Preamp Opinions--comparative attributes & bang for buck

Discussion in 'Equipment Reviews & Opinions' started by R. Mallow, Dec 22, 2018.

  1. R. Mallow

    R. Mallow AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Hi all,

    I'm looking into upgrading my system and it's time to go for a preamp. I have been doing quite a bit of reading about what I might want to look for. A lot of the stuff I'm interested in isn't typically available locally, so a listening test isn't possible apart from gaining a very general sense from youtube videos in some cases. It's also hard to guess regarding quality based on how much they sell for because these are mostly components that people would consider good bang for your buck, so that could be "good for a $300 pre" or it could be "great and under appreciated, nobody knows about it so the price is low."

    I'm hoping that some of you have heard some number of these preamps and can give me your perspective on their overall quality--how you could rank them compared against each other, which things they do well or don't do well, etc.

    --Audire Legato/Andante/Diffet
    --Allegedly all very good, and the minimal amount of video i could find sounded pretty great. I am told the legato is excellent, but the others are even better. Seems like they're hard to find and are priced inconsistently, i assume relatedly. ​

    --Superphon Revelation (Dual Mono, ideally, but also interested in the Rev Basic)
    --I've been interested in these for a while, and there's a rev basic with dm200 up near portland, or right now--long drive, but i'm likely moving to oregon soon-ish, so a trip out there to scout out the areas is in the works. Can't even find a video to get a sense of the sound, though.​

    --Hegeman Hapi 2 (or hapi i)
    --Everyone talks of the Hapi 2 as being this crazy good product for cheap, but pretty hard to find.
    --Naim 32.5 with HiCap
    --wasn't initially on my radar, but a listining on CL like 4 hours drive away appeared for what looks to be a pretty good deal. hard to get info because lots of naim owners seem to only own naim gear. my impression is that many of the reviews i've read can't be considered reliable or reasonably unbiased. ​

    --Audio Research SP 4, 5, 7, 9
    --I realize these are the models that are "bad," but I have liked what I've heard and they're more within price range. Also, there's a pretty good chance I may have a local source on an sp9 mki for like $500-600, which seems like a pretty decent deal.
    Thanks for your help, everyone!

    TIDBITS:
    I am planning on getting new speakers when I move in June, waiting until I can plan for the room they'll be in.
    otherwise:
    -sanyo tp825d with shure m91ed and EVG stylus
    -hafler dh200 amp
    -klh model 17 speakers
    -aperion s10 subwoofer
    -currently using advent model 300 as a preamp, love it but feel like i could do better and have the advent for a bedroom system.

    ALSO
    I'm open to suggestions if you think there are better options in this price range (think like up to like $600-700 tops). I have heard but didn't love Conrad Johnson stuff, Eico hf85,
     

     

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  2. trinhsman

    trinhsman AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    For what it is worth, the Emotiva line is probably the best bang for the buck out there. IMHO
     
  3. Mark B

    Mark B Yamaha Fan Subscriber

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    Have you considered a passive line stage?
     
  4. Decibel_116

    Decibel_116 AK Subscriber

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    Any of the older Aragon 2 channel preamps are nice.
     
  5. R. Mallow

    R. Mallow AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Thanks for your replies, everyone!

    I have only heard a couple of Emotiva units and didn't love the sound. I'm not really up on audiophile terminology so I can't adequately describe why, but something about it was sort of taxing to listen to. However, I may have heard the wrong stuff. It's very possible I heard a "dog" from Emotiva, or it was an earlier/later line than what you're talking about. Did you have a particular model or models in mind?


    I haven't yet considered that. My understanding is that a passive line stage would be a good way to get a neutral sound but would smooth over the sound somewhat--not that I'm opposed, I tend to like smooth. My only hang up is that I prefer to play LPs, which would mean I'd need to get a phono preamp as well if I want to use the advent in another setting. I've thought about potentially getting a Vincent or Dared phono preamp and getting a DAC instead, though. I'd love to hear your perspectives regarding the benefits/drawbacks of using a line stage vs a DAC, though, as well as recommendations for line stages (ARC makes some great ones, but I think likely in a similar range of what I'd need to pay for their preamps--so, more after adding a phono stage).


    I've not heard much of Aragon, but that's mostly a product of availability near me and online, and the stuff online seems to have been pretty pricey so far. I'll have to investigate further, though. Do any models standout to investigate and keep my eyes out for?
     
  6. trinhsman

    trinhsman AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I owned a USP1. I enjoyed it very much. No longer made, but could be found used.
     

     

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  7. Mark B

    Mark B Yamaha Fan Subscriber

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    IME passive line stages do not smooth over the sound. A passive line stage should alter the source signal as little as possible while providing volume attenuation and line stage functions to the system.

    Examples that I'm using are a Yamaha YPC-1 which uses a potentiometer for volume control, a Townshend Allegri, which uses an autoformer for volume control, and a Horn Shoppe active buffer line stage which uses photo cells for volume control and otherwise provides the same functions and transparency of a passive line stage.
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2018
  8. stonedeaf

    stonedeaf AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    A ARC SP-9-II for the price you quoted seems worth a listen -but ya gotta listen to any of these first. I sold and serviced the Audire equipment - impressive for the buck back then and still pretty good by today's standards . The problem you're going to have is the Advent 300 was stupidly -outrageously good for the money back when and today may still be a challenge to get better sound -remote control ,more inputs -sure- but the Advent is still the best bang for the buck preamp ever IMO. Want to spend a little more for a better phono input stage -look around for a Bryston 1 B preamp-these are old enough now that you might find one for pretty reasonable money. But do yourself a a favor and don't sell off the 300 until you're sure it's inferior to whatever you've bought to replace it.
     
  9. savatage1973

    savatage1973 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I have both an ARC SP-6 and and Aragon 24K. I would highly recommend either/both. They are a bit of "apples and oranges" one being all tube, and the other being all SS, but both are excellent performers. If you go with the Aragon, make sure it has (or you find) the IPS power supply for it. Early models came with the standard "brick" external PS, and later models came with the upgraded IPS external PS--there is a huge difference. You will see the IPS units sold separately if the 24K you find has the basic "brick". Both have very good phono stages (if that is relevant to you).
     
  10. R. Mallow

    R. Mallow AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Hey all, belated response due to a pretty severe case of bronchitis. I am an idiot and still haven't managed to quit smoking (working on it, but hasn't stuck). Maybe the trick is to think about how much more money I could spend on my audio addiction if I quit....In any case:

    Thank you for the recommendation. I enjoyed the USP1 (from videos, which of course is always a bit dicey) and will probably keep my eyes peeled to see about demoing if one comes up.


    That is an interesting proposition, and I appreciate your clarifying my misunderstanding. I think for the moment I will probably stick with an active preamp. I think it will take a lot of reading and research to go down that path right now, and unfortunately the upgrade bug is strong and my free time has been limited lately. However, it's something I'll be looking into thoroughly in the coming months so that I can make appropriate considerations for the next upgrade/lateral move.

    It's actually just the first version (not mk2 or 3), but I can see how I might have been misleading in the post by including "mk" at all--I just figured the question might arise if I didn't write it in. I absolutely agree about the Advent 300--shockingly good performance in my (albeit) limited experience. My intention is to keep the advent, but to use it as a receiver in my bedroom. As to the Bryston, I appreciate the recommendation--I listened to some videos to try to gain a sense of its sound. My sense is that it is pretty darn good, though I might prefer the Hegeman Hapi 2, which seems to be around the same price point, roughly. I imagine that your opinion of Audire is that it's not quite as good as the Bryston--is that correct? That makes me think that, at least as far as the totem pole of the stuff I've listed, the Audire is near the bottom (barring a crazy deal on one of the Diffet preamps).


    The SP6 definitely caught my eye, but I think it's likely to be above my pay grade. The Aragon also has a great sound from what I can gather online in videos. It's always so hard to tell, of course, but the sense I get is that it would work well with my system. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled. Thanks, also, for the tip about the power supply!
     

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