Pass XP-17 Phono Preamplifier Review

December 19, 2017 § Leave a comment

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“The XP-17 finally is positioned several price classes higher, but very much deservedly so. Although the Pass has no tubes, it does sound every bit as fluid and organic as the SW1X. It is perhaps not quite as spritely nor as nimble and speedy, but it makes up for this with an even more sonorous sound with more powerful and more sonorous bass and a harmonically richer midrange, while simultaneously sounding more even-handed. Importantly, regardless of its full-bodied bass and rich midrange, the Pass sounds clear and articulate, well-balanced and very neutral. It actually combines virtues that are often contradictory: tonally full yet neutral, organic, rich and fluid yet clean, clear and detailed, and all aspects in equal measure.”


Rogue Audio RP-7 Tube Preamplifier $4995 – Review

December 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

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“I’m happy to say that the Rogue Audio RP-7 was good enough for me to use without yearning to switch back to my reference preamps. Of course, I did switch back to these reference preamps for comparisons sake. I put back into the system the Balanced Audio Technology (BAT) VK-33 preamplifier for a while, a vacuum tube preamp that is one I’ve used on and off in my system for over two years. This preamp sells for two thousand dollars more than the RP-7 in its standard configuration, and although this isn’t a shoot-out, I can honestly say that the two preamps are more the same than different, and that is great praise for the Rogue Audio preamp. I also reinstalled the two solid-state preamps I had on hand. After becoming accustomed to the different sound that a solid-state preamplifier offers, it was easy to deduce that both these preamps sounded superior to the Rogue preamp. But I was also astounded that the reference units were not necessarily better in every area. This is not a trivial matter, not only because both these preamps are 2017 Blue Note Award winners, but because these preamps much costlier than the Rogue Audio preamp.”

Schiit Freya tube preamplifier $699 Review

November 10, 2017 § Leave a comment

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“With Freya’s tubes engaged, Miles Davis’ “The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions” album’s sound blew me away. Its at-times almost-ambient music completely fills my room. Amazing, and then Davis’ killer rhythm section kicks in, and oh boy the band takes off and the music’s dynamics rocked my world. Switching from the tubes to the Freya’s buffer stage the soundstage flattens, becoming smaller and more two-dimensional. The music feels less dynamically alive without the tubes in the signal path. Still, listening with the passive or buffer stages was perfectly enjoyable and probably more neutral. Anyway, it’s easy enough to switch between passive, buffer and tube stages to decide for yourself which one sounds best.”


October 20, 2017 § Leave a comment


“It’s worth noting that this Jeff Rowland does not sound like it has a switch mode power supply, as there’s no graininess or brightness at all. In fact, it couldn’t be smoother, it’s the most polished SMPS device I’ve encountered. And this does the Capri S2 a lot of favours when bringing out the tonal richness of everything you play. It’s not just classical sopranos who benefit; Tom Waits’ ‘In Shades’ [Heart Attack & Vine, Ayslum] also has great depth to the guitar and organ, and the burble of the dining audience is clearly separated from the music, a result in part of the impressive low level resolution on offer. This is a very quiet preamp indeed, which means that very little fails to get to its outputs. This in turn means there’s plenty of dynamic range available in the resulting sound.”

Audio Research LS28 Stereo Preamplifier Review

October 17, 2017 § Leave a comment

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“The LS28 left me wondering about the end of the road in audiophile land. Where does a hobbyist go when spending $7,500 gets you a component as luxurious and high quality as the LS28? There are some exotic preamplifiers costing two or three times as much, even from Audio Research, that are unlikely to sound two or three times better. Or do they? Before spending that kind of coin, does it not make more sense to substantially upgrade your room and then your amplification or speakers? Combined with the fact that no other company on the market can equal the service and support offered by ARC, the value proposition for the LS28 is substantial.”

McIntosh D1100 Reference Preamp/DAC $7,000 – Video

October 6, 2017 § Leave a comment

Mark Levinson No 523 Preamplifier, Phonostage And Headphone Amplifier $15,000 World Premiere Review

September 22, 2017 § Leave a comment

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“Let’s not forget about the Mark Levinson No 523’s phono preamplifier. First of all, I was quite surprised at this onboard phono preamp’s flexibility. And of course its sound quality! As with its headphone amp, the phono preamp that is in the Mark Levinson No 523 is hardly an afterthought. As I said in the introduction of this review, this phono preamp uses the same design principles as the No 523 itself, with a fully discrete design running in Class A, with tantalum nitride thin-film resistors and polypropylene capacitors. Mark Levinson doesn’t publish many specifications in regards to its phono preamplifier, but I have no doubt that due to its two channels being physically separated from each other, its channel separation specifications are most likely very impressive. I use low-output moving coil (MC) cartridges, and I found it very easy to adjust the phono preamps gain settings and loading options. It was quite a simple task, as I used its front panel input knob to scroll through the menu options, and then used it’s enter button to select the desired options. The phono preamp’s menu choices include opting for either an MM or MC cartridge, resistive and capacitive load options, balance, either high or low gain, and its infrasonic filter.”

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