Since you are asking such a broad ranged question you are likely to get responses all across the board unless you further define your requirements and preferences, such as balanced-XLR ins/outs, display, remote, tubed or SS, active vs. passive, maximum output impedance to go with your amps (or list the amps), etc. For example, several I have owned and found to better the Calypso (to my ears) included;
Lamm LL2 Deluxe,
CAT Ultimate MkII, and
Tom Evans Vibe with Pulse
* I would prefer balanced or at least an XLR output, since my amp is XLR only, but I'm not doctrinaire on that point.
* I'm leaning toward tubes, but want mostly want to avoid a lean or dry sound.
* A passive would have to offer at least two inputs, since I still listen to records.
* The input impedance of my amp (a BAT VK-250) is 100K Ohm.
I thought the Calypso sounded good but lacked dynamics. I preferred and use the PCA-2 by PS Audio.
Ok. None of those I listed above have balanced ins or outs. That is my problem also.
I owned a Calypso,then an Audio Horizons tube line stage which noticeably bettered the Calypso in my system.Others may have different opinions.The AH also has XLR connectors for CD and pre out in addition to rca.AH also offers a free home trial.
The Calypso has a really pretty minimalist circuit design. You are in a sense listening to the tubes. Which is amazing with good tubes but make using low noise / low microphonic tubes mandatory.
One thing you can try with Tung Sols is change the gain on the Calypso to the low setting. Its in the manual and just involves a set of jumpers on the main board (unplug it!). Large reduction in noise for me.
A set of reasonably priced NOS 6922's (seimans 1960s) may be worth trying in the Bat and you could always use them in the Calypso if you go that way.
@Mark, thanks, looks interesting, though I don't have enough feedback for the free demo.
@Nik, I think the Calypso I have on loan is an older model without the jumpers. Or at least they are not where people say they are. The gain *is* too high for my DAC and amp. Guess I'll ask the dealer.
I talked to Kevin at Upscale audio, and he thought a Primaluna Dialogue 3 would "smoke" the BAT (they also sell BAT). But, duh, I didn't think to ask him about the Calypso because my original question was about tube rolling the BAT (he doesn't think the dark character can be changed much.)
Test drive a Shindo if you have a chance. Not balanced but I think these may meet your other requirements.
@Rwwear, the Calypso seems to have good "jump" factor in my system.
I've had a Calypso for about 3 years and it's been my favorite preamp by far vs. my previous preamps, which included the Joule LA-150 & BAT VK30. It responds big-time to tube rolling, but sounds only so-so with the stock Sovtek's. You HAVE TO tube roll with good NOS tubes to get the most out of this unit... but it's worth the effort and expense.
Disclosure: I've recently sold my Calypso, but only because I've gone to an all tubed integrated (McIntosh MA2275).
Try 3 Herbies Iso cups with lampblack balls under the Calypso. Two in front and one in the rear. You will be amazed. They really focused the soundstage and improved the sound for the better in my system.
Also good NOS tubes are mandatory to get the best out of the Calypso.
Is it possible to use 12aU7s in place of the 12ax7s, especially considering the huge gain the Calypso has? I have some Mullard CV4003s.
No. Mullard CV4004's work well. I have tried some GE 5751's which are lower gain and quieter but prefered the CV4004's.
Not sure why your dealers unit does not have the gain jumpers. If you buy a new one it should have them and it lowers the gain by 12db's.
If you use low noise NOS tubes the Calypso sounds better in the high gain position IMO. Unless you use really efficient speakers like 100db plus.
I think it's just a very old unit. If I go with the Calypso, I'll probably get new unit.
The new Calypso will come with the lower gain and sounds great with the Vandy quatros in a balanced system
Later look at the matching Aesthetix Atlas amp
or a pair of Balanced Quicksilver V4s
"Primaluna Dialogue 3 would "smoke" the BAT ... (he doesn't think the dark character can be changed much.)
My BAT preamp is very, very dark. But this can be changed. They make a version in silver as well.
Personally, I would be concerned about the Primaluna or any preamp if it smokes. That probably indicates a need for service.
Seriously, which BAT do you have? I have to say that I still prefer the 3iX's big soundstage presentation. I may just stand pat.
If you need the info on changing the jumpers to lower the gain, I have in in pdf and can email to you.
Finding a balanced tube preamp is not all that hard. ARC has been making them since the mid-90s, and we have been making them since the late 1980s.
Thanks, that would be very helpful!
@Atmasphere, I don't want to limit myself to balanced gear, though. It's nice to hear those Neutrik connectors go "click!", though.
I just tried some EH 6922s in the Calypso. I didn't think Sovtek -> EH would make a big difference, but it seems to make a huge difference in terms of soundstage depth and spaciousness.
Finding a balanced tube preamp is not all that hard
ah, true, but unfortunately not as easy as finding a single-ended preamp or a psudo-balanced preamp - especially outside of Minnesota :?)
I take back what I said about the Calypso bettering the 3ix. The Calypso does have more treble extension and more neutral midrange, but I just find the big, dramatic soundstage the 3ix presents to be hard to leave. I think part of the effect is due to the plumper midbass of the 3ix, but there's more depth to the soundstage as well. Now maybe the Calypso will do better with NOS tubes, but the 3iX is doing its thing with $15 Electro-Harmonix tubes.
I love the Calypso. I think it is a great sounding piece I am using it with my sevens and because of the lack of IR control in other pieces I still use it but I think it is up to the caliper of the rest of the system. Just don't by the Altas amps I have had nothing but trouble with them or there phono stage. I was using quicksilver v4 before that and they where reliable and sounded great.
Thoress phono stage with Decca, EMI curves more open better made.Point to point wiring no boards.