Thanks for advice on smooth amp!

I wanted to thank everyone who checked in with their opinions on what I should do to smooth my system out. I realize that there is much more to think about than just the amp! Unfortunately being on a grad student's budget severely limits my ability to make changes (and I failed to mention my budget limits in my previous post). That being said, I may consider trying out a new CD-only front end, as this, ostensibly, is the weak link in my system. Perhaps a new player, as DAC's tend to be more expensive I think. We shall see... Again, thanks to everyone for helping me out! djjp
i'm warning ewe - if ewe can only afford *one* gnu piece of gear, get a tubed pre & use yer existing digital front-end - best sound for the money, in yer situation! ;~)

good luck, doug

I recently auditioned the Aloia Amps and then purchased. You may be able to find a used one for less than 3K. They are relatively new in the US market. Before I had these I owned CAT,Wolcotts. THese are much Smoother than the tubes at 4 times the price
Doug, above gives good advice re: a tube pre-amp-- it's an approach I totally agree with. If you want a smoother, but still inexpensive CD player, I'd check out Rotel and NAD. BTW, there are some very good inexpensive DACs now available if you can't afford the Bel Canto. Musical Fidelity from Audio Advisor, MSB, and some others can be had for low bucks. Cheers. Craig.
You will get more improvement for your dollar by upgrading your pre-amp. With your budget constraints I would purchase a conrad johnson PV-10 pre-amp (tube). You can find them used on audiogon and e-bay for around $600. Tube front end and solid state back end is a wonderful combination.
If EVERYTHING sounds bright (ALL of your sources), then a tubed preamp might take care of that (depending on make, model and tubes used). If only your digital system is giving you headaches (literally), try picking up a CAL Sigma or Sigma II DAC. This would target your problem more specifically and keep costs down to a minimum. There's no sense in altering the sound of the WHOLE system if only the digital source is what is aggravating you. The Sigma is very warm and smooth sounding and can be had for well under $300 if you look around. Like the tubed preamp, this DAC would give you the ability to fine tune your digital system to your liking via tube swapping. Keep in mind that when you buy used tube gear though, you should count on re-tubing the gear as part of the cost UNLESS the owner can verify that it was done recently. Even at that, you might not like the specific characteristics of the tubes that they chose and may have to re-tube anyhow. Find out how many tubes the preamp takes, what models and then you'll have a ballpark idea of what it would cost IF this is necessary. Just for references, the CAL Sigma's have only one tube and it's very commonly available at reasonable prices. Sean >
a cheap fix would be to use a z-man ase tubed buffer-stage. this was the only way i could listen to cd's on my system, prior to getting a tubed preamp. (musical fidelity also made a similar product). these show up on the used market for ~$100. i'm not even sure if it's worth it for me to bother selling mine - i will prolly use it in a future secondary system.

another nice thing about the preamp, besides making my cd's enjoyable (thru a very modest nad cd-changer), is that my vinyl & my tuner have also never sounded better! if ya *do* listen to other sources, spending lotsa money on a cd/dac upgrade won't help *them*


Your absolutely correct Doug. That's why i qualified my statement in the very beginning with the disclaimer about what the brightness is affecting. I had also taken into account that the only source that he had listed in the original thread was a DVD player but did inquire about other sources. While the Z-Man or the Musical Fidelity X-10D might make the system more listenable, we all know that they are strictly euphonic distortion generators and as such, would be paying to take a step backwards. Why not apply the money to something that will offer better musicality and reproduction without the added distortion byproducts ? Sean >
Try the new pass lab gear the x-150 and the x-1 or x-2, or audio research lsb2. Theta makes a great dac as well.