Solid State Preamp Reviews

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John Atkinson  |  Jun 20, 2022  |  0 comments
Three high-performance products were subjected to second opinions and/or measurements in recent issues: Channel D's Lino C 3.3 phono preamplifier, Mola Mola's Tambaqui D/A processor, and Pass Labs' XP-32 line preamplifier.
Michael Fremer  |  Jun 17, 2022  |  108 comments
Are well-heeled audiophiles ready for a knob-free future? Gryphon Audio Designs thinks so. In contrast to Gryphon's volume knob–dominated Pandora preamplifier, the Danish company's new Commander offers nothing on its bold front panel to grab or turn.

Instead, there's a large, extra-thick, triangular glass protuberance that extends dramatically below the chassis's vertical dimension. That's where you'll find an "on/off" button, the main unit's only physical switch.

Herb Reichert  |  Jun 02, 2022  |  16 comments
I have this friend, a smart, good-looking young physicist from Argentina. Naturally, I call him "Gaucho." He lives in a glistening-white steel-and-glass apartment overlooking lower Manhattan. I visit him regularly, usually with a group of audio friends, mainly to compare recordings, drink wine, and talk hi-fi.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 29, 2022  |  18 comments
Ah, domesticity. Just when I had the reference system sounding better than ever, the husband decided to relocate his electric keyboard and music stand, which had been positioned along the right wall of the detached music room, to the dining room in the main house. His reason was rational: While I did the reviewer thing in one space, he'd be free to practice keyboard and sing in another. But what was rational to him screwed with my reference sound and drove me to the brink of irrationality.
John Atkinson  |  Mar 23, 2022  |  10 comments
I start this review with a confession. I have consistently found that when I play CDs on a transport and feed the digital data via AES3 (AES/EBU) to a D/A processor, the music has more drive, particularly at low frequencies, than it does when I send the same 16/44.1 data to the same D/A processor via my network.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Jan 28, 2022  |  49 comments
There has not been a conventional preamplifier in my main audio system for quite a while, because no multichannel preamp is available that's of high enough quality. Instead, I use the high-precision digital volume controls in my players and DACs and choose sources with a relay-based multichannel analog switch. Plus, I tell myself that no preamp can be more accurate and transparent than no preamp.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 03, 2022  |  0 comments
The January and February 2022 issues of Stereophile feature followup reviews of three products: the darTZeel NHB-18NS Mk.2 preamplifier; the Sutherland Little Loco Mk.2 phono preamplifier; and the Mola Mola Tambaqui D/A processor.
John Atkinson  |  Nov 24, 2021  |  9 comments
In the summer of 2021, MoFi Distribution's Jonathan Derda emailed me about the South Korean HiFi Rose brand. "This brand strikes me as being the spiritual successor to the original SlimDevices Transporter and Squeezebox Touch," he wrote. "We're all really excited about it."

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  |  13 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  |  23 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  |  33 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  |  6 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.

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