Hi Horseface -- If you haven’t seen it yet you might want to check out ToneAudio’s full review of the Coffman Labs G1-A. At the end of the review, Jeff Dorgay summarizes by giving the G1-A an “exceptional value” award for 2012 and noting he purchased the review unit. The article is also up on the Coffman Labs web page here: http://www.coffmanlabs.com/press.html
Like you, I’m a loyal Echo Audio customer and when they recommend something, I listen. Over the last 10 years of buying and selling through them, I have rotated through many pieces of equipment in my home system. My G1-A commentary below is based on my personal experience, and I hope it’s helpful. I also want to make sure I’m upfront about my affiliation with Echo – after so many years as a customer, I have helped them on some marketing-related projects this year.
Through Echo Audio, I had the pleasure of getting to know Damon Coffman and listening to some Coffman Labs G1-A prototypes. After hearing and seeing the early units I became a G1-A believer and an instant fan. So as soon as the final version of the G1-A was produced and I could get my hands on one, I sold my old preamp to make room for it at home.
You asked about comparisons to the Modwright SWL 9.0. I owned a SWL9.0 signature/tube rectified preamp for a few years and I really liked it – great price-performance and I think very highly of Dan Wright and his work. At the same time, on my system, the Coffman Labs G1-A offered significant improvement.
Several things struck me about the G1-A’s sonics compared with other pres I have owned. Foremost is the incredibly “organic”, realistic, palpable quality. It’s also very detailed. With the G1-A, bass is deep, taught. Highs are very extended, but without stridency that usually comes too (my personal pet peeve). I also love the depth and quality of the soundstage it throws. The G1-A is a sonic chameleon in the sense that it plays all my music well – I listen to classical, jazz, rock, electronica, reggae, etc. I used to record classical and Jazz concerts – and he G1-A helps instruments sound “right”. So far, the G1-A is the best sounding preamplifier I have home-auditioned or owned.
I’m glad to try and answer any specific questions you have. But if you are near Portland, you should definitely audition a G1-A in your own system and see what you think. I have a suspicion that you’ll find yourself eating ramen noodles again --but at least you will be listening to incredible sound while doing it!