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Pre-amp for UFO25 (Read 2360 times)
Glenn
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Pre-amp for UFO25
09/14/22 at 14:00:13
 
I recently received delivery of my UFO25 and am very pleased with the sound. I had my first transcendent moment listening to Etta James Live from San Francisco the other night. Amazing. However, i have now read an article by Steve stating that a Decware pre-amp will up the game by as much as 30% - which has my wondering. . . does this apply to the UFO25 as well? I would appreciate thoughts on two questions. First, will a Decware pre-amp make an audible improvement in the sound of the UFO25, and if so, which one do you recommend. And second,  given the length of the waiting list, is there an alternative pre-amp that you recommend, while i wait in the queue for a Decware?  FYI - i stream my music using a Sonos Port, Pontus II DAC and Klipsch Cornwall IV speakers. Thanks all!
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Niagara 1200, Sonos Port streamer, Denafrips Pontus II DAC, Denafrips Athena pre-amp, Decware UFO25 amplifier, Klipsch Cornwall IV speakers
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Lon
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #1 - 09/14/22 at 20:03:56
 
I don't have a UFO25 but I have a pair of SE84UFO3 Monoblocks with the Anniversary Mods (and voltage regulation for both input and output tubes, something I am not sure is a part of the regular Monoblocks) so I think a similar sound and presentation.

They sound really good without a preamp. But with a preamp there is more "presence" and "body" to the sound and a touch more dynamics. The preamp I am using is the ZTPRE. I also have a ZBIT and a ZROCK2 before the amplifiers which give excellent improvements both with and without a preamp.

Some of us are never satisfied. I'm among those. So I have a preamp--at one point in order to add headphone potential to the system I even had a second preamp in the signal chain, and it didn't hurt, it even helped a bit. If the "what if" keeps bugging you and your pockets will be deep enough think about the matching CSP3-25 and get on the waiting list. It most assuredly will give you a thrilling bit of extra Decware magic.

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HR-1,ZTPRE,ZBIT,ZROCK2,SE84UFO3-25th x2, CSP3-25th.Taboo Mk IV;Rega RP3 all GrooveTracer mods;PSAudio:PST+DSD,P15,NPC,PowerBases,AC-12 pwr cbls,Reference spkrcbls; Mapleshade SamsonV3;VooDoo:Cremona+Amati interconnects, IsoPods; headphones:Sennheiser HD800S,ZMF Or
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CAJames
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #2 - 09/14/22 at 20:53:51
 
So for me, I can't imagine having a system without a tube preamp. I have the UFO amps (configured as balanced mono blocs) with the "anniversary mods" not the UFO25 and they certainly benefit from the preamp. I'm using a Woo Audio WA22 as both a preamp and headphone amp and it makes beautiful music with Decware.
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[FOOBAR2000 | Jay's CDT2 MRK3] -> Denafrips Terminator 2 + Gaia
Sumiko Pearwood -> Mapleknoll Athena -> Luxman SUT -> Maple-tree Phono 3E
Woo WA22 -> Space-tech 300B , 2x UFO25s on order
Omega SAM , Hifiman Arya, Senn HD-650
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GroovySauce
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #3 - 09/15/22 at 16:13:16
 
Adding a quality pre-amp adds more better across the spectrum. Yes, The UFO25TH benefits from a pre-amp.

The only suggestions I have for a competing pre-amp are more expensive.

EMIA Remote Autoformer is my favorite pre-amp I've ever used. I've been smitten by Dave Slagle's autoformers since the first time I hooked one up. DECWARE amps have high input impedance which you want when using an autoformer as a pre-amp.
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Acoustic Signature Maximus NEO TT | ViV Rigid Float TA | Hana ML | Sutherland Little Loco MK2 | Innuos ZENith MK3 | May KTE DAC | EMIA Remote Autoformer | Torii MKV 25th | Snake River Audio Cables | PAP Quintet 15 1.6 Voxativ |Torus AVR15|Acoustic Fields Treatment
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Lon
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #4 - 09/15/22 at 18:42:24
 
Those autoformer preamps look wonderful and I bet they sound wonderful too.

But it would be awful expensive to roll autoformers! Wink
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HR-1,ZTPRE,ZBIT,ZROCK2,SE84UFO3-25th x2, CSP3-25th.Taboo Mk IV;Rega RP3 all GrooveTracer mods;PSAudio:PST+DSD,P15,NPC,PowerBases,AC-12 pwr cbls,Reference spkrcbls; Mapleshade SamsonV3;VooDoo:Cremona+Amati interconnects, IsoPods; headphones:Sennheiser HD800S,ZMF Or
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Crazy Bill the Eel Killer
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #5 - 09/19/22 at 19:02:18
 
Hello all,
Gotta second GroovySauce's recommendation. There is nothing quite like Dave's autoformer volume controls. Nothing, and i mean nothing I've ever used in the preamp position compared to the autoformer. I've used a Decware ZSLA-1 sig., and two different DIY versions with gain, one based upon a 6922 and the other a 12b4. Both of my diy efforts were built to the hilt and surpassed by the autoformer. I've had both the copper based version, and I am now using the 47 step silver Elma autoformer.
Expensive, yes. But you couldn't pry it from my hands.

If you're handy with a soldering iron, you can construct a 23 step autoformer much cheaper than buying a built unit.

Something to think about if you're in the quest for the best.

Cheers,        Crazy Bill   Grin
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Glenn
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #6 - 09/27/22 at 13:53:34
 
Thanks for your suggestions. Unfortunately the EMIA Remote Autoformer is out of my budget range. I am very impressed with my Denafrips Pontus II DAC and am considering the Hades Pre-amp. I would love a Decware pre-amp but the approx. 3 year waiting list is just too long. Anyone have experience with Denafrips Pre-amps?
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Niagara 1200, Sonos Port streamer, Denafrips Pontus II DAC, Denafrips Athena pre-amp, Decware UFO25 amplifier, Klipsch Cornwall IV speakers
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Doug
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #7 - 09/28/22 at 02:43:12
 
Groovy and Crazy Bill,

So this autoformer device hooks up exactly like a normal preamp….L and R in…….and L and R out?   Where do you have your autoformers placed in your systems?  How would one of these work in my bi-amped system? Thanks!

Doug
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Jay’s CD2T-Mk3
Denafrips Pontus II
ZROCK2 25th Mods
CSP3 25th & Custom Mods
Cary 300SEI Mk6 WE300B Tubes
…..driving Voxativ 1.6’s with no crossover
LFD NCSE Driving 15” Woofers
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GroovySauce
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #8 - 09/28/22 at 13:28:57
 
I get it the EMIA unit is spendy.

Icon makes a AVC the price point is significantly less than the EMIA—still not inexpensive. I've read that they use Dave Slagle's autoformers in them, I have not confirmed that.

https://www.passivepreamp.com/product/icon-4-pro-unbalanced/

Doug, yes it does hook up just like a standard preamp... There are some things to be aware of though, see below.

Currently my DAC and ZP3 go into the EMIA. The EMIA has two outputs (in parallel) One output goes to the amp the other to the ZBOX to the sub amps. In a bi amp setup you will connect each amp to the outputs.

I wrote to someone else in a PM about the EMIA Remote Autoformer, this is a copy and paste of part.




I’ve been smitten with the autoformer ever since I first heard it. For practical purposes the autoformer is silent. Technically it does add some noise, the same way an interconnect (RCA or XLR) will add noise. I hear you on being a remote guy, I am too!

The EMIA autoformers and DECWARE are a match made in heaven of the audio gods.

I did have a CSP3 w/25th mods. It is a terrific pre amp I highly recommend it. The EMIA doesn’t have the tube magic it has the transformer magic! Dave’s transformers are considered by many consumers and industry professionals to be the best in the business. The speed of the EMIA is incredible, it's the number one difference between the two. Makes the CSP3 sound like it’s on a Sunday stroll.

There is a distinction about speed I want to make. When the system is fast it is naturally harmonically rich. Separation is about phase. If a component is fast, it will output more accurate phase information—leading to better separation and sound stage.

The way the EMIA can render sound-music-instruments in space awe inspiring.

Granted the EMIA is just one component of a very complex system. If I had all the money in the world, there isn't another preamp I would consider.

I have the copper version, my brother has the silver. We have not compared them yet. We did recently move near each other so in the future we will be comparing them.

The only thing the CSP3 has over the EMIA is the ability to tube roll and change the sound. I’ve never wanted to change what the EMIA brings to the party.

The EMIA is a key component in the enveloping nature of my system.

As a side note, my brother had the PS Audio BHK preamp. When we put the CSP3 up against it we both instantly preferred the CSP3. When he heard the EMIA he ordered one the next day.

If you do go the autoformer route. One thing you must be aware of is you need to have a good match of impedance between the source and the amp. 1,000 ohms from the ZP3 to the 47,000 ohms of a ZROCK works great. 100,000 ohms of a DECWARE amp is fantastic. No real difference in response. If you had 1,000 ohms output into 10,000 ohms input you will get frequency roll off.

My DAC is ~50 ohms output so I’m guessing I could drive a 20,000 ohm input amp no problem. 10,000 ohm might be iffy.

The practical issue for me with this right now is, I’m adding 2 GR-Research Servo Subs. The amps are 10,000 ohms input. That means when I have 100,000 from the amp and 10,000 meaning the source “sees” 9,100 ohms which will make the frequencies roll off a bit in the bass. I solved this by adding a ZBOX (47k ohm) between the EMIA and the Servo amps. I can also try running high level into the Servo amps as well. Then the impedance matching will be moot.
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Acoustic Signature Maximus NEO TT | ViV Rigid Float TA | Hana ML | Sutherland Little Loco MK2 | Innuos ZENith MK3 | May KTE DAC | EMIA Remote Autoformer | Torii MKV 25th | Snake River Audio Cables | PAP Quintet 15 1.6 Voxativ |Torus AVR15|Acoustic Fields Treatment
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JBzen
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #9 - 09/28/22 at 16:52:22
 
GroovySauce, those autoformers look like an interesting project! Most likely will tackle it this winter. If all goes well, it may replace the CSP2+.

Thanks.

John
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AMC CD8b>XO3>Cambridge CXN2>ZDAC>ZBIT>braided silver/occ> Zrock2>CSP2+>SE84 milflex copper 25th>9AWG silver/copper braid>lii Crystal 10 in Huijgen cabinets. Ortofon 2M Bronze>JVC QL-F4>ZP3>Isolation-AC filtering-Room treatment. Otari MX5050B2.
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Zoso69
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #10 - 11/06/22 at 00:07:33
 
Hello Glenn,

I'm on the waiting list (10 months in...) for my UFO25th and have been reading about the Decware ZSTAGE and it's ability to add "dynamics and body" to the signal chain.

I'm curious what others have to say about this combo, especially as an alternative to one of the more pricy preamps.

My system is similar to yours. I also have the Pontus II - very please with what I'm hearing. I'm streaming from a Bluesound Node 2i and pumping out waves with a pair of 95db Tekton Perfect SET 2-10s. My current amp is the 45W Willsenton R8. My friends think it's the bees knees, but I've heard better, which led me Decware.  

If all we're looking for is a little MORE of the Decware secret sauce, and don't necessarily need to accommodate multiple input sources (phono stage, reel-to-reel, etc.) my question is, which makes more sense a preamp or the ZSTAGE?
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joralieu
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #11 - 11/06/22 at 14:46:37
 
I have a UFO 25 and am going to try a Bottlehead moreplay with it. They are cheap and fun to build so I thought I would give a shot.
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lobo
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #12 - 11/06/22 at 14:46:57
 
I'm using a ZROCK with my UFO25,with very good results.So that could be another option.
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SE84UFO25,SE84UFO,ZROCK2,Border Patrol SE dac,LiionidasBaffles, Betsy Baffles,Klipsch RP280,Mapleshade cable and wire.
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JOMAN
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #13 - 11/07/22 at 03:16:47
 
Lately circumstance has forced me to listen to my UFO25 without the CSP3-A for a time.  At the same time I have changed my speakers and my source.  Right now I am listening to my my UFO25 without the CSP3-A and enjoying it very much, so much so that I have had to re-think what the CSP3-A or any preamp does to do the UFO25.  IMO, FWIW, Nothing.

The UFO25 is an amazing amp especially once you get the tube set to your satisfaction.  What the preamp does is make your source and speakers better if these are in some way limited.  

If your source is limited to 2v output and your speakers are limited in transparency, headroom and speed, then the CSP3-A can allow you to adjust the gain structure to make up for those limitations to a fairly large degree.  That can have an audible impact on dynamics, texture and weight.  After all, basically, the CSP3 is a gain stage, among other things.

If your source does not have many limitations and your speakers are not limited in the areas mentioned then there is not much that a CSP3 will improve.  Perhaps a little more fine tuning, be a very good headphone amp and it will be more convenient controlling the volume with one knob than two.  So still worth it.

Like the EMIA Autoformer, getting a source and speakers with few limitations will also be... spendy.  If the budget allows, well worth it.  If it doesn't consider getting a CSP3-A with the Miflex Caps.
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JOMAN
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #14 - 11/08/22 at 21:41:15
 
As I'm without the CSP3-A temporarily and listening with the Chord Qutest w/Plixir LPS direct into the UFO25, I'm about to further experiment with what is possible.  I made a deal on a Mint M Scaler.  When I get it I'll see/hear what the results are and then when I get the CSP3-A back I'll install it.

This should be interesting.
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Tony
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #15 - 11/08/22 at 22:01:50
 
I had to look up Hugo M Scaler as I wasn't sure what it was.  If I got it right, that should be one heck of a DAC.  Congrats, and let us know the results.
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Torii MkIV w 25th Ann | CSP 2+ | ZRock2 w 25th Ann | ZBIT | Cambr. CXNv2 | Denafrips Pontus II | Media Converter | Decware I/Cs | Decware Pwr Cbls | ZWIRE Speaker Cbls | Omega SAHOM & Bass Baffle | Sennheiser 650 | Furman Conditioning l Room Trmt. GIK Acoustics
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JOMAN
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #16 - 11/09/22 at 01:28:05
 
Thanks Tony,

I plan to post my impressions in the "Digital" section.  I have another trip next week so it will have to wait till the end of the month.

The Chord M Scaler is meant to work in conjunction with DACs with the best results when connected to one of the Chord DACS... Qutest, Hugo TT2 or the Dave.  To really understand what it's meant to do check out the design philosophy of Rob Watts, interesting stuff and it expanded my understanding of the challenges of converting digital to analogue.

Running the Lumin U2 Mini > Qutest DAC (with Plixir LPS) > UFO25 (minus the ZR2 and CSP3-A) really showed me just how good the UFO25 is, once again.  IMO, FWIW, it's only limited by what you feed it.

Can't wait to add the M Scaler to the Qutest.  I just hope that this stops there and I don't feel the urge to replace the Qutest with the Hugo TT2, or worse yet... the Dave 😵‍💫.
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CAJames
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #17 - 11/09/22 at 03:05:48
 
<SUBLIMINAL> Dave....Dave....Dave </SUBLIMINAL>


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[FOOBAR2000 | Jay's CDT2 MRK3] -> Denafrips Terminator 2 + Gaia
Sumiko Pearwood -> Mapleknoll Athena -> Luxman SUT -> Maple-tree Phono 3E
Woo WA22 -> Space-tech 300B , 2x UFO25s on order
Omega SAM , Hifiman Arya, Senn HD-650
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JOMAN
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #18 - 11/09/22 at 13:35:16
 
Woke up this am and all that was going through my head was,

Dave...Dave...Dave 🤦‍♂️
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Tony
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #19 - 11/09/22 at 14:33:23
 
Hey Jo (Dave) Man,

Don't let CAJames mess with your head - Be Strong!

Sincerely, Dave
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Torii MkIV w 25th Ann | CSP 2+ | ZRock2 w 25th Ann | ZBIT | Cambr. CXNv2 | Denafrips Pontus II | Media Converter | Decware I/Cs | Decware Pwr Cbls | ZWIRE Speaker Cbls | Omega SAHOM & Bass Baffle | Sennheiser 650 | Furman Conditioning l Room Trmt. GIK Acoustics
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JOMAN
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #20 - 11/09/22 at 19:28:48
 
Sincerely, Dave

There's a conspiracy a foot 🙃

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JOMAN
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #21 - 11/11/22 at 01:33:58
 
Came home and the Dave was here, I mean the M Scaler, ARRRRGH!

So I'll be installing tomorrow and possibly posting first impressions in the Digital section before I leave on Monday.

The seller said it was mint.  I beg to differ.  By the looks of it, I don't think it was ever used!
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JOMAN
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #22 - 11/11/22 at 20:30:29
 
I've been listening to the Qutest/M Scaler combo for the past hour and all I can say is WOW!

As this is about whether a pre amp will improve the UFO25, IMO, it's still no.  The UFO25 will gladly respond to the input from the source and communicate it to the speakers.  The limitations are not in the UFO25, this is one incredible amp!!!  

I'm running the Qutest w/Plixir LPS/M Scaler directly into the UFO25 with nothing other than interconnects in between.  My wife stopped for a few minutes to listen and all she said was "you don't need a pre amp".  Well I do for my headphones.  I will be posting details later this month in the "Digital" section about the DAC and Scaler.

The decision now is... Do I invite Hugo or Dave to join the party???? (already got your recommendation CA 🥴)
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CAJames
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #23 - 11/11/22 at 23:14:08
 
Quote:
Posted by: JOMAN      Posted on: Today at 20:30:29
... (already got your recommendation CA 🥴)


Then my work here is done.  

But seriously. I've had a tube preamp in system pretty much forever. Beyond source switching and volume control they have always added just a bit of secret sauce to the sound, although until recently with solid state power amps. Of course every one has different tastes, systems etc. but even with my (pretty nice) Denafrips digital I still much prefer the sound of my system with the preamp. Although I suspect (based only on my understanding of the the Decware `house sound`) that my pre is a little tubier than a CSP3, and my UFOs are tuned accordingly.

Regardless, threads like this continue to reinforce Steve's claim that your Decware amp "will never be the weak link in your system." A claim I poo-poo'd until I got my own.
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[FOOBAR2000 | Jay's CDT2 MRK3] -> Denafrips Terminator 2 + Gaia
Sumiko Pearwood -> Mapleknoll Athena -> Luxman SUT -> Maple-tree Phono 3E
Woo WA22 -> Space-tech 300B , 2x UFO25s on order
Omega SAM , Hifiman Arya, Senn HD-650
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JOMAN
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #24 - 11/12/22 at 04:30:45
 
Beyond source switching and volume control they have always added just a bit of secret sauce to the sound

Actually, I agree with what you are saying 100%.  The point that I was trying to make is that by adding a pre amp or a ZROCK or anything else one is not necessarily improving the amp, especially in the case of the UFO25.  in fact what one is actually doing is improving (loosely saying) or making up for other components or other circumstances such as room acoustics.  In such cases the best solution is to deal with the issue at hand but that is not always  possible.  Not everyone can treat their rooms and then budgets will limit how much one can spend on associated components.

In your case you're adding the "secret sauce".  I think of that as adding seasoning to a tenderloin steak.  The steak is as good as it gets and the seasoning doesn't improve the steak but it does add a personal touch of flavour.  The secret sauce will not turn a chuck steak into a tenderloin although it might make it more bearable.

IMO it is important to know why one is doing what they are.  Otherwise one can end up in a rabbit hole spending all kinds of cash and end up getting confused.  If you know that seasoning will not turn a chuck steak into a tenderloin the you won't end up on an endless mission of trying to find the sauce that will.  You'll get a tenderloin or a rib eye and have cash  to personalize it.

When I get my CSP3-A back I'll be installing it and then I'll see what kind of "flavouring" it can add.

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JOMAN
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #25 - 11/12/22 at 04:33:21
 
Sorry CA, that was meant to be a quote.  "beyond source switching and volume control they have always added just a bit of secret sauce"
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JOMAN
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #26 - 11/12/22 at 04:47:39
 
Almost forgot... <subliminal> Terminator Plus.... Terminator Plus.... Terminator Plus<subliminal>
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CAJames
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #27 - 11/12/22 at 15:01:51
 
Ha!

Probably a conversation better saved for the digital forum but that isn't even on my radar's radar. If anything I'd consider an upgrade for my (cheap but carefully tweaked) Windows laptop and Foobar.

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[FOOBAR2000 | Jay's CDT2 MRK3] -> Denafrips Terminator 2 + Gaia
Sumiko Pearwood -> Mapleknoll Athena -> Luxman SUT -> Maple-tree Phono 3E
Woo WA22 -> Space-tech 300B , 2x UFO25s on order
Omega SAM , Hifiman Arya, Senn HD-650
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Dana
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #28 - 11/12/22 at 15:38:35
 
I use the program Fidelizer to assist with turning off the unnecessary (noisy) processes going on in Windows that are unrelated to sound and then use the ASIO driver that is supported by my DAC.  I love the internet there is so much knowledge out there that people are willing to share for free.

This video https://youtu.be/xXvcgfiN8_0  helped me configure my Foobar for increased quality playback.
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Tom Waits:
And the newspapers were fooling,
And the ash-trays have retired
'Cause the piano has been drinking,
The piano has been drinking
The piano has been drinking,
Not me, not me, not me, not me, not me
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JOMAN
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Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #29 - 12/21/22 at 20:30:17
 
Quote:
However, i have now read an article by Steve stating that a Decware pre-amp will up the game by as much as 30% - which has my wondering. . . does this apply to the UFO25 as well?


My CSP-A is back in the mix and as a result I feel that I can answer that question as it applies to my experience.  In short the answer is YES, with a caveat.  It wasn't plug and play, and it wasn't just the initial burn in after having certain "work" performed.

I was very pleased with the Lumin U2 Mini>Chord Qutest/Plixir Elite BDC going directly into the UFO25 while the CSP3-A was being attended to.  In fact it made me wonder if the CSP3-A would further enhance the experience.

At first it didn't.

Next came some gain structure adjustment in the CSP3-A and the UFO25.  Then came the Crytone rolling after 25 hours.  At first I had the CryoTone E88CC-WC in the input and output positions.  After getting another adapter, Jemosa 12AXX to E88CC/6922 and putting it in the input position of the UFO25 (with a CryoTone 12AU7-WCL) I decided to take the adapter that was in the UFO25 and put it in the input position of the CSP3-A with a CryoTone 12AU7-WCL, the result?...OH WOW, I kid you not!

The point, the caveat is, that you may need do some gain riding and in my case that included making changes to the choice of tubes in the input positions.

Was this a 30% increase???  This was the type of performance increase that you would expect to get when you upgrade components in magnitudes greater than one step.

Initially I was contemplating getting the Chord TT2 and eliminating the CSP3-A.  Now I realize that the next step will be keeping the CSP3-A and getting the Dave, not because I feel that I need to, but because that's audiophiles do, right???   (How in the world do I sell this to the CFO???)

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CAJames
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Posts: 859
Re: Pre-amp for UFO25
Reply #30 - 12/22/22 at 15:30:59
 
Quote:
Posted by: JOMAN      Posted on: Yesterday at 20:30:17

...Now I realize that the next step will be keeping the CSP3-A and getting the Dave...



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[FOOBAR2000 | Jay's CDT2 MRK3] -> Denafrips Terminator 2 + Gaia
Sumiko Pearwood -> Mapleknoll Athena -> Luxman SUT -> Maple-tree Phono 3E
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