Review: Audio Note M5 PreAmp


Category: Preamps

Wow! Wow! WOW!!! I can’t believe what a huge improvement putting the Audio Note M5 preamp into my system made. To be honest I have been a stubborn defendant of the “No preamp is the best preamp” and have tried fine preamps from Kora, Audio Research, Joule-Elecrtra and others and always went back to no preamp. I don’t know if it’s because of the M5 being transformer coupled or what but this has been a glorious revelation. Here’s how it sounds at my house.

First and most noticeable difference is scale. Vocalist and instruments seem to take on a near lifelike size. The M5 gives you instruments in a full range of tonality. Vocal music has a rich tonality and at the same time a almost effortless quickness that just pulls me into the music.

Then there is the detail. I heard things on Ricky Lee Jones, “Pop, Pop” and on Belefonte’s Carnage Hall that I have never heard. And all this detail without a trace of analytical or sterility. This is a preamp that lets all the details of live music and all the bold colors of live music come through at the same time.

And I have never had such dynamics in a home system and that includes micro dynamics. The transients are quick without sounding electronic or digital. This let me here instrument and vocal overtones, ambience, and spatial qualities I have never heard before.

All of this results in a wide and deep stage but more important a layered stage where you feel like you can reach out and touch instruments that are right behind or in front of each other.

The M5 moved my system to being more tonally correct both with simple and complex music, more vivid and much more musically involving.

System: Speakers Gerhman Avant Guards
Amps: Kora Reference 100 watt class A triode mono amps
Source: Modified Sony 777 ES
Power: by Ensemble and Shunyata,
jack_n_roberts
How much does this M5 run?

KF
that's exactly the problem... it costs more than most cars...
I thought so, heh heh heh heh...

Though it probably does not cost as much as a BMW M5 :-)

KF
It cost $7500.00.
Your speculation about the transformer-coupling being the differnce is interesting. You don't mention your interconnects, but I wonder if there could be some sort of subtle noise or ground problem present in your system normally, which is alleviated with the tranny inserted in the loop. Is it at the inputs, outputs, or both? As a side note, I believe I remember seeing a new brand of 'preamp' being advertised on A'gon a few months back, which was, if I am recalling correctly, basically just an input selector with transformer coupling and attenuation, but I can't think of the name (it had a fancy wooden case, though). Have you ever tried Rowland in your system (also transformer-coupled)?
I have never tried Rowland at home. I know it's a great product from listening at a friends. I use Valhalla interconnects and speaker wire. I also failed to mention I am listening to it in the balanced mode. It and to Kora are truly balanced.
ooops.. you're right jack. $7.5K, I was thinking of a Level 5 preamp by audionote (which is actually the M8, and that one does cost around $35K)...
Zaikesamn:

"As a side note, I believe I remember seeing a new
brand of 'preamp' being advertised on A'gon a few months back, which was, if I am recalling correctly, basically just an input selector with transformer coupling and attenuation, but I can't think of the name (it had a fancy wooden
case, though).

I think you might have been referring to the Silver Rock passive preamps: http://www.audio-consulting.ch/sr_pot.htm

Regards,

Larry ("NJaudio")
Appreciate the tip Larry, but that's not the one. From what I can recall, it was probably made in Japan, and the casework looked quite a bit more luxurious, with lots of curves. Thanks for the URL though. I'll have to try and peruse some reviews of this type of attenuator.