Lula: I own a VTSP-3 and it is fabulous. I have owned a number of highly rated preamps including CAT, First Sound, Krell, etc. and this is my favorite by far. It is dead quiet, has superb tonality, is very detailed, has tremendous bass and treble, is very neutral but has just the right touch of tube magic. It is extremely transparent and allows you to hear everything your source has to offer without being analytical. I have not tried the ARC Ref 3 in my system, but I auditioned an ARC LS26 and the Herron smoked it. I also tried an Aesthetix Calypso, a Boulder (can't remember the model number), a Belles, and a Modwright 36.5--the Herron easily bested them all. The only pre-amp that I liked as well was the Nagra PL-L, but it was significantly more money. I recently auditioned a CAT Renaissance and it was terrific, but it was not as quiet as the Herron. You can't go wrong with the Herron. One added benefit to the Herron is that it is very easy on its tubes and thus they last forever. I leave my VTSP-3 on 24/7 and the tubes show no sign of wear. The Herron does take a loooong time to break-in. Therefore do not judge it by a short audition. It is very sensitive to power cords, interconnects, and speaker cables in the sense that it will really sing if you choose the right wire to go with it. I currently am using a Shunyata Anaconda CX power cord, the newest Wireworld Eclipse interconnects and speaker cable, and have partnered the Herron with a Jeff Rowland Model 10 amp. Let me know if I can answer any specific questions that you may have. Sflazor.
Thanks, Sflazor. Any attempt to tube roll? I prefer a full-
bodied mid-bass through lower mids....I'm wondering about the
use of vintage Mullards or Amperexes.
Amperexs were a good choice in my older Herron pre. Probably worth a try. Cheers,
I have not tried any tube rolling with the VTSP-3. Dave Herron recommends against it. I have been so pleased with the sound produced by the stock tubes that I have not been tempted to try NOS tubes. The bass is terrific with the stock tubes. My Proacs deliver such terrific bass with this pre that one would think I have hooked up a sub- woofer. When Dave Herron modified the VTSP-2 and came up with the VTSP-3, one of the major changes was added warmth in the lower mids. The VTPS-3 does not have exagerated warmth in the sense of the older Conrad Johnson pre-amps, however. Instead, it has a very pleasing warmth that makes the pre-amp sound very human. The VTSP-3 is voiced so realistically that when I am in another room, I often think my wife is talking to a guest in the next room only to find that what I was hearing was the Herron. This preamp's midrange is eerily life-like.
Thanks for the correction, Arthursmuck. I am absolutely horrible with names.
I do not suggest any tube rolling with Herron preamps. Keith cannily designs and voices his preamps using the most reliable tubes he can find - be it his superb engineering, voodo or black magic the gear always sounded best to me with the stock tubes. I wouldn't mess with success.
I haven't heard the 3 but I did the 2; I owned the upgraded version of Keith's first tubed preamp (the piece that put him on the map) and it was absolutely wonderful. His gear doesn't get the internet chatter that other amps do but all his products are wonderfully musical and huge bang for the $$s.
I could never really describe the "sound" of Keiths pre's, or even his power amps, so I always just say they "sound" like music, meaning they just let more of the music, and the musical event, through. "Lifelike" or "natural" also accurately describes the Herron house sound.
I feel the Herron amps are WAY underrated - they are just as terrific as the preamps. They are as close to big tube amps with bass slam as you will get for under 15k.
Sflazor, FYI one of the best sounding systems I've ever heard partnered Herron amps on ProAcs (M150s).
Interesting you say the Herron 3 preamp is sensitive to power cords - I tried many many high end preamps before I bought the Herron and that model. Whether it was due to the star grounding or wsomething else in the design implementation, was the least sensitive to power cords of any preamp I auditioned (CAT, First Sound, Arc, Joule, Blue Circle). This was true of the amps as well. The CAT< Joule and FS were far more sensitive to PCs.
Let me chime in re: tube rolling. I own the Herron VTSP-3 as well. Contrary to "party line" I have heard dramatic variations with different tubes, and many for the better, by a long shot, than the EH 6922's. First off, I agree with Sflazor that this preamp is sensitive to power cables and its neutrality allows easy identification of changes in interconnects, speaker cables and anything else connected to it. It is that transparency that makes tweaking (including tube-rolling) so rewarding.
After several forays into NOS Siemens and Amperex tubes, I settled on Amperex 7308 USA PQ tubes, 1960's vintage (white label) and have been using these for over a year. I occasionally switch back to previous "experiments" including the stock tubes. They all do certain things well, but for the best combination of impact, realism, frequency extension, and transparency these Amperexes are superb. I also tend leave my preamp on continuously unless I'm away. One minor frustration with this preamp, beyond the long initial breakin period, is the time it takes to come to its organic best after shutdown (~48 hours!) I wish there was a standby switch that shortened this. Again, fortunately the tubes seem to last forever even in perpetual "on" mode, which is a good thing with these pricey NOS'
The remote-controlled Absolute Phase selector is a wonderful inclusion, and the "correct" position is usually easy to identify in well-recorded music with a phase-coherent setup.
Tympani, could you tell me where you obtained the Amperex 7308's and approximately what I might expect to pay per tube for a set of 6? I would appreciate your sharing this information. Sflazor
I got them from Tubemonger, for approx. $275/pair. Unfortunately none to be had currently. Brent Jesse also occasionally will have some, and he's very good to deal with as well. It's amazing how sensitive this preamp is to tube rolling. Maybe we can get a small user's group together to share experiences and possibly save money... Nah, its more fun to discover ourselves actually.
Tympani, can you elaborate on the sonics provided by the NOS Amperex tubes
as opposed to the EH stock tubes? I have generally found various vintage Amperex 7308/6922 tubes to my liking....greater body and weight with a
natural musicality. I have been considering the Herron for some time now, but
I've never heard it.
After all my tube rolling, I have found the Amperex USA 7308 PQ White Label (60's vintage) and the Siemens 6922 A-Frame (also 60's vintage) offer the most compelling sounds from the Herron. The Amperex are my overall favorites. They provide a warmish tonal balance, with very clean but not etched high end, deep tuneful bass and a warm, slightly forward midrange that tends to put soloists and vocals at the speaker plane or slightly forward. The information from behind the plane of the speakers tends to be "ambient". This is in contrast to the Siemens A-frames, that provide a somewhat wider soundstage, and a slightly more recessed bubble. Vocals are a tad lighter but still very natural. Overall tonal balance is a bit more neutral than the Amperex, but deep subterranean bass still manages to impress. The Amperex's have more heft in the mid and upper bass regions. Which works best ultimately depends on the rest of the system, I'm sure.
I have begun experimenting with combining these tubes to try for the best of both. My current setup places the Amperex in the Gain locations (1/4) and the Siemens in 3/6. The benefit over an "all-Amperex" setup is the widening of the soundstage and placing a good bit of the performance behind the plane of my Magnepans. Keeping the Amperex' in the gain spots holds on to their warm balance and plucky bass.
Both these tubes get the highs and the space right, which the EH tubes dont seem to do. As such, the EH (even the premium gold-pinned versions)have never been able to provide the palpable space and transparency I have obtained from these special tubes. I have tried other NOS tubes, including later vintage Siemens, and Amperex Hollands and USN-CEP's, but never quite got the seamless magic I'm getting from these 2 gems. I'm sure something is out there, but at some point ya gotta stop and smell the roses!
By the way, the middle (2/5) tubes are used in the phase reversal circuit. Since I accomplish this on my SACD player, I tend not to use the selector on my Herron. Since the Herron brings a new set of tubes into the equation for phase reversal, its not the ideal "objective" way to hear the effect. I keep Amperex's in the 2/5 spots. Keith Herron informed me they are barely in the signal path when the phase reversal switch is not engaged.