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To preamp or not to preamp (Read 2581 times)
Melvin
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To preamp or not to preamp
02/28/18 at 13:41:09
 
I'm just curious what others are doing.

My amp is in quality control now and hopefully it will be in my home soon. I intend on using the SE84UFO sans preamp initially but I can't help but wonder if a preamp would be advantageous. I have an older PS Audio linestage but it's, of course, an SS design. Would this configuration be detrimental? I will experiment if y'all think it's worth it. Thanks guys .. I have so little experience with tubes.

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Lon
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #1 - 02/28/18 at 14:40:11
 
Melvin, I've gone back and forth with preamps over the years with the Zen amps and bigger amps.

The short answer that has hit me after twenty years of Decware use is: a great preamp really helps, especially with the smaller wattage amps. I've used a solid state preamp in the past (a Hafler) and it was an interesting match in many ways. I suspect the PS Audio preamp is a good one and I would definitely experiment with it when you have the Zen.

Tube preamplifiers are perhaps even more interesting a match. There's a reason I have three CSP type preamps from Decware, they're excellent and really work well with the amps.

When I moved up to the Torii amps I felt that a preamp was less necessary--the smaller amps seem to drink up a lot of gain, and have less need of a preamp. But as time went by I realized that for me, in my system, with careful cabling and tube-rolling a great preamp does add aspects of body and heft and detail that are wonderful to experience. And when I moved up to the ZTPRE--wow. All the great aspects of preamps I had before in one package and somehow not experienced as a preamp in ways other preamps had. It's like it's not there, BUT it's adding so much goodness.

I think the key with these amps in input gain. I felt that the ZBIT worked in my system as well as the CSP2+ I had in many ways, getting the gain from the balanced output of my DAC was accomplishing almost as much as the gain from the preamp with its additional tubes and cabling. I was ready to do without a preamp until the ZTPRE came along and changed my mind significantly, definitively.

So I say experiment with the preamp you have in hand, and compare it to the amp direct, and if you like what the PS Audio is adding. . . think about experimenting further with a really good tube preamplifier which may be a step up. . . .
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Melvin
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #2 - 02/28/18 at 19:12:26
 
Great info Lon .. much appreciated. I've been thinking of a tube preamp for a while now and may indeed go down that road in the future. After the amp arrives I will experiment with the gear I currently own. Thank you.
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alper_yilmaz
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #3 - 03/01/18 at 17:52:54
 
Lon explained it quite fine, and my experience is very much in the same lines.

With my TORII mkII back in the day, I did not need a preamp; it was just a matter of taste.  Actually, adding a preamp made it a bit more complex, more tubes, more volume controls, etc.

In front of my UFO84UFO, I use a Copland tube DAC/Pre and am feeding it quite fine and that combination shines!  No one, including me, can tell that amp is actually 2.3 watts per channel even though I am driving relatively inefficient speakers.

With the TABOO mkIII, I was not happy in general till I added a ZBIT to the signal chain.  After adding the ZBIT, the amp drives the Audeze LCD-2's with much better bass and authority.

My experience with SE34I.2+ is exactly the same.  I used to feed it direct from a DAC with 2.3 V of output, and it was mediocre at best.  When I started feeding it with an iFi micro Tube2 pre/buffer at 7.75 V, things started coming together and the amp started sounding much better.  Also, this is with relatively less efficient speakers.  

With low-powered SETs, amp-speaker matching is always an issue; at least for me.  My experience is when you have a high-output source in front of such amps, part of the difficulty in matching disappears.  IMO and IME...

Cheers,

Alper
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JimKain
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #4 - 02/27/19 at 19:18:11
 
I agree with the others.  I've used my SE84B with and without a pre-amp, but because I listen to a lot of vinyl, I need some pre-amplification anyway.  So years ago, I found a Conrad-Johnson PV10-A tubed preamp with a phono pre in it.  It provides a little extra gain, so it boosts the power of the Zen just enough to add confidence to whatever is playing.  Plus it has a volume control, so I set the Zen fully open and control the volume using the pre.

The sound takes a slightly golden tinge of color from the pre-amp, but there is beautiful timbre and depth of image in the overall effect.  I'm very happy with the sound.  It seems to make the Zen's job a little easier.

I've also used a Peachtree Nova pre-amp section (from the integrated amp) so I can play tunes from my I-pod classic, and that works equally well.

Good pre-amplification can work well with the Zen.  That's my experience.
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Lon
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #5 - 02/27/19 at 19:43:37
 
Speaking of preamps, I just spent a few hours listening to the CSP2+ I've had a number of years that I sent in to Decware to have the Beeswax caps 25th Anniversary mods added to it.

The mods, even just one day after receiving it back, have transformed this preamplifier. It has put it right up there close to the sonic marvels of my CSP325 with Type 2 Jupiter caps and the 25th Anniversary mods. If you have a CSP2+ and are thinking about the mods. . . I'm telling you it's a worthwhile investment that pays off with sonic improvement.
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Kevin
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #6 - 02/28/19 at 01:49:42
 
Just my 2 cents, but adding a preamp always adds that preamp's sound, for good or bad. Without the preamp you are hearing what the amp itself can actually do.

If the "best" preamp is one that doesn't add any color, why not eliminate it all together?
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alper_yilmaz
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #7 - 02/28/19 at 06:01:32
 
That's the way I approach my signal chain as well, Kevin.  In my case, though, it is about driving the power amp, not about the color/texture the preamp is bringing to the table.  I am so happy with the tone of my SE84UFO25 (and SE84UFO prior to that), I do not want it to go away or curtained over.  Yet, I have realized that these amps need to be driven really hard to achieve that sonority.  So, it is about the gain for me that would bring the best out of my low-powered Decware amps...
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Lon
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #8 - 02/28/19 at 11:59:37
 
I agree with Alper, it took me a long time to come around to what Steve has been saying a long time: the Zen amps need gain on the front input. The ZTPRE and the CSP3 are the only preamps I've tried that really are almost invisible (with the right tube tailoring etc.) and truly make the amp a beast they aren't without them.
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Colin B
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #9 - 02/28/19 at 16:54:47
 
Not to be contrarian, but my money is that the ZTPRE and the CSP3 don't change the sound for the SE84's because they already have very similar signatures. For example, all three use 6N1P's in the signal path, the CSP3 and the SE84 both use 5U4's for rectification, and Steve's build philosophy generally means that one of the only things you're going to hear is the tube set. Sure it'll color it more, but you'll be getting 6N1P layered on top of 6N1P, instead of, say, EL34 layered on top of 6N1P if you had a Torii backed by a CSP3.
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Lon
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #10 - 02/28/19 at 22:58:36
 
I both understand and don't understand your response Colin. The Torii Mk III can have 6N1P in the input position, or in fact to my knowledge all the input tubes, and rectifier tubes in the ZTPRE, CSP2 and CSP3 and Zen amps and Torri amps can be subbed. Al the amps and preamps could share the same input and rectification flavors and there are so many other factors that can increase or decrease the transparency of the tube complements and resulting sound that there are few hard and fast rules.

I will say though that I have used ZTPRE, CSP2, CSP2+ and CSP3 with varying output capacitors with Zen, Torri and Taboo amps and have been able to achieve a transparent and dynamic and full sound using the preamp and amp together. I used to believe not using a preamp was best, but this decade my ideas and my systems have changed.
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Colin B
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #11 - 03/01/19 at 06:09:20
 
What I'm getting at is that in default configurations, or in a configuration where you've tube swapped the main signal chain to 6922's or something else with a similar sonic signature, you're going to get something that sounds like a really extreme 6N1P, or 6922, or whatever since the first will color, the second will reinforce, and so on. Whereas a chain that goes from 6922's into EL34's will have the signatures of both. So giving the SE84 a voltage boosting preamp with the same (or similar) signature as the amp will give you a power boost without sounding like there's another device in the chain.
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Lon
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #12 - 03/01/19 at 12:59:02
 
Okay. I don't really see or hear it that way but thanks for clarifying.

To me there's no real difference between the two scenarios as the Zen ams also have power tubes. I don't see what happening as "coloration"and then "reinforcement." Perhaps Steve can weigh in.
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jslateiv
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #13 - 03/01/19 at 21:59:53
 
Just my .02,  and there is always a big debate over pre/no pre where possible but,..  In many cases (not all) a very good pre will enhance the sound and give it more life. Call that coloration, call it signature,  whatever.  I think a few things are happening.  In the case of amps that have lower sensitivity like Dec.amps, for one,  it allows 'loading' the cable.  The amount of gain you let into the amp does not change regardless of how much you are' throwing' at it.   In many cases as noted by many on here,  boosting the voltage going 'to' the amp (not in)  increases weight, etc..  One thought is because the cables like the higher voltage running through them (loading them).  The amps are still being attenuated at the their vol. control and thus fed with an appropriate voltage (into) for the given output,  no more no less.  
   I also think that a really good pre can in many cases provide a better matched connection between a  source and the amp, due to the impedance matching that takes place.  Even when on paper a seemingly perfect match between source and amp already exist.    I do think the caveat here is that it takes a REALLY GOOD preamp to make this happen and increase the fidelity but it does happen no doubt.
  Regardless,  there are def. a lot of variables at work so it really comes down to trying and see what works best in particular system,..  no doubt it will vary amongst each different system out there,  some will benefit with and some better without!
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Colin B
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #14 - 03/02/19 at 09:14:51
 
Definitely. Increasing the input voltage will give your amp more power to amplify. What I've been talking about is the interaction of non-ideal* amplification technology and how getting "invisible gear" (which I take to mean that there is very little difference between what a hypothetical ideal amplifier could deliver and what a real-world amp gives) can only be done by either limiting what signal distortion** is in play (chained 6922's should should like a single 6922 on steroids: same signal distortion pattern, just exaggerated) or by having complementary parts that counteract the distortion of other parts to get you something similar to the original signal only louder (similar to how 2*1.1*0.9 gets you close to 2, 1.1*0.9 mostly cancels itself out to 1).

Now, please note that I'm talking about objective measurements when I talk about an "ideal amplifier" and not something that sounds good or not good. Something that perfectly reproduces a signal might not sound as good as something that jams in a ton of harmonic distortion, if that distortion happens to be of a type that the human ear likes. Designing an amp to get that "SET magic" is, as I understand it, an exercise in chasing pleasing distortion: low power tubes happen to modify audio signals in ways that's pleasing to the ear; and Steve's design philosophy is around having as little else in the signal path in order to maximize the amount of tube influence you get and to minimize the influence from anything else.

Also, I recognize that I'm moving the goalposts a bit here from how I was talking about it earlier. I've had some time to think about it. This has been my opinion all along, it's just more reasoned out. You also have to take into account that I'm an engineer (computer software, but it's all similar at a high level) and so I'm going to tend to think about things in terms of numbers, inputs, and outputs. I see a post where someone says "if I put this preamp in front of that amp, it sounds better and more true to the recording" and I think "that's cool, I'm sure it sounds awesome", then I think "I wonder why, since logic generally says that the fewer things between the source and sink, the more 'correct' the signal should be", and finally I start yammering a perfectly logical but poorly structured response into that thread.

And now, bed, before I ramble on some more.

* I'm assuming "ideal amplification technology" to be any devices that can transmit or increase the power of an output signal with no modification at all to any other characteristics, of which wires, decent (and better) capacitors, FETs, and other solid state parts tend to be pretty close to, and vacuum tubes... somewhat less.

** Distortion being any modification to the signal as it passes through a component. Hypothetical ideal stuff imparts none, most real-world stuff imparts very little to none, tubes continue to be another story.
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Melvin
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #15 - 03/02/19 at 13:31:01
 
Alper (or anyone else) .. when you say the amps need to be driven hard, how hard do you mean? I'd like to understand this better if you don't mind. If the amp comes to full power with 2 volts and you're using nice efficient speakers what output voltage is needed for the amp to really sing? My current DAC outputs 3 volts and after some time with it in place I stopped thinking much about adding a pre (I have plenty of volume and dynamics). Of course I'm still curious if a pre would be beneficial but can't help thinking 3 volts is already enough. Am I mistaken?
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jslateiv
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #16 - 03/02/19 at 15:21:11
 
Hey Melvin,   by increasing the voltage to the amp with a pre,  you are loading the interconnects with extra/higher voltage and this really helps with 'weight' in some situations, in this case I really feel like it is an interconnect 'interaction'.  The amp isn't being driven harder,  the interconnects are.  Letting more of that voltage into the amp (via vol.control) would drive the amp harder (and thus louder).  The sensitivity of the amp hasn't changed and the amp itself isn't using any of the extra voltage from the pre, it is being shunted to ground by the vol. control on the amp.
 Fwiw,   I running ~98db efficient speakers  and the 25th-Anniv amp.  I do use a Pre because my DAC output is slightly lower than the 2V it takes to bring the amp to full power.   I get plenty of a perfect level of vol.  with probably around a ~.7-1V of input voltage (amp),...  I could arrive at this 2 ways,.. 1.  by cranking the Pre up and attenuating the amp vol.  OR 2.  the opposite,  wide open amp vol. and pre at a lower level to get me the output I need.   I prefer option 1 and find that the sound is a bit smoother (less hard sounding) with the amp vol. controls dialed back a little from 'fully open' or No attenuation as it is..   I think that especially with Steve's amps,  the volume at which the amp sounds the best,  is not as much about the amp as it is the speakers.   Speakers will vary greatly as to their sound signature and a 'sweetspot' depending upon how much vol./voltage their given.   Generally too little and the sound is anemic and too much they start to get congested (room interaction really starts to come into play here as well),..  I have found that with the 25th-Anniv amp however that the sweet spot in vol. with my speakers has gotten a little larger (ie, they sound better at a lower vol w/this amp than any other I have had).    However the amp it's self,  I think stays true to itself through out the usable range of its output,  ie, tis just as clear and concise putting out 1V as it is putting out 10V.
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Melvin
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #17 - 03/02/19 at 15:42:11
 
Thanks jslateiv. If I had read your previous post more carefully I might have understood your point better. I appreciate your willingness to re-iterate and elaborate. Even though I've lived with the SE84UFO for a year now and have read much about tubes and tube gear I'm still not exactly comfortable with it all. Thankfully this forum is packed with folks who are very patient with us neophytes.
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jslateiv
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #18 - 03/02/19 at 16:08:48
 
Colin I agree,..   There is def. more at play than the 'numbers/specs/measurements'  could ever reveal and many times perfectly spec's equipment (as you said) just doesn't have that natural 'real' feel to it.   I think that the interplay with the harmonics and overtones that happen when the signal is running through any particular piece of gear (on a very micro level, and can't really be objectively measured in any real way) has a lot to do with it.  For whatever reason,  be it a unique distortion (or some other aspect) of a tube that somehow preserves or brings out those harmonics better or some other interaction,  many times it is experienced with a tube being integrated in that particular circuit.
 I'm fully convinced that a human's keen ability to hear these natural interactions that happen with overtones and harmonics and define what we perceive as any particular instrument, venue, etc..  are the unmeasurable aspect of any piece of gear and what ultimately helps us decide on the like/lovability of any piece of gear as well.   Those that tend to somehow preserve that harmonic interplay faithfully tend to be the ones/pieces that everyone clamors for.
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jslateiv
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #19 - 03/02/19 at 16:11:23
 
No worries Melvin!  Glad to help or at least share my perspective.  A lot of it can seem a bit overwhelming and convoluted especially if you don't have a deeper understanding of all (or at some) of the interactions at play.

Best, -Johnny
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JOMAN
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #20 - 03/02/19 at 20:12:25
 
Well said jslateiv.  

Like Lon I have gone the minimalist route and now I have the CSP3 preamp as well as a ZR2.  Those components have given me the ability to adjust the “overtones” and “harmonics” so that what I hear I perceive as being very “real”.  

The CSP3 with it’s ability to dial in gain structure plays a major role in this.  Not all pre amps have this flexibility so, for me it’s not about needing a preamp per say, it’s about having a component or combination of components that can do this.

That’s why, after many years and many components, I have the Decware products that I have and consider them to be necessary.
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Colin B
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #21 - 03/02/19 at 22:02:41
 
jslateiv, definitely. My personal theory is that the recording process misses a lot of the mess and grime of what actually is happening live during a recording session (jamming a mic in a horn bell loses the room, similarly taking a feed straight off a guitar amp instead of a mid-house microphone). Even recordings of live shows tend to be taken off the mixing board if they are going to have any hope of sounding really good (caveat, I mostly listen to heavy rock and metal, so I'm generally thinking about music that's too loud to easily record with free-standing microphones). Anyway, one of the things that gets lost in the recording process are resonances from the house so a perfect signal reproduction will sound less "right" than one that is a little bit messy with introduced harmonics, and the imperfect amplification characteristics of vacuum tubes happens to be great at emulating that stuff that got lost between musicians and recording medium.
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Kevin
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #22 - 03/02/19 at 22:45:29
 
Wow, a lot of good thoughts and info in this thread. I just picked up a WE448a preamp from Brooks Audio and will see how that works out with the little ZEN amp.
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HockessinKid
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #23 - 03/02/19 at 23:34:56
 
I started on a similar minimalist pathway, but that was many Decware purchases ago.😃

After upcoming 25th Anniversary ZMA mods, a ZR2-25th, and likely a ZLC power conditioner purchase, I should be set. At least until Steve offers 50th Anniversary modifications 😂🤣😂🤣.

HK  
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Ken Rafika
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #24 - 03/11/19 at 20:49:46
 
Hi Folks,  I had to sell my Tori JR and CSP3 (to fund a lobotomy) and will shortly be able to purchase new units.  I'm considering the Tori MK4 or the Tori JR, with either a ZSTAGE or CSP3.  A MK4 and CSP3 pretty much max out my $$$.

I might go with lower power, but I play loudly (mostly rock, with some jazz and classical) and am concerned about the ability to drive my Tekton Electrons.  The Tori JR was great with the Tektons and even better with the CSP3.

I use ROON/Tidal with a sonicTransporter and ultra Rendu into a TEAC UD-503 DAC, and for cd's, movies and concert dvd's, I use an OPPO 105.
I sold all my vinyl stuff and won't be returning to it.

I appreciate any guidance, experience, and advice on amp/ZSTAGE?CSP3 combos and whether lower power could still do the trick.
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Tekton Designs Electron spkrs; Tori Jr.; OPPO 105; WyWire Blue interconnects; Wireworld Helicon spkr wire.
If you want to find the truth in life, don't pass music bu -- Eric Burdon and the Animals.
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HockessinKid
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #25 - 03/11/19 at 21:17:05
 
If it were me, I'd get ALL equipment with the 25th Anniversary modifications, even if I had to do it one piece at a time. The TEAC DAC has a remote volume control so you can boost your signal, much like a preamp. It also allows for both USB and coax inputs, so it should be able to handle both your digital sources.

So my suggestion would be the amp first, preferably the Torii MK IV then a CSP3 w/ 25th Anniversary mods when you have the scratch. Getting the MK IV helps future proof your system, in case you opt for less sensitive speakers later on.

HK
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #26 - 03/12/19 at 16:06:03
 
Thanks -- good advice.  Since posting the question, I've read a lot on how good the 25th anniversary tweaks are.  Both the TEAC. and OPPO have remote volume, and I used both with the Tori Jr after I sold the CSP3.
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #27 - 03/12/19 at 22:08:51
 
I would second Hock’s recommendation fully, even if it takes longer to achieve, you definitely won’t be disappointed and you’ll be totally set, to go any direction you choose.
Best,
Scott
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #28 - 03/14/19 at 14:20:47
 
A slightly different question -- I'm getting a 3.5 watt tube amp to see if I can drive my speakers to satisfactory levels with that wattage.  If so, I'd consider Steve's lower-power amps.  Given that I don't listen to vinyl, would I hear any significant difference among UFO's -- stereo or mono -- and the larger tube amps?  How is the ZEN integrated?  Please presume the non-Anniversary larger amps have the Anniversary mods.

If the smaller amps work, then I'd consider one or two of the 25th Ann Zens, but I don't know if I can spend that much.

Thanks!
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #29 - 03/14/19 at 14:46:30
 
not familiar with your speakers but can recommend the 25th Anniversary ZEN amps. Easy upgrade path; start with one and then, if you feel it is needed, get the second one! You may be surprised and I know you will be pleased!
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #30 - 03/14/19 at 16:42:31
 
Ken, if that 3.5 watt amp works then I would say possibly your best bet would be a pair of the SE84UFO3 Monoblocks with the 25th Anniversary Mods--not quite as expensive as two of the Anniversary amps, and fantastic sounding. I own a pair and I am just loving the sound. They won't be leaving my system. You could also consider the excellent Taboo Mk IV with the 25th Anniversary mods. I have one of these as well in a newly-assembled system and the sound is wonderful.

I haven't heard any of the higher powered amps with the mods, though I've lived with pre-mod Integrated, Torii Mk II and Torii Mk III for quite some time. I have to say they're going to give you very good sound and give you more choices with speakers but I became seduced by the involving sound of the smaller powered amps and prefer the sound of the smaller output tubes to the larger by quite a margin now. Enough that I sold three of the more powerful amps that I didn't think I would ever sell and don't really miss them.

A ZROCK2 would be a perfect fit for the lower powered amps as well. . . .
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #31 - 03/17/19 at 21:33:10
 
Thank you.  I have the little cheapo amp (Tube Depot TubeCube) hooked up, and the 3.5 watts play pretty loudly -- I would estimate Steve's two-watters would eat it for breakfast (if the first watt's no good....).  The little amp actually sounds great for a $179 amp!

With my other, better 17 watt amp, I measured my loudest listening level at 91 dB with an iPhone SPL meter.

I think the low-power choices may work the best for me.  I know I loved the sound of the Tori Jr, by itself and certainly with the CSP3.

I truly appreciate the benefit of these forums (fora?) and the great advice of folks with knowledge and history.

Ken
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #32 - 03/17/19 at 21:49:38
 
Lon -- what's a ZROCK2?  I only see a ZROCK on the website.  Are you thinking a ZROCK may work better for me than a CSP3?  Or are you suggesting a CSP3 and a ZROCK?  Thanks.
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #33 - 03/17/19 at 22:40:33
 
Ken, the ZROCK on the Decware product list, if you open up that page you'll see it called a "ZROCK II" and a "ZROCK2". . . . When it was first introduced it was a "ZROCK" and quickly thereafter Steve redesigned the power supply to improve it and it became "ZROCK2" (or at least that's what we've been calling it on the forum.

Yes, I'm recommending one and if you have a CSP3 it works really well with that too.
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #34 - 03/17/19 at 23:19:48
 
I have a heavily modified Torii IV and CSP3. I say heavily because they are upgraded in many ways beyond what are now Steve's cap and resistor mod "packages"...including wires, connectors, attenuators, extensive power supply cap additions and changes, and many additional upgraded and modified caps and resistors. Each modification was tuned individually to sound to be more complete, so they all mattered. Trying to keep the same basic signature and balance, but improve all aspects, they are like the same amps, but way, way better here.... bigger, tighter bass; denser, more resolving signal without thickness; notably more very fine detail in space; cleaner edges and increased space (less smearing from amps most would never call smeared!); increased senses of speed and dynamics....and all harmonically rich, with beautiful timbre.

I am guessing Steve's mod packages on most amps, though simpler, based on what I got from similar work, and from reports, are quite a big step up from stock. So, I think comparing amps with mods, with other amps without mods, is probably not a clear comparison in seeking answers about which amp, or pre to buy.

Also, in theory for me, not having heard it, Steve's work on the 25th Anniversary Zen is in a different category, really a new amp. Using many design improvements, including many new, or modified, and better parts beyond the cap and resistor mod packages, I can easily imagine it is meaningfully on a higher level.

Not to confuse things, just to say that no matter what you get, the 25th Anniversary Amp seems to be rightfully Steve's state of the art, and I agree with others that modded versions would be worth the extra investment if you go for a more powerful amp.

That said, in my room, with my HR-1s (±92.5 dB), I have not been able to fully enjoy Decware amps with lower power than my Toriis. And though it takes less volume with modifications to feel complete, with pumped up recordings, I can still push mine into subtle distortion at times. I am guessing this is in part due to my running my ZBIT before the CSP3 and both set for pretty high output... a double voltage bump making it easier to max out voltage to the Torii? With either "pre" in, and the other out, I can get louder without distortion, but I love the sound most with all three, and it is plenty loud for an immersive experience. From this, I am guessing that for me, even though the 25th sounds quite powerful beyond its measurements, for the way I like to listen, I doubt I would be satisfied across recordings in this room without speaker changes.

Which leads me to my opinion on pres. Once tuned with power, tubes, vibration, etc, and with really good cables, I really like what the ZBIT and CSP3 offer. I agree with others that a pre adds something, or I would not use them...I like the Torii alone a lot, and this is likely the most "pure" signal, but I would not say it is the most complete. My tuned up ZBIT has a sound, but not much in my favored volume range. At different levels in this range, it adds more or less clarity, definition and weight across the spectrum, but with the Torii "signature" much more what I hear. And the CSP3, with the right setup of tubes, etc, brings a tube based lucidity to the Torii I really love, offering a different flavor of voltage adjustment, and associated adjustable signal power, lucidity, and weight.

But as much as liking the sound of these pre stages, I really love gain riding. Choosing a preferred volume, while keeping the same relative loudness, by increasing pre volume and lowering the Torii, I can add weight, density, and lucid complexity...or, by decreasing the pre stages with the Torii higher, I can increase space and lean the sound, making thicker/darker recordings better...  At the same time, each piece having its own complimentary feel, I like subtly tuning the balance of characters of these components... With this method, I can make about any recording balance quite well here.

The way I have things tuned, turning the ZBIT up, increases spacious complexity and articulate signal density across the spectrum. And the CSP3 contributes OTL lucidity and sweetened/richer harmonics, and pushed harder can notably increase signal power and bass in the balance. Both increase or decrease punch,  signal power and articulation in different complimentary ways to me.

In these complex and alive systems, where every part matters, all system/rooms are invariably tuned differently, so this is just another set of experiences and preferences. Hope it helps some.

Will
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #35 - 03/23/19 at 15:36:54
 
Hi -- There is a lot of history here.  I can get a mint Tori MKII for around $2k.  How different would a MkII be compared to a MkIV?

Thanks, ken
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #36 - 03/23/19 at 17:46:27
 
I saw that too. IMO that is way too much for that Amp.  Better to be patient and get a MK IV or an MK III with bees wax caps.  I own a Torii MK IV but have never heard the II.  Lon has though and recently sold a II and two IIIs.  Mark.
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #37 - 03/23/19 at 18:04:04
 
I don't think that's too much for a beautifully kept Mk II myself.

The Mk II I find to be just a touch more "romantic" than the IIIs (I've never heard the IV, but I imagine this holds up or is even more accurate). Very nice amps, I loved mine and hesitate selling it for a very long time.
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #38 - 03/23/19 at 18:43:43
 
Yes, that Amp being offered is beautiful...love the base.  I did a search of past sales of the Torii MK II dating back to 2011 and they ranged from $1750 to $900.  When this Amp was released, the first 10 were sold for $1995 and subsequently was sold new for $2500.  Also of note is this amp is being sold by a Hi Fi business, so it was likely a trade in that they got for very little.  I realize that they don't have a make an offer option but that means nothing.  If you really want that amp, I would suggest offering no more that a Grand and see what happens.  Mark.

PS...the label shows it is serial #32 built in December 2008 with no upgrades noted
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #39 - 03/23/19 at 18:48:25
 
Well, that's fine and dandy and great if it works. This one has the upgraded speaker cable connectors, the treble cut circuit and a custom base. I value the amp a bit more highly than you and wouldn't sell mine/didn't sell mine for the kind of prices you like to pay. Wink

Best of luck if that is what you want. The fidelity of the newer amps is more refined and more revealing and may be worth seeking out. I personally have fallen back in love with the small powered small power tubed amps and am reveling in their sound--sold three
Toriis and never thought I would do that.
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #40 - 03/23/19 at 18:54:12
 
Thank you.  I just wish the wait for new ones wasn't 5 months!

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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #41 - 03/23/19 at 18:57:55
 
Were you quoted a five month wait? I've waited just less than four months for items I ordered shortly before the Black Friday blitz. I think that as Steve has new help and as that record sales period is being built out the wait will taper to less than that, back perhaps to 3 months. Still a long time, I'll grant you that. And another reason why many sell their pre-owned for more than Mark likes to pay. Wink
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #42 - 03/23/19 at 19:05:02
 
Lon, you know me well Smiley.  I know you had listed your Torii MK II for $1600 including shipping.  Are you saying you didn't sell it?  It never hurts to start low in a negotiation.  Since the seller is a business and wasn't the original owner it goes without saying they don't have the emotional attachment to the Amp as you or I would.  Plus I would guess that they gave about 700 to 500 dollars in trade for it.  

It's not that I don't think vintage gear isn't worth much, as you know I own a pair of Zen Signature Monoblocks made in 2008 and modded several times before I bought them for $1500 or $1600 with some extra power tubes.  But I had never seen a pair of those monoblocks for sale before and the new version wasn't being made yet.  I don't regret "paying up" for these though...will never sell them although Rachel has displaced them since about last June or July.  Mark.

PS...the connectors on that Torii II aren't the original?  or are you talking about yours?
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #43 - 03/23/19 at 19:11:36
 
Ken, there have been a lot of Toriis up for sale recently MK IVs and IIIs.  This has resulted because of the 25th Anniversary Amp and Mods...that is also probably why the wait for a new Amp is so long now. From experience with several new pieces of Decware Gear, the wait is worth it.  But used gets you a better price, a burned in Amp and no wait.  Life is about choices. Mark.
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"The man that hath no music in himself, nor is not moved with the concord of sweet sounds, is fit for treasons, deceptions, and spoils;
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #44 - 03/23/19 at 19:18:06
 
Mark, mine was not as nice as this one, had crappier, worn speaker cable connections, had not so prettily executed (by Steve) treble cut circuit added on as it was perhaps the earliest one built, before that circuit became part of the design, had a very unique cocobolo base but a prominent scratch on it. I withdrew it from sale here hoping to keep it . . then sold it outside of the forum for more than I had listed here when someone inquired via email what I had that I might sell.

This one I think is worth close to what they are asking or only a bit less myself. But hey, if one wants to try for less that's a prerogative . . . we're all different.
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #45 - 03/23/19 at 19:39:06
 
I said 5 months as that is the time between mid-October, units being "tested and shipped" through the newest listings on the waiting list.  I had purchased a Tori Jr (from Jeff of Arabica), but had to sell it.  Perhaps I'll wait a little more and see if other, more recent, amps appear.

I may make an offer on the MkII and see what happens.

Thanks for all the good info.

Ken
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #46 - 03/23/19 at 19:45:26
 
Best of luck!

I don't think it will be a five month wait, hope I'm right for any of us ordering new. The wait is hard!
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