The deHavilland Ultraverve is pretty good. dehavillandhifi.com. for show reports and reviews.
I am a dealer so if you like what you read give me a shout.
Melody Valve Pure Black 101
Both are linestages under $5,000 in the US. Both have remote control for volume. Both have the vivid, muscular, refined characteristics of 6sn7 and both benefit greatly from NOS or near-NOS replacement tubes.
The Valvet is fast, bursty, tonally rich and lit up. It's dyamically assertive, balanced throughout the tonal range and stays objective in the extremes.
The Melody 101, bringing to the matchup its amp-heavy transformers, smooth, detailed, rich and quiet. It doesn't have the same bridled racehorse urgency of the Valvet, instead anticipating and accommodating the crescendos in music like swells. With the Valvet you feel speed and pulsing power. With the Melody you feel dreadnought inevitability like an ocean swell you can't push back. Which is not to say that the Valvet sounds fleeting nor that the Melody sounds slow. But their energy is impressed upon you differently.
For over $5k, the Valvet Soulshine is also now an octal preamp.
If you want a phono section in a 6sn7-based preamp I think these days outboard is the best way to get that other than in a Cary preamp that may be complementary to your sytem, but which I regard as sonically a step behind the Valvet and Melody.
Thanks everyone for your suggestions. The Melody Valve looks interesting but not sure if I would invest in a Chinese built hi-end preamp, at lease at this point in time. Does anyone have any experience with the Thoress preamp from Germany? I believe it uses 12sn7's in the linestage also.
Will do research on the deHavilland Ultraverve and the Valvet in the meantime.
Blue Circle from Canada made 6sn7 based preamps years ago, not sure how they would hold up these days though.
The Melody 101 is designed in Australia and made in a dedicated factory/craft facility in China. Not only is the parts content world class but it is mostly point-to-point hand wired with exquisite attention to detail and it is finished to premier western standards. Given its parts content it is a bargain at its price materially and sonically. You should have zero reservations about whether to "invest in a Chinese high-end preamp." It's a world class product that when stuffed with NOS 6sn7s and a vintage rectifier, is one of the two or three best linestage preamps I've heard in the last 40 years.
I have the Mystere CA-21. I have to say it that its performance never ceases to amaze me. It makes real music, is uncolored, dynamic, with huge deep and tall soundstage, beautiful tonality and balance. Build quality is unbelievable and is totally silent. This preamplifier weighs close to 50 pounds. the price per performance ratio is remarkable. I would put it up against anything out there!
Do you prefer the Melody or the Valvet? How would you decide which would be a better match for a system? I respect your ears as you and I have similar taste ( meaning I have listened to your advice in the past and have come to appreciate your words of wisdom:)). Also have you heard the Modwright LS-100? If so, could you compare and contrast them all?
Thanks in advance,
>>Do you prefer the Melody or the Valvet?<<
I like both the Melody 101 and the Valvet L2, but for somewhat different reasons. Both have the big tone and harmonic completeness generally associated with octal preamps. The Valvet is explosively energetic while the Melody's dynamic energy is more "tidal." The Valvet wakes up a system that has some laziness left in it or puts more shove into a room that eats dynamic energy. On the other hand, the Melody settles a room that has uneven dynamic response and fills every nook and cranny of it with swelling tone when appropriate. If other components in a system lack speed, the Valvet will compensate. If greater nuance is your goal, Melody has the edge.
The Melody 101 with stock tubes is no match for the Valvet. Both benefit from NOS 6sn7s but the Melody gains the greater leap from proper tubes. It's astonishing how much the Melody improves by replacing its stock base Chinese 6sn7s and it's generic current production rectifier tube. The stock Guigang 101D tubes are OK -- the 101D is apparently used for voltage regulation. The mesh plate (really, perforated plate) Full Music 101d/n brings some improvements over the stock tube but they are small and come at the expense of more noise. The Shuguang 101D large bulb tube sounds clearly better than stock, and has no downsides. I have a range of vintage 6sn7 tubes that transform the Melody, and the Mullard Blackburn-made 5ar4 pins it.
I bought a Melody Pure Black 101 but recommended a Valvet to a friend because it was a better match to his needs. In a market long on mediocre preamps at every price, these two along with the new 6sn7 version of the Valvet Soulshine, are standouts. The Valvet is forward in my room/system, but exactly right for another. The Melody, properly tubed, is among the best preamps at any price in convincing tonality, and its tidal surge dynamics match my 845 SET amp's burstiness and room.
I have heard the Modwright. Every Modwright piece I've heard has the same signature flaws of dynamic constriction and tonality incomplete presentation -- something about Modwright designs fails to produce "the whole note." I just don't find MW sound in any way engaging or musically convincing, so I don't consider the Modright LS remotely in the same league as the two preamps discussed here.
Thanks Phil. That helps me a lot actually and also just hearing the way you interpret the system helps me understand how to better make improvements across my system. I believe that I have quite an uneven dynamic response ( I interpret this to mean that certain songs sound great at times, and then with changes in dynamics, I get a huge volume swing and feel the need to turn the song down for a few seconds), and the tone of my system is a bit off with regards to stringed instruments. That may be a reflection of the change in speakers from Zu to Tekton, but it could be the change in Pre and amp also. I will definitely keep this in mind going forward. Thanks again.......