ear preamp

Has anyone had any experience with the EAR pre-amps? Specifically the 912 or new 868.
Hello Gabe...A short while ago I finished auditioning an EAR 88PB, Tim Paravicini's top level tube phono preamp. Though this particular demo had been modded by Mitch Singerman, it had the kind of presentation I liked enough to make me order a new 88PB, which I just received. To my ears, and right out of the box, the stock 88PB sounds even better than the modded one. It has wonderful tonal balance and superb imaging and soundstaging. Before I mention more however I will, of course, state the usual qualifier, "In my system". I have Dunlavy SC4 speakers, Air Tight ATM-3 monoblock amps, a VPI HW-19 Mk 3 or 4 turntable (with a new Teres 265 on order), Benz L2 cartridge, SME IV.Vi tonearm and Synergistic Tesla Accelerator, Ridge Street Poiema 3 and Audio Horizons cables and Ridge Street Poiema Signature and Wegrzyn power cords. I listen almost exclusively to classical music on vinyl lps. For me, imaging/soundstaging is a top priority, but of course dynamics and top to bottom extension is also valued greatly. My biggest no-no is glare/brightness, but don't be misled into thinking I like heavy, syrupy or excessively warm sound.....I previously owned the Supratek Cortese preamp, which had terrific imaging, but an annoying glare I couldn't live with. I went to a Joule Electra LAP 150, which was very nice, but didn't give me quite the top end extension I wanted. I also home auditioned the Audio Note M3, not enough life, plus needed separate step-up for moving coils. Also had the Shindo Masseto here. Nice sound, but not easily accessible tube replacement, plus not worth its $11,500 asking price and not giving me the involving soundstage presence. Then, I had an Audio Horizons single unit line/phono stage preamp. An excellent preamp in every way, except not having the kind of three dimensional imaging/soundstaging I was still after. Finally.....the EAR 88PB. With it, I'm getting everything I wanted. If I really hanker for a linestage I can always get one later. But with my nearly 3000 lps, I'm not too concerned at this time.....Now, I realize you're asking about the 912 and the new 868 full function units. I've corresponded several times with Robert Levi, who has reviewed the 912. He not only owns one but also has other EAR electronics. He's heard virtually all of their top of the line units, and he is nuts about them. Specifically, he told me the EAR 868 is the "absolute best buy in all of hi fi-dom". I was also told by Dan Meinwald (chief U.S. importer of EAR)and Jay Kaufman of Audio Revelation, from whom I purchased my 88PB, that the 868 sounded virtually the same as the top of the line 912, which is $4000 more than the 868. I personally went with the 88Pb because I wanted no compromise with the phono stage's sound quality if it had to share the same box with the linestage, and because I can run the 88Pb directly to my amps. Plus, I'm not particularly fond of the sound of cds compared with vinyl. And, buying the 88PB leaves me with some extra cash for analog related needs....I hope I've been able to offer you some help regarding your inquiry. I'd be glad to try to answer any other questions you might have....Best regards, Jeff
Thank you. I do appreciate your response. I am dying to hear one but no dealers in Chicago that have the 868 for demo. I probably would have just bitten the bullet and purchased a used unit. However, I do need to run my surround thru the pre and this appears to be tricky with the EAR -- just too many "if's" to purchase sight un heard. Anyway, I purchased a new BAT 3ix (Great little pre for little $, from a fellow Audiogoner to hold me over until I can figure out what I want.

I agree with your sensibilities on sound -- i.e. imaging, sound stage dynamics ect, and I can not stand glare or brightness. I am running ATC actives that will bite on the thin and bright side if not carefully matched.

The EAR folk do say that the 868 sounds just like the 912, but I do not know what that sound is.

Interestingly, there are comments on this forum about the EARs being over-priced?
Anyone else heard or own the EAR 912 or 868.

I am extremely impressed with the 88PB phono stage
It's been about 4 months since last post on EAR 868. Can anyone now give comparisons or comments on the 868?
I have tested both the 912 and 868P and loved them both. I finnaly took the 868L since i own a 324P phono-stage. This 868L i own is the best pre i have ever heard and it is a true bargain. 912 linestage sounded exactly the same as the 868L. The 912s phono is a little better than the one in the 868P, maybe the transformers between phono and linestage in the 912 do that...

mybe i will sell my 868L+324P in the next weeks to get a 912 or 868P...less clutter in my rack...

just my 2cents
Bernie, I put an order for the EAR 868L to replace an ARC LS26. Can you tell me if you've heard the two compared? I like the sound of the LS26, but I get frustrated with some of the computer features built into the preamp. Do you think I would miss anything going to the 868?


I've had the EAR 868 for over a year and compared it to the AR Ref 3 and some other top flight preamps. The EAR smoked the Audio Research Ref 3 and an expensive VTL.
The EAR is a great pre but I still felt it could be a little soft and rolled in the top frequencies. I had it modified it by the Upgrade Company and it pushed it to new heights: blacker background, tighter bass, more detail, more extension in the top end. It sounds more like top notch solid state but it retained the tube warmth.
A world class preamp indeed!
Let me know if you have any other questions.

What did the Upgrade Company change/replace in the 868?
I've owned two EAR amps, one EAR integrated and one EAR cd player. My friend has owned numerous EAR amps, the 834 preamp, and yes the 868 preamp. EAR is good stuff but WAY overpriced IMHO. They were overpriced ten years ago when I first started buying them. Now, FORGET ABOUT IT. I don't know what your system consists of, but if it can accommodate a passive preamp, do it. There are so many passives out there FOR WAY LESS MONEY, that can beat an EAR preamp.

Are you describing the little soft and rolled off in the top frequencies with stock tubes? Can't imagine PCC88 ever sounding soft or roll off in anything.
It's been quite some time since I visited this thread. Just
want to mention a few things. First, I still own the 88PB,
and am still enjoying it very much. It of course uses four
7DJ8(PCC88) tubes. Aside from its stock tubes(Ei Yugos), I
have tried three other 7DJ8 brands: Tesla, Telefunken and
Tungsram. I have consistently come back to the Teslas, which
seem to give me the best top to bottom extension and
balance. The Telefunkens sound a wee bit soft at the top by
comparison, while the Tungsrams sound very slightly weighted
toward the treble. Please keep in mind these are the
impressions I obtain in MY system. Results may of course
vary with your system's components, and don't forget the
matter of personal taste. Also, other than what I just
mentioned, I've never typically heard top end roll off with
my 88PB. Good listening to all!