Solid State Preamp Reviews

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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  |  Dec 03, 2008  |  First Published: Mar 03, 2001  |  0 comments
The roadster's throbbing rumble became a roar as the tachometer soared above 4 grand. Like a giant hand, its thrust jammed me back into the seat. Racing along low to the ground, feeling every curve and bump, I began to understand: the automotive virtues of smoothness and insulation had been swapped for firm road grip and the ability to transmit to the driver each jolt and curve in the surface below. Long before I'd climbed into the driver's seat of Porsche's Boxster S, I had known about its low-end snort and speed—the main reasons I was considering a lease—but I had not known about its ability to join sensation and purpose in such an intense bond.
Art Dudley  |  Jun 22, 2003  |  0 comments
I've spent six-odd years in a sort of hi-fi counterculture, playing with things like mono cartridges, one-box CD players, and cheap, homemade cables—and, of course, owning and listening to single-ended triode (SET) amplifiers and horn loudspeakers. But before all that, I owned components that, while more mainstream, did the job just as well in certain ways. That category included solid-state electronics (Naim, BEL, Spectral), dynamic loudspeakers of middling efficiency (ProAc, Epos, Magneplanar), electrostatic loudspeakers of very low efficiency (Stax), and even "high-end" accessories like Tiptoes and Shun Mook Mpingo discs (which I still have, although my five-year-old daughter has more or less permanently co-opted the latter for playtime use).
John Atkinson  |  May 17, 2008  |  First Published: Jul 17, 1989  |  0 comments
This review should have appeared more than a few months ago. When I reviewed Linn's Troika cartridge back in the Fall of 1987, in Vol.10 No.6, Audiophile Systems also supplied me with a sample of the Linn LK1 preamplifier and the LK2 power amplifier, which I had intended to review in the due course of things. As it transpired, however, I was less than impressed with the LK2, finding, as did Alvin Gold back in Vol.9 No.2, that while it had a somewhat laid-back balance, it also suffered a pervasive "gray" coloration, which dried out recorded ambience and obscured fine detail.
Art Dudley  |  Mar 25, 2008  |  0 comments
I'm old enough to remember my family's first table radio that was made out of plastic. It was cream-colored, and it sat on the rearmost edge of our kitchen table: a less-than-timeless design in its own right, destined to be discarded at the end of one era and treasured again at the dawn of another, for more or less the same reason. But in 1958, a cream-colored plastic radio looked fresh, clean, and right, and its cheap wooden predecessor seemed dowdy and sad by comparison. That would all change in later years, of course. Then it would all change again.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Jul 06, 2009  |  First Published: Aug 06, 1986  |  0 comments
Before launching into Stereophile's first-ever report on a Mark Levinson product, an important point needs to be clarified. Although Mark Levinson products were originally made by Mark Levinson, they are no longer. Au contraire, Mark Levinson products are now being made by Madrigal, Ltd., which bought Mark Levinson Audio Systems' assets and trademark two years ago. Mark Levinson's products, as distinguished from Mark Levinson products, are now being manufactured by a company called Cello. But the subject of this report, the Mark Levinson ML-7A preamplifier, is a product of Madrigal, Ltd., not of Cello. Now that I've made that all perfectly clear, we may proceed.
John Atkinson  |  May 23, 1995  |  First Published: May 23, 1988  |  0 comments
I must admit, right from the outset, that I find reviewing electronic components harder than reviewing loudspeakers; the faults are less immediately obvious. No preamplifier, for example, suffers from the frequency-response problems endemic to even good loudspeakers. And power amplifiers? If you were to believe the older generation of engineers—which includes some quite young people!—then we reached a plateau of perfection in amplifier design some time after the Scopes Monkey Trial but well before embarking on the rich and exciting lifestyles afforded us by Reaganomics. (In the UK, it is generally felt by these people that the date coincided with the introduction of Quad's first current-dumping amplifier, the 405, in 1976.)
Jonathan Scull  |  Jan 30, 2000  |  0 comments
I've always wanted to review one of Madrigal's Mark Levinson products, and finally my prayers have been answered. The chosen victim? The No.32 Reference preamplifier. Note that "Reference" moniker. The No.32 is the first Mark Levinson preamplifier to carry such appellation. They're not kidding.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 14, 2006  |  1 comments
Conceptually, the preamplifier is the bottleneck in an audio system. All sources pass through it, and it influences every sound you hear. A system comprising great speakers and gutsy amplification will sound uninspired if that's the character of the preamplifier. Conversely, a great preamplifier will allow through so much information, so much of the music, that the listener can forgive the shortcomings of lesser speakers and amplifiers.
Robert Harley  |  Apr 03, 2009  |  First Published: Aug 03, 1994  |  0 comments
High-end audio companies take different approaches to staying successful. One way to maintain a market position is to continue improving fundamental designs, offering a little higher sonic performance with each model. The latest products from a company employing this approach will look and operate very much like their first products.
John Atkinson  |  Nov 29, 1997  |  0 comments
"Comping," they call it at Madrigal. Once a circuit and its board layout have been finalized, passive components are substituted one by one in an exhaustive series of listening tests to determine the places where use of a premium part, or one of closer tolerances, results in an audible benefit. This fine-tuning process cannot be open-ended, however, as products do have to shipped. So what happens when new parts become available, or new manufacturing processes allow a better-sounding part to be used without financial penalty?
John Atkinson  |  Apr 24, 2009  |  First Published: Jul 24, 1995  |  0 comments
Even as Robert Harley was writing his Stereophile review of the $3995 Mark Levinson No.38 remote-controlled line preamplifier (it appeared in August '94, Vol.17 No.8, p.98), Madrigal Audio Laboratories announced an upgraded, cost-no-object version, the No.38S (footnote 1). At $6495, the 'S is significantly more expensive than the junior version; although it uses the same chassis, power supply, and circuit topology, it's in all other ways a different preamplifier.
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.
Michael Fremer  |  Oct 17, 2008  |  0 comments
Don't be confused by the MBL 6010 D's oddly baroque, even retro looks. Behind all the glitz—the oversize, perfectly finished, black-lacquered faáade; the two big, solid brass knobs plated with 24-karat gold; the ornate lettering; and the incongruous digital volume display—resides a thoroughly modern, remote-controlled, unusually versatile, and well-thought-out solid-state preamplifier. Not that the 6010 is a new design. It's been around for a long time, and the current "D" iteration is at least five years old.
John Atkinson  |  Jul 24, 1995  |  First Published: Jul 24, 1994  |  0 comments
A truly great preamplifier lets everything through, both music and distortion, but with such generosity that neither...is cramped and narrow.Larry Archibald(footnote 1)

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