The new magnificent Linear Tube Audio MicroZOTL Preamplifier


I have spent the last 48 hours, did not go to sleep last night, listening to Linear Tube Audio's new dedicated full size, full function Micro ZOTL Preamplifier and I'm amazed, mesmerized, and delighted with what Mark Schneider in conjunction with David Berning has brought to the market with this new creation.

I'm a reviewer for hometheaterreview.com and about three years ago I awarded the "Product Of The Year" to the LTA ZOTLhead phone/preamplifier, which as a preamplifier completely out performed my $22,000.00 reference linestage!  Even today this remarkable piece, which sells for $1,700.00 with the upgraded power supply is still one of the best preamplifiers on the market.

Well, it took about three years for Mark to come up with a better "mouse trap". This new linestage is on a significantly higher qualitative performance level then its less expensive sibling and is driving my reference system to beautiful musical heights.  You can go to LTA's website to see how their new chassis work looks and the details of the internal quality of parts/construction and the explanation of the Berning's Zero Hysteresis Output Transfomer-Less circuit design.

Across every sonic attribute: timbres/color, image palpability/density, spatial qualities- air around players- tremendous soundstage depth/width/height, powerful overall dynamics, and deep extension with great low frequencies regarding tone/accuracy which gives a great foundation to the music.  All this and delivered with total liquidity and ease.  This preamplifier renders the illusion of real music better then any other linestage I have had in-house for review. 

My full review for hometheaterreview.com, with many more superlative details, will be coming out in the next few months, just wanted to give this "heads up" to the GON members because this preamp just kills it.  By the way I believe the retail cost is 4K, which is a bargain for what you get and the "magic" it will bring to your system.


teajay
I have one on order and am looking forward to receiving it next week!
Hey israeljones,

Congrats!  You are in for a treat, indeed.  What source and amplifier are you going to team it up with?
Nad m50 and m52 into yggdrasil into qol completion stage into new microzotl with Loki in tape monitor switch into Sanders magtech into martin logan montis with rthymik subwoofer and Townsend super tweeters attached.....interconnects by audience except for transparent xl aes/ebu into the yggy......
Room treated with a variety of synergistic research items.....
You said it @teajay , I have the new MZ Preamp along with the LTA Ultralinear and this combo is otherworldly. For the last month I’ve been listening to the new Pre and UL on my Tekton DI SE speakers with the best sound I’ve ever been able to produce in this system.

As good as the MZ2 is the new ZOTL Preamp is in another class. I wished Mark had given it another name because I’ve already had some people get confused when I’ve tried to tell them about it. They say I’ve already heard it and I reply how’s that? I’ve got one of the first ones.

I have now moved the new ZOTL preamp and UL upstairs to my reference system. I removed the ZOTL40 and MZ2. Installed the UL and new MZ preamp, now paired with my Janszen zA2.1 hybrid electrostats. Holy crap! Its freaky good. I am not sure what is at work here because this 20 watt ZOTL amp is powering my 87db Janszens as loud as I can listen. I will be stuck in this chair the rest of the night for sure.

So the hot tip of the day if you want to go straight to the top is to get an LTA UltraLinear and a Micro ZOTL Preamp, save thousands and call it a day. This combo puts you in the stratosphere of quality Audio without the stratospheric prices.

Lance
Thanks for the heads up.
@teajay 

Have you heard the UltraLinear yet?

Lance
@teajay ,
How does the MicroZOTL compare to the Backert Labs Rhumba? Is the higher price justified compared to the Rhumba?
Hi Teajay,
Thanks for the review on the MicroZOTL preamp. I have to admit I'm a bit curious. Just a quick question. How does this preamp play with moretraditional amps?  I have a Pass Labs XA-30.8. Are there any issues to consider? Do you lose any of the "magic" of this preamp by pairing itwith non-OTL gear?
Hey cmach,

I have used the MicroZOTL preamp with many SS amps, including Pass Labs, and tube based amps and it drives all them with beautiful results in both my systems.


cmach,

I’m running the new preamp (S/N 005) with my XA30.8. The combination is flat out beautiful. I also have an MZ2 which worked well, but the new pre is just better in every way. Clarity, staging, dynamics (both micro and macro). Very liquid, fatigue free, but also dynamic and extended.

One consideration is overall system gain. Listening at typically lower levels the volume rarely goes over 5 out of 100. I should probably swap to some 12au7 drivers but the stock Sylvania 12at7’s have a good sound going. The front end is an Aurender N10 into a Bricasti M1 SE, so I didn’t really need any gain. The sound is just more complete with a pre in the chain.

So far I’ve changed the output tubes to Psvane CV 181T-II (6SN7) with a nice improvement in body and solidity. The supplied outputs are actually pretty good though. 

I did hear the LTA combo at Axpona (pre with mono Ultralinears) and really liked it but the setting was somewhat familiar. I can’t say directly how the XA compares to the Ultralinear. My aural memory says that the XA is more liquid and the UL has a little more punch in the lower ranges. Go figure that the 16 lb. amp sounds punchier than the 92 lb. amp. I’m sure the XA is a far superior space heater.

Greg
I’ve heard people debate using a preamp vs. not using a preamp and I can say the amp direct people have never tried a preamp this good. The Micro ZOTL Preamp has improved every amp I’ve tried it with so far. It’s just incredible.

Lance
Greg, Lance, Teejay,

Thanks for the feedback. Its much appreciated. I'm going to put the MicroZOTL on my must audition list early next year. In general I'm not a fan of OTL. The ones I've heard have amazing detail and transparency but at the cost of sounding thin or a bit bright and edgy. I'm curiousto hear what the MicroZOTL will bring to the table.
Cheers
lance I still need to get down your way to hear all your nifty stuff sometime soon.
@mapman open invitation

Lance
I just got the MZ2! You guys are going to make me poor!😆
@teajay -- as milpai asked earlier, do you have any impressions of how this pre stacks up against the Backert Rhumba 1.2?  Didn't you review that one a little while back?  Thanks for any thoughts. 
Hey soix,

The Backert Rhumba 1.2 is a wonderful preamplifier.  However, for my tastes/system the LTA preamplifier, nothing is better then this David Berning ZOTL based piece.  It provides all the qualities of a reference level linestage, like the Rhumba 1.2, and adds a special quality of "aliveness" that other preamps do not provide.
Hi @teajay 
Being interested in this preamp, as well as interested in audio terminology and understanding... could you explain what you mean by “aliveness”?? 
I am assuming it might refer to a combination of things like dynamics, speed and complet tonal harmonics? But that’s  me just theorizing a breakdown of what might make a piece of gear seem more ‘alive’. 
Hey jriggy,

Great question.  When I wrote my professional review on the Tekton Design Double Impact Speakers I used the term "aliveness" to try to convey that this speaker presented the music with the kick/pop of live music.  Yes, I could use more objective terms like macro-dynamics and transient speed.  However, there are speakers and preamps that are fast/quick, but still lack the illusion of live music in their presentation.

The LTA preamplifier has this special quality to a higher degree then any other linestage I have ever had in my system for review.
 
@jriggy 

Maybe he means “aliveness” like the band is playing in the room. It certainly is for me right now. It’s breathing new life into my amp.
Thanks for the clarifications guys! As I stated, being one that is interested in audiophile terminology and how we use these terms (and sometimes differently), I seek to find a baseline of definition descriptions... Im happy this time I am on the same page with you comments. 
Hello everybody,

My review on the LTA MicroZOTL preamplifier was posted on hometheaterreview.com today.  He gives all the details of way I gave it five stars, the highest possible rating, and purchased it as my new reference linestage.  Hope you enjoy the review.
Post removed 
willco, what's your reason for selling?
Willco ia someone who posted here?
Have had the LTA Micro ZOTL MZ2s since Jan 2017 and have been using with my Focal Elears. Very happy, then one day I tried the Micro on my Hartsfields with great results.
Have a large weekend project, building my retirement home, bought new gear for there and decided to try the Micro as a pre amp. Shocking to say the least in a very good way. Takes a while to warm up , but it comes alive after 45 min.
Ticks a lot of boxes for not much mula.
My short term quest has been satisfied. If I feel the need can always do some tube rolling.

I think it's excellent as a preamp.Last week I used it as an integrated while waiting for new fuses for my amp.With only one watt it can't be played loudly naturally,but it sounded fantastic.It even did bass very well.I'm curious to see how it will do when I visit my brother and hook it up to his Cornwalls:-)
After trying a handful of amps I use the little LTA exclusively with my 98db omega speakers. Of course I’d dig some more headroom but ultimately the sound is breathtaking. I had Ben with mojo audio do his mods and use his illuminati v3 ps, which is just fantastic! 
Hello Jmolsberg, could you elaborate on what Ben did?  I see they sell a stand alone  illuminati v3 ps for about $1,250. Did he replace the power supply in your LTA with a modified illuminati v3 ps? I also have  Omega speakers: the  Super Alnico High Output Monitor which are 97db. You said you had issues with the head room. I also have a First Watts S.I.T 3 which does not have a lot of gain; 11.5.  
^  I wouldn't say I have any issues with headroom but I'd like some more at times. It is only one watt! With that said, gotta makes some concessions and this feels like the only concession I am having to make. The music is marvelous - I am sure you know with the S.I.T 3/omega. I did loan my mz2 to my neighbor who ended up buying the microzotl. We did some A/B and I'll be damned if that upgraded mz2 wasn't right there. Personally, I thought the bass was a little better, maybe the illuminati? 

I purchased the mz2-s with the switching ps. I had Ben do the following with the purchase of the illuminati v3:


illuminatti v3 ps, Hardwire DC power cable into mz2
24 point Stepped attenuator
Replace fuse with self-resetting Thermistor
Upgraded capacitors
Upgrade the main ground from rear to attenuator with OCC UniCrystal silver wire
Upgrade the four wires going from the attenuator to the main board
UniCrystal silver wire
Add an independent ground wire for L and R at output
Bypass the cheap switch in the headphone jack and run the wires directly to the RCAs.
Run the wires from main board first to RCA and jump to binding posts 






@jmolsberg, many of these mods are now stock in the MZ3.
^ correct. So go right for the mz3 if you don't have one! 

Jmolsberg, thank for responding to my question. Wouldn't the modifications void the warranty on it?

I have a friend who is a high end stereo dealer and he will give me a very substantial discount on his products or other products through his dealer friends. I have been looking at the Einstein: The Preamp or their integrated amp and the Vinnie Ross L2 DHT. Very expensive even with a hefty discount. (I previously had the Einstein: The Tube preamp v2 modified with Echole wire and Mundorf capacitors. Unfortunately a carrier dropped it and destroyed it when it was coming back from a repair. I also had the Allnic L5000 DHT.)

However, the more I look at this preamplifier the more sense it makes to me to purchase it. Jack Burton, the Audio Beatnik recently tested the MZ3 with his SIT-3 and he said it sounded great.  I have a high quality Auris Audio headphone amp and the preamp has a tape out which should work with it. If the preamp's headphone quality is comparable to the Auris than I would sell the Auris. I also have a Focal subwoofer and the preamp has two outputs, I assume they both operate at the same time. 

 I noticed LTA offers a true balance input for $250 more. What is the benefit of this when it does not have balanced outputs? Is it to increase the gain? As noted above the SIT-3 has limited gain. I am also looking at the Denafrips Terminator DAC which does have balanced outputs.


^ it would. if it is out of warranty no worries (:

I like jack burton reviews!

no sure about the balanced/unbalanced gain, that would be a question for LTA, which also happens to have a no questions return policy

i have not heard the denafrips but i am very happy with my audio mirror tubadour III dac
LTA has informed me that the balanced input is to increase the gain as I thought. Never heard of your Dac, I will research it.
Unfortunately, your Dac does not support DSD. I have thousands of DSD tracks. 
^ mine plays my DSD tracks fine, never bothered to ask how. Much prefer the NOS dac sound
I thought OTL was only part of the power amp output stage. What is ‘OTL’ about the preamp stage?
mine plays my DSD tracks fine, never bothered to ask how. Much prefer the NOS dac sound

That's very interesting. I will contact them and find out what is going on. 
My Sony Walkman plays DSD CDs fine. Am I missing something? 😳
Vlad the owner responded. He said certain music software such as Roon converts DSD to PCM on the fly, which I never knew. No Hi Res, but you can at least listen to the music. I suggested he mention this in the specs.
By the way, does "OTL" on the name mean "output transformer less"?  But isn't it true that most tube preamp don't have output transformers on the output?