CAT SL-1 iterations

Just wan´t to know if there are any significant sonic differences between CAT SL-1 MK III and CAT SL-1 Ultimate?

FYI, there are two iterations of the Ultimate; the Ultimate, and then the latter Mark II.

FWIW, I own the SL1 MkIII, and have heard the Ultimate mk.II in a different room, but with both using the same speakers, cables, and turntables(Merlin VSM-MX, Cardas Golden Ref, VPI TNT6-HR). One room was the 2005 Merlin room at CES, which had a CAT stereo amp, and the other is my own rig using a Berning amp. Granted, I have had the benefits of likely cleaner power, familiarity, and time to play with the room, but OTOH, the CAT amp is 2x the price of my Berning. That room also had top flight power conditioning that I lack. Not to mention the pros obvious skill at room and equipment setup. Both systems sounded great, and very, very similar. Perhaps more slam in the bass than I got at home, but not a lot of difference. I was asking myself, would an Ultimate be a worthwhile upgrade for me, and the answer was no.
Would be happy to talk offline as well, if you're interested...Cheers,
Sbank: many people told me to stay away from the SL-1 mk III as it is to them the sonical weakest iteration of the SL. Can´t prove it.
In this hobby, there are few absolute truths. I can't prove anything either, but when I was looking to buy a preamp to go with my Berning amp & Merlin speakers, I talked to everyone I could(including Ken Stevens), and asked for recommendations below $4k used or new(including phono stage). No one suggested what you've heard. Ken told me that the improvements going from the MkII to the MkIII were very substantial, and that he strongly advised me to look for a MkIII if in fact I couldn't afford to buy his current model the Ultimate MkII. I concluded from that the improvements from mkIII to the original Ultimate were not that great relative to the incremental costs associated w/the Ultimates.

Many will tell you that Marantz never made a product as good as the Model 9 amps, that Audio Research never made a preamp as good as the old SP6, or that Quad ever made a speaker better than the ESL57. But there are always new models that feature techno improvments. Some ring truer to the music than others, as you well know.
I have tried many other preamps over the years, and have found this to model to be a top performer in its price class, and prefer it to many more expensive pieces. If you are anywhere near Philadelphia, you are welcome to come listen and decide for yourself. Cheers,

How does your Zyx cartridge at 0.48mv output work with your CAT pre? Does it have enough gain. What volume dial position are you typically at?

sbank. thanks for your very kind words. i´ll try to look for a Mk III.
Rgds., Frank
Yes, the CAT has plenty of gain to drive the .48mv ZYX. Prior to buying the ZYX, I used a Shelter 501II that is .40mv. Both were fine matches. I typically keep volume around 8:00-9:00 for about 80-85db.
The CAT allows for on the fly loading via resistors mounted on RCA plugs that connect just like interconnects. I most often use 300ohms with the ZYX, while I chose to load the Shelter at 100ohms or 150ohms.

Frank, anytime. You might want to call Ken and discuss with him yourself. He is quite approachable. Cheers,

Thank you for responding. I feel much more at ease now. Thanks.

another question... as the SL-1 is not a true balanced design and hasen´t got balanced in´s and out´s either is it worth the try to combine it with balanced gear such as Ayre, BAT or Aesthetix?
It's hard to say without having heard those combinations.
When I owned BAT amp & preamp, I used Balanced connections, because they recommended strongly doing do, and you need adapters to use RCAs.
My experience in general is that balanced makes a big difference only with VERY long cable runs(i.e. >25ft)are used.
Every balanced piece I've seen except the BAT also has single ended, so the designers probably think it's reasonable to use with single-ended gear.
I don't think there is a concrete answer to your question. Cheers,
I can provide a little insight to some of the points made here as I have a CAT Ultimate II (w/phono) on loan for a few months to compare to the Aesthetix Callisto/Io. Amplifiers here are CAT JL-3 and Wolcott P220 driving SoundLab A1's.

Because the JL-3's do not have balanced inputs, and the Wolcotts have an XLR connector but these too are not balanced inputs, I use a 10m RCA IC (Purist Dominus B) from the preamps to the amps. There is absolutely no problem with this cable over this hum, no noise, no radio station reception, etc. Perhaps I am lucky in my area and there are no noise producing appliances near my system as well.

On the issue of balanced cables only making a difference for long distances, this is not necessarily the case. I learned just a couple months ago how flat the musical presentation was when I tried a 1m RCA cable between the Io and Callisto. It was not a subtle difference at all. A direct comparison of RCA and XLR Kubala-Sosna Emotion cables made this very clear. Even the vastly colored and less resolving NBS Statement XLR significantly outperformed the much more refined Purist Dominus RCA in this link. The Io simply needs to run from its balanced outputs to achieve its incredible 3-dimensional presentation. Similar comparisons between the two cable types with the Manley Ref DAC into the Callisto were very subtle so it was not an issue of the Callisto being overly sensitive to needing balanced sources. All comparisons here were with 1m IC cable lengths.

On the issue of the CAT SL-1 maybe working with Aesthetix, this is not an issue as Aesthetix does not make amplifiers. Only if you wanted to use the Aesthetix Io phono stage into the CAT's line stage. And already I have learned it simply does not work well as the Io sings magic only through its balanced outputs. If you like the sound of the Aesthetix preamp, you are not likely to be a huge fan of the CAT preamp....and vice versa. Mixing phono and line stages here will be the worst of all cases as I learned through a lot of trials with these two product lines.

And concerning BAT, only the 5 series preamps have balanced-only connections. The 3 series are also truly balanced designs but they also provide single-ended inputs and outputs along with the balanced connections. I would think that some of the BAT amps would also have single-ended inputs to accommodate Series-3 preamp users with single-ended cabling.

As the CAT amps are prohibitively expensive, someone buying a used SL-1 preamp is not likely to be buying a CAT amp. And with the CAT preamp's somewhat analytical sound, perhaps a BAT or CJ amp would be a perfect match to bring on some of the dimensionality and warmth. The CJ's are all single-ended so they would mate well with the CAT preamp in this regard.

I think you need to be far less concerned with balanced vs. single-ended and simply try various combinations here to find a pairing that works for you.

One other thing on CAT phono stage driveability of cartridges: the Ultimate II easily handles the Clearaudio Accurate cartridge which has a 0.6mv output. This was with the volume control only at 10 o'clock or so and it was plenty loud and incredibly free of noise....very impressive. I am sure a cartridge at half this output would still perform with no problems at all here. I gotta believe the gains between the SL-1 III and the Ultimate II are mighty close.

not being balanced dosnt matter.ken stevens dosnt use balanced because you use more parts in the signal path.yes teh is a huge difference between sl mk111 to the ultimate the ultimate does eveything better