Solid State Preamp Reviews

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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.
Thomas J. Norton  |  May 14, 2016  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1991  |  0 comments
As I write these words in January 1991, we're right in the midst of an annual media feeding frenzy: the "Best of the Year" follies. This usually takes the form of lists compiled in groups of ten for reasons that must hearken back to some obscure Druidic practice. You know the routine: "Ten Best Books of the Year," "Ten Best Films of the Year," "Ten Top Personalities of the Year," "Ten Best Sports Plays of the Year." Every corner of the media seems eager to get into the act. Special-interest magazines are hardly immune. Car enthusiasts can get their fill of "Cars of the Year." Computer literates find their favorite rags full of the "Ten Best Computers/Computer Accessories/Computer Programs." And music magazines regale us with the "Ten Best Recordings of the Year." Everyone with access to a transmitter or printing press has got, it seems, a little list.
Kal Rubinson  |  Jul 02, 2015  |  6 comments
Most new preamplifier-processors now fall into one of two categories. First are the fully featured models, with ever-growing numbers of channels to support such immersive surround-sound formats as Dolby Atmos, Aureo3D, and DTS-X. An example is Marantz's 13.2-channel AV-8802, which replaces the 11.2-channel AV-8801—a sample of which I've owned for barely a year and use only in 5.2! The second category is that of such high-end models as Classé's Sigma and NAD's M17, which offer only 7.1 or 7.2 channels, and from which nonessential features have been trimmed in favor of audiophile-grade circuit components and construction. But if money is no object, there is a third class of pre-pro, exemplified by Trinnov's Altitude32 and Datasat's RS20i, in which no compromise is made in any of these parameters.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Jun 11, 2015  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1983  |  2 comments
The Model 34 preamplifier is the component from English manufacturer Quad that will disenchant perfectionists, partly because of its obvious pandering to connoisseurs of old and sometimes lousy-sounding records, and partly because of its sound.

This solid-state design is supplied with a built-in moving-magnet cartridge preamplifier, and a moving-coil preamp is included with it for (easy) installation by the user if desired. (Remove two screws, pull out the old module, plug in the new one and replace the screws. The job takes about 3 minutes.) The MC preamp supplied is for 20 microvolt-output cartridges—contrary to the instruction booklet's statement that the supplied one is the 100µV version. Modules having a rated input level of 100 or 400µV are available as extra-cost options.

Fred Kaplan  |  Apr 22, 2015  |  3 comments
Transparency is a trait we all value in a hi-fi rig, and it's a concept I've long thought I understood. A system that tosses up the illusion of a clear, spacious soundstage, on which you can hear—almost see—all of the singers and/or instruments, from side to side and, especially, from front to way, way back: that's the ticket. Still, although such transparency is a sign that you've entered the realm of fine sound, it's not an absolute requirement. Tonal accuracy, dynamic range, a certain thereness that conveys the emotional heft or delicacy of music—those things come first. Without them, the most precisely delineated soundstage is like an architect's sketch of an oil painting.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 05, 2015  |  2 comments
Founded in 1984, Boulder Amplifiers is a conservative audio company that goes quietly about its business, choosing not to call attention to itself with marketing flash or acronym-laden features. Change comes slowly to such companies, which is why the just-retired 2010 preamplifier enjoyed a 17-year run.
John Atkinson  |  Nov 26, 2014  |  5 comments
The experience left me doubting my ears. After I'd performed all the measurements of Ayre Acoustics' KX-R preamplifier ($18,500) to accompany Wes Phillips's review in our November 2008 issue, I spent a weekend listening to it. To my astonishment, the sound of my system with a Transporter D/A processor feeding the preamplifier was better than when the DAC fed the power amplifier directly. Through the KX-R, images sounded more tangible, and the sound was better focused, despite the signal's having been passed through not just another set of interconnects but also through the preamp's input and output socketry, switches, a volume control, printed circuit-board traces, and active and passive parts. Logically, you'd think that having nothing in the signal path would have less of a degrading effect than so many somethings. But no, that was not what I heard, much as I would have preferred otherwise.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Aug 08, 2014  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1988  |  1 comments
666sumopre.jpgSumo is one of a handful of American audio manufacturers dedicated to producing moderately priced products aiming for high-end sound; their most expensive product is the Nine Plus, at $1199 (although a more expensive Andromeda II is imminent). When I heard I was scheduled to review the Sumo Athena, I looked forward to the opportunity. A Sumo Nine (not a Nine Plus, which I haven't auditioned) had been my front-line power amplifier a few years ago. It was an excellent budget amplifier whose only serious shortcoming was its limited 60Wpc power output.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Aug 06, 2014  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1988  |  1 comments
666ps46.1.jpgChoosing a moderately priced preamp has traditionally presented the audiophile with a host of serious problems. Most attempt to be all things to all listeners, expending resources on bells and whistles which would have been better expended on basic performance. Few have anything resembling a decent moving-coil stage. But there have always been a few designers (and companies) willing to expend much of their effort at the "low end of the high end." PS Audio has been such a company. Their new 4.6 preamp, an update and cosmetic clone of the earlier, well-received 4.5, is not at the top of their preamp range—that honor belongs to the 5.5—but it is clearly designed to be more than a price-point product.

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