Solid State Preamp Reviews

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John Atkinson  |  Sep 28, 2022  |  9 comments
My late father-in-law used to say that life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the quicker it passes. I was reminded of that when I was asked to review Bel Canto's new e1X DAC/Control Preamplifier ($6800). It didn't seem that long ago that I favorably reviewed the Minnesota company's e.One DAC3, but Google told me that it was 15 years ago! "Other than the jitter performance via its USB input, the Bel Canto e.One DAC3 is the best-measuring digital component I have encountered," I wrote in November 2007 (footnote 1), adding that it "offers some impressive audio engineering in both the digital and analog domains."
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  |  20 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  |  10 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."

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.

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.
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.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 26, 2020  |  30 comments
During the four years that I've reviewed for Stereophile, I've had the privilege of evaluating products from some of the world's best-known audiophile companies: Audio Research, Bel Canto, CH Precision, dCS, D'Agostino, Dynaudio, EMM Labs, Jadis, Krell, Nordost, and Wilson, among others. But one long-standing manufacturer whose exhibits at audio shows invariably inspire ecstatic reports, Germany's MBL, has remained outside my purview.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 29, 2020  |  97 comments
I thought I knew what a preamp could do. But when the Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems Momentum HD preamplifier ($40,000) arrived for review, all my expectations flew out the window.

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