The Audio Electronic Supply AE-3 DJH preamplifier was a surprise, as you will read below. The list price with remote is $1700. The little preamplifier could be lifted and moved with one hand. The unit’s build quality was very good and it looks and feels like a Cary. This is no surprise since AES is a division of Cary. The remote control even said “Cary”. The feel of the controls was excellent with smooth operation of the rotary controls and a gentle but positive click of the 3-position source selector. The power switch is on the back. The preamp was reliable and easy to set-up and use. I am a big fan of remote controlled preamps, and enjoyed this feature. The ability to mute the sound and then turn down the volume was valuable for this primarily analog listener.
The AE-3 offered an overall dark sound, which was even more pronounced than the BAT house sound. There was little high frequency shimmer or sparkle, although I could compensate somewhat with interconnects that had a relatively bright and forward character. Most listening was done with the volume control below about 9 o’clock due to the high gain of the AE-3. When set in the lower ranges of the volume control, low level detail was lacking, but returned when the volume control was above 11 o’clock. This was usually too loud with most associated gear.
The biggest issue was a very flat sound stage. With any other gear I never heard a sound stage with as little depth as the sound stage presented by the little AES. This character made the music unreal and boring. I tried other tube combinations and replacements to fix this serious shortcoming, but this character remained. It was strange that with the preamp’s excellent low level detail retrieval, which one would think would contribute to a similarly excellent sound stage, the sound stage depth was the major fault of this unit, and a serious one. The resulting musical performances very rarely became believable and involving experiences.
Articulation and fairly even response – no area severely highlighted, but dark overall
Really excellent reverberation and harmonic trails (low level detail)
Sweet and rich voices, male and female
Excellent detail in upper volume control range (>11 o’clock)
Soundstage is flat, with little apparent depth.
Macro-dynamics are less than they should be leading to a somewhat boring sound.
Bass – full and rich, but lacking leading edge impact
Overall Rating: 5 LPs
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