I am on a look out for a good tube preamp with preferably a reference grade phono stage inbuilt. I am moving from a tube amplification to solid state amplification primarily to feed my Tannoy Prestige with all the power it needs. In the process I dont want to end up in an all SS system which will be too much of a deviation. So I would love to have at least a tube preamp and if possible a tube phono too. I know it may ultimately involve using a SUT but I can take that much of a compromise (if at all).
I am considering the Berning ZOTL-One preamp with in-built phono stage. There are many reviews of his power amp but not much about his preamp. Has anyone heard his preamp, any impressions (even second hand) would be very helpful.
I have not heard the one you mentioned but I have Tannoy prestige speakers and recently went to a Bottlehead Beepre. With the optional attenuator, upgraded tubes and some vibration dampening it is the best I have ever heard. After that experience if I wasn't in love with my Herron phonostage I would've went for their phono and used a SUT. As far as amplification goes I use 845 monoblocks and they work beautifully with the tannoys. I don't think I could ever switch to ss.
Pani, any reason you want to limit your preamp choices to Berning? What are your source components?
I suggest you read about Vinnie Rossi LIO configurable preamp and its user experience in Audio Circle. I don't have experience using LIO but I am using similar volume attenuator (John Chapman & Dave Slagle autoformer) in passive mode when DIY enthusiasts can purchase it directly from Bent Audio. It replaced AR REF 5 SE tube preamp in my system.
The LIO has an option for autoformer volume control with tube stage - that's the one I recommend. It also has phono stage option. It is also upgradable. Please check it out.
One statement got my attention . A Vacuum tube preamp is not limited On it's gain vs A solid state unit. My custom built DHT- Direct Heated Triode In my opinion and many others is better thrn any mini tubes or solid state units It is solely transformer based my preamp currently has Hammond transformers With dual chokes in thd power section. The only capacItors are a. 47 uf Obliggato gold , 2 Big 68uf oil capacitors, and 2 Audyn True Copper .1 bypass caps. On the Audio side 2 Lundahl transformers .the gain us Fully controlled by the transformers chosen. The Vacuum tubes chosen are classics. The rectifier tube is the 274b, and on thd preamp section 1 per channel of the 26 Vacuum tube, and the 101d tubes ,just flip a switch and Taylor your music to Which tube you like for that type of music.why do you think a Single ended amplifier Is so pure. In a preamplifier there is No limitation. My preamplifier is under $4k But will not be beat by Any conventional preamp even at $10k+. Everyone that Hears it in action wants one , instruments just sound more real and dimentional. Also if the Engineer or builder know their circuits well these tubes run very low voltage and last . The rectifier by nature is the only tube that puts out Any noticeable heat. One more thing as someone who used to modify gear .this unit comes with only the best parts quality.transformers is a personal thing .I could have gone Lundahl on the power side also but could not hear the difference. Lamm audio use Hammond on certain sections that says a lot. All signal wire Neotech Silver Gold Alloy ultra high purity, all hook up wire Neotech Single crystal Copper all Teflon jackets ,even connectors Copper Gold.quality counts on every level of the build . Compare parts with sny preamp at any price levrl.Please remember Any commercially bought Equipment a minimum of 4x the markup just on parts, plus a 45-50% markup for dealers. With my build 75% goes directly into the much higher grade parts ,and you can easily hear the difference .I have been an Audiophile for over 35 years. What I am telling you is the truth .it is up to you if you choose to listen. Enjoy your music !!
Audioman, You've posted a bald-faced advertisement for something you apparently build and sell. That may be against forum rules, but do you have a website? That fact that Lamm use Hammond transformers does not per se raise the prestige of Hammond transformers, in my eyes, but Hammond products (tranformers and inductors) are certainly decent quality. There's better, and there's worse,
If you are interested in a David Berning preamp I would suggest give the Micro ZOTL2 a try. I purchased it as a headphone amp and its the best headphone amp that I've heard. I knew it was made to use as a pre and can power high effiency speakers as an amp. I tried it as a preamp just for kicks and was shocked how good it was. It left no sonic charicter at all. No phono however. It's built and sold by urban audio and David Berning licensed the tech to them. Don't let the small price fool you. This little thing is a beast.
The MicroZOTL2 is actually made by Linear Tube Audio. Urban Hifi is our retail store, which has a soon-to-be opening location in Takoma Park, just across the Maryland line in the DC metro area. They are separate companies, though, and Linear Tube Audio sells its products through dealers, and Urban Hifi carries more than just LTA stuff. Several reviews of the MicroZOTL2 as a preamp are linked on our website, lineartubeaudio.com
I don't mean to be advertising, just clarifying. Knowing quite well what goes into a David Berning product versus a Linear Tube Audio product, I think the Berning preamp will be step above the MicroZOTL2, though I have only heard the MicroZOTL2.
I am using the Micro ZOTL as a preamp as of yesterday and I am very impressed. If your looking for any type of tube coloration you might as well look elsewhere. It is the most transparent pre I've ever heard. Still breaking in so more to come.
I recently borrowed and tried one of David Berning's ZOTL-One preamps with a phono stage and compared it to the phono preamp I have now, a two box unit built by DIY guru Charlie Phelps that he and mutual friends believe is better than any commercially available phono preamp. To my surprise, the ZOTL-ONE was better still - more extended in the treble, tighter bass, higher transparency. I like it so much that I'm in the process of buying one. But a caution: If you like the "warm" sound of many tube preamps to balance off the detail of a solid state amp, this preamp won't do that. The ZOTL-One sound is very detailed, but without any unpleasant edginess. More than any audio component I've heard, its sound is simply "natural/ live." If that's what your after, the ZOTL-One is the best I've encountered.
Pani, I am surprised you felt compelled to go to solid state amplification to drive your Tannoys; I usually think of Tannoy speakers as being high impedance and high efficiency, thus well suited to even flea power SETs. In fact, one of your responses comes from someone using an 845 amplifier to drive the same speakers. Can you explain the reasoning? This is not to say that there are not a few really nice sounding low-power SS amplifiers that one might consider for this job, such as the Nelson Pass "First Watt" amplifier family.
The subsequent discussion makes me want to know more about the Berning preamplifiers.
My only problem with Berning design is the use of SMPS (switch mode power supplies). From all the gears I have heard till this day which has SMPS, none of them could manage to sound without some "digital" hash/artifacts. Not a single one. My only logic to this is, after all the signal is just shape of the wave, the actual thing that takes this shape is the power and is delivered to the signal. If the power itself has any noise/hash (in a SMPS the noise/distortion would be similar to that of digital domain) then no matter how good is the amplification circuit one ultimately hears those "digital distortions". And no PSU is undistorted.
Lewm, Tannoys are efficient speakers but they are not typical "high efficiency" speakers like the Altec, Avant Garde or the likes. Tannoys specifies their efficiency rating based on the HF driver. The LF driver is actually 4-5 db less efficient. The LF driver of the Tannoys can go low in the bass and needs to be gripped, which is why there are views that a amp with a bit of negative feedback works well for the Tannoys. All said, I have finally zeroed upon a Audio Note PSE 300B with 18 watts as my amp. It does 90% of the things better than I wanted. Only the very low bass seems to be rounded off which is okay for me.
"My only problem with Berning design is the use of SMPS (switch mode power supplies). From all the gears I have heard till this day which has SMPS, none of them could manage to sound without some "digital" hash/artifacts. Not a single one"
and yet with the Berning design there is no digital hash/artifacts. Truly a black back ground and completely transparent.
The ZOTL One Pre is truly phoenomonal but for a fraction of the price the Micro ZOTL2 sounds just as good but with fewer bells and whistles.
Transparency and black background is something we get in digital playback in spades. Most Lps don't sound as clean as a good cd. Yet there is something about analog playback which is more like the real life (even cassettes sounds more natural than CDs). The artifacts that make digital sound "digital" is embedded deep in the mix and we only hear it as a whole along with the music. Ultimately we respond differently to analog and digital playback and that's what I hear between digital power supply and linear power supplies.
Lancelock, The unique experience with the Berning design is probably because DB himself is just smarter than anyone else in the industry. Quiet and modest, as well. (I have met him a few times in my life, but I have none of his gear currently, and I have no financial interest in his success.) A few decades ago, one of my friends purchased a Berning amplifier (I think it was an EA230), and he had it placed right next to his Modulus preamplifier, in a cabinet. (At that point in time, DB was known to us as a local genius designer.) We could hear the switching noise over the speakers, until we moved the amplifier a few feet further away from the preamp. Since that one experience, I know of no instances where switching noise has been a problem with a Berning product. My friend ended up with a pair of Berning ZH270 amps running his Acoustat speakers. I auditioned the same pair of amps on my own 'stats. They were dead silent in both venues.
The EA-230 (great amp, btw) was the last Berning amplifier to use a linear power supply, so hearing switching noise from it would be impossible. Every amp and preamp thereafter used SMPSs (we're talking the 1980's here, just to give you an idea of how advanced the man's thinking is). I've used various Berning amps over the years, and the ZH270 is still one of the finest sounding amplifiers I've heard.
Palasr, Thank you for the correction regarding the EA230. I was just guessing at the model name, when I told the story about the Berning amplifier that produced the clicking noise on the speakers, when it was too close to the Modulus preamplifier. Apparently I got that part wrong. For sure, then, it was some later model that did use a switching supply. Actually, the model name is not so important as the point I was trying to make, with which no one seems to disagree: DB knows his stuff, designs and manufactures excellent gear that is usually novel in some way or other.
Dear Pani If its not too late for your purchase, give a chance to : Audion silver night (300B push-pull 24w) Side by side is way better than the amp you mention and miles ahead than Cary 845 anv. Speakers under test was Tannoy GRF Proceed to change all the signal caps with Russian PIO (K-40Y) and ask for review the Physic Harmonic speaker cables. (Andreas Pollakis Facebook)
PS: Way better with no preamp at all, as Audion have a carbon pot as attenuator. You only need a selector for the source of choice. Be aware that tube preamps tend to steal transparency from the big Tannoy woofers. Valve phono is a very tough question. Regards