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Juicy vs. Modwright vs. Audible Illus vs. Mac

Discussion in 'New Gear - Performance' started by btol, Oct 10, 2018.

  1. btol

    btol AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    759
    Location:
    Sacramento, CA
    I'm in the process of selling off unused gear and currently saving up for my first big kid preamp.

    I have narrowed it down to four choices:

    - Juicy Music Blueberry Extreme I or II
    - McIntosh C36
    - Audible Illusions Modulus 3A
    - early Modwright LS36.5

    I still have a ways to go before I can make a move but I'd love your opinions on the above so I can hone in on one moving forward.

    Which would you pick and why? Thanks in advance, folks.
     

     

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  2. stoutblock

    stoutblock If it sounds good, it is good... Subscriber

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    9,765
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    Personally I like tube preamps and the Modwright LS36.5 is my current weapon of choice. Mine is the DM version. Realize it has no phono stage. The Modwright does not really sound like a traditional tube preamplifier but yet is still retains plenty of tube magic. It is also a high quality build.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2018
    KeninDC likes this.
  3. captouch

    captouch AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,589
    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    I have a Modwright SWL 9.0 SE with all the upgrades (tube rectifier, Modwright caps, bybee filters, etc). It's not at all a tubey pre. Compared to other solid state preamps I've compared it to (Forte Model 2, Bryston 1B), it adds more air/dimensionality such that individual components are more distinct and precise, but it's arguably less warm/weighty than either of the SS preamps. Based on what I've read, the LS 36.5 expands the soundstage size and depth and adds more roundness/fullness. Those would be positive additions/improvements.

    I've only heard good things about the Juicy Music models, but haven't heard one, so not sure how it'd compare to the Modwright.

    I picked up a MC 2120 amp a few weeks ago and like it a lot, specifically because it added some warmth and fullness to my system sound, which I liked. Even though I'm very happy with the Modwright, the 2120 experience left me wanting to explore McIntosh preamps, so I'm picking up a recapped C35 in a couple/few weeks, which is one generation earlier than the C36 you're considering.

    I specifically picked that era of Mac preamps because I wanted to try and hit a sweet spot where warmth and musicality were there, but modern enough so the specs were good and design modern enough that I wouldn't be getting something that was overtly vintage sounding. I also like that the preamp has variable loudness and a 5-band EQ and remote. While in the past I've tried to be more of a purist, the fact is that some of my collection can benefit from having EQ options to tame brightness, boost lows, etc. The Modwright doesn't have tone controls, so you won't have that option.

    Looking at the C36, even though it's one generation later, it seems to lack some features of the C35 (balanced outputs, remote control). The C35 has a full glass face and volume dial vs push buttons, so it's kind of a "six of one" situation, and it seems to sell for more than the C35, but it depends on where your priorities are on those features/cosmetics issues.

    I'm not sure I'd personally explore the AI M3A - I've heard it's hard on tubes and reliability isn't the strongest.

    But it seems like there are pretty different prices for your choices. Wouldn't the Juicy Music and C36 would be in the $1000-1500 range and the LS 36.5 more like the $2500 range?

    If all were priced similarly, I'd opt for the LS 36.5 because if you could get that in the $1500 range, that seems like it'd be a great deal and you wouldn't get hurt on a resale if it didn't work out. If it's $1000 more than the others, then it's a harder choice, but it seems to me that it could be the most special out of all your choices.

    Between the Juicy Music and C36, I'd personally opt for the C36 (but again I haven't heard any JM products). The flexibility of the C36 would be a big plus for me, and my limited experience with McIntosh products have always left me feeling that they're very musical and just pleasant to listen to over long periods of time. And for me, the JM just looks a little too handmade/DIY for my tastes.
     
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  4. trinhsman

    trinhsman AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,375
    Location:
    On a lake in Georgia
    I’ve been happy with both of my Audible Illusions preamps I have owned. The exception is the service from AI. Service is a real issue with them and they continue to have a hard time being honest about time frames.
     
  5. BillWojo

    BillWojo AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,786
    Location:
    Burlington, NJ
    I'd be taking a good look at the Aikido preamps sold by VTA as either a kit or fully assembled. In your price range you could get the octal version fully decked out. I'm using an Aikido SP-9 and absolutely love it.

    BillWojo
     
  6. btol

    btol AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    759
    Location:
    Sacramento, CA
    Great input guys! Much appreciated. Eric - that's above and beyond!

    I'm currently obsessing most over the Modwright because it does seem to be a cut above the others. But the price scares me off a little. That means more scrimp and save time...sigh. I'm looking at an early LS36.5 which would actually run just a few hundred more than the others. Need to do more research though on what the differences are between early and late LS36.5's. I assume it would still be "better" regardless.

    The C36 is intriguing because I keep hearing about that warm and lush Mac sound. I've got my eye on a serviced C36 for just under a grand. The two amps I use regularly are class A tube and SS so I think it would be cool to match them up with a Mac pre. I'd have to go vintage to do that and from what I've read it sounds like the C36 won't be a big PIA reliability-wise. I'll have to take a better look at the C35.

    The Juicy Blueberry, especially the II, just looks cool as hell to me. I like the case with the dovetail joints. It's the preamp that made me decide to sell some things off and start saving up. I just keep running into positive review after positive review. I also hear good things about the phono stages. I have a feeling this is the pre I'll likely end up with but I'm not 100% sure just yet.

    The AI is bringing up the rear interest-wise right now but I felt like I had to throw it in there based off reputation.

    Good stuff all. Feel free to keep chiming in!
     

     

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  7. btol

    btol AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    759
    Location:
    Sacramento, CA
    Oh man. :confused: Lemme take a look. AKer santa is local-ish to me and built the SEP amp that I use. He was telling me a while ago how much he liked the Aikido pres.
     
  8. captouch

    captouch AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,589
    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    If you're going to be near the south bay, PM me. I'll have the C35, hopefully in a couple of weeks and you're welcome to come by and compare it to the Modwright. From the Mac forum, @c_dk posted more than once that recapping can make a pretty huge difference in sound. He compared a recapped C35 to an unrestored C30, and the C35 blew it away, but the C30 became competitive after a re-cap, so that's another thing to consider.

    I don't think you can go wrong with the JM Blueberry - I haven't heard any negative reviews of it. So if you like the look and like the idea of tubes, that would give you a less common piece of gear to add to your collection - I'm sure it sounds great.

    The VTA/Aikido preamps I have heard. My recollection is that they were very dynamic, 3D/airy sounding, but a bit on the lean/analytical side. I've only heard the 12AU7 variety, not the Octal though. It wasn't warm and lush, that's for sure.

    So there's really no generalizing that tubes are generally warmer or sound more similar to each other than they do to a good SS preamp.

    I think it would be beneficial to think about which direction you want to nudge your sound toward: Is it warmer/lusher or leaner/more precise, etc. At a certain caliber/level of preamp, they're all probably objectively very good, but they influence/color the sound in different ways. The "best fit" for you will be different from someone who's looking to move toward a different type of sound.
     
  9. BillWojo

    BillWojo AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,786
    Location:
    Burlington, NJ
    I'm using mine to drive a set of Mac MC40 monoblocks into a set of Altec speakers. Before the VTA I was using a good SS preamp and was surprised at the improvement by switching. Lots more detail became intermediately evident as familiar music was full of more details and a bit more warmer. Certainly not a lush sounding pre but paired with a good amp and speakers a very nice combination. Mine uses 12ax7 tubes. I to would like to hear the octal version.

    BillWojo
     
  10. captouch

    captouch AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,589
    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    Yeah, I think Aikidos excel at detail and deep/airy soundstage. Since Mac amps tend toward the warm side, I can see that being a nice balanced combination. I've heard the octal version may be the best of all. I had plans to build an octal one using the glassware boards, but it never got enough momentum to get off the ground.
     
  11. btol

    btol AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    759
    Location:
    Sacramento, CA
    Thank you! Very nice offer. Not getting to the Bay as often as we imagined when we moved to Sac but I'll definitely keep it mind. Very generous of you as usual.

    Tell me more about your MW 9SE please. I'm looking at that at the moment. I think it's neck and neck between that and the Juicy right now. I tend to prefer things on the warmish side of neutral. I love the detail and three-dimensionality of my SEP amp and F5 clone. They're very revealing but sometimes too much so. So I would love a pre that both smooths things out as well as enhances the stage/image/yada yada. It's seeming like the MW 9 or Juicy might get me to that spot at a price point that's right for me. That said, I would be open to something that's notoriously warm like the Mac...so I'll keep that as my "dark" horse contender (yuck yuck). While the MW 36.5 looks amazing, it might be too much of a stretch for me.
     

     

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  12. captouch

    captouch AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,589
    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    I wish I had heard a Juicy Music somewhere along the way so I could put the two in perspective for you.

    I wouldn't say the MW is a warm preamp, but it's not thin/lean/cold either. Compared with two VERY fine SS preamps (Bryston 1B and Forte Model 2), the MW adds an extra level of soundstage depth and dimensionality - maybe that's the tube aspect coming into play - not sure.

    The Bryston and Forte are incrementally a bit more warm/full/dark, but not obviously so in casual listening.

    The truth is I could be very happy with any of them. Since I have all of them, I compare and look for subtle differences. Neither the Bryston or Forte have been recapped, so they're 30+ and ~20yrs old respectively. Perhaps they would move more toward the MW sound if recapped. I have all the caps for the Forte, so will likely be recapping in the not so distant future and will compare again.

    Note: This is all with my MC 2120 amp, which leans more toward the warm/full side while still being very nice in other important aspects.

    These are the 3 best preamps I've come across for my system. Several others have come through that have been too bright, too slow/rolled off, too flat, etc. These 3 are non-fatiguing, yet warm/detailed/musical enough with the MC 2120 that they all make me happy.

    The reason I'd choose the MW in my current situation is that extra level of depth and dimension, plus it has a remote control. And I can tube roll to subtlely change the sound. All of the above are with Tung Sol 5687's. I have other good tubes for it, but haven't changed them out to do careful comparisons with the other two.

    If I didn't have the 2120, my choice might be different because I might want more warmth/fullness with a colder/leaner amp.

    But what I'll also say is that my preference may also change with different types of music. For critical listening comparisons, I tend to use acoustic jazz and female vocals rather than dense, and what can be at times less well-produced, classic rock for instance. Maybe, perhaps, I might care less about depth and dimension if I were just rocking out with a wall of sound.

    I've said I'm very happy with all three, yet I'm going to be bringing a recapped C35 into the mix. The reason is really more curiosity than need. I'm curious If a Mac pre will add that extra incremental helping of the intangible musicality that Macs are known for. Also, it has 5 band tone controls, which I know can be useful for certain recordings. So it's looking for that last 5-7% because that's the way we audio people roll. It also retains the remote control that the MW has and Bryston and Forte don't.

    Not sure if that helps, but I suspect only marginally so. It would be more helpful if I had heard a Juicy and could tell you how it compared with the MW, but unfortunately I haven't.
     
  13. Coytee

    Coytee Super Member

    Messages:
    4,033
    Location:
    Knoxville, TN
    I'm guessing you listen to vinyl?

    If not, you know Mark also made a 'Peach'. I'm sure there are other technical differences, but as I understand it, the main difference between the two is the Blueberry had a phono section.

    The Peach had a HT bypass function in it that the Blueberry didn't have (as best I know).

    I have an early version of the Peach (and it sounds very good) but I've never seen/heard a Blueberry as best I know.
     
  14. ictwoody

    ictwoody I like vintage gear — my preamp is from 2007. Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,692
    Location:
    Wichita, Kansas
    I’ve owned the Modwright SWL9.0 SE with the tube rectified power supply, an LS100, and I currently have a 36.5 in my main rig. I’ve also owned a Juicy Music Blueberry Extreme 2... the last of Marks pre’s... but not maxim modded.

    Long story short. The Juicy was sent packing with the LS100. The LS100 made my jaw drop for imaging, soundstage, depth etc... truly amazing. What I didn’t like about it was the 6SN7’s were noisey... I could never get a quiet background. Also the 6SN7’s were too bass heavy for me. If you need or want a more TUBE sound, the LS100 could be it.

    I love the 6H30 in my Juicy... very linear sounding and very quiet. I surmised that the 36.5 would be similar since it uses a pair of 6H30’s in it. If it did all the spatial stuff the LS100 did and had the linear 6H30 sound I loved in the JMBBX tha. It would be a winner. It’s been in my main rig for almost 2 years now. I love it so much I got a KWA150SE to pair with it and I’m in heaven.

    The 9.0SE is great too. I had it in my second system when I got a deal on one. It sounds very much like the 36.5... not giving up a whole lot. I run a 20’ pair of Mogami Gold Balanced ICs from the pre to power amp and it’s nice to be tru balanced. Also the 36.5 can invert phase if you need it. It’s a killer preamp.

    I shipped out the 9.0 to it’s new owner yesterday cause I have a Bent Audio AVC-1 showing up this week and I just couldn’t afford to keep both.

    Modwright’s customer service is 2nd to none. They are awesome. Since Mark Deneen isn’t working on his stuff any more, I think that’s even more reason to go with a Modwright unit.

    Hope that helps.

    - Woody
     
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  15. btol

    btol AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    759
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    I saw your BT post about 20 minutes after it went up and I was reeeeeally tempted. Kind of regret not going for it tbh.
     
  16. ictwoody

    ictwoody I like vintage gear — my preamp is from 2007. Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,692
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    You'll find one. But long story short... I really doubt you'd be unhappy with a Modwright. They are nice kit. Good luck!

    - Woody
     
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  17. btol

    btol AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    759
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    36.5 is out of the running folks. Dan was gracious enough to explain that the unit I was eyeing was a prototype. Very different apparently from what the 36.5 is today.

    Down to the MW 9.0SE or the Mac C36/C33. A little disappointing but kinda nice to have the options pared down.
     
  18. KeninDC

    KeninDC Speedfreak Jive Subscriber

    Messages:
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    Another ModWright 9.0 SE with the tube rectifier mod (got an NOS Mullard in there) fan here. As stated, not "tooby" at all. It sorta gets out of the way while also throwing down a big ol' soundstage.

    No phono in it, so I use a Clearaudio Nano. No phono is, of course, a consideration.
     
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  19. captouch

    captouch AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
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    Curious Ken, have you tube rolled the 5687's and found any big differences between tube options?
     
  20. KeninDC

    KeninDC Speedfreak Jive Subscriber

    Messages:
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    Not any "huge" differences, but enough for me to prefer reasonably priced NOS tubes. I'm currently happy with NOS 60s RCA 5687 tubes. Accurate and out of the way. Sylvania GB (Gold Brand) were a bit on the goopy side. Had trouble with microphonics on Tungsol after three sets which is why I dig the trouble free RCAs. That being said, I'm anxious to try some NOS 7119 tubes just for kicks. Never hurts to have a drawer full of back up tubes with listening notes.
     

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