This review covers the base model conrad-johnson ET-3 tube preamplifier – not the SE (special edition) model. This introductory-level preamp from CJ is a line stage, lacking the SE’s phono circuitry. The ET3 has a host of surprises, particularly for those among us who like rock music.
The Rotel RC-1590 preamp and RB-1590 power amplifier are at the peak of the price-performance curve for stereo hifi separates. They offer excellent sound quality, loads of features, power to drive almost any loudspeaker in almost any room, all for a (relatively) modest price.
The Audio by Van Alstine FET Valve CF Vacuum Tube preamplifier is a pure analog design with no solid state transistors in the signal path. It is based on a Cathode Follower architecture providing wide bandwidth, substantial gain even into difficult loads.
Mark Levinson, one of the most respected names in audio, has just released their latest stereo preamplifier design, the No52. Its looks, handling, and performance are what you would expect from Levinson: Extraordinary.
Bryston is the only high-end audio company I know of that offers a 20 year warranty on its products. They manufacture some very expensive preamps and power amps, but even the least expensive product carries that warranty. Why? Because they have massive build quality. The BP17 stereo preamplifier exemplifies that approach, and it is in the middle of their preamplifier line-up, which includes the BP6 and BP26.
Balanced connections are popping up on more and more audio products these days. But it only really counts when the internal circuitry is fully balanced, which is the case for the Emotiva XSP-1 stereo preamplifier, all for less than $1,000.
It is becoming increasingly popular for high end audio buffs to use pro studio gear in their home systems. This preamp from a German manufacturer that makes pro gear is in keeping with this trend. As a matter of fact...
In the past, we reviewed the Pass Labs XP-20 and XP-30 stereo preamplifiers. Now, we come full circle with a review of the remaining member of their preamplifier trio, the XP-10, which is the least expensive model. It is fully balanced, and has a slightly different sound character compared to the other two, which also sound different from one another. All three are great products, so you can choose based on price and/or sound characteristics.
Classé's new CP-800 is a high performance ("High-End") stereo preamplifier, but it is not just yet another preamp with minor changes from previous models. This one has the option of switching in some DSP that adds several EQ bands and dedicated stereo subwoofer outputs. If you don't use the DSP, it's not in the signal path, and you can still call yourself a "purist" audiophile. Have no doubts; this is a very unique product, and the performance is stellar.
After having tested a Pass power amplifier and phono preamplifier, I could not wait to get my hands on a preamplifier, to complete the system analysis. The subject of this review is the venerable XP-20, which has been in the Pass inventory since 2009. It's a fully balanced design, with separate power supply chassis for low noise. The bench test results were quite surprising. Read on to see for yourselves.