Pre for TAD-60


I'm looking for a sub $2,000 pre to match with my TAD-60. (I would prefer something under $1000 to hear if a tube pre is the right idea.) I've considered getting a used TAD-150. Currently run the TAD mostly through Placette passive (but sometimes directly from unmodded DAC-AH/Sony 595 or Cary 306/200). Sound emanates from Gallo 3.1s. Stock EL34s (have also used Shuguang KT-88s). I usually run in ultralinear. I've tried triode but find it too recessed and tame (would prefer the sound to be between ultralinear and triode).

I immediately fell in love with the TAD-60 and continue to be impressed. But of course, over time you want more of what you don't hear and don't want some of what you can hear. Hence, my situation.

With the placette pre the sound is slightly chiseled, a little flinty, a touch of glare to the treble (I've become especially treble sensitive in recent years), dimensionality and imaging are good. Great midrange with the EL34s, smoother, more liquid treble and tighter, deeper bass with KT-88s but the middle kind of drops off and gets soft, less pronounced. The KT-88s are generally warmer but slightly less detailed than EL34s. When I bypass the pre I get a warmer, more harmonic quality. So, to get to my point, I would like:

what the KT-88s give me with more voluptuous midrange
to be somewhere between ultralinear and triode sound quality
to have more of the smooth, liquid (less chiseled) sound quality of the amp sans passive pre
a little more dimensionality and soundstage (I'm not sure there's ever enough)

Any help will be appreciated.
I'm not sure if it will work the same way in your system, but I got great results using a Monarchy Audio M24 tube DAC/linestage with the TAD-60. To me, the Monarchy sounded a little more "right" than the TAD-150 Signature preamp, but I didn't do any tube rolling with the TAD-150.

The Monarchy M24 sounds very good with its stock 6DJ8 tubes, but I put some Siemens E88CC gold-pin tubes in the DAC stage, which made the sound a bit sweeter and more liquid. You can also run an extra source (like a phono stage) through the M24's tube linestage, and I find that feature very convenient.

I'm still using the stock EL-34 tubes in my TAD-60 and I'm running it in triode mode with just a bit of feedback because my speakers are efficient enough not to lose bass or dynamics that way. And the sound in the midrange is smoother and less etched.

If you look at "My Desert Oasis" system, there is a good pic of the M24 there, which can be made larger. Good luck in finding the type of sound you are looking for.
Hi Holderlin,
I've had incredible results with my Quicksilver Remote linestage and the TAD-60. I have to believe that a lot of the satisfaction I'm getting in sonic bliss is coming from the Quicksilver as I've had her mated to both solid state and other tube amplifiers.

The TAD and the Quicksilver are an amazing match with the pre being driven by Sovtek 6922's (not well liked in the driver tube community it seems) but this is a testament to the Quicksilver's ability to make music.

The TAD on it's own is very impressive but pairing it to the Quicksilver opened up the flood gates so to speak. Everything widened, became deeper and so much more "alive".

I think it would suit your TAD well to be matched to a tubed pre-amp!

I've seen the non-remote Quicksilvers on a'gon for about $600-700 range and even less. The build quality of the pre is exemplary and when I went to roll tubes I was amazed at the quality of parts used.

The downside is that I haven't heard great things about their customer service. i.e. no return calls and weeks before responding to dealers. Not that I've had problems (knock on wood) the previous owner made these remarks to me.

Hope this helps!

BTW, if you like the sound of your TAD without a pre or with your current set-up you owe it to yourself to try out the KT77 reissues! I've got a set and drop them in for those "special" occassions. They run $70-90 for a quad and are a great match with the TAD!


Based on the help of many of you who have replied to my questions or posted elsewhere, I have made some changes since originally posting and thought I'd share my experience with current and prospective TAD-60 owners. I replaced my Placette passive pre with a used, unmodded MiniMax preamp. There were significant improvements in harmonics, tonality, dynamics and soundstage. It gave the sound a bit more warmth, which I like. The treble edginess was diminished, but it and the stridency were still there. (The gain on the unmodded MiniMax is quite high; I can't go past 9:00 and usually have it between 7 and 8 o'clock.) Overall, I was getting much closer to the sound I was looking for. The most significant tube effect seemed to be the Tungsol 6x4 rectifier in the pre (I tried a Sylvania and GE 6x4, as well as the CV 4005 that came with it.) It opened up the sound, improving the texutre and separation of instruments. I will play with some other 6x4s. I'm intrigued by how much difference the rectifier tube makes and am interested in trying others.

As for changes in the TAD, once I added the MiniMax my preference quickly shifted to triode mode. I replaced the stock JJ 12au7s with Mullard 12au7s and they made an improvement in relaxing the sound, provided more focus and imaging. However, the change that got me closest to where I wanted to be (and is where I am now) was putting in Brimar 12au7s 13D5s and replacing the stock 12ax7s (first with groove tube, then with Brimar). The biggest difference came with the Brimar 12au7s. Amazing tubes! They tame the sound, giving me a much better perspective of where I was sitting in the audience. They image the instruments beautifully, locking in the instrument placement, giving a realistic focus to instruments. They layer the instrumental sounds, providing a depth to the music without losing any detail. Harmonics are gorgeous, timbral quality seems accurate, with a much better sense of material texture of the instrument (the wood of stringed instruments, the play of metal strings and wood of the piano, etc.). Sustains linger clearly, floating away into silence. The Groove Tubes and Brimar 12ax7s relaxed the sound even more (however, what I'm calling "relaxed" does not mean that the attack of instruments is diminished or muted) - putting me a little more distance from the performance. I generally prefer the Brimar to the GT, mostly harmonics and tonality but also a little more restraint. I have also swapped the Brimar ax with Brimar au and it reduces the gain to make an even less strident sound. I'm not settled on which I prefer.

I also briefly replaced the Svetlana EL34s with the GT KT77s. I haven't given them enough time but after 4 hours the sound was still too pinched. There isn't the transparent layering, separation and depth of sound. The tonal signature seems similar to the EL34s. I've gone back to the Svetlanas but will try the GTs again and give them more time to break in.

I appreciate all the help and information people have given.
After receiving my Linestage 2A SE preamp from Dr. Lloyd Peppard ( I am finally jumping off of the audio merry-go-round. This preamp uses octal-based tubes, has a separate power supply, is wired point-to-point, and you can specify a different gain for each input (up to three, if you wish), plus two outputs. Its sound is amazing and puts me into the music with ease and comfort, without fear of wondering if I'm missing any of the music on either end of the frequency spectrum. And the mids are THERE. All of this for only $650 new! A precious gemstone in audio gear for the price of costume jewelry. Dyn-o-mite!

Great thread! I just received my TAD60 last week and I am not using a preamp. I only use a CD player and have debated getting a preamp. I think the sound is very good by itself but it seems a little unrefined (as you have pointed out). I have just started to tube roll and I am surprised by how substantial the changes can be. I take it from your comments that a preamp is a must to take this amp to another level. I look forward to seeing how you do.

Rockadanny - Don't take this the wrong way but do you work for mapletreeaudio? Your comments come aross as a sales pitch.



I really love the TAD-60. I fit it into a pretty "analytical" system (Cary CDP, Placette passive pre, Gallos 3.1 speakers). It did a great job of improving detail while reducing the edginess of the sound and giving that tube depth to the sound. Given my system, however, it took more than just the intro of the TAD. The addition of a tube pre really pushed things in the direction I wanted (harmonics, detail, soundstage, imaging). I had been looking for some time for a TAD-150 but couldn't get one used. The minimax is a good combo for me because it adds a 'tad' bit of warmth to the TAD-60 overall sonic signature (along with the other qualities mentioned above).

I do recommend rolling the input tubes. I have heard less improvement (perhaps no less difference) by rolling the output tubes. I think Paul chose wisely with the Svetlanas.

No prob. No, I am not affiliated with Mapletree Audio in any way. I am just so danged impressed with the quality of my preamp from Dr. Peppard that I could spit! And only $650 new!? Actually, mine was $675 because a slight upgrade to another part. I asked the Dr. why his preamp was so good for such a relatively affordable price, and why so many preamps out there are so much larger, complicated, and more expensive? He replied (paraphrased), "You just have to use the best tubes (12SN7) operated at the correct operating points, simple circuitry, high quality passive components (Black Gates and Auricaps, precision resistors), and short wire lengths. Advertising is very expensive, as is custom chassis, knobs, fancy connectors, etc., and have no effect on the sound." Makes perfect sense to me.