IF you can find a CAT SL1 under $3K....a VERY BIG IF, IMHO there is nothing better at even twice the price....and maybe many times that!
Depending on age, the tubes may be needing replacement, BUT that is an easy task and well worth it.
What other preamp do you think would compete with the SL1 at anywhere near that price?
Herron is not IMO in the same league as the CAT. YMMV.
I'm very familiar with the CAT preamp and have heard it in different friend's
systems over the years. For a bit more money(used) the TRL DUDE and the
Coincident Statement Line stage are significantly better sounding.
Dvdgrdco, this is just my personal listening experience and nothing more.
Subjectivity is the rule and you'll get a diverse range of responses. It always
depends on what type of sound you're seeking. The CAT could be ideal for
your taste.Ifpossible audition the two I mentioned and see for yourself. The
VAC Signature is also better sounding than the CAT IMO but even used will
be well above your stated price range.
Dvdgreco, Charles1dad brings up a good point. Subjectivity is the rule and there will be a diverse range of responses. His advice to always audition if possible is spot on. I can tell you from my perspective and likes, the TRL and the Coincident Line stage wouldn't be my favorite at all. Frankly, I wouldn't give them house room, so there's one divergent response, LOL. Compared to the CAT, they are far less dynamic and resolving...BUT this is all IMHO.
Remember, that the ancillary gear will also have an effect on what one hears- along with ones pre-conceptions. Charles1dad clearly likes a certain sound, I like another. It's all good.
What I found more appealing with the 3 preamps I listed earlier are superior dynamics, tonality/harmonic development and they sound more natural and less mechanical. Again you'll have to listen and judge by "your" standards.
Here is the other irony. Depending on the ancillary gear...source,amps, speakers and the room; I believe that almost all gear can be made to sound different than in a synergistic set-up. In my experience, and with an analog front end, the CAT sounded more as I described than the TRL or the Coincident. At the time, was this due to the phono preamp stage that was used with the other two preamps, was it the amp/preamp pairing, the speakers, the room, the cabling, the source or?? Could this have been the circumstance when Charles1dad heard the CAT and then the other two preamps, great synergy with the two he likes- and less so with the CAT....I believe that may well be the case.
Yes I agree that there are too many variables that influence what we hear. That's why no component can be declared the "best". In the end just choose what sounds better to you for your particular circumstances. The great point is we only have to satisfy ourselves.
The CAT SL1 is an awesome preamp and represents great value especially when you factor in the outstanding onboard phono section.
I had the CAT ultimate in the past and found it very forward or upfront sounding. I grew tired of it as I could never quite get relaxed with it.
Jwm, what gear were you pairing the CAT with? I have never heard any CAT preamp sound forward or upfront sounding...
At the time I had VTL 450 mono blocks.
Jwm, what was the rest of the system?
If VTL 450 mono block combination gave a forward presentation, then my Mccormack DNA-1 (silver upgrade) might also sound forwa as well ?????
I challenge you to a dynamic preamp throw-down! If you are near MN I will
bring my Dude over or you bring your CAT over my place. Are we on?!
Dynamics are SOTA in my Dude. Never heard better in this area. I
would love to be proven wrong or set you straight:)
Let's do it! We will post the result for all Agoners to read.
I hope you are close as I can't bring 70 plus pounds of electronics on a
You have a very nice system and well thought out room. Congrats.
This is all in good fun and I am open to such a throw down for fun and to
meet other Aphiles.
Also for the poster I have owned and listened to more preamps over the past years than you could imagine. All in my system and room. Many costing up to $12,000 new as I have been fortunate to sell gear for several high end audio friends. Without exaggeration I have listened to and compared at least 20 highly touted and highly reviewed preamps over the past 10 years....perhaps more as I lost count.
The ones mentioned are all very good indeed.... like Coincident & CAT. Others like Tom Evans Vibe, Tom Evans Soulmate, various Joule units, Atmasphere, Audio Horizons, CJ, etc...are also very good. But, in terms of which ones can be had at $3,000 and under, not sure you can get some of these like the Dude or Coincident.
The two best I have heard (in my system) under $3,000 would be these and in this order....
Audio Valve Eklipse ......absolutely a sleeper used.
Tom Evans Vibe alone and even better with Pulse power supply. But the power supply may be out of your budget.
In the spirit of fun and experimentation I hope you two can pull this off. I've
heard both the DUDE and CAT and no way would I conclude that the CAT is
more dynamic or resolved than the DUDE.In my system compared
directl(DUDE and Coincident), the DUDE is quite dynamic, bold and
"big" sounding yet very good across the board. The Coincident
is also very dynamic but is more nuanced and resolved/transparent (at
least in my system against that "particular" DUDE, I know there are different
individual custom versions available). The point is that either will be chosen
based on specific preferences and a multitude of variables. So it's difficult
to turn this into a "mine is definitely better than yours" battle.
Excellent active preamplifiers enhance any good audio system in my
Have fun you two.
Jwm and I are neighbors and friends for well over 20 years. Between the two of us we have heard a slew of highly regarded preamps. Jwm had the CAT for a good while then bought a ARC REF 2 and later replaced that with the VAC Signature MK II. In his system the VAC was the better sounding by a good margin in my opinion (none of these were bad however). Jwm's current Absolare Passion is simply wonderful and has eclipsed the excellent VAC. There are many fine preamps available.
Granny, the challenge would be interesting. However, I live on the West Coast, so
the distance is a factor. When I heard the Dude it was in a friend's system who
also was using a Counterpoint SA5.1. The Counterpoint was the better sounding
preamp to the Dude that day, IMO.
BTW, I notice that no one here seems to be using analog as a front end...perhaps
that is telling us something.
If you look at the system page of Jwm you'll see he has a stellar Basis TT
and their top tonearm along with the (ZYX Universe II cartridge) and also
the excellent Aesthetix Romulus Signature CD player. Both make beautiful
music and are "quite resolving" and they easily distinguish
between various components placed in this system very well. I'm a former
analog aficionado(Well Tempered table and arm) and still enjoy listening to
fine analog systems but I find
high quality digital equally pleasing (just depends on the set up) I love my
Yamamoto based digital front end. When comparing the CAT, its line stage
input is judged against other line stages. We're all experienced enough to
know this is really just an interesting discussion revolving around
subjective taste. The OP asked about what's available in his stated price
range. For a little more money an used DUDE or Coincident would IMO be
superb alternatives to the CAT. He has very good options to consider and I
hope I was able to contribute in some small way.It would be best if he could
actually hear these candidates under good system set up conditions.
Reading the comments posted here, he must accept that we all reflect our
individual bias and preferences.
Too bad Daveyf. In terms of your friend's system, if he had a power amp that had an input impedance under 60K, that was the issue. Dude as a high(ish) output impedance....poor match. Something was not quite right I am confident. Just been around the block too much on this sonic attribute with preamps.
I use my Romulus cd/dac because I like it better than analog. Others would never use digital based on personal taste.
I think u sold your dude a while back , WHY??
To buy a newer Dude. I have owned 3 Dudes in total. The latest has a
better chassis, improved power supply, larger transformer .....
Ha, I love the current Dude! See my system to see my super Dude!
The Dude does not seem to have a lot of traction on the open market, meaning not many transfer ownership. this could mean a vareity of things, few purchased, and/or hard to get rid of --- hot potato
Understand few are sold compared to the big or even medium boys. Few are willing to try gear from small one man companies . Too bad as the very best gear I have owned over the past 30 years comes from very, very small companies of one or a couple of folks.
I sold my two Dudes within a week of listing each time. However , my feedback is stellar.
I am also considering a Purity Audio Basis
For the $$, checkout Audio Valve Eclipse. For a little more $$, an used Doshi Alaap MKII listed for $4500 just got sold.
Also try to demo CAT in your system before dismissing it. GL!
I've owned a CAT SL1 Renaissance w/ Phono for over 2 years now.
I heard my first SL1 in 1986.
The CAT is very neutral, uncolored and revealing.....it is not a "beguiling"
and "colored" pre.....
You might be able to do better than the CAT in certain regards, but I wouldn't
know what they are because I'm not going to be buying any others.......
Stewart0722, have you considered tube rolling into your CAT? I did this on mine and it went to an entirely different level. Rolling NOS tubes into both the line and phono stage was a huge improvement.
well the SL 1 got away, but still looking..
Not sure of the iteration, but there's an SL1 on gon now that has
met it's reserve at 1150.00
I have never tube rolled my pre. Ken Stevens hand picks my tubes
and I pay dearly for them. The last two sets have been dead quiet....
A warning.....this is not a pre you can leave on 24/7. It is basically
an all out assault hot rod and will eat tubes like no tomorrow.....