Bent Silver TX102 compared to Placette RVC

a friend loaned me a Bent Audio transformer based silver TX102 passive preamp with silver wire to compare to my balanced Placette RVC (remote volume control).
i have spent the last 2 evenings comparing these 2 units. the Bent Audio unit is about 3 weeks old but i'm told it is fairly broken in.....i have had my Placette for about 18 months.

after reading about transformer based attenuation and having some people that i respect tell me i should try them i finally got the chance to compare. my system is fairly passive friendly with amps with 40k ohms input impedence, a short 1 meter i.c. from the attenuator to the amps and good output gain from my sources.

i have been very happy with the Placette but figured i would see what all the fuss was about for myself.

i used vinyl, sacd and cd to compare. both units were on the floor between my amps on cones.

i love the speed, openness, air and space that the Placette brings me. every active gain preamp i have tried in my system has been smoked by the Placette.....what would the Bent do in my system?

the Bent unit did not seem to work as well as the Placette in my system. there was a slight softening of edges and an added shimmer.....things were slightly slow and lacking snap and energy.....and yet there was a beauty and ease to it that could probably be helpfull in some systems.

i played about 6 or 7 hours of music.....back and on the Bent unit compared to the Placette was slightly lacking in pace and drive, voices were beautiful but not as open and textured, and the top end air was reduced. soundstage width and depth were good on the Bent but with the Placette there was a more wrap-around feeling and you could see deeper into the stage. the bass on the Bent was full and voluptuous but also loose and lacking extention and articulation compared to the "best bass i have ever heard" with the Placette.

if i had never heard the Placette the Bent unit might sound very nice.....but the clarity of the Placette is hard to compete with if your system is complimentary to it. my amps have no output adding one in the attenuator might not be synergistic.

the Bent unit in my system reminded me of my perception of the Lamm ML2 amps on Kharma speakers compared to my Tenors.....very nice but just not alive and energetic. are transformers always a good thing?....not in my system to my ears. those of you that love the ML2's may have interpreted things differently.

i don't think this post should be taken as a definitive result one way or another since with passive preamps system synergy is so important. 'transformer verses resistor' is probably not a simple situation. but i will say that it would be a mistake to assume that transformer based attenuation is always better. i'm sure that many systems will greatly benefit from what transformers do.....just not mine.

in fact, i talked to John Chapmann after i listened so i would have an understanding of what was happening before i posted this. he mentioned that passive preamps are all quite system sensitive and that finding the right answer for each situation is part science and part art. my sources have relatively high output impedence and that this was part of the problem with the transformers in my system. the Lamm LP2 Delux phono stage has 3.5K ohms output impedence and i'm not sure what the output impedence of the Meitner DAC6 is. for whatever reason the Meitner DAC6 was a slightly better match in my system than the Lamm LP2 Delux with the Bent unit.....all the deficiencies were there but to a slightly lesser degree.....i assume a better impedence match.

he also mentioned that my system didn't need what transformers can do to help some systems and that my system obviously was particularly synergistic with the Placette. he also felt that his copper transformers would be a better match than the silver transformers in my system and he may arrange to have me try them in the future.....even though in my particular system the resistive approach of the Placette was maybe a better passive solution.

i really appreciated John's lack or defensiveness regarding my experience and his obvious interest in helping people to get the correct solution for their situation. if anyone has purchased the Bent unit they should not take my feedback as a reason to doubt their choice.....but only to be open-minded and listen for yourself. i would also guess that there are systems that would not work perfectly with the Placette......although many of my friends use the Placette with the Tenors and Kharma speakers to their great enjoyment.

i really expected to be bowled over by the Bent silver TX102 unit.....instead i listened and learned.

when it comes to preamps and passives.....keep your mind and ears open.

Nice discussion Mike. I am glad to hear some reporting on this unit in actual use.
Mike- Thanks for the update, I didn't realize you were doing this comparison so soon. As you know I am looking for a unit like one of these- guess I have to try it in my system to know for sure which one I will like better.

Nice review Mike! Even though I have not heard the 2 units side by side, I think Placette and Bent are two neutral pres I have heard in my system as of now.

But system synergy/tastes are more important and hence even a tube pre might be exciting. Choose your poison for your set-up :)

I have a Bent 102 on order right now with the copper trannies, as opposed to the silver. John Chapman tells me that the latest version of the trannies I am getting have OCC copper windings and that the results have been outstanding. I will post my experience when up and running. I read a couple of posts and a review on AA that indicated a preference for the copper over the silver. Would be interesting to do a comparison, Mike, but with the relative quality of my associated equipment such should probably done with your rig! :-)

I agree, John is a great guy. He suggested a source for a phono stage, which I followed. It operates at 200ohm impedance, so maybe it will match well. Or so I am hoping!

Thanks for your review, Mike. Good to hear recommendations one way or the other from someone who has used a component in their system.
Twl, this was originally your idea, thanks for the interesting direction.

Tireguy, if you are planning on'll want a resistor based attenuator....the Placette.

read this; what Tenor says

Kishore, i've tried some great (expensive) tubed preamps.....the Placette smoked them all.

4yanx, bring the copper tranny on over and we'll compare it to the Placette.....are you anywhere near Seattle?

this whole thing has been a learning experience for me. as you make things in your system more simple.....everything has more affect.

i guess it's good.
Mike,I'm sure you haven't heard : Audio Note M6(UK),M7 2000 Signature(Japan),or Ongaku Preamp(Japan)
Thanks for the report - although I'm not considering going passive and losing preamp gain in my system, I have been interested in learning about the transformer approach. I read with interest Dick Olsher's recent review of the Audio Consulting Silver Rock transformer attenuator. I haven't listened to the Placette yet, but I have found my recently acquired Levinson 380S to be the first preamp I've had in my system that seems to get mostly out of the way of the signal and just control the volume with a high degree of transparency. Interestly (and part of the reason I decided to try it, although its generous I/O and switching capabilities also were something I was looking for), the ML eschews gain completely until it is requested - at levels equal to or below unity gain, it becomes a zero-gain actively-buffered resistive attenuator, with the gain only added when called for - a very sensible design approach IMO.
Audio 999, you are correct, i've not tried the AN pre's.....and those that use them, seem to love them. but i have tried the Lamm L2 and Aesthetix Calisto Signature, and i've had other Tenor users report that they preferred the passive resistive attenuation of the Tenor integrated or Placette to any active tube preamp including the CJ ART II, Weytech Topaz, and others.

there is a Tenor user, adsal, that ordered the AN Ongaku preamp so he would have a preamp with the proper impedence for his digital source. i have not talked to him about it since he ordered it about how it compares to the passive approach in his sytem.

Zaikesman, i owned the #380S and then the #32, which was what i owned when i first got the Tenors. the Tenor passive resistive attenuation was much better than the #32 in my system. this does not mean that the #380S or #32 are not excellent preamps, it only means that with Tenors, in my experience passive resistive based attenuation is much better than ANY active gain stage i have heard. the clarity of the Tenors reveals as liabilities what an active gain stage does (to my ears and most Tenor users).

i am getting reports that the Meitner Switchman may be competitive with the Placette with Tenors.....but i've not heard the Switchman.

it would be a mistake to say that all Tenor users prefer passive to all active preamps but there is a very strong tendency in that direction.
A very interesting and well written thread. My personal experience with the mentioned control devices are none. I do have experience though with the substitution of Vishay resistors over many other highly touted brands. I can vouch for the the much improved speed, detail and the most dramatic improvement of all was no noise. Dead quiet back round containing only the music. My Dunlavy SCIV's contain resistor bridges made of the same Vishay resistors used in the Placette RVC. These individual resistors are very expensive, but the improvements greatly outway the investment. I plan on auditioning the Placette soon. Tom
My system is far from being as sophisticated as Mike's, but a few month ago I switched from the Placette RVC to the Bent silver TVC and so I had a chance to compare both units as well. In my system (AudioNet ART V2 cdp, Bent TX102, BAT VK-60, AP Virgo2) the transformer-based attenuation works slightly better than the resistive approach.
My system is fairly passive friendly with the BAT having a 100kOhm input impedance and with 40 Ohm output impedance of the AudioNet cdp. Thus, I got very nice results with the Placette unit, which was very transparent without being analytical. On the other side, macrodynamics were not exactly a strength of this system. When I put in the Bent unit (I let it break in for 50 h and matched levels as good as possible with the Placette) the differences were subtle, but ultimately I found the Bent unit to be more likable. Transparency and detail ever so slightly improved, compared to the Placette, the air around the instruments, that I came to appreciate since I introduced a tube amp into my system, became more belivable. Left/right extension of the sound stage improved considerably and dynamics also slightly improved, although this is still not a strong point (together with bass performance) of my system. Most importantly, after listening to the Bent for a couple of month I find myself more and more being envelopped by the music instead of listening too critically at times.
Maybe this is due to the 'beauty and ease' that Mike described and maybe my system is not able to reveal the TVC's shortcomings. Or they might simply work better in my particular system. Either way, I'm very happy with my TX102.
I tend to agree with John Chapman's analysis. My Walker Reference Phono works nicely into the (copper) Bent, and interfaces well into my 100K ohm (input) tube amps. My experience with another resistor-based passive exhibited thinness, and noticeable deficiency in bass extension/dynamics. I also like the passive better than the Wyetech Opal. One processor less in the chain...more money for vinyl.
Hey James- nice to see a fellow Canuck chime in on this one! I have a loaner copper TX102 right now, and the transparency without lack of dynamics is wonderful (I also had the Wyetech Opal in here- it was also very grainless and pure- but much more $$). The synergy with my digital rig (Spectral 3000SL transport + Audio Note 3.1 Balanced Dac) is also quite good- definitely a serious contender

Just for fun, I will be comparing it to an Audion Premiere 2-box active tube preamp which will be arriving shortly. Having heard the Audion 4-box ultra-rare Premiere Quattro many times at Israel's place (it is amazing- tonality; dynamics; etc. are superb), the combo with his VPI TNT HR-X TT; Total V speakers and the new modded Hurricanes was somethin' else... I have not tried the Placette, however I like what the TX102 does (or DOESN'T do to the signal) so much that I will compare it with one more active pre, and if it's better, than that will be it. John Chapman is also a great guy to deal with.
Hi again John!
The other features I like on the Bent is that it accomodates balanced inputs (and outputs) and has a ground lift switch. Lots of flexibility. Which power cord do you use on yours? (only kidding)
Driving my CDP (Gamut)in balanced mode gives even more dynamic presence.
Waiting for my used Hurricanes, BTW. Lots of heat, but should do the trick on the Totals. I should have listened to Israel 9 months ago on this move instead of wasting time and money elsewhere.
After reading some threads on the Placette RVC I am considering a purchase. I called and talked with the people at Placette and they advised me that there was no need to use a balanced RVC despite the fact that my system is fully balanced. I am currently running an Accuphase 90/91 Transport/Dac into a Rowland model 10.

Notwithstanding the fact of cables already in my possession, I have found that the Rowland seems to slightly favor its balanced inputs.

Is anyone running a balanced Placette? DOes it make any difference?

Also, I have no idea if my system is a candidate for passive preamplification. Can anybody shed some light on this? I DO know I need some attenuation and am leaning toward a Levinson 308s in the event I get an active preamp.

I was a bit afraid that the Levinson might impart a thinness and sterility to my system - but I have had a 38s years ago and it was competent, well built and robustly designed and executed.

If still reads this thread please let me know - you can email me at -----Thanks, Michael
There was a new review posted on a balanced placette a couple of days ago over at the asylum, also a review of the bent audio passive and the placette along with another passive by another guy that was pretty interesting. The threads are still active in the amp/preamp section if you want to read them. There is another review also of passive against a couple of well thought of tube pre's that is interesting reading.
I had to give the Bent a pass (although John the Bent guy is great to deal with)- not near the band-width pass-through of the Audion- perhaps Placette better? Would be very curious to hear the Silver Rock as well...
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