Modwright SWL 9.0SE Pre ... your thoughts welcome


Hey, I have decided to dive into tubes ... well, you get my meaning. I was steered towards the Modwright SWL 9.0SE and so far have read some good things. I'm running a Levinson ML-27 for power and Paradigm S-4's for speakers. My transport is nothing special, Denon DVD-2200 but I am also looking at running a tubed DAC in hopes of bringing the system a little more alive. Right now the system seems a little flat ... not very exciting. Plenty of volume bass end it fantastic but the mid and upper end seem very packaged. Imaging is not very good ... High and mid frequencies don’t seem to blend well. Some CD's have fair to good sound but most seem pretty "plain". Just doesn’t have that delicacy I'm looking for. I seem to listen the SPEAKERS and not the music. I recently listened to an older set of Paradigms pushed by a small tubed integrated and I was amazed. The tubed gear really made the Paradigm speakers come to life ... I was set back in my chair. Vocals were clear and crisp … the sound was extremely detailed and I had to be drug out of the room. Since then I have really started to pick a part my system.

Cables are Signalcable Silver Resolution Balanced and Cobalt Ultimate speaker cables. I'm running Signal cable "Magic" power cables. Nothing fancy but it should do the job.

Is this upgrade going to help? Has anyone experienced this?

Any better preamps in the $1500-2000 range? What about Levinson SS preamps?

Help me out … Please
horseface
First of all, thank you all for the support and kind words. I am very pleased with the success of our first product - that is actually built by us from the ground up.

I am also pleased to hear that our attention to customer service is acknowledged and appreciated. I can't be all things to all customers, but I simply try to be honest with everyone and treat all of our customers with the same level of respect and service that they deserve.

To answer the question about balanced design options:

The SWL 9.0SE is a single-ended design, i.e. not balanced (not differential). The only way to truly add balanced outputs or inputs to the design (aside from simply adding XLR jacks, wired SE as some mfrs. have done) is to use high-quality line-level transformers.

I have successfully done this on the output of the design, converting the output signal from single-ended to differential (balanced). This has been done as a custom upgrade for a few customers.

I feel the result has been very good, but the high-quality transformers are expensive. The sonic benefits include even better impedance matching between amp and preamp and the ability to run LONG cables due to noise-cancellation and shielding benefits of balanced operation. Additionally, the output transformers that we use also reduce the output level (less overall gain) AND a corresponding reduction in preamp self noise, which is already extremely quiet.

I have considered offering a balanced output option for the 9.0SE. A balanced input is not available now and may not ever be. I am also working on a phono preamp that will be available, built into the SWL 9.0SE, or as a standalone phono preamp. The built-in option for the 9.0SE will include moving the power supply outboard. The advantages to offering an external power supply would include more space inside the unit (phono upgrade, possible future DAC board upgrade), and greater flexibility with an external PS enclosure to build a more sophisticated power supply. The improved supply would benefit the phono stage and linestage equally.

I am also considering building a higher-end unit that would be balanced throughout and feature an outboard power supply.

I am, to be perfectly honest, in a bit of a quandry here:

1) I want to offer options to suit different customers needs and desires. I also want to offer an attractive upgrade path to SWL 9.0SE customers and would of course prefer that they upgrade with ModWright Instruments products.

2) I am leary of alienating our customers, with a series of revisions and upgrades, resulting in the 9.0SE MK I Rev. II, etc.

3) I also want to be able to keep up with production of the standard 9.0SE and maintain a solid level of quality and efficiency in our manufacturing.

I would appreciate your comments and specifically, to answer the question of whether you as ModWright Instruments customers and potential customers want to see upgrade options such as those mentioned above, for the 9.0SE. Or, would you prefer to simply see another product to follow - necessarily at a higher price-point - that features those options.

The SWL 9.0SE was meant to be a high-quality, high-value product that brought Class 'A' performance to the audiophile at a real-world price. It is not inexpensive, nor could we build it cheaply and have it perform at the level that it does. But, at $2200, it was meant to compete with other products that are 2x - 3x plus its price. I don't want to lose sight of this with upgrades that will necessarily add to the overall cost of the 9.0SE.

Thanks and I do welcome your feedback.

Dan Wright
President, ModWright Instruments Inc.
360-247-6688
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Thanks Tvad, I agree with you RE the constant upgrades and reivisions. I don't want to confuse the marketplace or cause audiophile nervosa either ;).

I believe the best thing is to reserve the special and major design upgrades for the next model.

I appreciate your input.

Dan
as you stated, "The SWL 9.0SE was meant to be a high-quality, high-value product that brought Class 'A' performance to the audiophile at a real-world price. It is not inexpensive, nor could we build it cheaply and have it perform at the level that it does. But, at $2200, it was meant to compete with other products that are 2x - 3x plus its price. I don't want to lose sight of this with upgrades that will necessarily add to the overall cost of the 9.0SE." IMHO the SWL 9.0SE meets all those goals and are the primarly reasons that i purchased the unit. further, i think your last sentence nails it with respect to an appropriate market strategy with this particular product.

this is my first foray into the "higher" end, separates arena. the SWL 9.0SE will serve as the "heart" of my system for the foreseeable future and any upgrade activities i may engage in will involve the other components because i think the pre is good enough to withstand upgrading the other system components within the contrainsts of my current means.

i do not consider myself to be an audiophile and only need a linestage as i do not have the time or inclination required to do vinyl correctly. i love music and the SWL 9.0SE does it right for me. i think there are many others that fall into this category.

on the other hand, i understand the assault on the high end and the actualization of the potential given what you've already realized with your current products. to that extent, i think TVAD's response is well reasoned.

i want to thank you again for taking such good care of me in September.

ray

This is an excellent thread with savy people whom I believe to be music lovers first and (audiophiles second or not at all). However, you absolutely must appreciate what Dan has created aesthetically, technically and musically.

I don't think I need to chime in here regarding what TVAD has said and recommended as it is right on the mark in my view as well!

RE: My unit (pun intended). The only thing I don't have on the unit is the Bybee cigars which may come at a later date. However, it would be very hard to part with my 9.0SE even for the few short weeks it would take to perform the upgrade.

Enjoy the music friends and Dan W., please keep your audio and music values and continue to transform them into the musical products that you have already started.