I'm not very good at this sort of thing, so please be understanding.
My system can be seen in detail under "Systems." I updated it this morning, so everything is current including "System Pics 2015" in my gallery.
First a little history of my setup. I used to run a Rogue Audio Perseus tube preamp in a dual duty 2-channel / HT setup. The Perseus had HT-bypass, and sounded fantastic. I had it since 2009, and never thought I'd part with it. Then I moved into a different home last July. I separated my 2-channel and HT systems into 2 separate rooms. My wife came up with the idea of using the normal living room as a dedicated 2-channel room. Who am I to complain? So the living room is a dedicated 2-channel room, but I also hung a 50" plasma on the wall with a sound bar for occasional TV watching. As a note, all the 2-channel gear is on dedicated power circuits.
Since I now had no need for a preamp with HT-bypass or multiple inputs, I decided to seek out a simpler single input preamp basically to function as a remote volume control. This lead me to Tortuga Audio, and got me investigating passive preamps. That's when I started to get nervous about many negative opinions of passives in general posted on various forums.
That's when I decided to try and run my setup without the Rogue. To make this happen, I planned to use the digital volume control on my PC based music server (at the time J.River, but I switched to Foobar2000 with much better overall results). This didn't work well at all because I would need to have the digital volume control at about 20% (or down 80%) resulting in rather poor sound quality. That's when a really great guy I know, Big Red Machine, sent me his pair of Endler stepped attenuators to test.
The stepped attenuators worked great. Setting them where the digital volume control could be set at 100% for my preferred listening volume proved pretty incredible. I had the best clarity I had ever heard from my system. I was really happy with the tone, clarity, imaging, everything. But it didn't take long to miss having a remote controlled preamp. There is such a huge volume level difference in much of my library that I found there was no perfect setting for the stepped attenuators. I always had either too much digital volume control or not enough volume. I also really missed having a mute button for when the phone rang or my wife was yelling to me from another room. All too often, I didn't get to the digital volume control or pause button fast enough.
I ordered the LDR3.V2 right after Thanksgiving. This gave me plenty of time to tweak my system without using a preamp, and I did a fantastic job. I was experiencing the best sound I've ever had from my setup. I often wondered if it was worth $1,000.00 (pre-order pricing) for what would basically be a remote volume control. I really didn't think so.
Right before the LDR3.V2 showed up, I had the best transparency I'd ever heard. I was convinced inserting a passive preamp would only slightly get in the way of what I had achieved. After all, I have found that even the smallest pieces of wire could negatively affect the sound. So I was pretty concerned to say the least. Another thing that really had me concerned was that another really great guy I know loaned me a transformer based passive preamp, and I hated it. The bigges and most unforgivable issue was that it sucked all of the life out of the music at any volume below almost too loud. It was VERY disappointing. But it also compressed the sound enough to make me just hate it. I wasn't feeling too good about passives, and I was very concerned about my purchase. Then I saw a thread here on AC in the Daedalus Audio forum where they were considering introducing their own passive preamp. I only mention this because one poster commented about LDR based passives sounding the best while transformer based sucked the life out of the music unless at a high volume (paraphrasing here). It was nice having someone else confirm my findings.
So yestereday, my Tortuga LDR3.V2 shows up. I'm the typical 46 year old kid at Christmas. I unbox the thing, connect it all up, and grab the remote. I go to power it up, and nothing. So this is when I realize that this is not a normal preamp that I'm used to. Since nothing in the form of instructions are in the box, I go to the Torguga website for help. I do think a manual, or even a simple startup guide, should be in the box, but the Tortuga website is very detailed in everything you need to know. As a matter of fact, every question Morten answered in my many emails was found in detail on the website. Anyone getting, or considering, a Tortuga preamp should read through the website first. Having found my issue on the website, I paired the little Apple remote to the preamp. I set the input to "1", and fired up my playlist of critical listen tracks. That's when I was blown away.
Please understand that I am obsessed with my audio system. I have invested 100's of hours into speaker placement, acoustic treatments, cables, and computer settings just since moving. I have experimented with so many things to find the best combination to acheive the sound I desire. Even though I know I will find further improvements, I'm very confident that I have something very special. I have never heard a system anywhere that I've liked better. My tone seems almost perfect, the bass from the 10" drivers in my Salk speakers is impressively articulate and forceful. The midrange is smooth, clean, and analog sounding. The treble ever so slightly left me wanting for more energy, but not from all tracks. The imaging and sound stage is precise and gives a great sense of dimension. I worked really hard for all of this.
So what did the LDR3.V2 do for the sound? To my surprise, a sense of even more transparency. There are details in the midrange and treble that are just more obvious now. The treble seems more extended, but there was absolutely no change in tone. I don't know why this is possible. I can't perceive a lower noise floor. Vocals are even more realistic, and everything has increased texture and is more palpable. But the best thing of all is the increased speed of transients. Everything has an immediacy to it. This even translates to the bass. Kick drums have speed and an authority that is impressive. There is a tremendous amount of quick energy there that just wows me on many tracks. The music has real life and intensity. It blows me away. Easily the best I've heard. And I don't perceive any loss of dynamics and any volume.
It took less than a hour to familiarize myself with the rest of preamp's functions and settings. It was slightly intimidating at first, but it works rather intuitively. I didn't think I'd like the little Apple remote, but it's functional. The overall function of the preamp is very good and draws only one complaint from me. I really wish the volume control repeated as you increase/decease the volume instead of requiring a button push for each volume step. In practical usage, this hasn't been a real issue, but I'd still prefer a repeating volume control.
Overall, I couldn't be happier with the purchase. I was worried I'd want to return it, leaving me to find a different solution, but you would have to pry this thing out my cold, dead hands before I'd give it up. This is an amazing piece of audio gear. I also realize that there are limits to passive preamp's, and I'm likely lucky to have the perfect mix of components to make it work so well. A major component is the incredible flexibility of my music server with all of its various settings.
Thanks for an incredible product Morten!
A pic of the LDR3.V2 in its new home: