Convergent Audio Technology SL-1 preamplifier Jack English 1992 part 5
The final component of the Signature's overall soundstaging capability was magic. To complete the aural sculpture, the Signature magically allowed my speakers to simply disappear. The music was there, but my speakers were not. With excellently recorded sources such as the Chesky classical reissues or the Athena Rachmaninoff, the far end of my listening room just became a re-creation of the original hall. The speakers themselves were no more a part of what was going on than a coffee table. The soundstage developed around and behind the cabinets in its own dimensional space. The effect was captivating.
The last characteristic I must mention about the Signature concerns what it didn't do. It didn't sound hard, bright, confused, congested, grainy, harsh, strident, offensive, subtractive, additive, peaky, sucked-out, uneven, rolled-off, exaggerated, syrupy, colored, whitish, tan, dark, aggressive, warm, slow, fast, analytical, ruthless, surgical, glary, veiled, soft, flat, or any number of other things we reviewers often describe. It always and simply sounded like music. I expected no less; Stevens's goal for his preamp has always been for it to be "the best preamp in the world." As I see it, he has succeeded.
The CAT SL-1 Signature is the finest preamplifier available today. It offers a sensationally satisfying glimpse of the live musical event. In particular, its timbral realism, tonal neutrality, dynamic capability, low noise floor, and soundstaging splendor define the state of the art for modern tube designs. Having been designed and built by mere humans, it still has a few minor faults relating to its functional utility, deepest bass extension, and ultimate dynamic capability (footnote 3). While not yet perfect, the Signature is as close to live music as I've heard. I'm in love. I wonder if I should send the roses to Mr. Stevens, or put them on top of the CAT?—Jack English
Footnote 3: Logistical problems—for some reason, we just couldn't wrest the Signature away from Jack—meant that we were unable to perform a set of measurements to accompany this review. They will follow presently.—John Atkinson