I was interested in taking the line on until I heard it. When I listened to the Hovland I did not like it. I found it noisy and wooly. Maybe it was a synergy thing with the rest of the equipment, but I doubt it. The preamp is one of the most beautiful components I have seen, but sonically is was disappointing.
There are plenty of real good preamps, listen to as many as you can with your equipment.
Try listening to the Thor, BAT, Aesthetix or CAT. They are all quite good.
I just purchased one, although I cannot be a lot of help to you as I was using the ML 383 integrated before. I am using a "cheapo" amp while waiting for my amp. The performance of the Hovland with this "cheapo" amp is quite good! I have none of the noisy and wooly affects as described above.
As a side note, I would find it hard to believe that every review, that I have read, is wrong. Stereophile, TAS and Soundstage have all given it rave reviews, Soundstage adding it to their elite Reviewers Choice awards.
Before spending ANY amount of money on a preamp - you ought to ask around or post to various boards (like Audio Asylum
) to request information on the Supratek Syrah & Chardonnay preamps.
The product is relatively new - but a review in Ultimate Audio is due out early in 2002. I myself have not listened to the preamp but have purchased one simply based upon the fact that several listeners with 200K + systems who I know and trust
all have used and recommend this preamp. They suggest it's the best thing available under 20K.
The preamp is criminally cheap at $2100 - new. And can be built with a few (unpublished) options - I had to beg but I got them to make mine with a remote volume control, cinema bypass and XLR outputs.
You can check out the Supratek website on the link below:Supratek Triodes
The Hovland is a very good preamp. It is smooth, quite neutral and has a liquid midrange. It has the best highs which I have ever heard from a preamp. I did not find it "wooly". The dynamics which it is capable of are only average to below average. Additionally, it is absolutely lacking in bass power, weight and extension. Despite the fact that it does several things quite well, including the highs, which is where I consider it A-1, I would say that there are others which are better overall. I would look very carefully before buying the Hovland. To the suggestions of top-of-the-line preamps I would add the First Sound Presence Audio Linestage. I would also say that I auditioned the Aesthetix Callisto head-to-head with the Hovland and I liked the Hovland better than it.
HI: Please keep in mind that the HP-100 is about three (3) to four (4) years old. There are several iterations in the pipeline even though all of them are "HP-100". The newer versions are much improved in the bass. I did not find the dymamics lacking. Personally I liked them. I have a unit that is about a year to a year and 1/2 old. I am planning to send it back for some changes that improve the bass. Mine is ok but it could be better in the bass. After the upgrade it will be the same unit reviewed by the Absolute Sound. They are quite resonable for their update cost. Any other company would have called it a Mark II and charge $600 more for the upgrade. As it is they only charge $140.00
Make sure you compare the Newer versions.
i just bought a hovland hp100 about 2 months ago and it is superb!! i am not sure what the first poster was listening to but there must have been something wrong in another part of the system. the preamp is the most musical pre i have ever heard.i sold my aloia that replaced a arc ls15,both very good preamps and neither compares to the hp100. the bass is outstanding and the mids and highs are to die for. you won't find a review,and there are many,that doesn't think the hovland is at the top or bettered by only a few others.call hovland and talk to alex crespi,owner/designer..he's a great guy.
I am glad to see these last few posts, I was scratching my head at the other posts as I was not finding the negatives they were at all, in fact just the opposite.
As I stated, I am using a "cheapo" amp while waiting for my new one. This is a Heath amp that I paid $200 for about 10 years ago and later sold to a buddy of mine, who is not into audio, and I bought a Forte Model 6 which clearly bettered the Heath; I later replaced the Forte with a Meridian 557 which really put a whoppin' on the Forte, especially in bass; I later went with the ML 383.
I said all that to give you an idea of what I have the Hovland mated with. When I had my wife sit down and listen with me for her comments, her first was that it seemed I had more bass than before, and this using an amp that I don't feel is bass heavy. I had a Mac C42 hooked up for a short time and the Hovland has better bass.
I really liked and still do like the 383 I owned, it was a wonderful unit, but I have better performance with this setup even w/o my new amp. I find the dynamics better than I have ever had as well as imaging; coming to this conclusion using a TDK test CD.
It has extremely quite background; I have the disc Fourplay - Yes please..., on track 7, I believe, I had to replay the beginning 3 times as I heard a "crackling" in the left channel I has never heard before in the many times I played it. I thought it was a problem at first. The more I use it, the more I am amazed.
My serial number is 1165, I would be curious of where this falls in.
brian..'calloway' here. mine is #1284.glad you like it,by the way. it is a great preamp,imo.
Perhaps my audition of about a year ago dates me, but I didn't mean to indicate that the Hovland sounds "thin" on normal program material. It doesn't. But if you want your music produced with all the depth, extension and slam as was in a full-range recording, my experience indicated that the Hovland came up way short. I think if you put the Hovland up against a CAT Ultimate or the First Sound Linestage you will find that they are in a different league on an overall basis. This is despite the beautiful, extended and detailed high frequency presentation you get with the Hovland. If they have improved the bass (and the dynamics), I congratulate them. Perhaps they will have a preamp which now lives up to the hype of this product by Stereophile and Soundstage whose reviews were published BEFORE Hovland made any such improvements. To Calloway, I would say that this preamp is supposed to be or to compete with the best, so its not enough that there are only a few which better it. All I say is find a way to listen carefully, or better, to A/B it with some of the other suggestions in this thread. Despite the low upgrade price, Hovland has raised the retail price at least 20% since its inception and it is no longer cheap for the quality category in which it is intended to compete. I am not one much for reviews or reviewers, but in the Soundstage review of the First Sound, Todd Warnke, who also reviewed the Hovland, compares HIS list of the top preamps, including the Hovland. Check and see what he said:
I tried the HP 100 in my system. I found that it did some things very well.. Voices were about the best I heard, Highs were smooth and silky, The dynamics were lacking and the overall presentation was ... weak. The best advice is to get one to TRY in your system. We all have different tastes and goals in what we like.
I ordered my HP 100 at the beginning of October and it arrived a week ago. It was worth the wait. I'm getting more out of my system than I had before. Outstanding presentation and its barely broken in. The sound is smooth and silky and just to my liking. Now I'm looking forward to pairing it with the Hovland Sapphire amp. Has anynone heard the Sapphire? My dealer is still waiting for his.
I heard it at the NY HiFi Show. Set up as it was with Hovland HP-100, Accuphase CD player and Audio Physic speaker, it was frighteningly bright. Do not buy the Saphire without listening to it first.