Looking for an incredibly dynamic preamplifier

I'm looking for a dynamic preamp that provides plenty of attack, great bottom end, and an iron-fisted grip on the system. The best I've heard so far (and by a long shot) is the Wyetech Labs Opal.
I would assume that other units with robust outboard power supplies are good candidates? Maybe a battery-powered unit like the new DartZeel pre would qualify?
All this from a preamp, eh?

With all due respect, there's no reason to assume that only those pre-amps with outboard power supplies are 'good' condidates for what you seek. An excellent power conditioner should equal and even better the sonics of any pre-amp with an external power supply.

Furthermore, the iron-fisted grip you speak of (though I suppose may be possible via a pre-amp) is most always found primarily in the amplifier. It is the amplifier's job to take absolute control over the drivers of a given speaker. However, in my limited experience few amplifiers exhibit this characteristic.

The best iron fisted dynamics I've heard by a long shot was in my system with the APL 3910 cdp. That's without a pre-amp as the APL has it's own volume attenuation.

But to cloud the issue even further, it is simply impossible to obtain all that you seek from just one component. It is a syergistic thing in which all components must partake. But even the most iron-fisted components strong suits will be greatly deminished without proper line conditioning, proper vibration control, dedicated circuits/lines, and proper ics and scs.

I use the word 'proper' implying that the 'improper' exists. And if your system is missing any or all of the above, you may already have the pre-amp you are seeking but would never know it.

Check out a First Sound preamp - If you want tubes, that is.

Read this review. http://www.soundstage.com/revequip/firstsound_presence_deluxe_preamp.htm

The author make good comparisons too.

good luck
One thing to keep in mind is that when people critisize battery powered gear it's usually for a lack of dynamics, so if dynamics are what you're looking for you should probably stick to ac power.
Yup, all that from a preamp.
I'm using four Manley Neo-Classic 250 monoblocks and I have no intention of using solid state amplification. If you ever have a chance to hear a Wyetech Labs Opal preamp in your system, then you'll know that a preamp can deliver what I'm asking for. Before I buy the Opal, however, I just wanted to ask others if they knew of any other candidates for the job.
I will agree that the preamp shares some responsibility for bass response and dynamics, provided that the amp/speaker combination is also up to the task.

Of the several preamps I've owned, the Musical Fidelity A3cr comes closest to what you ask (although you're looking at preamps way out of the MF's price range).

Again, need you a 5th recomendation FIRST SOUND after multi others the best yet.
I also 6th the First sound as a preamp.Dynamics are tyed to the amp as well, but your grounding scheme has a huge impact on it.I love the tone and timbre of the FS and you get to roll tubes in it as well!! Good luck on the hunt Dennis
Wow; it's almost unanimous.
First Sound has always interested me but no one sells them anywhere near me and I've never actually heard one.
There seems to be a huge price difference between the Presence Deluxe and the Paramount (4k vs. 16k?).
I'll search that archives to see if someone can tell me the sonic differences.
Have any of you directly compared any of the First Sound products to any of the Wyetech products?
I am another FS owner (deluxe mkII) who is able to comfortably endorse them. They are dynamic,detailed, tonally "right",articulate, refined and nuetral(subject to tube rolling). I have compared to AR refI, and FS was in all ways better--sorry no Wytech Labs. Also do not be fooled by "modest" deluxe mkII--it is no slouch and does not necessitate a higher FS model. Build quality is supurb and mine has not failed at all in 4 years (bought used)

I am sure you will not be disapointed, although previous comments in regard to impact of amp and speakers on the qualities you value are most appropriate. I run mine with high power s/s amp and efficient speakers to get just what you speak of.
Stick with the Wyetech Opal. You will not find a preamp more dynamic or with greater bandwith -- and with the realism and naturalness of tubes no less. And the build quality and reliability is unmatched! It's one of high end audios least known secrets, principally because there are only 2 dealers in US and it is difficult to audition.

I would buy a used FS deluxe and then talk to E.Go and see what type of upgrades he would recommend. This would get you tremendous bang for the buck and you still get to flavour it with different tubes. A ss pre doesn't have that option of tubes, I found his FS pre to be extremely reliable and very well built.That may get you into a totally new league and give you a piece for life. I am a bit envious since I hope to go back to a FS one day!!Take care Dennis
never heard the Wyetech, but the Cary SLP-98 with oil caps and direct coupling has balls to spare. Big, vivid sound. of course, NOS 6SN7s are de rigeur.
I haven't heard one, but I would have thought that someone might have suggested the Aesthetix Callisto with dual power supply?
For speed and dynamics, I like the Placette Active (I have that as my backup linestage); it is not bad in all other respects.

Having heard the Naim 252, I bet the much more expensive 552 would be a winner in this category as well.

Among the better linestages I've heard are the top of the line Audionote (uk), Kondo and Emotive Audio linestages. I am about to audition the Emotive Audio Epifania in my own system, as an alternative to my current Levinson No. 32 (a bit of a slug in the speed department, but otherwise respectable). I've heard the Epifania before and thought it was a real winner, but, until now, it did not have remote control of volume, which is a minimum requirement for me. Neither of these call attention to speed and dynamics, per se, but once you've heard them in appropriate systems, you will understand why that kind of parsing of performance characteristics is irrelevant.

I have not heard the Wyetech Opal, but a friend who owned one of their amps liked the linestage as well.

Good luck in your search.
I tried an original Emotive Audio Sira in my former system and really liked it. I've always wanted to try the Epiphania. Please let us know how it compares to the Sira LE.
Dave Davenport's design would fit your bill; if you are willing to get your hands dirty and build one. It's a differential parallel feed design (the bias current and the audio signal share only one devise, a 6N1P triode). It's tranfomer coupled on both the input and the output using the excellent Lundahl amorphous core trannies. The input transformer does the phase splitting chores for the differential gain stage. I don't know if you are aware of the fact that most op amps used for the input chores on balanced amps and preamps have a rather low CMRR (common mode rejection ratio). Transformers have a high CMRRs; plus they provide absolute galvanic isolation between your sources and your amps (ground loops are NOT an issue). I have this preamp design in my system. It is dead quiet, very dynamic and very musical. It's also driving two tube amps (input Z 100k and 500k) and one SS subwoofer amp (input Z 50k) with no problems. This preamp was written up in AudioXpress if you have access to past issues.
The most dynamic preamp which I have heard is the First Sound Presence Deluxe. However, in order to hear it at it's most dynamic your choice of tubes is important. The Siemens 6922, in my opinion, brings out the dynamics the most. A little less dynamic, but also less ragged in this pre is the Siemens 7308, which makes this a world-class linestage. The F.S. has a solid bass, but, in my system, not extremely deep and, in my opinion, lacks the iron-fisted grip that you talk about. However, it does have an extremely transparent midrange which makes female vocal and horn listening very exciting and even sometines breathtaking. In the right system, with the right recordings, the vocalist can appear as if she is in your room singing to you. Great soundstage and separation of instruments. Unlike the CAT described below, no sweetness here, but still, due to the transparence, a very engaging sound.

Slightly less dynamic, but with deeper and more iron-fisted bass is the CAT SL-1 Ultimate. I think if you like the rock-solid, powerful deep bass, you should listen to a CAT. From the lower mid on up, the sound is sweet, smooth and musical, rather than hiper-detailed. The music is all there, but not in the super-transparent manner that the First Sound presents. Great musicality, lush but not syrupy sound, wide soundstage, but doesn't have the near-pinpoint imaging of the F.S. The imaging here is more diffuse than the F.S., but as an integrated whole, this unit is also exceptional.

I have not heard the Wytech or the Placette, but have heard the stock Aesthetix Callisto Mk I. I thought this unit in the system in which I auditioned it specifically to be lacking in dynamics. Just my opinion.

I do own both the F.S. Presence Deluxe Mk II 4.0 and the CAT SL-1 Ultimate Mk I.
You may want to check out the Lamm L2 preamp. This preamp provides a very high level of dynamics and detail and presents it in a very natural way.
Rayhall, Thank you for your help. The First Sound products appear to be ultra-transparent, very dynamic, extremely quiet, and have good bass (but not extremely deep). These are obviously great qualities but I wonder what the trade-offs are. The qualities put me in mind of Nordost cabling (which have these admirable qualities) but, which I generally dislike because of *what I perceive* as a lack of high frequency information and poor portrayal of spacial qualities.
I'm obviously going to have to go and listen to the First Sound products to make up my own mind, but (since this is what we do here) can I please ask...
Does your First Sound linestage have excellent high frequency extension?
Does it "energize" your whole listening room and regularly project images well in front of the speaker plane when the recording calls for it? When images "speak" does their voice have good "action", in other words, does their voice project from the image and wash over the listener? What I'm getting at is: Are you the listener "inside" the music or are you left "watching" the music as if watching ghosts in another dimension behind an invisible, yet impenitrable plane?
Thanks again.
And now for something completely different...

I tried many preamps including the First Sound Presence Deluxe Mk II & the CAT Ultimate. Both are excellent pieces, although I would give the FS the advantage in dynamics. In my system, with the Herron M150 amps, the FS had very deep and powerful, tuneful bass, at least the equal of the CAT. (Mine had stock tubes.) The CAT was a bit "sweeter", the FS was more transparent.

In the end I chose the Herron VTSP-1 with no regrets - it is simply the most dynamic, natural and musical preamp I've tried in my system. Paired with the Herron monos it sounds like live "music" in the room with me.

I would highly recommend auditioning Keith Herron's new VTSP-2 (tubed) or his solid state model.

Thanks to everyone for their suggestions so far. Sorry about the poor description of spatial relationships and how music travels but that's the best I can do. I like Jonathan Valin's term, "action."
"Music in the room" would have probably sufficed. Having said that, I only heard "music in the room" in two rooms at this summer's NY home entertainment show. IMO the vast majority of systems, regardless of price, don't pull this off. Mine doesn't (yet).
I'll agree with Rackon, I have a Herron VTSP-1A and it is every bit as dynamic and neutral as a tubed preamp could be. I've paired it with a Graaf 5050 tube amp and my system is very dynamic, detailed, and neutral with solid, deep, and tight bass. Plus they're a couple on here right now for under $2K, a screaming deal at those prices!

Thanks. Here is my attempt to answer your very difficult questions:

Does your First Sound linestage have excellent high frequency extension?

Yes, excellent high frequency extension with no rolloff that I can determine at the high end.

Does it "energize" your whole listening room and regularly project images well in front of the speaker plane when the recording calls for it?

It does energize the room and it delivers a very close, intimate soundstage. Everything is well-focused, but female vocals really stand out in my system, particularly with the right tubes and matching equipment. If I understand what "energize the room" means, this would be enhanced by transparency, image focus and dynamics, all of which the F.S. has a whole lot of. I would say image focus is somewhat dependent on the recording and which tubes you are using. Some tubes give a high degree of image focus and others are great for dynamics in the F.S.

When images "speak" does their voice have good "action", in other words, does their voice project from the image and wash over the listener? What I'm getting at is: Are you the listener "inside" the music or are you left "watching" the music as if watching ghosts in another dimension behind an invisible, yet impenitrable plane?

This is a tough question to answer. You should be a poet or a novelist, because your imagery is pretty graphic. I am not sure that I experience music in the way that you do, but I would say that unequivocally the F.S. brings me closest to the music in its immediacy and "aliveness" than other preamps which I have heard. I don't experience the music by being inside it, but on the best recordings, I hear a broad soundstage with vocalist and musical instruments each in their own well-defined space within that soundstage. With the First Sound, on the best recordings, the vocalist is projected a couple of feet in front of the other musicians. Vocals and brass, in paricular, have a "you are there" quality on the best recordings. As I sit 8-9 feet away fron the speakers, I experience the vocalist at the five to six feet away point, so it's all a very close-up, intimate presentation. This is not a rich, ambient, reverberant sounding piece of equipment. It is spectacular in what is revealed at close quarters with music and musicians, whether the music is subtle and reserved or spectacular and dynamic. That is the best that I can describe it.

Please check my other posts on preamps and the First Sound if you want other comments on the F.S.

Does anybody have a Wyetech Opal and live in NYC?
Thanks for answering my questions. You've given me a much better idea of what to expect from First Sound equipment. If you do get to hear an Opal I'd like to hear your thoughts on it.
I plan on listening to an Aesthetix Callisto Signature in my system in the near future. Unlike the FS, I have a feeling that this preamp may be closer to being "a rich, ambient, reverberant sounding piece of equipment." By the way, have you ever heard a CTC Blowtorch?
Nope. I haven't heard a Blowtorch. I would like to, but with what they cost, it is a path I couldn't go down, so it would only be curiosity which would drive me to hear it. I have heard that they are something special.
Granite Audio 770 is another model to consider seriously. I'm very happy with it. Here's a link: http://www.graniteaudio.com/amp/page3.html
First Sound owners:
Are there certain models of First Sound preamplifiers that are smoother/warmer in the upper midrange than others?
Do things generally get more refined in this area as you move up the line?
My speakers are somewhat 'hard' in the upper midrange and I've read that First Sound preamps can be a little 'hot' in this area.
I need dynamics but I'd prefer not to have singers shouting or piano notes ringing.
Easily the most dynamic preamp I've heard so far -- it was recently and I wasn't expecting it -- is the Audiopax Model 5.

Really explosive, with slam, subterranean bass with transient discipline, and startling in the way it projects leading edge attack into the room. It also has both high gain and moderate gain outputs, so it will adapt to just about any system.

Also, you have to take a little time to understand and adjust the TimbreLock system, which in the preamp's case requires you to dial in the right gain and volume settings (using the L/R gain controls to find the sweet spot relative to your power amp) and then master volume for loudness.

This thing nails it. You get remote.

Exlibris; i have had a number of SOTA preamps in my system over the years. none do dynamics anywhere near what the darTZeel preamp does in battery mode. this thing is literally 'alive'. it's like the music had been 'chained down' and it is suddenly released. even though the macro-dynamics are impressive; it's more the micro-dynamic effortlessness that is sooo addicting.

your MBL speakers are already so dynamic; it boggles the mind to imagine what the dart pre could do with those speakers.

what i can't tell you at this time is to what degree the interface and synergy with the darTZeel amps have to do with it. my SWAG is that the dart pre will still be as dynamic with other cables and amps.

of course; dynamics are only one of the amazing aspects to the dart pre.
Thanks Mike. I'll keep the DarTZeel on my ever-growing list.
I have to say, however, that the price tag is a killer.
Dynamics are only delivered if the power delivery is done right, with the right wiring, circuit board layout and with the right types and brands of capacitors. Nothing stock except maybe NAIM or Spectral comes close IMO.
Exlibris; yes, the price is fairly steep. but when you consider it includes a world class (and maybe world best) phono stage (it doesn't need cables between the phono and pre), you don't need an expensive power cord or any power conditioning (for both the pre and phono), and 'if' you use darTZeel amps you get better than excellent cables relatively cheap.......it actually is a great value. it also includes remote volume control and mute which many/most of the other very best pre's (including most of the one's mentioned above) don't have......which is a 'deal-breaker' for many people.

try buying those items separately......and.......based on my experience so far......there may not be another way to get this performance at any price.

sorry if i sound like Ron Popeil......the dart does not do vegtables......and there are no 'Ginzu' knives.

I was wondering if you had a chance to hear the Epifania and what you thought of it. I read a nice review of it by Steve Hoffman. I believe it will be available with a remote control sometime after CES.