DeHavilland's Super-Duper Tape Playback Preamp

Rarely do I have time to visit a room twice, let alone space to post multiple blogs on a single exhibit. But because deHavilland/KE Engineering's Kara Chafee first showing of her KE Engineering/deHavilland Model 222 Magnetic Tape Playback Preamplifier ($1,995) was severely handicapped by the lack of her deHavilland KE 50A monoblock power amplifiers ($9995/pair), which had been delayed in shipment, I made sure to return when I learned that the amps had finally arrived.

Kara has designed her latest preamp (pictured perched atop a vintage Ampex machine) to support her open-reel habit. Slowly collecting some of the 15,000 tapes currently up for grabs on EBay, she brought a choice selection to the show. Most were commercial quality, but the 7½ ips copy of Everest's Stereo's recording of Antill's Corroboree Suite, performed by Sir Eugene Goosens and the London Symphony Orchestra, was, in her words, "about as good as it gets, and studio quality."

Pardon my Corroboree, but the sound was istakootik (that's how the Corroborees say f**king) fabulous. The depth was tremendously exciting, the air around instruments nothing short of amazing. And the sound was just as involving as I've always experienced from deHavilland electronics, and gratifyingly less dark. It was analog heaven without the $15,000 phono cartridge and $150,000 platter.

My husband and I had a ball listening to a vintage tape of Duke Ellington. Then came Sinatra and Basie's It Might as Well Be Spring. Though it didn't feel at all like spring—we were sweating bricks in the small room—the smiles on those seated and standing belied the heat. I had less than an hour to take David around to the rooms I enjoyed most, yet I spent a good 15 minutes in Kara's. I had to force myself to leave. It was that good.

If you're looking for your next obsession to bliss, the deHavilland Model 222 Magnetic Tape Playback preamplifier route is less painful than parts of the Yellow Brick Road, and tantamount to shifting from black & white to three-strip Technicolor. The Wizard never had it so good.

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