High End Preamps
Which preamplifier is best for you? Here are some
|Issue / Feature
||While all preamplifiers sound different, we
have found general similarities among the preamplifiers
made by a single manufacturer. Therefore, we suggest that
you first audition preamplifiers from several different
manufacturers. Perhaps you'll prefer the liquidity and
soundstage presentation of the Audio Research tubed
preamplifiers. Or for example, maybe the high-speed,
high-resolution sound of Spectral preamplifiers will
appeal to you. No product is perfect, and so in your
selection process, you'll naturally gravitate towards
products with the best performance in the areas that are
most important to you. Be sure to listen for tonal
balance, soundstage presentation, transparency, and
dynamics, as well as whichever other performance
characteristics are most important to you.
|Balanced or Single Ended
||Preamplifier inputs and outputs are either
single-ended (with RCA connectors) or balanced (with XLR
connectors). Unless you have very long
interconnects (over 30'), it is suggested that you use whichever type
of cable your manufacturer or dealer recommends. Contrary
to myth, balanced interconnects do not necessarily sound
better. Some preamplifiers are specifically designed for
balanced use (e.g. Audio Research or Boulder),
and sound best with balanced cables. Most others offer
balanced operation, but generally sound best with single
ended cables (e.g. Spectral, Lamm, Classé,
McCormack). Also, single ended interconnects generally
cost less than the equivalent balanced interconnect.
|Tubes or Solid State
||If you have decided that you favor the sonics of a
tubed design, such as Audio Research, you should realize
that any tubed equipment will have somewhat more
maintenance than a solid state design. However, in the
case of preamplifiers, the tubes last a long time (often
about 5000 hours), and are relatively inexpensive to
replace. (Tubes for amplifiers generally last at least
2000 hours, and are more costly to replace.)
If you choose
Audio Research specifically, you are assured of a long
term supply of the necessary tubes. Their designs only
use readily available tubes, and they maintain an
adequate inventory for future service needs. This may not
be the case with other brands.
|Integration with a Home Theater
||The majority of today's stereo preamplifiers can be integrated into a home
theater, if desired. The left and right outputs of the
surround sound processor can be routed through the stereo
preamplifier, and then on to the amplifier and speakers.
In this way, you have a 2 channel stereo system that is
completely independent of your surround sound system.
With today's technology, this is usually the highest
In addition, some stereo
preamplifiers make this even easier. They provide a
special input which bypasses the volume control. This
means that to use the surround system, you merely select
this special input. If your preamplifier does have this,
then you'd also have to adjust the volume to some
prearranged setting (such at 12 o'clock, for example).
||Some preamplifiers have them; some don't. If a remote
control is very important to you, then eliminate
non-remote control preamplifier from your consideration.
If a remote is not vital, then we recommend that you set
this consideration aside as you evaluate designs. You can
then use the remote control capabilities of the
preamplifiers that you are considering as a "tie
breaker" in your selection process.
|Mix and Match Brands or preamp and power amp?
If you have selected a
preamplifier for its sonic merits, you will generally
find similar merits in that same manufacturer's power amplifiers.
However, you may find that another brand of amplifier has
sonic characteristics that you favor. Feel free to
choose whichever brand and model you prefer. The one exception to this
is Spectral, as certain models of Spectral power amp need to be mated
with a Spectral preamp. However any Spectral preamp can drive any brand
of power amp (details). Note that some
amplifiers sound best when used with their balanced
inputs. For these, you'll want to be sure to use a
preamplifier with balanced outputs.
Aesthetix makes high performance tube phono and
line stage preamplifiers.
Note: We no longer have these on demonstration.
|Aesthetix Phono Preamplifiers
Arcam makes high-value audio and
home theater components. The C31 preamp is featured
at the left. Arcam equipment is available in black or silver.
Arcam makes digital components, preamplifiers, surround
sound processors, amplifiers, and tuners.
Founded in 1969 by Bill Johnson,
Audio Research is known as one of the oldest and most established high end audio component manufacturers.
In 2008 Audio Research was acquired by Quadrivio SGR, a private-equity firm.
NOTE: While we carried Audio Research for many years, more recently our sales of
Audio Research tailed off so we no longer have Audio Research products on
display. However should you ever need your Audio Research component repaired you
are welcome to give us a call at 781-893-9000.
Audio Research also makes digital components,
amplifiers, and cables.
Boulder manufactures very high quality
electronics. They are powerful yet graceful, dynamic and well-controlled. The 2010 stereo preamp with separate power supply is pictured at the left.
makes digital components,
amplifiers, and surround sound processor.
|Boulder 800 Series Preamplifier
- Boulder 810 Preamplifier. $Call.
|Boulder 1000 Series Preamplifiers
- Boulder 1010 Preamplifier. $Call.
- Line level analog preamplifier with phono section.
- Boulder 1012 DAC / preamplifier. $Call.
- Combination stereo preamplifier with built-in 24
bit, 192kHz DACs and a phono section.
|Boulder 2000 Series Preamplifiers
phono section. $Call.
- State of the art phono with three balanced phono inputs.
- Equalization cards for Columbia, EMI, or FFRR. $1000/pair/equalization
2110 preamplifier. $Call.
manufactures very high quality electronics which are manufactured in the US. The
Virgo II is pictured here.
makes digital components and amplifiers
makes three ranges of products: high performance audio/video products, including
speakers, custom installation products which allow house-wide music, and one-box
music or movie components.. Within these ranges, Linn makes phono
components, digital components, preamplifiers,
surround sound processors, cables,
and tuners. The Linn Klimax Kontrol is pictured
at the left.
|Linn Phono Section Preamplifiers
Linn Linto direct-coupled moving coil phono section. Black or silver.
Linn Majik Kontrol preamplifier with moving magnet phono. Black or
|Linn Klimax Kontrol reference preamplifier. Silver.
|Linn Multi-Channel Preamplifiers
- Linn Akurate Kontrol stereo & multi-channel digital & analog
preamplifier. MM/MC phono stage. Black or silver. $Call.
makes digital components, pre-amplifiers, and
amplifiers. The Nagra PL-L preamp is pictured at the left.
- Nagra PL-L line-level tube preamp with remote. $Call.
- PL-L balanced option. $Call.
PLL-RC Remote control kit for PL-L. $Call.
PL-L Replacement Tube Kit. $Call.
|Nagra PL-P tube preamp with phono. $Call.
- PLP-ACC Battery kit for PL-P. $Call.
Tube Kit (Complete). $Call.
PL-P Replacement Tube Kit (Line-Level). $Call.
|Nagra Phono Preamplifiers
|Nagra BPS phono preamp. $Call.
|Nagra VPS tube phono preamp w/ one
MC input card and cartridge loading kit. $Call.
input for Nagra VPS phono stage. $Call.
input for Nagra VPS phono stage. $Call.
VPS Replacement Tube Kit.
produces an exceptionally broad range of products, all featuring a full
harmonically complex sound. Their line includes phono
components, digital components, preamplifiers,
amplifiers, integrated amplifiers, speakers, electronic crossovers, surround sound processors,
multi-channel power amps, DVD/CD players, headphone amps, separate power
supplies, digital hard drive/disk players, tuners, cables, and equipment stands.
The Naim 552 preamp and power supply are pictured.
Naim NAC122x 00-002-0014 Six input preamplifier. $Call.
Naim NAC202 00-002-0003 Six input preamplifier. $Call.
|Naim NAC282 + NAPSC2 00-002-0006 Six input preamplifier
with NAPSC2 power supply. $Call.
- Naim NAC252 00-002-0004 Six input preamplifier (includes
interconnects for SUPERCAP2). $Call.
- Naim NAC552 + 552PS 50-002-0001 Six input reference preamplifier
w/ 552PS power supply with PowerLine. $Call.
|Naim Phono Preamplifiers
- Naim Stage-E phono pre. $Call.
- Naim SuperLine reference phone stage. $Call.
surround-sound processors, and
amplifiers. The Parasound Z-Series of
components is pictured at the left.
|Parasound Zphono Phono preamplifier. $Call.
|Parasound Zpre2 Audio/Video Preamplifier.
|Parasound 2100 stereo preamplifier. $Call.
|Parasound Halo P7 stereo preamplifier. $Call.
the Moon, Evolution, and Neo lines of electronics. The Evolution Series 850P
Reference Line-Stage is shown here.
Simaudio also makes digital components,
surround processors, and power conditioners.
in 1977, Spectral is one of the most respected names in high end audio today.
Notably, to this day Spectral is still run and actively managed by founder
Richard Fryer. He along with head designer Keith Johnson have devoted decades of
their life to bringing Spectral components to a very high level of refinement. Spectral manufactures digital components,
in Sunnyvale, California.
Spectral makes astonishingly transparent, uncolored, detailed,
smooth sounding preamplifiers. With very low output impedance and
stability out to radio frequencies, these preamplifiers are fully
capable of properly driving Spectral's wide-bandwidth power amplifiers.
In addition, you can use a Spectral preamplifier with any other
brand of amplifier and it will drive it with total aplomb. The DMC-30SS series
2 line preamplifier is shown here.
Spectral pricing is available by contacting us directly.
DMC-15SS manual control preamplifier. $Call.
- Single-ended inputs and outputs.
DMC-30SS Series 2 remote control preamplifier. $Call.
- Single-ended and balanced line output; unity gain bypass mode