not had a chance to listen to an ME pre, though they have been recommended to me by @cheekyboy as a good match to the Slee gear. I have found the ME gear a little hard to come by, particularly something that has all the upgrades in place. But not sure if you have an option for loaning them to punters like me :) Particularly while I still have Keiths little wonders on loan.

 

@cheekyboy knows his stuff. His opinion is well worth listening to. I have never heard a Slee phono stage, but I have heard nothing but excellent reports. As for a loaner, I think we can work something out. You pay freight both ways. No obligation. You keep it for one week. 

 

Fair enough?

Edited by Zaphod Beeblebrox

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1 hour ago, Gijo1977 said:

 

 

The Electra option is interesting, as there seems to be some limited commentary on the web about how good it is, but again there is not enough commentary about it in different systems and so forth to help me out.

I think it may be my original pre before I moved onto the newer model.

Like all components you will have a sound that you may like more than others.

That Elektra was very transparent and quite detailed. Whatmough used them as his reference pre on his Flagship speakers.

But my speakers are much more neutral than the Whatmoughs so my taste in pre's is a bit darker than most to match my system.

So system matching may bee a bit more critical with it.

Well matched you'll love it.

 

 

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32 minutes ago, Gijo1977 said:

 

 

@Sir Sanders Zingmore, i have not really heard of Sanders, are you able to elaborate on their 'sound' beyond the limited info I quickly looked at?

 

 

I would define the sound of Sanders products as being neutral.

There's a review here that I tend to agree with

 

a snip from it: Sitting down to listen, my very first ear felt impression is one of a very clean and transparent sound with frequency extension without any limitation. 

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To reduce distortions, attenuation is what is needed, not in this case pre- amplification that invites unnecessary coupling and

alteration -  of the audio signal.     Your source equipment should already have sufficient  voltage and current capability.

A phono stage similarly should have these attributes.

 

This presumes your power amplifiers are reasonably sensitive. If they are, you can look at the world of passive attenuation.

Hope that helps.  

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Hi Dan,

 

if if you are looking for a new product an often overlooked classic is the Croft Micro 25. Glen Croft has been building these since the dawn of time because they have sounded right all along. Three line inputs and RIAA phono section.  All valve, simple, reliable ,fixable and you can do some tube rolling down the track for hits and giggles.Nothing fancy as a box and the knobs get a bit warm but insane value next to numerous other options. £700 direct from the builder, actually less because you avoid the English VAT. Big meaty sounding preamp. 

 

A second option would be a second hand Amber 50b preamp (Cary clone running 6sn7 or 6922 valves) with a dynactivator phono stage. Both show up second hand quite regularly as they sold lots due to their sound quality v cost ratio.

 

Now everyone will give you different advice and argue their point of view. I personally Believe in valve preamps. In my experience , at moderate price points, a well designed valve preamp will give you a meatier,fuller sound. This is not everyone's cup of tea, some will tell you it is just enjoyable distortion.

 

Nothing wrong with a well sorted integrated amplifier. Less boxes, less leads, so in theory should present better value for money at any price point. The flip side is you are dealt what you are dealt.

 

In the end however you have to suck it and see.  Gremrock has the right idea, beg, borrow or hear as many styles of preamp as you can. Don't let anyone tell you what the answer is, hear as many options as possible and pick the sound that spins your coconuts.

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