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Quality passive preamp?

Discussion in 'audio' started by Rosewind, Aug 8, 2019.

  1. Rosewind

    Rosewind Lost in Translation

    Has anyone had good results switching from an active preamp to a passive pre with an EAR power amp?

    I may have an opportunity to get hold of a Wavac passive pre. Therefore the question.
  2. david12

    david12 pfm Member

    Not with the EAR Power Amp, but I used a Music First Audio Clone with my Audio Research Ref 75 for some years and was very pleased with the results. Ultimately, I marginally prefer an active valve Pre, the Modwright 36.5, but it is marginal.

    If you wanted to try the MFA clone, PM me. I'm not committed to keeping it. It was built in Hungary with the same circuit and Stevens and Bilington Transformers, as the MFA Baby Reference. I actually got hold of the Baby Reference to compare and couldn't hear a difference, others thought they could. Still, when this cost £950 and the Baby Reference over £5000, it seemed a no brainer.
  3. Rosewind

    Rosewind Lost in Translation

    Thanks for the kind offer. I am after the Wavac for now.

    Some classic valve power amps make perfect fits with passive preamps. I believe that Tony L uses one with a Leak Stereo 20.
  4. mandryka

    mandryka pfm Member

    What does it sound like if you cut out all preamps and use a digital volume control? Maybe Arkless will tell me I’m wrong, but assuming a decent match between your DAC and your amp, you won’t get truer than that when you put a preamp into the equation, passive or not. I appreciate you may not have digital control with all your inputs, but doing the experiment should at least tell you whether this is an avenue worth exploring further.
  5. Rosewind

    Rosewind Lost in Translation

    Thanks. Just realized that I have an attenuator in a box also. So I can try both the dac and the attenuator. Will do and see how it sounds for me.
  6. thebiglebowski

    thebiglebowski pfm Member

    I'm using a Khozmo with my 300b AN Conquest monos and it's great at louder volumes but not so good at less than 25% or so.
  7. Rosewind

    Rosewind Lost in Translation

    I am listening to music through the Line Magnetic Dac playing directly into the EAR 516. Sounds good to me. I am using J River as a digital volume control. Will leave it like this for a few hours and then switch back to through the Herron pre.
  8. mandryka

    mandryka pfm Member

    Everyone's different of course, but my experience is that a few days is more reliable than a few hours! It's maybe because I've really not had much experience listening to hifi (as opposed to listening to music playing through hifi, if you know what I mean.) I just don't have the skill to home in on what's going on quickly, to balance the pros and the cons quickly.
  9. TonyScarlett

    TonyScarlett pfm Member

    Khozmo here as well into an ST20, excellent build quality & small but noticeable upgrade over previous Tisbury.
    mr sneff likes this.
  10. Mr Underhill

    Mr Underhill pfm Member

    Hi Peter,

    I had an interesting experience this week. I had some pucks under my Linn Klimax DS Renew, Sorborthane footed board under my 868 and nothing under my 534.

    As I had changed to Naim SBL speakers I had eight Isoacoustic Gaias hanging around and so I took the threaded connectors out of them and put four under my DS and four under the 868. This revealed a level of detail I had been missing, and improved the sound staging. I was toying with buying some Isoacoustic pucks to put under the 534 but a friend suggested something rather cheaper. I the end I though I would try some Hudson HiFi acoustic dampers. These come with hexagonal feet + four discs, I left the discs to one side on their advice via email. The effect under the 534 was to reduce more smear I wasn't aware was there, again tightening up the sound and improving the sound stage.

    I am a happy bunny. If you haven't tried this with the 516 you may find yourself as pleasantly surprised.


    Rosewind likes this.
  11. matt j

    matt j pfm Member

    Very impressed with a Townshend Allegri I'm currently using, although from what I gather it's slightly different to a standard passive pre.
    Rosewind likes this.
  12. Mr Underhill

    Mr Underhill pfm Member

    Has a great rep. I have a friend coming over to try it with my 534, hopefully next week - I'll report back.

    Rosewind likes this.
  13. Rosewind

    Rosewind Lost in Translation

    Thanks for the suggestions!

    Tomorrow I may sell the active Herron pre I own unless the prospective buyer decides that his Line Magnetic 219a is good enough on its own.

    I have the following options available - although only one has been reserved for me:

    Wavac passive pre + new mm phono stage + Step up (or mc phono stage)
    Cheap passive pre + Van den Hul "The Grail" phono stage
    KR P135+mc integrated amp
    Crayon PFA-1 integrated with mm/mc phono stage onboard
    EAR 868PL - too expensive?
    Audiopax Model 5 = way too expensive + I would need a phono stage.

    I have also explored Don Sachs preamps (AR modifications) + phono stage (another AR modification), SPL Phonos Phono stage, Paradise (no more available), Croft Riia RS + SUT/Headamp, a lot of other mm stages + SUT/headamp, Benz Micro Lukaschek PP1-T9, and others.

    All the above depends on the sale of my Herron amp tomorrow. If it does not sell, I will allow myself 4 more days for the sale. Then I will keep the excellent Herron pre and start looking for an MC phono stage to be bought around December first.
  14. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I use a Audio Synthesis ProPassion with my Stereo 20 which is a very high quality single input dual-mono stepped attenuator (I just use an SACD player in the system, so one input is fine). Its a really nice combo. The Leak is an ideal candidate for a passive as it is very high gain and has a high impedance input.
    Rosewind likes this.
  15. Eaton Mess

    Eaton Mess Member

    I have no experience of using a passive with an EAR but have used my current passive pre with many power amps without any issues
    Take a look a the Rothwell Indus http://www.rothwellaudioproducts.co.uk/html/indus_se.html You should be able to pick one up on the second hand market for a few hundred £
    What I particularly like about it as well as its transparency in that it adds nothing to the sound, are the dual controls for volume. The first provides a coarse setting to get you near to where you want to be and then there is a second which provides fine tuning to get it just right.

    As has been said earlier the Audio Synthesis are very nice but due to their age are wearing out. I have purchased 3 different ones all have which suffered from volume switching noice due to wear of the control. Speaking with David Heaton of AS said there are no parts available to repair any longer as many are 30 years old so are no longer servicable. I think its pot luck if you end up with a fully servicable one.
  16. beammeup

    beammeup pfm Member

    Try an NVA passive pre - you get a 30 day home trial.
  17. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I’ve owned three of them, a PAS-02, a Passion and a ProPassion and all are fine on all settings. A squirt of Deoxit faderlube is all one would ever need to clean the beautifully made contacts. I did mine a year or so ago and it us sounding better than ever. Here’s my ProPassion:


    There really is no magic in there, just a beautifully built stepped attenuator. In reality just a very well made switch, which like any light-switch or whatever should last for a century or more if clean and well cared for.
    Rosewind likes this.
  18. scotty38

    scotty38 pfm Member

    That's a lovely thing!
    Rosewind likes this.
  19. Mike P

    Mike P pfm Member

    I'm using a decent but not extravagant transformer type passive pre with my Leak ST20 and I really can't imagine using anything else now. I may treat myself to a used MFA, if I can find one at a good price but I'll definitely be sticking to a transformer passive for the foreseeable future.
  20. Eaton Mess

    Eaton Mess Member

    Well I spoke with David Heaton at AS who designed them many times about these issues and he never once suggested cleaning with Deoxit or any other remedy. He just said as they are 30 years old now the contacts wear and the Swiss gold attenuater is no longer made. The last one I had suffered switching noise in the -3 to -10 DB range which is where it would get the most usage and most wear.
    Still interested to hear your experience as I would have loved to have ended up with one fully working as they are extremely well built and transparent. Thats how I ended up with my Rothwell Indus which has proved a really excellent alternative.

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