Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review

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Whitestix

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Re: Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review
« Reply #520 on: 28 Oct 2018, 10:32 pm »
As I started this thread, I thought might chime in.  I have had Don's preamp now for what, maybe 4 years?  I got one of the first one he produced and it has been upgraded to nearly the latest version.  I also had a nicely-build stock VTA SP14 in my spare system.  The stock preamp is immensely listenable, no question, and an affordable route for folks with DIY skills.  However, make no mistake in thinking that the stock build is anything but an approximation of the sound that you will hear from Don's current version of his preamp.  He has incorporated at least a dozen upgrades in the preamp, relative to the stock preamp, included propitiously upgraded wiring and capacitors.  These upgrades have come about by trial and error after years of intense comparison of different internal components.

I have listened to both the stock preamp and Don's latest version and there really is no comparison if you have a revealing enough system to hear it.  I recently compared Don's preamp to a TOTL ARC amp, and both myself and the owner of the system decidedly preferred the liquidity, soundstage, openness, and dynamic response of Don's preamp.  For owners of either Don's preamp or the stock preamp, rolling a quad of Shaguan 6SN7 tubes and you will be vastly rewarded.   Don's preamp is, to my ears, a true legacy piece of gear for those of us that can't spend $10K+ to find audio nirvana in a preamp.  I personally have found it. 
Cheers, Whitestix

Whitestix

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Re: Don Sachs Kootenay 120 Tube Amp - Listening Impressions
« Reply #521 on: 18 Nov 2018, 06:03 pm »
I have Don's preamp and got a chance to compare his Kootenay KT88-based tube amp to my McCormack DNA .05 (Platinum Version) amp last week in an extensive listening session with my Spatial Audio M4 Triode Master open baffle speakers.  Personally, I hasten to say that the upgraded McCormack is easily the finest amp I have ever heard among the dozen or so I have had over the past 20 years, which include several CJ amps, Modwright, upgraded HK C-II and C-V, Moscode, Plinius, several class-D amps (forget about them!) and a few other decent amps that I now forget that I owned. 

I have talked to Don a lot about his amp and have thought that in comparison to a potent SS such as the McCormack, it would suffer in the control of the LF response. 

 Well, I am delighted to say that Kootenay suffers not a bit in the LF response compared to the much more powerful McCormack, which was completely unexpected.  And the HF was as brilliant as with the McCormack.  The most notable sonic aspect of this amp is the fleshed-out spaciousness of the vocals and instruments, a dimensionality of the sound that clearly exceeded that of the McCormack.

Don did the full-monty upgrades on my HK CII and CV amps years ago and so far as my recollection allows, his Kootenay 120 amp is much better.  The amp appears on my volume pot to have the same SPL at 9:00 as does my McCormack amp, which totally surprised me. It is a very potent amp, but then my speakers present a 12 ohm load so they are easy to drive with a tube amp.

As lovely as the McCormack clearly is, it frankly sounds rather two-dimensional in comparison to Don's amp.  Yeah, you buy a tube amp to get that luscious 3-D sound with a roundness to the instruments playing, and the inviting mid-range, and I find, which surprised me, a firm control of the LF response with Don's amp that blew me away -- I have never heard that sonic attribute with any tube amp.  It has all the control of a SS amp, but a vastly better holographic presentation of the music. Perhaps it is cliche to say it, but it sounds so completely analogue in its performance with all the speed and accuracy of a SS amp.  I was enthralled with it in my system.

A_shah

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Re: Don Sachs Kootenay 120 Tube Amp - Listening Impressions
« Reply #522 on: 19 Nov 2018, 01:38 am »
I have Don's preamp and got a chance to compare his Kootenay KT88-based tube amp to my McCormack DNA .05 (Platinum Version) amp last week in an extensive listening session with my Spatial Audio M4 Triode Master open baffle speakers.  Personally, I hasten to say that the upgraded McCormack is easily the finest amp I have ever heard among the dozen or so I have had over the past 20 years, which include several CJ amps, Modwright, upgraded HK C-II and C-V, Moscode, Plinius, several class-D amps (forget about them!) and a few other decent amps that I now forget that I owned. 

I have talked to Don a lot about his amp and have thought that in comparison to a potent SS such as the McCormack, it would suffer in the control of the LF response. 

 Well, I am delighted to say that Kootenay suffers not a bit in the LF response compared to the much more powerful McCormack, which was completely unexpected.  And the HF was as brilliant as with the McCormack.  The most notable sonic aspect of this amp is the fleshed-out spaciousness of the vocals and instruments, a dimensionality of the sound that clearly exceeded that of the McCormack.

Don did the full-monty upgrades on my HK CII and CV amps years ago and so far as my recollection allows, his Kootenay 120 amp is much better.  The amp appears on my volume pot to have the same SPL at 9:00 as does my McCormack amp, which totally surprised me. It is a very potent amp, but then my speakers present a 12 ohm load so they are easy to drive with a tube amp.

As lovely as the McCormack clearly is, it frankly sounds rather two-dimensional in comparison to Don's amp.  Yeah, you buy a tube amp to get that luscious 3-D sound with a roundness to the instruments playing, and the inviting mid-range, and I find, which surprised me, a firm control of the LF response with Don's amp that blew me away -- I have never heard that sonic attribute with any tube amp.  It has all the control of a SS amp, but a vastly better holographic presentation of the music. Perhaps it is cliche to say it, but it sounds so completely analogue in its performance with all the speed and accuracy of a SS amp.  I was enthralled with it in my system.



Mark,
Congratulations ! on your Kootney KT-88 amp I would love to come and listen to them sometimes.
Asghar

Wig

Re: Don Sachs Kootenay 120 Tube Amp - Listening Impressions
« Reply #523 on: 19 Nov 2018, 02:59 am »
I have Don's preamp and got a chance to compare his Kootenay KT88-based tube amp to my McCormack DNA .05 (Platinum Version) amp last week in an extensive listening session with my Spatial Audio M4 Triode Master open baffle speakers.  Personally, I hasten to say that the upgraded McCormack is easily the finest amp I have ever heard among the dozen or so I have had over the past 20 years, which include several CJ amps, Modwright, upgraded HK C-II and C-V, Moscode, Plinius, several class-D amps (forget about them!) and a few other decent amps that I now forget that I owned. 

I have talked to Don a lot about his amp and have thought that in comparison to a potent SS such as the McCormack, it would suffer in the control of the LF response. 

 Well, I am delighted to say that Kootenay suffers not a bit in the LF response compared to the much more powerful McCormack, which was completely unexpected.  And the HF was as brilliant as with the McCormack.  The most notable sonic aspect of this amp is the fleshed-out spaciousness of the vocals and instruments, a dimensionality of the sound that clearly exceeded that of the McCormack.

Don did the full-monty upgrades on my HK CII and CV amps years ago and so far as my recollection allows, his Kootenay 120 amp is much better.  The amp appears on my volume pot to have the same SPL at 9:00 as does my McCormack amp, which totally surprised me. It is a very potent amp, but then my speakers present a 12 ohm load so they are easy to drive with a tube amp.

As lovely as the McCormack clearly is, it frankly sounds rather two-dimensional in comparison to Don's amp.  Yeah, you buy a tube amp to get that luscious 3-D sound with a roundness to the instruments playing, and the inviting mid-range, and I find, which surprised me, a firm control of the LF response with Don's amp that blew me away -- I have never heard that sonic attribute with any tube amp.  It has all the control of a SS amp, but a vastly better holographic presentation of the music. Perhaps it is cliche to say it, but it sounds so completely analogue in its performance with all the speed and accuracy of a SS amp.  I was enthralled with it in my system.

Congrats on your Kootenay 120! This Tube Amp produces the best bass and SQ I have ever heard and am very happy with both pieces of Don's equipment.

Wig :)

aguaazul

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Re: Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review
« Reply #524 on: 23 Nov 2018, 07:22 pm »
DS2 Preamp – In an open Wood Salamander Shelf.
How much space in inches do you give for heat dissipation in regards to the shelf above?
Moving some things around, want to be safe.

Thanks,
Aguaazul

A_shah

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Re: Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review
« Reply #525 on: 23 Nov 2018, 07:38 pm »
DS2 Preamp – In an open Wood Salamander Shelf.
How much space in inches do you give for heat dissipation in regards to the shelf above?
Moving some things around, want to be safe.

Thanks,
Aguaazul

You need at least 9" inches of Clearance from the top , I have them on a shelf with approximately 10 " clearance  i would say 9 " would be sufficient for heat dissipation
Asghar

aguaazul

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Re: Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review
« Reply #526 on: 23 Nov 2018, 07:41 pm »
Cool thanks, here is how it's set up now. Hoping to get a little space back.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/qv1bhwUhw7C69Xsx9

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review
« Reply #527 on: 25 Nov 2018, 01:30 am »
Does any one that lives in the Twin Cities own the SP14 preamp?  I would love to hear one as I am thinking about selling my BAT VK51se preamp  and having Don build me a preamp with all the bells and whistles with Duelund caps.

Thanks,

Larry

oem-wheels

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Re: Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review
« Reply #528 on: 25 Nov 2018, 02:21 am »
I'm also thinking about getting Don's preamp with all the bells and whistles.. I actually contacted him about 6 months ago, as I wanted to try tube gear,  and he told me it was going to take 16 weeks before it would ship.. So I passed on bought a Parasound JC2 BP.. Its really good but I still have that curiosity about what tubes bring to the table………      You think if we ordered it at the same time we'd get it quicker ? : ) 

Can anyone compare the JC2 and Don's ?  And results Don's driving a SS amp (Classe CA2200 to Salk's Song 3A)  -- I think the combination of the three would sound real good..

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review
« Reply #529 on: 25 Nov 2018, 05:16 am »
I'm also thinking about getting Don's preamp with all the bells and whistles.. I actually contacted him about 6 months ago, as I wanted to try tube gear,  and he told me it was going to take 16 weeks before it would ship.. So I passed on bought a Parasound JC2 BP.. Its really good but I still have that curiosity about what tubes bring to the table………      You think if we ordered it at the same time we'd get it quicker ? : ) 

Can anyone compare the JC2 and Don's ?  And results Don's driving a SS amp (Classe CA2200 to Salk's Song 3A)  -- I think the combination of the three would sound real good..


You have to ask yourself is there anything that you do not like about the JC2 and what your are looking for.  Tubes do not necessarily
make things sound better.  I have heard the JC 2 preamp and it is an excellent sounding preamp, very quiet and very transparent.  It punches way above its price point although it needs careful matching with an amp.

Tubes can give you some added warmth and bloom although not all tube preamps do so.  I am sure Don can tailor the sound to your liking.

I am thinking about ordering a DS preamp and comparing it to my BAT.  If I don't like it I can flip it.  If I like it, I should have no problems selling my BAT.

oem-wheels

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Re: Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review
« Reply #530 on: 25 Nov 2018, 06:03 am »
Well... my question that I have I can't answer.. I want to know why a tube head is a tube head.. Am I a tube head but just don't know it yet ? I like some warmth and want to know how much more bloom tubes has to offer.. I've read tubes offers things that SS just can't match.. And vise versa.. One person here said after they received the SP14 they now know what tubes are all about.. My system is very detailed.. Could I add some warmth and bloom to it and make it better with this preamp ?



mresseguie

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Re: Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review
« Reply #531 on: 25 Nov 2018, 07:39 am »
I don't know how much this reply will help you, but:

I have no experience with the JC2, so I cannot comment. I'm the tube guy who didn't know he was a tube guy until I heard Don's Model 2 (SP14) preamp. I own both the preamp and the amp. Together...they are wonderful. I still catch myself grinning when I think about how lucky I am to own this equipment.

Here's a list of the different amplifiers that have been paired with my DS Model 2 (SP14) preamp:
AVA 400
Folsom's Little Chip amp
Mivera 1200as2 SE
Nuprime ST-10
AC member Aldcoll's Modwright KWA-150 SE
???? Gregfisk's amplifier...can't recall the name
and, of course, my D Sachs Kootenay 120

They all sound great with my Model 2. Sure, there are differences. Some are better than others. However, without fail, my Kootenay 120 bested all the other amps IMHO. I had my Mivera SE amp in my system for 5 months and enjoyed it very much, but I immediately heard an improvement in the mid- to lower bass and a deeper soundstage when I put my Kootenay 120 back into my system. The Modwright amp is a damned fine amplifier, but I think the Kootenay 120 is a better amp for the money.

I'm spoiled. I'm delighted. I'm gobsmacked. I'm one lucky mother....I took my Model 2 to Taiwan and loved how my system there sounded so much better. I showed it to a couple dealers there who declared it to be on par with an ARC preamp costing twice as much. Then, I brought it back to the States to join it with my Kootenay 120.

Don's operation is a one-man show. He makes gear to order. You just gotta be patient and allow him to work his magic. It's worth the wait IMHO.

Michael





Rusty Jefferson

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Re: Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review
« Reply #532 on: 25 Nov 2018, 02:42 pm »
....Can anyone compare the JC2 and Don's ?  And results Don's driving a SS amp (Classe CA2200 to Salk's Song 3A)  -- I think the combination of the three would sound real good..
It appears from the builder's website this preamp is essentially designed for pairing with tube amplifiers as the standard configuration is looking for an amplifier with 80k ohms or more of input impedance.  He says he can change the output capacitor value to better match SS amplifiers though.

It looks like your amplifiers have single ended inputs (?) but I didn't see specs for input impedance using them instead of the balanced inputs, but probably 33k-47k .  Also if you're running long interconnects (amps near the speakers?) that could be a problem. The combination might disqualify this particular preamp,  but discuss it with the builder.

Is it possible that price ($375) for upgrading to Duelund output capacitors is right?  I can't believe it wouldn't be $1k+. That's worth buying one just to get the capacitors! :D

oem-wheels

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Re: Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review
« Reply #533 on: 25 Nov 2018, 04:19 pm »
Thanks Rusty.. input Impedance on my amp is 100k.. It (manual) doesn't split the measurement between the unbalanced and balanced so I assume its the same on both.. I wanted the Dueland anyway and to future proof for when another amp crosses my path..

oem-wheels

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Re: Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review
« Reply #534 on: 25 Nov 2018, 04:28 pm »
thanks mresseguie

genjamon

Re: Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review
« Reply #535 on: 25 Nov 2018, 04:34 pm »
Rusty, I bet that price is for his standard .47uF sizing.  That would probably be about right for Don's cost for those Duelund caps - he doesn't tend to charge much markup on the components themselves in my experience.  I assume he makes his money on the builds themselves.  He's an awesome, helpful, and accommodating guy. 

Rusty Jefferson

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Re: Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review
« Reply #536 on: 25 Nov 2018, 06:03 pm »
Thanks Rusty.. input Impedance on my amp is 100k.. It (manual) doesn't split the measurement between the unbalanced and balanced so I assume its the same on both....
Okay, you're fine then especially if you don't run long interconnects.  Most SS amplifiers don't have input impedance that high, that's nice.

Rusty, I bet that price is for his standard .47uF sizing.  That would probably be about right for Don's cost for those Duelund caps - he doesn't tend to charge much markup on the components themselves in my experience....
There's a price listed of $375 to upgrade from the standard output capacitors to Duelund PIO (presumably copper foil) at .47uf also. I can't even find a price for them at Parts Connextion, but they're probably $400-500 dollars each, and if you're going that far, you'd be crazy not to add the Duelund Silver bypass capacitors too and be done. :D Just made that upgrade to one of my amplifiers.

genjamon

Re: Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review
« Reply #537 on: 25 Nov 2018, 07:42 pm »
They’re not that expensive. Parts Connexion has Duelund copper/silver hybrids in .47uF for a little over $200 each. The copper-only should be cheaper, yes?

BRN

Re: Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review
« Reply #538 on: 25 Nov 2018, 07:46 pm »
I have the VTA SP14 and built it with 1.0uF Audyn True Copper Cap that I had from another project but could not use. I’m using the SP14 to drive a Folsom amp with impedance, and it sounds good. I have not tried it with the 0.22uF Russian oil caps. The Folsom wants to see a 10k ohm loaf, so a larger cap is required. I’m building a FW M2 clone with a 100k input impedance, so a smaller value cap will work fine. Also have a Citation V that I need to rebuild.

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: Don Sachs SP14 Tube Preamp Review
« Reply #539 on: 2 Dec 2018, 12:08 am »
I just emailed Don about building me a preamp with the Deulund caps, Black Treasure tubes, 64 step Khozmo stereo remote vol. with 1 pair each of XLR input and output so I don't have to buy new cables.  I am going to sell my BAT VK-51se preamp.  I almost pulled the trigger on the DS a little over 1 year ago.