Fred Volz and Emotive Sira Pre Amp

After many years enjoying my aging Audible Illusions Modulus preamp, I finally began searching for a replacement. About a year ago I ran across Emotive and their Sira line of tubed preamps. I had considered an AES, Cary, newer Audible Illusions, Prima Luna, and even Supratek. But, I kept going back to the Sira, I just had a difficult time justifying the cost vs. all of the others.

From the pictures it is a beautiful piece of audio gear. However, finding reviews on it are a little difficult. I would see occasional used ones on the market, but never quite pulled the trigger. I decided to contact Fred at Emotive to determine what upgrades could be done to a used one. After much correspondence, I decided to have Fred build one for me rather than buying used.

I am a bit of a guinea pig on this build as Fred is making some slight changes from the existing Sira. I do not pretend to understand audio circuitry so I can only say that the biggest difference is the chassis will be aluminum rather than the existing stainless steel. Perhaps Fred will see this thread and chime in.

I am hoping this new model Sira will sound as good as the limited reviews I have read of the existing Sira. The build is in process so delivery is still TBD.

I will use this thread to chronicle the process and the result. I realize that it's a little unfair comparing a new boutique built preamp to a 25y/o circuit board based tube preamp, but it will have to do.

I would like to have found more reviews on the Sira, but there is little out there to read. My experience so far is that Fred is an easy gentleman to work with and the gear that he makes is beautiful in my opinion. I will be honest in my assessment of it's audio and aesthetic qualities, so stay tuned to this thread for updates. My hope through this thread is to provide more information for anyone considering one of Fred's creations.

Fwiw my current set-up includes;
Cary cd308 cdp
laptop based music server w/ onkyo interface
Parasound dac1000
Audible Illusions Modulus 2D
AES Six Pacs
Gallo Sub Amp
Gallo Ref 3.5
all gear isolated w/ black diamond cones on 2" maple shelves w/ cork and rubber isopods.
Gracenote Speaker Wire and power cables
Homegrown Audio Super Silver I/c
Mapleshade digital connects

Cool project Brad, I will be interested to see your impressions and track your progress. And congrats getting an essentially bespoke piece of audio gear is pretty damn cool!
I have Fred's Poeta preamp, also driving a Cary (v12) amp, and I love it. He swears the Sira is way better, so that would have to be a pretty great piece of gear indeed. My one complaint is that the output from the pre-amp is too high for the amp, so I'm only really able to use about the first 25% of the volume knob's rotation. I'd prefer to be somewhere in the middle of it's range, but other than that, it's great.
I had initially looked at the poeta, but I am enamored by point to point and no pcb. I will certainly keep the thread updated as it progresses. Fwiw, Fred has the chassis, but not the woodwork. He is still waiting on it to arrive.

Jond, I am hoping the preamp is serial number 1. Or, better yet no serial number, just a signature edition. Woot. There are some things that Fred is doing differently, but I can't speak with any authority as to alterations of the existing sira circuit.

I think you will like the custom Sira very much and enjoy the process of working with Fred to get a custom piece of equipment. Fred built a linestage and mono power amps for me so I have some firsthand experience.

What type of output coupling capacitors is Fred going to use?
If the volume control position is something that really bothers you, contact Fred. He can install some dropping resistors around the volume control that can reduce the gain to whatever you want. A number of years ago, I had a Sira, Poeta and Erato in my system for 2 weeks (that was fun!) and the Sira had some gain-reducing resistors that dropped the gain so much that I was running the control around 3:00. The volume control on the Poeta on the other hand was around 9:00 despite their using the same audio circuit. So Fred can set it for whatever position you want.
Fred is using his base caps. My budget didn't allow for upgraded caps. However, Fred did install Teflon tube sockets for which I was grateful. There should be plenty of room to upgrade later with caps etc.

Fred has said that one significant difference on my unit is engraving rather than silk screened lettering. Still not sure on an eta, but I will post more as the build progresses.

I would love to here anyone's comparisons between emotive gear and other pre amps. I am hoping to hear a improvement over my current audible illusions, but would love to hear what others think will be noticeable.
Where are you located? If in the NYC area you can bring it over and compare it to the one I build, but be ready for a new sound experience.

Happy Listening.
Sorry, I am boiling down here in 90*+ Alabama. Geez it got hot fast this year.
Things are moving ahead slowly, but surely. I am still hoping to hear comparisons between various preamps and the sira. Does anyone have anything they can add.
I would like to help you but my listening time to the Sira was almost 7 years ago so recollections are rather vague. I compared it to two other Emotive models---the Erato (which I owned) and the Poeta---as well as an Audio Research LS-2. I liked both the Sira and Erato very much but eventually decided to go with a custom version of the Epifania with a solid-state regulator. One aspect of the Sira that I recall vividly was the see-through transparency on live recordings. It also had very wide dynamic swings on orchestral recordings.

If you google the Sira, you can find a number of reviews and user comments from back when it was first introduced.

The sound of the Sira will be affected quite a bit by the output coupling capacitors. You mentioned that Fred was using his basic cap, but do you recall what cap that is?
I am not sure of the components being used throughout the pre including the caps. I am leaving room for improvements later. For now I can only imagine the caps being the most basic ones that Fred feels will sound good. I can't imagine them being crap, but I honestly don't know.
I looked back through my correspondence with Fred and found where he is using carbon film resistors that he has not tried in the past, and I have asked regarding the caps.
Ok, so a small update. Fred says the wood is in and he is finalizing the build. Mine is in a queue so it will be a little longer.

The circuitry is supposed to be the same as the standard sira. The chassis is aluminum rather than stainless and Fred indicates that he has tried engraving on the aluminum rather than silk screening. Mine will have Teflon tube sockets and a new switch that Fred is trying. The output caps are stock polypropylene in oil made to Fred's specs. Upgrades for the future are the volume pot and caps. But, I want to try the amp as specd by Fred. We will see then if I even feel the need to upgrade.


I am sure you're getting anxious to hear it! What type of wood is Fred using on your Sira?
Well, it ships tomorrow. I received word from Fred tonight. Serial number is sequential in the sira line, 10065. I am waiting to hear if Fred is going to employ the differences such as aluminum chassis in future siras. I will certainly let everyone know my impressions once the pre amp arrives. Fred's been a pleasure to deal with on the project. I can hardly wait for its arrival.
I built a virtual system to show the pic of the pre amp. Hopefully it's posted and visible
Looking forward to your reports.
Ok. It arrived today. I had about 3-4 hours of listening time. Most of the time I was working at my desk and tending to work I had to do, but periodically I would listen to a particular track or two.

Initially it sounded marginally better than my current audible illusions pre. The soundstage was slightly pinched with limited depth. It only took a short while for the soundstage to widen, at first matching then surpassing the audible illusions. Towards the end of my time I found the soundstage deepening significantly.

The one thing that I did notice in particular was a distinct difference in low end. Colin Hays track, don't wait up is mixed with a heavy emphasis on the bass. In my room with minimal to moderate treatments, I always had a resonance that necessitated slightly lower volume than I would normally listen. With the sira there is no node evident. It doesn't seem that the bass is shy, it's just not bloated or boomy on this track in particular.

So far I am very pleased. I can only imagine how things will improve as burn in continues. The looks of the pre are to die for in my opinion. I can hardly wait for a late evening at the office to dim the lights and enjoy the ambient light of the bottles.

Rarely does an item meet expectations of both performance and appearance. Fred has delivered on both fronts. It is a very good match to my Cary AES Sixpacs. I can't fathom how the epiifania could be any better.
Your Emotive Sira should please you for many years! And it's bound to sound even better as it breaks in. Can you try again to post some pictures? I am curious how the Sira looks with the aluminum top plate. With its forest of tubes, the Sira is one of the best looking preamps I've ever seen.
Thank you Fred! This just keeps getting better. Immersive is adjective that best describes what I am hearing. There is just fantastic synergy between the pre amp, audio electronic supply mono amps, Cary cdp and my gallo ref3.5. It's not a subtle difference. I can't believe it will get better as it burns in.

Saletric, how do i import pics into a thread?
Sorry, I don't know how to load pictures to an AudioGon thread. I was hoping you would try to set up a System page again. If you run into troubles with that, perhaps you could just email me a photo through the AudioGon email system.