Placette RVC review in Stereophile

There is a brief review of the Placette Remote Volume Control in the June '04 issue of Stereophile that might be of interest to some folks here. The Passive and Active linestages are also mentioned. It's good see some more recognition for the company in print.
What got me about the review was its length. On the one hand, there's not too much to say about something this simple to use. On the other, there have been reviews of other passive stuff in the past that have been much more detailed than this one.
The fellow really didn't go into much detail. He mentions dynamics early on but really doesn't elaborate. I felt it left me wanting a little more detail on the sound.
This looked like a filler article to me. It also reminded me of the short TAS reviews. Sort of the abridged versions or abstracts.
Stereophile did a short one like that on the VTL MB-450s a few months ago. I got the impression they do these on products they like that have been around awhile and have already been reviewed.
i agree that the review in question is quite short. but i believe that the point of the review was that this unit is so cheap (and has a 30 day money back policy) that you can't afford no to try it (assuming you can use short interconnects from the RVC to your amps) considering it's amazing performance.

his point on dynamics was that he percieved 'trade-offs' but not necessarily shortcomings. in some cases an active pre will allow more bass slam but at the expense of articulation and speed. so far i prefer the overall dynamic performance of the Placette to any active pre (with the possible exception of the CTC Blowtorch).

i have used the Placette RVC for over 2 years. to my ears, in my system, it has clearly bettered EVERY active preamp i have tried (6 or 7 mostly in the $10k to $15k range) without dynamic shortcommings (except compared to the CTC Blowtorch). i have also compared the RVC to other passives (including transformer and autoformer based) and preferred the RVC clearly (except the Silver Rock which had sonic tradeoffs but also no remote).

if your system has a natural balance without the need for the added 'something' that EVERY active pre need to try the Placette. that 'added something' gets between me and the least to my ears.
Even though it was a very short review, the author was clearly more than just impressed with the performance of the simple volume control. He admitted he was stunned to the point of completely rethinking his listening priorities.

Like BD, I also found replacing an active linestage with the Placette (Passive Linestage) had the most profound impact on sound quality in my system. I can run directly from the CDP, with a manual volume control, to the amp, but there is still a significant improvement with the Placette in the chain providing a more three dimensional sound. The added convenience of a remote control with zero sonic degradation is another bonus.

Placette does not advertise very much if they do at all. Getting even a couple of pages in Stereophile can mean a lot to a small company. Maybe BD will have a more detailed review since he plans to test the Passive and Active linestages soon.
The Placette Active was given a full and glowing review in TAS a few years back. The company regularly runs full-page ads in TAS and Stereophile and has for two years or more.
Drubin: I was aware of the review in TAS of the Active Linestage Preamp from the Placette website, but I do not subscribe to that magazine or know if Placette advertises there. I'll phone a friend who does subscribe.

Looking through every issue of Stereophile for more than a year, since April 2003, I see a total of zero ads placed by Placette Audio. I have subscribed to Stereophile for a number of years, but may have missed these full page ads you refer to. Another bonus of dealing with a small company like Placette is the chief technician, sales, customer service, and owner all have the same number and, last time I called, he answered the phone. I will give Guy Hammel a call and find out where he does advertise.
Placette Audio
I agree with Mikelavigne completely except don't really know what he (or anyone else for that matter) means by 'bass slam'. I have tried two active pre-amps, in comparison to my Placette, and found that only the Placette does not damage. The other two ($4,500.00 for one and $8,000.00 the other) causing veiling, restricted dynamics, and made me want to just keep turning the volume up. Music listening was ultimately very unsatisfying and I don't think I'll ever consider another active pre.

By the way, Guy will work directly with you to design your passive (he made mine with a mono-switch) and does what he promises. Another good thing, this world class unit only cost me $1,400.00. 'Nuff said.
Hmmm....well, maybe they only advertise in TAS (where they got a review, I note with guarded cynicism).
Tom, by 'bass slam' i mean an increased energy in the bass where the bass becomes more prominent relative to the overall balance of the whole frequency. some preamps 'boost' the bass a little, adding some weight and body.....but usually obscuring detail. if you love 'rock show''s perfect. but for reproducing acoustical bass; it is a detriment.

i like increased dynamic contrasts generally.....i perceive the Placette to uncover tiny dynamic changes that active pre's seem to gloss over to a varying degree.
Mike...Makes sense. I have noticed that every pre-amp I've tried masks detail and lacks the micro-dynamics needed for realistic music production. The Placette seems to give me exactly what the source, amp, and speakers are producing and I can't ask anything more. I have no need for other colorations or some sort of mystical "balancing act" between the pre-amp and amp. Buy an amp that works for you and get a Placette (or some other well designed and made) passive.

The last rock show I attended was in a concrete and steel venue and the bass slam was there and sounded awful. So did the rest of the spectrum. I have no idea what this band can do or whether they can play; this was no musical experience.

Thanks for the definition of "bass slam". I, probably like you, will stick with music.
Mike and Tomryan, I think you guys are kidding yourselves or you like your music without dynamics if the Placette is your cup of tea. If you like the sound of the Placette then get the one with active circuitry and enjoy the dynamics. Spend some time in a small venue listening to live music and you will realize that the biggest difference between your recorded music and the live event is dynamics.......Music isn't supposed to be pretty, it is what it is and it is big and it is dynamic.......
Rcrump...We have very good concert halls in our area, four of which I visit at least 3 times a year. This is total of 12 live, unamplified concerts. My wife and I also go to Baker's Keyboard Lounge 5-6 times a year and a number of other small clubs in town for jazz and other stuff. Unfortunately, 95% of these are amplified by inexpensive SS equipment, P.A. speakers, etc. and sound like it. YOU are fooling yourself if you think electric performances in any size club have anything approaching the dynamics of unamplified music in a good hall (like Orchestra Hall).

We eat at a number of restaurants with musicians and/or small bands but of course most of these are amplified. The most recent real music we heard was at a restaurant in Ann Arbor with a voilinist and pianist. The room acoustics weren't that good but then, not too bad and we were quite close. My wife commented on how much the two women sounded like my stereo, I had to agree. I have no idea where this crap about restricted dynamics comes from, but I've had pre-amps from BAT, Krell, C-J, AirTight, and Classe (from $3,500.00 through $8,500.00 in cost) in my system, and the major problem was THEY restricted dynamics relative to the Placette. Every pre-amp sounded like someone stretched varying thicknesses of membrane across the music. I had to go back to passive to bring the music back in my room. With every pre-amp I had to keep turning the volume up to hear properly - not so the Placette as the music "popped" right there in my room. I think it may be that actives cause people to keep increasing the volume to where they think the wall of noise is some sort of increase in dynamics. Remember when people thought Bose 901s actually had bass? Same psycho-acoustic phenom: Play it loud enough and neopohytes think lower midrange is bass.

I untimately judge a component by how excited I am to get to my stereo every night. The Placette makes me itch to get there, the BAT came close but nothing drew me in like the Placette.
Last performance I heard was John Renbourn in a club here in Houston that could seat 75 and was just over half full.......That was about three weeks ago...Going to Bluesfest in Maryland this weekend after a rib infestation in Pennsylvania at Muskmike's and expect the sound will only be fair.....Glad you like the Placette as that is an inexpensive solution. I have directly compared an active preamp with the Placette passive at Mike Lavigne's and it wasn't even close as respects focus, venue information or dynamics......Love to stay and chat, but off to Pennsylvania at daybreak.......

Bob Crump
TG Audio/CTC Builders
"...inexpensive solution." Aye, there's the rub! It only costs $1,500.00 so it must not be "...even close..." to an active pre-amp. I tried an $8,200.00 C-J, a $3,500.00 Classe, $6,500.00 BAT, and a used Krell (think around $5,000.00 new). The Placette put the music in my room with the most authority and seduction, period. Maybe I just have a magic match between amp, CD player, and Placette. I don't know as I've only used it with one amp. I get excited by music with the Placette and have substantially increased listening time (and music expenditures).

By the way...John Renbourn! I haven't thought of him in 25-30 years. Thanks for the tip and I'll spend some time at my favorite record store (Dearborn Music in Michigan) and at to pick up some things I had back in the early 70s. Last performance I saw was Brahms Symphony, hall was about 2/3 full, music was actually very well done -sound was excellent. Made me want to go back for more, just like my stereo.
Tom, from your posts I assume you are in the Detroit area. John Renbourn's spring tour of the US is mostly over, but there's always next year. His website ( lists concerts in mid September in southern Ontario, in London and Guelph, in case you are interested. I saw him here in Chicago and also in Milwaukee where he and Jacqui McShee performed - a must see duet.

If you venture to Chicago occasionally please feel free to let me know, you're most welcome to come by for a system is described here.

I think you missed the spirit in which advice was given as I have no problem with your liking the Placette as it is a very good commercial unit. To make something that sounds better costs like Hell and normally isn't very commercial or convenient to use. I build gear for a living and the CTC preamp ate the passive Placette as respects focus, venue and dynamics. It wasn't close and think you can get a taste for it by reading Mike's earlier posts as we did this in Mike's system last Fall. If you like the passive Placette I imagine you would love the active one even better was my point.

Regarding Renbourn, he puts on a great show and prefers the small venues as spoke to him backstage for a while at the break. He was travelling with Jacqui McShee and together they were just awesome. Jacqui currently has a group called Jacqui McShee's Pentangle......This weekend I will hear Mighty Sam McClain at Bluesfest in Maryland, but expect the PA will be overpowering......

You make a good point in system matching as my amps (Parasound JC-1s) prefer an active stage before them to do their best as do most amps. My business partner called earlier tonight and I explained what was going on with this thread and he got a hoot out of it as he was pretty much at a loss to explain why the Blowtorch is so dynamic compared to most any other unit other than the topology is a complimentary differential folded cascode with no loop feedback. He used to use some 26 turn pots which had beaten up a unit he had designed in 1980, the Dennesen JC-80, and then the Blowtorch came in and destroyed the wire wound pots. Bottom line is there is more dynamic information with the CTC than there is with most anything out there. Curl made a joke and said it must be the atomic dynamicizer he designed into the circuit :-) Open loop bandwidth of 350K doesn't hurt either :-)
I don't know what the Blowtorch is (a passive of some sort?) and I also am not familiar with CTC. I recently listened to a CAT pre-amp, series III I think, and found it slightly veiled and resricted...pretty, though. This was with the CAT amps which I was told were the most recent iteration. I have to admit all the pre-amps I tried were very well built and a joy to use. I couldn't live without remote volume, though (CAT).

Last night I listened to Yo YO Ma's "Appalatian Journey" - micro and macro dynamics were stunning and this with my ProAc 2.5s which some say are not the best with wide dynamic swings. Couldn't tell by my experience. AND, all from a 9wt AirTight 300B amp...small room, though. Also listened to part of a Lloyd symphony which had the same wide swings (and micro inside of macro in both records which is thrilling).

I think the 300Bs with Tamura trannies does dynamics in a way that sounds most like the concert hall, at least in my experience. Anyway, off to Royal Oak this weekend for dinner and live, unamplified Flamenco guitar and singing.
CTC Blowtorch is a HIGH-END preamp made by CTC Builders: John Curl, Carl Thompson, and Bob Crump.It is an active preamp all the way, and is very highly regarded by its owners and by a couple of reviewers as being the best available.It has two chassis and weighs close to 100 lbs.
CTC Builders designed the Parasound Halo JC-1 monoblock amps for Parasound.
Tomryan, the Blowtorch is a built to order active preamp that starts at 15K and goes up. CTC is John Curl, Carl Thompson and Bob Crump. We average about five units per year is all and have 26 in the field so it has very limited appeal due to cost and lack of convenience features. It is the best we know how to build and never will go into production, but will remain built to order.

Last time I heard flamenco guitar was at the La Mansion Hotel in San Antonio and that was years ago. Amazing how well a hardwood stage will resonate to foot stomps! Rather hear the Flamenco than Mighty Sam McClain anytime! Thinking about foot stomps you ever heard John Hammond? The guy is a one man band as he plays guitar, harmonica and stomps his foot on the stage for the bass.......Sounds like we will both have an enjoyable weekend, but I have to drive 1,400 miles to enjoy it over at MusikMike's in Chambersburg, Pa.......Just as well as it is going to be 95 here today with a heat index of 107........Off to get the oil changed and get a haircut before I start treking Northeast........

I saw John Hammond in Kalamazoo maybe 34 years ago. My girfriend had a crush on John but never did meet him. Ha!

Seem to remember Hammond having a father who was also a performing musician.
Mr. Crump:

The Placette was never designed to sound a certain way in any particular system. It can't be used as a tone control. Our only goal was to build a Linestage that has no sonic signature of it's own. To be literally transparent. This applies to dynamics as well. You can insert a Placette in series between a Blowtorch and your power amp and the sound of your system will be unchanged since the Placette will accurately pass the coloration's of whatever Preamp it's being used with. I will be showing in Las Vegas next year with Bob Gross (Speaker Art) and will be happy to bring a Placette to your demo room and show how a Placette can "sound" just like a Blowtorch. Although the system will sound the same as it did without the Placette, it will gain remote control!

Nice to hear from the "source". I have two components in my system that won't be changing anytime soon - Air Tight 300B amp and Placette passive volume control. It is so good that when I ordered and did the 30 day home trial, I knew it'd be staying 20 min after inserting in my system. I did the pre-requisite 2-3 day heavy listening (you know, all us audiophiles have sit with our faces scrunched up, trying to detect the action of the singer's lips and back of throat, check for proper chest sounds, the number of centimeters he/she is from microphone, the type of microphone, ad nauseum. Just read Stereophile and you'll see the importance of that stuff! However, last night I could easily realize Joni Mitchell's deep emotional involvement with her songs and Eric Clapton's relative lack of emotional involvment. All that other stuff was there but thank God it doesn't distract from the actual music. By the way, I could hear Joni's piano pedal action but found it meaningless - however, the softness of her key action was very meaningful.) all the while knowing this thing is not going back.

The Placette replaced an $8,300.00 C-J that has gotten 10 positive to orgasmic magazine reviews around the world. C-J is a great company, makes superb products, and has excellent customer service...but that pre-amp was just in the way compared to the Placette.

Hey, Guy! Good luck with that offer at the Las Vegas show!! Bet it doesn't happen but if so, also bet they claim your gear "destroys the sound". I think they all have too much emotional investment in their product. I still think Don Julio Anejo is the best tequila around, a friend claims 1800 Special Reserve is. Don Julio puts a smile on my face, 1800 doesn't so I don't buy it. Things are that simple.
Drubin: I see the symbiosis between magazine and manufacturer as a good service to audiophiles for the most part. The magazine needs gear to review and sell advertising at the same time the manufacturer needs the publication to inform the consumer of their products.

Although it is easy to be cynical of an editor's or reviewer's motives when giving the nod to a component, there is a trust built over the years between a reviewer and the readers. It just so happens that Brian Damkroger, the reviewer of the Placette RVC for Stereophile, has also reviewed the same speakers and cables I owned. The first review was of the speakers and he put into words what I had found to be true about them for months. Next he did a review of the cables I am still using which served as a good validation for my purchase decision. Now comes the Placette RVC review. If I did not already own the Passive, which is the identical volume control coupled with additional switchable inputs, and since he wrote the review, it would have caught my attention as something to consider buying.

One of the advantages a professional reviewer has is the opportunity to hear almost anything out there and a wider basis of comparison. Most amateurs are not able audition a wide variety of gear. A forum like this can be manipulated by amateurs, manufacturers, and dealers alike, with no accountability, in an attempt to create a market for a certain component or accessory. With that in mind, your guarded cynicism is a good thing and looking to other sources of information helps us find our way through the maze.
Has anyone heard the active Placette and preferred the passive. I'm now using an RVC, it replaced a CAT Ulitmate MKII (as I only have one hi-output CD source and no phono, and really do like the remote). The RVC is fed by a DAC and plugged into my Merlin BAM, which is a bass augmentation unit for Merlin speakers, and which has 50KOhm input and 200 ohm output impedance (in affect a buffer for the passive - I also use Cardas GR with exceptionally low capacitance). Guy suggested that in this setup, the active might not be much of an improvement. I wonder when the active would be an improvment, and when it would not. Having seen Mike's system in the Virtual section I know he could have gotten an active Placette if he wanted to, but chose not to; so I'm wondering about the difference and reasons for choosing passive versus active in the Placette line.
Pubul57, I have heard both and still believe in my system, that the Active was about 15% to 25% better sonicly then the the passive. But, as we know that last percent in audio still makes a big difference if you can hear it.

I was talking to a designer who has great respect for both the passive and active Placette pieces and the genuis of Guy Hammel's designs, he refers to the Active as a "buffered passive stage" that gives you the best of both worlds, out standing clarity/transparency of passive stages and the dynamics of an active stage.

The Placette Active has no gain, although you can get it if you ask. So it is, effectsively, a buffered passive. I don't think you need sacrifice dynamics with a normal passive line stage, but things need to be carefully matched. With the Active, that problem goes away.
So then what would be ideal matching for a passive to work as well as an active. I guess it is optimizing source output impedance with amp input impecance assuming gain is more than sufficient. But what are those optimal impedances?
Good question, I hope someone with knowledge will chime in.
I read that the source output impedance should be 10 times lower than the input impedance on the preamp-amp, but I would love to hear Guy or Crump take on this since they are the main preamp people!!!

I am using a diy passive preamp in a perfect system for this, I used to have a Metaxas Opulence preamp and I am not sure if I miss it, mainly Dynamics are gone I would say I lost 15% dynamics and won 15% transparency: Active vs Passive. Let me tell you the only active preamp could ever listen to was this one...I would love to listen to the Blowtorch or the Placette Active....phono stage anyone?

PS: Perfect system would be Source with 2 volts output and 50 ohm output impdance.....Amps with 0.15 volt input sensitivity and 1 mega ohm input impedance...yes I do miss certain dynamics (if ever so slightly).
Source: typically the more energy your source outputs, the (much) better. Output impedance is part of the equation (W=V2/R, remember) -- but as usual line sources have a sort of standard 2V spec, the impedance is good indicator.

On the amp side, a relatively stable input of 10k ohm & above should be fairly OK across the acoustic spectrum.

Of course, you have the attenuator in between and its impedance changes will affect the result. The buffered option would keep the output impedance fairly stable across the board, which is probably why some people find it "better".
>> but I would love to hear Guy or Crump take on this
>> since they are the main preamp people!!!
Jsadurni, Bob Crump will not chiming in on this thread anymore - he passed away nearly 1 year ago in a fatal heart-attack. May his soul rest in peace. Just FYI.
I am sorry I am just now looking at the dates here, may he rest in peace.

All the Best