If you have any DIY skills I'd recommend making your own, even if you have to pay someone to make you a wood chassis. I'd get a pair of Shallco 31-position mono switches with circuit boards and resistors, from The Parts Connection, and a good selector switch from them, toggle if you need only two sources, rotary for three or more, good RCA or XLR connectors, and use good THIN internal signal wire. You'll end up with dual mono stepped attenuators equal to anything on the market at any price. If it were me, I'd ask TPC for a different selection of resistors and have 1 db steps of attenuation--the stock resistors give you roughly 2 db steps and you have MUCH more range of attenuation than you'll need. I'd be glad to advise further if this appeals to you. Look me up through Audiogon "Member Lookup" and email.
I've made three or four of these, and would never buy a commercial product. Most have at least one technical flaw and they all cost a LOT more than one needs to spend.
If you are looking for a really transparent sounding passive pre look at the model by Placette Audio. It has three line level inputs and two outputs, 127 stepped remote control attenuator and the company provides great customer service. These are rather hard to find used but if you can find one it is highly recommended.
Check out the FT Audio LW-1 ($500 new) it is highly regarded and has excellent reviews in the audio magazines. Supposedly they have conquered all the downsides of passive pre's and the unit has terrific dynamics, imaging, transparency, and surprisingly BASS! Many of the owners that I've traded emails with say they get great slam and low frequency extension. Also, it has 5 inputs and tape monitor.
Anyway, it comes with a 30-day return policy, so there's no risk. The US distributor, Paul Lam is a great guy to talk to and is incredibly honest. He will honestly tell you whether the LW-1 will work in your system or not.
P.L.C.Lam Consulting Inc.
2 Asgar Walk
Regina, Saskatchewan S4S 6W4
2nd phone number, 306-949-8048.
http://www.goodsound.com/original/other.html - (2/3rds down the page)
Also, search the archives on AudioAsylum.com's General Forum, there has been lots of discussion about the unit, and a few owner revies. AudioReview.com has quite few owner reviews. And Ebay consumer reviews.
The one sold by Ric Shultz on www.tweakaudio.com
they say it doesn't get any better. Ric is a very well known figure in Home Audio. He will most likely email you back himself if you ask him a question
Definitely check out the Audio Synthesis Passion Ultimate. It's all passive and has 3 inputs, a remote control, and a green LED display. The sound is very dynamic with great resolution. The apparent build quality is superb, especially the machined aluminum remote.
It sells for $1795 and comes with a 21 day money back guarantee through www.acousticimage.com
Ric Schultz's site says that their "Ultimate Attenuators" have been temporarily discontinued. No news when they will begin making them again.
As for "high-quality" passives, the best that come to mind are the Placette, FT Audio, Morrison ELAD, and Belles has the GR-8. You could start a fairly ugly fistfight between owners of the first three as to which is best, all have a very dedicated/fanatical following. I don't think many people have ever really had two of them in their house at the same time, so opinions are highly subjective. But, most of them have stopped looking after plugging one into their system. Like anything in this hobby, it's a matter of personal taste.
I haven't heard much about the Belles, it's fairly new, but their amps are highly regarded and I doubt they would squander their reputation at this point.
#1 Placette audio will go for arround $1400
#2 www.marchandelec.com kit or assembled -- make up your budget on that.
#3 www.dact.com -- the best parts for active or passive preamps for today.
#4 Consider #3 to be the best way to get the best passive preamp.
ric will tell you he is going back into production of the passive attenuators this week
You can forget all these above mentioned choices in MHO! For the money, performance, build, etc, you absolutely can't beat the Pass Labs Aleph L and Aleph P passive/active preamps!!! If you only need RCA in's/out's, then the Aleph L is all you need (and one sells on Audiogon right now, just listed, for $850!!!...was $2k). If you need balanced in's/out's, then the Aleph P is what your after! (one selling from a store with remote for $2300 on Audiogon currently!)
I've tried quite a lot of different passive unit's over the years, and these make the most sense!..and sound world class!(virtually not there!...and resolution a plenty). They're also build like a tank!! These Pass preamps are completely passive, until you get some way up the volume control, then active circuit kicks in!...still sounding terrific! I've, again, tried quite a few world class preamps, and these are the only solid state passives I'd consider if It were my money! Have fun...
I would recommend the Adcom 750. You can run it passive or active. You can find it for a nominal :)) price on A'gon. Sometimes I find the active does sound better, parties and such, old vinyl recorded at low levels, and so on. Plus it has a good remote. Still a Stereophile A rated, but what self-respecting tweak would buy Adcom?? Listen for yourself....
Another suggestion: the McCormack TLC-1 passive/buffered amp. Great piece --- available used $500-$800.
I second the adcom.I liked mine and am not sure if I should have sold it.I kept a Mac which was an overachiever.But the adcomn was flexible,fully balanced,and i thought my rig sounded better in active mode.But you could have best of both worlds and run it in passive.For $1250 it's a steal.
have you had a chance to compare the Placette, FT Audio, or Morrrison ELAD?
So far, I haven't found anyone who has. Nor can I understand why any magazine hasn't done a shootout.
If not, can you give a list of those you've tried and your impressions.
Adcom GFP-750. I own one and plan to keep if for a while. I also own the Audio Research LS16 tube preamp. It's better but the Adcom is awesome especially for the price.
Anyone care to list those preamps recommended above which include an HT pass-thru?
I use an EVS ultimate passive attenuator. To start, you should know that they mount on the back of your power amp and to change volume, you have to reach behind to set the volume. The advantage to this is that you can eliminate one set of interconnects to the preamp and the interconnect from your cd player is carrying the full(2-7) volt output of the cd player, which makes for a more efficient signal transfer. The build quality is excellent, this shunt attenuator has been copied by many high-end preamps. I was previously using a presence audio linestage, which was excellent in its own right, but the evs product was clearly more transparent, extended and quiet, there is a wonderful ease and dynamic range. For $250, this product just makes sense. One caveat is that you will be hearing your cd player's faults which may lead to upgradeitis.
Does anyone here have experience with the First Sound passive pre, built by Emmanuel Go?
If you pay for premium kit, nothing like it
Works out less than $800 for 6 channels
Check out pass labs x series. You can also build your own; see the diy pages.