Dodd preamp vs. McCormack RLD-1 preamp

I am interested to know if anyone has any experience with both the Dodd battery powered preamp and the Steve McCormack platinum-modded RLD-1 preamp. I am looking to replace my ARC LS3 and both look interesting and in the same relatively affordable price range.

Thanks in advance.
What qualities are you looking for???
And maybe some info on the rest of your gear, Do not get me wrong but these two should not be found in the same sentence. There is little that these preamps have in common (keep in mind that I am not familiar with the modded version). It is all about the synergy......choose wisely.
Buy low and try it out and sell if it is not to your liking.
Is the RLD1 passive?
Thanks to you who replied. I will choose wisely as I tend to do with just about everything I purchase. The two preamps actually do have a few things in common: SS, remote control, both in the $3K price range (the RLD-1 with mods). I like the sound of my ARC LS3 a lot but would like remote volume control. ARC used to retrofit the LS3 with remote volume but unfortunately no longer. So I am looking to buy something. I have auditioned several tube preamps in that price range but so far haven't heard anything that rivals my LS3. So....the Dodd and the McCormack have ended up in the same sentence on my short list. Any input regarding relative sound of the two would be much appreciated.
Dodd is not a SS but tube (6922 X 2). McC, sounds warmish then most SS designs but locks transparency. Dodd excells in speed, articulation and inner detail. As well as black backgrounds due to very low floor noise which is the result of going "Off THE GRID".
Again, I am not familiar with modded version of McC.

I am upgrading to Red Wine Audio Isabella preamp with build in DAC. That preamp might not be in your price range as it sells for 4K linestage and $5500 with Isabellina NOS non upsampling DAC.

In comparison to RWA, Dodd will give you 90-95% of Isabella's performance at 60-70% of its asking price.
Isabellina DAC is a completly different story and one of the reason for me to jump on RWA wagon. One of the best CD reproductions I have heard recently and the best in my system.

You might want to read the Dodd review on It is pretty accurate IMO.
One interesting point is that the 6922s are dual triodes, and the Dodd only uses one side of each tube, so you can swap them after normal tube life and double life of each tube. If you use expensive NOS tubes, this savings might be significant. Cheers,
Pardon my faux pas regarding both being SS. The Dodd is indeed tubed. I'm not much of a tube junky but would still love to hear one. Dodd doesn't offer a 30 day trial so it's a bit of a gamble with $3K. Thanks for replying gentlemen.
By a used one and resell for what you paid, more or less. I know Spencer has has many good preamps and he can comment on the relative merits of the Dodd versus them. My Dodd arrived today and I will be comparing to my BENT and Atma-sphere, and comaprisons with CAT, Joule, ARC and Lamm pres I've owned recently. I suspect the DOdd is killer with some tube rolling; I'll be using Amperex.

Do keep us updated on your findings with the Dodd vs. the other pre amps you have/had.

The GP EARLY '60's Siemens CCa crushed the Amperex WL GP PQ D getter in my system.

I have only seen one Dodd pre up on the 'Gon and it sold in two days. Good luck finding one used.
You will see mine next week. I did not think that it would ever happend......but......
Upgrading to almost twice as expensive RWA Isabella preamp with build in dac. Both very similar in design and performance.
Hi Glory. I'll just make the general comment that for me, tube preference (or evaluation) is completely (almost) dictated by the circuit it is used in and the system context, as performance is strongly related to those factors. In other words, I'm rarely comfortable with a statment like tube x sounds like this, and tube y sounds like that as a general proposition, it is very system dependent. In some systems for example, I need, prefer Siemens 5814s, in others RCA 12au7s -- which is better? Depends. As far as the Dodd, Amperex seems to be preferred by Gary and a few others - which of course doesn't mean I would not like the Siemens, but I suspect that the Siemens might be too much of a good thing (they tend towards speed, transparency, clarity) with the Dodd. I think of tubes as spices, different soups, different spices.

What I do think, not having yet heard it, is that the off-the grid, and simple circuit of the Dodd will let you hear differences between various tubes more easily -- the circuit gets out of the way. We'll see....
Dodd is the perfect tool for tube evaluation. And yes - there is very little coloration and tubes are the main characteristics - sonic wise , if one wanted to describe Dodd's sound.
Well, of course I could not wait for the Amperexs to arrive. The Dodd is really wonderful. It seems to have the dynamics of the CAT SL1 which was the best I've had in terms of dynamic contrast. It seems to have the quietness of a passive, which may account for the great dynamic contrasts. While passive quiet, it does have tube bloom (distortion?) which tube users love, but certainly not slow and colored - very neutral, not disimilar to the BENT TAP or the Atma-sphere in that sense. I'm not sure I would like it much "warmer", it seems right to me. Bass seems ample, well defined, and it breathes. My speakers have no output below 28hz, so what deep bass weakness the pre may have, I don't hear it. I go back and forth between the Dodd and the BENT TAP, and really it is a tossup though they sound a bit different - both excellent preamps. You could certainly live with the Dodd for a long time and if you let yourself, not be thinking about the next upgrade. I'll have to decide whether to keeps this or the BENT as I feel a bit silly having two preamps for my Music Reference amp - the Dodd really is beautiful to look at though....
It takes some time for those Sonicaps to burn in but you should hear its full potentials in around 50-100h mark.
My impressions with Dodd are somewhat similiar to yours.
Of coarse it is paired with different components, speakers and in totaly different room but your findings are very similar to my own. Either way, keeper or not - it is a very nice preamp I could see myself living with it in my rig for a very long time. As to your taste/preferances, RWA Isabella might or might not be for you. Isabella is more settle, balanced and enggaging but it is not as lively like Dodd is.
I mean it is real as hell but it doesn't has Dodd's forwardness if you will. Then again, we used sweet sounding Mullards. I am sure that stock JJ or more natural Amperex PQs could be more to your taste.
Well, if this thing is going to get better with break-in, I'm all for it, I love it out of the box, and that with the JJs which most folks don't seem to LOVE - they sound might fine to me, but I am eager for the Amperex to arrive, I'm getting some 58-60 D-Getters which are suppose to be the "sweetest" of the Amperexes. This pre is DYNAMIC.

I'm selling the BENT. Not becuase the Dodd is "better", the BENT is one heck of a fine sounding piece. But, I've falling in love with the looks of the wood paneling on the Dodd. There is definitely something to this "off the grid" thing; and now with the Dodd and RWA you can be off the grid and active.
Well, if this thing is going to get better with break-in, I'm all for it, I love it out of the box, and that with the JJs which most folks don't seem to LOVE - they sound might fine to me, but I am eager for the Amperex to arrive, I'm getting some 58-60 D-Getters which are suppose to be the "sweetest" of the Amperexes. This pre is DYNAMIC.

After the first 50h mark, you should hear a graduate but noticeable relaxing in the upper frequencies and more define bass. 100h in, you will never look back. I am sure that you will spend a lot of time with Dodd now that you started to enjoying it,......but hopefully it's not only the passive admiration of the wood work but play time as well.:)

As to JJ be absolutely honest, I was also pleasantly surprise with their sound and for new stock......not a bad tube.....not at all.
What makes it fun ( I mean the tube rolling) is that you can tailor the sound to your taste or music that you feel will benefit from certain sound characteristics that these countless family of 6922/7308 tubes posses.
I don't blame you for wanting to sell the Audio Research LS3. This is the only preamp from Audio Research I never could warm up to. If your looking to stay with a ss pre, the McCormack Platinum RLD-1 will literally smoke the LS3!
Mrjstark. The BENT is gone, and I will miss it -- the best passive I have heard after trying 4 or five of them, but I don't like equipment on the sidelines. A very recommended piece for the "right" system.

I love the Dodd for sound, but the looks don't hurt. Your right about the JJ - no problem as far as I can tell, but tube rolling is one of the "pleasures" of tube pres versus passive or SS - more fun and games.

If I prefer the Dodd to some degree over the BENT and other passives, it is proabably due to the BAM (bass augmentation module) used by my Merlin speakers that goes between source and pre - and according to Bobby (Mr. Merlin) the BAM sound best with a tube buffer and with the Dodd 200ohm out put (yeah!)it bufferes very well indeed and can proabably drive any cable/amp load. I'll comment again when I get the Amperexes, though those JJs are not bad at all.
Phd said: "I don't blame you for wanting to sell the Audio Research LS3. This is the only preamp from Audio Research I never could warm up to. If your looking to stay with a ss pre, the McCormack Platinum RLD-1 will literally smoke the LS3!"

The only reason I am considering selling my 16 yr. old LS3 is because I want remote volume control. I do NOT want to get rid of the sound...I love the sound of the LS3, in fact I have the RLD-1 in my system now to audition and quite the contrary, I think the LS3 smokes the RLD-1. The RLD-1 is very detailed, borderline etched with a fairly planar soundstage. Also it seems a bit bass shy. I plan to leave it connected for a few more days before I pull the plug on it though. I am really intrigued by the possibilities the RLD-1 may have with the Steve McCormack mods. That however is a $1400 roll of the dice. I have his DNA 0.5 Delux amp and I like it alot. He seems to really know how to design amplifiers and the mods for the RLD-1 involve cost-no-object parts...a more sophisticated volume control and replacement of the power supply, and several other things.

I find your comment about the LS3 being the only ARC preamp you didn't like interesting since way back in the mid 90's Stereophile put it on their recommended A list (as I recall).

Now keep in mind, I am an old fart and no doubt have tin ears so take all this with a grain of salt.

Thanks for providing your take on the RWA Isabella versus the Dodd. I added the RWA 30.2 integrated to my system back in May and have been very pleased with it. I have been contemplating adding the Dodd or RWA preamp also and am most interested in how these two compare in depth of sound stage. Could you please comment?


I tried running my 30.2 directly from my CDP, but found the soundstage a bit flat. Putting my PLC Sonic Euphoria (autoformers) in line increased the depth. It also, to my ears, significantly improved impact and added some welcome texture (i.e. "weight") to the sound (better impedance matching due to the transformers??). How does the soundstage depth of the Dodd compare to the Tapp?

Hi Nanotweeter

Here are some links to the shoot-out (pics and comments)

Pictures from the "Rave"

comparison/first impressions

It is not much but better then nothing. :)

It's not easy to recommend one over the other.
Price difference, features , sex appeal, sound characteristics and your preferences will mostly dictate the decision making.

Sound-stage among the other attributes like beautiful rendition of music performed by Isabella, air, balance and articulation were the reasons for me to rethink my priorities and decide to go with RWA.
Dodd is still in my system and while I hate to let it go, just like Pubul57 - can't keep them both. Listening to Dodd in the last few days were just as enjoyable as when I first hook it up to my system. In my opinion, it is a hell of a bargain for what it does and it is an easy recommendation since sonically, it's very transparent and somewhat neutral. Isabella on the other hand does image better then Dodd and soundstage is also painted with more masterful brush. Width and depth is wider, deeper and instruments as well as vocal(s) are in the correct scale/size , placement with believable presence. Subtle details, ambiance/ambient and inner character of the performers are simply stunning with Isabella (with DAC).

There is a price to pay to get that last refinements and it might be just to much for some. But Dodd will get you there a lot closer then any other preamp that I have that price range (but not only).

I think soundstage depth is comparable, but the Dodd seems a bit wider. What is more noticeable to my is the slightly better dynamics of the active - but this is hair splitting -the BENT in the right system works very well in most audio regards. I think the move from passive resistor to tvc/avc is much bigger that the difference between the BENT and the Dodd. I suspect tube rolling will also take the Dodd in different directions.
Es347, keep in mind this is strictly my opinion based on what I was hearing with my room acoustics & associated gear/speakers at the time. In fact my LS3 and RLD-1 was used with a McCormack DNA-1 amp Rev. B but I also was refering to the Platinum RLD-1 and not the stock unit for a comparison.

The Dodd looks very interesting and although I have not heard one, I am very curious about its performance/design. Based on the enthusiastic responses above & what I have read, it could be the Dodd may better both the RLD-1 & LS3 and is worth looking into.
Es347, what I think you might find interesting is what tubes can do for you that you might like. The Dodd is not tubey in the classic sense, it is very neutral and balance in the bass and treble, but it does have bloom and very realistic portrayl of space and instruments within the soundstage that I can never seem to get from SS pres or amps. This sort of thing is addictive, or not, but tubes can do this in a way that SS never has to my ears. What is also nice about the Dodd is you can proabably run it for 20,000 hours without having to worry about replacing the the tubes and with a 200ohm output impedance, which is very low for a tube preamp, you can drive almost any amp, including the McCormack. I don't know if you will prefer it to the SS you are accustomed to, but it will be different, and IMHO a more musical rendering - but I don't and can't settle the SS/tube argument...
Yep, Dodd's impedance is quite low for tube design.
Isabella on the other hand (keep in mind that Dodd and Isabella are very similar if you compare the facts)
output at just under 1K. You might acctualy have a better luck matching Dodd with whatever your heart desires.
One of the features the Dodd is missing and which Isabella includes on back of the unit, is the gain switch(12db+). That will makes it easier to integrade with most systems. While we tried to find out if it had any negative effect on the sound quality, I must honestly say that if there was, I didn't sense any.

like you is system dependent and matter of taste.
But Dodd in my book is an easy recommendation and very well balanced preamp. Unless you are looking for certain coloration and want to use your preamp as the tunning tool.
The gain switch would be a fantastic feature to add to the Dodd. I can run passive with no gain issues, it would very nice to have 0, +6db, +16db (or someting like that) toggle switch, but alas. I do agree that it would be a pretty important feature for use with different front ends and/or amps. I asked Gary if I could reduce the gain, giving me more play with the volume control, but it does not appear it can be done - unless I misunderstood him.

I would like to thank Spencer (sbank) for recommending I try the Dodd; I'm glad I did.
I would like to thank Mrj for all the info on the Dodd and how it helped me buy and try it out in my Audio Note system. It smokes the AN M3.
I read in the sixmoons review, "The preamp is remote controlled and offers 2 outputs for biamping or adding a subwoofer, as well as having a passive pass-thru that operates with the unit in the off position. " Does that mean it can be used as a passive pre? If so, how do you do that?
They're referring to the Home Theater pass-thru.
One of the reasons that swayed me against the Dodd was the high gain. However that was when I had an extremely high gain solid state amp in my system. With that amp most preamps, with the exception of a passive, gave me little wiggle room on the volume control, nine or ten o'clock was normal listening volume. I'm curious now as to how it may sound with my tube monoblocks.

Pubul57 - it may be possible to strap resistors across the outputs to lower the gain (Vishay's or Audio Note Tantalums could be a nice touch). It's a typical tweak and better than using external attenuators like Rothwell. Another solution is to integrate the resistors in your cable. I think Luminous Audio, IIRC, actually sells cables with resistors that will lower the gain by 10 - 14 db.
I'll have to live with 10:00, at least with the RM9s (1.1v sensitivity), good thing is that unlike the CAT SL1 which had large steps, the Dodd volume control is pretty granular in steps so it easy to find the right volume level. Whether not going further along the attenuator makes any significant different in impedances I don't know, but it sure sounds good as is.
Back to the original thread...I have had the RLD-1 in my system for several days now and have found that it sounds much better when its been on for a long time. I am "warming up" to its definitely has a warmer sound than my ARC and it throws a much wider soundstage. Maybe not quite as dead-on accurate but very pleasing to the ear. If it sounds that good with its cheaper internals, I am really intrigued what it could be with Steve McCormack's mods. That $1400 is starting to burn a large hole in my pocket.
Well, go with your gut feeling but keep your ears never know what can awaits you just around the corner.

I am glad that some of you found the info on Dodd or Isabella useful since both preamps are very highly recommended and will connect with music like few others in their price range and above......way above.
Just like you, I took a chance with Dodd and was sceptic at first. But I had to find out what the buzz was all about. I am glad I did and I hope that my comments weren't misleading........which would really be a bummer.

I hope you will enjoy your new preamp, whatever it is that you will end up with. If it puts the smile on your face......that is all that matters.

Just about anything audio puts a smile on my face. I'm after that ear-to-ear grin. Will let you know where all this ends up.
Not so in my was more like yea,yea....yes, yea, yea YES, wow, WOW......Breath..:)

I thought that my system is finally stable......, I was so wrong. I found something new...but I think it has more to do with me personally then the gear. I found the system (including new speakers) that lets me relax and forget about the components , synergy, quality, trends etc. Is it the audio Nirvana ? Well....for now it is. But you know how it goes.:)

Nirvana? Perhaps, but more likely a sickness...a very expensive sickness.
I am really close in my search for the cure......and in my case it isn't RLD-1 which would be like Advil PM could get me trough the night for few days but .....It does not cure the bacteria that eats through my pockets.

Somebody call the ambulance!!!!
Of course I have not stopped thinking about the Isabella, as the Dodd sounds so good in my system I'm starting to feel the need to compare the two based on the comments above -- darn! Not sure which I would prefer, but I sure get the sense that both may SOTA.
Please DO NOT.....just pretend it does not exist.:0

It turned my World upside down.
My beloved speakers will go up for sell.
I do not know what to do with my CD player now. It seems silly to use it as a transport (but I might keep it).
My other gear is all up for sell........and that is only for one reason...............Devil takes no breaks.

My system is getting a complete make-over because of Isabella and I do not recommend it if you want to keep your sanity.
Rethm Saadhana as well as Sig.30.2 amp (along with Isabella will hit my door steps in few short weeks)
Speakers there after.

Es347 was right . We are nuts.....or at least I am. hahahah!!!!!!

I suspect there is no way to try Isabella and not feel compelled to give the 30.2 a try. Well, with a 30 day trial it might make sense - oh no.... I'm going to give the Dodd some time with the Amperex, and then... well, you can see it coming.
You guys need to spend more time in used record stores. ;-)
Good one Sbank. Nice chuckle for Saturday morning.
I do not see the problem of trying it out. Vinnie is pretty down to Earth kind of a gay and will be happy to loan you his preamp or/and Sig.30.2. There is no restocking fees or any deductibles....just shipping.
But, get to know your Dodd so you can really grasp the differences between these two.
I have audition very nice sounding speakers from CarderSound (single-driver speakers that use Fostex drivers) but I think Rethms Saadhana is a better speaker.
I might try to audition the Lamhorn 1.8 but, it is a long shot and it might prove to be just over my budget.

It would be helpful to have two pairs of the same tubes to evaluate and compare the Dodd to Isabella. I am sure it will be very, very interesting experience. When you do.......let as all know of your thoughts. In the mid-time, enjoy your new Dodd and music.

I should have Isabella by next weekend and will share some more details when it settles in.

The Amperexes are locked in my mail room so no go this weekend. But, I'm getting the sense that the Dodd is on the warm side of neutral, which suprises me a bit as some comments regarding the Isabella speaks to an even smoother, sweeter presentation; for me, that might be too much of a good thing as the Dodd seems just about right to me used with the Music Reference RM9 (might be a different story with other amps) and I noticed the same sonic signature the Dodd is used with the Atma-sphere M60s (which are more neutral and transparent in a very natural way when used with the MP-3). Of course, some people think the Atma-sphere stuff is lean, I think it is very accurate and real sounding.
In this case the Dodd might be the "better choice".

There is no better or worst, just what works best in particular system and depending on individual taste & preferences.
Very true. And interesting how much audio reviewing focuses on an individual piece of equipment with little focus on system context and combinations. For example if I were reviewing the Atma-sphere M60s with a Dodd versus the Atma pre, I would ascribe very different attributes to the M60s. Makes the good, better, best questions regarding equipment obviously difficult to answer. But in my system with the Music Reference amps, the Dodd sounded better to me facing a fairly strong lineup of preamps - it is no doubt a very good preamp worth auditioning, no matter what you are willing to pay for a preamp. Will it be your cup of tea? No substitute for listening.
Yes. Reviewer's commends or even our own impressions should be used as the basic guidelines. That's the way I see it.
And even if such a think as neutral, colorless component existed it doesn't guaranty the ultimate in performance.
There is always the weak link and compromises must be made.

But in my system with the Music Reference amps, the Dodd sounded better to me facing a fairly strong lineup of preamps - it is no doubt a very good preamp worth auditioning, no matter what you are willing to pay for a preamp. Will it be your cup of tea? No substitute for listening.

I absolutely agree with your statement and reference to your own judgment as the final and only step to be 100% sure.

As to Dodd and its competition. I agree and will also add that it is more flexible then others in regards to tailoring the sound to your taste. A simple tube rolling is not only fun but useful tool in fine tuning the sound to your ear and your system. That is the beauty of tubes and simple but still innovative design of Dodd that makes it special.

Those that are sceptical about its value, quality, overall performance, lock of dealers, direct sells and unfortunate inability of auditioning it at home with 30 days money back guaranty (like other do).... hold on to your wallets and buy whatever it is that makes you smile.
But believe me, you can do a lot worst and spend a lot more.

Looks like he selling direct now, and lowered the price to $2,600. I'm not sure what the "returns" experience is for those providing 30-day trials (Placette, Red Wine,etc.) But it seems that dealer sales as a model is at the very least being challenged for 2-channel audio; I've got to believe most are surviving on HT and installations. It seems to me that if your going to sell direct, you can cover "returns" after 30-days as a cost of doing business (should there be damage etc.) with no middle man to take a piece of the pie.
Yeap, he went direct for a while now.. I have just noticed the price adj. Cool, but he should still offer the 30 days in home audition with money back to ease the decision making for those interested in his products.
RWA has no questions asked policy. If you do not like it, just ship it back. No restocking fees , non of that nonsense.

And you are right, 99% of Dodd users ends up keeping it.
As far as I know, only a hand full of Dodds were sold on used market. They usualy sell in a day or two though.
Another Dodd user that I know, sold his piece because he chose to go directly from his CDP to his amps.

Pubul57 what type of amperexes are you trying?

I find the Dodd to be very neutral, with strong dynamics, good at the frequency extremes. My speaker cables and interconnects were all zcable. I actually switched one of the interconnects to a Ram silver interconnect which gave better base definition and overall air around instruments and performers.

Very interested how the amperexes sound compared to the stock JJs.

I'm using the Dodd in conjuntion with Dodd 120's generation 2. Using virtual dynamics nite pc on the 120's and zcable lighting on martinlogan sl3s.