Preamp Input for Coincident system - Don Sachs, deHavilland, LTA, Joule Electra?


Hi all, I'm looking to spend around 2k on a pre-amp (either new or used) to pair with my Coincident PREs (currently using their Frankenstein mono-blocks as amps; input impedance of 100kOhms). 

I'm looking for something very natural sounding, with good body, some warmth, and -importantly- it must have a remote.  The PREs are very sensitive up on top, so I need clean highs. 

I've been reading a lot of threads and have a few contenders.  Am hoping to solicit some input from anyone who might have compared the following (with PROs / CONs listed):

1.  Don Sachs SP14 - good reviews, available in budget new / long wait to get a unit
2.  LTA MZ2 - some awesome reviews, available with 10-day trial period / some "meh" revies, perhaps a bit of a "clean" sound?
3.  deHavilland  UltraVerve 3 - good reviews mentioning the "relaxing" nature - a good key word for me / new it is out of budget at 3k
4. Joule Electra LA-150 MKII - in budget used, reviews mention strengths in "tone" & "texture" - highly desirable for me / a fairly old product  

Other things to note... 

I'm currently running a PS Audio PW DAC directly to my amps and listen to all types of music; perhaps currently tilted towards "modern" music with electronica and indie influences.  I stream Tidal via ethernet via PS Audio's Bridge II card in the dac.  

While I'm sure others will criticize the DAC, I really like the PWD and it has compared favorably to both a DirectStream (the music became less natural and more analytical) and Lyngdorf TDAI 3400 (the music was very smooth, but slightly less natural with a less well delineated soundstage). 

Unfortunately, the PWD has a bad volume control (throwing away bits at under 50% volume) and the new PREs really show that distortion off.  As such, I don't like listening at low volumes... hence the desire to add a pre-amp. 

Also, obviously I'd love to get Coincident's 101D pre-amp, but I need the remote, so it doesn't work for me.  I tracked the remote version for a long time and was hoping to save up money to purchase, but apparently it was plagued by technical difficulties and often needed service (presumably that's the reason Isreal discontinued it). 

Appreciate any input.

- Chris
cal3713
I also own Frankensteins, along with the 101D preamp that you mentioned, the Coincident Statement Line Stage. I used to own the Joule Electra LA-150MKII. The Joule is a nice preamp and it might be a match with your listening preferences, given what you said about the PWD versus the Directstream dac. I really liked the Joule’s nicely textured bass, and its midrange presentation is more like the PWD, as you have described it. The Joule sounds like it has less inner detail than the CSLS, though; it is not as "lit up".

I just purchased The Truth preamp made by the Horneshoppe. It is excellent. Have you considered it? It sounds great with the Franks. I got a new one with a remote, 4 inputs, and 2 outputs for under $1500. It might be my "end game" preamp.
The ultraververve 3 is $2500 without remote. 
@thaluza Thanks for the suggestion, that's exactly why I made the thread. I will investigate...


& @mboldda1 Unfortunately I absolutely must have the remote. I've been trained by a lifetime of whimsical volume adjustment...
contact them and make a reasonable offer.
+1 on the TRUTH.It replaced my Coincident Statement line stage,now available with dual power supplies and comes with remote.Ed will tailor it to your needs.Stoopid good for the price.You're certainly welcome to pm me if you need to discuss further.
I didn't know about the Truth but it's now high on my radar along with Sachs.  The other two I was considering if you can find them used were the Backert Rhumba 1.2 or Atmasphere SP3 if you still want tubes and don't want to wait for the Sachs. Best of luck. 
I had been a dealer for both the Joule Electra and the deHavilland. The Ultraverve is so much better. You can use it with the finest gear, speakers, amplifiers etc. and feel confident you are listening  to the music as good as it can sound. I have posted some comments from my room at the RMAF with the deHavilland pre and amplifier. 

“Though I've heard the Wilson-Benesch Curve floorstanders many times before, I found that they sounded spectacularly good as driven by Kara Chaffee's amazing deHavilland tube electronics . Nothing I heard at RMAF, save perhaps for the far more expensive Vandersteen/ARC system, could touch this rig for sheer midrange purity, detail, three-dimensionality ." Chris Martens TAS on the 2009 show.

“I've always wanted to audition deHavilland Electric Amplifier Company's products. I was fortunate enough to do so at the show, with the very cordial assistance of Kara Chaffee, deHavilland's designer/owner. I went back to this room about half a dozen times. Kara probably thought that I was stalking her. Truth be told, I couldn't get enough of the sound of her Mercury III remote line stage and Model 50A, 40 watt Triode monoblocks driving a stunning pair of Wilson Benesch Curves. Their were far, far more expensive rooms at the show, off the chart expensive compared to deHavilland's very reasonably prices, yet none of them produced sound so sweet. Kara was available throughout to answer my dumb questions, and spin every special request. I wish that my picture would have captured the subtle beauty of this system. It doesn't get any better than this.” Ed Becker from hometheaterhifi.com.
“Kara Chaffee of deHavilland Electric Amplifier Company demonstrated her relatively new KE 50A Signature monoblock amplifiers ($10,800 per pair) with her Mercury preamp, ($4,495) the $12,140/pr Wilson Benesch Curve 2.5-way floorstanders and Kubal-Sosna Research cables. Musicality reigned supreme here with the speakers completely disappearing in an expansive soundstage.” Steve March from 6moons.com.

Best Sound: “Honorable mentions include systems from: Wilson-Benesch/deHavilland.” Chris Martens from TAS
The Best Room At The Show
deHavilland/Kubala-Sosna/Esoteric/Sounds Real room. "Oddly enough, I believe last year, this room was my runner up. The sound was largely how I remember, but even better. I have my reasons for voting this room "the best" and here they are. It played music for me. Its presentation was very big and wide and spacious, yet intimate. It was as if the music was being played just for me. The timing and pace were right on as was the instrument and vocal definition. No, I don't think this system could fool you into believing that an entire orchestra was right in front of you, but then I didn't hear a single system at the show that could. The front-to-back and side-to-side special cues were intoxicating. At the core of the system are the deHavilland KE-50A monoblocks, which were driving Wilson Benesch Curves. The CD player was an Esoteric X-03SE and the preamp was a deHavilland Mercury III with all cables by Kubala-Sosna (which is new to me). The sound was so damn good I told Kara that if they had a turntable there, it might just push me over the edge. Seriously, as amazing as this system sounded, I wonder what level a solid analog front end would take it to. Here's the icing on the cake for the whole deal - the entire system's cost: $50k. $50k! A lot of dough? Yes. Yet for "Best of Show" at an audiophile event - 50 grand is nothing. Kudos to Kara Chaffee and company for setting up an amazing system with amazing components. The system just shined."
Thad Aerts from The Hi-Fi reader
I like the deHavilland amps more every time I hear them. The smaller room seemed suited more to the Wilson Benesch Curves with the amps; last year this combo seemed lost in the room. Not this time; it was intimate and powerful. The 50A Signature Mono Amps and Mercury III Remote Line Preamp sang an enchanting song together. Previously I had felt the need for the Curves to be powered by bigger amps, but the deHavillands are challenging that conclusion. They startled me with their fortitude, as well as their golden toned dialect spoken through the Curves.

This was a room that I found myself returning to more than once when my ears were tired of all the noise. This is certainly not a cheap system, but it sounded better than some systems that cost three times as much. Most importantly, it was a system that allowed you to really enjoy music. The deHavilland room had almost the same system as last year, but in a different room. The big difference is that, this year the sound was perfectly beautiful. An Esoteric X-03SE CD player into the a deHavilland Mercury III Linestage was providing the signal to a pair of the deHavilland 50A Signature mono amps which was powering a pair of Wilson Benesch’s Curves, all the cables were by Kubala-Sosna.  
"deHavilland Electonics with Wilson Bensch speakers, the room we revisited most. Sound to die for." John Zurek from positive-feedback.com
As you're open to used, what about one of the Backert Labs models?  They have remotes.
Thanks again for the input folks.  A few responses:

1)  Lots of positive things about The Truth.  Given some of the similarities between my system and folks using that pre-amp (and that I have plenty of gain and am currently going direct from DAC), this might be ideal.  I just reached out to the manufacturer to find out cost and time.  Nice that it would be the cheapest option as well.

2)  I was looking into the Backert models... but did see them get beat out in a few competitions by the other models listed above.  Unfortunately no used units available at this time, although I'm not against waiting around and shopping (although I am motivated to move given that I can't fully enjoy low volume listening with my current setup).

3)  Thanks for all the positive information on the deHavilland units.  Perhaps that's enough to push it into the lead if The Truth doesn't work out or if I don't decide to order it.

Chris, where are you at? I've got both the Dehavilland and Don Sachs. I'm in Sacramento if you want to audition.

~Tom


@4hannons Really appreciate the offer... unfortunately on the wrong side of the Rockies in Denver.

@thaluza & @markwatkiss Just put in an order for The Truth.  Dual power supplies, 3 inputs, & "new" photo cells = $1050.  Added a remote ($300) & the upgraded wire options (1 OCC silver & 2 OCC copper; $150).  $1500 total with a 3-4 week wait.  Money back guarantee "if not shocked" and "the warranty is 1010 years (990 longer than Bryston!)."  Given all the positive feedback, the no-risk demo, and the fact that that's cheaper than all other considered options, it seemed like a good place to start...

I'll report back, although of course my only comparison at this point will be the PWD direct.  Thanks for your thoughts.
Hi Chris,
Your short list of preamplifier candidates is a good one particularly the DeHavilland. The Atmasphere MP-3 is also very good. I must say though that the Horneshoppe Truth may be the way to go. I am an extremely happy owner of the Coincident Statement Line Stage (CLS) x 9 years.

According to all that I’ve read including Arthur Salvatore the Truth is as superb if not better! That’s high praise given the excellence of the CLS. I just love my CLS and Frankenstein pairing and won’t change it.

If I were however in your situation I’d give the Truth Line Stage major consideration. Savatore said it’s a fantastic match with the Frankenstein. He believes that the Truth can’t be beaten by other Line Stages..
Charles
Chris,
I see your posted just prior to mine above 😊. I believe that you made a very wise choice and agree with your chosen upgrades. I look forward to your listening impressions when mated to the sublime Frankenstein. 
Charles 
Thanks Charles, I'm looking forward to the listening impressions as well! It's been a long journey getting my PREs up and running and it's really nice to be finally getting there. Hopefully the preamp will put me in a place where I'm just tweaking the system to take it from great to even better.
Chris,
You have had highly regarded components in your system recently (Atma-sphere amps and Lyngdorf) which have served the purpose of expanding your data sample base and point of reference . Adding the Truth Line Stage to the PRE/Franks signal chain will IMO cement your system in an uppermost tier in terms of purity  and natural sound quality. I believe that the level of sonic/musical realism will be exceptionally convincing in your system post appropriate burn-in and fine tuning  I believe the diminished level of electronic sonic artifacts will be 'very' apparent with your chosen components. 
Charles
4hannons,
Hi,
I have the Sachs preamp in my Florida winter system....but have always been curious about deHavillland preamps. Can you describe the differences in sonics?
Thanks
@lula & @4hannons I would love to hear about that comparison too...

I've written about the differences at various times on this forum. The most complete description is found here

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/don-sachs-2-vs-dehavilland-ultraverve-3/post?postid=1567289#1...

and here

 https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/need-tube-preamp-recommendations-please