Solid State Preamp Reviews

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J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 08, 2021  |  First Published: May 01, 1985  |  4 comments
Prologue: The context for this review is that back in the 1980s, preamplifiers and integrated amplifiers with remote controls didn't exist. In early 1985 I borrowed a sample of Acoustic Research's Stereo Remote Control, which I believe was designed by Ken Kantor (later to find fame with NHT) and set it up in my bedroom. It drove a pair of powered loudspeakers with auto turn-on, and I very quickly grew to appreciate, not just the sound quality, but the convenience of being able to control the system from the comfort of my bed. So what did JGH think of the SRC?—John Atkinson
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 22, 2021  |  12 comments
Even as I was admiring some of the handsomest audio gear I'd ever set eyes on, my thoughts kept returning to equipment of a very different sort.

Flash back maybe 40 years to my one-bedroom apartment on Elgin Park in San Francisco during the period when I was whistling for my supper and performing Puccini's "O mio babbino caro" in the Emmy-nominated Peanuts cartoon, "She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown." Cue the constant din of an elevated four-lane freeway, since demolished as a blight on humankind, which I tried to pretend was the sound of water in the accompaniment to one of Schubert's many "water and fish" songs.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 15, 2021  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2019  |  3 comments
VPI Industries Voyager phono preamplifier
Following my auditioning of Channel D's Lino 2C current-mode phono preamplifier, back in the world of voltage amplification, here's another phono preamp from another company based, like Channel D, in New Jersey. Probably not since Dynaco manufactured its electronics in Pennsauken has the Garden State enjoyed such riches of analog electronics!
John Atkinson  |  Feb 17, 2021  |  22 comments
When I studied physics at university too many years ago to admit, I learned about Occam's razor. Many, many more years ago than that, Franciscan friar William of Occam stated that a hypothesis should provide the simplest possible explanation for a phenomenon.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Feb 12, 2021  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1968  |  9 comments
This review of one of the first solid-state preamplifiers was published in 1968. It includes some of JGH's first thoughts on the ongoing subject of "Accuracy vs. Musicality."

Preview, from July 1968 (Vol.2 No.6): Overall sound extremely good, but phono sounds slightly lacking in deep bass, despite impeccable measurements. Scratch filter judged very highly effective, but tone controls felt to be less than ideal be cause of excessively coarse action and marked tendency to affect midrange output. Spring-return Tape Monitor switch probably will not appeal to serious tapesters. This preamp is slated for a full report in the next issue.

Herb Reichert  |  Jan 20, 2021  |  31 comments
I am certain the quality of life I live is determined by two factors: who and what I give my attentions to, and my ability to observe all that I encounter with an open mind. This approach to living has served me well—especially during this review of the Benchmark Media Systems HPA4 headphone amplifier ($2999).
Ken Micallef  |  Oct 28, 2020  |  5 comments
Before starting this review of Rotel's Michi P5, the 60-year-old, Japan-based audio company's recent preamplifier design, I thought it appropriate to consider "What is an audio preamplifier? What should it do?" There are plenty of opinions to be found at stereophile.com:

"What a preamp ought to do, apart from changing volume and switching sources, is as little as possible," wrote Stereophile Editor Jim Austin in his 2017 review of the PS Audio BHK Signature preamplifier.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 01, 2020  |  First Published: Jul 01, 1998  |  0 comments
The challenge for Ayre's Charley Hansen was formidable. Having already designed a world-class preamplifier—the highly acclaimed $7100 K-1 (see Wes Phillips' review in March 1997)—Hansen set out to offer audiophiles "80 to 90%" of the K-1's sound and build quality at a price more of them can afford. Not that the new K-3 is a piece of "budget" gear. It's not. But at $4500, the fully loaded K-3, complete with phono section and remote control, is within reach of many.
Barry Willis  |  Jul 01, 2020  |  First Published: Jul 01, 1989  |  2 comments
There are some standing jokes in the audio industry about the qualities a piece of equipment must have in order to be truly "high-end." One definition is that it must be unavailable, unreliable, and dangerous. Another is that it will sound great, break, and its manufacturer go out of business. By meeting at least half of these variables, the Spatial Coherence TVA-1 preamplifier qualifies as a classic audiophile product.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 26, 2020  |  28 comments
During the four years that I've reviewed for Stereophile, I've had the privilege of evaluating products from some of the world's best-known audiophile companies: Audio Research, Bel Canto, CH Precision, dCS, D'Agostino, Dynaudio, EMM Labs, Jadis, Krell, Nordost, and Wilson, among others. But one long-standing manufacturer whose exhibits at audio shows invariably inspire ecstatic reports, Germany's MBL, has remained outside my purview.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 29, 2020  |  97 comments
I thought I knew what a preamp could do. But when the Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems Momentum HD preamplifier ($40,000) arrived for review, all my expectations flew out the window.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Dec 24, 2019  |  71 comments
Upon hearing about this new product from Benchmark Media, the LA4, my mind turned to Laurindo Almeida, Bud Shank, Ray Brown, and Shelly Manne—the original L.A. Four jazz quartet. No such association was intended, however: the "4" merely designates change from previous Benchmark designs.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Dec 11, 2019  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1976  |  3 comments
Our first sample of this preamplifier was returned to the manufacturer before we had completed our tests on it, and was replaced with the latest version (ours is serial number 500108). Enough time elapsed between the time we shipped back the first sample and the time we got around to auditioning the second that we are unable to report on any sonic differences between the two.
Jim Austin  |  May 17, 2019  |  54 comments
For those who listen with their ears and not their brain, perfectionist hi-fi offers many surprises.

A friend called me up a few weeks ago and asked if the DAC we both own had received an automatic firmware update he hadn't heard about; something had changed, it wasn't good, and he couldn't figure out what it was. His system's sound was suddenly pale and unfocused.

There had been no firmware update.

Robert Harley  |  May 16, 2019  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1994  |  0 comments
Thomas R. Marshall's famous phrase, "What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar," should be modified for the 1990s to be "What this world needs is a good $1500 preamplifier."

It's hard to find a good full-function preamp (ie, one that includes a phono stage) at a reasonable price these days. There are plenty of great preamps on the market, but they tend to be expensive or line-stage only—or expensive line stages. Moreover, many manufacturers are omitting phono stages altogether, on the assumption that people don't listen to LPs anymore.

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