Presenting the Mystery Preamp... *drumroll*...

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Joey_V

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Prologue:
Here it is, guys! The mystery preamp TRULY revealed!!

It was initially going to be a Hovland HP100 tube preamp (7 letters, $5K.... remember my hint from a month ago?). I went to my local dealer and had him hook up the Hovland HP100 -> Plinius SA102 -> ML Summits. I listened and I wasnt pleased with what I heard. The Hovland didnt do much in the way of making the music sound more palpable. I felt that the Hovland made the Summits sound extra airy, and not in a good way. I lost the vocal focus that I've been so focused (no pun intended) after... and I lost that sense of realism that accompany my recordings. I just didnt like it. It sounded a little too solid state for me, for lack of a better term.

I also tried out the top of the line Rogue 99, but it didnt last too long since I didnt find it to give the Summits the life they deserved. Focus was good, but there was something veiled about the presentation... sort of like wearing sunglasses and dimming the entire picture entirely. In addition to the not-so-spectacular sound, I also didnt get a good vibe from speaking with Rogue Audio's CEO Mark OBrien when I asked him about head-to-head comparisons between his preamps... his reply was that he never really did A/B comparisons. Not a good answer, I thought, especially when trying to decide between which world class tube preamp to get. :confused:

So I ditched the idea of getting the $2.5K Rogue 99 and I turned my attention towards a tube preamp that has been an object of many audiophiles' positive affection. I decided to buy used ($1,650) and go for the $4K Cary SLP-98!!

I love the look and it's certainly bigger than I thought judging by pictures. The current Stereophile Class A Cary SLP-98 is a formidable tube preamp with a set of 4 6SN7 tubes, P2P wiring with silver teflon, oversized caps, Alps potentiometer, and a separate linear regulated power supply!

The Sound:
Vocals - Compared to the Rogue Metis tube preamp ($1.1K retail) that I have had in the interim, the Cary 98 is miles ahead in fleshing out the extraneous air and grain in the vocal reproduction and leaving the listener with only the necessary realism that makes for an awesome vocal focus and superb vocal imaging. There is a better sense of 3Dimensionality when it comes to the vocalist in question (a sense of volumetric spacing where the vocalist is imaged), there is a better sense of range, and there is less audible strain whenever the vocalist climbs the registers. Truly, the Cary 98 is about 2 or 3 notches above what the Rogue Metis was capable of reproducing through the Summits.

Midrange - Everything in the midrange just sounds better... even more defined instrument spacing exists with the 98 vs the Metis and an even more palpable sense of realism characterizes the instruments in question. There is an even blacker background with the 98, and this helps with the delineation of where one instrument (or vocalist) ends and another begins. There is better range and less strain in the reproduced arts. The saxophone in "Pennies from Heaven" sounded a notch better with the 98, and this coming from an already stupendous sound reproduction that I was getting from the Summits through the Rogue Metis preamp.

Bass - The 98 has better defined bass... though the bass is already so very good that I suspect whatever has improved to be mainly in the midbass frequency region.

Overall - The Cary 98 has truly taken my system to another level, and perhaps even closer to the ideal sound that I have been striving for. There is a greater sense of realism and a greater sense of palpability in the instruments and vocalists being reproduced through the Summits. There is more of the appropriate air in the ambience reproduced. There is better imaging and soundstaging as a whole.... there is a blacker background, which makes for a better canvas on which the Summits are able to paint a better picture.

There is better everything!

Truly worldclass, there isnt much more I could want from a tube preamp! I'm glad I got the Cary SLP-98... it has pushed my Summit system even further than I thought possible. It is approaching towards being the best system I have heard, period.
 
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Joey_V

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Obligatory pictures... tada!!




Random comments...
Ok ok... so, I'm cramped for space and the Plinius is dying for air! Rest assured... I am getting a nice VTI rack for Christmas!! YAY!!! So everything will have it's own little spot in my rig.

Here is the pic of the VTI rack that I'm getting from my girlfriend, Melissa.


Nice, eh?

Other goals for the upcoming year:
1. VTI rack
2. Slimdevices Transporter
 
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Joey_V

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And finally... the loftiest goal for next year....

3. The CARY SLP-05 Reference tube preamp!!!!



Running balanced from the Transporter to the 05 to the Plinius would be my ultimate end goal... after that, I'm pretty much done with the major part of my system and it's time for mere tweaks until further notice.

However...
HOWEVER, I am in absolutely NO rush! I really really really really really enjoy the sound of my system now. It sounds almost perfect to me! I really enjoy sitting back and letting the music take over the front stage and listen to the music and not the speakers. I truly enjoy dimming the lights and looking at what I feel to be the band members in front of me just jamming away!

It's a great feeling that I'm closing in on my ideal sound and that I'm moving in the right direction. I'm very glad that I have YOU GUYS watching my back and helping me out when I had (and will continue to have) questions! It's great to know that the fruits of my sacrifices are making way for a truly spectacular audio system... my toy, my hobby!

There's nothing I enjoy more than my system, of course, not including my beautiful gf of course... she'll kill me if the Summits took her place. I enjoy running it through it's paces when I play my XBox 360 and I'm going around blasting aliens and bad guys in Gears of War or pounding Ali in Fight Night 3. There's nothing I enjoy more than playing F.E.A.R. on my PC and being surrounded by the freakiest of sound effects. And, of course, there is NOTHING I enjoy more than just pulling my chair back about 7 feet from the front stage, dimming the lights, and critically listening (er... ENJOYING) my FLACs.

And... once again... I would like to thank Papa Dave for recommending the Plinius SA102 and answering my questions when I was looking at the differences between the Plinius 102 and the Rotel RB1090. The reason why I'm taking this extra time to thank the man is because....

When I first powered the Cary 98, I sat back and I listened. There was better focus, there was better imaging, there was better blackness, and there was better sonic reproduction as a whole. However, I felt that there was less volumetric spacing that each individual instrument and vocalist took in the said space/soundstage. There was a sense of flatness in the soundstage... hmmmm? I knew something was off, I looked over at the amp and I noticed that the Plinius was in Class AB bias!! I went and switched the Plinius to full Class A bias and sat back down.

MAN!! There it was! In full volumetric glory! Everything was where it should be... the Cary 98/Plinius 102 combo was doing a superb job!! Vocals and instruments had more weight, more volume, and more tangibility! There was an almost eerie sense that the vocalist had form! This was as good as it got for I had the full onslaught of a world class tube preamp and the full Class A bias of a world class SS amp pumping tunes through a world class electrostat!

Conclusion:
The Plinius really does well with the Cary... seemingly addding even more life to musical program. If the Cary is the wheel that spins and allows for the clay vase to be made, the Plinius are the hands that do that ever-so-important sculpting!! For those of you who recall the movie "Ghost", the Cary 98 and the Plinius 102 is akin to Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in the clay vase scene!

Joey
 
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Rich

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It is approaching towards being the best system I have heard, period.
Them's some pretty strong words. I'm thinking with some Nordost Valhalla cables & Interconnects, and a few aftermarket powercords, and throw in a few thousand dollars worth of acoustical treatments. . . then you will be getting somewhere. :devil:

In all seriousness though, congratulations Joey on your awesome purchase. Sounds like you nailed it with a great preamp that synergizes perfectly with your new plinius and your summits. I'm very happy for you because I know what a great feeling that is. Of course, now that you have gone tubes, there is no turning back. Enjoy.
 

Joey_V

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Them's some pretty strong words. I'm thinking with some Nordost Valhalla cables & Interconnects, and a few aftermarket powercords, and throw in a few thousand dollars worth of acoustical treatments. . . then you will be getting somewhere. :devil:
Rich!

Thank you! Of course, there's no question I still have room to go... and that's the beauty of it! With the system already sounding so good, anything more is just awesome!!

Joey :rocker:
 

jtwrace

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Nice pre and summary..when will you get a cd & d/a for the system? You will be amazed what that will do.
 

twich54

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And... once again... I would like to thank Papa Dave for recommending the Plinius SA102 and answering my questions when I was looking at the differences between the Plinius 102 and the Rotel RB1090. I went and switched the Plinius to full Class A bias and sat back down.

MAN!! There it was! the full onslaught of a world class tube preamp and the full Class A bias of a world class SS amp pumping tunes through a world class electrostat!

Joey
Joey, As I read your review I could see the broad smile from cheek to cheek across your face ! Thank you for the kind words, but as I have said before, I think this site has a very good group of people that not only love their Logans but are trully passonite, serious audiophiles as well. Remember it was Dan who got my brain into the "Plinius" frame of mind. I also think you made a fine choice for the reasons I spoke of on another thread, that being sticking with your ABC's (ARC,BAT,CJ,Cary).

Enjoy it, and after a while, who knows you may want to try a little "tube rolling" just for the fun of it !

Oh, and yes, I will let you buy me a Martini next year at the "Get Together" in Lawrence !!
 
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MiTT

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Nice pre and summary..when will you get a cd & d/a for the system? You will be amazed what that will do.
Yes, and even beyond that Joey's got a whole world of vinyl to explore as well. Congrat's Joey, the rest will come in due time as you say, it can only improve what is already a spectacular system. Believe it or not after your teases the other day I pulled out the latest issue with Stereophiles recommended components and was going to postulate that it was the Cary SLP, but coiuldn't figure out how the 98 would fit within that 7 character limit you had mentioned. Great stuff Joey, enjoy!

Mark my words though, and Papa Dave will back me up - you think you are there now, but once you add vinyl to the equation you will never look back. That day will come.

Papa Tim
 

twich54

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Mark my words though, and Papa Dave will back me up - you think you are there now, but once you add vinyl to the equation you will never look back. That day will come.

Papa Tim
You betcha !! and just think since your new toy is the line stage version of the "98" you can add Cary's stellar 302 phono pre, buy my mmf-9 table when my VPI arrives, and you will be in heaven all over again !!!

It is so much fun spending someone elses money !!!!
 

Robin

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Brilliant Review!

Joey,

I love your descriptions of the sound your hearing and the comparisons between the Rogue Metis and the Cary SLP 98. Your review was music to my ears... :D

Excellent choice Joey I must say... :D Congratulation on your Cary SLP 98 acquisition.

In my on-line research, I was very interested the Cary SLP 05 Reference Preamp. Cary just screams quality. The build quality the reviews everything just stood out. Naturally, I will audition this awesome preamp during my auditioning phase. So Joey, I guess you really like Door #2 in my thread:



http://www.martinloganowners.com/~tdacquis/forum/showthread.php?t=2915&highlight=Door



:D Awesome review you have given us all some excellent food for thought.

Enjoy your new toy and Kudos for an excellent review! :D
 

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Jeff Zaret

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Joey,

Congrats on your new piece.

Great description. I know you will enjoy the combination. I think you found out early a few things, one, tube do make a different sound than SS and that two tube pres vary considerably in their sound. ;)

Mitt and Dave are right once you put vinyl in the equation it will be amazing.

Enjoy my friend


Jeff:musicnote:
 

Beat_Dominator

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Very nice gear you have now Joey, now you need to make sure you do not get addicted to the sweet sounds and forget the real world out there. ;)
 

risabet

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Next, a true high-end source i.e. a TT. VPI, Acutus, SME, Continuum maybe!
 

Joey_V

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Very nice gear you have now Joey, now you need to make sure you do not get addicted to the sweet sounds and forget the real world out there. ;)

Oh I wont my friend....

Right now, I'm on a date with my gf.... movie, dinner, bowling... the stereo is nice, but real life is always nicer! Thanks for the perspective reminder though! Much appreciated! :D

Thanks everyone! I'm lucky that I have been fortunate enough to acquire this gear... everyday I'm thankful for this and the other things of life!!

Thanks again!!

Joey :cheers:
 

ralflar

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HOWEVER, I am in absolutely NO rush! I really really really really really enjoy the sound of my system now. It sounds almost perfect to me!
Congrats, Joey! I am happy for you. Seems like you are getting ever closer to your Audio Nirvana.

Any plans re. DVD-A and SACD Stereo gear?
 

amey01

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Congratulations Joey!! Finally we learn what the top secret preamp is! And a good deal you got on it too! Well done.

I, too want to know when that Ayre C-5xe is coming!! (because I am hoping I can beat you to it).......haha, as if! The Vistas are great though!
 

Joey_V

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Congratulations Joey!! Finally we learn what the top secret preamp is! And a good deal you got on it too! Well done.

I, too want to know when that Ayre C-5xe is coming!! (because I am hoping I can beat you to it).......haha, as if! The Vistas are great though!
You may end up beating me to the Ayre C5xe.. good god it's expensive as all heck. I have spent about $11K on my entire system so far... and I cannot find a used C5xe... and god help me if I spend over 50% of my total system's worth on a CDP!!!

Bah...

Although I did note in the latest Stereophile that they love the Rega CDP ($1K). A used version of that must be a steal! Ah well.... CDP is in the far future....

Joey :)
 

jtwrace

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what am I missing? 11k for the whole system? Summits are 10k (list)

Please explain....
 
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