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Do I need a preamp?

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rob725

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I recently fell in love with Martin Logans during a review of some B&Ws at twice their cost, so I just had to have the Vantages.

I have mated them to a Butler Amp and Shanling SACD with tube output and digital volume control, which allows me to drive the butler directly.

Am I leaving even better sound on the table? While that is hard to imagine because everything sounds so good, I am not experienced enough to be sure and have read enough about the "need" for active preamplification to wonder if I'm missing something.

I also live in the middle of nowhere and don't have the option of being able try stuff in my own system, so, if you think I need a preamp, I would greatly appreciate any suggestions.
 

Robin

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If is sound good stay with what you have...

rob725,

Welcome to the ML Club!

I say if your current system sounds excellent to you, and you are loving the sounds keep it the way it is... I would not mess with it. Just enjoy the beautiful music... :D I love every component you have in your system, they truly are awesome pieces of gear.

If you were to add a DVD player etc. I would recommend a preamp probably - Anthem D2, McIntosh or Conrad-Johnson.

It's good to have you here. :D
 
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rob725

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Thanks for the welcome, Robin. I've been lurking for a little while, which is how I discovered Butler. This is a great forum.

I'm definately enjoying the music, but I've also discovered how revealing MLs are of everything else in the system as every upgrade has improved what was already the "best" I've ever had in my listening room.
 

DTB300

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rob725 said:
I also live in the middle of nowhere and don't have the option of being able try stuff in my own system, so, if you think I need a preamp, I would greatly appreciate any suggestions.
The only reason you will need a PreAmp is if you have more devices to input on your system. Right now with just your disc player, you are all set. But if you want to add Tuner, Turntable, DVD, HT Processor (for 5.1), etc. etc., then the Pre Amp will be needed.

Too many Pre Amps out there to recommend a specific model or company, just like the Power Amps. Read see what people are using, and consider from there...if you ever get there :)

Dan
 

tonyc

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Welcome Rob725! Tell us about the Butler. I have read about it but never heard it. Sounds like you have a great system. Maybe you could post some pics.
 

aliveatfive

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Rob -

Some systems sound better with active preamplification, others better with passive (or none.) If your passive setup allows you to hear your sources at adaquate volumes and you are happy with the sound, don't fix it: it ain't broke. Try to listen to: female vocals, symphony orchestra string sections, voices in group (choirs) to find any discordant artifacts. If you like what you hear with your set-up, change nothing. There are passive source selectors that you might try if you need more inputs. I believe there may be kits (even for inexperienced builders) that might accomplish the same purpose.
 
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rob725

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Thanks for all the input.

At present, I don't really need any other inputs and am very happy with the sound, although my favorite recordings have definately shifted toward those with the highest production quality as the Vantages reveal subpar efforts.

When I first got the Vantages I had not settled on a permanent source/amp combination, so I borrowed my pioneer elite universal player from my home theater set up and coupled it with a virtually new Aragon Stage 1/2007 amplifier combination that I had grabbed from ebay for a future bedroom 7.1 setup.

I was using the "pure direct" mode of the Stage 1 preamp and of course just 2 of 7 channels of the amp and was blown away by the Vantages especially as they broke in. Every one who listened was astonished at the lush and detailed soundstage and the sense of being right there with the performers.

I finally settled on the Shanling SACD and Butler Amp, and the Shanling arrived first. I was curious how the system would sound with the preamp removed and the shanling driving the Aragon amp directly, and was greatly disapointed. While still very clear and articulate, the midrange and highs were so uprfront that I had lost texture, depth and soundstage. Bass was still there, but I was not comfortable turning the volume up becuase the highs were almost piercing. I was even experimenting with the bass gain on Vantages to try and compensate. To make sure I wasn't crazy, I would swap the Stage 1 in and out and always got the same result.

I was really hoping that Aragon had tuned their preamp to offset the harshness of their amp and that things would be different once the Butler arrived. Which is exactly what happened.

The natural balance was restored immediately. The Butler sounds very musical and lush to me without being at all muddy. It has plenty of power beyond my ear's ability to withstand any more volume and it never gets hot at all no matter how hard or how long I push it.

Even the bass sounds better to me, but I really don't understand why. The Vantages have their own amplifier for their woofer, so why does the front end amp matter so much? At any rate, the Butler's improvement over the Aragon was like night and day and it is not at all rare for me to hear notes and vocals so good that my eyes roll back in my head and chills run up and down my spine.

My wife just thinks I'm nuts and she's right as I am crazy about my Vantages.

:D
 

roberto

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rob725 said:
Thanks for all the input.

At present, I don't really need any other inputs and am very happy with the sound, although my favorite recordings have definately shifted toward those with the highest production quality as the Vantages reveal subpar efforts.

When I first got the Vantages I had not settled on a permanent source/amp combination, so I borrowed my pioneer elite universal player from my home theater set up and coupled it with a virtually new Aragon Stage 1/2007 amplifier combination that I had grabbed from ebay for a future bedroom 7.1 setup.

I was using the "pure direct" mode of the Stage 1 preamp and of course just 2 of 7 channels of the amp and was blown away by the Vantages especially as they broke in. Every one who listened was astonished at the lush and detailed soundstage and the sense of being right there with the performers.

I finally settled on the Shanling SACD and Butler Amp, and the Shanling arrived first. I was curious how the system would sound with the preamp removed and the shanling driving the Aragon amp directly, and was greatly disapointed. While still very clear and articulate, the midrange and highs were so uprfront that I had lost texture, depth and soundstage. Bass was still there, but I was not comfortable turning the volume up becuase the highs were almost piercing. I was even experimenting with the bass gain on Vantages to try and compensate. To make sure I wasn't crazy, I would swap the Stage 1 in and out and always got the same result.

I was really hoping that Aragon had tuned their preamp to offset the harshness of their amp and that things would be different once the Butler arrived. Which is exactly what happened.

The natural balance was restored immediately. The Butler sounds very musical and lush to me without being at all muddy. It has plenty of power beyond my ear's ability to withstand any more volume and it never gets hot at all no matter how hard or how long I push it.

Even the bass sounds better to me, but I really don't understand why. The Vantages have their own amplifier for their woofer, so why does the front end amp matter so much? At any rate, the Butler's improvement over the Aragon was like night and day and it is not at all rare for me to hear notes and vocals so good that my eyes roll back in my head and chills run up and down my spine.

My wife just thinks I'm nuts and she's right as I am crazy about my Vantages.

:D
Hola Rob...we are in the same boat...ML sound is in our hearts...and the best thing of all, we are re-discovering a lot of our old records with outstanding performace of great musicians that were there and we didn´t listen to then as we are doing now...happy listening,
Pura vida,
Roberto.
 
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dyazdani

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I had great luck in a former system using a CDp direct to the amp. Often though, it's easier to just try and see what happens. Some people like, for example, the addition of a tube pre-amp in the chain.
 

roberto

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dyazdani said:
I had great luck in a former system using a CDp direct to the amp. Often though, it's easier to just try and see what happens. Some people like, for example, the addition of a tube pre-amp in the chain.
Hola...the harmonic texture of the tubes is a sweeter sound than SS. This does not means better. The preamp sometimes enhance the stage and the air between the instruments, like Audio Research LS-16 or the new Conrad Johnson CT-5. With them, you can improve the sound stage...and the soul of the musician playing for you...happy listening,
Pura vida,
Roberto. :)
 

C.A.P

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I run a Theta Balanced cd player direct to the Krell amp, however it has a seperate analogue volume control, also the balanced unit has 2 dacs giving much better clarity than a standard RCA type hook up.
 
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tonyc

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Rob, my simplistic understanding of this issue is that if your CD player can drive the input impedance load (the usual problem is a lowish rather than highish) of the amp then you may not need a preamp. But be aware that the input impedance of some amps is so low that they cannot be driven by preamps with highish output impedance (usually tubes) without rolling off bass. For instance my arc preamp is not supposed to be used with an an amp which has an input impedance of less than 20K ohms. Compare the output impedance of your CD player to the input impedance of your amp and make sure you are within the recommended load. If so, you are good to go. But it might prove interesting to try a quality preamp just to see which sounds better. Enjoy.
 
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MarkNewbie

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More fun with the Shanling

Rob,

If you really want to hear some changes, try tube rolling on the output stage of your Shanling. I highly reccomend a set of WE 396As be dropped in. You will see an immediate and incredible improvement. Then once you have gotten used to the sound and think it can't get any better, drop in a couple Bendix Red Banks, that is if you can find any. You will enter a whole new spectrum at that point. I refer to it is as "Sonic Nirvana". By the way, once I learned of the existence of the Red Banks, it took me several months to find a pair. The WE 396As are relatively easy to find. There is a guy on Audiogon that advertises them just about every week for $89.00.

Good luck and have fun with what appears to be a fine system! :cool:
 
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rob725

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Thanks for all the great input!

The Butler appears to be relatively easy to drive with an input impedance of 47K Ohms. The Aragon 2007's impedence is 20K, which may be why the CDp did not drive it very well.

I will definately try rolling the WEs; how can I resist for less than $90. I'm sure once I notice the "incredible improvement," MarK, I will spiral into an obsessive search for Red Banks, since I will be completely unable to resist the lure of "sonic nirvana."
 
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rob725

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Thanks again for the tip, Mark. I swapped in the WEs and everything just tightened up without sacrificing any warmth or musicality. The system sounds fantastic!
 
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alex

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if you like more detail leave it as it is, but if you want a deeper and wider soundstage you will need a preamp, i would use a tube preamp.
 

MarkNewbie

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rob725 said:
Thanks again for the tip, Mark. I swapped in the WEs and everything just tightened up without sacrificing any warmth or musicality. The system sounds fantastic!
Give them about ten hours of listening and they get even better. Also, let that Shanling warm up for at least 10 minutes before you start playing music. There is a subtle but noticeable difference in the sound when first powered up vs after it is on for a while. Congrats on the tubes. I have 10 or so of the WEs sitting in reserve. I only have four of the Red Banks though. Two are in the Shanling and the other two are in reserve. My WEs are all matched sets as are my Red Banks, meaning they all are paired by their test results. Enjoy those WEs as I would go back to them in a heartbeat if my Red Banks ever fail. :cool:
 

Robin

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Red Banks...

MarkNewbie said:
Give them about ten hours of listening and they get even better. Also, let that Shanling warm up for at least 10 minutes before you start playing music. There is a subtle but noticeable difference in the sound when first powered up vs after it is on for a while. Congrats on the tubes. I have 10 or so of the WEs sitting in reserve. I only have four of the Red Banks though. Two are in the Shanling and the other two are in reserve. My WEs are all matched sets as are my Red Banks, meaning they all are paired by their test results. Enjoy those WEs as I would go back to them in a heartbeat if my Red Banks ever fail. :cool:
Mark,

How long do you think your Red Bank tubes will last? How many hours of usage? Red Bank tubes are soooo cool... :D
 
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rob725

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Mark,

I find reference to 6094 and 6384 type red banks. Does it matter which type?

Thanks, Alex. I'm not sure which I'd prefer; I'd really like a detailed, wide and deep soundstage, lol.

My CDp has a tubed output stage, which varies from 0 to 2 volts, so I guess its kind of like a tube passive preamp, which many seem to feel does not perform as well as an active line stage.

Roberto also mentioned that better separation and a little more air could be had from a quality preamp.

So, if an active tube preamp will give more air, better separation and a wider, deeper soundstage, then I'd be inclined toward using one.

I was considering...
  • Cary SLP 98
  • Supratek Chardonnay

Anyone know anything about these or have any other favs in the $2-3K
range?
 
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Steve Daigneault

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rob725 said:
Mark,

I find reference to 6094 and 6384 type red banks. Does it matter which type?

Thanks, Alex. I'm not sure which I'd prefer; I'd really like a detailed, wide and deep soundstage, lol.

My CDp has a tubed output stage, which varies from 0 to 2 volts, so I guess its kind of like a tube passive preamp, which many seem to feel does not perform as well as an active line stage.

Roberto also mentioned that better separation and a little more air could be had from a quality preamp.

So, if an active tube preamp will give more air, better separation and a wider, deeper soundstage, then I'd be inclined toward using one.

I was considering...
  • Cary SLP 98
  • Supratek Chardonnay

Anyone know anything about these or have any other favs in the $2-3K
range?
great choices. i owned a supratek syrah for a few years and loved it. i upgraded and then downgraded, and wanted to try something different, so i've got a modwright now, but the supratek is first class. i think the modwright is in the same class as the supratek. haven't heard the cary, but the SLP 98 can easily be resold, it's a popular preamp, so if you didn't like it you could sell easily.

other preamps i'd consider in that price range used are the herron VTSP1A and the dehavilland ultraverve.
 
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