New Linear Tube Audio MicroZOTL Preamplifer


MicroZOTL Preamp vs MZ2


Greatly Improved house sound and more of it.


I have been using the MZ2 as a preamp with the ZOTL40 powering Janszen zA2.1 hybrid electrostats. The Micro ZOTL was originally built as a headphone amp, and then David Berning tweaked the design for use as a preamp (the MZ2 that Mark Schneider currently builds) and what a good one it is. A huge Audio bang for the buck. As good as the MZ2 sounds, it’s a bit of a Swiss Army knife product and not a dedicated preamp with full functionality. Enter the Micro ZOTL Preamp.


I am lucky enough to live near Linear Tube Audio and Mark let me borrow his prototype preamp for a few days. The new preamp has a wider, more clearly defined sound stage and more sparkle at the top. The bass is just a bit more real sounding. There is smoothness, a little smoother without losing dynamics. I can’t explain this but could the MZ2 have been a little grainy sounding?


The piano is sounding more real than ever. There is more clarity in the sense of having more space in between notes or just less noise? Not that I could ever detect any audible noise before with the MZ2 but the background is darker. I guess more real, more in the venue feel.


So the flavor is similar, improved and enhanced in purity, refined, actually more refined. I even tried the carefully selected NOS tubes that I use in my MZ2 for comparison to discover that the NOS tubes that come with new pre are pretty darn good. I think Mark has optimized this circuit design as far as it will go and the more I listen the more I like it. I had to return this one but I have already ordered one when the production models are ready.


Lance

 


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Lance, nice summary:

Greatly Improved house sound and more of it.

Thanks for sharing your early findings and impressions and the comparison to the MZ2. Looking forward to your reports once the purchased unit is in your hands.
bump
Any updates or new preamps out in the field?
I just talked to Mark. He will be back in the country and at work on Tuesday. He told me they will be shipping next week.
I got to hear this at AXPONA and it was really something special. I have the M2Z as well and it definitely seemed like the new model had all of the positive traits from it - just done better. Very impressive.
My MicroZOTL Preamp is on the way and glad to move on this before the price increase.

I just got this from LTA today:

With all beta testing and feature enhancements now completed, Linear Tube Audio is excited to launch the new MicroZOTL Preamplifier this week. We are extending our pre-sale through Wednesday, July 18. There are only six days left to get your MZ Pre at the temporary pre-sale price of $3850! The price after the pre-sale will be $4450.
 
Our fully realized MicroZOTL Preamplifier has been upgraded from 64 volume steps to 100 steps – with the smallest step ¼ the size to ensure precise control at low levels. Additionally, we have upgraded the volume control to ceramic printed circuit boards are now using OHNO wire on the output to further improve the sonics.

We look forward to sharing the newest addition to the ZOTL family with you. As each amp is built to order, please allow for 10 days to 2 weeks lead time.

Pre-order today!


I live in DC and helped Mark at LTA when he was making refinements for the preamp. I already own their MZ2 and Ultralinear amp. The new preamp is definitely a step up from the MZ2 especially when using NOS tubes. It is quite a bit more dynamic with more detail and a remarkable soundstage. It is an excellent partner for my Ultralinear and sounds great with my Omega Audio single driver crossover-less speakers. I liked it enough to purchase one and should have it in about a week.
@mourip 

im also local and like to stop in on Mark whenever I’m close to Takoma Park. My new preamp should be ready this week I’m told. Can’t wait.

Lance
I now have the new MIcro ZOTL Preamp in my system and after only a couple of hours I cant believe how good it is. Everything I said about this preamp in my original post..... well.... it’s better, much better. I don’t know what alchemy Mark has come up with but this pre is incredible. The UltraLinear and this ZOTL Preamp were made for each other. More to come.
There is unmistakable synergy with the UltraLinear amp and MicroZOTL preamp. This my forever combo. It’s shockingly good.

So My curiosity led me to try my old trusty 200 watt SS Mirror Image Audio amp. The Micro ZOTL Preamp definitely adds a spatial quality of bigger sound stage and refinement but not any coloration to speak of.  The bass is incredible as well.
Lance, thanks for sharing your ongoing experience with this combination of LTA pre and amp. The more I hear you describe it, the more I'd like to hear the combo in person.

Forever has a really nice ring to it. : )
I would be interested in any tube rolling feedback. I am using 7N7s with loctal adapter with my MZ preamp and 7062s for the input. I like the sound of the 7062s (12AT7 equiv.) but also their lower gain that allows me to set the volume higher on the preamp making better use of my DACs output.

I use 7062s with my UL also. Can't remember where I ended up for the 12AU7 phase splitter and use whatever LTA provided originally for the 17JN6 outputs. I went on a buying spreed on eBay and bought several quads of different brand 17JN6s so I still have some rolling to do... At about $20 a quad those outputs are really cheap.

My preamp is still breaking in but the combo is remarkable.
@mourip 

I haven’t started tube rolling yet but am very interested in your further impressions.

Lance
Really quick review:

I received the LTA Microzotil Preamplifier a few weeks ago after some significant preorder delays. 

I can't compare it to the MZ2 since i only heard it once at the LTA office, but i have been baking it off against my Simaudio 430HAd, Pass HPA-1, and Massdrop CTH (with goldlion tube), and iFi Micro iDSD Black.

At this point i have only been listening with headphones; including mrspeakers aeon flow (open and closed), audioquest nightowl carbon, hd-650's, and hifiman he-400i's.

It probably won't come as any surprise that the Microzotil Preamp wins in just about every way over the Massdrop CTH... So i wont bother going into much detail there. 

The iFi Micro is both a really good dac and headphone amp, one of the best values out there in my opinion... While the Microzotl Preamplifier does sound better, its not night-and-day better... But such is life in the high end. 

Next up is the Simaudio. Now we are into statement level headphone amplifiers... I would describe the Simaudio as having power to drive anything, and no real sound signature of its own... If the source is good, the output will be good... If the source is bad, the output will be bad... I prefer the Microzotl Preamplifier.

Finally, the Pass HPA-1. Arguably this is the most tube sounding solid state headphone amp on the market. Accurate, plenty of power for most headphones, and it does just enough to make good recordings sound great, and bad recordings sound ok... I love this amp... The only issue i have with it is that it only has 2 inputs (3 would be nice). 

The Microzotl effectively ties with the HPA-1 from a sound quality perspective for me. Arguably being one of the most solid state sounding tube amps out there (thats a good thing for me)... It does the same job of conveying emotion as the Pass amp... The LTA amp has a slight edge in the low end for me, but it's a bit artificial (boosted) - so if you love absolute neutrality, the Pass might be a better option...  

Where the LTA amp wins for me in a big way is on usability. Lots of input options, and it even has a remote... It also wins on the "cool" factor with exposed tubes and great casework...

More to come.
@skernes 

Nice review. Wow. I haven’t even tried my headphones with it yet. It makes my LTA UltraLinear amp sound so good I’m stuck listening to my speakers. Time to try it.

Lance