Illusions Modulus 3A
wonderful preamp with plenty of dynamics and musical authority. You
can get a better performance at the frequency extremes but only if
you are willing to invest quite a bit more cash. Regarded as
'absolute best buy' especially if bought second hand.
Note Preamp Kit
good way to start DIY projects; good value for the money.
Performance can be increased quite a lot by swapping tubes to NOS
ones (Brimar, Mullard, Mazda to name a few) and changing the coupling
capacitors to paper in oil (Jensen copper foil for example)
EAR 868 Preamp (with Phono)
For years this was my reference preamp. A great Tim de Paravicini tube preamp design around the PCC88
triode with output transformers and thus low output impedance (ca. 600
ohms). The built in MM phonostage also uses the PCC88 tube. A MC step
up transformer with 3 gain options makes it highly flexible for most of
the MC cartridges on the market. The sound is dynamic with excellent
rhythm and timing. Gain is on the high side (18dB). As for most of the
EAR products the design and layout are superb, the parts quality only
average. This preamp's performance can be further improved with an
expert upgrading sound critical parts. Recommended!
Mayer Octal Preamp with Phono
is Thomas Mayer's mid-priced line stage with phono using different
octal tubes (6N7, 6SN7 and 6SL7) and a separate tube-rectified power
supply. A wonderfully-musical preamp which gave my beloved EAR 868
some strong competition and surpassed it with phono. A hand-built
preamp with wonderful musical talents. Highly recommended!
Mayer DHT 801A Line Stage
preamp around the tungsten filament 801A DHT with separate
tube-rectified power supply. Superb linestage plus excellent
workmanship . Extremely musical and neutral with incredible
resolution. Gain is lower than the octal preamp. That is the only
thing which has to be taken into account, when matched with a power
amplifier. A statement in line-level tube amplification. Highly recommended!
stages & Step-up devices
LFD MCT SE Phono Stage
best phono stage I've ever had the pleasure to own. And the surprise
is, it is a non-tube design! Dr. Richard Bews the owner and designer
of LFD audio products is a true master of the audio arts. All his
products are hand made by himself and a statement in british audio
engineering craftmanship. The MCT SE is the current top of the line
from LFD with an upgraded power supply and a built in MC step-up
transformer of highest quality. The internal cabling is LFD's own
silver wire. It is a MC-only phono stage without any switches
(besides the power switch on the back of the chassis). It sounds
organic, smooth and open with fantaqstic rhythm and timing and
regarding speed and fluidity of the
reproduced music from vinyl one could believe to listen to a superbly
designed tube phono stage. And there is one extra advantage: You never
have to worry about replacement tubes :-)
Price wise it is on the higher end of the spectrum for phono amps
(approx. GBP 5000), but it is definitely worth the money in my opinion!
Mayer 6AM4 LCR RIAA phono stage
LCR RIAA EC8020 or WE 437A based phono stage is Thomas Mayer's
statement in phono amp design. Due to the scarcity and price of the
EC8020 as well as WE 437A tubes, he came up with this 6AM4 triode
tube version, which according to Thomas comes 90% close to the
performance of the EC8020 / WE 437A phono stage. The advantage is
that the 6AM4s can be found easily and don't cost the bank. I heard
this phono stage lately and it sounded extremely good. One day,
I maybe will order a 6AM4 based phono stage from Thomas for myself.
gain in performance
you get in comparison with the excellent transistor designs of Graham
Slee is definitely worth the five-times higher price. Highly recommended!
Slee Era Gold V
phono stage of amazing grandesse (with no tubes in). The phono stage
to beat in it's class and beyond. Superbly musical, a fantastic
performer and an absolute bargain for the money (see also TNT-Audio,
Stereophile Jan. 2004, UK hifi press, etc.).
Beats hands down all stages I own / owned and most of the ones I've
had the chance to audition (for example Omtec Antares, EAR 834P
deluxe, Lukaschek PP1, ...). Graham Slee uses active RIAA
equalization and special selected op amps over a wide bandwidth
frequency spectrum. He is not only a really nice guy, but he also
seems to know an awful lot about how to build a killer phono stage
without taking away all of your money. A real bargain!
Slee Elevator EXP
MC step-up device based on an op amp circuit which is matched
perfectly to the Era Gold V above. Only needed if you use a low to
medium output MC cartridge. Excellent performance in combination with
the Era Gold V.
Graham Slee products: They need a quite long 'burn in'
period of about two weeks to perform at their best level; its
definitely worth waiting that long.
information on Graham Slee products can be found at www.gspaudio.co.uk
LL1678 MC Transformer
passive way to run your beloved MC
an MM only phono stage. With a little soldering practice you can
save money and start a fun project; you'll be pleased at how great a
step-up transformer like this high quality Lundahl design serves your
musical pleasure. Amorphous core material is used for the LL1678.
This kind of core material is said to have advantages over
conventional mu-metal core material due to the fact that amorphous
core doesn't store energy. LL1678 transformers can be terminated for
1:8, 1:16 and 1:32 step-up ratios and thus will perform well with a
variaty of different low to medium MC cartridges. You find technical
specs at www.lundahl.se/catframe.html.
bargain single-ended triode (SET) stereo power amplifier with
excellent built quality and musical strength. Matched with the right
speakers this amplifier lets music speak to the listener with heart
and soul. Uses input 'step-down' transformers feeding a shunt
regulated push pull (SRPP) 12AX7 dual triode, the latter driving the
grid of the 2A3 triode. An unusual but clever design. In the words of
Herb Reichert, who did a superb review on the Tulip in summer 2002
for the legendary but sadly out of print Listener Magazine
'Weird but clever (design). Almost Zen.' For speakers from 97 dB
efficiency upwards this amp is a perfect match, especially
considering the low price tag (approximately EUR 1,200 here in Europe).
Watt is "transistor
guru" Nelson Pass's approach to build exceptional and affordable low
power audio amplifiers intended for use with sensitive loudspeaker systems.
Hand built by the master himself and in limited quantities only, they
definitely are built to become cult objects. Nelson Pass has always
believed in the advantages of Class
A designs and
his single /
2-stage single-ended Class A power amplifier
designs are truly legendary. Here you can read reviews about two of
his First Watt designs, the F3
(using new power
JFETs as the gain device)
and the Aleph
J (a 2-stage design using output
MOSFETs operating in single-ended Class A mode).
Both are said to provide world class music reproduction without the
need for tubes. There is also the new J2
(a 2-stage JFET design
using power JFETs as the gain device) which apparently sets new standards
for a sand amp and together with the F3 is definitely on my short
list of "most desired gear to listen to". Nelson Pass has
always had a heart for the DIY-scene (see my link section), so
it's not surprising that at the end of each First Watt product's sale
cycle he posts the
schematics and technical details of these designs for the benefit of
the "DIY" community.
Mayer 45 / 2A3 SE stereo amplifier
is a wonderfully-musical SE stereo power amplifier where you have
the choice of using either 45s or 2A3s as output tubes. Driver tube
of choice is a 6N7 triode. As with mainly all of Thomas Mayer's
designs, there is a tube-rectified power supply in a separate
chassis. The driver tube is interstage coupled to the output tube,
output transformers are made by Tango. I have to confess that this
amplifier, used with 2A3s, easily outclasses my Welborne Labs
Moondogs. The 45 / 2A3 amplifier is in a higher price class, though.
World-class tube amplification, no doubt! If 1.5 watts of
single-ended magic are all you need to drive your speakers, then you
have to listen to this one with 45s as output tubes. Magical sound...
SE stereo amplifier
best amplifier I've had so far in my system. Period! 3.5 watts of
class A power combined with coherence, resolution and musicality adds
up to unforgettable listening experiences. Also in this design the
driver tube is a 6N7, interstage coupled to the 801A output tube per
channel. A separate tube-rectified power supply is of course
mandatory. A lot of iron is used in the power supply to provide the
801As with as clean as possible DC. This can be heard, believe me.
After about 4 weeks in my system, I bought this amplifier from
Thomas, because to go back to my beloved Moondogs as well as my WE91
300Bs was no longer possible. This amplifier gets my highest
recommandation and looks wonderful, too!
Labs Moondog 2A3 mono block amplifiers
true SET power amp classic. In my opinion they are superb sounding
amplifiers, if you don't need more than 3.5 watts of class A power.
This design introduced me to the magic of SET tube power
amplification. With one NOS Mullard GZ37 rectifier, choke filtered
power supply, a pair of NOS 6SN7 drivers for each mono amp (RCA,
Sylvania, Brimar or whatever 6SN7 you like best) and your 2A3 triode
of choice these amps deliver the soul of the music with color, drama
and feeling. Another strength is the exceptional open top end these
were available ready built and as a kit version. The first
production line used Magnequest output transformers, but later on Ron
Welborne switched to Electra Print output transformers (which are the
ones to go for). Besides their magical performance, the Moondogs
deliver more punch and feel more powerful than other 2A3 amps I know.
From 92 dB efficiency onwards - given that the mating loudspeaker is
an easy load to drive - you will have real fun.
Welborne's new SET power amplifier range (with 300B or 45 triodes)
uses Direct Reactance Drive (DRD). I would assume these are also
outstanding products, although I haven't had the chance by now to
listen to his new designs (by the way, they look extremely nice in
their new Bubinga
hardwood bases). You can read
Scott Faller's entertaining 2006 review of the current Welborne Labs
300B DRD SET amplifiers as kit version done for Enjoy the Music.com here.
The Moondogs are no longer in production but can be found on the
second hand market for a fair price (Ebay, etc.).
Update of early 2013: In the meantime, a friend and tube amp expert did a revision of the Moondogs with fantastic results. (One
6C8G driver stage replaced the two 6SN7 drivers per mono bloc of the
original Moondog design; the ps was also improved, now choke loaded.) The amps now have less gain, but the sound is in
another league. I've never heard better mids and top range in my system
-> 10 watts power instead of the 3.5 watts of the 2A3 output tube
would make it my universal dream amp! Thanks Christoph :-) My learning curve regarding tube amp designs has further grown!
2300B - 300B SET Stereo
Verdier's 'La Platine Verdier' turntable has become world famous in
the high end audio world. Not as famous but excellent as well are his
tube amplifier designs (preamplifiers and various power
amplifiers). One of my friends owns one 2300B SET stereo amplifier,
which I recently auditioned for some months in my system (the amp is
an older model though not the new one with the improved power supply,
Mr. Verdier calls 'hum hunting circuit').
Verdier believes in the superiority of tubes, so the power supply of
his SE amplifier designs is tube regulated. The idea behind is to get
rid of the hum where it generally occurs - in the power supply
circuit (in my 92dB system there was no audible hum during operation).
sound of the Verdier 2300B stereo SET amp is impressive -
authoritative in the bass with wonderful mids (male voices are great
with this amp). What I miss in comparison to my 2A3 Moondog monos is
the extreme openness in the treble section and a little bit of the
tonal magic the 2A3 triode can deliver. Overall the Verdier 300B is a
great amplifier which puts out 2 x 6 Watts of class A output power
with the advantage to drive also most 91dB+ speakers with authority.
more information visit www.jcverdier.com
Tonearms and Cartridges
Platine Verdier and La Nouvelle Platine
Verdier's designs have cult status, and deservedly so. The Platine
Verdier is a legendary state-of-the-art turntable, which I
unfortunately don't own. But some of my friends - to be more precise
four aficionados of our Viennese audio circle I'm friends with
- own a Platine, one also owns a Nouvelle Platine. So I've had a lot
of opportunities to listen to Mr. Verdier's turntables and am more
than confident to recommend his designs wholeheartedly. Both
turntables are suspensionless mass designs and deliver
state-of-the-art performance for true record lovers. The Platine's
high-light is its unique 'magnetic suspension', where the platter
floats frictionless on a magnetic field, which is created by two huge
repellent ring magnets. This results in a true music machine par excellence.
Nouvelle Platine is mainly identical to the Platine Verdier but
rotates silently resting on an oil bath instead of using the
'magnetic suspension'. Quoting Mr. Verdier, '...this system was
achieved after some long research thanks to a very simple means. A
pump continuously maintains the oil pressure at the top of the axle.'
Read more about his famous turntables on his website (www.jcverdier.com)
turntables are highly recommended!
Lenco L75 - upgraded
the most underrated idler wheel drive, which can sound fantastic,
when modified properly.
From 2011 my pimped Lenco became my favorite turntable. Read the story about my Lenco experience on my site and you will understand why I love the Lenco idler wheel TT. Together with my 12" Schick tonearm, which is a real bargain and fits superbly to the Lenco plus my Lyra Skala MC cartridge, vinyl 'rocks and rules' in my music room and the Lenco + arm + cartrdige combination makes me dance ;-). Highly recommended!
turntable creation is regarded as the final statement in turntable
design by many audiophiles around the world. As far as I can tell,
the mechanical engineering of this product as well as the
no-compromise approach are definitely state of the art.
Unfortunately, there aren't big chances that I will audition this
gorgeous music machine in the near future let alone get the cash
needed to buy one. But it's important to have a dream, isn't it...
you can find two links to excellent reviews about this remarkable
turntable, which maybe whets your appetite. It definitely worked for me...
Feedback Online - Issue 23
- October 2004
Slee recommended the 'Music Maker' cartridge line made by Len
Gregory (a.k.a. the Cartridge Man) to me. And he is absolutely right.
Gregory's moving iron 'Music Maker' III (there is also the top
of the line 'Music Maker' Classic, which uses silver coils) is
musically exceptional. I have been the proud owner of a 'Music Maker'
III for quite some time now and I love the way it gets the music out
of the groove of an LP - and me into the music. The term 'Music
Maker' is no exaggeration at all. Its strength is its absolute
musicality, dynamic shading, rhythm and timing when mated with the
right tonearm. And this means a tonearm with low to medium mass is
the right partner for this low-mass and high-compliance cartridge.
Something along the lines of the Hadcock tonearm line, or the SME M2
series will be a great match.
you have a good to excellent phono stage with an MM input (i.e. 47
kOhm input resistance, the 'Music Maker' line delivers an output of 4
mV, so there is no step up-device necessary) and a fitting tonearm,
you owe it to yourself to try this gem out. The 'Music Maker' III is
not cheap but in comparison with the sometimes highly expensive EUR
1,500 plus MC cartridges out there, you save some cash for buying
more great records and you will enjoy them immensely. It's one of my
top recommendations regardless of price. Below you can find a link to
a review about this awesome cartridge, ...
- September 2004
(Click on 'Archives', then 'Tonearms')
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