So what’s my ideal preamplifier? As I search for the right unit, it’s probably wise to look at my idea of the perfect preamp.
It needs to sound great, giving me that combination of detail, speed, impact and scale that I love so much.
It needs to have enough inputs to cater for my needs i.e. at least four.
It needs to be well built and preferably look good – pride of ownership is important after all.
It needs to work well with a wide range of sources and partnering components.
It should ideally be remote controlled. I like adjusting the volume level for different tracks and I don’t like zooming back and forth to do it.
It would be nice if it had an exceptional headphone stage, while an excellent adjustable MM/MC phono stage would be a pleasure.
It doesn’t need to have a balance control but that would be nice.
Tone controls? Meh. Not worth worrying about.
Valve or solid state doesn’t really worry me.
It shouldn’t need to be left on 24/7, shouldn’t need to be warmed up for ages before coming on song and let’s have it run cool in the bargain.
Reliability is a very good thing, I really don’t want to own some prima donna that blows up three times a year. Local support is also a major plus. It’s nice to be able to get problems sorted quickly and easily.
It absolutely must not cost a fat fortune. This is important!
Not asking for much am I? Well it is the theoretical ideal.
I really thought that I had nailed this search with the Densen BEAT B-200. This Danish made preamp (reviewed here) ticks almost all of my boxes. It sounds fantastic in most every way – well ahead of my current Yamaha A-S2000 integrated, which I’ve been using as a preamp since I got my Sachem monoblock power amps.
The B-200 is well built and looks about as good as an audio component can (at least to these eyes), it’s got more than enough inputs and is remote controlled (with an optional remote or one of Logitech’s Harmony universals and I know where to get one for nada).
The B-200 isn’t super cheap but it’s not outrageously priced and I can live without the lack of a headphone output or phono stage. It’s supported with a lifetime warranty by a local agent, so that’s all good then.
The only bugbear is that it lacks the last bit of bass impact and that’s something that means a lot to me in my listening. I’m not talking about overall bass weight, just the ability to make an aggressively strummed bass guitar or a hard drum strike sound virtually tangible in a spine tingling way. Is the Yamaha adding more than it should here? Is the Densen sound actually more accurate? Hard to say for sure but I suspect that’s the case to some degree. I still very much enjoy what I’m hearing from the B-200, especially in terms of the increased openness and transparency but I sometimes yearn for more slam.
Having said all that, the Densen is a fabulous preamp and was very, very close to making it into my system for good. Until I had an “episode”, a crisis if you will, brought on by a combination of lack of sleep, too much work and general exhaustion. In a fevered bout of late night/early morning web surfing I came across a brand that I’d never heard of and decided to take a wild punt with some spare cash I had lying around.
Actually, after this year from heck, that cash wasn’t spare at all but that’s what I tell myself to feel better because I never randomly order electronics from overseas. Even worse, the imported unit doesn’t exactly match all those ideal requirements that I listed above. Told you I was pretty far gone when I ordered this thing.
After some trials, tribulations and cursing (thanks heaps DHL), the result of that order is burning in on my rack at the moment and it’s already sounding quite stunning. Details to follow soon…