The Softly-Softly Preamp Shuffle

June 24, 2010

When I first laid my sticky hands on my Viganoni and Viganoni Sachem monoblock power amps, I launched into a mild frenzy of preamp hunting in an effort to find a good match. Within a week, I’d tried a Musical Fidelity X-Pre V3 and a Rothwell Indus stepped attenuator passive but found that the preamp outs on my Yamaha A-S2000 integrated were actually doing a better job.

In fact the Yamaha/Sachem combo sounded so good that I stopped looking for an alternative preamp. Oh sure, I fiddled with a few options here and there but I wasn’t really serious about it.

The feeling that the Yamaha might need to move on has been growing ever more insistant though; not because of anything related to the sonics – it’s just that having an unused MM/MC phono section and a headphone stage in the amp is wasteful. Not too mention the fact that the power amp sections are siting idle – all that weight and size just lying there seems silly.

On the other hand, having the Yamaha around has proven a blessing when I wanted to hear something a little different in the course of a review but I’ll work around that if I can find a real sonic improvement.

So I’ve started looking for a preamplifier – without getting carried away of course. Just a slow controlled wander through the ranks of what’s available out there. The Usher 307 on sale on the Audio Reference site caught my eye – $750?? The Class A Usher R1.5 really impressed me recently and I know the company produces some products with a bewildering level of bang-for-bucks. So the 307 is worth a listen for sure, even if it doesn’t have a remote.

The 307 is quite an odd looking beast. It looks as if the amp section and the power supply were designed by competing teams on distant sites, teams that never spoke to each other about their designs. I collect a sample tomorrow morning, will give it a listen and see how it fits in with the rest of the system.


  1. Have a look at the new Yamamoto passive beast… it looks excellent…although probably around $4k or so… Then again no power issues so you could probably bypass all the villainous local retailers in their Ferraris and get one straight out of Nippon.

  2. Yep thats the beast! I love Engrish translations, they just add to the flavour!

  3. Hi Ash, I have the Sachem V2 monoblocks. I tried a Perreaux Passive preamp a couple of months ago. I liked it initially, then when I changed back to using my Denon AVR as a preamp I realised that the passive just destroyed dynamics. It took all the snap out of acoustic guitars especially.

  4. Hi Mark. I’ve heard very good things about the Perreaux passive when used with Sachems but I’ve also heard a few people say exactly the same thing about reduced dynamics. I’m keen on trying a transformer based passive but they’re not exactly thick on the ground. Will be reviewing a Micromega PA-20 preamp soon, along with one of the more powerful Class D power amps, so will have the chance to try it with the Sachems as well.

  5. Hi Ash, I’d be keen to have a listen to the next preamp you try out with your Sachems. I’m at MacSense so you know how to get hold of me.


  6. Hi again Mark. I’m keen to hear the V2 Sachems again, so once I’ve got the Micromega, I’ll get in touch and we can make a plan. Ash

  7. Hey Ash, I just built myself a passive preamp on Friday, it sounds great with the Sachems. Plenty of volume from CD and my TT, plus it has a HT bypass. I can’t believe how good it is compared to the how the Perreaux was in my system, even more so considering how inexpensive it was to make.

  8. Now that sounds like something I need to hear. I will be in touch Mark, maybe we can tee up a comparison between the Micromega when I get it and your home brewed passive….

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