Review: Audio by Van Alstine Omega III EC Tube preamp
I have been an avid audio fan since I was just a teenager. Once I finished college, I always promised myself that I would get a great audio system. I hadn't been associated with the audio scene for a few years, so I had to do a lot of listening and a lot of research on different companies. My continued search led me to Audio by Van Alstine. What originally caught my attention was their selection of pre-amps which appeared to be a great combination of features and performance. I listen to a broad range of music mainly consisting of rock/pop, country, and some jazz but nothing terribly complex. However, during my auditions many pre-amps had a tendency to mask or color the music. Some components sounded dead and lifeless while others would mask the imaging all together (and some of them weren't cheap). I found this to be most evident with passive pre-amps. In the correct set-up, they sound great, but they are not user friendly and tend to be very cable sensitive.
I purchased the AVA pre-amp almost a year ago on Audiogon, and I couldn't be more pleased. At the time, I was using an integrated amplifier. I bypassed the pre-amp section with the AVA and started to listed. I was really quite shocked at the difference. My system opened up in ways I never thought possible. I found myself re-discovering my entire music collection. The definite strengths of the AVA are clarity and definition. It never gets in the way of the music and allows the source material to drive the outcome, especially with CD's. It is so clear that depending on the recording, it may exhibit some bright tones, but this is often the case with Solid State components. However, this trait is never overbearing.
This is an excellent component, especially for the price. I have enjoyed my experience with it so much that I have filled out my system with AVA components. I'm sure there are better pre-amps on the market including ones manufactured by AVA. However, I would have no hesitations about chosing this component again in the complicated world of pre-amplifiers.
AVA Omegastar 400 Amplifier
AVA TOPP Fet-Valve DAC
Conrad Johnson, McCormack, McIntosh, BAT