Audio Experience tube preamp

First of all let me state that I'm not an expert on tube equipment. In fact I've never had any before. I was one of the ones that was happy as can be that transistors had come to the front. I grew up with tubes and learned to hate them. TV sets were always screwing up and in constant need of repair. To make a long story short, I ran into an ad by YS Audio in Hong Kong for a deal on a line level preamp that was listed as a promotion for $300 instead of the regular $700. I know that to some of you that this is too low to even consider, but it seemed like a good way to find out what this tube stuff is all about.
I got the unit today and hooked it up to my Creek {5350}integrated amp, by yanking out the "u" bars on the back. I was in no way prepard for what I heard. I know that the superlatives get thrown around a lot on this site, but it was and is outstanding. It seemed like the music just opened up. Especially the dynamic range on all types of music. I have no idea if the numbers support this or not. I frankly could not care less what the numbers and stats say, because I hear a huge difference. It's kind of ironic because that's what people say about all kinds of things like DAC's and cables, and I have been completely underwhemed by these. Straining for hours to see if a certain cable improved "presence" or "soundstage" or "definition" This was a real improvement, and the thing's not even broken in yet. The manual says 100 hours to "bed in" {the writing is a hoot} Anyone else ever dealt with this outfit?
Elmuncy, I, too, have the Music Mk II preamp (the $300 factory-direct model) and am pleased with it. I was thinking about selling it and my old Belles amplifier to go with a decent integrated, but I have also considered upgrading my amp. The only reason I would go integrated is to get better integration with my home theater setup and to have remote control. I have been looking at the Anthem Integrated 2 used, and it looks to have everything I need. I really want a home theater passthrough so I can use my ht receiver more easily with my mains being run with different amplification. Anyway, when I got the preamp I was very pleased with my first foray into tubes. I think I will strive to keep some of this sound in my system no matter how it progresses. They seem like high quality pieces for the direct price he is offering direct while he tries to market abroad from HK.
Oh, and of course, I forgot to add that I am still a little surprised that you heard such an improvement (in your opinion) over a highly regarded integrated - the Creek. It makes me lean toward my option of upgrading my amplifier only, and keep the Audio Experience. Thanks.
I purchased the Audio Expressions Symphonies pre amp for $380 on Ebay from YS Audio. It lists on their web site for $995. I owned a Conrad Johnson PV 4 before that I really liked but this preamp blew it away. If the Conrad Johnson was a $795 preamp in 1983 which is like what $1600 now, this Audio Expressions preamp should be $2500. The build quality is excellent. Silver wiring and point to point soldering. No circuit boards here. This amp probably would cost at least $2500 if made in the US to get this quality. The sound is remarkable. Detailed, good soundstage and openess. I definately think I got a steal.
Last April, I bought an Audio Experience Symphonies pre-amp. It sounds so much better than my C-J Sonographe SC-26 it is difficult to express. Delivered from Hong Kong for $377!!!

Everyone who has seen it has been impressed with the build quality, fit and finish. Everyone who has heard it has been impressed with the clarity and imaging. Best deal in stereo today? Maybe.
I too have an Audio Experience Symphonies pre that I bought right here on Audiogon for $250 or so used. I am using it in my bedroom system with Bottlehead Paramour amps and Hornshoppe horns.

I bought it because I had bungled my attempt to build a Bottlehead Foreplay. I'm very very happy with the sound- so much so that I have put my foreplay repair on a back burner for the foreseeable future. The system (with a fairly cheap Sony sacd source) sounds beautiful and natural. I listen mostly to jazz and other "soft" music with this system.

I will say that after hearing it in my bedroom system, I hooked it up to my main system in place of the Adcom GFP 750 that I use there (along with a Heart CD6000 with seimens NOS tubes, a mcintosh 2205, and paradigm ref 40 and ps-1000 speakers/sub) and did not feel that it was an improvement to this system which is mostly used to rock (eg Tool, Pearl Jam and the like).

My systems are lower-end than those belonging to most posters here, so take my remarks with a grain of salt, but IMO you can't go wrong with this item, especially for the used price.
These products seem really intriguing, especially for the price. Glad to hear that so many of you have positive experiences to report.

One reason I've stayed away from them is their high output impedance -- 2,000 ohm! That would seem to make these preamps very difficult to mate with certain amplifiers.
Anyone have any problems in that area?
yes I have to sell mine because it just doesn't mate up with my SS amp. It sounds wonderful but it makes my system have hum and hiss that I didn't have with my Conrad Johnson PV4.
I myself own the Audio Experience MK3 tube preamp. I run it into my MCS 3125 stereo receiver (the top of the line receiver built for JC Penny's private lable, which sports a triple darlington, triple differential SEPP OCL output stage capable of "over 200 watts per channel" according to the manual, the specifications still rival some of the top gear of today), I didnt want to lose the power of the solid state design but wanted the sound of vacuum tubes so I bought the MK3. Comparatively speaking the MCS 3125 sounded great to begin with, clear, powerful dynamic. I hooked the MK3 up to the MCS 3125 when it arrived and was quite surprised by the sound, it sounded great and detailed, I spent several hours listening to some of my favorite stuff it never disappointed. Out of mere curiosity I ordered a bunch of NOS 5Y3 tubes (these are readily available and relatively cheap) as well as a set of NOS 12AX7s. I tested a vintage Raytheon, Arcturus, and then a Philco as the 5Y3s. Tossing in the Philco was an experience I will never forget, the sound quality difference was tremendous, louder more dynamic bass was deep solid, treble was clean crisp and smooth, quite surprising. It sounded far superior to the Sovtek that is included. The Raytheon actually sounded worse than the Sovtek, the Arcturus was only slightly less good than the Philco, I have a NOS GE and RCA as well but the Philco sounded so good I never tried them. The 12AX7s I got were a set of late 50s GEs, I removed the EIs and popped these in, they sounded slightly different but not substantially different just a tad bit better (smoother bass) but nothing to write home about. I think the 5Y3 is quite important to this preamp, and I wouldnt hesitate to suggest trying a different 5Y3 in it, I think one will be quite surprised with just how much different it makes the sound. Last night I finished fixing up a Masco tube amplifier I got at the flea market, which used 4 7C7s, a 7N7, a 5U4 rectifier, and 2 6L6 outputs, and put it up to the test in comparison, it was more fluid than the solid state MCS 3125 with the MK3 but not that much different. This unit is a tremendous value for the money and the build quality is exceptional for the price. I wouldnt hesitate to recommend it.
My system is as follows-
MCS 3125 receiver
Marantz SD6000 cassette
Garrard turntable
SMC 330s DVD/CD player
Audio Experience MK3 preamp
AR 226PS speakers
Linaeum tweeters
AR S112PS subwoofer
I purchased the symphonies pre-amp in Dec. 2002. It's teamed with a carver 1.5t ss amp. I utlize a satelite subwoofer system. The subwoofer is powered by a separate ss amp. The sound is truly remarkable. It really warms up the solid state sound and it delivers a great value in my opinion. Of all the things I've added over the years this one product has probably made the biggest difference improving the sound. One other note, I found that I had to ground splitters in my cable system as my stereo is connected to it via my hi fi vcr. Before grounding I noticed a hum in the system. Grounding greatly reduced it. When listening to music I unplug my cable line. Then it is dead silent.
In a followup to my own review of this unit I have given this unit a substantial amount of playtime and got the opportunity to compare it to a vintage preamp. Still using the Philco 5Y3 and GE 12AX7s I have given it a good solid burn in and it sounds exceptionally good. It seems to warm up a bit as it burns in. I recently obtained an Electrohome VA-100 MK2 preamp from the 50s or 60s and tossed in the best possible tube compliment I could come up with for it, a pair of RCA 12AX7s and a TungSol 6X4WA rectifier. I initially tried this with a Fisher RS-1058 stereo receiver but recently obtained what may have been the biggest Fisher receiver out of the 1970s, the RS-1060 which tips the scales at a whopping 57lbs. Again like the MCS 3125 I use with the Audio Experience the RS-1060 is a clean sounding powerful reciever, using bipolar outputs instead of the triple darlington outputs of the MCS 3125. The Electrohome sounded smooth as silk with the tube setup I have installed, it has a compelling characteristic that makes you want to listen more. I compared this to the MK3 as it initially sounded (Ei 12AX7s and the Sovtek 5Y3) and would have taken the Electrohome in that scenario. With the NOS tube compliment in place the Audio Experience MK3 was equally smooth and warm yet substantially cleaner, powerful and dynamic. Let this be a further note to all to experiment with different tubes in this unit. It may not seem like it could make much difference but as I previously had noted replacing the 5Y3 Sovtek with the Philco was like listening to two entirely different preamps.