Preamp: Mcintosh vs Modwright?

I asked this on the Bryston board over at Audio Circle and was hoping that some of you Agoners may provide some help.

I am looking for a tube pre to go with my 14b (speakers are OB1's) and am looking at either a
Modwright SWL 9.0SE or a Mcintosh C220.
This would be moving my Musical Fidelity CD-Pre24 to handle just cd playback and no preamp duties.

Feature wise, the Mac is more than I will use (no turntable in my system), where as the Mod, being
only a linestage will probably be enough to handle any future components.

Has anyone had the chance to compare these two pre's with a Bryston amp?

If I go for the Modwright, I would get it with the SWL Tube Recificatication Upgrade.
Cost wise, this would make about $3000 for a new SWL vs $3300 for a new C220.
I realize on the used market (Agon), the Mac may command a slightly higher resale price than the Mod.

Any opinions would be greatly appreciated.
I can't compare the Mac to the Modwright since I never heard it with my system,...but I use a Modwright (tube rectified) with my Bryston 3bst. I think they work well together. I prefer an Amperex bugle boy to the stock Sovtek gz34 rectifier. The modwright is not the super sweet tubey sound that some preamps have, but it does take the glare off the Bryston and allows you the full impact of the solid Bryston bass. I bought mine at Underwood (via Agon=good price-worth checking them out). Hope this helps you a little.
Hey Machman,

That seems to echo what I have heard about the Mod and may explain why you often see listings for used ones here.
I am guessing from guys who thought that they were going to
get more of a syrupy tube sound?
As a matter of fact, I got my CD-Pre from Wally a couple of
years ago, very good guy.

The current issue of The Inner Ear just reviewed the SWL 9.0 (non-tube PS) and they thought in worked very well with the new 28B that they also reviewed.

With that said, it usually means more to hear what a real world user thinks.

Thanks, much appreciated.
i am currently auditioning the mac c 220 and i did audition the modwright preamp. i did not have a bryston amp.

i prefer the c 220. it has more of a tube caharacter, while the modwright did not sound like a tube design.
I really like the Modwright. I just sold it because I wanted to get his new one with the phono stage. While it's true the 9.0SE isn't too tubish, the new tube rectification upgrade does push it that direction. The Modwright ads seemed to have tapered off since the tube rectification option was made available.
IMHO, you can't go wrong with the Modwright. I like knowing that as they find better options, they always offer a path to upgrade.
Thanks Mrtennis,

That jives with what I have read.
From what I understand, the new optional tubed power supply adds a little more tube sound to the unit.
Was the one you listened to equipped with the standard ss supply?
Did you get a chance to compare the c 220 to the c2200?

Hey Jam,

I take it that you have the new SWLP 9.0SE in your system now?
A side from the phono section, it sounds like you like the addition of the tube PS in your new unit?
What amplifier are you using in your system?

Ya, I really like Dan's approach and he is very accessible. He has already answered a few questions that I emailed him on and his responses have been very prompt and clear.

A few weeks ago there were several nice sounding ads, but not much right now. What price did you end up selling your SWL for?

I am guessing next month when the new LS 36.5 is released there may be a few more SWLs for sale with guys wanting to upgrade... or does nobody upgrade in this hobby.

Yes, I do have the SWLP now. I was able to compare them directly while I had both. The tube supply really is worth it. My only slight criticism of the SWL is it could sound clinical at times. It was paired with Channel Islands D200's, which I still use. They are pretty revealing amps. I was OK with that because I like being able to hear into the music and I enjoy hearing the details. The SWLP adds a touch of warmth. The bass is deeper and more articulate. Instruments and vocal tonality a little fuller and better defined. The soundstage front to back also improved a lot. Some recordings you could swear you're listening to a surround system.
I sold the preamp at my asking price of $1400. There was a lot of interest. It was lower than some because of a nick I put in it with my VPI ring. But it had just come from Modwright where Dan had replaced my Dact attenuator with the stock and thoroughly checked and replaced tubes.
From your description, I think the SWL with the tube supply is just what I am after, providing I get a simular result with my Bryston.
Machman seems to have gotten that with his 3B.

I just emailed the one and only SWL seller to get a little more info on his unit.
His ad mentions that he had Dan add a set of balanced outputs and he is asking more than you did.
Have you seen that ad, what do you think?

His has been for sale for 17 days with over a 1000 views... hmm.
Maybe it is an old/early model, serial# 005515SE and he is getting less interest?
hi hpower:

i had the modwright pre with the ss supply. i would still be surprised if anything modwright does has a very tubey character. his approach is linearity. keep in mind the advantage of the mac is the tone controls. a feature offering a benefit to many
I may be wrong, but I doubt if it's truly a balanced output. Dan would answer that, but I thought a balanced output would be a significant change in design. Aside from that, it's a newer version or an upgraded older version because of the mute modification. There was also a price war about a month ago and I saw a couple advertised for $1300. Maybe people waiting. Or it may be sold and he didn't update the ad.
Anyway.. good luck

I think you are right in that the tube power supply does not transform the SWL into and older Conrad Johnson but from what I have read it should lean to "slightly" warmer sound with a little more weight and impact.
The Mac does offer a lot more bonus features like the tone controls but I wonder if I would be paying a premium for features that I would not use, most notably the phono section.
I have noticed a C220 listed here and it is located only 90 minutes away, I think he is asking $2499.


I asked Dan about this particular unit and he said it in fact it has an extra set of single ended outputs added, wire to XLR plugs. definitely not a true balance output.
The seller also got back to me and he said that he purchased it about 10 months ago and recently had Dan add the "balanced output".
He has a sale pending, the buyer is suppose to be sending him a cheque and is expecting it to show up in the first of the week.
The rectifier doesn't at all make it sound like a Conrad Johnson. I had a CJ 17LS that the Modwright replaced. That preamp had a nice seductive sound but I was amazed at how much detail was glossed over after hearing the Modwright. You're right that it's still not a CJ.
Personally, I've never felt a need for tone controls. I also had Dan put in a Dact attenuator and gave up the remote control volume for a bit more resolution.
The rectifier tube type makes a difference too. I just replaced mine with a new Mullard Blackburn Dual Getter and it's totally great.
I had my SWL upgraded to the SWLP. The SWLP has the outboard tube rectified PS, all new Modwright Caps and the phono stage with it's 6C45 and 6N1P tubes. The linestage section uses the same 5687 tubes as the SWL.
My SWL was in the rack for 14 months or so and I enjoyed it immensely. I felt its strongest attributes were its quietness, it's detail and its dynamics - especially its dynamics. I would not say it was at all tubey. It was neutral/linear. I would also say it was never harsh or too detailed.
I upgraded to get the outboard tubed PSU because I wanted an even darker background silence and I want a phono pre to add vinyl to the mix in the near future.
The SWLP showed up about a month ago and it's been burned in for about 250 hours now.
All I can say is that this is no SWL. The improvements in sound stage width and depth, warmth, detail - top and bottom - and over all musicality are tremendous.
The SS is more holographic, images are a bit more diffuse but still solid. The background is absolutely black and detail is just everywhere in the music. The SWL's dynamics are still there. The bass is SWL-like but sounds to me to be a bit deeper and more subtle/refined than with the SWL.

My SWL had the DACT attenuator and a blackgate smoothing cap in the PSU. These were swapped into the SWLP. The rest of the chain consists of a BAT VK600SE and Andra II speakers. I have been swapping in three different CDPs - a Modwright Sony 9100es with its tubed PSU, a Stage 2 JD100a and a Parts Connexion Ultimate Denon 3910. No TT yet so no info on the phono stage. Someday...

I had been going back and forth with the SWL and a First Sound Presence Deluxe II until the SWLP arrived but it's been SWLP full time since.
The FS is a fantastic pre but the SWLP is just more sweetly musical. There is just more "magic" with it than with the FS. The detail seems to be the same between the two. Channel separation seems to be the same and they are both absolutely dead quiet. The FS is just one step - or a few? - more clinical than the SWLP.

I think The SWLP strikes a very nice balance between warmth and accuracy. The music is all there - top to bottom - and it's got that big, non fatiguing sound too. I love it.
Colopilot, you sound like a very happy customer.
I am excited to hear what both you and Jamnperry have had to say.

As far as you guys know, are the SWLP and SWL Signature exactly the same except for the phono section and the separate box for the power supply?
Conversely, would a SWL with the tube rectified PS update be exactly the same as the Signature.

Hi Hpower,

I am not sure what Modwright calls the "Signature" SWL, could it just be the added tubed PSU?

The SWLP has the outboard tubed PSU PLUS the MWI capacitors.
I think the line stage circuit is the same as the SWL otherwise.

I would think the new caps would have a sizable effect on the SWLPs sound but I haven't heard an SWL with a tubed PSU. I've only heard my SWL, Modwright's demo SWLP and my SWLP.

From what I have read of the upgraded SWL and what I have heard with the SWLP they both have improvements in the same areas but I suspect the SWLP with its new caps sounds more refined and more detailed. How do I know this if I haven't heard them ABed?

Well... ;-)

It seems to me that no one has expressed the kind of "wow" with their upgraded SWL that I have with the SWLP.

The difference between the SWL and the SWLP is so much greater than I expected. The improvement is not incremental at all. It still has its SWL nature but, to me, it sounds like a whole new preamp. The upgraded SWL folks all comment on it's improved "tubeyness" but I haven't read anything referring to the huge improvements I have experienced with the SWLP.

It might be I am only hearing the tube rectifier and not the MWI caps plus the tube PSU but I can't say for sure.

Has anyone heard both?
May not be exactly the same. Dan is using newer caps he had specially made for him, I believe. They wouldn't be in the older SWL's, but if you're sending a SWL to have the tube stage upgrade, I think he could change the caps too.
I'm pretty sure he's using the new caps in the SWL's now, which would mean that yes, the linestage is the same in the SWLP and the SWL. Probably a good idea to contact him to get a definite answer to your question though.
I totally agree with Colopilot and his observations. Ours are also almost exactly the same too, with Dact and blackgates.
Jam / Pilot

I have responded to this new ad:

It reads excactly like what I was hoping to come up with, a "Signature Edition".

But after doing a little digging I discover (based on running the S/N by Dan) that in fact it has a built date from 2 years ago and is one of the first 50 "Special Editions" made.
I don't think the seller was aware of this until I told him.

I then spoke to the dealer that sold the unit to my Agon seller and he tells me that it was sold as new a few months ago and that he has had it for about 8 months previous to that.
He said that Dan sold it to him (aprox. 10 months ago) as one of the 1st SWL's that he fitted the tube rectified PS with. The dealer mentioned tha it was played as a demo in the store, with a lot of people inquiring if Dan was going to offer this PS version as a production model. As they say, "the rest is history".

I was already to jump on this one based on the ad but, to me, the unit really isn't how I originally interperated the sellers ad.

What do you guys think?
If it's current with the latest SWL 9.0 parts and design, then what's the problem?
Being what is basically a prototype power supply makes me wonder how much Dan improved upon it before he was satisfied enough to offer this as a production model.
It's not like Dan never does any tweaking to get to where he is going.

I think the ad was a little misleading, although I don't think the seller did so on purpose.
If I were you, I'd check with Dan Wright about the status of the power supply as it compares with the production model. If his explanation does not satisfy you, then I'd suggest moving on. What can any of us possibly add to assuage your concerns beyond what the manufacturer can tell you?
I just heard from the seller and he has excepted an offer so it looks like I will be moving on.
The search goes on.
I don't know exactly what changed from the first run of 50 to the next production. I know there was a muting circuit change, and a layout change probably to ease the assembly. Aside from that, I don't know of any differences that would affect the sound until the introduction of the new caps recently. Dan would know of course.
These were not the prototypes, though. The prototypes were the 2 box beta models. There is one here which you've no doubt seen.