I've never had a lick of trouble with mine.
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I have a Ref. No. 32 with a built-in phono stage. Mine has given me no problems whatsoever. It has worked silently and flawlessly for the past three years. Even when there has been lightning-induced power surges and outages, the unit comes back on and remembers all of its complex settings.
I should say that I am replacing mine with a tube linestage that sounds better to me, though I will be giving up some of the incredible flexibility and convenience of the ML remote control (the tube unit has a rather basic remote control). But, I still think the ML is quite good sounding, it just does not have the incredible "breath of life" and you-are-there quality of the tube unit -- the Emotive Audio Epifania. Still, incredible as this may sound, the ML is a lot cheaper than the Epifania.
I had the ML 32 for several years. It was a superb pre-amp while in my system. I then upgraded to the Boulder 2010 which to my ears offered a much less dark and more open, airy presentation of music...albeit the Boulder was significantly more money as well. Most recently I sold my Boulder 2010 to get the darTZeel pre-amp and it is in a completely different league then the 2010 or any other pre-amp I have heard including VTL, Halcro, etc.
Bottom line, for the money the ML 32 is still a great pre-amp and I'm sure you'll be happy with it. I never had any reliability issues with mine...I blew a fuse once, that was it.
The No.32's definitely a big upgrade from No.380S even! I owned both for a couple of years. The No.32 is bullet-proof!
Like Earflappin, I eventually sold my No.32 to move to Boulder. And since then sold my Boulder to move to VTL 7.5
I was curious with your comments on the Dartzeel.
I pitted the Boulder 2010 against the VTL 7.5 with good NOS tubes at home, the VTL was distinctly better... better macro/micro dynamics, significantly more transparent, less "HiFi"ish than the 2010!
Could I ask if you've had the VTL 7.5 in comparative auditioning against the Dartzeel, or did you only do that against the Boulder 2010?
Interesting that we both upgraded from the ML32 to the Boulder 2010. Yes, I actually did demo the VTL 7.5 in my listening room for a long weekend, shortly after I had the Halcro dm10 on demo. Just for the sake of completeness, when I did my demoing I had Linn Kimax Solo 500 monoblocks and my only source was a Linn CD12 (I had sold my old vinyl set up back then). And I had a 30' XLR run from the pre-amp(s) to my amplifiers (this is just the way my room is set-up).
I agree with you that I found the VTL 7.5 to be more transparent and musical than the Boulder 2010, particularly when going into the VTL with single-ended connections (Note, the 2010 as you know is only balanced). That being said, at the time, I did not find it to be so much superior to the 2010 that I felt compelled to switch. Perhaps if I had a set-up where I could have gone single-ended from the VTL to my amplifiers....
It's been quite a while since I had the VTL in my room, but to my ears based on my memory the darTZeel pre-amp is another cut above in terms of transparency, musicality, artifact-free, etc. It combines the very best of solid state and tubes IMO. Also, the unique 50 ohm constant impedance connection you can used between the dart pre and dart amplifier is audibly superior to RCA or XLR.
For the first time ever I am completely satisfied with my amp and pre-amp and am now turning my attention to upgrading my speakers (I have the Dynaudio Temptations now and will be auditioning the Magico 6's shortly) and my Linn CD12 (which I having David Schulte of the Upgrade Company upgrade for me as we speak).
Happy Listening! The VTL 7.5 is world-class in every way and you are undoubtedly very happy with it as you should be.
Earflappin: interestingly I can´t agree at all with you regarding the Boulder - VTL comparison. I´ve just bought Boulder 850 monos and had them paired with Boulder 1010, VTL 7.5 and CJ ACT 2. All pre´s are excellent but regarding transparency and detail retrieval, soundstgeing and imaging as well as buildquality and user friendliness the Boulder 1010 (the smaller brother of the 2010 you´ve heard) is def. better (not only to me but to a bunch of friend as well)than the two tubies.
Sources were Audio Aero Capitole Reference SE (on loan) and my Esoteric UX-3 SE and a Transrotor Fat Bob Reference (on loan) turntable.
Interconnects (between Boulder and sources were Gardas Golden Reference, Acustic Zen Silver Reference II, Shunyata Antares Helix and Kubala Sosna Emotion/ TaraLabs The 0,8 ISM onboard (both on loan).
Speakers used were my Avalon Opus Ceramique.
Can´t comment on the DartZeel but from what I´ve heard its totally overprized compared to eg. Ayre K-1xe.
Glad to hear that you're happy with your Boulder gear. I am sure there are synergies when listening to an all Boulder amp/pre-amp combination. Are you using XLR connections between your sources and the pre-amp?
Looking back at it I think the fact that my Linn CD12 and Unidisk source gear sound their best via RCA outputs (vs XLR), and the fact that the Boulder pre's are an all XLR design, was the reason that I prefered the VTL and the darTZeel pre's over the Boulder.
In any case, I stand by my comments, but acknowledge readily that there are many paths to audio nirvana in this hobby and in many cases what that means comes down to individual tastes and how individual components match with each other.
Have never heard the Ayre gear so can't offer a comparison versus the darTZeel pre-amp, all I can say is that I'm extremely pleased with my dart pre and amp. Further, I don't see any dart gear for sale on the GON which is a further indication that those who have it at this point are happy. Perhaps that may change over time.
I own a ML 32 and have not had issues with reliabity.
I did however listen to the VAC Phi 2.0 recently and compared it to the ML 32 and unfortunately it was no contest: the VAC was much more liquid while remaining as detailed as the 32. Perhaps the 32 was more liquid.
Have not tried the VTL or the Dartzeel. Thanks for the input.
Earflappin. Regarding the many ways to audio nirvana you´re absolutely right. All interconnects were balanced - I only believe in balanced configurations (with the exception of the very very expensive Kondo gear).
As I´ve changed to a complete (non pre-amp) combo I´m happy that I haven´t to struggle with this question anymore. The more units your system has, the more complex it gets..
Heard the VTL in an entirely different set-up - and it sounded stunning (better than in my system). BUT: I can´t comment how the 1010 would have sounded in that particular combination (which was double expensive as mine).
To my local dealer who carries VTL and Boulder its a no brainer: go for the Boulder and forget about the topic amplification for the rest of your life.
He himself uses an all Boulder set-up (2008, 2010, 2020, 2050 together with an all Brinkmann analog rig and a Metronome Kallista Signature cd-transport), Kubala Sosna cabelling and ACapella Triolon loudspeakers.
Fascinating reading. The above just underlines my experience that it was very difficult when trying to choose gear, what to go for, too much choice too little out there exept annual shows to try out systems. So I went for experienced top-notch companies with great service records. Yes, I read about the DartZeel gear, and I applaud these great entreprenerial guys behind this emerging brand.
But I'm very happy with my ML32-ML33h-Valhalla setup and I am mostly concentrating on what music to buy, rather than what upgrade or next component to go for. No issues with my great ML amps, but I've only had my gear less than a year.