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In the Forum: Melquiades Amplifier
In the Thread: Valve Preamplifier for Macondo/DSET
Post Subject: Three preamps comparedPosted by anthony on: 8/16/2020
Now that all three are on the same absolute polarity and have been listened to quite a bit I thought it time to write down my impressions.  From least preferable to most:

(3) Neurochrome Universal Buffer set to invert polarity and with 12dB gain.  No volume control and no input selector:  Dac >> Buffer >> DSET's.  A really high performer given the low price with a lot of good things going for it, including its tremendous flexibility.  Unfortunately, although it does drive the DSET better than pretty much every other preamp and buffer I have tried and trialled, it is not as capable in this task as the next two preamps.  There is a whiteness introduced to the mids that is noticeable on vocals and some strings which may have to do with the capacitive load of some of the filters at the input to the amplifiers.  An easier load and I am quite sure this whiteness will disappear and what is left is nothing but neutral.   Very good soundstaging, excellent clarity, loads of frequency extension at both ends.

(2) Placette Active Linestage. 12dB gain added with Neurochrome Universal Buffer.  Dac >> Buffer >> Placette >> DSET's.  This is better.  Whiteness is gone (probably thanks to the 18kR resistive load of the Placette) and a softness or delicacy has found its way to the presentation, more like real instruments.  Even though input selection and volume control are added to the signal path, this is a more complete, balanced, enjoyable experience.  There does not appear to be anything missing.  Vocals are lovely, strings better, more definition and clarity in all instruments and softness in the bass.

(1)  10y breadboard preamplifier.  Dac >> 10y >> DSET's.  I am trying so hard to overcome my obvious biases here, and for a while today I almost convinced myself that the Placette was marginally better in this role with the DSET's, but in the end I cannot deny that the 10y plays with a little more delicacy, or consideration, tenderness, or however I am failing to describe it.  Think of the difference as how two musicians can play the same notes but sound slightly different, a softer touch here, a little more firmness there, seemingly more time between the notes, a slight calmness...that is what the 10y is doing compared to the Placette.  There is just a little more variation in the notes that makes things just a little more dimensional and less flat.  It is quite close though.  Both reveal very fine nuances and sounds but the Placette is not quite able to articulate things quite as well as the valve pre.  The soundstage feels very wide and expansive with all three preamps with the Placette more three dimensional than the Buffer but the 10y is a little different.  I cannot decide if the Placette stage is noisier or more noisless than the 10y.  With the Placette it feels like things are presented on a huge screen about 5m wide and 2m high, but with the 10y I do not have the illusion of a screen, where you think there is glass or something see-through where there is no apparent sound appearing.  The 10y just puts the images in the same places as the Placette, with a little more 3d or little more depth (they pop), but the illusion of the "screen" is not there rather just sounds appearing in their place with nothing below or above them.  It is strange, and I have not decided which, if any, I prefer.

Dinner is on the table.  I will add some more comments later.

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