Don Sach's pre amp


I know these are custom made tube pre amps I am debating on getting one any audiogon members who have this pre amp can they give me a feed back on these /
a_shah
You might want to read the threads in the Tube-o-Phile circle on the audiocircle site.
Its actually a line stage.  Don also offers a phono stage but that is separate, not as an integrated preamplifier.

I've owned one of his custom SP-14s for several months and continue to be delighted.  It is absolutely quiet, offers great dynamics and huge soundstage, and most importantly to me accurate tonalities.  In addition, Don will customize any order in terms of parts quality, features, and output load to suit the customer.  All this at a very reasonable cost.

Yes, it competes with much more expensive competition.
yes I have looked at Tube-o-Phile on A/C , what I am trying to find out is how does it compare to primaluna and  Rogue audio pre- amps , since they are priced at a similar price level. I have listened to a Prima Luna amp at the Oakland Audio show 2017, which sounded very good .

Here's a link with some customer reviews toward the bottom.  The last one is from a guy who compared directly to ARC and Prima Luna preamps...

http://www.tubes4hifi.com/SP14.htm
I have one. Beautiful preamp. I went for all of Don's upgrades (except for XLR).

Tube rolling makes a big difference.

I originally tried it with 4 x Psvane CV-181z Selects, but found the bass frequencies too 'muddy'. The sweet spot was 2 x CV181z's and 2 x chrome top Sylvania 6SN7's.
Is it possible to have them in full balanced configuration (not just XLR in)? Has anyone compared them to much more expensive preamp?
@radiohead99

Give Don Sachs a call. He's always willing to talk about his builds.
Ok
having heard Don’s amp at a friends house considering all other options at his price point I have decided to order his Don Sach’s model 2 pre amp in a Walnut case with remote control and all the bells and whistles
thank you all for your feed back and answers

I don't have one of Don's preamp, but he did a repair/upgrade on one of my old McIntosh C-20 tube preamps and Don's work was superb. He fixed an ongoing problem that I had taken the C-20 in to three other shops for repair.  Two of the shops were McIntosh authorized repair shops.
Don not only fixed it, but suggested a couple of additional upgrades and I now have a 50+ year old tube preamp that has measurably better specs than the published specs from original McIntosh sales literature.  
And the sound is fantastic!

Toolbox

I have had both the Prima Luna and Don Sachs. Don's preamps are better in my opinion.Better soundstage,clarity,pace, etc. Right now I am using an integrated amp but if I go back to using a preamp,it will be a Sachs.
Good topic . I have the Rogue RP1. I swapped the stock JJ's for Telefunken Tektronix, huge improvement . Also went to a Silnote power cord . I'm playing FLAC files through a Schiit DAC with Morrow MA5 interconnects . I wish I could find someone in central California with a Sachs pre to compare side by side. I'm not impressed with the Rogues headphone section and I haven't gone back to vinyl YET . But  as far as I've gone I'm happy. By the time you get the Rogue , tubes and a power cord you're at $2000, so take that into consideration . Based on what I've read online, Donn Sachs will be my next Pre . I'm also curios about Balanced in and out . I'd go deluxe on the upgrades , so it would still be more than the Rogue . I play the snot outta my system and 18 months in no issues . When I get the Sachs I'm gonna go 100 wpc + tubes or 200 wpc + SS. As I have low power now . I'm interested to hear how this plays out . I'll probably benefit from this thread as much as you . I like the gentleman's opinion about his tube compliment as that answered one of my questions . I tried some Psvane TI power tubes and found the bass light too . I prefer Gold Lion reissue and SED Winged C over them . In the Rogue I've tried Telefunken , Seimens Nickel plates, RCA JAN blackplates, NOS Mullard . They all bettered the provided JJ's. So I wish you the best . Thanks to all and Happy Listening, Mike. 
@jmac7,
I guess, like Kevin Deal of Prima Luna /Upsacale audio claims in his Utube video's the Primaluna Pre-amps weigh more than other Pre-amps, made by other manufacturer's well ! having heard Don Sachs amp the choice was between Weight & Sound quality so I choice sound quality He He He !
at the same price point  not to say that prema Luna's are not good pre-amps, I have also heard good things about Rogue Audio RP-1 but have already ordered DS 2 in a Walnut case with upgraded caps , meanwhile I do have a VTA-SP-14(tubes4HIfi.com/SP14) on loan from @whitestix that I am listening to in my system
I have also ordered Don Sachs Model 2 in Walnut and extra goodies; many praise this unit as a true reference sounding pre-amp and I'm looking forward on implementing in my system.

Wig
I can't comment on Don Sach's custom, but I built the VTA kit that is the starting point for his.
I couldn't be happier, & his can only be better!

Congratulations. a-shah, if possible, kindly please share your experience with a comparison between the VTA-SP14 and the Don Sach's Model2. These two and the Mapletree preamp(s) are on my short list of tube preamps when I get ready to pull the trigger. Won't be long.

What amplifier will you be pairing your preamp with?

P.S. If you don't mind me asking, how long is the wait time for Dan's preamp?

@kalali, wont have my DS 2 before November 2017, however a new found friend Via Audio circle spent a couple of hours with me,  he brought in his odyssey Candela pre-amp  for me to try with my Maggie 1.7i and the Kismet amplifier , sounded wonderful ! (this gentleman owns Tekton Double Impact speakers) after about an hour plus listening we switched back to the VTA-SP 14 , we were surprised by the Soundstage, Clarity and it certainly was not a step backwards ! the DS 2 is  supposed to sound about 30% to 40 % better , lets see what happens when I get my amplifier. but again DS 2 twice the price ! t
Sorry but I have to ask some stupid questions as a prospective buyer who can't find the answers.  What's the difference between Don's model 1 and 2 preamps?  What's the difference between Don's version of the SP14 and the VTA version (design, price, options, etc.), and is there a relationship between the two?  Thanks for any info. 

soix, great question. Been meaning to ask that too. Looks like the DS2 uses the SP14 basic design but with the tubes mounted on top. Couldn't find a price for the VTA-SP14 though. Sounds like a great deal if its actually half the DS2 price.
soix and kalali, have you read the description on Don's site?

http://www.dsachsconsulting.com/custom%20line%20stage.html

Also I assume the Model 1 was an earlier version no longer available.  I got my Model 2 about 10 months ago and the 1 was never mentioned when placing my order.

I read one review of the VTA-SP-14 (Audio Asylum) but never heard one.  I expect it is a great deal for the money, but not up to the level of Don's.

Call Don.  He's extremely responsive, customer focused to the max, and a hell of a nice guy.  My interactions with him have been stellar.
Good topi
c . I have the Rogue RP1. I swapped the stock JJ's for Telefunken Tektronix, huge improvement . Also went to a Silnote power cord . I'm playing FLAC files through a Schiit DAC with Morrow MA5 interconnects . I wish I could find someone in central California with a Sachs pre to compare side by side. I'm not impressed with the Rogues headphone section and I haven't gone back to vinyl YET . But as far as I've gone I'm happy. By the time you get the Rogue , tubes and a power cord you're at $2000, so take that into consideration . Based on what I've read online, Donn Sachs will be my next Pre . I'm also curios about Balanced in and out . I'd go deluxe on the upgrades , so it would still be more than the Rogue . I play the snot outta my system and 18 months in no issues . When I get the Sachs I'm gonna go 100 wpc + tubes or 200 wpc + SS. As I have low power now . I'm interested to hear how this plays out . I'll probably benefit from this thread as much as you . I like the gentleman's opinion about his tube compliment as that answered one of my questions . I tried some Psvane TI power tubes and found the bass light too . I prefer Gold Lion reissue and SED Winged C over them . In the Rogue I've tried Telefunken , Seimens Nickel plates, RCA JAN blackplates, NOS Mullard . They all bettered the provided JJ's. So I wish you the best . Thanks to all and Happy Listening, Mike.


What did the Telefunken Tektronix bring to the RP-1 that the JJs lacked?
@Kalali , @aberyclark around August 30 a member on audio circle advertised to sell a Don Sach model 2 , with Xlr input and 1 uf Jupiter capacitors  after checking his bonafide  with Don, I offered to purchase the unit.  So instead of a long wait I got this fully loaded unit which is about a year old in pristine condition  with walnut wood case and according to the previous owner had about 300 hours of play on the tubes. Since I have had the privilege of having VTA-SP14 in my home for two weeks and also  having listened to the Candela Pre-amp. I can tell you the build quality of this pre-amp  is head and shoulder  above the VTA-Sp 14 the sound quality . No match ! at least 50/60 % better. I will be sending this  unit back to Don for some upgrades he has suggested specially Audyn film  power capacitors  and a extra set of  Audiocap theta  caps  by passed by Teflon in 3 uf value to drive my  SS Odyssey Kismet .Complete rewiring of the board to the inputs with Dueland 20 awg wiring and  1 input with  Neotech gold & silver wiring. Unbelievable as it may sound  it will still  cost me less than what I would have a paid Don for a new pre-amp plus a 10 week wait !
I have not heard the Rogue RP -1 although I have listened to a prima luna pre amp at an audio show I have put down my initial listening experience on the Audio Circle forum. @aberyclark I'd be happy for you to come in listen to this pre and compare the Rogue Rp-1 if you want to come down to 95376 Zip code I live in Central California myself 
I can elaborate on Dons SP14 with his KT88. After months of swapping cables and tubes my conclusion is that with some minute changes you can improve on what is already a wonderful match.

Enjoy!
"Since I have had the privilege of having VTA-SP14 in my home for two weeks and also having listened to the Candela Pre-amp. I can tell you the build quality of this pre-amp is head and shoulder above the VTA-Sp 14 the sound quality . No match ! at least 50/60 % better."

Sorry but I can't figure out what you mean here.  Can you clarify which has better build quality and sound quality and maybe add what the specific improvements in sound are?  Would be most interesting and helpful.  Thanks!

I think he’s comparing his newly acquired DS model 2 with the VTA and Candela and saying its got much better sound and build quality.

One lingering question; did DS also build the VTA-SP14 preamp before making his own brand? I'm still getting the relationship between the VTA and DS units. Sorry if I'm missing the obvious.

@soix @kalali Yes between the three pre-amps I have heard in my home environment, I like Don Sach's 2 as the best of the 3  , again this is very subjective based on my listening tests and "ears"
Build Quality: better parts, point to point wiring , to me  DS 2 is very revealing, no brightness, realism in voices, vocals are good , bass is just about right ! do not hear any tube sloppiness sometimes you get with lower class pre amps,  very quite. However the unit is not cheap but considering the fact it competes with higher priced units and is  custom built  it is perhaps fairly priced at its price point . Hope that helps.
kalail, I suspect Don is too busy to have time for much internet posting.  I think it is a one-man operation, other than building the cases.  So I'll share what I believe to be the development.

First off he has a long-standing reputation for restoring and upgrading classic tube gear such as HK Citation, McIntosh, Marantz, etc.  Somehow he had the opportunity to examine the circuit for the VTA-SP14 and was impressed by the potential.  But he felt it could be improved by selective parts upgrades.  So he ordered the board and built one to test.  Being satisfied with the initial results he then refined that and began offering his own version, with the blessing of VTA.  After all, they reference Don's version on their own site.

Since then it has been word-of-mouth promotion.  That's how I learned about it and I couldn't be more pleased with my DS2 SP-14.
Hi all - wondering what DAC you are using with the DS2 SP-14 (if any), and if one DAC sounds better than the other in your demoing. I recently upgraded to Triton Reference speakers and am backfilling to upgrade other parts of the system now since the speakers sound so good. Considering doing a Sachs pre-amp with bells and whistles (remote especially), paired with a Sachs KT88, but I will need a DAC in there too as will likely stream Tidal MQA (maybe via a Bluenode 2?). Thoughts? Thanks for posting your opinions here and on other threads about the Sachs products, it has been valuable.

Also - is the remote control on the newer Sachs preamps something that can be programmed into Harmony etc? (maybe with the learning option?)
Hi folks,

I have narrowed down my tube preamp choices to the Don Sachs Model 2 and the deHavilland UltraVerve 3. Does anyone have any comparative information regarding these two preamps?

I have heard great things about both. My speakers are 98dB efficient and I am using a Pioneer M-22 30 wpc all Class A power solid state amp. I am currently using a Schiit Audio Freya preamp which is fine but I am looking for fantastic! I know the DS Model 2 has enough gain. I don't know the UltraVerve 3 gain number.

Any feedback is appreciated! 
Don himself using Schiit Gungnir upgraded to multibit, I have a delta sigma Gungnir  DAC  but use that with my Audeze headphone setup (audeze deckard and LCD 2), do not use DAC with the main system
I am using a Schiit Yggdrasil DAC and love it. I have a Schiit Vidar amp but it does not measure up to the Pioneer M-22 so I am selling it. I just need a "reference" preamp and I think I am done playing with components and I can concentrate on listening to music instead of components!
I ordered a Don Sachs preamp!
porscheracer,

Smart move!  Don's KT88 just arrived but I still have 4-6 weeks left for my preamp to be built.  Everyone I've spoken with that owns his equipment raves about the sound.  Speaking with Don sealed the deal for me.  

Congrats!
@porscheracer
Congrats ! you will like it , the pre-amp continues to delight me ! very happy with it , will be sending it back to Don for Certain upgrades , but even without those upgrades it sounds wonderful with my SS Amplifier
What upgrades are you getting done and why? 

I still have time to make changes to my order so I would like to hear what you are thinking!
@porscheracer.   Best you talk to Don about it , in my case since I had purchased it from a AudioCircle member the unit was a year old  although it had all the Bells & whistles.  Don  recommended, that he could upgrade the power supply caps to better ones that he uses now and extra  output 3.3 uf Capacitors for my Odyssey SS (to get better bass) amplifier and change some of the board and input wiring to Dueland & Neotech to bring the unit up to date with his latest thinking , for me it was cost effective to do that , So I decided to go for it , in your case you probably will have his current Standard for the unit.
I can tell you one thing you wont regret it , I just love the unit !
@a_shah,

I am confident I am getting all the best stuff. I was just curious if you thought of something I did not. I am not getting a tape monitor switch or inputs/outputs. I am getting one set of XLR inputs. The output caps are 2uf for my Pioneer M-22 SS amp. Don wants me to use AudioCap Thetas bypassed by Russian Teflon caps. He says these take 100 hours of burn-in to sound right and he likes them better than Jupiters and as well or better than the Dueland when they do.

I hope he finishes it early because I can't wait to get it and burn it in!
The  unit I purchased  is in a Walnut case , has both the XLR & the Tape Monitor,and 4 RCA  Yes that is what Don has recommended AudioCap thetas bypassed by Russian Teflon caps, but  Jupiters stay in,  I just get an extra 3.3 uf caps. for my 2nd output ! and new wiring on board & some inputs.
@a_shah,

Mine will be walnut as well.

What rectifier tube have you been running? I am going to get a NOS Bendix 5852 to try.

For the 6SN7 tubes, Don is real high on the CV181z tubes so I am getting a matched pair of those from him to try. I have about 20 matched pairs of some real nice WWII era 6SN7 tubes I will be trying as well.
I would verify with Don before purchasing the Bendix; was informed when I bought a Lampizator Dac that the Bendix pulled twice the amount current than the standard 6X5GT.

Wig
Already done. The Bendix 5852 is fine in the Don Sachs line stage. It does take 30 seconds or so longer to warm up so you should turn the line stage on about a minute before the amp.
Yes Bendix 5852 is just fine  !  DS 2 has 6 volt rails, I picked up 2 pairs from Ebay , very inexpensive  the seller claims that they are tested on Hickok 6000 tester although one of them turned out to be micro-phonic the rest are good this rectifier "does improve the sound of Pre-amp." which is noticeable.
You should get a quad of CV 181-z , but if you already have 20 matched pairs of WWII era 6SN7 you should try them out
could you list the 6SN7 that you have ? thanks !

Problem with XLR on DS 2 is that the whole chain needs to be balanced, although I am using it with Zu mission XLR  cables and Gungnir DAC, the rest of the chain is single ended,
So I find the SQ  of XLR  for my ears to be  comparable  to RCA's.
 XLR maybe good for long runs or if you have ground loop or hum  but for short runs it is insignificant !
Thanks for the update on Bendix. I'm partial to Tung-Sol but may order one to evaluate. Anyone have a reliable source?

Thanks,
Wig


@a-shah,

I find that Yggdrasil sounds just a bit better through its XLR output. It's not a huge difference, but it is there. So I have ordered my DS 2 line stage with an XLR input. I will compare XLR and RCA in to see how the DS 2 sounds best in the chain.

Of the top of my head, I have these tubes:

Raytheon VT-231 (flat plates with 8 copper rods)
Ken-Rad VT-231 (both black and clear glass)
RCA VT-231 (grey glass)
Sylvania 6SN7W
Sylvania VT-231
Sylvania 6SN7GT (Bad Boys)
Sylvania 6SN7GTA

I have some more that I can't remember. I am on vacation and don't have access to my list.

I have tried the CV 181-z tubes in the past and found most of the above tubes to be better. I ordered a set with the DS 2 and will try them with that line stage.
I have the same selection of NOS to include WGTB and RCA 5692 and in a previous Modwright Sony 5400 CD Player which utilizes 6SN7s, the CV 181-Z walked all over my NOS tubes; not even close...

Wig
Since the website does not list specs, I have a question. Is Don's preamp using cathode-followers for the 6SN7 gain stage?

Also, if this is a single gain stage, is it sensitive to microphonic tubes? I assume you are all testing for low- noise?
@wig 

In my tests, the NOS tubes walked all over the CV 181-Z. If these tubes were as great as you say, the NOS 6SN7 market would dry up in a New York minute....
@ porscheracer

It's all circuit dependent and my NOS tubes smoked the CV-181Z in my Line Magnetic SET Integrated Amp. A good thing for us is that we do not have to go out and procure these treasures, just choose the ones that best represents our listening pleasure.

The CV-181Z are quite special if used in the right circuit and this has been talked about by some serious tubes critics over the years.

http://www.tnt-audio.com/accessories/shuguang_treasures_cv181_e.html

Wig
I tried them in a preamp and they didn't sound great.....I guess I will see as I have a paired ordered with my Don Sachs preamp.