What can you tell me about First Sound pre-amps?

Only recently have heard about these pre-amps. Are they as good as they are made out to be? Is the least expensive model as good as say a R0land Synergy? I live in Seattle and have never heard of this pre-amp so any information would be GREATLY appreciated. Thanks in advance, Jerry.
Why don't you contact Mr. Go himself since he is from Renton wa.I think that his pre is about as good as the get depending on ones budget. Go to First Sound .com to get a phone number, you will not deal with a fairer gentleman in audio-Good hunting Dennis
..as one who just this month purchased a first sound delux 4.0 mkII with the paramount upgrade and replaced a >$12k preamp i can attest to the many glowing remarks and reviews of this superb preamp. mr. go is a true professional and a gentleman who has created a truely great preamp. i am,within the next month or two,going to upgrade to the paramount model.read the reviews on soundstage and stereotimes...they are exactly right in their praise.
The First Sound Presence Deluxe Mk II retail about $4,200 if I recall, and IMO outperformed the Rowland Synergy in my comparisons. http://www.firstsoundaudio.com is actually the correct web addy... fyi- the pics on the site are older designs, you can now get all black or all silver (aluminum) - I have a pic of my preamp in my system link if you care to see a unit in all silver. Highly recommended.
I sell neither and can highly recommend the First Sound, if you can run single ended cables. I think it will be an improvement over the Synergy.

Emanual Go is one of the nicest guys in audio. He is a straight shooter and loves spicy food. :)
Are these the preamps that have separate left and right volume controls? If so, why?
RWWEAR, yes. the First Sound devices have separate volume controls for the left/right channels. The preamps have completely separate mono circuits for each channel. This design extends to separate volume controls. The idea is that complete separate circuits will maximize sound quality, channel separation etc. . . They are not the only preampliphiers to be designed this way. Most Blue Circle pres share this feature. In fact, the Blue Circle AG 3000 is a fully balanced design with 4 volume controls.
I used to own a Presence Deluxe Mk II, and at that time it was easily the best preamp I'd ever owned. It bested several other preamps in a shootout, including stuff by Krell, Levinson, and Rowland. I'd probably still have it today, but, alas, I went in a different direction. :(
Volume controls can be stacked and still be independent of each other. This way you only have to turn one knob.
guidocorona....the fs replaced an audio tekne IT-1 'simona' preamp..itself a very good piece but not as good as the fs.
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Good point RWWEAR. I suspect Emmanuel may feel that he is achieving greater channel isolation using two completely separate controls. One obvious convenience is his design achieves user-control channel balance without extra circuitry. But TVAD is right: Call up Emmanuel and he will give you the real story.
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I've owned both, a First Sound Presence Deluxe mkII, and a Joule LA150, albeit at different times. To my ears, it was no contest. The First Sound had better, lively sonics all the way around. I have not heard any 6H30 preamp that I enjoyed, as they always sounded mid-fi and unexciting to me.
I love my Presence Deluxe Mk II, but now im thinking about upgrading probably to the 4.0 with paramount plus upgrade, or maybe the full-monte Paramount II.

Man oh man, it's gonna cost me a pretty penny, but it's only money, right?
1markr- I've got a LA100 MKIII in my system right now and the soundstaging, imaging and bass are a big step up from my Syrah when used with my Joule VZN-80. It is not however, the most dynamic presentation I've heard, but I want to try a new tube set before passing final judgement. Did you ever hear the 100?
Swamp - Sorry, haven't heard the 100. If it's dynamics you want, the the FS has it in spades, as does my current DeHavilland UltraVerve. These are my two favorite preamps. Ended up with the UV for its remote capability and use of 6SN7 tubes which I like for preamps.
I had the First Sound Presence Deluxe MkII at the same time I had the Joule LA100 MkIII. They are polar opposites, but both are excellent pres.

The Joule was a lovely preamp - quiet, easy to use, great soundstage, good bass, rich 'n creamy midrange and smooth highs. It probably made a lot of music sound more beautiful than it is in real life, but that's not always a bad thing. The Joule does need an aftermarket PC to sound its best. I used a TG Audio SLVR which greatly improved punch and dynamics. I also plugged it straight into the wall. While it can initially sound a bit dark in some systems, Jud Barber can help fine tune this pre to one's specific needs and components. It would be just the ticket in some systems.

The FS Presence, OTOH, has terrific PRAT - some of the best dynamics I've ever heard on a tubed pre - coupled with high resolution and powerful bass. For me however, the ergonomics were awkward (the dual attenuators weren't a problem but permanent umbilical to the outboard power supply was and the unit was HEAVY as hell). It could also sound...I dunno...a bit lean or lacking in tonal color/texture, and not as nearly as dimensional as I would like with a tubed preamp. Mr. Go has since provided an upgrade which I believe addresses these issues.

I kept neither of the Joule nor the FS, settling instead on the tubed Herron VTSP-1. I LOVE this preamp. It possesses every bit as much dynamics as the FS Presence with much greater tonal color, plus it has the delicacy of the Joule. The 3D imaging is a kick. The Herron is more realistic than "lush "(although it's not in the least lean or etched.) It's "sound" is hard to describe...it just sounds like music to me, very "alive", drawing me into the performacne every time. Natural, neutral but not bland. I'm done shopping for preamps, unless I get Keith's new version with the remote and phase switch.

First Sound makes outstanding preamps, but I'd also highly recommend the Herrons to anyone auditioning in this price range. (The VTSP-1 fetches around $2100 here used.)
the other variable not mentioned in the above post is tube set. The FS really comes to live, very harmoinically rich, not at all lean with the Amperex 6922 PQ tubes; even richer and lusher with old 6DJ8's (e.e.g bugle boys from 1959-60). Others have had great results with the Siemens 7308's.

anyway, I insist the FS tubed preamp rackon listened to is not anywhere near the preamp in my LR. OTOH, I've not heard the Herron so I would not be able to compare.
Artg, of course tube sets make a difference, and that's part of the fun of having tubed preamps. I originally heard a FS PD MkII with Siemens, and that's why I decided to try it.

As I said, the FS is an excellent preamp. I didn't like the stock tubes at all, and I know what my ears heard. However, the ergonomics were what really killed the deal for me, it was just too damned heavy and awkward, and I hated the permanent umbilical. I could live with the dual attenuators. But if I hated the ergonomics, why would I roll the tubes?

I sold the FS to a guy who upgraded it, rolled the tubes, has a tubed amp, and is thrilled to death with it. I've since heard the FS with the Siemens again, and I'm still not sorry I sold mine. I can see where it would be a killer preamp in someone ele's system. But not mine. Different strokes for different folks.

The Herron is kind of a special piece, "lush" it ain't, and lush isn't necessarily what I'm going for. As I said, it's hard to decribe its "sound" - it's neutral but not bland. It just makes good recordings sound "alive" in a way live music does. It's a coinnoisseur, music purist's kind a preamp. It will never have the groupies on audio forums that the Supratek and others have. But it is very well respected amongst reviewers and those who have heard it.

If you read CES reports, writers and showgoers always comment on how musical Keith Herron's room sounds, but the fact of its excellence has gotten rather taken for granted - another year, another great sounding room. Keith doesn't bring out a lot of different models, just does what he does very well. I actually see a lot of similarities between Keith's and Emmanual Go's design philosophies, and the two preamps are different flavors in the same "sound family". The biggest difference is I wouldn't roll tubes in the Herron for nuttin' - Keith does some kind of voodoo with those stock tubes, and I ain't messin' with success.

System synergy plays a big role in these things, and we all tend to be partial to our own gear (we bought it and live with it after all, we must like what it does for in our systems). In my system, Herron preamp and mono amps, Alon Vs, the synergy is great.

Happy listening.

YMMV. Ain't no right or wrong.
I can't stand dual volume controls myself and do not need or want balance control. And to not have remote capabilities to me is super bad. There is no reason I can see for not having a remote control. There are ways to implement it without affecting the sound if you know how. But that's just my opinion and others may feel differently.
TWWEAR, I understand your preference. All My preference is different: my remote controls are at the bottom of a long forgotten drawer: I never use them. As for twin volume controls, a mitigating usability factor is that the attenuators click at discrete points, so it should be quite easy to match them exactly. Furthermore, as I already mentioned, twin volume controls act also as a very high quality channel balance as well, without introducing the artifacts that a balancing circuit would. By coincidence twin volume control and a single volume control plus a balance control amount to the same number of knobs on the unit. Strange but true!
rackon - well, stated. i understand your points clearly, especially about "system context." tell us what amp, source and speakeres you had around your FS.
Sometimes at night I have dreams in which my FS preamp has a remote. Then I wake up, sadly.
I understand what you are saying Guidocorona. But it is very difficult to set the correct levels at the listening position without remote control. Unless of course one has their equipment within arms reach, we have to interupt the listening experience and jump up and adjust the sound level for different recordings. And to further exasperate things by having two separate level controls doubles the posibility of getting it wrong. If you have the ability to remember where every piece of music and source you own sounds best then you are very lucky. But, I have many different souces and recordings of LPs, CDs, Laserdiscs and DVDs all of which have different output levels. I agree with you about the artifacts that a balance control will add and as I stated above do not want or need one. And as I stated before, it is a simple matter to stack volume controls and still keep them dual mono. I don't have any quibbles about you liking your purchase. You decided before you bought it what you could live with. And from what I have read, it is a wonderful preamp and you should be happy with it. Hell, the excersize would be good for all of us but I listen to a lot of vinyl and have to get up a lot anyway.
it's obvious that if you ask people who already use the FS whether it's a big deal or not to lack a remote, or to have separate volume controls, they will say, "no big deal."

I am one of those - BUT, I did not think I was going to be able to deal with it. In other words, when I went looking for "no-holds barred" preamps, I initially ONLY wanted one with a remote, but then I could not help but notice that many of the very best tubed preamps did not have remotes (Lamm L2, First Sound, Aethetix Calisto, VAC, CAT, Audio Note, and so on) - So rather than automatically exclude some of hte very very best in my consideration - I broadened my criteria, deciding I would live with this "inconvenience."

Well, let me tell you, if your someone thinking about a preamp but are wavering because it's got no remote - DONT SWEAT IT. True life might be easier with a remote, true that recordings all vary, and true you'll have to get up off your arse more, but it's managable.....
RWWEAR, unfortunately I do not own a First Sound. . . yet. To be honest with you, I have not decided yet if I will purchase a FS or a Supratek, or perhaps a Harrons.
I am not sure why Emmanuel Go decided to forego a stacked attenuator design. I can think the reason may be to ensure that the two devices achieved optimum electromagnetic isolation.
A stacked design would place the two attenuators in close proximity and he may be concerned that the induced EM fields may influence the other device. In a derived design the two attenuators would be mounted at opposite ends of a non conductive rod running from the front of the unit to the back.
The problem with this option is that either the wireing would be of unequal length, or he would have to use relatively long wires for both, thus violating the principle of minimum signal path, which is his philosophy.
As I mentioned somewhere else some other brands also adopt the twin attenuator design. Namely the Foundation Research V6 linestage owned by a good friend of mine. The difference is that in the FR the volume controls do not move in discrete steps for facilitating even volume settings. But my friend, who like me is completely blind, does not find that to be a hindrance at all.
He also owns thousands of vinyls and CDS -- all carefully labelled in Braille for instant identification -- and adjusts the manual volume with ease whenever needed without apparent difficulty or stress.
I suspect that I would equally be unphased by the quirck of the twin controls. On the other hand, it is perfectly understandable that what may be a minor annoyance for one may become a major issue for another.
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I don't really care why he designed the preamp the way he did and I am not trying to be unconstructive. I am only pointing out what I feel about the design. If you like it, that's fine and I'm sure it is a great preamp. And I would like to point out to Artg that most of the companies he has listed now offer remote capabilties. This is not an obstructionist viewpoint just my feelings on the matter. I lived without remote contol of volume for a long time and still don't have it in my bedroom system but I sure prefer to have it.
Just read Jadem6's extraordinary review of the Aesthetix pre. Have any of you First Sound enthusiasts heard the Aesthetix?
Dan - I have not heard it, but hae heard the calisto (which i do not believe comes with a remote) is remarkable. The little brother Calypso (which does have a remote) does offer a remote, and is also pretty damn good.

Rwwear - I understand your points - but are you saying that Lamm, Audio Note (M6-10), and the Aethetix Calisto now offer remotes? That's news to me.

Anyway, tell us again what preamp you have, I/we really am curious. Obviously it must be one with a remte, or at least a single volume control - awaiting your reply.
At this time I am using a cheapy to get me by until I find a better one. It is a B&K PT-3. It sounds decent, very laid back but not very detailed. I had the Sonic Frontiers Line 3 and sold it. And I said most of the companies you listed now offer remote control preamps.
Excellent idea TVAD. Please let us know Emmanuel's response. Optionally I can call him up on Monday.
Rackon, only the Presence Mk2 and Presence Deluxe Mk2 have an integrated/permanent ombelical for the power supply. Starting with the Presence Deluxe Mk2 4.0 FS features detachable ombelicals for the PS.
Yes, I know, however, I acquired the FS over two years ago. But it was so heavy and awkward for me to handle, especially with the umbilical to the power supply. (I am an audiogal, BTW), I just didn't like using it. The Herrons were so synergistic with each other and with my speakers, plus so much easier for me to deal with, I didn't pursue other options with FS once I'd settled on the Herron. The dual attenuators didn't really have anything to do with my decision. Plus, I kept the FS for quite awhile - I didn't just keep it in the system for a week or two and then sell it.

I wouldn't let the lack of a remote prevent purchase of anything I liked the sound of. Sound quality comes first, then reliability, then ease of use, then looks, then remote is somewhere near the bottom. I can get up outa my chair. The dual attenuators weren't really a big deal, you get used to them - they're detented. The Herron VTSP-1 I have now doesn't have remote either, although Keith's new model does.

If you ask him, I'm sure Emmanuel Go will tell you that a remote compromises the sound quality in his designs...and Mr. Go is a stickler for sound quality. That's pretty much what Keith Herron used to say til he figured his way around it with the new VTSP-2, which now has remote, and sounds just as good as my VTSP-1 (166)...it may even be a hair warmer than my preamp.

My system, when I auditioned the FS, was a Cary 303, Alon V Mk IIs, and different amps: Edge, Herron M150s, and Meitner MTR 101 MkIIs, Nordost Quattro Fil interconnects, Coincident speaker cables and TG Audio power cords.

I never considered the Lamm or the lovely Calisto (which I have heard BTW) because both were way out of my price range.
in case it aint obvious, this thread started out with someone asking if the first sound preamp was any good. Interestingly, the discussion has really expanded to discuss the virtues/vices of remotes - the issue of dual volume controls (in general terms), and has offered insighful comparisons of First sound vs Herron (and perhaps a few others).

This is an excellent invaluable forum of opinions. So far, we've even been civilized, which is refreshing.... To rwwear - best of luck finding a suitable preamp. Obviously, with no remote and dual volume control, there will be no First Sound in your future. best of luck finding your nirvana.
Good point Artg, as indeed we should be polite - aren't we the lucky ones to be able to choose amongst the excellent preamps discussed in this thread?

Any of them can be fabulous, just depends on your system and your personal preference.
TVAD, RWWEAR and all. I now have a call into Emmanuel to get more info about his twin volume control design philosophy. I will report back as soon as I hear from him.
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ARTG, my admittedly aging system is as follows:
EAD T1000 transport..
EAD D7000 Mk.3 DSP.
Audio Research LS2B linestage.
Jeff Rowland 7M amps.
MagnePan 3A speakers.
C-Core AT&T glass wire between transport and DAC.
Audioquest Quartz RCA interconnects to linestage.
Gutwire Synchrony XLR interconnects to amps.
Cardas Golden Ref spkr wire to speakers.
Cardas Golden Ref PC on 7M amps.
Stock PC on other components.
that's a fine system, Guido - I only asked because you frequent the First Sound discussions, and seem pretty familiar with its virtues. Maybe you should pick one up!!
I can tell the LS2B is choacking the system from the slight sickly bluish tinge that the golden faceplate of the amps assume when I crank the system up.
I think the 7Ms are going anoxic on me.
What they need is a brand new heart! What about a tri-chambered one? FS seems to have several examples of such a one.
Just heard from First Sound. Emmanuel will be on vacation until April 20th. He will call me back upon his return.
My experience mirrors that of the poster who suggested that the preamp's sound is just a bit lean. There is also a slight bite in the upper midrange/lower treble that has not ever disappeared, regardless of the fact that I've used different speakers systems, amps, interconnects, speaker cables, power cords and source. It's very good sonically, but the "colors" of the orchestra are not as rich as they should be. By the way, I've used 6922, 7308, 6DJ8 tubes, and the sonic signature is the same. Very low noise floor, but sometimes that happens by thinning out the sound. I recall the bass is not as powerful as, in fact, earlier stages, which can contribute to the impression of "faster" bass, but the mid/upper bass and lower midrange, for example, on a singer are less dimensional than in earlier (pre-2004) upgrades.
One other thing: I was reading an old TAS where Gordin Rankin of Wavelength was interviewed. He made the statement that he decided not to use Holco resistors because they had a slight "edge." This may contribute to that "bite" in the upper midrange I hear when brass is blown hard. Interestingly, that's the ONLY instrument that displays the edge, although the string section seems not quite as dimensional as it should be, too.
MPHNKNS, there are approx 16 model variants available for First Sound preAmps. Only Presence variants use Holco resistors. On the other hand Paramount variants use Vishay S102K resistors for the volume attenuators. On which model/variant have you experienced the lean sound? Which was the tube that gave you best results? (type brand date subtype)