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    An evening of preamp listening

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    rustybutt

    Posts : 40
    Join date : 2015-01-12
    Location : Alameda, California

    An evening of preamp listening

    Post by rustybutt on Thu Mar 05, 2015 2:11 am

    Last night I had some local audio friends over to the house and we got a chance to listen to a number of tube preamps.



    1. VTA SP10 built by Troy
      VTA SP13 built by Troy
      Bottlehead BeePee 300B built from kit
      Fisher 400-CX2 with all original parts, including tubes


    What an interesting experience.  Each piece had its own sonic signature, though I wish I'd had more time to listen to the Bottlehead, but we developed an odd cable problem and only had one channel to listen to after the first tune.  We never figured that one out.

    The SP10 sounded like what I remember tube preamps sounding like.  Sweet and with that classic euphonic tube sound.  I felt it was a little weak on the low end but everything felt like music.

    My own preamp is the SP13 and I'm totally in love with it.  Exceptional detail, well controlled, strong and defined low end and it images with precision.  String bass sounds like its acoustic.  Just terrific.  Audio Nirvana.  I've bought my last preamp.

    The biggest surprise of the evening was the Fisher preamp.  This was the finest preamp Fisher ever made and was intended to compete with the McIntosh C22 and Marantz 7.  This is a piece which is over 50 years old.  That's 50 year old tubes, ceramic disc capacitors, etc.  Wow...   It had a similar tonal balance to the SP13, though perhaps not quite as detailed.  I wish I had more time to listen to it.  The friend who brought it over powered from a Variac because he wanted to bring the voltages up slowly given the age of the components.

    The Fisher preamp was truly wonderful and would be a preamp anyone would love listening to.  I feel it certainly belongs in the same class with anything anyone makes today, including my SP13.   The "problem" with something like a classic Fisher, Marantz 7 or Mac C22 is that much of what you pay for is their "collectible" value, and that largely depends on how much of it is original.  The unit we listened to last night would cost a good $2500 were you to be looking for one on EBay or Audiogon.  Of course a Marantz 7 or Mac C22 in similar condition will cost you nearly twice that.  $5000 is pretty much what you'd have to pay for a pristine Marantz 7 or Mac C22, so the Fisher is a better "value" in that regard.  But it's still $1000 more than my SP13 and is still 50 years old.

    Were you to find one of these things at a yard sale, thrift store or other such venue and get it cheap, it would be well worth repairing and restoring.  There are a few guys out there who sell restoration kits for these things.  Were you to find a Fisher 400-CX2 cheap enough and work it over, it might not have a high value as a collectible, but it would certainly be the center of a wonderful audio system.


    zx

    Posts : 194
    Join date : 2011-08-05

    Re: An evening of preamp listening

    Post by zx on Thu Mar 05, 2015 8:04 am

    Had a fisher 400-CX2 all stock here for about two years......But then got a hhscott 355 stock ....sold the fisher!
    Varics are a must....  for all tube amp & pr owners....I just give Varics with all sales of any tube peaces...
    As for the Mc..Marantz 7.....sound wise..never been a big 12AX7 sound  lover.....
    hhscott went with one 12Au7 for there output for bouth ch....an 355 being a tuner also...the power tranfourmer is biger.. ..with No B+V dubbler.....as with all things these things can affect the sound.
    Biges Shock for me has been how good these old stock over 50 year old caps sound....ones you get the B+V right....an hhscott runs the heaters low....like 5.5....Vary sweet sound..



    thanks for the site Bob............

    dougmon

    Posts : 65
    Join date : 2013-11-04
    Age : 60

    Re: An evening of preamp listening

    Post by dougmon on Thu Mar 05, 2015 11:50 am

    Weighing in...it was a fun evening, and thanks for hosting it.

    I preferred the SP10, honestly. This is fortunate because the SP10 in question is mine. I guess I'm more of a euphonic distortion kind of guy. But for me the SP10 and SP13 were pretty close; I would have no problem living with the SP13. One of the large differences between the SP10 and the SP13 is that the SP10 uses Auricaps (don't know the model number -- they're big and yellow Smile) and the SP13 had the Russian PIO caps. (I'm not giving away any secrets here, right?)

    The Fisher, though...whew! In the class of "amps I can't afford", it really took the prize. I felt it was somewhere in between the SP10 and SP13, displaying the positive characteristics of both preamps. If I were more of a DIY type, I'd look for one of these.

    Highlight of the evening for me, though, was all the new (to me) music I heard. I'd never really listened to Woody Herman before, and his stuff was great. I also heard Julie London doing "Come On-A My House" for the first time. I mostly listen to classical and rock with a little jazz thrown in -- so I heard a lot of great jazz I've never heard before.

    Thanks for hosting, RB.

    MontanaWay

    Posts : 781
    Join date : 2014-02-06
    Age : 58
    Location : Brookings, Oregon

    Re: An evening of preamp listening

    Post by MontanaWay on Thu Mar 05, 2015 12:10 pm

    sound like an amazing evening had by all!
    Unfortunately, out here in the boonies in south western Montana, I can count owners or tube audio gear on one finger....me!! Shocked
    The closest tube nut that I know is none other than deepee99, and to do what you guys did is an overnight affair!
    Sharing audio gear and music is I believe the best way to get to know other gear out on the market and to discover new music.
    I am very jealous, I wish I could do that here!

    zx

    Posts : 194
    Join date : 2011-08-05

    Re: An evening of preamp listening

    Post by zx on Thu Mar 05, 2015 2:02 pm

    Yes....I forgot to thank all for there time an input on the sound of these Great US made tube preamps...we don't see this ever day....
    I well say... just being near the SF bay....always makes every thing sound better to me...
    Have fun with tubes




    thanks for the site Bob.....

    Pat R.

    Posts : 54
    Join date : 2015-02-26
    Location : SE Pennsylvania

    Re: An evening of preamp listening

    Post by Pat R. on Sat Mar 07, 2015 4:56 pm

    Thanks for sharing your shootout..

    In the past I have had a Fisher 400C that I rebuilt and used it as well as compared it to a Dynaco PAS 3 that I completely modded with all available upgrades..

    My opinion of the 400C was that is was a very nice preamp but I feel it colored the music a little too much. SOLD IT

    The PAS ended up sounding too analytical to me.. to cold, too precise. Too much like SS . SOLD IT

    I ended up with a late model Mc C20 that I restored (many patient nights) as my daily driver.. It's wonderful.. (I don't see why so many prefer the C22 to the C20? Is it because they think those disc caps don't go bad? and a C20 is so much work to restore?)

    I just finished rebuilding a Harman Kardon Citation I and am breaking it in.. once done I'm anxious to give it a shoot out against the Mc..

    Drugolf

    Posts : 25
    Join date : 2014-12-29

    Re: An evening of preamp listening

    Post by Drugolf on Sat Mar 07, 2015 10:24 pm

    Pat, looking forward to your opinion of the Citation when done.  I have one sitting here in pieces with some pieces missing and am trying to figure out what to do with it and if it is worth holding onto and restoring.

    Sounds like a nice evening guys.  I hope there was some nice adult beverages being dispensed?

    rustybutt

    Posts : 40
    Join date : 2015-01-12
    Location : Alameda, California

    Re: An evening of preamp listening

    Post by rustybutt on Mon Mar 09, 2015 2:09 am

    Drugolf wrote:
    Sounds like a nice evening guys.  I hope there was some nice adult beverages being dispensed?

    I poured some Lagunitas "Hairy Eyeball" and Hanger 24 "Chocolate Porter".   Both are dark, rich brews.  One guy asked if he should bring some beer and I told him if he wanted to drink Budweiser, he was going to have to bring it himself.

    Pat R.

    Posts : 54
    Join date : 2015-02-26
    Location : SE Pennsylvania

    Re: An evening of preamp listening

    Post by Pat R. on Mon Mar 09, 2015 7:18 am

    Drugolf wrote:Pat, looking forward to your opinion of the Citation when done.  I have one sitting here in pieces with some pieces missing and am trying to figure out what to do with it and if it is worth holding onto and restoring.


    I did a light listening session of the Citation I yesterday.. It only has about 50? hours on the rebuild.. the Altec 604C is very good at exposing flaws. and at this stage I can say without hesitation that if you have the opportunity to rebuild yours.. do it. It is every bit as good as a Mc C20 that is in top form, might even surpass it? hard to say. Details sent to Drugolf in a PM so as not to bomb this thread..

    Pat

    Drugolf

    Posts : 25
    Join date : 2014-12-29

    Re: An evening of preamp listening

    Post by Drugolf on Mon Mar 09, 2015 1:50 pm

    rustybutt wrote:
    Drugolf wrote:
    Sounds like a nice evening guys.  I hope there was some nice adult beverages being dispensed?

    I poured some Lagunitas "Hairy Eyeball" and Hanger 24 "Chocolate Porter".   Both are dark, rich brews.  One guy asked if he should bring some beer and I told him if he wanted to drink Budweiser, he was going to have to bring it himself.

    Nice! Now were talking.
    I gave up beer for Lent. UGH!

    TMadden

    Posts : 99
    Join date : 2011-12-22

    Re: An evening of preamp listening

    Post by TMadden on Mon Mar 09, 2015 7:50 pm

    This is really interesting to me. I remember listening to Doug's SP10 after I built it.
    I had the very same impression, euphonic, but in a very pleasant way, I almost felt it enhanced the sound, made it richer and perhaps even a touch more dynamic. Enjoyable!

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