Finally Settled on a Preamp—Don Sachs Model 2 Custom Linestage


I took delivery a couple months ago of Don Sachs’s Model 2 6SN7 custom line stage preamp. It’s his latest iteration with an OLED display and 64 step Khozmo attenuator with input relay switching. There are no channel level attenuators. I had Don put in WE6SN7 tubes, and a pair of Mindoro 2.2 uF silver oil capacitors on the second output for flexibility with a possible SS amp in the future. The pre is simply marvelous. I have tried quite a number of preamps in the last few years. Some of you might remember my original post on the topic: https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/tube-preamp-recommendations-3?page=2. Don’s pre beats everything I’ve tried. I’m not an audiophile reviewer by any means, but to my ear, it has an enormous soundstage, and is extremely detailed, extended, and dynamic. Sometimes I leave my living room and it just sounds like there are musicians playing in the other room. The level of detail at times can almost be startling. 

I paired it with Don’s Kootenay 120 KT88 power amplifier, which I purchased from another Audiogon member. The amp now has Don’s latest caps and WEKT88 tubes. Both pieces have a synergy that creates a very musical sound that I can listen to for hours without fatigue with my ProAc Response Two S speakers.

Some praise for the man is in order. Don is very responsive and has gone out of his way to help me with related and completely unrelated projects to get my system sounding the best it ever has. He’s a nice, genuine guy to boot.

I’d upload some photographs of my system and Don’s pre and amp, but it appears that I can’t do that on a forum post; someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

Cheers,

Rob


robert1234
It’s a truly remarkable pre. Luckily my neighbor has one 😊
correct, you can’t post a snap. 
You can start a system page and post pictures there.It does sound like a wonderful system.Congrats!
I also bought Don's preamp few months ago and love it.  This is definitely a keeper.  Mine was probably one of the last ones without the OLED display and with the L/R balance knobs.  I will inquire if it can be updated to the latest version.  I am using the preamp with the Pass 250.8 amp and Tekton Encore speakers.  The sound is just wonderful.  I also ordered Don's Kooteney 120 amp about four months ago and it is finally arriving next week.  Can't wait to compare it to my Pass.  I'm hoping that the synergy between both pieces of Don's equipment will sound even better than what I have right now.
I sold my DS2 last year, and kept the deHavilland. The person who bought it says they are very happy. YMMV. 

~Tom
@robert1234 It would be nice if you could list the other preamps you've tried here in this thread for ease of reference... most readers will be curious.  Thanks and glad you're loving the pre.  I love mine too.
I am in the que with Don for the model 2.  I am in Alberta and nice to know he is just a province over in BC. Dealing with Don has been great. I sold a Primaluna Dialoge Premium HP integrated to try SS power and a tube pre amp. I wanted to use the 6SN7 tube and my searching lead me to this pre. The current power amp is a Parasound A21+ and Don suggested some cap changes so looking forward to getting my hands on this. I will report back in the new year with my thoughts. If anyone is a local Edmonton owner of any of Dons gear please send me a PM be great to have a listen.
I’ve had a Don Sachs Model 1 since 2017. I recently had it updated to the 6BY5 rectifier. 
I’m very happy with it.
don’s pre is one of the best, in absolute terms as well as in terms of value

tube rollin’ new and old 6sn7 types is fun too!  ' lush honey colored' or 'clear as a whistle' on demand!!!

congrats and enjoy
Second the tube rolling.  I have had my DS2 for about a month now. I transitioned to SS power amp with tube pre from a 300b power amp. Nice to have some watts.  Caps are cooked now. Not sure why Don likes those Chinese tubes so much though.  One of mine failed so I picked up some chrome dome Sylvanias (late 50's) and man the the difference is amazing. So much more holographic.  Based on Andy's recommendation at Vintage Tube Services, I am going to try the 50's RCA's. He recommended them for sweet mid's and musicality.  The Syulavanias are a bit bright and bass shy in my system. Amazing detail though. Anyway, if you have DS2, try some NOS tubes.
I liked a pair of Sylvania vt-231 brown bases in mine, and my favorite were rca vt-231 Grey glasses. Agreed that they produce a lot more 3-dimensionality than the stock tubes.
I tried a variety of Chinese tubes. Shugaung WE6SN7 Plus (large bottles with red base) were far and away the best. Extended, airy, dynamic, sweet mids, sparkling highs. Unfortunately, half of them failed. I’ve had good luck with warranty claims with Chinese tube re-sellers and Don was a prince about replacing stock tubes. So, I have a stable set of the WE6SN7 Plus, for now. They haven’t been available for quite some time, and who knows when Shugaung will be making them again, if ever, given the fire at their factory. In my opinion, they have serious QC problems they need to sort out. I had the same experience with WEKT-88 Plus tubes (I have Don’s amp too): a wonderful sounding tube, but half of them failed.  I haven’t gone down the rabbit hole with NOS tubes, having done that once before with 12AU7s with another preamp and trying to steer clear from that expensive obsession. But the preamp no doubt would sound great with the right NOS tubes. 
Have any of you compared dons linestage to production stuff like bhk pre, evo400 or arc ref6?
Funny you mention those two particular linestages for comparison. I have mentioned on another thread somewhere that I at one point this last year had all three (new Don Sachs pre, PSA-BHK, and the AR-ref-6SE) at the same time swapping them out just about weekly for a couple months. All three are very good but different is particular ways. The PSA-BHK is wonderfully flexible and lots of tube rolling possibilities since it can be configured for both 6v and 12v tubes. FYI the tubes that ship with the unit are in my opinion crap. A top notch pre with good tubes. The ref-6SE is well, fantastic but I found it sterile in my system. Very revealing which I like but seemed dynamically constrained compared to Don’s pre. Additionally the ref-6SE in my particular system (high efficiency horns) was a bit thin in the upper octaves. So after much back & forth swapping units and rolling tubes it became very apparent that the Don Sachs had the best synergy with the balance of my system and the other two were sold.

I purchased the Don Sachs on a whim just to see what it was like. FYI Don is quite a gentleman and is ready to customize the output impedance and cap for your particular amp or in my case amps.  Unusual in todays world for sure.  It’s the least expensive part of my audio chain but the synergy to the amplifiers is wow good. It’s what a 1/4th of the price of the ref-6SE and spanked it. Thats pretty good in my book.

- Pre (Don Sachs #2-custom)
- Main Amps (Coincident Frankenstein Mk-II 300B mono blocks)
- Base Amps (Block Audio mono blocks)
- Main Speakers (BD-Design Orphean Horns)
- Base Speakers (BD-Design Compact Reference)
- Sub (SVS-PB-16-Ultra) x2
- Interconnects, speaker cables, and power cables all (Grover Huffman Empress+)