Hornshoppe "the Truth" preamp - any opinions?


"The Truth" changes the paradigm in Reference Line Stages, literally. Its existence has even forced me to remove a "Direct Connection" in "Class A", because such a choice no longer makes any rational sense to me. In the end, "The Truth" is effectively a "direct connection" with no sonic downsides, and with the ability to drive any amplifier load and/or length of cable, while allowing any source to be heard at its very best. With the exception of extra gain, an audiophile can't ask for more than that. I realize that this may all sound "too good to be true", but it isn't. 

-- Arthur Salvatore  http://www.high-endaudio.com/RC-Linestages.html

This is high praise indeed, he likes it better than Coincident's Line Stage which is saying something, was wondering if someone else has heard it and compared it to other active line stages (am a big believer in active, though currently using AMR DP-777 DAC as my pre)
essrand
About the time this post was listed, I was in search of a line stage. Based on Arthur's review along with all positive responses with whatever I could find, I took advantage of the Hornshoppe's money back guarantee if not satisfied. I was fully prepared to return it if it was not a really good match for my system. I mean $1000 for a potentially great line stage? Where could my down side be?
First let me say that even though I have been involved with audio since about 1967, and an audiophile (I like to think) starting about 5 years after that, I've never been technically knowledgeable and am not much use in that department. However, I believe I know what music sounds like when properly performed.
With that being said for reference I happened to have owned and in-home auditioned more preamps than any other piece of the art by a good margin. With an earlier system I owned a Kenwood 700c , McIntosh 26, AGI, Audio Research SP6-A, Mark Levinson ML-1, and a Moore Franklin Luminescence. I also auditioned a Berning 10 (I can't remember the letters for the Berning model).
With my current system I have a Counterpoint SA-5, Doge 8LP, and now for the past about 90 days have the Truth line stage. I also had a Superphon Revelation Basic and auditioned a DeHavilland UltraVerve, and an Eastern Electric Avant.
The Truth is easily the most complete preamp I have ever experienced, meaning I cannot after 90 days find any weakness with the audio performance of this product. In fact the improvement at least in my system was so pronounced that it seemed to me to be greater than I would expect from one component. 
It is a solid state device which needs to be left on all the time, and takes about 72 hours to reach it's capabilities. When it arrived new I let it warm up 24 hours before my first listening session and immediately knew something special was here, but it was a little bit solid state sounding which is not my preference for preamps. The tube like quality for lack of a better description was evident after about 20 or so hours of listening with being connected for well over 72 hours.
2 caveats should be observed by anyone considering this line-stage. First if you need a gorgeous audio piece to complete your environment you better look elsewhere. If I saw this thing dusty at a garage sale, I wouldn't give you $10 for it. For this there is a solution. Ed Schilling will put it in any fancy box that fits the small size requirement that you may want "if you want to throw away your money" he had said to me during one of our conversations. The only thing I hate is the volume control, which is part of this unique design. It goes from about 3 o'clock to about 1:30. Until about 9:00 you hear nothing, then at about 12:00 would be for say a dinner party ambience. Everything happens between 12:30 and 1:30 which is very touchy. But there is a saying that every diamond has a flaw.
If you talk to Ed, he sounds very down to earth and not high tech at all. Or maybe he just knew I have no clue about the ins and outs of his invention. 
With the cost of this thing and a no risk guarantee you might want do yourself a huge favor and check out this line stage. 
I have my last preamp.

Best Wishes,
      LP
LP, Thank you for the detailed report of your experience witht "the truth". I am placing an order for one, and will report over this thread how it goes.


Hi essrand, I recommend (if you can hold off) waiting 48 hours for warm up to begin listening. I look forward to your opinion.

Good luck,
      LP
Hi essrand,
I use the Coincident Statement Line Stage matched with the Frankenstein amplifier and this combination has been a sublime experience the past 7 years. I look forward to reading your listening impressiion with the Truth line stage paired with your Coincident Dragon amplifiers. 
Best of luck to you. 
Charles, 
I've owned my Truth for a little over 3 1/2 years. Via modifications to my turntable/turntable's isolation the sound of my system has steadily improved to the point where it is much better than when I first got The Truth.
I really cannot tell you what The Truth sounds like. The entire system responds chameleon-like to every change in the front end. My Truth feeds a pair of KRK expose E8B monitors and between the two of them they seem to have very little character of their own. Both superb mind you but both seemingly a mirror to what is fed into them. If you own either, you need to have your front-end components thoroughly sorted-out.
The Truth preamp has recently come to my attention so I am researching all I can find.
This started off as a great thread in regards to just that but as in many cases it came to an abrupt stop.
I would like to hear from "essrand" with his experience beyond his last post.
Also an update from "lpretiring", who started this thread, regarding his current feelings on the subject.
Others who would like to respond to the subject at hand will also be considered as helpful. 
I too replaced my Coincident Line stage with the "TRUTH" based on the review by Arthur and favorable comments made by two others who replaced expensive active pre amps with the TRUTH.Also my first foray into passive.I've not spent a lot of time in listening sessions too provide a detailed account but I am impressed with what I'm hearing.Is it better than the Statement,not necessarily,but there is zero concern about expensive re tubing.It's sure not pretty but that doesn't bother me.Enhancements include a Mark Tunis pc,still point footers,7lb weight on top plate.
I understand that Ed Schilling is now offering dual power supplies at a modest cost.Let the truth set you free.PM me if you want to discuss further.
I could never live with this unit as it looks like total crap buy one enjoy!!
@ebm You can have one built in any designer cabinet eye candy you desire for an up charge so you can benefit too.

   LP
@len067  Hi Len, first a small correction. I actually did not start this thread, it was Essrand. I just answered his inquiry. 

As time has past my impressions have not changed much on the performance of this line stage. I had mine built with just a single input and output, use a Triode Wire Labs 10+ PC, Herbie's footers, Herbie's cable dampeners, and now just like Markwatkiss have 7lbs of weight on top that also has Herbie's grungebuster dots.

This unit has the best see into quality of any pre-amp I've had in house. This just gets me closer to the "you are there" that most of us strive for. Now I hesitate to say this but it's where I'm at. I recently purchased Tekton Electrons, along with a new amp and am working with them now. The Electrons sound excellent except I'm having problems with the upper bass down through the mid bass it seems. Tunefully wrong and hollowed out to boot. The speakers are too close to the front wall and partially to a side wall. I never had this kind of problem with my Spendors. I'm guessing it could be due to the Spendors being front port and the Electrons having large rear ports. The speakers need to stay in this location for a while longer.

With that being said, I listened with my Doge because I needed additional gain, and found 1 musical reference point that under the circumstances I described above preferred the Doge over the Truth. It was with piano reproduction. It could be because the Doge is a little bass heavy IMHO, or the set up problem with the Electrons or that it is a better performer in this regard or something else that IDK.

As other people have stated, without attention to a lot of detail in your play back system it could come off too revealing and possibly display some warts. In this regard I feel it's a great barometer. If I needed a line stage I would buy it again in a heartbeat.

   LP

I bought one of these several years ago and started this thread about it:

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/all-i-want-is-the-truth-just-gimme-some-truth

That being said mine now needs to find a good home.
I would be remiss if I did not do a follow up in reference to my last post here.
After seemingly endless time on the musical merry-go-round, I'm finally back in a very good place. Changes, add-ons, and or adjustments included, upgraded the Electrons to the Double Impacts, Had Inspire SEP amp, power cable, speaker cables, additional speaker decoupling, along with room acoustic and internal speaker tweaking. 
Going from a 4 corner, to a 6 point location for speaker decoupling cleaned up the low end tuning and lack of control that was being exhibited with both the Electrons and the D.I.'s.(I had previously feared that it might be a room set up problem.)
Somewhat surprising to me was the significant improvement of the Achilles heel I have had with the Truth line stage. The problem with piano simply not sounding like one was frustrating to me because otherwise the Truth is IMHO simply outstanding. By simply changing from the Western Electric speaker cable to the Duelund DCA  has brought the piano in line with the rest of the  musical performance.

      LP

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Any additional thoughts and experiences to share re. The Truth Preamp? I'm considering the T-3 version. Thanks.
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I bought the T-3 version 3 months ago. It sounded great right off the bat. It just sounds very natural to me. Music seems to have the proper weight and balance. In addition, with The Truth in my system, music is more like being there at the performance.than any other preamp that I have owned. There is a tremendous sense of immediacy/presence to the sound. Dimensionality of sound is suberb. The remote works well too.
Hi Thaluza,
I don’t doubt you and your excellent taste (after all we have the same amplifiers 😊). I do know that Arthur Salvatore has the very highest regard for the Coincident Statement Line Stage (active) and the EMIA (passive). He ranks both as best of their respective breed. Yet he considers the Truth Line Stage superior to both , that’s saying something. He doesn’t praise anything cavalierly at all. I own the Coincident and after 9 joyful years have absolutely no desire to replace it. However if I were starting from scratch it would in all probability be the Truth as my line stage choice. Thaluza I have much regard for your comments and listening impressions. You’re a ’natural sound' type of guy as am I.
Charles
Any one done any A/B testing of this preamp with other well known preamps?. 
Thanks Charles for the compliment! I was very pleased with the Coincident Line Stage. I sold it not because of any displeasure with its sound, which was suberb. I wanted a one box preamp so that I could put everything in my rack, and I also wanted a remote. The Truth has been a worthy replacement.

I should add to my earlier post that The Truth excels at revealing the true character of your sources and cabling. I just spent a month comparing two dacs and cabling combinations. It was a blast, and easy to tell the differences.
Thaluza,
The Truth seems to possess extraordinary resolving. capability given your comments and those of LP written above. A legitimate top tier line stage that's actually quite affordable. Ironically in some sectors of   High End audio  this (affordability) can be viewed  as a negative. Not me.
Charles 
I'm late to the party here but have to share my impressions of the Truth. It's simply non existent......and never have I been happier to pay for "nothing". That's the Truths strength IMO, it's simply gets out of the way of the music. From the blackest of backgrounds the most minute details and softest of notes emerge. Music flows effortlessly with speed, dynamics and tone that belie this little boxes price tag. My only fault with it is that I can't seem to stop listening to music. 

Thanks to thalusa and charles for being so instrumental in making the choice of adding Truth to my system. 
Not trying to stop the Truth party, believe me. I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.... For my requirements, I purchased a Luminous Audio Axiom II, Walker Mod, 3 pr. rca in, 2 pr. rca out, with remote. Everything you guys have been describing, I am experiencing. I have not heard the Truth, so this is not a comparison between the two. In fact, if the Truth is superior, all I can say is WOW. But going passive was the best move I could make. Available in many configurations. Enjoy ! MrD.
@mac48025

never have I been happier to pay for "nothing".

I can't seem to stop listening to music.

Congratulations, Tom. Rarely do the above come together. Keep listening to the music, Truth style.
Congratulations Tom on finding a pre-amp that makes a significant improvement in your listening pleasure.

It's a little surprising that the "Truth" has not (I'm guessing) found it's way into even more audiophile's homes. Is it the stock ugly box? The "it can't be that good for that price" relatively mid-fi cost? The fact it has 0 gain? The lack of tubes? Ed's thick southern accent?

It looks to be a simple innovative design, which is a plus in my book. This product IMHO is probably competitive with just about anything available regardless of price. A  lot of our kind would benefit greatly by going for a test spin with it.

   LP

 



I can’t obviously speak for others as why a product so good is overlooked but in my opinion the Truth sort of falls in a niche that is adamantly debated among the audio fans. You can see that every time a question/thread about passive and active preamps is started. Perhaps not many people try the Truth first as a passive and then decide to move to an active. Also, with the advent of excellent digital sources with volume control and gradual absence of analog source devices, many choose to go direct to the amplifier. I personally would love to try it at some point but at the moment I’m enjoying the “colored” sound I get from my tube preamp. Maybe many folks actually enjoy what an active preamp adds to the sound albeit compromising the accuracy or purity of a device such as the Truth. My 2 cents FWIW.
Thanks guys, I don't know what's inside the Truth that makes it so special but Ed definitely did something right!

I think all of the reasons you mentioned LP lend to the Truth not being more commonly used. I truly believe that if Ed put it in a nice looking chassis and tripled the price it would sell better. Thankfully he doesn't!

As a clarification the Truth is not a passive preamp. It's a no gain active preamp. I don't know what the distinction is but Ed is adamant about it NOT being passive. 

Like everything in audio it's all about synergy and compatibility. I loved my Aric tube linestage, so I completely understand where kalali is coming from but the Truth brought the music to life. Maybe I needed a less colored preamp for my 300B SET to sound it's best to me. And maybe the Truth wouldn't sound as well with a more analytical amp. That's what's great, and so confounding, about this hobby......there are countless good choices to suit our listening needs. 
"There are countless good choices to suit our listening needs" Well said Tom and I agree. IMO there are numerous excellent quality audio components available to satisfy a broad spectrum of taste. The problem is you will never hear them all.

The Truth is active, buffered (exceptionally simple transitor output devices) requires a power cord, has a power supply but is 0 gain. It uses light to control volume, an extraordinarily simple circuit component. This is I’m certain why it is said to sound so good. I believe that for some audiophiles its low (relatively speaking) price works against it rather than viewing it as an asset. I don’t doubt its excellence and look forward to hearing Tom’s Truth Line stage.
Charles
"...I loved my Aric tube linestage, so I completely understand where kalali is coming from..."

Coincidentally I also have an Aric Audio preamp. I think your assertion of having the Truth paired with a 300B SET amp makes sense as the combination would be more neutral in contrast with having an all tube audio chain.
Just got mine and can't wait to finally set it up and listen this weekend.  And glad to see that more 300b folks are using it (perhaps not surprising given some of the people extolling its virtues)...
Hi cal, 
Congratulations ! What line stage are you currently using? I'm interested in your listening impressions particularly given your recent experience with the Lyngdorf unit as a point of reference/contrast. 
Charles 
Congrats cal, give the Truth a few days to fully open up. It's very good right out of the box but definitely gets better. Looking forward to your impressions.
Tom
Hi Cal, 
It's a great moment in time when a new piece of gear shows up!

I agree with Mac "give the Truth a few days to fully open up". I would say 4 days will get you there, and if you can refrain avoid listening for 48 hours. After that the slight hardness, and SS character will begin to melt away.

Best of luck,
     LP
@charles1dad  No pre-amp right now... just going direct from my PS Audio PW Dac.  Really looking forward to not throwing away resolution at under 50% volume (which is all low-volume listening). 

And thanks for the break-in suggestions... I'll put it up on a little desktop system tonight and at least let it play for 24 hours before getting it in the main system.

@charles1dad Also, not sure why my experience was so different from others with the Lyngdorf, but I didn't feel that I lost much switching from it to the PS Audio PWD (both used exclusively as source selection/volume control feeding my Franks).  The Lyngdorf had better bass, but also took away some soundstage and imaging precision.  Given the age of the PS Audio unit, I expected to lose a lot more than that.    

Honestly, once I took the Lyngdorf out of the system it just sat in the corner for two weeks waiting to be sold.  The only thing I genuinely missed during that time was the convenience of controlling the entire unit from any internet connected device.  Different systems, different ears I guess.  
LP is right, 4 days was exactly when the Truth came into its own for me also. Probably about 40 hours total at that point for me. It was still quite good before that but became sublime in my system after the break in. 

Have fun with it!
Cal,
Thanks for the response.  Given you current arrangement I believe that you're in store for a very noticeable increase in your sound quality with the Truth in use. Taking the DAC volume control (V.C.) out of the equation and going via the light controlled Truth V.C. has to be a big step upward.
Charles 
Hi Cal,

I am awaiting your feedback on the Truth as well as I remember our experiences with the Lyngdorf were quite similar.

Anyways, I just tried the combination of Lyngdorf as DAC and Pre feeding the Coincident 300b and it has been the best my system has ever sounded.

Still not sure if I am keeping the Lyngdorf, will give it more time.

Cheers!
Hi mrdecibel, 

I do not want to crash the Truth party either, but I just acquired an Axiom II with the Taylor mod.

I have listened to about 15 hours of music so it is really has not settled in yet but it seems to be allow more "airiness" to the music compared to my CJ Premier LS 17 - 2. 

My system is a Hegel 20 DAC, McCormack DNA-500, and Thiel CS5 speakers. There does not seem to be any problem with dynamics given the low efficiency of the speakers. 

Has anyone compared the Truth to the Axiom and can comment on how they sound alike or different?

Thanks for listening,

Dsper
Hi Cal,
 Do you have any admittedly early listening impressions of the Truth ?  Curious about your pairing it with the Frankenstein.   I am not trying to rush you 😊.
 Charles 
@charles1dad I started listening to it at 36h and just got to 48 last night. Could still hear the sound smoothing out throughout the day. Wasn't able to do an a/b, but so far I'd say it sounds good.... not crazy better than direct though.

I'm also still breaking in my duelund capacitors (tinned copper casts)  too and am actually not sure I like them better than the stock solens so far. Probably just 150 hours on them so far. 
 Hi Cal, 
 Thanks for your response, I always appreciate your candid comments and impressions.  I'm interested to see if the Truth is able to widen the performance gap between it and your DAC  used directly into the amplifier  with additional burn in.  

 Regarding the Durlund CAST capacitors are you referring to your speakers or the Frankensteins? 
As you may know I placed the CAST capacitors  in my speakers at the tweeter crossover. The sound quality went from very, very good to truly excellent. 

 I do however acknowledge different ears, system/room and other variables come into play.   People don't always get the same outcome with the same modification. The stock  Solens cap  is again very good in this speaker crossover application to begin with.  I am referring to my Coincdent Total Eclipse II  speakers. 
 Charles 
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@charles1dad Thanks Charles... I was referring to the capacitors in the Franks. I haven't changed the ones in the PREs... not actually sure what's in there because they're wrapped with a thick coincident branded heat shrink.
Chris (Cal) thanks for the clarification. In my Frankenstein I replaced the Solens with the Jupiter copper foil capacitors. This yielded a modest improvement overall, definitely subtle. So the Solens is actually quite good as the stock capacitor. The speaker crossover cap change was more significant. You have different Coincident speakers so you may or may not have similar results. In regard to the Frankenstein IMO it’s so well designed/ executed it is  really very fine in stock form. Subtly improved is possible but I doubt major improvement.  After 10 years in production the Frankenstein MK II has its first update announced several months ago (internal wiring and output transformers).
Charles

I tried one in my system for a couple weeks and while the Truth did not appear to lie to me in any way that I was aware of, I eventually returned it as it simply did not sound as good as what it had replaced, an old but recapped and serviced Yamaha C2-a preamp.
Hi Chris,
Do you have any further listening impressions of the Truth/Frankenstein pairing? Is the PS Audio DAC direct to the Frankenstein still your preference? I know that each individual system can have its own unique variables and synergy factors.
Charles 

I really wish there was a balanced version of this preamp (my amps and source are balanced). I would have either purchased it in place of my current preamp, or would be testing it against it.

Needing a balanced preamp, I got a Tortuga preamp instead, and have been marveling at its seeming lack of audible characteristics every since. Though I do wonder if the Truth is at all a more (I almost said truthful) transparent device. 

Anyone have any experience with both preamps?
@charles1dad I started to write a message on Thursday or Friday saying that I was going to to return the unit and spend the money elsewhere.  Then I came home and tried the silver input and it improved things quite a bit. I would not say that the improvement was revolutionary, but it's better than a direct connection, a smoother presentation with better bass.  It also spreads out the image a bit, which is impacting my ability to place instruments.  I think I can fix that by increasing the angle of my speakers though.  Have had visitors for most of the post-thanksgiving, so I've only been able to work very critically on the stereo a few times.

Unfortunately, adding the pre doesn't fix my low volume listening problem.  The Coincident PREs still fall apart at low volumes.  I had attributed that to distortion to the volume control on PWDac throwing away bits below 50% volume, but it appears that the speakers just need a certain amount of juice to come alive.  Disappointing that that wasn't fixable...  

Also, its clear that the pre-amp is still breaking in.  I've heard it change just over the weekend, as did everyone else in the house.
Hi Chris,
Thanks for the update report. So to be clear you have both copper wired and silver wired RCA inputs? I’m generally a silver wire (I.C and S.C.) type of guy but interesting the difference it makes (to the extent you describe) with your Truth Line Stage. It’s good to know your sound quality is continuing to evolve and  improve.

Sorry to hear about the issues with your PREs. Was this an issue with your Super Eclipse speakers? How low a volume listening level are you referring to? With my Coincident Total Eclipse II I can listen in the 55 to 60 db C-weighted range (low SPL for me) and it sounds good. Are you referring to similar SPL or lower than this? On the positive side it seems that the Truth and Frankenstein are going to be a ’very good’ match in your system. I believe the best is yet to come.
Charles



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Charles