I've had both, but not at the same time or sequentially. Personally, the CAT never did much for me. Maybe an impedence mismatch or ??, but IMO, the First Sound was a much better pre-amp in virtually every way (except no phono stage).
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There's an ad for a First Sound from member PF7, and he says in his ad, "The sound and detail is on par with CAT tube preamps -- which is the highest praise in my opinion."
I've never heard the First Sound except at shows in unfamiliar systems, but own the CAT. The things that stand out about its performance IMHO are its ability to handle dynamic changes, both micro & macro, and the fact that you get a great phono stage with adjustable loading included that beats most separate phono stages under $4k.
From what I've read about the FS, and what I know about the CAT, both are excellent from an owner support standpoint, with both owners happy to offer advice on tubes, related gear, etc.
As point of disclosure, my CAT is now for sale to help me fund another project. Cheers,
Well I have one of each,as we speak. I find the dynamics similar. I feel the CAT3 a little sweeter in the mids,on into the treble.Oh, that be a good thing,this sweeter.____However I love my remote passive Placette,which doesn't do sweet,at all.__ Or you could call me lazy. In my setup I get more and better bass with the Placette. I should mention my FS is a 1,hotrod delux with cca's.
I think that both are top units along with the Cary slp-98.I haven't owned none yet ,can't afford it at the moment.I am getting by with Magnum 99.One day I will own one of these babes for sure.One guy over at Asylum said that Cary should stop working on pre's as the nailed right on with the SLP-98.I think that speaks volumes.Soryy for side drifting.
I owned a FS Presence Deluxe II, and I loved its extension, massive image, micro and macro detail, and dynamics. What I missed, and what eventually drove me to sell it, was its lack of sweetness. Sweetness is an important ingredient to making reproduced music sounding real, IMO.
Interesting that you wrote that you found the First Sound lacks "sweetness." As soon as I read it, I knew exactly what you meant. I, too, have found that about the First Sound. In contrast, the CAT that I once owned (around 1992), never lacked for "sweetness," which, for me, means that ability to convey an emotion, be it poignant, tender, angry, eerie, etc. I have noticed this about the First Sound, and thought that perhaps I needed a change in components, but your comments ring true. As such, it seems a coloration that prevents music from being quite as "sweet" as it can be -- and as it is in real life. I've heard it with an Accuphase amp, Tetra speakers (where it actually managed to sound somewhat sweet), my Hurricanes, Musical Fidelity amps, but it's never quite moved me. Fascinatingly, I owned the original Presence pre-amp, which DID sound sweeter. It seems customary to assume that the newer version of a component will be superior, but I find myself at times wishing for my original First Sound, which, now that I think of it, also had a richer (not fatter, just more true-to-life) mid-bass. The current incarnation is "tighter" in the mid-bass, but somewhat to the point of leanness instead of lushness. Kind of like the difference between the WATT/Puppy 2s (sweeter) and the WATT/Puppy 3s. which were unquestionably leaner than the 2s.
Thanks for crystallizing my wistfulness about the First Sound into something more concrete.
this topic has come up several times now & member "Rayhall" has written extensively about it. Search the archives here @ Audiogon under his moniker 'rayhall' under Amps/Preamps.
Here are some links that I found for you:
here's is a link if you decide to get the CAT & want to tube roll. Or, this thread might tell you that you do not want a CAT since it sounds good only if you have hi-end NOS tubes! Interpret it the way you want!
FWIW. Apologies in advance if you have already read them
03-02-06: EpsIn my Presence Deluxe II, I tube rolled Amperex 7308 PQ White Label USA, Amperex 6922 PQ White Label USA, Amperex Pinch Waist 6922 PQ White Label, Amperex Bugle Boy 6DJ8, Matsushita 6DJ8, Siemens 6922 "D" Getter 1959.
The preamp in my system was outstanding...but it was never sweet. I did not try Mullard, Telefunken, Valvo or Brimar tubes. One of those might have made a difference...
That's strange! I cannot understand why people would tell you to "stay away" from a SL1 Sig Mk3?
In another thread 'sbank"/Spencer did quote you what Ken Stevens told him that a SL1 Sig Mk3 was the best value if you did not have the money for an Ultimake mk2.
The changes in the Ultimake mk2 are mostly to the power supply. It's more substantial than the SL1 Sig Mk3 hence the Ultimake mk2 dynamics are supposed to be better. NOte that the new product is improving upon something is very, very good already. Could you preceive the upgrade in sound? Your ears & system will be the judge.
Also, the Ultimake mk2 has some improvements so that the timbral accuracy is better than the SL1 Sig Mk3. These, I'm told, are the 2 major upgrades.
Thanks, Bombaywalla for mentioning my posts on this. I still own both preamps and in the following thread, I think that I covered best the differences, particularly the sweetness issue. I don't downgrade the F.S. for its lack of sweetness. It is startlingly good in other ways that the CAT isn't and neither is perfect. Also, in some circles, sweetness might be considered a coloration??? Each is a very fine product, and Frankpiet will only know which one (or something else?) is for him by conducting his own listening session.
Also, keep in mind that I am listening to CAT Ultimate Mk I,
not Signature Mk III and First Sound Presence Deluxe Mk II 4.0, not the more common Mk II 2.0.
Years later, an observation not apparent at the time.
The outlet at the time was the PS Audio outlet (I believe it's the powerport). It is possible that the PS Audio outlet, now that I've also had FIM 880 gold, and now the Oyaide R1 outlet.
The R1 outlet has no edge in the upper midrange. It is conceivable that we are hearing our outlets, not our components. Not something I would have thought of years ago, but certainly something I hear now!
Now, the kicker: the Shunyata V2 was slightly sucked out in the upper midrange, but the PS Audio MAY, I repeat, MAY have had a boost (although I did not hear this with the Marsh A400 amp) in the upper midrange. I was also using the PS Audio Statement power cord plugged in to the Ultimate outlet.
My point in this is that, without examining every single component, down to the outlet, we may be erring on our observations.
I eventually sold the Presence Deluxe Mk. II. The new owner wrote and asked me if there was an edge in the upper midrange. I found that interesting, as we had different systems. Still and all, it may have been his outlets as well.
So, we must examine EVERYTHING.