anything from Audio Research, used are always good values, sound good and have high resale value.
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I recently got a Sebring 300B from Ultra Fi and I have been doing a similar search. The one's that have got my interest are Artemis Labs, Music First, & a DIY from Slagle autoformer's. Finance's arn't there yet for me, so I haven't auditioned any of them. Like to hear what you go with & how it works out.
From my experience:
( so take it with reservation since I've own these in the last 6 months or so and I could be bias. Also interaction with rest of my components/synergy might ....... and is big factor you have to take into consideration if you decide to place any one of these on your "must addition" list)
* In no particular order *
+excellent preamp, with speed , transparency , musicality, effortless transitions and truely engaging sound.
-no real shortcomings , but if I had to point my personal , tinny complaints (that word is truely unjust in my description but for lock of better words - forgive me) it would be a very small/minimal higher and upper middle range frequencies coloration that I can only describe as edginess or grainy saturation that might be interpret as a extra information or realization of the detail that is actually not there. It is very enjoyable at first but ( in my case ) after a while ........ boring and to some degree .... bothersome.
2nd, it is a little microphonic and tube rolling could become very expansive.
= At the end a great buy by any measures. Super, especially for someone looking for transparency and system that could use some extra sparkle at the top of the middle range & treble. Very quite and flexible.
*Jas Array 1.1 linestage with tube 211 (pair) as rectifier.
+ unbelievable body, extremely sweet, very good soundstage. Buid like a german tunk. Quite.
- locks some transparency . Lot of tubes to replace. Stock tubes sock.
= great preamp for over-bright systems and/or audiophiles looking for musical and more relaxed presentation.
*Granite Audio 770FP with phono stage( very limited home audition - few hours . More at the dealer's showroom and 3 full days at CES).
+ Silent , easy/cheap tube rolling, nice phono section with flexibility for variety
of cartridges. Tape loop. Sound wise , neutral somewhere in between Jas and Chardonnay. Very good notes seperation as well as instrument placement . Very engaging . Easy on the ears and long listening sessions.
Nice with digital sources. Good job at taking the edginess from some bad recordings.
- A little too heavy on the bass side (I think it might be becouse of my system, room and Quatro's lower bass extension). Stage, a bit narrower then Supratek but deeper.
Some guys will call me nuts ..... but believe it or not I am working on closing the deal on yet another preamp (4th in 6 months). Can't and won't say which one becouse the deal isn't finalized. Beside, very few know it or heard this preamp. All I can say is .......it is made here in US and you can say goodby to your power cable - you won't need it.
"...it would be a very small/minimal higher and upper middle range frequencies coloration that I can only describe as edginess or grainy saturation that might be interpret as a extra information or realization of the detail that is actually not there."
I agree 100%.
But it's an easy fix. I replaced the stock pot with a DACT and that fixed the problem. The stock pot is a cheap Alps pot and the DACT makes a significant difference. The Alps pot sounds fuzzy, edgy, hazy, dirty, (take your pick), but the DACT is clean as a whistle. That's doesn't mean sterile, but rather clearer.
FWIW - I was speaking to Israel Blume about his speakers and when I mentioned I was also trying to get a full function preamp he recommended the Doge 8. Its offered here on Audiogon I believe via Pacific Valve (Joezillax) and is uner $1500 with a trial period offer. It does look impressive and there have been some good reports on the Doge CDP on the Digital forum here.
Fiddler, glad that you have overcome this "problem".
I was also thinking about having Bob ( my favorite modder/technician ) check what could be done to make it even better but gave up on that idea ( it could be my mistake). Got Granite instead. Which is fine. In the midtime I was tring to sell my (IMO) Ref 40 phono which is great ( heard it in demo plenty ) since
770fp has phonostage buid in but it was kind of slow (sell wise). This fact kind of moved me in this new direction. Funny thing is that at the ending time of my ad, all sleepy dwarfs woke up and were interested. Too bad since I have already made arrangements to trade my Granite for new preamp (linestage). So Ref 40 is staying (which is really a big relief since I kind of liked it) and battery powered preamp is coming in. ( those wise , probably can figure out which preamp - sent email for 100 points reward ).
I want to hear what the buzz is all about and how eliminating AC will affect performance. Just another experience in my book, that is all. But who knows it might be an interesting experience after all.