preamplifiers

Audio Research LS26, Bel Canto PRe3 and McIntosh C220 Preamplifiers

We will not be talking about the ability of these popular preamplifiers to transport you to musical bliss or to bring musicians into your listening room. This survey is not about the musical performances of these components and how the bass, midrange, treble, or soundstage is more or less like the “real thing”.

Ayre K-5xe MP Preamplifier

The Ayre K-5xe MP line level preamplifier has been in production for about five years and is mostly unchanged since its introduction. These long production lifetimes are standard for Ayre Acoustics which is located in Boulder, Colorado, literally at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Ayre has consistently produced fine sounding audio components which appear regularly on recommended lists.

Balanced Audio Technology VK-31SE Preamplifier

There is no control design in the world of high-end audio that is better than the user interface of products by Balanced Audio Technology. The remote control of volume – even when the output is muted – is a great feature, especially for analog listeners. There is remote control of phase, too, which is very helpful in adjusting this often subtle parameter. Is the display too bright for your mood or room lighting?

CAT SL-1 Ultimate Preamplifier

This review is much more than the result of a number of listening sessions over a two year period. It is really the story of one person’s quest for the attainment of the goal of having exceptional music reproduction available at the turn of a dial and the drop of a needle.

Dodd Audio Battery-Powered Preamplifier

The Dodd Battery-Powered Preamplifier is a revolutionary component for two reasons:
1. It absolutely redefines the level of preamplifier performance that audiophiles should expect for under $10,000. The list price is $3300.
2. It sets new standards for tube preamplifier performance in the very important criteria of signal-to-noise ratio.

Krell Phantom III Preamplifier

The Krell Phantom III Preamplifier is a solid state, solidly built remote controlled preamplifier that carries a list price of $5,500. It has a zero-feedback dual-mono design and is available in anodized silver or black with an optional digital-to-analog converter (DAC) plug in board. The unit under review here does not have the DAC option.

Mark Levinson No. 326S Preamplifier with Phono

The Mark Levinson No326S (326S) solid state stereo preamplifier arrived. After removing 37 staples from the outer box, and opening inner box number one, I found the preamplifier inside a third box. While many audio components are packed to survive a short drop from the back of a delivery truck, it is conceivable that this preamp could be delivered by the U.S. Army into a combat zone without damage.

ModWright SWLP 9.0SE Preamplifier

I had a good idea last year. I may have had another good idea in 2006 than the one, but I don’t remember it. The good idea was about music listeners, like you and me. In my review of the PS Audio GCC integrated amplifiers, I talked about two kinds of listeners: “toe-tappers” and “eye-closers”. To wit:

NAD C 165BEE Preamplifier

NAD Electronics is well known for offering products that defy the expected price/performance ratio. For a relatively small sum, the owner of an NAD product gets superior performance, many features, and modest but attractive appearance. The C 165BEE stereo preamplifier does not break any new ground in NAD’s successful product formula. For the asking price of $999, you get one very fine sounding preamplifier.

Passive Preamplifiers

Here is a basic schematic for an excellent passive 'preamp':

passive pre.gif (2249 bytes)

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