You should add the Emotive Audio Epifania to your list of preamps to audition.
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wow! Such great responses! Thank you and keep them coming please!
To: Sebelius, Team 212 and 4musica44107,
Thank you! Shindo sounds fascinating. Having owned the Zanden 5000Sig DAC for 4-5 years now, i really appreciate what the legends (Yamada San, Kondo San and the Shindo family) do for organic, emotive musical sound!
To: Rtn1, Trcnetmsncom and Tom_hankins,
BAT did not occur to me, but i have read great things about the Rex over the years. i will try to find a way to hear it.
Tp: Cerrot, Rocc1007
Thanks and agree about CJ! i have owned CJ for over 10 years now! Did you both mean the ACT 2 Series 2, or the ART 2 (as in the 2nd series of the limited edition Anniversary Reference Triode...which i referred to in my original post as the ART 3...the current 3rd iteration of this legendary pre-amp).
To: Salectric and Ramy
you have each recommended pres which i think you own. I have not heard or come across your preamps before other than reading a little about them.
Ramy - I always understood Einstein to be an extremely transparent, quick and neutral pre. If i am "satisfied" (whatever that means!) with what i have on that score at the moment...but am in search of rich tonal colors, is the Einstein still one you recommend?
Sibelius - i will try to find out more...if you know of a review, blog, or post that you could point me too that would be great!
Thanks to all!
I have tried a ton of preamps and as I explain in my post I think the PRT1, when connected in the right system, is by quite a distance the most transparent one. This transparency makes the sound so palpable that it is "better" than everything else I have tried, for me. I think Kondo have a special magic but I am not convinced this magic is not the result of voicing. They do make them carefully, by hand, and by making everything at the factory, so you do get that for the price. But I dont think you get the state of the art. I consider CJ and ARC to be well below the league of the previously mentioned preamps. If you still have the Gryphon Antilleon, try the Gryphon Mirage which surprised me as one of the best ss preamps out there.
Great to hear from you. We should catch up on business via separate email. i'll send you my work details.
I will look hard for PRT1...yours is the one that has made me think hardest about Wavac. I think your quest for transparency, sound, performance, etc has been tremendous and tremendously educational for many people, including me.
To be fair, given my proclivity for warmth and a touch of luxury, i would probably not be averse to a slight bit of inaccurate warmth in the system. but i am intrigued by the Wavac, and will try. these do sometimes come up in these parts of the world.
i will give it a shot for sure. Have you ever tried Unison Research from Italy? while their midfi stuff is nice, i have heard their reference tubes are sensational...agian, possibly romantic, but i have heard quite amazing.
Hope all is well and thanks for popping into the post! great to hear from you as always.
Art Dudley of Stereophile and Jack Roberts of Dagogo have done several reviews on Shindo preamps. Go to those two sites, type in "Shindo" and you should have some reading material. Tone Imports is the US distributor. Pitch Perfect Audio is a dealer out of San Francisco. Both have websites where you can preview the current Shindo lineup. Good listening whichever direction you decide to go.
Have you ever thought about replacing your Gryphon amp instead of CJ preamp ?
IMO if you are looking to add texture without loosing transparency, you should rather consider changing your Antileon to Lamm ML2.1 (or the new ML2.2) and keeping your CJ pre.
I have heard Gryphon Antileon in several systems, and would never describe the amp as one having 'tonal color, purity, harmonic richness'. Quite on the contrary.
Hi Lloyd, I look upon your system with mixed feelings. The Zanden DAC is a high performer. The Oppo is, well, hifi. You aren't using it for a transport are you? I would strongly suggest you get a 47 Lab Flatfish with it's Dumpty power supply. You can do better with your cables for a lot less money too.
Try the H2O Fire. It has received stellar compliments. I use it in my system. nothing else will do.
Sibelius, Thank you! i have started to read the reviews with great interest. Sounds very interesting.
Swampwalker...i will invesetigate. I have come across the name and heard good things.
Ramy - thanks for that! that sounds interesting given its great reputation. I have seen one in the STates on sale as well.
Elberoth - thanks to you as well. the synergy between lamm and wilson is well documented...if i ever come across s/hand lamm in my part of the world, i will give it a shot if nothing else to learn about this legendary synergy.
Muralman1 - i hear you...i used to use a USD$50 Daewoo transport with my Zanden...so my Oppo is an upgrade!!! The reason is because i only spend money on something if i keep it 10 years...given the speed of transport/media technology, i have bought a DAC and spent money on transports only when they break. Once Server Technology improves enough, i will go that way.
As for cables, one might be surprised what i paid for my Transparent REf...cents on the dollar having spend 3-4 years picking up each cable one at a time at unique prices. I do like them and probably would not want to go thru the brain damage of having to switch them out with another set.
I will definitely listen to H20 if i can find them in this country...have not come across.
Thanks everyone!!! All so helpful....lots to read about, and to go listen to!!!!!
One thought about the CJ preamps, with the ART you can roll the 6922's, not much you can do with the ACT and their 6h30's.
I use the ACT 2.2 in one of my systems and love it but I also have the ART and it's been fun rolling the tubes. JJ's had a nice flavor but they didn't last very long. About a month ago I got a set of the Genalex Gold Lions, the stock EH's from CJ work nice in this circuit too. I haven't met a 6922 I don't like. Point is, I can change the flavor to a little more or less of ? depending on my taste.
I'm very happy with the ART but the ACT isn't going anywhere either. The ACT has it's own character and I like it but you can't change it much. Good luck.
Nice system! Thanks for your advice, and that makes a lot of sense given how much i like my Zanden DAC. Aside from good potential for synergies, i have heard very good things about the Zanden 3000 on a standalone basis. That also may be (a little easier) for me to audition here than some of the others.
I have auditioned the Massetto in my home, and also scheduled to hear the Zanden 3000. I have spoken with maker of Tron Syren and am waiting until one is available for audition. I have heard ARC Ref 5...may bring it home for a listen. I have not located Rex, Einstein or Gryphon pre's.
Massetto - In a few words, i understand why the unbelievably loyal following. If you are looking for midrange magic...but wish to have a totally transparent pre, with very, very extended highs, and an extremely high level of detailing, Shindo delivers. And that, as many will attest, is difficult to do.
Many times, if you find warm, music, enriching midrange magic, it comes with a number of compromises...mushy bass, or a little fuzz in the detail area. very hard to get superb detailing and warm midrange in the same sound.
i also very quickly did find i was listening to the music...not to the sound of this or that...because i was focusing on evaluating the equipment, i had to listen to music and to sound...but it was easy to start listening to just music. so i totally appreciate the great appeal of this pre.
Compared to my CJ ACT 2?
I would not trade it, and to be very praiseworthy to the dealer here, he agreed with me. He did not push for a sale. I have asked to hear a V-R or Giscours which i have heard are even better.
Why no trade?
- The Massetto has very, very musical bass with good force...but it felt definitely a millisecond slow compared to ACT 2 which felt more "neutral" and more well-paced on Deep House, Rap. Bass on acoustic instruments was fine though still you could feel that milli-beat of slowness.
- The Massetto midrange was definitely more forward compared to the ACT 2...not in a way that initially made you feel like it was an unnatural voicing...rather, it seemed that your ear was drawn to be more focused on the midrange. (This is the way it seemed...until you went back to the CJ ACT 2 and realized the voices, strings were in fact a touch more forward)
- This forwardness was wonderful on Clapton, and all kinds of music, because so much happens in the midrange, letting it come forward a bit made you enjoy the musical message that so often gets delivered within this band.
- Why do i feel it was midrange forward? Because it did not always work on orchestral. Whereas i expected a more balanced delivery of the orchestra (and i have been going for 20 years)...i felt like i was mainly hearing the violins...very surprising balance.
Before anyone gets too uptight...this was what i heard in my system...which i admit is not composed of perfect components (none are)...and there may have been synergy issues...but it is what i heard, and the dealer of Shindo concurred with all of my observations who auditioned alongside me.
In conclusion, no pre is perfect...but i am definitively looking for a pre that introduces a sense of midrange magic that at the moment i have (but wish for more)...yet does not sacrifice detail, extension, dynamics, etc.
i am very impressed by what i heard ...i get that Shindo has a technically very accomplished way of delivering MUSIC...it just that the Massetto did not beat the ACT 2 such that i was ready to trade. what i came away with was...really, really, really wanting to hear the Vosne-Romanee or Giscours!
Agree with Dmailer. I also traded in a Massetto in for a Vosne Romanee and thought the change was pretty dramatic. I thought Art Dudley's review in Stereophile last November was right on the money in how he described the differences between the preamps. As I've said before, If my house was on fire and I could only save one piece of equipment, the Shindo VR would be it.
i am seriously contemplating a CJ GAT at this stage. i have spoken to some dealers of Zanden, Shindo and Wavac. I also have spoken to a few people who own/sell ARC Ref 40.
Based on my current configuration, the guys who sell the Japanese brands (Shindo, Zanden, Wavac) were (belive it or not) honest enough to say they dont sell CJ, but thought the GAT was the one for me.
I hope to be able to report back about it shortly.
i agree...the key is i dont like spending money unless i am going to keep something for years to come. So at this point, i prefer to spend much less money and then upgrade i a big way. Specifically, i am thinking: Zanden Transport (S/hand of course!)...or the new MSB Transport...also i2s plus apparently an extremely high quality transfer of digital to solid state memory before reclocking to various digital outs with single-digit picosecond jitter levels.
Normally, i never go for such techno-stuff...everyone has their own marketing spin. But in this case, given the reviews of their DAC's, i admit at least to be extremely curious about the transport.
So i have finally managed to hear the CJ GAT. Something else...so incredibly transparent, it really feels like it disappeared, and in its place, you get notes, speed, the exact dynamics you honestly can believe were there in life.
The speed of the unit is one key...its transparency is another...it seems invisible...and then finally, CJ managed to leave a touch of its DNA behind. So it always feels natural in its tonality. Quite an achievement.
This feels to me like the Shindo did in terms of that midrange coming forward...but much, much faster, greater extension and far greater evenness across the spectrum.
@Agree with Dmailer. I also traded in a Massetto in for a Vosne Romanee and thought the change was pretty dramatic. I thought Art Dudley's review in Stereophile last November was right on the money in how he described the differences between the preamps. As I've said before, If my house was on fire and I could only save one piece of equipment, the Shindo VR would be it."
I have heard from owners of the Vosne Romanee that they preferred it to the Giscours and did not upgrade(which was once the top reference pre until the Petrus.) I wonder if the Petrus became the new reference (both to keep pace with the current trend of higher and higher SOTA equipment)...but also because perhaps the Giscours did not quite fulfill its expectation of convincingly surpassing the V-R? merely speculation.