mbl 6011d or arc ref 3 or dartzeel preamp?


I am looking for a balanced preamp for my system. I have narrowed it down to the dartzeel preamp, the mbl6011d or arc ref 3. The dartzeel preamp would mate best with the dartzeel amp that I have but am not positive I would keep the dartzeel amp. I am using emm labs dac and transport for digital and evolution acoustic speaker mm2 (with powered woofer). The speakers are definitely staying. the digital is stayin unless I cannot afford to keep everything.

If I changed my amplifier, I would likely stay with a solid state amplifier perhaps the mbl amplifier. I might consider a hybrid like the lamm 1.2

I have only seen scant reviews of the mbl 6011d and know a few people here love it but want to know has anyone compared it to the arc 3 or dartzeel?



One thing to consider is that the MBL is designed as single ended. In order to get balanced output, you have to purchase an additional "board". FWIW I have heard from a former employee of MBL that it sounds best single ended. That being said, I have owned the Ref3 and now own the MBL 5011 pre and prefer the 5011. I thought the 5011 did a better job of just presenting the music in a very realistic and satisfying manner. I am not sure what the engineers at MBL are doing but it seems they have a great grasp of how reproduced music should sound.

Thanks for your advising me that the mbl is single ended. while my dartzeel amplifier prefers single ended, my emm labs digital does not. Nevertheless, I have had far greater enjoyment with balanced into the dartzeel than single ended. Of course, the balanced was the great purist dominus ic but the nordost valhalla rca is no slouch either and the purist was far better in this particular system.

while i might sell the dartzeel amplifier, I rather doubt it because I think its pretty special (not that other amps are not also special)
Neither the darTZeel amp nor darTZeel preamp are balanced -- the designer is strongly opposed to differential balanced circuits. Both the Version A and Version B darTZeel amps have XLR input connections, with the Version B XLR inputs using input transformers -- both versions of the amp are single-ended designs and merely feature XLR connections (as well as 50 Ohm BNC connections). The preamp likewise is single ended.

Just because something has XLR connections does not mean that it is truly differential balanced (most consumer gear with XLR connections is in fact NOT balanced). Again, darTZeel's designer thinks balanced circuits are a bad idea.
raquel....good point.....I am certainly using the bnc connection if I get the dartzeel preamp
well I just heard the arc ref 3 in my system thanks to the generosity of Marty Williams.

I must say that the arc ref 3 is not a dramatic change from the emm labs preamp dcc2se. The emmlabs holds it own very well.

I think that my choice really boils down to keeping the emmlabs dcc2se as a preamp or getting the dartzeel.

Luckily, jonathan tinn is a fabulous audiophile dealer who is going to let me hear the dartzeel and then I will know whether the dartzeel preamp with bnc is far superior as a preamp with the dartzeel amp or not.

Good call Michael!
I own an Audio Research ref 3 and one year ago I also tried it with the Dartzeel amp. Best sound was using the umbalanced RCA input with the ref 3 in the invert position, but when the Dartzeel preamp with the BNC Dartzeel interconnect cable replaced the ref 3 there was a clear improvement in bass and sound "fluidity". I did not keep the Dartzeels as they did not have power enough for my speakers, but I think they work as a system.
When using the Dartzeel preamp try the umbalanced inputs - I found that the balanced input did not sound as good the RCA one.
BTW, I got excellent sound from the Dartzeels using both Audio Research CD7 and the Nagra CDP.
I've had both 6010d and arc-3. More romance with arc, more flexibility with MBL.. and less noise. I think the soundstage wider with arc, deeper with MBL ... I could absolutely live with either although as my 101s are tipped up a bit in the treble, you hear the tube noise more.
I'm really puzzled at how these three preamps came to be in the short list- they seem so different.

Balanced line offers the flexibility of extended cables without degradation, and the balanced line system was devised with the intention of eliminating interconnect cable problems! IOW, a proper balanced line setup will allow you to use an inexpensive cable to very good effect- that is what it is for, and how Mercury, RCA, EMI and others were able to make such fabulous records long before the existance of a high end cable industry.

FWIW we have a customer who has the DartZeel and uses it with our preamp (the MP-1) which is fully balanced. He is very happy with the setup, so a balanced preamp will work fine with the DartZeel no worries.
I use my Rowland Coherence II preamp, which is fully differential balanced, to feed a darTZeel, but I want to make an important point. The "Version 1" DarTzeel had XLR inputs, but merely for convenience for those who had balanced cabling - it was essentially a single-ended input (I can't recall what Herve did with the third PIN). The Version II, on the other hand, added input transformers at the XLR connections. They provide the advantages of noise cancellation inherent in balanced cabling, but they are still terminated into a single-ended circuit.

Herve advocates first the 50 Ohm connection, which was designed for use with his darT preamp (I have a set of 50 Ohm cables that I have used because my Rowland has a 50 Ohm output impedence, but I think they were loading down the preamp too much and I went back to balanced). If that is not possible, he suggests the single-ended inputs. The last choice would be the XLR inputs, which he does not prefer because, like all transformers, they put a lot of wire between the interconnects and the input circuit - he says the single-ended input is cleaner.

In any event, yes, the darT can be run from a balanced preamp, but the Version 2 is better set up for it.
Have you considered buying a pair of valve mono blocks, every time I go back to valve power amplifiers the music flow comes back into my room, some say Clarity is King but with Valve amplifier Musicality is King.

I would recommend auditioning a pair of Quicksilver V4 valve mono blocks with a very good valve preamplifier, then compare this sound to the DarTZeel sound?