Don Sachs 2 vs. deHavilland Ultraverve 3


There seem to be quite a few discussions and reviews on these preamps, but I haven’t seen any direct comparisons (I have done several searches).

Both are octal / 6SN7 tube line stages, include similar inputs/outputs, have similar features including optional remotes, place the tubes above the case, and are similarly priced. I would be grateful to hear about how they differ regarding their:

  • Sound (reviews of both say they are detailed and also include aspects of the traditional/warm tube sound, but I can't tell how they compare to each other) and

  • Design and Performance (ie the impact of design differences such as 4 6SN7 tubes in the Sachs as opposed to 1 in the deHavilland or the 48 step Khozmo remote ($200) vs the 32 step deHavilland remote ($500), etc.)

I have seen at least one thread where a member discussed experiences with both preamps, but I could not see any comparisons (such as the Sachs was more [fill in the blank] than the deHavilland).

Obviously it would be great to hear from members that have heard both preamps. There may be members that have not heard both, but may have insights into the potential impact of their design differences, and I'd be interested in hearing from them also.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts!!

swingfingers

Swing, I currently own both of those pre-amps. I could invite you for a listen if you live near Sacramento.

My impressions on both are found in this thread:

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/need-tube-preamp-recommendations-please


4hannons,

Thank you very much for the possibility of an invite! Unfortunately, I live on the east coast so it’s too far to do at this time - but still much appreciated.

Your impressions were interesting to read. What I gathered from your posts was that they sound extremely similar (detailed, clean, smooth, nice presentation, etc.) except that the deHavilland may have a bit more of a delicate, relaxed sound. Is this about right?

Would it be possible for you to give any more thoughts on how the 2 differ? In other words, is one more detailed or transparent than the other? Which do you think has stronger dynamics, better bass “slam”, or is more holographic? Thanks in advance for anything you can add to distinguish the two!


East coast, oh well.

Fair warning, I might repeat myself from the post. I’m not a professional reviewer and don’t consider myself particularly adept at describing audio differences. I hear what I hear and try to put it into words.

One thing I didn’t mention in that post, (did I mention?) the deHavilland has a NOS 1944 Sylvania 6SN7, the Don Sachs has stock tubes. Mine might not be a fair comparison as the NOS tube improves imaging, space, detail, depth -- pretty much everything. I’ve only heard the Don Sachs in stock form, and haven’t yet purchased better tubes until I fully commit to keeping it -- I currently have too many pre-amps.

You summed up my comparison perfectly. The deHavilland exhibits more of the classic tube characteristics; Don Sachs closer to solid state with slightly more punch.

I didn’t notice any difference in bass slam, perhaps because I’m pretty much maxed out on bass using two Vandy 2Wq’s in my setup.

Dynamics are where the Don Sachs excels. It is right there with the Pass XP-10. I like my music to have impact and a percussive element, I want to feel it when the music gets loud. Don Sachs edges out the deHavilland here.

As far as transparency and holographics, both are deep, big and wide, wider than Pass, probably an advantage of tubes vs. solid state. Don Sachs is more transparent.

I’m probably a bigger fan of the Don Sachs for it’s dynamics, the deHavilland slightly warmer/darker.

I hope this helps, as with everything this is all system dependent. You can click on my name and see my room and associated equipment that might help you make a decision. If you have more questions, let me know.





Not exactly answering your question but thought I would share my experience with the Ultraverve 3.  First let me state that I don't think you can go wrong with either choice.  I too was deciding between the Sachs and Ultraverve and went with the Ultraverve because I got a deal on a 6 month old unit that is black on black (very cool looking in a stealth kinda way).  I also really like the retro look of the Sachs unit.  My experience with the Ultraverve is very similar to what 4hannons described.  I would also like to add that I have higher sensitivity Tonian Lab speakers and the Ultraverve 3 is perfectly quiet-- even with my ear right up to the speaker.  This is so important to me as I am very sensitive to any background noise.  The Ultraverve presents music on a nice black background.  It is also responds well to changes in the 6sn7 tube -- and the really nice thing is that you only need one.  So if you want to splurge on a Tung-sol round black plate you don't need to worry about getting multiple matched tubes.  I also find that the modest 12 db gain on the Ultraverve is nice in a high sensitivity system.  In the past have always had issues with too much gain.  And finally, for whatever reason, I have always been biased towards point-to-point wiring -- the deHavilland has 100% hand wired point-to-point circuitry in the audio as well as the power supply circuit.  I am not saying that the Ultraverve is better than the Sachs in any way.  I know Don is extremely responsive to customers and can tailor his product to meet your exact needs.  Just wanted to share my experience with the Ultraverve in case it may be helpful to you in any way.

4hannons,

THANK YOU very much for all the details! It is definitely helpful.

I must admit I'm intrigued by your description of the Sachs.  Like you I'm big on dynamics and "punch".  OTOH, I do want some real tube sweetness and holigraphics, etc. 

I am curious about your impressions on the extent of the differences between your 3 units. In other words, if on a spectrum of “tubey-ness” where solid state, or the Pass, is 0 and super tubey is 10, where would you place the Sachs and deHavviland?

It is interesting that the Sachs has 4 6SN7 tubes vs only 1 for the deHavilland, and yet it is the deHavilland that you feel exhibits more of the classic tube characteristics. I wonder why?

I hear you about the potential effect of different model tubes installed. If you have any interest, I wonder what your impressions would be with one of the Sachs stock tubes in the deHavilland; this could be closer to an apples to apples comparison (even if the deHavilland tube was in the Sachs, it would only be 1 of 4).

Thanks for noting your gear – nice system btw! I also have a McCormack amp, although mine is a stock DNA 0.5 deluxe.

Thanks again!


gotog,

Thank you very much for your response. I appreciate the comments.

I also like a black background with very low noise so it is nice to hear the deHavilland can provide that.

Regarding point to point wiring, is the Sachs not point to point? My understanding was that both units were all point to point, but perhaps the deHaviland is hand wired all the way through and the standard m2 Sachs is not?

You raise an important issue re the number of tubes.  With 4 octals on the Sachs and only 1 on the deHavilland, does that make the Sachs more expensive to maintain? Or would the other tubes on the dHavilland even things out? Or is the real issue ensuring all 4 octals match on the Sachs?


"...if on a spectrum of “tubey-ness” where solid state, or the Pass, is 0 and super tubey is 10, where would you place the Sachs and deHavilland?"

I don’t know how to best answer...I’ve owned mostly solid state, and my best audition of tubes happened last year in LaJolla listening to two set ups, one was all tube Audio Note and one was all tube CJ. If the CJ gear is a 10 (very tubey) then the Audio Note is 8, the deHavilland is 6, Sach is 4, I wouldn’t say the Pass is 0 because it has certain tube-like qualities so I’d give it a 2. And that’s the thing, there are certain nuances that aren’t captured in assigning a number and some ss gear sounds more like tubes than certain tube equipment. CJ and AN gear for my taste is a little too soft, but I appreciate the deep soundstage and sweetness. For my taste of music (rock, pop, country, occasional jazz) and entertaining friends, there’s no way a softer presentation like CJ would work for me right now.



My point-to-point wiring comments were based on my understanding that the Sachs was based on the SP14 board from Roy Mottram at Tubes4hifi; whereas the Ultraverve is point-to-point hand wired (no board).  Also, the tube compliment that comes with the Ultraverve contains quality NOS tubes tested and specifically selected for the preamp -- at least mine did.  They are very nice quality tubes.  The 6sn7 will most likely be the only one that you may end up rolling if you are trying to tailor the preamp to your taste.  Mine came with a very nice vintage Sylvania that suits me just fine-- no need for me to roll at this point.  Just curious, what amp and speakers are you using and what type of music do you listen to?

4hannons,

Thanks for trying to place these on a spectrum and giving greater context by including other preamps. I agree that we can’t represent such complex sounds by a number, but in the context of a lot of other details (like those you gave), it can help as another piece of the puzzle.

If you have time for another comment…you mentioned the deHavilland as being “slightly warmer/darker”. Have you found it has more mid bass/low mids OR less treble/high frequencies...or both?  I guess I’m wondering if there is any sense of a veil or muted high end…


Gotog,

I get your comments now regarding the deHavilland’s wiring. Apologies as I think my question came from ignorance. Your post helped me to understand so thank you for that!

BTW, do you know if the deHavilland has anything that can help the user know where they are in the volume ladder (the Sachs has a digital readout for this)?

My amp is a McCormack DNA 0.5 deluxe and my speakers are Gemme Audio Tantos. (I'm a bit of a noob at hifi.)  For music, my first passion is jazz (Miles, Coltrane, Jarrett, etc.), my second is classic rock/blues/folk, and I also love classical and a lot of other, diverse stuff.  How about you?  Also curious if there is a genre (or speaker type) you find especially suited to the Ultraverve?


Swing,
Nice system...The Gemme Tantos are really nice..We have exactly the same taste in music..in the same order of preference.. As far as knowing where you are on the volume ladder, the Ultraverve doesn't really tell you.  For instance, when you use the remote to change volume it does not move the knob on the panel.  If you manually change the volume using the knob after using the remote, it will just increase or decrease the volume from where it was previously set via the handheld remote. I think it really comes down to what you are looking for to compliment your other gear and room.  The Ultraverve imparts just enough warmth (tube flavor) for me.  My room is a little bright and my speakers are really detailed, and it just smooths things out a little (not too syrupy), especially on recordings that may not be the best.

I haven't had experience with either of these units, but I have a friend with Don's preamp, and have heard nothing but praise from him.  His experience paved my decision to buy Don's custom phono preamp, which I love,

I am however, on my second 6SN7-based tube preamp.  My experience with both is that the tonal nature of these type preamps can be widely altered with tube choice.  To a perhaps an even greater degree, selecting different input tubes changes the character as well.  Have fun with either choice.

As to how tubey a unit sounds, I have found that the most tubey sounding preamps are tightly tied to coupling caps, and those more SS sounding work to minimize that or eliminate them entirely.  My current unit is likely closer in sound to Don's.  I love tube sound without any cap or transformer haze getting in the way.

gotog, Thanks for your comments! Sounds like you have a great taste in music ;-] . It seems strange to me that there is no way for the user to know where he is on the volume ladder of the UV – but I’m sure there is some reason for that design choice, and perhaps I am in the minority desiring such a feature?  I hear you regarding complimenting my gear and room. It’s tough to know how something will sound before actually installing it so it is very helpful hearing other members’ experiences.

jsm71, I appreciate your observations and thoughts.  I have heard how responsive the deHavilland is to tube changes – interesting that it is possibly the nature of all (or most?) 6SN7 preamps.  I found your comments regarding coupling caps very intriguing. Perhaps my biggest goal is adding some of the “magic” that tubes can give but without creating any sense of veil or haze. (I don’t want to reduce any high end as my speakers are already pretty smooth). I’m pretty uninformed regarding caps. I know there are different kinds and brands but don’t grasp the concept of minimizing or eliminating them. Could you elaborate??


Swingfingers,
I am late to this post, but I have had Don's preamp from the beginning, getting the third one he made, after he upgraded my HK C-I, CII, and C-V's.  I have had two upgrades it over the past 4 years and it is back for the latest upgrades at the moment.   It is simply the most revealing preamp I have owned in 45 years of having good to great gear.  

I also have a McCormack DNA .05 amp, upgraded in 2015 to the Platinum version and it is exemplary.  It will be the last SS amp I will acquire.  Don has been adamant that his tube amp would be much better than the upgraded McCormack amp I have.  I always doubted that assertion as I prefer a tube preamp and a potent SS amp for LF extension.  

Well, I got a chance to audition Don's tube amp in my system recently and it took less than 30 seconds to reveal to my ears that Don's amp is even better that the McCormack.  Don's amp has all the balls in the LF as well as the high frequency extension, but the soundstage with Don's amp rendered a 3-sound stage, pretty much holographic, compared to the decidedly 2-dimensional sound stage with my McCormack amp.  Tonally, they were a push, but the air around the individual players was just palpable with Don's amp, recreating a music experience that was mesmerizing.  I have 12-ohm Spatial Audio M4 Triode Master speakers and I can tell you that these speaker love Don's tube amp.  It is alway about component matching, of course.  After hearing Don's amp in my system, I swiftly ordered one which I expect will arrive within a month.

Those of you that have 6SN7-based tube preamp might well experience a great degree of improvement in sound upgrading to the Shuguang Black Treasure tubes.  They are a dramatic improvement over the very good NOS Sylvania, GE's, etc, but of course, much pricier.     



Hi All,
A customer pointed out this thread to me.   I will just say that I have improved the line stage by about 10-15% in the past few months.   I have gone to a different output cap, a Polish made Duelund copy that is just mesmerizingly good.   Also, about a month ago I managed to adapt the preamp so it can take a 6BY5 rectifier and still use the 6X5GT or Bendix that it always could.  The 6BY5 adds an even richer and fuller tone.   All in all I would say the latest version is 10-15% better than it was a few months ago.

cheers,
Don
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Guys,

I own both of Don's DS2 Tube Pre and his KT88 Kootenay 120 and have NO desire to try anything else; I have owned countless pieces of electronics and nothing sounds like Don's customized hand built equipment...

Wig :)

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Hey Don, now that we've got your ear here, any plans to do an integrated amp in the future?
I have thought about it, but it would be low powered, probably el84 based or 6V6, and 15-19 watts/ch.   The problem is that I cannot fit the best line stage and the best power amp in any sort of smaller case so have thought about compromises that would be best.   I could probably produce such a beast for $2500-3000.   It would be very good, but I would have to do a prototype in the cheapo Chinese case, see how it sounds, tweak it, and then do a custom case.  The custom cases require that I commit to buying at least 10 of them in a year's time to get a good price.   I am not sure I would sell 10 integrated amps in a year.  Most folks like 65 watts/ch, not 15-19:)

I am pretty stunned at the prices people charge for amps these days.  Customers always describe their system when considering my preamp.   I see 300b amps with mundane power supplies in fancy cases for $5000+.  Geez.   I build a kt88 amp with fully regulated supplies for $3300.   Anyway..... not sure when I would do an integrated, but it would be lower powered and have to fit in a smaller case.  That requires compromises.
What cheapo Chinese cases are you speaking of?
The par metal ones because they are in New Jersey and you can get most any sizes.  I don't think they manufacture there though, they just stock parts.  Maybe I am wrong.  Anyway, you can get a cheap case and then have cnc panels made for $125 or so.   It is the same sort of case Roy sells for the sp14 kits.   I still use them for phono preamps.  There is nothing wrong with them, just that they are not fancy.  They work.   Once a product is done though, then I want a much nicer case for production ones.......