I have had an AES AE3 for a few years and love it.
28 responses Add your response
I owned the AE-3 DJH signature preamp and was thinking of upgrading to the MK II and Kevin Deal advised me that the DJH was still a superior preamp for purity. It's the best $1500 I ever spent on my system. However, it only has three inputs and one output. You did not indicate how many inputs you need. But if it's three or less, I would seriously consider the AE-3 DJH.
I was hoping to hear more from AES MkII owners. Maybe there aren't many.
I had the DJH version a few years back and the basic AES model too. The DJH was much better than the basic model. While it was very good, it was prone to hum in my system, because of its non cap-coupled output stage. I'm thinking the MkII version might be a better match to my very nice Super Amp MkII.
The DJH has a big output and matches the older AES amp designs better, which did not have a driver stage (just like the Cary non-R amps) the R versions as well as the MkII version has a more normal input sensativity.
The new Superamp 2 has a good input driver stage and is very senitive. I can be used with passive preamps too, and it works wonderfully w/ the variable outputs of sources and DACs. I thought the AES MkII preamp might be a better match to it.
Incidentally the Superamp MkII benifits from better feet and a good stand.
Does anyone have any feedback for me.
I'm glad to hear that the AE3 MkII matches well with the SixPacs. I've alway thought they may a great pair of amps.
I love my SuperAmp2.
Did you buy your six packs new or are they a later version? I understand that Cary improved the SixPacs as well with a better driver stage.
How does this combo sound to you?
I have an AES AE3 DJH preamplifier, and agree with those who say it's a superior component.
I bought it on the recommendation of my friends The Doctor (Mechans) and Joe (Slipknot1), two of the more discerning audiophiles I know, who both told me that with the Consonance Cyber 800 monoblocks The Doctor was using, the sound was reference level.
In my own systems, the AE3 has proven to possess a good combination of dynamics, punch, gain, and lushness. Pretty much exactly what I wanted out of a tube preamplifier. It proved a fabulous complement to my Atma Sphere M60 monoblocks as well as a few other amps I've paired it with. Reliability has proven excellent as well. The only nits I can come up with are related to the remote, if that is important to you (it's not to me) - the remote does not offer the ability to change inputs and the mute function reduces the sound to a fairly low level, but nothing close to silence. But, again, it's a no-brainer component for those audiophiles who put sonics as their number one priority.
I bought my Six Pacs new, have had them since January, so I'm assuming they're the most recent edition. I don't know about any changes that they've made to the driver stage, but mine came stock with 12AX7's and EL-84's. I've since swapped the 12AX7's with 12BZ7's, which definitely add more punch. If someone's linestage is a bit "hot" gain-wise, using a 12AX7 or 12AT7 might help.
I added the Cary soft shoes to the Six Pacs shortly after buying them. I'm thinking about putting a set on the AE-3 or trying vibrapods/cones.
I wouldn't mind trying the DJH version of the AE-3 with the SixPacs, but for now am happy with the MkII.
I understand that the new 6pacs (yours) are improved from what I read on AudioAsylum. Email or call Cary, they would be able to answer it.
They only make the DJH pre for Kevin Deal, probably until their supplies for production run out, as it really is discontinued. The new AES products have better transformers according to Cary. Also talking to Cary the DJH many be better in some ways but not all.
Sorry about the late response to your question.
I have used the DJH pre with solid state amps with excellent sonic results. The only drawback is its high 20 db output. The volume will max out at about the 10-11 o'clock volume knob position.
If you want it more normal with finer adjustments you will have to add and attenuator at its output or do a mod on the inside. Cary can supply the mod info. This preamp was originally designed for their tube amps w/o the input griver stage so hense the high output. The new AES mk11 has a normal output voltage and will work with a wider range of amps.
I had a DJH and auditioned an AE3- MKII after I sold my DJH. Bottom line..
DJH - Very direct, dynamic and has some pop/slam. Soundstage width is sort of small-ish.
AE3 MKII - MUCH warmer, fuller and bigger bass. But the bass is a but loose when compared to the DJH. I was shocked at the fullness of the sound when compared to the DJH. You lose some clarity but the soundstage is wider.
Build goes to DJH. The AE3 MKII is 7lbs, DJH 12. Also, if I tap on top of the MKII, the taps transfer to my speakers. the DJH did not do that.
Now the odd thing...
My six pacs seem to have doubled in power with the MKII. The DJH has more gain, but my music can play louder and cleaner with the MKII. Not sure what was up with that. In any case, I am sending the MKII back as it can be a bit too warm in my system.
Sonus Faber Guarneri Memento Speakers
Six Pac Amps
Cambridge Audio Azur 840C CDP
Clear Day Cables Shotgun speaker cables and cardas IC's.
That is a nice comparison.
The extra dynamics of the DJH con probably be contributed to the non-capacitor coupled output. The DJH has transformers potted in wax while the MkII has a decorative cover over the transformers, but the MkII is supposed to have better transformers. You can upgrade the caps in the MkII to improve the sound. The DJH is a signature version and already has upgraded oil caps.
As you described the MkII, I liked it better. It just needs to be upgraded into a signature vs. like the DJH is.
Thanks everyone one who posted on this thread, as I initially started it. There has been some excellent comments and inputs so lets keep it going. My system has moved to a smaller listening room so I'm going the passive preamp route.
I'm so impressed with the Superamp MkII that it is staying with me for the long hall. If I was going to get an AES preamp I'd go for the MkII. I think it has more potential in the long run by upgrading caps and feet. I think it might give the DJH a run for the money.
Everytime I've talked with Cary we talk about the Superamp 2 they can't go on enough about it. I'm wondering if it is a stripped down CAD120 with a similar circuit design (this is just a guess). I will be upgrading the caps (they highly recommend it) and feet somewhere down the road. I have tried other solid rubber feet to replace the stock rubber coated plastic feet with a large noticeable difference in sound clarity and air. The Cary soft shoes may be even more prnounced. I'll bet the same translates on the MkII preamp.
With Regards fellow audiophiles,
I have also experienced the mechanical noise that Stevehuff1 has described. Setting the linestage with its tiny stock feet on a steel shelf most likely increased the effect. I'm sure that the Cary soft shoes would help.
I've since set my AE-3 on Vibrapods/Vibracones.
Currently running it with a Mullard 5AR4 and Sylvania 6SN7's.
does this have 2 pre outs?? that would be cool, it also would be cool if i could find a pic of the rear of the unit, i have looked everywhere and it is quite vexing.
i may get a djh instead but i think that has only one output and i really probably need 2 out put, from what ive read the djh does some things better namely punch? and that is a justification for choosing just the single preoutput of the djh over the double preferable ouput of the aes ae3 mkII
anyone directly a/b these unit yet
Just want to chime in and say the AE3 DJH is an excellent affordable preamp for those who want to experience what a nicely built tube preamp has to offer. It does not have a tone of bells and whistles but I consider it excellent value for the money. I've moved on to much more expensive models over the years but I still have a soft spot for this one. If a used one comes up in good condition snatch one up.