Preamp is the heart of my system?

My vintage Mac C27 preamp is in the shop. This is a late 70’s SS unit. I can still run my Marantz CD6006 CD player into an Odyssey Khartago amp into Kef 104/2 floorstanders. According to specs, the Marantz has enough juice to serve as its own preamp.

With the preamp gone, the sound stage is a shell of its former self, with a foot or so less width and no depth. In terms of tone/timbre, there is way less defintion.

It seems like the preamp is what gives this particular system “life” for lack of a better term. If more elements in the signal chain add distortion, then I guess I’m pro-distortion, because with the preamp in place, the system gives me more listening pleasure.

Just curious about anybody’s thoughts on this.

4 Likes

Electric guitar is what it is because of distortion… I like lots of extra harmonics… and different flavors based on mood. There is no truth or reference in that space… not sure why audiophilia is obsessed with abstract neutrality which to me appears to be a mirage.

Good sound is good sound and comes in many flavors. Why are our systems supposed to be processed vanilla… can’t I have mocha chocolate chip if I want that?

4 Likes

Gosh gentlemen I am firmly in your camp. I have two differing designs from Decware as preamps: a ZTPRE and a CSP3 and I love them both.

The ZTPRE especially is an amazing addition to the system. It’s not really there. But it’s so very much there. Don’t know how else to describe it. Everything is better with it. Over the last four years or so I’ve tried all kinds of tubes in it and found real magic with six Amperex/Holland 6085 tubes in adapter bases.

I have electric guitars and basses, a hobby I picked up about the same time I got deeply into audiophila. And I have to say sometimes “Keep It Simple Stupid” is just fine but I’m no purist–tone is where it’s at for me, natural clear and fat tone, and preamps are wonderful tools.

5 Likes

Agreed. And in terms of realism/accuracy, the preamp seems to improve that. As a classically trained clarinetist, I can attest that my preamp helps to present a much more accurate timbral presentation of woodwinds and the whole orchestral palette. Go figure.

4 Likes

But another way of looking at it is that the preamp needs to color the signal to sound more real because the source signal sucks. The CD player is Marantz’s $500 budget model.

2 Likes

I am firmly in the “preamp is the heart of the system” camp

Best,
-JP

10 Likes

Same here. I have run the DSD directly into amps but adding a preamp makes the sauce just a little better.

7 Likes

I need a preamp to add gain to my otherwise-inefficient system that includes power-hungry Maggies. I want a preamp to offer precise volume control with fine increment settings, an adjustable phono stage and a quality headphone amp. And most of all, I want a preamp to get out of the way of the music and let the fine details and nuances flow through to the amp and speakers. I found it all in the Mark Levinson No. 523. It is truly the heart of my system.

7 Likes

I had used my SGCD as a preamp and DAC since I bought it. But late last month I added a Rogue Audio RP-7 preamp to my system and relegated the SGCD to DAC-only status. Please understand that I have owned preamps before, but never hybrid tube/SS.
Result? Actually, the best upgrade I have ever made. Wider, deeper soundstage, much more (and well-controlled) bass and just incredible definition with the most beautiful midrange I have ever heard in my home system(s). This from a total SS guy since the days of Stereo Review.
So yeah, the new preamp gave amazing new life to my system.

6 Likes

In my last PSA system a few years back, adding a pre did do a great job between the Sr and 250 amp. Currently, I run a SPL pre/dac direct to a 452. I have no plans to add a Pre but do like changing things up a bit trying different Dacs. Love blue meters but in my case I don’t see a Mac pre helping detail in any way shape or form. In my journey so far, my best pre results have been ARC and Aesthetix. I may try one again if fortune comes my way. My next experiment is with a Mola Tambaqui. Different systems react different ways to different ears. Do what sounds best and have fun…

2 Likes

Well said…

1 Like

There are several variables in audio systems that preamps help with; source signal level, power amp sensitivity and cable length or quality can all effect the sound quality or character.

The C27 was and still is an awesome preamp, probably the best sounding preamp of its generation, and built like a tank. Modern preamps have better signal to noise ratios because of the advances in technology and the capabilities of digital sources. Remote control is also a big deal and the reason most consumers of the time period upgraded.

3 Likes

Being relatively new to audiophile I’ve always wondered why the preamp is so important. I had a SGCD and decided to update the DAC to a Holo Spring3, which was a night and day improvement, but still using the SGCD as the preamp. After reading reviews of the Holo Serene preamp, I decided to give it a shot. Wow! I still don’t understand why (and I don’t really care as long it sounds good), but I am sold on a good preamp. Since adding the Serene, I haven’t had any upgrade-itis and am just enjoying the music!

3 Likes

I’d concur -the preamp is essential, perhaps THE one thing giving our systems their characteristic flavour that we like. Also I am prepared to leave my kids with no tuition or inheritance as I’d like to crown mine with a Shindo Aurieges :slight_smile:

5 Likes

Did you have the C27 in your system for a while? How does it compare with modern preamps, to your ears? Guessing you’ll say the C27 is less detailed, warmer. I’ve only ever owned the C27.

After spending $1800 at the BAT Factory to get my TMR Audio purchased VK50-SE repaired and modified (nothing against TMR - just wanted to be clear that used is used at the end of the day), I now have have a Preamp that now only sounds better than ever. It’s also revealed so many issues in my rig.

The 8x 6H30 Tubes were all all cryo’d and bought by me from Upscale Audio (great people and I met Kat at Axpona - great person to talk to). I was upset at first about how it died due to a power surge (it was powered down) but after the factory explained in great detail how and why it happened. It’s no longer an issue. Only one Tube failed and that’s not Upscale’s fault. But with all original issues fixed. It was truly worth the repair bill.

Display is bright for the first time. All power Supply issues have been fixed/strengthened, Tubes properly biased, Six Pack Caps all replaced (no more clicking noises between inputs). The Channel Imbalance problem I noticed is also gone.

11 Likes

This is only enhanced by the photo of you enjoying it :wink:

2 Likes

People don’t realize how much difference the caps make on the sound of a preamp. Mundorf is one of the finest most resolution and natural sounding caps I have ever heard. VCap is another let all the information through sounding caps I tried.

Caps are like cables. They all degrade the signal going through them, only the better one degrade the signal less.

I changed the original Solen caps in my Bruce Moore preamp, which are a bit veil sounding to VCap’s and huge difference in resolution. The rest of the caps on the preamp are Rel’s and are really good, so did not touch those. My brother has the stock Bruce Moore to compare and it really isn’t close. The VCaps lifts a lot of veil and really let the preamp breath.

3 Likes

I am fully converted to Schiit and very happy. Mani2 phono, Bifrost 2 Dac, Freya + preamp, and Aegir.

In this system in both vinyl and digital, Freya in tube mode is magic. The JFET mode and passive modes are fine… but that’s just it… fine. Guitar distortion, drums, vocals, pretty much everything sounds more alive and dynamic with tubes; more like my system is a PA system at an event.

3 Likes

Some of the best audio bang for your buck comes from the Schiit boys.

1 Like