FWIW I was speaking with Israel Blume at Coincident a few months ago and he told me the Doge 8 was a giant killer.
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For what it is worth, my Doge 8 is beginning to really break in, thought I'd post a couple observations in case anyone is interested. First of all, I have to be honest and say that the NOS tubes recommended and sold to me by Pacific Valve didn't blow my hair back and in fact I actually preferred the stock Chinese tubes that come with the unit. They gladly took the NOS Jan Phillips tubes back and kindly refunded my money. All in all, Pacific Valve has been very good to deal with and Vic knows his stuff. I enjoy reading his opinions and musings. I replaced the stock tubes with NOS Matsushitas in both the line and phono sections, those purchased from Andy Bouwman of Vintage Tube Services. Andy has never sold me anything but excellent tubes, every time. After listening now for several weeks my opinion is that the Doge 8 needs break-in time. It is a little bright sounding to begin with. Now, with break-in, it has settled in nicely. The highs are still there, as clear as gin, but without the edginess most of us try to eliminate from our systems. This unit has unreal frequency extremes; the bass is just excellent, really deep and taut, very musical. Vic refers to the midrange as "lacking the usual midrange muddiness associated with most tube pre-amps" and he is exactly right. This thing is so open it is incredible, I've never heard anything like it. There is NO veil, it is completely transparent sounding while retaining musicality and rhythm. Cohesive from top to bottom with the clearest midrange I've ever heard. It "sounds" like an open window into the music. This observation refers to both the phono and line stages of the unit. This thing is really worth a try, given the price it is a great value.
I just ran across a Doge 8 review in Arthur Salvatore's High End Audio website. Its at the top of the class B section below a $36,000 Jadis preamp! Heres the link to it:
Its not his review but some associates that really rave about the sound and build quality. Other than that and this thread there is not very much information. This preamp seems like a bargain at $1,300 USD. Pacific Valve has these on back-order at the moment so they must be selling well. Has anyone tried the MM section of the phono stage and if so what are your impressions?
I've had a Doge 8 for about a month now. I would agree with the posters above that it's pretty hard to beat for the price, based on features alone: It's a tube preamp with built-in MM/MC phono stage, balanced outputs, nice remote control; heavy, with very high build quality. If this were not a mysterious Chinese brand it would retail for 2X-3X the price. I agree that there is frustratingly little information available on the web, so I'll try to give a few general impressions here.
First of all: I would buy it from Pacific Valve as opposed to a direct Chinese source, mainly due to the QC that they do on each unit, and because they warrant the product in the event of difficulties. I also think that some Chinese gear can have different parts and specifications depending on the source the PV gear will be consistently high quality.
I am currently using the Doge 8 with a Cary 120S (used mostly in UL mode), powering Magnepan MMGs (soon to be modded). Im using the balanced outputs (although I couldnt hear much difference between them and the RCAs). The preamp features two single-ended outputs; one Chinese website says that they have different gain levels, but I cannot hear any difference.
I am also using a Cary SLP98F1 with the 120S, which gives me an opportunity to compare the Doge with the 98. I wont say that one is better than the other; they both have different sound signatures. The Doge is more transparent and less tubey-sounding; as one reviewer says, it sounds like a smooth solid-state preamp (whereas the SLP98 sounds like the tube preamp that it is). The Doge has a slightly stronger overall presentation in this system due to its clarity and lack of coloration across the spectrum, but the Cary has slightly richer bass and a more accentuated midrange. I vacillate in terms of which I prefer with the 120S/Maggies combo; they are different experiences. The Doge retails for less than a third the price of the Cary, however. At some point Ill sell one or the other (I buy and sell gear a lot); Im not sure yet which one it will be.
The phono section comes with two switches, one for MM/MC and the other LR/HR (low resistance, high resistance? Presumably). The manual is no help in determining what these settings correspond to in terms of gain, load settings, etc. In fact, the manual actually advises users to not worry about the measurements, use the settings that sound best advise that might be great for some but not for a nervous-nellie audio hobbyist like me. I found the MM setting to be too low-gain with the cartridge I am using (an Ortofon 4mv moving-magnet cartridge). The JFET-driven MC setting is too high-gain, and I assume the load settings are wrong on MC for my moving-magnet cart, but there is no way of knowing, and it sounds great extremely dynamic. The LR/HR switch sounds terrible on LR with all the carts I tried, so I use the other setting. Verdict on the phono stage: It works especially well with a high-output MC cart and/or if you dont mind not knowing at exactly what settings you are operating; otherwise you might prefer using an outboard phono stage. The line stage sounds so wonderful that the phono stage can be considered a bonus.
Bottom line: I absolutely would recommend the Doge 8.
I received my Doge 8 about 2 mos ago. I needed something to drive my tube power amps which are 2 highly modified Cit II's and a highly modified st 70. These amps require a fair amount of input voltage to reach rated output. The Doge has a robust output and is a great match for these amps. I agree with all the reviews Ive read on this pre and in particular with Salvatore, http://www.high-endaudio.com/RC-Preamplifiers.html whos opinion I dont always agree with. I would add that the mc step up sucks but I am using an sut into the mm input and it really sounds good. I initially purchased this pre as a temporary fix while I decided on and acquired what was hopefully to be my last pre. I have been able to borrow a few nice units to try out since buying the doge and have yet to find something I prefer. A few improvements would be a tape loop, balance control and either get rid of the jfet step up or at least use good ones. This pre is easy to recommend because whatever your expectations are, at its price point it will surely not dissapoint and will be easy to sell. In my case I was (am) ready to spend $7-8k and have yet to find something up to that price point that significantly improves on the Doge. I must add that the first thing I did was replace the tubes and after trying a few different types I settled on tele ecc 801s for the phono and tele 12ax7 smooth plates for the line stage. Depending on your system this pre is a real value. ( I did have the added cost of tubes and sut)
After reading few good reviews of Doge8, and finding that for $1000 I can have full function preamp in one box Ive made my decision.
I decided to give a shot and I bought 6months old Doge8 on audiogon. The preamp looks very different from my other components that are standard black. Different but very attractive all shiny with polished stainless steel front and ball shaped push buttons. As you mentioned this unit is rather heavy and built very strong what is in ++. Inside I have noticed 8 small tubes on PCB with a lot of long silver color shielded wires and 3 transformers. As you noticed there is 4 X 12AT7 tubes for line stage and 4 X 12AX7 tubes for phono stage. Supplied Chinese tubes were not musical so Ive tried few different NOS tubes that all were good but a little different here and there. For line I have installed 2 Philips + 2 Siemens tubes that are strong as new and for Phono I have 4 Telefunken tubes.
How it sounds in my system? When I play CDs or SACDs on my Sony XA777ES player, sound of line stage I will describe as very pleasant clean, transparent, musical, involving with very nice 2 D stereo imaging but not much of the depth. Lack of depth is something I need to work on in the near future. I do not have expensive speakers or amplifiers. I have old B&W CDM1 satellites and BAT Vk-60 amp, and perhaps it is too much to ask for excellent imaging and deep stage. I do not have first class turntable but rather standard Technicks 1200 MK (I disagree with pricing of better turntables and poor engineering of many of them) and a lot of records. The phono stage sounds also very good on MM with my Grado Platinium and ok but not as good on MC with Denon 103 cartridge. I think that Doge8 preamp is a well build very nice component. I would like to see better designed PCB to eliminate all long cable connections and perhaps tube power supply. MC stage need to be improved and perhaps step up transformers need to replace J-Fet electronics. All together I am a very happy with Doge8 and I will absolutely recommend it.
I will be glad to take any advice for speakers that can improve imaging and depth of presentation.
Ill chime in again, its three months later and Ive used the Doge 8 with some other power amps and compared it to a few more pres. I also finished a complete restore/ upgrade of my Cit 1. I have a hard time telling the Cit from the Doge. If anything the Cit 1 is a tad warmer. Everyone whos come over to listen is impressed with the Doge and agrees its a steal at Pacific Valves price. I tried a few other cartridges and suts and they all sounded great through the phono. A definite giant killer.
I just wanted to chime in as another satisfied Doge 8 owner. I have limited experience with other preamps, but am well pleased with the Doge's sound and functionality. I ordered it with the upgraded tube package so I wouldn't have to think about it for a while, but down the road, I plan to do some tube-rolling and explore the possibilities. As is, with the tubes Pacific Valves includes in their upgrade from the Chinese tubes, I am very happy. I have no experience with the other preamps mentioned in the OP. But, given the fact that the OP was almost three years ago, I'm sure a decision has already been reached.
I'm actually so impressed with the Doge 8 that I'm considering a Doge 6 to accompany it. Since I primarily use redbook, the lack of support for other formats isn't a real problem. Have any other Doge 8 owners ended up buying a Doge 6? If so, what did you think?
Also, if anyone has a moment, any recommended tubes not already mentioned for the phono section would be appreciated. I'd be glad to hear what conclusions others have come to through experimentation and experience.
I bought my doge 8 about one year ago following the comment on high end audio from Salvatore and enjoy it a lot,it's a steal for the price. On my system i have had good results with telefunken 12 AT7 and ECC 801, but one is not obliged to put the four valves of the same make, the most important tube is the second, beginning by the left on the back side of the pre, there is an Australian loudspeakers builder who explain this.
For the phono i used first mazda valves but due to failure of two of them i have tried 12 AX7 full music it's the same importer in France and have got very good results for the price. They are described and reviewed on the Grant hifi site.I agree with these review.
Gilles130, thanks for the info. I'd seen that link and will definitely implement their advice on tubes, but will not void the warranty in place through Pacific Valve attempting the hardwire fixes. Am I correct in assuming you were the reader Salvatore cited in his update on the Doge 8? I saw his mention of a reader using the Mazda valves and am wondering if it was you. I look forward to hearing the results when I get a chance to pick up some of those.
In fact if i remember the reader cited by Salvatore live in nederland.I don't want to void the warranty as i bought it in france to an importer as Pacidic Valve.
I prefer telefunken to mazda in the line, for the phono i have got good result with full music 12AX7 which are cheap on ebay or in France. They are not run in for the moment,read the review on Grant Fidelity in Calgary.The full music are equally totally silent on phono.I enjoy a lot this pre and following Salvatore advices i am now on a lenco project and he is true, the lenco is a fantastic deck for the price after some good tweaking and a big plinth.
Gilles130, sorry for confusing you with the other person. And thanks so much! Just read the review and Full Music seems like a great choice. And I'd much rather pay the Telefunken prices than the Mazda prices I'd seen. They seem rather expensive. I have yet to hear the Lenco but have read nothing but good things about it in virtually every forum I've seen. What arm/cartridge are you planning on using with it? You must be pretty handy to do the plinth yourself. As I have no skill in that department, I'll have to get help with that when the time comes to upgrade my analog gear. The Lenco certainly seems like a great contender. Even with the inflated prices at this time, it seems the cheapest possible entry into the idler wheel decks. Good luck! My next source upgrade is likely to be the digital front, and the Doge 6 is a contender given how much I'm enjoying the 8. I can't see spending much more than the Doge 6 price given the direction I'm moving, which is computer based digital source. But I'd like to have at least one nice CD player before upgrading my DAC and moving further in that direction. Analog will probably be a couple of years down the road, while I build up my vinyl collection again. I look forward to hearing how your Lenco project goes and will keep an eye out for any of your posts about the results.