I owned the Model 3 Signature a few years ago and sold it to begin a foray into a variety of tubed preamps. With a recent amp upgrade to monoblocks with only balanced inputs, I found myself in a position of trying to find a good balanced preamp. My preference was for something with dual differential circuitry and not simply a single-ended preamp with balanced outputs, or one that uses transformers to provide a balanced signal. Unfortunately, I could not find a balanced tubed preamp I liked as well as my favorite single-ended preamps.
I had a recent opportunity to purchase as a pair, a used Muse player and (standard) Model 3 preamp at a relatively attractive price. I sent the Model 3 in to MUSE and had it upgraded to a Model 3 Signature with the outboard display-power supply. MUSE has an outstanding upgrade program to help owners of their products have the current models. I am strongly considering upgrading the player to their latest Erato II. In general, having owned several of their pieces, and listened to a whole bunch of other stuff, I have to say the MUSE gear sounds very good. In the case of my recently upgradaded Model 3 Signature preamp, it literally passes the sound from source to amps with very little of it's own sonic signature. Compared to my Lamm LL2, the MUSE is a touch more open at the very high end, has better defined bass, and has a slightly wider but slightly flatter soundstage. The Lamm (and most tubed preamps) is just a bit more dimensional and has fatter bass and a bit more mid-bass richness. I would judge the Model 3 Signature to be primarily neutral, with a very very slight touch of warmth, but generally even-handed across the frequency spectrum. It is indeed grainless, assuming the source is good, but shows a touch less dimensionality than a tubed preamp, as most SS preamps do. Features are excellent, with balanced and single-ended ins and outs, 31.5 dB of gain, output impedance of 50 ohms, or 130+130 ohms balanced, polarity change control, mute, tape, volume adjusted in one-half dB increments via a 255 step digitally controlled analoge attenuator, and gain matching for each individual input. Inputs and outputs are connected directly to the board for short paths. The optional display/power supply provides a nice large automatically dimming volume display graduated in 0.5 dB increments for both left and right channels. Ergonomic downsides are that the remote is a bit chunky and there is no volume knob - just up down buttons via the remote or on the preamp body. If you buy the Model 3 Signature, you can always add the detached power supply/display at a later date through MUSE. I will not say it is a "better" preamp than my favorite single-ended preamps (such as Lamm LL2 Deluxe, CAT Ult Sig II, TEAD Vibe/Pulse), but IMO it knocks closely on the door of those preamps, betters some of them in some ways, sounds quite musical and is a bargin for the money.
I appreciate your informative response. I'm sold the Muse is better than good, but a great piece... I was hoping someone could compare with the also well respected Coda. I have been looking at a new old stock Continuum Window version 4. Which Coda tells me that this single piece is 99% of what is now the CL Preamp.
Sorry, I have had a lot of preamps through here, but no Coda gear whatsoever.
I am anxious to see how the preamp comparision will go once the quality of the balanced cable I am using from preamp to amps with the MUSE preamp matches the quality of rca cables I typically run with my single-ended preamps. I am in the process of putting together a better balanced cable than the (just ok) Sonoran Plateau balanced cable I am currently using.
Mitch, I'm looking forward to receiving a Muse Model 3 in a about a week, purchased here on AudioGon. This preamp looks to be an excellent alternative to my current Marsh P2000. I'll try the Model 3 via balanced connections into a Marsh A400s. If it works well in my system for mainly jazz listening, I'll consider the Signature and external power supply upgrades. Are these two separate upgrades? If you can provide any information on details of your Model 3 upgrades, sonic differences before vs. after the upgrade, or a contact at Muse, please e-mail or post. Thanks very much.
Ucanhear2, I ended up buying the Coda piece myself, but when looking, I found the model 3 averaging between $550 and $650, while the Signature 3 was averaging $800. to $1000... Just want to point that out, If you really like the Muse 3, with a bit of patience you will be able to sell it and pick up the better Signature piece much more affordably than mods. Good Listening, Tim
Timlub, Thanks for your great suggestion. I've been reading up on the Coda Continuum Window 4, and Coda preamps in general. Looks like the Coda would be an excellent choice within my price range. Wish I'd come across this company a bit sooner in my search. I may end up keeping the Muse standard for my smaller system, and as you mentioned, looking for the Model 3 Signature or a Coda for my main system. I'm curious...did you have a chance to directly compare a Model 3 with the Coda version 4? If so, can you describe your impressions?
No, I never made a direct comparison. I had asked the original question, because I was looking between Coda and Muse. I had found a Legacy preamp and knew that Coda built it. I called Coda and Doug told me that he had a Windows Continuum 4 case there and would load the Current CL prem circuit board in it... So it would be a mis match preamp. The back panel inputs do not match the front panel display.... He offered me a price that I felt silly to pass on along with a five year warranty. I have not heard the Muse in my system, but overall, I am quite happy with my Coda. I can't imagine getting this sound quality at this price in anything near new, much less with the warranty. Just for your info, Doug told me that there is a reasonable difference between the version 1 & 2, and a very large difference between 2 & 3, but between 3 & 4 and the Windows Continuum 4 and the CL, the differences are minimal. I still believe that you have an outstanding preamp coming. I would probably just enjoy it and look for the Signature piece to come around or if you find a Coda at the right price, its worth trying... By the way, my Coda took a month to completely burn in.
Good Listening, Tim
Timlub, I actually spoke with Doug today at Coda also. I had located an older Continuum Window (version not specified) and also a FET Line Control Buffer 04r, both needing replacement remotes. Doug said the early membrane switch type of remote for the Continuum Window is no longer available as a replacement. He said the FET 04r was made in small numbers, went through a couple of different remote versions, and had the stepped volume attenuator that makes audible clicks when transitioning between each level aka "zipper sound". I also learned that the single function replacement remote was only available for some of the 04r serial numbers. Doug said the volume control was updated in the FET 05r to the Burr-Brown with no transition noise, and that the remote was updated to the universal type for that model. He confirmed that the Innersound line stage preamp is the same as the Coda FET 05r. I imagine that the the CL you have and the FET 04r or 05r have similar circuitry, maybe just component level differences. The remote and volume control issues with the older units make me want to move up to the 05r/Innersound. There are a couple in the AudioGon listings now. I'll probably wait until I try out the Muse Model Three and compare it to my Marsh P2000. In the mean time I will keep looking for a deal on the newer Innersound/Coda units.
I imagine that the Muse will be very good. I'd give it a fair shot. I have only owned budget preamps in the past.
Kenwood LO7C, Kenwood Basic C1, Sumo Electra, Hafler, PS Audio 4.0, PS Audio 5.7, HK, Audio Refinement, Sumo Athena and now the Coda....(Plus a Arcam, Myriad and Audio Refinement integrateds) None that I have owned have been in the league of this, looking at the list, you wouldn't think so, but the differences are not marginal, this is a wonderful sounding preamp. The front and back panels don't match, but I feel blessed or quite lucky that Doug Dale took sympathy on me and gave me the hook up.
Good Listening, Tim
I.ve had a Windows 4 for ahwile couldnt be happier.
Hi Coffeey, thanks for your comment. I'm curious, how can I tell if a particular Continuum Audio Window unit is a Version 4? This is different product line than a Coda FET 04r, am I correct?
Look on bottom of the unit,also earlier units had red display later one had blue,but for windows 3 i dont know what color it would be ,might guess it would be blue
Uh guys, My display is red.... Coda told me that I have the case of a Windows Continuum 4 and a CL circuit board. I guess it is possible that the CL has a red display, I called Coda on Thursday and Doug confirmed what I just wrote again. Coffeey, mine looks exactly like yours except red display and logo on the right side says CODA instead of Continuum. We talked right before I had bought mine, you had told me then that your display was blue. I really recommend that you call Doug Dale back and get some straight info.
Uh ,,I'm not sure really why you suggest i talk to Coda, but any way it's quite possible that the CL's have the red display which you said yours has,i also think that the CL's had a option of getting them with a blue display also but am not 100% 0n that,
I dont need any clarification on what i have.
Sorry Coffeey, you are correct, the calling Coda reference was for Ucanhear2. Which by the way, I still believe the Muse will be very good.
Ucanhear2... I'd love to hear how the Muse compared with your Marsh P2000. Please give us an update when you feel comfortable to report the differences.
Hi Timlub, I've been enjoying the Muse Model 3 in my system. I completely agree- the Model 3 is an excellent, very musical preamp. Overall I prefer the Muse over the Marsh P2000 in my system. I found another thread asking for Muse Model 3 Signature comparisons with other preamps, so I posted more details here:
I will enjoy the base Model 3 for awhile, and then probably continue my upward migration to the Model 3 Signature or Coda/Innersound if I can find one within my budget.
Thanks Ucanhear2, How does the Muse compare to the Marsh?
Timlub, my post comparing the Marsh took a while to appear on the other thread, but it's there now. Here's the link:
Timlub, I've been researching the Coda units on the web, and it looks like the Continuum Window 4 was also known as the CLX. Does your Window 4 unit look like the CLX pictured here?
Also on that same site there is a history of Coda. I didn't realize that Doug was a founding member from the Threshold / Nelson Pass era.
My unit is a one of a kind. Doug had parts of a few units around and built this... My front panel looks like Coffeey's unit, except, I have a red display and right of the knob, my unit says Coda, I believe Coffeey's say Continuum... Doug said that he could not sell it as a CL unit at the price, so my receipt says Windows Continuum 4... The front panel selector switch does not match the rear panel inputs, for instance, I plug into the video input on rear and press CD on front.
Doug said that he put a Current circuit board in my unit, not an actual Windows Continuum 4 board. My unit does use the current remote and volume control also. Every button on the CLX is in the same place on my Preamp, but it has little square buttons, mine has little round buttons.
I have no idea, what to call it, but I am enjoying it.
And yes, Doug is a founding member of Coda. He knows Nelson well.
I have the Coda logo on the oval,the continum logo was only on the 1 or 1 and 2,dont really know for sure
Thanks Coffee, so there you go, mine and Coffeey's look identical other than display color.
Thanks to both of you for the info. I'll post again if I acquire any new gear.