The Softly-Softly Preamp Shuffle Part 2

June 30, 2010
1 min read

The words that ain’t gonna workare usually heard when referring to an outlandish ill-conceived scheme such as using a supermarket trolley to transport an ox or pulling down a big tree with a ute.

My scheme didn’t seem outlandish at all – try the Usher P-307 preamp with my Viganoni and Viganoni Sachem monoblock power amps in an effort to find a better overall sound than I’m currently getting using the preamp outputs on my Yamaha A-S2000 integrated (an unlikely combination that sounds plenty fine as is) – Part 1 here.

Two minutes into the listening session with the Usher and I thought “that ain’t gonna work” but I’ve been doing this long enough to know not to do any critical listening with a cold and new component, so I set the CD player on repeat and went away, ignoring the system for twelve straight hours. After that warm-up, I listened for a while before hitting the repeat button again and letting the combination cook. Twelve more hours and I tried again. Still not quite right. The rest of the weekend and some of the week confirmed what I already knew.

Don’t get me wrong; a lot of good things were happening. The noise floor was lower, the detail levels higher with a little more texture to instruments and vocals. There was more air to the sound, more space around every instrument and even a slightly wider soundstage. So all good then?

In a word – no. The Sachems do a great many things very well indeed but they’re not exactly what you’d call warm. The balance tends towards leanness, so pairing them with a lean preamp isn’t a great plan. I’d assume that the P-307 would have been voiced with the Usher power amps (which from my experience are relatively warm and mellow) and it’s a pretty darn lean preamp – very talented especially at the crazy asking price but put it together with the Sachems and the sound is just too lean, with the midrange left stark and cold. Cold? Heck with certain tracks, it was like ice cubes and sharp glass shards mixed with frozen vodka…in a chilly bin…on the moon…the dark side I mean.

Also missing in action to a degree was the propulsive slam and attack I like in my system – the Usher/Sachem combo was a fraction restrained compared to what I’m used to.

So the good qualities don’t quite outweigh the negatives. I’m 100% convinced of the Usher’s charm, and with the right power amp, it would be a great partner but it’s not staying I’m afraid. Such a pity; I thought I’d scored a huge bargain and no one loves a bargain more than me.

Oh well onward and upward. I had a chat with a certain gentleman from Hamilton today who had a VTL TL-2.5 valve preamp in mind as a possible contender for my rackspace.

1 Comment

  1. The TL2.5 will definitely add a bit of warmth to the Sachems. Since you liked the Roksan turntable I would have a look at their M series preamp too.

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