Modwright SWL 9.0SE Preamplifier

I happened upon this and if the reviews are anything to go buy this is one heck of a pre. Seems the price goes up very shortly so I may want to snag one before it does. I was wondering if the house had any experience? Also to what kit do you used the pre? I was also looking for tube monos to compliment it.

Many thanks :)
There's nearly exhaustive info available on this unit in the archives. I'd suggest buying one used...trying it in your system...and going from there. They are readily available used.
I'm having great luck with the Modwright paired with my AES (Cary) Sixpac monos. Clear open sound, great decay with respectible detail. In addition to searching the threads, you can search the systems here and see what folks are using it with.
Why do you see these for sale all the time?
Phd...good question. I've been watching these for several months ever since reading Srajan's rave review at 6 moons. Hardly a week goes by that there isn't one, sometimes two, for sale on A'gon for as low as $1250 so far. Makes one wonder. Perhaps someone who has owned and then sold could tell us what they didn't like about it. Of course I understand that many here are never happy with anything for very long and just need to try the next hot item. Srajan seems like a pretty good source as reviewers go and a number of other reviews are equally enthusiastic.
Tswhitsel, yes that is true that some folks are never happy with anything or perhaps, like you mentioned, they want to try the next hot item, which I myself have been guilty of. In fact I've been wanting to hear the Modwright 9.0 preamp, maybe more info will be shared on this thread as to its attributes.
A friend had one and loved it but decided he wanted to get Musical Fidelity equipment and purchased the KW500 integrated amp. He waited to sell the Modwright until he was sure he would like the MF unit. I had listened to it several times and thought it was an amazing unit in his system. It was very neutral with the original tubes but you could change the overall sound by rolling tubes.


Maybe, kind of, sort of the reason they are sold??

OC type owners may go nuts with the ability and freedom to roll tubes.

My friend did end up purchasing five other pairs of tubes and one pair was very expensive (Bendix, I think). He asked me to participate in a roll tube audition and after rolling them I told him I liked the orginal ones the best. Go figure!

He has hung onto the tubes just in case he needs them with a future change or something. Don't we all have those items tucked away in a drawer, closet or a spare bedroom. lol
I own the SWL 9.0SE (one of the first production units). I'm a big Dan Wright fan, also owning his Modwright 3910 Signature universal player, and previously the modded out 999ES Platinum Signature. His work is genius and relatively inexpensive. In the world of $2k preamps his is a marvel. The tube "sound" is there, but only in that it is a very analog (not overly warm, just perfect) crystal clear picture window into any recording you put through it. Soundstage and detail are state of the art. Tube rolling is somewhat an option, but I've learned to stick with the Tung Sols or Jan Phillips that Dan espouses. I tried Hal-O hi-heat tube dampers for awhile but frankly like the pre without them. The newest BlackSands Violet PC sounds incredible with it. The SWL has a remote volume control, and has an HT bypass (I'm proud to say I pushed that feature and Dan complied) that proves invaluable in my home theater and 2 channels setup, keeping the signal paths separate. The only thing I wish it had was a phase switch (it inverts phase normally). Dan's work is incredible, and his customer support and willingness to go the extra mile are the main reasons I will always have a "Modwright wins all ties" attitude. Next up, his production release of his phono stage, available both stand-alone or internal to the preamp.


I am currently using the Modwright SW9SE. This preamp is amazingly good. All the good things that most people talked about are true. I thoughtI had a very very good preamp before and is difficult to find something under $2K can come near it, until I decide to give it a try with one of my friend leaving the country and forced to see it. As soon as I plug it in to my system, depth and sound stage go at least 5 - 8 feet deeper and wider. Bass is tighter and with the tube 3D magic without scarifying the detail. I guess most of the people who sell them are due the upgrade bug. For me, I am soon selling my unit as I am moving to a fully balanced setup. If SW9SE has the XLR output option, I will certainly keeping the SW9SE for sure. I sattled with a pair of RCA 5687 Bronze plate tubes. I like it better than TungSoL as it provides better bass but would not loosing detail. Getting a used SW9SE is definately a deal and will be a major improvement for in your system.
I believe the unit is not Traditionally what would be Tube sounding is all, but its a very solid real sounding unit. Kinda like BAT or Audio research stuff, they don't have that Halo of tube flavor around them.. So I would guess they fall between somewhere and people want the more forgiving, or warmer sounding units. But then again they use Solen fast caps in the pre which sound a bit narrow or compressed compared to some of the better caps that let Tubes breath.
I believe Undertow might have nailed it. The SWL9.0SE is so accurate and neutral that it is much closer in sound to a solid state preamplifier than a tubed preamplifier. Perhaps owners who sell the SWL9.0SE originally decided to take the plunge into tubed electronics with the Modwright preamp and decided it didn't provide as much change as they were hoping, and they subsequently sold their SWL9.0SE as they searched for more of the holographic presentation of a "colored" tubed preamp. Also, perhaps those who liked the accuracy of the Modwright decided that a good solid state preamp would provide the same benefits while removing the need for tube maintenance.

My reason for selling the SWL9.0SE was the former, although it wasn't my first foray into tubed preamps.
I'd hate for people to believe that the MW preamp is like a SS preamp. It absolutely is not. Sure, I agree it does not impart a large tube "bloom" like some, and, it is closer to a SS preamp than some, but make no mistake, you are getting accuracy with the virtue of tube smooth with this unit. I won't speculate why some have sold, but with various tube rolling I have experienced everything from too much tube bloom (Raytheon tubes) to accuracy and softness (Amperex 7119) for my taste.
I agree with Tedmbrady. The sound has an analogue feel to it, it makes me think I am listening to my vinyl when I have a CD on. I have compared it to a CJ Pv-11 and a Rogue 99 Magnum. The Rogue and the CJ are warmer. The CJ is really a little too warm and syrupy, but very extended on top actually brighter than the Modwright and rolled off on the bottom. The Rogue did better on bottom, but it was too soft (but extended) on the highs. The Rogue has the biggest sound of the 3 - almost too big, and it seemed to expand dynamics, everything was a little larger than life. I wanted a warm sounding preamp so I tried the Modwright. Now this sounds like a Mama bear Papa bear story - the Modwright is just right in my system, BUT it took a month and a half to sound right. It sounded solid state to me at first. Maybe others have sold their units before allowing everything to break in. I was nearly about to sell mine until one day I turned it on and everthing sounded right. It was a painful break in period. I am mating it up with a Pass labs X-150 which is not a warm sounding amp and I like the combo. YMMV. BTW most of the caps in it are Sonicaps which are some of the best most transparent dynamic caps on the market.
Jeffjazz makes a very good point about break-in, and synergy with loudspeakers.

My SWL9.0SE originally had Sonicaps, and I had the power supply caps modified to Blackgates. The Blackgates were clearly superior to the Sonicaps in my system, but they took a whopping 500 hours to break in. The change was obvious once it occurred.

Also, I was using the SWL9.0SE with VS Gen III HSE loudspeakers, which are extremely revealing and unforgiving of components, IMO.
I agreed with Mijknarf. In fact, The SW9SE is sounded very 3D with very smooth mid range which SS preamps cannot provide. Even my wife(she is not a audiophile) can pick up the difference after I change from SS preamp to SW9SE tube pre (retubed to RCA Bronze plate). She said, what did you do to your system ? I can hear more 3D and a lot more depth in the music. She was asking "how many thousands of $ did you spent on this change?". Of course, I said, I just cleaned up all the cable contacts inside and outside of my old preamp. Hehe... Yeah right ! haha...
Ted_B, you mentioned that the SWL 9.0SE inverts phase normally. Some other pre-amplifiers do this as well, but isn't it a rather serious limitation? Personally I only notice inverted phase on a subconscious level, and an inverting component in the signal chain would leave me with the nagging feeling that 'something isn't quite right'.
Holker, there is an easy fix. If there is an odd # of pieces in a system that inverts phase (usually this only happens with pre's so that odd # is usually 1) then just reverse the the speaker cables at one end to return to absolute phase. Or is some cases one can use the phase reversal switch found on some gear. If the source or amp also (unusual) also inverts phase, then all will return to normal.
Thanks for the tip. I thought it wouldn't be so straight forward because my setup includes a REL subwoofer (which connects to speaker ground and right/left speaker terminals), but of course the sub has a phase reversal switch. So it should work as you described.
Unsound is unwrong. Yep, that's all you do...reverse blacks and reds at the amp (or speakers, not both). Remember, inverting phase doesn't mean out of phase (where one speaker is wired wrong and mono signals lose specific image). Theory also says that so many multitracks and so many microphones are being used in most recordings that some of them are inverted anyway.....
Can I ask why it inverts the phase in the 1st place?
Dan Wright tells me that inverting phase is a natural consequence of a more purist (straight wire with gain) type of implementation with tubes stages. Dunno....lots of tube preamps do I guess. I believe Dan feels that an invert phase switch adds unnecessary switching/noise in the signal path. No big deal, really.
I believe one tube stage inverts the phase, and to have it revert back to the original phase in would take another stage (add'l cost, and add'l devices in the signal path) to correct.

Keep it simple, is what Modwright and various other mfgs wisely chose to do.
Seneca it is more sonically advantageous to have a circuit that inverts phase because it is a simpler circuit requiring more attention to circuit design. On the other hand a circuit that does not invert phase has extra sound-degrading circuitry. Many quality preamps for this reason do invert phase.
There are those that believe switching the speaker leads is better than using an electonic switch. Re: Tedmbrady's point about so many lines may be out of phase that phase reversal may be a moot point, well it depends on the recording. With that in mind, I have always wondered why so many pre's that tout the superiority of their dual mono designs don't include individual phase switches for each channel? Perhaps in the digital future it could be done automaticaly?
Hi guys, just tuning into this thread, so I had to read everything and get caught up.

First of all, the circuit inverts absolute phase because it is a simpler circuit - i.e. less gain stages impacting the signal. Aside from a cathode follower circuit, most SE designs will invert phase. Two inverting stages will give you a non-inverting output, but also requires what I feel in this case to be a redundant stage.

I very much appreciate everyone's input regarding the 9.0SE's performance and market reception. I actually polled a number of audiogon sellers who posted their 9.0SE's for sale, asking why they were selling. I found that in just about every case, it was a matter of spending quite a BIT more money and finding something that they preferred, system change to an integrated or balanced system, or they were looking for a unit that was more 'euphonic' or 'tubey' sounding.

One post made mention of our use of Solen capacitors. This is true in the power supply circuitry, but Sonicap and Sonicap Platinum caps are used in the signal path exclusively. I chose the Sonicaps because I felt that they were sonicly superior to every other capacitor available on the market. I experimented with paper in oil PIO types as well poly and film/foil types before settling on the Sonicaps.

The 9.0SE is voiced to be as neutral as possible, while still retaining the 3D soundstaging and holographic imaging of tubes. Circuit topology as well as tube type (5687) were key to this.

The 5687 tube is one of my favorites and is used almost exclusively in our designs. One of the strengths of this tube is that it was developed for the military originally and because of this, ALL 5687 tubes are Mil-spec. This means that there will be less variation between different mfrs. of 5687 tubes. Granted, 5687's from different mfrs. do sound different, but the degree of sonic difference is less than that for other popular triodes.

Returning to the issue of phase, the best way to achieve a non-inverting design is to use a balanced topology or use output transformers to create a balanced output. A balanced circuit provides both a (+) and (-) signal, without additional gain stages. In other words, both in-phase and out-of-phase signals are always present. This type of circuit can also offer phase switching.

Nothing comes for free however. Balanced designs are more expensive, because you are either doubling the circuit complexity and thus componentry, or you are using high-quality transformers and they are expensive.

The 9.0SE could not have been offered at the price that it is, if it was a balanced design. The owners manual explains that simply reversing the speaker cable leads at either amp or speaker end will correct for the phase inversion.

It is true that some recordings are in or out of absolute phase, depending on the recording process. So for some, the issue of absolute phase may be academic, for others it is definitely not.

Once again, I very much appreciate our customers support and the feedback of all who have contributed here. I try to stay abreast of all such discussions and take note, so that we can make our products the best that they can be.

Thank you,

Dan Wright
President, ModWright Instruments Inc.
Wow! The president of Modwright Instruments Inc. answers! Dan I know I speak for everyone, thanks for your response!
Feb 17th, 2007

Has anyone had their unit upgraded with the new tube power supply?
Any comments, results?
Thank you
Can someone tell me if this preamp is has a balanced output
The Modwright SWL 9.0 SE does not have balanced outs...his new LS36 (due out in March-April) will. The tube rec'd upgraded PS was just announced (he's had it for the LP and the player mods like my Denon 3910 for some time). The first feedback is on his forum on Audio Circle.

Single Ended only, no Balance at this time.
Can someone tell me if this preamp is has a balanced output
Stickychicken (Answers)
The SWL9.0SE does not have a balanced output, however Modwright has a new fully balanced preamp just being released. I do not recall the model number or pricing.