Review: Audio Experience Music MK3 Tube preamp

Category: Preamps

There comes a time when you have to say "Are tubes really the way to go for me?" I am a very eclectic listener and listen to most forms of music. For the purposes of this test, I used Salif Keita's newest album "Moffou" and The Eagles "When Hell Freezes Over".

When I listen to music, I listen for a warm sound that puts me at a performance or in the studio. I like to hear great soundstaging and fatigue-free listening. The thing that is most unpleasant to me is when a system is overly accurate and does not sound natural. Since I work as one of the directors of a fairly large performing arts center in New York, I see live performances every week and try to recreate that experience at home in my audio gear.

I have had the MK3 tube amp for a little over a month. It replaced a solid state Cambridge Audio C500 that was already very neutral and a good buy for the money. I was on one of my late night audiogon prowls when I noticed this little pre-amp that was being sold by a company in Hong Kong. The retail list was $720 but it was being sold for half the price with shipping included. Since I already had a curiosity for tube gear, this seemed like a low risk entry level unit. After verifying that this was a legitimate entity, I ordered a unit.

The package arrived a few weeks later and I was excited about what I was about to hear. I heard nothing. Two of the tubes had arrived damaged via the gentle hands of my local post office. After contacting the seller and explaining the situation, he agreed to send me replacement tubes for the unit. The suspense was mounting and I was anxious to hear my new "tube" preamp.

When I returned from my vaction, the tubes were there smiling at me in my mailbox. I was not prepared for what I was about to experience. I fired up the MK3 and low and behold there was music. There was sweet, warm, and realistic (that's right)sounding music coming out of my speakers. The soundstage just jumped out at me and the separation was good enough for me to picture where all the boys from the Eagle's live performance were standing. From what I can tell,the build quality is very good and I am very happy so far with this unit.


Good Soundstage
Good Build
Resposible company
Good Separation
Looks good


No Balance

This is a great starter for someone who wants to get that tube sound at a budget price. Of course you can buy a better product, but for the money, it is a great unit.

Associated gear
Audio Refinement Multi 2, Dual CS 5000 turntable, Audio Refinement Complete CD, Margules Audio CD Enhancer, NAD phono preamp, Platinum Audio Solos, Harmonic Technologies interconnects and speaker cable

Similar products
Jolida, Antique Sound Labs, Philadelphia Audio
This was my first "real" preamp a few months ago. After thinking I needed to spend googles of money on a new preamp, I kept going back to the MK3. I've lent it to friends and everyone returns it going "You paid HOW much for this?" It's worth twice what you pay for it and is truly a great piece of hardware.

I modified mine by re-spraying the front plate and I think it looks a little nicer, my only complaints were the manuals translation and some of that spilled on to the lettering on the front plate. Mine was an "Audio Eexperience" preamp. (The two "e's" were typed intentionally.) The first thing you should upgrade is the 12AX7s to the EH tubes, and I got a Phillips 5Y3. All the difference....
I bought the Symphonies, which is step up, last fall. It worked when I used it for a cheap sony amp I had. Then I upgraded to a classe ca-100 and the classe kept going into protection mode. When I took it to a local tube expert he advised these pre-amps leak dc current which many ss amps to not like. THe only solution was to remove 2 caps, but this reduced low frequencies. Wound up trading it in. It was ok when it worked. For tube amps check with Albert at Space-Tech in Vancouver. I am lucky I live there. I have his speakers and he is currently building me a pre-amp. His gear 'smokes' a lot of high end stuff at a fraction of cost. He makes everthing -speakers,tube pre and power amps, DACs; crossovers. Having demoed a number of his products I unfortunately recommend even his entry level pres over the Y-S. Y-S is OK product - their services and shipping are excellent. But for the money you are missing out
Alfredel, Maybe going off the subject, how do you like the NAD phono preamp?
I got one of these off EBay for a couple hundred. I upgraded the tubes and used it for a coupe years with different amps. I liked it a lot for similar reasons as the other reviewer. It did run hot which was an issue in HI, the exposed tubes were an issue for the kids when they visited and it scared my wife to use,turn on etc. I eventually stopped using it cuz she would not turn the stereo on which wasn't it went into a closet to be replaced by a Luminous Audio Axxiom and an Acurus RL11. While those both work fine there is lost magic. I also tried a borrowed CJ PV6 which was OK though overly warm. It however blew something...I would recommend pres from ys/Audio Experience as units to consider.