Review: Tube Research Labs The Dude Tube preamp
Imagine a silent space, devoid of all noise. There you sit with your eyes closed. Breathing. Quiet. Now imagine a giant drum one thousand feet away. Boom. Boom. Boom. The gusts of energy rushing like a tsunami toward your ears almost blowing you backwards by sheer act of will. Again, boom boom boom and the eruption of a voice so angelic, so open and lovely that you can’t help, but be mesmerized. Where does it come from, you ask? It beams from one hundred feet away up towards the stars and as large as the sun. This is your soundstage. This is The Dude, and he does abide.
Ok, hand squeezed pixie dust aside; I have now heard the Dude on three systems. Two of them sporting Dale Pitcher’s Intuitive Design Summits, and the third being my system. This tells me the Dude can sing no matter where his rug is placed.
The Dude has a very open, large-scale presentation. It is by far the most real representation of music I have heard on my system. Time, Tune, and Tone are represented accurately and provide a listening experience that is both immersive and enveloping, casting a shadow of music throughout the room, which dives beyond wall boundaries. It’s quite nice.
The Dude obviously isn’t a golfer. Its score is large and the volume knob proves it. With every click of the wheel the soundstage expands, growing in ebb and flow, and scale. It’s not a yappy dog or your lady friend that just get’s louder when you crank the volume, it gets bigger, badder, and grows a big bushy manly beard. And more importantly, it only takes 200-400 hours to become housebroken: shaving and tube rolling optional.
I have had some pretty nice gear travel through my system. They were shiny, but couldn’t quite hold their own. Levinson 380S, ARC Ref 3, Ayre K5xeMP, and a few others from the likes of Bryston and Classe for example. Let me be frank, they’re no Dude. In light of concision, I will refrain from detailed comparisons, but feel free to email me for them.
I’ve obviously had that audiophile hankering for something new, something bold. I believe that I have now arrived at a destination that I will not be leaving any time soon. Wherever the deficiencies in my system, they are not from this preamplifier.
Like Paul, I have done a fair amount of recording and mixing both for film and two-channel audio. There is nothing that compares to the original master recording in the studio. This preamplifier is bringing me as close to that as I have ever heard in my system, but in a more enjoyable, less edgy, way.
Paul and Brian Weitzel of Tube Research Labs have created a $3800 winner. It’s extremely musical, but relaxed and easeful. It casts a huge soundstage that is detailed and devoid of noise. It rocks and it rolls and is neutral among the best of them and at stolen rug prices!
ASIDE: What the heck does neutral mean anyways? Every person hears sounds differently. Every manufacturer has his or her own ideal for what musical reproduction should sound like. How can that possibly be neutral? For me, neutrality is the ability of a component to completely disappear, to become invisible to the music and the system. The Dude is truly neutral. You can tell when the Dude invades a system, because it’s a transformative experience. You cannot hear it once it’s there, but you know it’s there doing its job, bringing you in, tying the room together.
Aerial 10T Speakers
Mac Mini > Paradisea 3LE and Ben Zwickel's DAC
Nuforce 9V2 Monoblock amps
Goertz Boa MI3 Speaker cables, KCI Silkworm+ Interconnects
Ben Zwickel's NOS Western Electric Power cords
Two .001pF 2.5kva Isolation transformers
Mark Levinson 380S, No32
ARC Ref 3