Review: Dolan PM 1 Preamplifier

Category: Preamps

Not much is known about this high end preamplifier produced from 1988 to 1990. At its opening price of $2,395.00, was far from entry level at that time. And it is my hope that some of the Audiogon membership can fill in the gaps here.

From what I have been able to find out is that the brass face plate, which was an extra cost option, only about 15 were done and the rest had the black aluminum face plate. Also there were two versions, although the circuit design remained the same, just better parts in the later units. I am not sure if this is an early or late model PM 1.

The unit is above average in build quality, but not quite as robust as Threshold, Krell or Levinson, but certainly on par with Classe,Sima and Bryston. Unit uses Alps volume and balance controls and the input selectors appear to be Alps units as well. Torodial transformer that is well shielded and above average RCA jacks on the back.

The front panel from left to right consists of Power on/off switch, Mute on/off switch, Stepped balance control,Stepped volume control, Mode/stereo/mono, Monitor/source/tape, Input Selector Aux,CD,Phono,Tuner, Cartridge Load from 10 ohm to 47k ohm, Capacitance switch 390/0/150. All front panel controls have a solid feel and action that one would expect at its price level.

Back panel from left to right is Ground Post,Phono Inputs,3 postion cartridge gain setting for low,medium and high. RCA inputs for Tuner,CD,Aux and tape in/out and one set of pre outs and the power cord. Although the power cord is of fixed variety and is very simple 16 gauge universal two wire variety. My only real fault with this is the very pedesterian fixed power cord. Not befitting a preamplifier of this quality and price level.

Dimensions are EIA standard 19 inch across face plate,stands 3 inches tall including the feet and has a depth of 10 1/2 inches including the front knobs and rear RCA jacks.

As far as exact specifications on this unit, I can find none at this point. but will keep looking and report later.

It should be noted that the strong point of this preamp is its phono section, of which I find little to fault. Literally any phono cartridge will mate well with the PM 1 and sound damn fine in doing so, do to its infinite gain and loading capabilites. Well thoughtout with the loading of the cartridge handled on front panel and gain setting on back panel. In my opinion an analog users dream come true. And whats more amazing the phono section is graveyard quiet. Any cartridge connected to it will have its own signature, not a siganture from the Dolan PM 1. So for once you really get to hear the differences between phono cartridges.

It also appears that attention was paid to the CD input as well. What was done here, I am not sure about, but the CD Player I was using the Onix XCD 88 has never sounded better and more analog than when it is connected to the Dolan. One of a handful of preamps that can make a CD player sound like analog. Big surprise to me there. Which means one does not have to spend mega bucks on a CD Player to get the signature you want. On that the Dolan PM 1 handles that nicely for you.

Nothing to special to report on the Aux or tape inputs,fairly much standard fare there. But they are quiet in their execution.

Listed Below are several LPs and CDs used in this evaluation:


Bob James - Hands Down (Columbia FC 38067)
Hiroshima - Self Titled - (Arista MFSL1-525)
John Coltrane - Blue Train - (Blue Note BST 81577)
Wes Montgomery - Bumpin' - (Verve V6-8625)
Rickie Lee Jones - Self Titled - (Warner BSK 3296)
Wynton Marsalis - Live Blues Alley - (Columbia PC2-40675)
Eric Gale - Forecast - (KUDU Records KU 11)(CTI Records)
Kenny Burrell & Grover Washington Jr - (Blue Note BT 85106)
Earl Klugh - Finger Painting - (Blue Note MFSL 1-025)
Larry Carlton - Friends - (Warner 23834-1)
Sadao Watanabe - Autumn Blow - (Inner City IC 6064)
Doobie Brothers - Minute by Minute - (Warner BSK 3193)
Santana - Zebop - (Columbia FC37158)
Pat Metheny Group - American Garage - (ECM 1-1155)
Frederick Fennel - Cleveland Symphonic Winds - (Telarc 5038)
Paul Desmond/Jim Hall - Complete Recordings - Mosaic(MR6-120)


Ben Webster At The Renaissance (Contemporary Records OJCCD-390-2)
The Royal Ballet Gala Performances (Classic Compact Discs CDSCD 6065)
Peter And The Wolf - Boston Symphony Orchestra (Sony SK 64079)
Jurassic Park Motion Picture Soundtrack (MCAD 10859)
We Get Requests - The Oscar Peterson Trio (Verve 810047-2)
You Won't Forget Me - Shirley Horn (Verve 847482-2)
Sneakers Motion Picture Soundtrack (Columbia DIDP 078100)
On Every Street - Dire Straits (Warner Brothers 26680-2)
Trio Jeepy - Branford Marsalis (Columbia CK44199)
Paris Jazz Concert - Louis Armstrong (RTE 1001-2)
Braveheart Motion Picture Soundtrack - London Symphony Orchestra (London LC0171)
Patriot Games Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA 07863 66051-2)
Hook Motion Picture Soundtrack (Epic EK 4888)
Highlights From The Plugged Nickel - Miles Davis (Columbia CK 67377)

Associated Components:

Threshold 400A Class A Amplifier

Rega P3 Turntable with RB 300 Arm. Mods are JA Michell Tecno Weight,Deep Groove Sub Platter and Iron Audio Acrylic Platter with Herbies Mat.

Phono Cartridge: Denon DL 160 or Sumiko Blue Point No.2

Onix XCD-88 CD Player(same as Music Hall CD25)with DH Labs Power Plus A/C Cable.

Yamaha T - 1 AM/FM Stereo Tuner

Sony Mini Disc Deck MDS 501

Sony Mini Disc Deck MDS 480

Alon Model 1 Speakers

Alon Black Orpheus Speaker Cable

DH Labs Power Plus A/C Cable

Musical Concepts Super IV Interconnects

The Dolan PM 1 has a wonderful open soundstage, with great depth from front to back. It produces a richly detailed and rounded signature. But what is really important the Dolan PM 1 plays music with a verve not often found at any price level. This preamp will engage the most jaded mavens among us. By any standard one would care to judge the Dolan PM 1, it is solid contender in the world of high end preamps and at its current used value, is a total no brainer to select for any system. My only caveat is the fore menetioned power cord, but has no effect on the Dolan PM 1. More than likely just my carping. However one could probably upgrade the power cord, as there appears room to do this. As for me, I am content to leave well enough alone. Usually I am not fond of stepped attenuators. Seems that usually they provide to much volume or balance at a point I am trying to set. But the Dolan stepped controls, for once are right on for me. Thats a first ever there.

Thus far the Dolan PM 1 has been a total joy in the system and being the analog maven I am, totally impressed with the phono section, for once someone other than Klyne got this right. In fact the Dolan PM 1 reminds me of the Klyne preamp SK 5a. Not quite on par with the Klyne, but very close indeed. It should be noted that the Klyne at the time sold for $855.00 more than the Dolan PM 1.

So those of you with further info on the Dolan PM 1 feel free to add any additional info you may have. Once again Dolan is back in business, so parts and service should not be an issue.

The main problem is that of obtaining one in the pre owned market place. Were rare and hard to find new and remain that way in the secondary market. But in my opinion well worth searching for. Will be very hard to outdo the Dolan,unless one is willing to dig very deep into their resources.

Associated gear
Click to view my Virtual System

Similar products
Threshold,Klyne,Levinson,Krell,Classe,Sima,Bryston, etc
Nice review of an extremely overlooked audio classic. I bought one new and still own it. It served me faithfully until I got bit by the tube bug and am now using Audio Research separates for my phono/pre/amplification. I had the brass faceplate but exchanged it for a black one so to match the rest of the gear but truthfully, it was a great looking piece with the brass. At the time of it's release it was a stellar time for classic pre-amps and I recall HP giving it a 1 1/2 stars in a preamp shootout that included an Electrocompaniet(?) EC1, Audio Research SP11, and others by CAT and Klyne. Just to be included with the heavyweights of the day was an accomplishment! You're dead right about the Phono section, amazing! I had a VERY low output Ortofon ceramic cartridge that sounded glorious with the Dolan. Occasionally I'll see one for sale here on A'gon going for a coupla hundred bucks and I just shake my head in wonder how such a great piece of equipment could be selling for so little. That's the main reason I've kept it over the years, I'd rather keep it as a back-up as opposed to 'giving' it away!
Since I have been on Audiogon about six years now. I have seen 5 on this site for sale. Prices range from $200.00 to $600.00 although I don't know what the final sale price was. In my opinion at these prices the Dolan PM 1 is an outright steal. Seems to me that audiophiles that have them ,keep them. To me that speaks volumes on the testament of this very fine preamp. Similar to Klyne, very few of the Klyne preamps are posted as well. When one finds preamps of the Dolan and Klyne caliber, it would appear that the search for a esoteric class preamp is over.

Thanks to Chazro for his post.
I finally tracked down a brass faced Dolan PM-1 and bought it based on little more than the above review. I had been looking for a while at many preamps both SS and tube and decided on the Dolan based on the praise afforded to its phono section and its affordable price on the used market. My goal in putting together my system was to get the highest level of performance possible within my modest budget. It wasn’t until I added the Dolan this goal was realized in spades. Everything I read in the review above was on the money!!
This unit truly does play with a certain verve not often heard. Its quiet black background and high-level detail across the frequency spectrum, pin point staging and transparency and imaging leaves me wanting for nothing. The phono stage lives up to its hype also. This is the best phono stage my ears have heard.

The above reviewer’s comments about the CD stage were almost an understatement. I have a inexpensive Sony SACD/DVD player. Plugged into the Dolan I would swear I was using a much more expensive CDP and or a nice DAC. I have always been of the belief that a system only sounds as good as its weakest link. The Dolan has made me rethink that a little. My Sony has no right to sound as good as it does when used with the Dolan. Nothing short of magic and pure genius on Mr. Dolan’s part. I was planning a CDP upgrade but now it doesn’t seem so important.

In the review above it was mentioned that the Dolan PM-1 does not have a IEC power cord socket. Mine however did. I contacted Mr Dolan and asked if it was added later and he confirmed that some units did ship with IEC and that mine was likely one of them, an added bonus. Something else a bit different I noticed was the white calk between the larger capacitors. I assume this was added to reduce resonance. If I were more of a wordsmith can certainly go on about the sonic virtues of the Dolan. I can say this much having lived with it for a little more than 1 month I can’t imagine finding a better preamp with phono in its price range.
If I had one wish in regards to this preamp, it would be to see this unit go back into production so many others can experience the masterful sonic picture it paints.

Pictures of my Dolan and related gear can be found at:

My system is as follows:
Dolan PM-1
Adcom GFA-555
VPI HW 19 turntable with AudioQuest PT-6 arm & Grado cart
Pioneer TX-9800 tuner
M&K Satellite 1’s and Paradigm SB-80 sub