Snoop, I have hit the end of the road for me concerning pre-amps. What I have is a Gary Dodd built Dodd MLP. I call it the "Fred Flinstone" pre and my wife and some others call it the "Dodo", not realizing that it's a Dodd. I ran across this pre at an audio gathering down in the humid swamps of Georgia a couple of years back. When I first lay eyes on her, I thought to myself, "what a Fred Flinstone looking piece of gear". I was kinda turned off by the looks as I had never seen a wood faced front on any gear up to that date.
Then I heard it.
It wasn't hooked up to the best of gear. Run of the mill NAD amp, my Rega Apollo CDP for one source and the Denon 2910 Universal for the other. The speakers were the Tyler Acoustics Taylos speakers that many have had the chance to audition at two separate Carverfest's. I ended up getting the Tyler's as well after this audition, but that's another story.
What I heard was nothing short of incredible to my ears. It wasn't a full range system, it definitely wasn't the best of systems but the sound imaging that came out of that rig was among the best that I had heard my entire life. There were many a rig there at that event and I spent multiple hours at this one, just absorbing how well the sound was thrown out, how the attack was quick and powerful and most of all, how good and precise the imaging was.
The imaging is what stopped me in my tracks. When we put in BB King's LIVE at the Regal, you could actually see him walk across the stage. You could see him when he didn't move but just tilted his head from one side of the microphone to the other. The placement of everything was pin-point. All of this was apparent with your eyes closed or open. You didn't need to imagine.
The more we listened to that rig and the more we changed genre's of music, the more I came to respect what was sitting in front of me. I knew that one day I would own both the speakers and that Fred Flinstone looking pre.
Well, I sold the Rega and got me a Jolida JD100 which was a huge benefit to my rig, acquired the Tyler's and then the Dodd [to my sheer delight] came up on the used market. I owe Mr. George Daniels a BIG one for offering it to me. Thanks, George!!! I guess I'd better thank his wife too, as she wasn't the happiest when George sent me the Dodd. She really liked it too.
So, anyway.....I get my new rig up and running and even though I had been through at least 20 or more receivers, a Denon integrated and had recently swapped out at least 8 more pre's on top of the previous ones, I was floored for the first time. Usually, the sound got worse. Sometimes slightly better. Nothing that made you jump up and down and nothing that would even make you want to comment one way or the other. Not really that much of a sonic change one way or another.
As soon as the Dodd was introduced? Holy crap, praise Jesus, there IS a God! Man, the whole rig opened up. I heard frequencies I had never heard before, the realism was off the charts, rolloff was natural and chimes......well, they sounded like chimes. Like they were in your living room. I had not experienced that before. Imaging was pin-point and not sloppy or wide. What I mean by that is imagine a guitar player. He's plucking and he's sliding. There are two distinct areas of where the sound is generated. With this pre, I could easily
distinguish where the guitarist was strumming in relation to where he was sliding. This could be established for the first time in my rig, even if there were 3 guitarists up on stage [Think "Friday Night in San Fransisco"].
I could go on and on about what this pre made me discover with all aspects of the music reproduction along my audio journey. Needless to say, she's a keeper. This is the one
piece of gear that I feel absolutely no need to upgrade. I have had a lot of gear come and go over the years and this is the only one out of all of 'em that I can honestly say ain't goin' anywhere.
The Dodd MLP is the one shown on the lower right side of the table. The one with the wood faceplate and knobs. This photo was taken the very first time I ever heard it and I knew as soon as I put my ears on it that one day I would own it. I was right, I own the very one pictured. The power supply chassis is sitting down on the floor.
That said, if there was a house fire or someone actually got lucky enough to make it past the neighbors, security system and the dog and I didn't have the Dodd anymore, here are some choices that would be on the consideration block...
Musical Fidelity and Joule are two that I would consider. I have only heard 4 of them in my life and I have no idea about the models, so no pic's will be provided. If you have any questions about them, feel free to ask as we have an owner or two on this forum. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about them. One of the Musical Fidelity pre's I heard was in one of the top 5 stereo systems I have had the pleasure of listening too, if that tells you anything.
One of the Integrated Manley's such as the Manley 100/100
Or the Manley Direct Input Stereo 100/100
Or one I have heard and thoroughly enjoyed, the Manley Stingray. What a beautiful integrated! It looks better in person and sounds are fluid and enjoyable. Nice spectrum of sound and very clean. In fact, I came real close to getting the exact one I heard [twice] but could not afford it at the times it became available. DOH!
Convergent Audio Technology Renaissance which holds high reviews and is considered by some to be the best out there. I'd have to hear it first though, as I do not rely on reviews. Ever.
Cary Audio Design SLP 05 seen below which has a 2 chassis design.....most likely the one I would go with out of all the other Carver defects listed. The Dodd I have is a two chassis design with the audio circuitry housed in one chassis and the power supply housed up to 3 feet away. I'm a firm believer in using this type of configuration for clean sound out of the pre. Though I have heard some pretty stellar pre's in a 1 chassis design, there's just something that sounds different [can't really describe it] with the 2 chassis design.