Solid State Preamp Reviews

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John Atkinson  |  Mar 14, 2008  |  0 comments
My very first review of a preamplifier, for British magazine Hi-Fi News & Record Review in May 1984, was of the Audio Research SP-10. In my opening to that review, I wrote that, "more than any other component," a preamplifier "should approximate to the late Peter Walker's 'Straight Wire with Gain.'" By this I meant that a preamplifier should not be in the business of effecting dramatic changes, and in any case, dramatic changes are not the kind that prove to be of lasting value. However, I also wrote back then that what I became increasingly aware of while using the SP-10 "was the fact that 'neutrality' is a positive virtue rather than just an absence of aberration."
Art Dudley  |  Apr 07, 2014  |  11 comments
Asked how to make a guitar, the celebrated luthier Wayne Henderson offered a straight-up answer: "Just get a pile of really nice wood and a whittling knife. Then you just carve away everything that isn't a guitar." (footnote 1)

The making of a preamplifier seems more or less the opposite. You start with a simple volume control and a couple of jacks, then add whatever you think constitutes a preamplifier. Choices might include electronic source switching, line-level gain, phono-level gain and equalization, tone controls, tone-defeat switches, a balance control, a headphone jack, an iPod input, and maybe even a digital-to-analog converter with a USB receiver. The sky is pretty much the limit.

John Atkinson  |  Mar 29, 2013  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2013  |  5 comments
It was the strangest thing. In the fall of 2008 I was comparing Ayre Acoustics' then-new KX-R line preamplifier with no preamplifier at all—I was feeding the power amplifier directly with the output of the Logitech Transporter D/A processor. (Levels were matched for the comparisons, of course, made possible by the fact that the Transporter has a digital-domain volume control.) Being a rational being, I knew that the active circuitry of a preamplifier, as well as the extra socketry and cables, would be less transparent to the audio signal than a single piece of wire. I wanted to determine by how much the Ayre preamp fell short of that standard.
Brian Damkroger  |  Nov 15, 2007  |  0 comments
A friend once described my audio ethos as "records, tubes, big amplifiers, and really big speakers"—I always picked warmth and musicality over antiseptic neutrality, even if the former came with a few extra colors in the tonal palette. Had I listed my criteria for an audio component, transparency wouldn't have been near the top, and might not have been listed at all.
Brian Damkroger  |  Jun 27, 2004  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2004  |  0 comments
The Placette Audio Remote Volume Control is simplicity itself: a paperback-sized black box with one set of unbalanced inputs and outputs, a toggle switch (and a remote) to change the level, and a row of LEDs that light up to indicate the relative volume level. The signal path, too, is simple, with only a stepped attenuator between input and output. But this is not just any attenuator—it's a 125-step model built entirely with super-premium Vishay S-102 foil resistors.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Sep 10, 1995  |  First Published: Sep 10, 1994  |  0 comments
Until just recently, only companies known primarily for their surround-sound processors were producing the most advanced—and most expensive—Home Theater products. No longer. It was inevitable that traditional high-end audio manufacturers would begin producing equipment for this fast-growing market.
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.
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.
Brian Damkroger  |  Dec 05, 2013  |  1 comments
When I reviewed Simaudio's Moon Evolution 880M monoblock amplifier for the June 2013 issue, I communicated via phone and e-mail with the company's VP of marketing, Lionel Goodfield. When the topic of hearing the 880Ms at their best came up, I could almost imagine him shrugging as he said, "Just use it with the most transparent, revealing preamp you can find." Not surprisingly, he then went on to say that Simaudio's own Moon Evolution 850P would serve nicely in that role. My cynical side might normally have discounted any such suggestion from a marketing man, but I'd been hearing the same sort of thing from other sources. And, as it happened, there was an 850P at Stereophile World Headquarters . . .
John Atkinson  |  Mar 20, 2009  |  0 comments
Over the years, I have become increasingly impressed by the quality of the audio engineering emanating from Simaudio, which next year celebrates its 30th anniversary. In a world where the US facilities of some well-known audio brands have been reduced to a design office coupled to a warehouse for storing product manufactured overseas, this Montreal-based manufacturer, in order to keep full control over quality and hence reliability, does as much manufacturing as possible in-house, including metalwork, some printed circuit-board stuffing, and assembly. (See my photo essay starting here.)
Kalman Rubinson  |  Nov 12, 2006  |  0 comments
The P-8 ($11,000) is the second of Simaudio's Moon Evolution series that has passed through my system, following on the heels of the Moon Evolution W-8 power amplifier, which I reviewed in March 2006. Fortunately, the P-8's arrival preceded the W-8's departure, so I was able to use them together as well as with other components.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Mar 07, 1999  |  0 comments
I first saw and heard SimAudio's Moon amp and preamp at WCES two years back, and something about their aesthetics appealed to me: Canadian ruggedness coupled with a decidedly French panache. I remember that those attributes also characterized the demo's sound, although I can't recall the speakers or the sources involved. At succeeding shows, it gradually dawned on me that the Moon components were the fixed elements in a succession of impressive demos.
Brian Damkroger  |  Jan 29, 2006  |  0 comments
Life used to be simple. A preamp was a phono stage, a line stage, and the controls necessary to manage a system. Sure, there were exceptions, but for the most part you could say "preamp" and everyone knew what you meant. With the rise of the Compact Disc, however, phono stages became standalone components or optional extras, and most manufacturers concentrated on the line stage and controls, pursuing the ideal of "a straight wire with gain."
Larry Greenhill  |  Nov 03, 2001  |  0 comments
Sony describes the $700 TA-P9000ES as "a pure audio multichannel preamplifier equipped with two inputs for 5.1 analog multichannel audio sources, enabling selection, volume control, and amplification." A relay with twin gold-plated crossbars switches the two six-channel sources. Then follows a class-A solid-state push-pull amplifier in discrete configuration. Separate transistors, resistors, and capacitors populate the printed circuit boards. An oxygen-free copper shield surrounds each channel to prevent crosstalk between the channels. In addition, there is a relay-controlled gain stage offering 0, +6, and +12dB amplification.

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