Solid State Preamp Reviews

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John Atkinson  |  Nov 15, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1988  |  0 comments
A few issues back, in my review of the Mark Levinson No.26 and No.20 (May 1988, Vol.11 No.5), I mused on the fact that the preamplifier, being the heart of a system, had a more significant effect on sound quality in the long term than, say, the loudspeakers. It was worth spending more on a preamplifier, therefore, than on loudspeakers. Needless to say, this viewpoint was regarded by many readers as dangerously heretical. I decided, therefore, to investigate the sonic possibilities of budget-priced preamps in this issue, even the most expensive being less than one-tenth the price of the Mark Levinson.
John Atkinson  |  Nov 08, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1988  |  1 comments
By far the most complicated of the three preamps i review in this issue in terms of facilities offered, NAD's "Monitor Series" 1300 ($398) provides two buffered tape loops, an external processor loop (which can also be used as a third tape-recorder loop), a headphone output, a "null" switch, switchable bass equalization to extend the low-frequency range of small loudspeakers, and treble and bass controls, each with a choice of three turnover frequencies: 3kHz, 6kHz, 12kHz, and 50Hz, 125Hz, 250Hz, respectively.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Nov 01, 2018  |  2 comments
Sometimes, I feel I'm two people. One, a card-carrying audiophile, is always looking for ways to optimize his enjoyment of multichannel music recordings, a purist pursuit that begins with file playback and leads to DACs, amps, and speakers, while eschewing anything that can complicate or compromise the sound. Thus, while his main system may seem elaborate to outsiders, to him it seems streamlined: NAS>player>DAC>preamp>power amps>speakers. In fact, it's possible to combine the NAS and player in a single device, if that device's CPU and RAM are capable of doing all the tasks—but these product categories continue to evolve so quickly that he prefers to keep them discrete.
John Atkinson  |  Aug 09, 2018  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1988  |  4 comments
Introduced at the 1988 Summer CES, this preamplifier from San Francisco-based Parasound costs $395 and is manufactured in Taiwan. It does away with mechanical switching for source select and tape functions, replacing it with CMOS integrated-circuit switches similar to those used in the British Linn LK1 and Quad 34 and 44 models. Construction is to a good standard and the circuit is carried on two main pcbs and three small ones. Following a signal from the phono inputs, the MM-only RIAA amplifier is based on discrete FETs, its output joining the line-level signals at the switching ICs, these controlled by DC voltages controlled by front-panel pushbuttons.
Jim Austin  |  May 29, 2018  |  14 comments
In the March 2018 issue, Art Dudley admired the sound quality of Ayre Acoustics' KX-5 Twenty preamplifier, but didn't love some of its operational aspects. I've staged this Follow-Up as a putative face-off between the Ayre and my current reference preamplifier, the PS Audio BHK Signature, which I reviewed in the June 2017 issue.
Larry Greenhill  |  May 22, 2018  |  2 comments
Each equipment report in Stereophile focuses on a single audio component. When listening to a component for review, I leave unchanged all other components in my audio system. Other Stereophile reviewers experiment with different interconnects, speaker cables, power cords, or stands. As I found while reviewing Bryston's BP-173 (Cubed) preamplifier, being flexible has its rewards.

Description
My first lesson in flexibility was learning what Bryston means by "Cubed" (footnote 1). Jim Tanner, Bryston's VP of sales and marketing, explained that all their Cubed models employ an array of 12 active devices for the first 6dB of gain. Developed by the late Dr. Ioan Alexandru Salomie, this array acts as "a super-linear" input buffer to filter out audio- and radio-frequency noise, particularly anomalies that originate in the power line, reducing the overall noise and distortion to less than 0.001%.

Art Dudley  |  Feb 22, 2018  |  10 comments
The hoary question of tubes vs transistors, once certain and clear, is made ambiguous by recent products from a few solid-state specialists, not the least being Ayre Acoustics—the company that endures in the wake of the passing of its founder, the widely admired Charley Hansen. In their solid-state preamplifiers and amplifiers of the past decade in particular, Ayre has enshrined a number of technologies that are more than just variations on the audio-engineering status quo, and that appear to pay real sonic dividends.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Jan 02, 2018  |  7 comments
I have not been attending audio shows as often as I used to, and this January, for the first time in more than 20 years, I'm skipping the annual Consumer Electronics Show. My personal return on investment has become hard to justify, especially when attendance at each annual CES requires a round trip from New York City to Las Vegas, Nevada. More important, audio shows now seem focused mostly on either two-channel music playback or multichannel home theater, whereas what interests me is listening to music in surround sound.
Larry Greenhill  |  Oct 12, 2017  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1994  |  6 comments
Classé Audio's flagship preamplifier, the Six, has enjoyed a five-year life span—quite long for an audiophile component. Company president Glen Grue reports that the Six's sales have continued to improve during that time. How to explain this solid-state preamp's continued success in competition with today's newer, remote-controlled, line-stage preamplifiers?
Robert Deutsch  |  Sep 07, 2017  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1992  |  0 comments
One never knows, do one? Within the past year, I've had six preamplifiers in my system for critical evaluation, reviewing four of them and using another two as references. I was getting pretty tired of listening for sonic differences among preamps, and I told JA that I'd prefer my next reviewing assignment to be something different, like a speaker or a power amp. He agreed, but said he'd first like me to review just one more preamp, the Perfectionist Audio CPR/TIPS, which had been waiting patiently in the review queue in Santa Fe. Well, one more wouldn't hurt. Sounded kind of interesting, anyway: a preamp with a battery-operated power supply!
Martin Colloms  |  Aug 10, 2017  |  First Published: Jul 01, 1991  |  3 comments
The KSL ($1800, $2100 with phono section) is a one-box line controller/preamplifier, just 2.25" high, with a nominal voltage gain of 10dB, or 3x. Despite its moderate price, the KSL is distinguished by having balanced outputs (via industry-standard XLR connectors), as well as two balanced inputs. Conventional single-ended, unbalanced outputs are also available via a pair of gold-plated phono sockets. Two unbalanced inputs are provided, plus a third via the tape monitor switch.
Art Dudley  |  Jun 20, 2017  |  3 comments
"As the original L2 circuitry was virtually flawless, it was the emergence of new electronic components that opened up a possibility of [even better performance] . . ."

So begins one of two booklets—one a collection of specifications and interior photos, the other a distinctly thorough user's manual—included with the new L2.1 Reference line-level preamplifier from Brooklyn's Lamm Industries, earlier products from which have impressed me as among the best available. Indeed, coming from almost anyone else, the above quote would strike me as trivial boasting—but I know from experience that there's nothing trivial about designer and company head Vladimir Lamm.

Larry Greenhill  |  Apr 20, 2017  |  21 comments
The Mark Levinson No.526 is the first preamplifier designed by a new 12-person team led by Todd Eichenbaum, director of engineering at the Harman Luxury Audio Group's Engineering Center of Excellence (ECOE), in Shelton, Connecticut. Designed to fit the price niche between the company's least and most expensive preamps—the No.326S ($10,000) and No.52 ($30,000)—the No.526 costs $20,000.
Sam Tellig, Anthony H. Cordesman  |  Sep 08, 2016  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1985  |  2 comments
Superphon's Revelation Basic preamplifier is made by Stan Warren, formerly the "S" of PS Audio, so it should come as no surprise that the Revelation Basic and the PS Audio Source sound much alike. The Revelation Basic sells for $399, assembled (no kit available). Like the Source, the Revelation has an outboard AC power transformer to minimize hum problems. But unlike the Source, the Revelation has dual volume controls (a pain) and lacks moving-coil capability.
Robert Harley  |  Jun 09, 2016  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1991  |  1 comments
Back in 1970, one Julian Vereker decided to record some musician friends in his house in Salisbury, England. Using standard, off-the-shelf electronics and tape machines, he was startled at how dissimilar the recording was to the sound of live instruments. As a result, he started designing his own recording electronics, including a recording console, of which he sold several to local broadcast facilities.

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