Review: Musical Fidelity A3CR Preamplifier

Category: Preamps

I had a Naim 90/92 Pre/Amp, and it sounded great. To some people, myself included, this hobby is as much about gear as it is music. Why else read Stereophile when you are happy with what you have?

One day I came across a compelling review of the Musical Fidelity A3CR Pre/Power, and lo and behold it received a class A rating for the amplifier and a class B for the Pre. When was the last time I saw a Class A amp for $1,500 says I, but I held off.

Next, I am reading Soundstage, and guess what: "Editors Choice". Seemed like everywhere I looked people were talking about this amazing pair. OK, I gave in, I was hooked and had to try it.

I ordered online from Audio Advisor, nice folks with a great 30 day money back guarantee. The gear arrived quickly, with the delivery driver swearing under his breath as he lugged what turned out to be fairly heavy equipment (perhaps he needed some exercise).

When I open the box I liked what I saw. Not only well built, but nice cosmetics with gold trim. I know, it looks good, but how does it play.

Well the Naim gear has got the PRAT down cold, but the sweet sounds from the MF gear could not be beat. There was plenty of power with well defined bass, and it retained a magical delicacy even at high volumes that invited you to stay up way too late listening. PRAT was also there, perhaps not quite as good as Naim, but good enough!

Although some people have felt the phono stage could be better, it is good enough for me and the Planer 3 turntable that I own.

I have had an opportunity to hear the amplifer without this preamp, and the amplifier is impressively transparent but the sweet tonality of the MF A3CR is largely due to the preamp.

After listening to the amp without the MF Pre, I can tell it does slightly roll off the top end, and the background was perhaps not as dark as the best Preamp. However, my CD collection, including older CDs, have never sounded better through any other Pre-amp.

BTW, it does benefit from an upgrade in power cords, and/or power conditioning.

Highly recommended!

Associated gear
A3CR Power Amplifier
Sony SCD-777ES SACD Player
Perpetual Tech P1/P3 DAC
Reference 3A MM DeCappo Speakers

Similar products
Naim 90, Arcam Alpha 9
Yes it is a winner for the price, beautiful piece of gear to boot. I am using Virtual Dynamics Reference Cryo AC cord
and also Mapleshade massive heavy foot brass cones with mine.

Now they have a new 3.2 line of products at Musical Fidelity, which may be even better buy.
Excellent review Hifive!
I've paired the MF A3cr Pre with a Bryston 4bst to drive maggie IIIA's and it works wonders. The sound stage is deep and broad, and the highs are detailed but warm. After a 2,500 mile move, I left my LP's in Nashville, so I don't use the phono option; just CD's (Arcam Alpha 9). (By the way, I wonder if the phono stage is all that really keeps this thing from being class "A"?) I too found that a PS Audio power cord helped. Overall, a great component, one I like a good deal more thanits predecessors in my system: Bryston BP-20, Sonic Frontiers SFL-1, and the Quicksilver line stage.
I too have enjoyed listening to my A3cr preamp for just over a year. It needed bdr's, upgrade power cord and ps ultimate outlet with a better source for it to shine in my system. Clearly smooth and never fatigueing, it outlines musical passages very well, just lacks the depth and texture that units twice the price can bring. However anything within a $1000 to $1500 hasn't beat this units overall tonal balance. Indeed it is a very entertaining preamp, never dull or hard with only a hint of false timbre at times. Beautiful preamp with some vigor. Great on orchestral music. No hiss from any distance an inch or more away. I've auditioned Classe 47.5, Krell KSL, KRC ,Linar, Linn, preamp solid states and I would only go up to Audio Research Ls12 as a clear step up from the A3cr as that preamp sounds opened and at ease with all music flowing through it. Also the ls12 sounds like a truely internally balanced circuit , no phase-splitting techniques or decibel volume and reveals whats on the cd with manners and musicality with no edge or hardness as it retreives detail.
Classe cdp-10
Mf a3cr pre & power
Ref 3a mm de capo
I won the A3CR preamp and power amp in an Audiogon auction and was pleased with them the minute I set them up. I added a Monlithic phono preamp/power supply (I have A LOT of lps) which brought all inputs up to a similar excellent quality. The preamp will reveal exactly what is coming in the inputs; any flaws in the recording, or qualities. Upgrading with Audiogon-won power cords and an AudioPrism 0.5 made the preamp that much more invisible. I want electronics to have no sound of their own and these don't. I've researched the latest models of these and all he's done is try to fiddle with the phono amp and the inputs to respond to reviewer's complaints. If you can find this preamp, go for it, it's a good value.