I've been thinking of going to a Tubed preamp and was interested in the Dared (7xxx?) or Rogue Metis or ? After talking to Tom, I'm auditioning a Sunfire Classic Tube Pre Amp with my newly fixed TFM-45, NAD 525bee and Vandersteen 2c's. The other 2 pre-amps in the shootout are my CT6 (which has been in this system for a few years) and an Anthem TLP-1 I bought last year. (Which, incidently, was beat out by the CT6 in my main 2 channel system)
Background - I needed another pre-amp last year to finish the system in my office. My initial gameplan was to put the Anthem TLP-1 in my main system with the 45 and Vandy's and use the CT6 with my M500 in my office. When I got it home, I replaced the CT6 and listened for a few days. The Anthem, just didn't do it for me. The sound stage wasn't as wide or deep, the bass didn't go as deep nor did it draw me in. It was sort of dull. The midrange was as good if not better than the CT6, so I decided to leave the CT6 in the main system and connect the TLP to my M500 and vintage BA60 II's. The nice thing about it was that I could connect a sub to the TLP with the Boston Acoustic speakers. It sounded pretty good, but the bass was pretty bloated and out of control from the sub, but without the sub, the bass was just too thin. While my 45 was out of the system getting repaired, I decided that I was going to give the Anthem another try. Maybe the 45 had some issues that were keeping it from giving me it's best. So I reconnected the CT6 to the M500 (no sub) to listen to while the 45 was being repaired. Wow, what a difference. With the CT6, I didn't need the sub and the bass was clean and hard (my best description?). Again the soundstage was wider and deeper and it sounded pretty good and much better than the TLP. The description of the CT6 was without SH or the Loudness on along with both treble and bass at '0'. (more or less, bypass mode)
I got home with my newly repaired pieces and hooked up the 45 to the Sunfire to start the audition. I listed to a quick song or two and then waited for my wife to go to bed so I could turn off the lights, the projector and surround equipment and just listen. I put in Norah Jones and listed to 2 songs. I immediately noticed the incredible mid's with her voice. She's never sounded better. But.......again, the soundstage wasn't as big (deep or wide) and the bass didn't seem to extend as low as the CT6. I listened to the entire disk, and it's one of my 'test run' disks that I know very well. I had the system on for about 1.5 hours before I was critically listening also.
At lunch time today, I put the CT6 back in. Dead quiet (just like the other 2 pre's) and listened again to some Norah Jones. It was extremely involving and I can hear the notes, but I was very conscious of the bass and bass drums. I'm not sure of the audiophile term, but I can hear the beginning of the string/strike and the end and can feel the bass. Changed some cables and put the Sunfire in. Again, her voice is like liquid, but the rest of the music from the instruments wasn't as involving to me. The bass didn't seem to extend as much. I turned the contour on and dialed up the bass a bit and it seemed to help a little, but didn't seem as natural. I can hear the beginning of the string/strike, but I didn't feel it. I guess that presentation seemed a little reserved. I took out the Sunfire and put in the TLP. The mids in the TLP weren't as nice as the Sunfire, but weren't as grainy (audiophile term?) as the CT6 (marginally). But the bass was so thin? The beginning and the end of the notes weren't as apparant, and the music didn't envelope me. I could place the singer, but the rest of the instruments were tough, aside from left or right.
My initial impressions: I'm not sure if it's the psychology of knowing the CT6 and it's presentation so well, but it seems that it is doing it for me. It's very confusing, since I've read so many excellent posts on the other two preamps. Do you feel that it may be an impedance or other over my head electrical/resistance/matching issue between the 45 and the other 2 pre's? Or maybe the CT6 is 'coloring' more than the others? (ie: the Sunfire is more real?) Any ideas of how to get better bass extension and bigger soundstage out of the Sunfire? I will say that the mid's are incredible and could almost be enough to really consider leaving it in the system. Same question for the TLP.
I'll post more after my session tonite.
Office: M-500, CT-6, SDA360, Paradigm Studio 20, HRT MSII, PC
HT: Acurus 200x3, HK AVR247, Paradigm Mini Monitors, CC290, Micros, Velodyne DSL3750
Wght Rm: HR732, Paradigm Micros, Pure20
House: Denon AVR1400, Niles spkr box, SpeakerCraft Ceilings, BA A60II's, BA T930's, PC
Bedroom: Yamaha AVR, Panasonic DVD/CD chgr, Paradigm CC50/Micros, Yam sub.
Headphones: AKG Q701's, Sennheiser HD238's
Patio: Yamaha AVR, KLH In/Out Speakers
Misc: HK 330i