you might wanna ask in the preamp deal of the century thread. i have a chardonnay that's being shipped to me. i owned an arc sp-16l over a year ago. i'll post my impressions of the supratek after i get enough time with it.
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could you provide me with some more info on the failed chardonnay's you mention? i've never heard anybody complain of problems with the chardonnay. it seems to me that as popular as they seem to be around here that there'd be several threads about the issue. i'd really like to know what to expect now that my chardonnay is gonna be on it's way shortly. thanks.
I have had mine for 6 weeks and it made my stereo come alive like no other equipment I have owned. (20 years audiophile). It is the best $2200 I have ever spent in audio. Mick was a pleasure to deal with and was forth coming with all inquiries. The preamp looks bullet proof and sounds awesome. I DOUBT very much there are any widespread issues with these units.
I had a Syrah for awhile. It was pleasant enough but lacked the resolution I was looking for.
Arkio, what do you mean by "the preamp looks bulletproof?"
"Sounds Awesome" is subjective and I have no reason to doubt your assesment, but to designate something as bulletproof would require an in depth knowledge of the circuits and the components utilized.
I have delved into my unit, having it opened up to see what makes it tick.. out of curiosity. Being a mechanical engineer I can appreciate the simplicity and design that has gone into this unit. Intimate circuitry knowledge .. No, but enough electronics knowledge to know it is well made. Perhaps my use of bullet proof was not the best use of terminology but hopefully you get my meaning.
Sounds awesome, yes subjective but I could not find anything under $3000 new or used that I liked better. Sorry to hear you did not get the resolution out of your Syrah. My detail and resolution is outstanding there I go being subjective again : ) What Speakers, CDP and amp do you use?
I am running a Chenin for almost a year now. No hum, or "reliability" issues of any sort. I used to have the Odyssey Stratos Monos and the Supratek can drive the amp with ease. The combination is wonderful! I tried some tube preamp with those amp before and it never quite get the "right" sound for me.
At present, I am using my Chenin to drive a PWM amp (ICE H2O)and it has lots of detail. In fact, this is probably one of the many great feautures using a PWM amp in one's sytem. In my experienced, I find it hard to accept that the preamp is the one to blame as far as "resolution" is concern. But of course, it is just me.
I had one of the first Syrahs. After about six months one channel went out. It was going to cost me $350 in shipping to have it repaired by Supratek. Being a friend of John Tucker's, I ask if he might be able to repair it. He did so. I know of two additional Syrahs that he repaired. This was very early in production of this unit.
I know of a few Supratek's which have needed repairs - including my first Chardonnay - several years ago. In my case, Mick covered the costs to repair locally. My Cortese has been flawless.
Sound wise, it totally depends on the tubes you use. The Supratek can go from annoyingly sterile to deep-dark and overly lush. But regardless of tonal balance, the Supratek remains lively and overall is a "pretty" sounding preamp - which tends to make the rest of your system sound better.
Not-so-good CD players sound better - really good CD players sound good - but not as good as I imagine they could if the Supratek was more transparent - having less character.
I think you'd prefer the Supratek to the ARC.
Arkio, I agree, I think it is a bargain at $3000 compared to others I've heard.
I think Bwhite's assessment is right on the money. Once you find a combination of tubes that suits your system it is a piece you can easily live with. Veiled is way too strong a word to describe it, but it tends to go in that direction.
Tbg - I thought your post was okay. You are correct, early versions of the Supratek had issues - particularly cold solder joints. My first and second Chardonnay's came damaged (in shipping) from the factory. Piano Black with a nice huge scratch. Sweet! Lots of weird buzzing, humming issues. Gain was weird - high gain was too high and low gain was too low. I think Mick has done a fantastic job of improving on his manufacturing techniques (care and precision) and it shows in the reliability of the current product line.
Now... we only need to improve transparency.
As you and I discussed, the stock volume pot is one of the problems with transparency in the Chardonnay. BTW, what does the Cortese use for volume control?
I don't know why Mick insist on using the stock Alps pot (other than cost). The DACT is such an improvement it is silly.
I am considering upgrading to the Cabernet. If I do, I will insist on a DACT volume control. (Maybe the new digital volume control instead....?)
I think the Cortese uses the Alps too. Not only is the potentiometer an issue but the selector switch is too. All signal runs through that knob followed by a trip through the mute switch. Seems to me the pot, knob and switch are three great places to improve transparency. Also.. check the RCA connectors they're super cheap. Mine broke on my Chardonnay.
Mick seems open to new ideas, he just takes a while to accept them. At one point, he didn't like parafeed designs (at about the time Norm had his Syrah modified by John Tucker) - now all the Supratek's are parafeed.
My Chardonnay was the first with HT bypass and remote. The thing was like some bizarre Frankenstein which didn't work too well but... Mick evolved and incorporated the features into the design... and did it pretty well I might add. Now those features are available on every Supratek.
Ultimately the Supratek is limited mostly by the size of its chassis - there are a great number of refinements and improvements which could be accomplished if the chassis were larger. I don't know if the DACT would fit in my Cortese or even a Syrah - the phono sections take up a lot of space.
Wow, you guys jumped right in on things here. I've learned some new things and still look to upgrade beyond the ARC SP16L. With keeping in the price of the Chardonnay, is there better tube preamps out there for the best combination of soundstaging, dynamics, and adaptablility with other gear? The Chardonnay looks so nice though....Lets keep the thread going.
Good luck on your pre search. Another pre you should consider is the deHavilland UltraVerve. I'm thrilled with mine. For details on what it did for my system, check my review in the amp/pre review section on Agon.