The Softly-Softly Preamp Shuffle Part 2.5

Surely part 3 should follow part 2 in my ongoing preamplifier upgrade saga? You’d think so but this entry is so directly linked to part 2, that it hardly qualifies as a third installment.

I’m currently listening to my system with a preamp that originally gave a sound that I described as “like ice cubes and sharp glass shards mixed with frozen vodka…in a chilly bin…on the moon” and I’m seriously enjoying it. Natalie Merchant Retrospective 1995-2005 is spinning and sounding finer than a fine thing on a fine day.

Back from an icy grave - Usher's two box P-307 preamp

That’s right, the ice block Usher P-307 is back in residence. To cut a long story short, it went off to Gary Steel’s place for a while to help him make some decisions about his own hi-fi system and eventually by some strange cosmic confluence of irony and fate, I ended up owning it. Not that I really wanted to slot it back into my rack as it was clearly a mismatch.

Clear as mud maybe. Either it was rebuilt while it was away as part of the conspiracy to make me doubt what little sanity remains to me or the prolonged running in that the P-307 underwent at Steel’s has transformed it.

I plugged it back in between the Marantz CDP and the Sachem monos just to see that it was still operational after so much abuse by electronica and had a bit of a double take moment. It was still a little lean but icy cold it certainly wasn’t, even on the guitars on Nils Lofgren’s Acoustic Live, which was the CD that caused me to put it back in its box in the first place. Somehow the Usher has mellowed out substantially and is far better balanced than when it was first here. You wouldn’t call it warm or rich but it’s a good fit and it’s getting better as I listen.

It’s still not quite up to the slam and dynamics of the Yamaha A-S2000’s preamp stage and the upper bass is a bit recessed but even that seems to be easing (or I’m getting used to it). There’s more detail, more air and space and quite a bit more textural information right through the range.

Judicious application of a Nordost Shiva power cable, some Black Diamond Racing isolation cones under the power supply and my old Audio Technica isolation feet under the amp have helped lift the sonics even more (the cones didn’t work under the amp at all).

Maybe this one is a keeper. I do miss the remote control though but I reckon that I’ve got a workaround for that. I’ll certainly miss the Yamaha’s very decent headphone stage and amazing build as well.

Even if it isn’t destined to stay, the Usher might do long enough for me to flog the Yamaha and try a few replacements. There’s an endless selection on the second hand sections of the UK audio dealer websites for those brave enough to import unheard, and there are heaps of choices locally as well.

I do know that what I really should do is just buy a stack of Vitesse Audio cables but having two preamplifiers is an itch that just has to be scratched.

I also know that I need to reconsider exactly when a product is thoroughly and completely “run-in”.

One Comment

  1. I have been using the Usher P-307A for a long time now and was frankly surprised by the first review, since it sounded very transparent letting the nature of the other components through very clear and clean. No noise at full volume, a friend of mine has the Concert Fidelity monoblocks, and when in the system allowed it to shine very nicely. Another friend had the Butler amplifier, with a very airy top end, which it also allowed to shine through distinctly. I compared it with a valve pre ($1500-$2000), and thought the usher the clear winner. Also with a good passive TVC, which sounded more organic but lacked attack. In my system there is ample bass and sufficient warmth, attack etc. and no hint of it being overcool. After I bought the Usher I realised the review had no realitybase, either the pre wasn’t run in or the other components were cold sounding. I think Ashley Kramer should think twice before writing a public review about an item that has had very little exposure in the marketplace without ensuring it is burnt in and isolated well. Now he has re-reviewed it, I might re-assess his credibility.

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