Great American Sound Thaedra preamplifier Reviewer's Addendum

Reviewer's Addendum

We would not have said "features have nothing to do with sound quality" if you hadn't prompted us to, but since you did, we will. Seriously though, it is Thaedra's plethora of features that contributed to our "satisfaction" in using it. We are not at all certain that Thaedra is sonically superior to, or even sonically equal to, the dB Systems preamp or the latest (as-yet untested) Mark Levinson JC-2, but in terms of versatility and flexibility, neither of those is comparable to Thaedra. And in terms of so-called cost effectiveness—the measure of substantive return per dollar spent—it is our opinion that Thaedra beats out both the dB and the JC-2.

We are most impressed by the extremely low noise of Thaedra's phono stage(s), and admit that we did not notice it during our tests for the simple reason that our tests were done with fairly high-output cartridges (the Decca Export and the Shure V15-IIIG) into the regular phono inputs, and with very low-output ones (Grace, Fidelity Research) into Thaedra's head amp. The low-output ones were, of course, completely unusable with the ARC preamp because of inadequate gain, even apart from the high hiss level. And with the high-output cartridges, hiss was totally inaudible from either preamp at any reasonable listening level (up to 105dB).

The findings you cited, which purported to prove that removing an "inaudible noise field" from the signal would reveal sonic imperfections hitherto masked by "lushness," seem directly contradictory to findings cited by Dolby Labs to the effect that removing noise appears to reduce treble response and detail. We are not convinced of the validity of either argument.

We were taken aback by your statement contrasting musicality with accuracy. We were under the impression that, since accurate reproduction of musical sounds is what high fidelity is supposed to be all about, one term automatically implied the other. And while we can grant you the point that a truly accurate reproducing system will reveal the bad as well as the good qualities of a program source, we cannot agree with those (and we do not necessarily include Mr. Bongiorno among them) who argue that the system which reproduces mistracking and subsonic interference most clearly is per se the most accurate reproducer of music. Even though Stereophile and its variegated ilk are in the business of evaluating individual components, it behooves all of us to remember that it is the musicality of the sound which reaches our ears, not the accuracy with which sonic imperfections are rendered, that determines the fidelity of the reproduction.—J. Gordon Holt

Great American Sound Co., Inc.
GAS Audio, Carson City, NV 89706 (2019)

JRT's picture

Perhaps should be mentioned with this preamplifier. My understanding, perhaps incorrect, is that James Bongiorno was still working at SAE when he designed Ampzilla as a kit for Popular Electronics, and soon after left SAE and started GAS with Ampzilla as his first product.

JRT's picture

Note that GAS Thaedra preamplifier, subject of this article, was (almost) a fully developed retail product only two years after the Ampzilla magazine article.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Q: What is Godzilla's favorite cheese?.....
A: Gorgonzola .... :-) .......