"Am I the Luckiest Man Alive" Supratek IS THE BEST!!
(My earlier Post, re-posted with corrections)
Hello to BWhite; Steven; Asa; Slowhand; waltersalas; Fiddler ; Dennis the Menace; Jazzdude; Tubegroover and all the other happy Supratek owners at Audiogon. You are all people of discriminating taste and have chosen well by using Supratek pre-amplifiers. These exotic handcrafted products transcend normal Hi-Fi equipment and excel at just producing MUSIC...pure and natural. The Grange/Cortese & Syrah are usually bought by mature audiophiles who have gone beyond the usual brand names, i.e, by people who have a strong desire to try something 'special', something out of the ordinary.
I have been watching the "Preamp Deal of the Century" thread on this site with interest for some time and have refrained from joining in, but I will do so now. Please be patient with me as this will be a long, but interesting post.
By way of introduction, my name is Steve M. and my family and I live in Perth - Western Australia, a beautiful city of one million people, located on the banks of the Swan River , a city enjoying a warm Mediterranean climate surrounded by clear blue skies and white sandy beaches.
I have been doing this hi-fi thing for about 25yrs now, since the 1970's and have gone thru' mountains of good equipment. Albeit purchased in a realistic manner, considering that besides my hi-fi habit, I also have a lovely Irish lass and three young children to sustain!
I first met Mick Maloney of Supratek fame in 1984, when we both lived in a small coastal fishing village called Dongara - Port Denison, where our respective families lived and worked for a time. Mick and I belonged to and played a game of squash (raquetball) at the local sports club. Funnily enough, we never discussed hi-fi during this time and I was not aware that he was "The Mr Supratek" (or Micrex as it was known at the time). Those were the days when my hi-fi system was rather humble, comprising of a Thorens turntable with a solid state Luxman integrated amplifier and big Wharfedale E90 loudspeakers.
To cut a long story short, Mick and I met up again in Perth around 1996 when I bought my first 6SN7 Transformer Coupled pre-amplifier from him. This was a little prototype preamp built very cheaply and in a minimalist fashion. But the sound of it into my Quad Electrostatic loudspeakers was phenomenal! This little pre had clarity, transparency and detail in spades like no other commercial preamp that I had heard during the last 15yrs swapping and changing equipment. It was as if somebody had lifted a veil or lifted the curtain and I was able to see the performers on the stage for the first time. That was it - I was hooked on Supratek (hook-line-and-sinker as we Aussies like to say).
WHY AM I THE LUCKIEST MAN IN THE WORLD, you ask? It's for two reasons, firstly, Mick and I have developed a friendship and I have had the privilege of being associated with one of the World's premier valve amplifier designers having seen and heard almost every Supratek product in my home, and being at the forefront of any new developments.
I think in a way Mick likes to hear his amps in a domestic situation, so he has used me as a 'test bed' for his products. This is probably because of my keen ears and also because of my high resolution audiophile sound systems comprising of various equipment which have included from time to time Meridian/Sony/Marantz CDP's; Bel Canto DAC-1 D/A Converter; Perpetual Technologies P3A DAC; Roksan Xerxes Turntable/Koetsu Rosewood; Nelson Pass Aleph 3 and Krell KSA100 power amps; various other brand name valve amps; Quad ESL's and another ultra thin-membraned superfast electrostatic called the E.R Audio ESL-3 (using a very thin 3.8micron mylar membrane) ; Proac Response 2.5 spkrs; Yamaha NS1000/NS1200 Monitors; Nordost/Van den Hul/XLO Ref One cables; Focal Kevlar 8K5412 Transmission Line subwoofers; and the superbly detailed W.A.R Audio Reference Two loudspeaker...a 90kg $20,000AUD speaker array consisting of ten drivers including Raven R1 Ribbon tweeters/dual Accuton Ceramic mids and dual Cabasse 21NDC honeycomb foam bass units.
Take it from me guys, Mick Maloney 'IS THE REAL DEAL'! He is a true master of the dark arts of valve amp building and his knowledge with valves is second to none, combined with a passion for listening to music. Most importantly, IMO his honesty and integrity cannot be faulted. Sure he's not perfect(no one is?), he has a business to run and he is not a saint and will not suffer people who waste his time. But having known the guy for several years now, when you deal with Mick you are dealing with the Designer-Owner-Builder-Keen Listener of an extremely exotic handbuilt hi-end product...a product he takes great pride and satisfaction in presenting to music lovers worldwide. No Supratek amplifier leaves Santa's workshop until it is operating and sounding exactly the way Mick would have it sounding in his own personal sound system! Take note too, that he has mentioned to me that customer back-up is very important to him. He will drop everything to first sort out a customer problem - you can't ask for any more than this, can you?
Getting back to the other reason why 'I am the luckiest man in the world'. I own a lot of Supratek gear (and I DO mean a LOT!!). I currently run in my main system the Cabernet linestage preamp with the Merlot monobloc power amps. And, I also have in my collection a Cortese; various phono prototypes; other amp creations by Mick including a big 845/211 power amplifier; a lovely sweet sounding 2A3/6B4G amp; an 807 amp; various prototype Corteses etc. and a pair of Edgar Horn spkrs built by Mick!! I have also had the pleasure of hearing the new 6C33C-B Supratek Burgandy push-pull 100watt power amps and other OTL designs by Mick, in my home.
So I think you could conclude that I am indeed 'lucky'! And I suppose well qualified to comment on the sound of Supratek amps & preamps.
*** Now onto the subject of the sound of the Supratek preamps and amplifiers. I'm sure Asa, Bwhite and some of the others may be able to put it more eloquently. But to me, the sound of Supratek can be summed up as providing uncompromised detail, purity and liquidity, a sense of realism and an impression that the performers are in a 'natural acoustic space'. With a Supratek amp, the music flows along with an unstoppable urgency (good Pace, Rhythm & Timing), it sounds more like the real thing, 'alive' sounding and less like the music is being reproduced by electronic equipment.
Does the new Grange preamp sound better than the Cortese? Well of course it does, otherwise Mick would not present it as something 'better'. It's not about marketing hype and selling for the sake of a diversified product line with Supratek, its all about trying to produce the BEST sound! I have followed the gestation of the Grange over a twelve month period. Mick has a furtive mind and a creative imagination, and from what I can see the Grange came about as an idea of Mick's to further improve the circuit of the Cortese while at the same time trying to use the exotic meshplate TJ 101D Directly Heated Triode tube (which has a reputation for purity of sound). He was successful in this endeavour, and voila, you now have the Grange.
Having said this, the Grange is not drastically different from the Cortese (depending on your perspective, of course). I have used the Cortese for over two years now and I love it! It is extremely musical in the best valve tradition with an 'aliveness' to die for, clarity and detail that is hard to beat - no matter the price. No one with a Cortese could ever be disappointed with it. The Grange just does a little more of everything with a greater sense of purity and a very clean hear-through character.
What makes Supratek preamps so special is the implementation of tried and true valve amp technology, the use of carefully chosen parts and their handcrafted nature, all of which is now considered somewhat exotic. The Grange/Cortese/Syrah employ sophisticated but simple circuits that are point to point hardwired with Teflon coated silver wire; with zero feedback; in pure Class A; Transformer Coupled; in Single Ended Triode mode; Lithium Battery Biased with a big separate power supply that is valve rectified and regulated. All features which the 'big boys' can't do (because some don't know how) or won't do because of the commercial reality to keep production costs down ??
As a final point, I have noticed that there is a lot of discussion about the merits of tube rolling with the 6SN7 output valve in the Cortese and Syrah. Personally, I think that Mick has carefully chosen the stock 6N8P (a 6SN7 equivalent) based on its sonic merits and there is no real need to replace the valve with another. I have in my collection the 6N8P and various 6SN7's including the black Ken Rads; black Brimars with red bases; Toshiba; Raytheons; Mullards and the Sylvania VT231. If I had to chose a favourite it would be the Sylvania VT231 because I find it the most transparent and the highs are sweetest(it can sometimes be a bit be microphonic though). I feel the Cortese and Syrahs are so inherently musical, that it does not make a huge difference swapping valves so long as the valve is nice and fresh, and not noisy to begin with. My advice on this is don't get anal about it, just enjoy the music!
I hope this has been interesting reading for you guys, I have enjoyed writing it.
Please note, I have no affiliation with Supratek or Mick Maloney other than I am a very happy and enthusiastic user of Supratek products.