Flora - as suggested above is good choice, IMO too
VK3iSE -slightly used
Audio Response - modded Audio Note M2 or M3
First Sound - used
LAMM L2 DeLux - used
CAT - used
of course last three are the best but you have to be patient as they are not that often appear on A-goN
All The Best
Rafael: Thank you so much for your pre suggestions. I read your excellent review of the Spectron Musician IIISE. While I am not in a position to add a second amp, I wonder what the value is of running this amp in a balanced configuration vs. RCA connections. Using the CDP I have (Cambridge Audio 840C), I'm wondering what the trade off is.
I did not run both RCA's and XLR's so I don't know. I use NBS Statement RCA and I an very, very happy.
I suspect that if I run the same cable in balanced vs single ended mode the balanced will be somewhat better. I can't afford now balanced Statement and I MUCH prefer RCS MBS versus XLR of lesser quality cable.
I think I place my review a bit too early - sound is changing and changing to the better, in two words: "deeper gestalt" experience
All The Best
Been thinking myself about that, too. I had a First Sound preamp which I really liked, however my ideal preamp to mate with a pair of Spectron M3 SEP will have to have:
- 6SN7 tubes, as I like this family more than the 6922 family. In ultimate terms, on average (there are exceptions, of course), 6sn7 is placed on the thicker, fleshier side of neutral, while the 6922 tubes are on the thinner, brighter side of neutral.
- TVC as opposed to resistors
- remote control
- separate, tube based power supply, and I personally like the 5Z3 tubes.
- preamp out should be true balanced XLR via transformer.
- tube amplification stage should be single ended triode transformer coupled (thus no capacitors) to output transformer. I chose single ended tube as opposed to balanced tube because I want the tube stage to be as simple as possible and I want to be able to roll rare NOS tube pairs without worrying about finding matched quartets.
- 2 XLR outs in order to use the Spectron in monobock config. Also 1 SE out for compatibility.
- low gain, low output impedance (around 50)
- both SE and XLR ins. The XLR input is trully balanced, signal goes to TVC, TVC out is unbalanced to triode stage, then the output transformer balances back the signal to amp. Keeping the signal fully balanced throughout would require 4 matched 6SN7 tubes which, aside from the inconvenience caused by having to find rare NOS tubes to match, I feel doesn't sound as good (less magic) as a SET stage. But this will have a penalty when it comes to measured (not audible) noise.
I'm having this preamp custom made by Promitheus audio as I type this, so I guess we'll see how good it is when I receive it. I expect it to be perfect, and then some...
Sure, I will write a review of that preamp once I receive it. It will be made using signature double c-cores throughout, relay based remote control, mundorf silver-oil caps in the power supply, no caps in the signal path (transformer coupled).
I definitely heard changes in my Spectron's sound with time. Sound is more organic, initially it was cooler sounding than it is now. Now it's just perfect, and it keeps getting better (!!!). I have around 200 hours on it, but it has the v-cap/bybee upgrade. Didn't try them in monoblock mode (second amp is still sealed) because I lack the proper cabling and I will soon move my stereo in a new listening room.
I've been using the Promitheus Reference C-core TVC since I got my first Musician III SE. I'm using all balanced interconnects throughout the system.
It's quite puzzling to me that something so affordable could sound so good. It simply lets the signal from the source get to the amps without adding anything, and most importantly, without removing anything.
This TVC is completely quiet using the balanced interconnects. I've been trying all along to find any area that it may be compromising, but to these ears it gets most of the things right. It doesn't have the mid-range magic that tubes provide, but it's close to it. And it does this while maintaining deep, controlled, fast, and articulate bass. The highs are crystal clear without being edgy or mechanical. The sound is simply completely clean from top to bottom.
I tried this TVC with single ended interconnects and it was picking up some hum if I set the volume almost all the way up without music playing. This disappeared entirely when I switched to balanced interconnects.
The one major requirement for this TVC to work is that you need to have enough gain in the system. Without enough gain, it might not do what it's supposed to do.
I've been curious lately about the M3 MK2 & MW LS 36.5 2-box combo, due to the fact that the MW specs are quite impressive and comments from users seem to back it up.
I've gotten too used to the quietness of the Promitheus Reference C-core TVC and I've been checking for active preamps that could be as quiet as the TVC and are able to render laser sharp images without sounding lite.
I was wondering if you have any more comments about the M3 MK2 & MW LS 36.5 2-box combo that you can share with us.
Tedmbrady, I am also looking for a new pre-amp for my new Musician III Mark 2. Been looking at BAT (mainly because Simon of Spectron likes them), the Cary SLP 05 because I have read good things and the dual mono Modwright LS 36.5 because there are other Spectron users out there that like them. I am looking for that perfect synergy between pre-amp and amp. You think the Modwright has it?
All I can say is that altough the Bent TAP, a tremendous passive TVC-based pre, sounds great with the Mark 2, the LS 36.5 does nothing but add realism and tonality to take the combo from great to nearly perfect. If you've read the reviews and feedback the LS 36.5 is dead quiet, let alone the fact that it's tubes. It loses nothing here to the basically nonexistent Bent TAP "noise". The synergy with the slightly warmside-of-neutral Spectron is beyond waht I would have expected. I am amazed each time I turn on the combo...really. Why I want to go monoblock with the Spectron is purely dedcadence, I guess. I'm assuming I'll not fix what clearly ain't broken!! :)
All this being said, I can't comment on the other pres in this list cuz i haven't heard them in this setup...just the FYI that the 36.5 is basically as quiet as a passive, with all the magic of Dan's incredible tube section.
During CES 2009 new "The Killer" tube preamp will be introduced - not terribly cheap but not ultra expensive.
Some auditioned it with Spectron monoblocks and "fainted"
Have a bit of the patience......
All The Best
P.S. May be some of you know that Simon Thacher of Spectron "golden standard" was REX by BAT ($20k) and no other preamp came even close .... not anymore and not for $20k either! (not even close).
The preamplifier in question is Marianne Electra Memorial Edition Preamp by Jud Barber of Joule-Electra.
This Preamp will be presented in Joule-Electra & Merlin Music Systems Room at Consumer Electronics Show, 2009 January 8-11, at the Venetian Tower Hotel, Room 29-217
The designer built it in the honor of his late wife Marianne who died an year ago this May.
The limited edition issued by Joule-Electra by now has received a very warp response from a few audiophile who had the opportunity to audition it
I had an ARC Ref 3 for a while with a single M III and the bybee /vcap upgrades and did not like it at all - very bright and hard. I reverted back to my supped up Sonic Frontiers line 3SE++ and I am quite satisfied with the noise coming out of this combo.
A second M III arrived on Thursday and after 48 hours burn in, today I am going to hook them up as mono blocks using XLR Y-cables! Yippee!
Radicalsteve, what does the rest of your system consist of.
You said the ARC REF3 sounded "very bright and hard", I have to say that's the first time I have heard that and I have never ever had such an experience and I have tried endless amp combos with the REF3 and my set-ups are very re-veiling, I'm currently using MBL 101E speakers.
Something was going on so I would not put blame on the ARC REF3 and look elsewhere within the system, that being said when I spoke to Simon about the match compatibility he mentioned to me that it would be a great, in his defence he did also mentioned the BAT REX.
Look forward to your thoughts regarding mono block configuration hooked-up and what the differences are from just having a single stereo unit. Do your amps have either of the two upgrades available.
Radicalsteve, I over read and see that you have both upgrades, I guess I was just paying too much attention to your reference of the REF3 being bright and hard.
I also read some of your other threads and see you are in the area "Ottawa", you wouldn't happen to be coming to T.O. during the holidays for a visit would you.
I would really love to hear those in my set-up.
Dev, it is early days yet to report on the monoblock configuration - but as soon as I have a view I will post an update. Unfortunately I won't be in T.O., but on the slopes at Tremblant!
As to the Ref 3 I am assuming it is purely an impedance miss-match or such.
I really enjoyed the Ref 3 with my Sonic Frontier Power 3's prior to me getting the M III and for a while (contrary to lots of opinion here) I thought the ARC PH-3SE with NOS tubes was a great sounding phono stage prior to my Aesthetix IO SIg - so I quite like the sound of ARC gear and would always say that the REF 3 is a highly recommended world class preamp and I was sorry to see it go - just didn't have the synergy that my Line 3 has with the M III. I did think the Ref 3 display was ugly though!
I must say that a tube pre with the M III is a good way to go, especially with a tube based vinyl front end. Having said that, I would be really interested in a Sim Moon P8 with the M III. I used to have the P5 LE and only sold it because it had just one balanced out and I prefer at least 2 XLR out for my set up. That P5 was very sweet sounding and dead quiet.
Radicalsteve, what is the rest of your set-up?
Sonic Frontier, too bad they are gone they had some really nice pieces and I'm sure if they were still around they would be top contenders and on my list to own.
I was just about to pull the trigger to get a pair with both up grades but in the back of my mind for what ever reason this little voice kept saying wait, just wait and be patient.
Then I read Dob's information above making reference to just being in Toronto and hearing a system which consisted of MBL's driven by Joule-Electra and preferring it, well you can read what he said above. I guess this time arround that inner voice was right and saved me some aggravation as I would not have been too happy if I gotten the results you made reference to above.
I have not ruled them out 100% as of yet but now I know prior to laying out any money I'm gonna have to listen first, I'm going to be patient this time arround. I look forward to your thoughts, too bad you were not a little closer.
My understanding and past experience from using other class "D" amps is it really takes "many many" hours to break-in and you need to be very patient. Steve I heard you are suppose to being getting more of that white stuff too tomorrow, so far my grass is still green here.
Radicalsteve, I was mistaken when I said refer to above Dob's thread. It was actually on another thread titled,
"D" amps, general discussion who's 1 and why?
Read below I just copied and pasted what Dob had to say about his most recent listening experience;
"I am not sure if you mean my review where I compared Spectron (positively) with VTL Sigfrieds but if its true I heard other tube amplifiers since."
"While, I will not take a "penny" from Spectron - its good amp, there are few OTL amplifiers which lead you directly to heaven."
"I spent a week in Canada and friend of the friend owns Joule-Electra Rite of Passage and big MBL speakers. I spent a large number of hours , almost every day, in his listening room. I will not tell you how accurate was this or inacuracte was that (I am professional cellist) - frankly I did not give a ... I knew I can't stand, I can't leave, I can't stop listening to the music. It was increadibly REALISTIC representation of REAL music. I am like a dog - I can tell you what I hear, I can't explain why (I did not hear euphonic even order or other kind of distortions, sorry)"
"Joule-Electra's web site is a bit neglected so you have to do your own research..... and you will discover that his "equipment" was reviewed time and time again by Harry Pearson of TAS, David Robonson of Positive Feedback and such, that he has many prestigeous awards etc etc."
"So at first I thought that I am insane but now I know that I am only poor. I can't afford big MBL with Rite of Psssage."
"I suspect that you want to say that I was hearing effect of MBL. Its true but I heard to these great speakers with so many solid state amps (including MBL) that I know that I heard - I heard "magic" pure and simple "magic"."
Don't want to go off topic, but last night I got the MONOBLOCK MIII's up and running with my tubed SF Line 3. I am sure there is a lot of settling down to take place as I have also had to add new Y-cables and different speaker connections and a new power cord set up BUT first impressions are WOW. Big difference in width of soundstage and uncanny spatial location of instruments - it sounded like a the guitar player was sitting on a stool tight on the left hand corner of the stage! Very holographic. Musically I noticed more flow and pace, maybe better definition or detail, but that was just the first take. More to follow, possibly under a more appropriate thread.
Radicalsteve, I have to say I'm a bit confused with your most recent threads regarding Spectron and ARC REF3 pre combo saying "As to the Ref 3 I am assuming it is purely an impedance miss-match or such."
I found a thread of yours posted on 04-18-08 that said;
Title was Spectron Musician 3 First Impressions?
"The Spectron is a good match with my ARC Ref3; it runs ridiculously cool, no noise, total control top to bottom, but it is not lush, it does not color the signal and it is remarkably effortless driving my Apogees, very quiet driving my Raven/Focal hand-built MTM's. If I had to sum up so far, it has poise, clarity, definition and gives a confidence that it delivers the most musical response from whatever you feed into it. Just be aware that it will highlight any deficiencies in your system or your room acoustics."
and there was no such mention of this and then I read on 11-30-08 in this thread where you say you replaced the Audio Research Ref3 because it was sounding "very bright and hard." while paired up with the Spectron's.
I now read your latest thread today you saying;
"I have also had to add new Y-cables and different speaker connections and a new power cord set up"
Radicalsteve, I was trying to get a feel for your system consisted of especially due to the fact you having a REF3 pre which I currently have and had asked what it consisted of a couple of times but didn't get a reply back so I did some reading of your past threads and found you are using Apogee Stages, Raven/Focal hand-built MTM's.
I received a couple of personal emails saying they own the AR REF3 paired up these same Spectron amps and the sound they are getting is not "very bright or hard" as you put it.
Can you clarify, thanks.
Dev, I will try to be succinct. The Spectron is a very revealing amp; my first one replaced tube Sonic Frontier Power 3's and the increased clarity was obvious from day 1. Over about 500 hours the amp settled in to become clear, open, coherent and presentation was the most lucid I have heard in my system. As time went on I found that as the Spectron opened up, there were was a degree of stridency I was previously unaware of in combination with the REF 3.
During this time I did change my speakers as well to another self-built design based on the GR Research OBI 7's, which are dipoles and also extremely transparent and lively. When I exchanged the REF 3 for my Line 3 (I owned both at the same time) I was able to compare directly and the difference was immediately obvious and I could not go back to the REF 3 without feeling it was edgy, brittle etc in comparison to the Line 3 which has always been a great controlled neutral pre and suddenly the Line 3 becomes really alive and the REF 3 is over the top for me in my system.
I truly believe the REF 3 IS A WORLD CLASS PREAMP, but as the Spectron found its groove, the REF 3 seemed out of place. I now believe my Line 3 has a much better match as the music just flows - not a highly quantitative assessment I agree, but emotionally I have a clear preference. Since the REF 3 goes for 2 X the $ of the Line 3, I sold it. Based on my experience I would tend to recommend a preamp for the Spectron that is "smooth and neutral"" (whatever that means) versus one that is forward and bold. The ARC house sound has not shifted that much over the years and there are many comments here on that - BTW, I am still a big fan. I know Simon likes the BAT gear to with the Spectron and now I see (hear) why. If I was looking at SS, based on my limited experience I would choose a Sim Audio P7 or P8 rather than a Classe for example. I hope you get the drift.
So much depends on other system components it really is hard to compare. I tend to use silver IC cables for example because I favor an open transparent, energetic sound, rather than a bloomy, softer sound. Most of all I value coherence and tonality and I don't like a smeared or distorted sound such as SE Triodes - that should trigger a couple of flames!
As to changing PC's and speaker cabling etc; that is inevitable when you go from stereo to a monoblock configuration as I have just done. I should add that in the stereo mode I used the remote sense cables, no idea if that had any impact on the REF 3 presentation.
Hi Radicalsteve, thanks for clarification of your experience.
Reading your most recent post here there seems to be allot going on with your over all system, many different factors coming into play.
Your IC's you mention that are silver, what manufacturer are they and connection?
I have owned and tried a few top notch contenders (VTL 7.5 / McIntosh 1000 just to name) and most defiantly there are different flavours but to date I have never experienced my REF3 to be forward and bold sounding, wondering if something was wrong with yours. I have brought my pre over to many others to hear and will say that it was not always my preference in their set-up but never did it sound the way you put it which just has me puzzled.
If you were a little closer it would be so easy, we could just insert it within your set-up I would be able to hear what you are describing first hand.
I just want others who are reading this to know my reasoning is to educated, I was looking at getting some Spectrons for myself but have now put a hold until I hear.
I will say in all honesty that after reading "Dob's" latest listening experience with Joule that is where I'm headed, it's not the first time I have heard what he was describing and their new pre-amp is suppose to be a really nice pce.
Look forward to your on going thoughts while your Spectron's continue to break-in along with your cables.
" I know Simon likes the BAT gear to with the Spectron and now I see (hear) why"
Indeed, for a long time, REX by BAT was my most favorite preamp.
However, now, I am trying to assist Jud Barber of Joule-Electra to build, that I believe, will be "the best" preamplifier in the world. He builds it in the memory of his late wife Marianne What Jud is trying to achieve is that you will not notice if preamp edgy or not, smooth, showing this or that - only that you will have emotional connection to the music.
When I first time heard the prototype (with pair of Spectron monoblocks) we placed Mozart Requiem and I am rather mature if not old, nor sentimental for sure, person - I felt the tears were coming from my eyes. So at first I was ashamed a bit by showing emotional side of me but later on I understood (again and again) that the true music is all about emotions - you simple do not notice if high are silky or not, if bass is fleshed out etc. What you should have is only feelings and being unable to stop listening to music. Familiar tracks, now grab you and don't let go.
To show this and yet be as much accurate in representation of real acoustic music is the true challenge for the audio designer (the same challenge I had when we moved from standard Musician III (when I joint the company) to Signature and later to Mk2) and its outside of the scope of this thread.
Enjoy The Music's pre-CES show report is saying it is $14,800:
"Joule Electra is introducing a new preamplifier, the Marianne Electra Memorial Preamplifier LA-300ME ($14,800). The LA-300ME incorporates all the features that have made the LA series of preamplifiers and is named in memoriam to the co-founder of Joule Electra, Marianne Electra Barber who passed away after a long illness in May a year ago. This new unit is a highly refined version of the LA-150, which incorporates exotic capacitors through out and signal wiring designed specifically for Joule Electra by David Elrod of Elrod Power Systems. The signal wiring combines a combination of six nines silver and copper in a unique transmission line configuration. The capacitors are a mix of V-Caps and Mundorf silver, gold and oil that represents the very best capacitors available to the high-end audio community. According to Joule Electra, "The bass line of the preamp has always been one of it's major assets, but now the bass is crisper and cleaner with improved dynamics and extension. The midrange, one of the outstanding features of the LA-150 is now wonderfully fleshed out with a highly organic nature that must be experienced to fully appreciate. The improvement in treble extension and clarity is immediately noticeable with silky highs possessing the gloss and crispness of the original performance."
I'll check it out Fri or Sat and report back whatever I can.