the tough question: Which preamplifier? and why

The amp is a GRAAF iti 50/50
tube amplifier, 50W, input sen of 1.4V

and the choices are:

A. Placette (passive linestage) to keep the system simple and clean, the amp has good numbers
B. McIntosh C15 (solid state with phono)keep things from getting sluggish, don't need a prephono,
C. Audio Note M2 (tube with phone)

thanks in advance

Well you have narrowed it down to all the wrong choices. I think, though I have never heard the Graaf that it is probably a really good amp, You might consider two preamps. One I am a dealer for deHavilland and the other I have a really good feeling for the Shindo, The deHavilland is just killer. So much music. I keep upgrading the system and the deHavilland Ultra Verve just keeps stepping up. Meaning that it might fit into an 80,000 system without a flinch. Check out their website at
When you consider system synergies and personal tastes, opinions may differ of whether to go active, passive or direct without a preamp. But recently I've become a believer, as many other have, that a good quality active preamp can do wonders to your sound system.

With my 2 channel system - (Wadia 861>>Leben CS600 Integrated Tube amp (32w/ch) >>Harbeth SHL5 speakers) - I was able to try different configurations using a integrated preamp, external preamp and no preamp at all. My Wadia 861 has a variable (digital) volume control and the Leben amp has the option of bypassing the preamp section to function as a power amp.

Running the Wadia direct into the Leben (used as a power amp) the transparency and clarity increased but at the expense of some harmonic leanness to the sound.

Using the Leben as a integrated amp (connecting the Wadia into the Leben's CD input) the sound filled out more and overall seemed better balanced and less fatiguing in comparison to the above.

But when I inserted an active preamp (Luxman C7f) to the power amp inputs of the Leben, there was a remarkable improvement to the sound. The most profound effect was how my Harbeth's came to life and open up with increased bass definition and extension. Music flowed more effortlessly with a natural ebb and flow that was slightly more upbeat than before. I did lose some transparency but not much, which was countered by richer harmonics and a greater sense of continuousness to the sound.

In my system the numbers match up well (sensitivity and impedances). The Leben amp itself is well endowed with large high quality transformers and components. However, perhaps it's more than specs that need to be considered. From my recent exercise I'd say active preamps (of good quality) do what their designed to do and that is amongst other things provide power drive to an amp and speakers. Try before you buy if you can.
Lightspeed Attenuator.

Incredible dynamics, explosive bass, articulate, transparent, meat-on-the-bones passive!

Everything I have experienced from active preamps (both tube and ss) with no grain, grit, glare, etc. and with typical passive transparency. So far, I have detected no discernible weaknesses, but evaluation continues. The only caveat is that the output and input impedances need to be compatible.

Here is a thread that may be helpful. Although it is a DIY forum, the author of the thread manufactures the Lightspeed for $500 US. In other words, if you aren't a diy person, it is available commercially.

I believe this thread is approaching 250,000 hits.
Yes the Lightspeed is quite good if a passive will work in his system. I own one and have to agree that it is transparent without sacrificing anything in the mix. I was also under the impression that the Lightspeed was pretty much immune to impedance matching since it uses the photo optic technology.

I might also suggest that if a passive is desired then an autoformer or transformer volume control passive could be an option as well.
I, too, would be wary of your choices -- not because they are bad products but because of their "synergy" -- except for the passive. (For the latter, check your amp's specs, of course, or ask Placette directly)

BTW, why not get a used CAT pr? Plenty of dynamic content & driving energy to make yr Graaf sing.
Agree with the CAT pre but would also consider A Joule pre.

George, the manufacturer of the Lightspeed, recommends no more than 1K Ohm output and no less than 47K Ohm input.

Frankly, I am shocked at how good this preamp is.
Fiddler, thanks I was not aware of that.
05-04-09: Fiddler
...the manufacturer of the Lightspeed, recommends no more than 1K Ohm output and no less than 47K Ohm input.

The input impedance spec recommendation suggests that tube amps with their high input impedance are a better match for the Lightspeed Attenuator.

Is there a consensus here?
i too am looking for a preamp, but i do not like the ultraverve. i had the opportunity to purchase it and auditioned it for a while. it doesn't sound like a tube preamp.

my choices are:

audionote kits l2, audiovalve eklipse, cary slp98 with audionote upgrade caps and art audio 1.

yes these choices are subjective, but the comments re synergy i think have no basis in fact. listen to them and decide whether there is synergy. don't rely on opinions, especially from biased audio dealers.
05-05-09: Mrtennis
i too am looking for a preamp...

my choices are:

audionote kits l2, audiovalve eklipse, cary slp98 with audionote upgrade caps and art audio 1.

don't rely on opinions,
Mrtennis (Threads | Answers)

That's pretty funny.
hi tvad:

is my quartet of preamp choices amusing, or my dictum, "don't rely on opinions" ?

are you suggesting i pay attention to opinions or that my opinion, like those of others should be ignored ?

perhaps, you see the paradox in the statement "don't rely on opinions", which itself is an opinion.
I have found that the LEAST predictable interaction is between preamp/linestage and an amplifier. A lot of times, a combination that I think will work well does not do so at all. This is a must experiment situation.

Tube preamp/linestages, in particular, seem unpredictable. When the combination is bad, the sound will often be lifeless, bloated in midbass and murky. The opposite is also true -- when things work out there is a kind of hard to explain "magic" that is much more difficult to obtain with solidstate gear.

If you can find dealers that will work with you, I suggest that you work out home trial. The dealers I work with will allow home trial of electronics. If you are buying the Placette new, you have a home trial period.

I think you have made a reasonable list for a start -- one solid state, one passive and one tube unit. However, one should not, based on these particular models, rule out a particular type -- synergy with a particular model is a BIG factor.
Mrtennis if you thought the UV didn't sound like a tube preamp, then you will probably love the Cary. I say this because it is the typical (what people think of) tube sound. Warm and lush, but not resolving or detailed. I owned the UV2 and thought it had just enough tube goodness, but with resolution and dynamics the Cary can't muster.

That being said, I now own the Sonic Euphoria PLC which is better than either. And I would highly recommend it to the OP or anyone else who has a passive friendly system.

i owned the sonic euphoria passive preamp. it was too focused for my taste, almost to the point of being analytical.

of the four preamps mentioned, i suspect the cary is the least likely to be bought, unless i replace the caps and substitute audionte copper/oil, or mundorf silver.
MtT, you shared your four preamp choices, which in itself represents an opinion, and then you warned readers not to rely on opinion.

The irony was humorous.

But...if I have to explain it, then it wasn't that funny after all.
Larryi hit the nail on the head. This has certainly been my experience time and again. My most recent example is a CJ pv10 and premier 14. While the 14 was under repair I put my spare pv10 in and the result was an incredible improvement. They were driving Mcintosh 501's which have a low input impedence - the pv10's output imp is around 800 while I believe the 14 is around 200, I'm guessing that's the reason? The synergy is clearly better in every area.
hi tvad:

you are wrong. my quartet of choices does not represent an opinion. it is just a list of preamps. check your definitions of words. there is a difference between facts and opinions.

my 4 selections are not opinions they are statements of the existence of these products. if i say "mcintosh", is that an opinion ? i think not.

the more obvious is my statement "don't rely on opinions", which is an opinion. i'm surprised you did not acknowledge the paradox.

one's ears as has been said many times, are more useful than second-hand opinions.
as i understand, a preamp with a high output imedance, say over 600 ohms needs to see an amplifier's input impedance of around 50,000 ohms or more. the interconnect cable length and capacitance are also relevant.
That's what I thought lower output impedance for lower input but this one shocked me. I'm using MIT 350 ref 1 meter which has a higher capacitance I believe.
05-05-09: Mrtennis
hi tvad:

you are wrong. my quartet of choices does not represent an opinion. it is just a list of preamps.

No. You are wrong.

Yours is not just a list of preamps. It is a subjective list of preamps as you state in your post. A subjective list is in itself an opinion of four preamps you preferred and selected.
hi tvad:

how can i prefer them when i haven't heard them. the list is an indication of the preamps i want to investigate. there is no preference for any of them. i may not like or purchase any of them. i am not recommending them or saying anything positive or negative about them. it is just a list.

there is nothing subjective about the list. they are 4 tube preamps. i could have added the conrad johnson et2, but i doubt i will be able to audition it.

the only subjective aspect is my intention to audition them. i hardly think an intention to audition a preamp is an opininion.

anybody care to chime in ?? if a person has an opinion about something which has yet to be experienced, it is a prejudice. are you suggesting i have a prejudice toward any of these preamps ?
05-05-09: Mrtennis
hi tvad:

how can i prefer them when i haven't heard them. the list is an indication of
the preamps i want to investigate. there is no preference for any of

Sure there is. There's clearly something about these preamps that caused you
to prefer them over 100 other possible preamps. Therefore, unless you put
all the possibilities on a roulette wheel and spun it four times resulting in a
random four picks...or, you placed all the possibilities on a wall, then
blindfolded yourself and had someone spin you around several times, and
then tossed four darts resulting in a random selection of four preamps, then
your subjective selection indicates you have a preference for the four
preamps on your list...for whatever reason. In other words, you have formed
an opinion regarding their suitability for your system goals.

We have to assume based on your posts that you are hoping for a warm,
caramel colored, rolled off presentation.

Good luck finding that.

I'm frightened by the possibility that you would continue this discussion until
each of us is in the Old Folks Home, and unaware of who or where we are.

So type away...but I'm done with this mini debate.
Amen & thank you Tvad.

Mr T., asked:
anybody care to chime in ??

YES! Mr. T. plse stop!
It didn't get ugly like the thread under Misc Audio

"When placing an Ad please include the following..."
Now that the slap fight is over, I stand corrected the pv10 is 800 ohms and the Mac is 10Kohms so the 10 to 1 ratio applies...
pv10 is 800 ohms and the Mac is 10Kohms so the 10 to 1 ratio applies...
Pops (System | Threads | Answers)

The numbers suggest this would be a bad match, and the other preamp with 200 ohm impedance would be a better match.

Does the PV10/Mac combo sound warmer than the other combo?
I am using ARC VTM120 SE and pair it to Lumley Reference LV1 preamp. I would like to upgrade my preamp and there are two choices that pop up:

1. EAR 868
2. Aesthetix Calypso

Which one is better? I am spinning LP12, with Moon LP5.3 RS and its dedicated power supply, Siltech LS188 speaker cable, Stealth Meta Carbon interconnect, Stealth PGS 3D interconnect, Siltech Octopus Reference power distributor, Ensemble Elysia speakers.

I listen to lots of classical musics, jazz, some pops. Thanks guys.
Tvad, it does sound warmer, richer, cleaner highs, better seperation, better tonality all around. This was not the case when these preamps were connected to a Classe amp which has an input impedance of 47K.
Pops, I would have expected you to say warmer and richer, but not cleaner highs.

Generally, high output impedance matched with low input impedance would result in a lack of bass definition and perhaps rolled off highs...thus a "warmer" presentation.
Tvad, I'm telling you it's bizzare, better bass definition and clearer, cleaner highs...what gives?

I've been looking for this and the texture I use to have and it was right under my nose. I don't think the premier 14 has it compared to the pv10. I've tried several cable combinations trying to get it back, put the pv10 in and whoa! there it is!