While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I find the above post at the asylum entirely off mark. I've owned the TF10, and own the TF12 (about six years and counting), and find the TF12 to be a considerably better preamp than the TF10 (though the TF10 is no slouch, particularly with the "A" modification). The TF12 has a considerably lower noise floor; has a much, much wider dynamic range; throws a huge soundstage on the X,Y and Z axis, and is anything but thin or silvery sounding, nor is it polite and soft. The preamp (like all of Berning's equipment) is an accurate conduit through which music flows - it is neither euphonic in the typically tubey way, nor is it sterile and thin (in fact, being a pure tube design it is much less euphonic than the hybridized TF-10). If you are looking for a preamp that is more forgiving, then the TF10 is the right choice for you. However, as one's associated equipment continually improves, it becomes more and more obvious that the TF12 simply lets one see into the musical picture with greater resolution and understanding - something that the TF10 eventually hits a brick wall with. As far as reliability issues are concerned, Berning used sockets for some of the ICs in the unit, and these are best removed and the ICs directly soldered to the board to avoid some of these issues (particularly the +/- 12V regulators for the volume circuitry). The TF10 has much greater switching flexibility for tape paths and the such, and it also has 3(!) phono inputs should one have multiple RIAA sources, and one may be configured as a MC input. The TF12 avoids most of the clutter in the signal path (at the expense of all that switching) to focus more on fidelity. The TF12 also dispenses with normal potentiometers, and instead employs an optical encoder to step the volume/balance in 1 dB increments for greater accuracy and repeatability - and all this accomplished via a remote which is nice. The tube complement of the two units is totally different - the TF10 utilizes 12AT7 throughout (except for the phono stage which uses 12AX7). The TF12 is based on the 6DJ8 for line-level amplification (and uses the same ECC81/83 complement in the phono stage). Tube life is superlative (as it is in all Berning products). The TF10 is built using conventional phenolic circuit boards; the TF12 utilizes Teflon ciruit boards. There are several worthwhile upgrades to the TF12 which David Berning mentions on his website which I have deployed to great effect. In conclusion, both preamps are unflagging in their dedication to making music. Both are competent high-fidelity devices, but the TF12 takes everything the TF10 does right several levels higher, and omits the things the TF10 does wrong entirely. Easy choice. Good listening,
Richard...Thanks for the thorough response!! I personally dont need that much switching...all i need is to be able to tape NPR classical music into a reel to reel sometimes.
I am not sure that my system is able to be so precise as to make the improvement aparent?
McIntosh MC40 amps, VPI Scout TT, Parasound CDP-2000, Electrovoice TRXB's and soon Tannoy System 12 DMT monitors..
Very nice summary Richard. I have been long interested in the TF12 since JGH did a review for Stereophile back in 1988, my first encounter with David Berning and his fine products. Could you comment on how it might compare with current pre-amps? I've been tempted to buy one to find out first hand if I could find one at the right price.
I think that the upgrade from a TF10 to a TF12 was one of those jawdropping audio moments in my life. Mind you, my TF10 had only recently (a couple years or so) been back to Berning for the "A" modification, along with some other "improvements" as well. The TF12 simply did everything much better across the board. With a pair of MC40s, you would be blown away by the upgrade to the TF12 - without question. I have often lamented that Berning never continued making preamps as it would be interesting to see what his current thinking and design would entail. I've never discussed the issue with him however, as I'm quite contented with my TF12 and certainly can't afford a custom one-off from his workbench (though I often dream of what his version of a stand-alone phono stage would comprise.....mmmmmm). There are only a handful of preamp designs on the market these days that I would entertain trying out (the Suprateks, the Joule, the Hovland or perhaps the Loesch nuvistor design) and they are all well out of my price range (my next large cash outlay will be for a new turntable, LP12 gods have mercy). Good listening. -Richard
Well this is interesting Richard as I have a pair of MC-60's lying around. I also have the Berning zh270 amp and Supratek Syrah, both very nice components but there is something intrinsically appealing to me about the zh270 that I have rarely encountered in audio products, the combination of superb sonics with an efficient design something he consistently is able to accomplish in his designs. Stay tuned for a new Berning pre-amp. I understand there will be a prototype at the Montreal show in April.
Very interesting news regarding a new Berning preamp. Having heard the ZH270 in my own system (and the MC40s but not the 60s), I don't think there's really a need to compare these two very different designs sonically. Let's just say that the ZH270 has very few peers from any era. I completely agree regarding Berning's design philosophy - I know of no other audio manufacturer who can say (with a straight face and uncrossed fingers) that the average life expectancy of the output tubes in their power amplifier is aproximately 10 years. I own both an EA2101 and two EA230 that I run as 60W monoblocks. I've never HAD to retube ANY of my Berning units (though tube-rolling in them is very illustrative and sometimes counter-intuitive...). Since I'm in Albany NY, the Montreal show is only a moderate drive away. If you have a link on the show, I'd be much obliged. Regards, -Richard