Recommended Preamps That Will Pair Well With My New Golden Gate?

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Slapshot

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Going back to Axpona 2017,a Golden gate DAC has been a dream of mine. Virtually every single high end room there was using one, even the famous, Million Dollar Plus system that Von Schweikert put together. I was also fortunate enough to manage to have a couple private listening sessions with components I knew well, used with a Golden gate, to truly show me the brilliance of the DAC.

Skip forward to a bit over a month ago when I was finally able to purchase a mint condition GG, after having it sent to the factory for a full checkup and having the warranty reinstated. When the unit arrived in it's superb flight case, I quickly connected it up, and sat back to listen witha good audiophile friend who owns a Big7. Our initial, extended listening sessions  the did not go well. The quality of bass and depth of bass suffered a real setback, and other elements of the sound were a bit muddied.  My friend then suggested connecting the GG direct to my amplifier and using its built in volume control. I did so, although that was absolutely not the direction I wanted to go, but further listening clearly indicated that, my system simply sounds much better using the Golden gate directly into the amplifier and eliminating the preamp from the chain.

And, honestly that disappoints me in ways I can't entirely explain. I really, really have liked my preamp (and it's a respected, and not at all inexpensive preamp on it's own) but when using the Golden Gate direct, with the supplied "high end" tubes from Lampizator (the KR PX4 tubes and Emission Labs 5U4G ) there is simply significantly greater clarity, balance, solidity of bass, and overall sound. When the preamp is inserted back into the system it returns to being muddled and lacking dynamics. While its very clear that direct connection to the GG produces much better sound, and while that sound is very. very good, to excellent, it's not "great" and greatness should be possible.

Based upon that concern, I had access, through a friend, to a group of Golden Gate owners. Out of twenty people I reached out to, sixteen admitted that their systems produced superior sound when the Golden Gate was used with a complementary preamp that it synched well with, sonically. Across the board, those GG owners emphasized that a preamp that took the strengths of what the Golden Gate provided and enhanced those strengths was what was needed. However, the preamps they were using were EXTREMELY expensive, across the board.

I am hoping that some forum members here, who either own a Golden gate, or have significant experience with one, might be able to recommend preamps that will effectively work with, and enhance the Golden Gates output that are not astronomically priced. I would be looking at a maximum budget of $6k, for a used preamp.

Thank you for any expertise, recommendations or other assistance you can provide.

genjamon

I used a Don Sachs preamp to fine effect with my upgraded Big7.  They're only around $3K for the best version Don can make.  And Don's a class act as well.  With my Big7, I used it direct with its built-in preamp for a long time after initially auditioning with a preamp in the chain and finding the no-preamp approach to be superior in clarity, etc.  But after a while, I gave the little iFi iTube2 a try and found it actually improved soundstage depth, width, and dynamics.  So, that set me on a path to try a bunch of preamps in the <$5K realm.  The Don Sachs won.

gregfisk

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I have the Atlantic Plus with volume control and all the extras that can be added to it. While I'm extremely happy with it not using a preamp myself I will say the the only system I have heard in my room or anywhere else that I thought was as good was the Don Sach Pre amp and amp combo.

I guess I should have tried the Don Sach Pre with my Atlantic when it was here. Honestly I just don't long for anything more than what I hear now. Warmth and clarity together with a huge soundstage is what I really enjoy and that is what I'm getting now.

Another option might be a Don Sach amp with your dac. That may add what you are looking for without adding another component in the signal chain. They are very open and transparent but add a warmth that is very addictive.

Slapshot

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Thanks for your thoughts. I had read so many incredibly positive things about the Don Sachs preamp that I was considering it too. And then I read this, from a very respected forum member here:

"I've had owned couple of giant killer preamps in recent times - Linear Tube Audio MZ-2s and Don Sachs Model two preamp. I won't deny that
both of these two preamps are worth the hype. They are very musical and emotionally satisfying. But the moment, I had the Allnic in my system,
it took my music listening experience to a level leaving both LTA and Don Sachs preamp in dust. The difference was immediately noticeable. I
didn't even have to think for a second which one is better.

I think the fundamental improvment was the bass foundation, dynamics (both micro and macro), soundstage and neutrality/transparency. No other preamp
I've ever heard comes close to it's bass performance and dynamics. Recalling from memory, LTA may have comparable transparency but thats it. Everything
else falls short compare to Allnic."



gregfisk

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So, which model are we talking about here? It looks like there are several to choose from.

Rusty Jefferson

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System synergy is indeed key. I continue to recommend this preamp (http://www.musicaldesign.com/MC_Cham.html) as it has the unique ability to change between different types of tube families. 6sn7, 5687, 6922, 12au7, 6h30, etc. and also different circuits, Cathode follower, SRPP, etc.  Each type has a particular gain, output impedance, and interaction with your system. You can also add or remove global feedback.

I recently replaced a PS Audio Directstream with a Lampizator Big 6. The preamp board that sounded best with the PS Audio did not mate well with the Lampizator. Rolled through a couple different boards and hit the magic with the 5687 board. Great flexibility. 

The builder can customize it substantially per your request. I'd be happy to give you suggestions if you have one built.

Endo2112

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I've had an Allnic in my system in the past and have heard 3-4 of their different models, I personally prefer transformer based pre-amps over capacitor based units myself  (which the Allnic is) as I tend to find to overall weight of the music is a bit more complete, that could just be implementation though? I would also say that as you move up the ladder in price with the Allnic's that they really start to excel. I've also heard the Don Sachs, although it was hot off the press so to speak, it did sound quite nice compared to my buddies battery powered DODD, was it better? not sure, I would say that for the price, the Sachs pre's fit and finish is extremely good. I've personally moved away from pre-amps altogether and have gone to a completely direct approach, which I think is better(that's just me). The one question that I would ask Slapshot, is what amp are you using?? Is it possible that the magic your looking for maybe a compatibility issue with your amp, and your dac, and not a pre-amp??

Good luck with your quest,

Don

Slapshot

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So, which model are we talking about here? It looks like there are several to choose from.

Sorry, the model is question is the Allnic L3000. I spoke to a major Allnic dealer yesterday, and he said that the L3000 far outclasses the L5000.

OzarkTom

I will add some  Controversy to this subject. Back in the 80's as a dealer, I did a lot of experimenting with CD players. I had a pair of speakers with low efficiency that I could run the player direct into a David Berning amp. The SQ was very dynamic and open, very 3-D like. Everytime I inserted a preamp, the sound was inferior. Maybe it was the preamp or the extra set of cables, who knows. I feel strongly that straight  wire with gain is the best. I have often wondered if everyone could have done this back then, CD would have had a lot more fans.

Some or many of us are now using passives to take the extra active circuit and cable out of the system. That is what sounds the best for us. But your Lampi does not need a passive pre. You might find a pre that does not degrade the sound. You might ask the Lampi designer if there is one.

Good Luck

Slapshot

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I will add some  Controversy to this subject. Back in the 80's as a dealer, I did a lot of experimenting with CD players. I had a pair of speakers with low efficiency that I could run the player direct into a David Berning amp. The SQ was very dynamic and open, very 3-D like. Everytime I inserted a preamp, the sound was inferior. Maybe it was the preamp or the extra set of cables, who knows. I feel strongly that straight  wire with gain is the best. I have often wondered if everyone could have done this back then, CD would have had a lot more fans.

Some or many of us are now using passives to take the extra active circuit and cable out of the system. That is what sounds the best for us. But your Lampi does not need a passive pre. You might find a pre that does not degrade the sound. You might ask the Lampi designer if there is one.

Good Luck

I certainlly understand your point. Sometimes the simplest, straightest path is the right one. However, with the vast percentage of ll DAC makers selling units that do not have volume controls, it would seem they do not agree. As I noted earlier, 16 out of 20 Golden gate owners found that their systems were best using a preamp vs simply using the Golden Gate alone. And, if this were only about finding a "pre that does not degrade the sound" I wouldnt bother. The people who commented on their systems being better with a preamp that synched well with the GG were talking about how that preamp added to the quality of the overall sound, enhancing what the Golden Gate provided and resulting in "great" sound, not just the excellent sound that the GG can provide on its own.

gregfisk

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I had a very eye opening day today, a friend gave me a Hafler XL280 amplifier. I connected it up to my Lampi Atlantic with volume and was dumbfounded by the presentation of the music. I've been very happy with a Rouge Audio 1200as2 based amp. It is very open with all the detail you could ask for. For the most part it is wonderful, especially with good recordings. The only issue I have is on many recordings like from the 70s and 80s it's not very forgiving. Those recordings feel lean with a lack of body sometimes. And the top end can get harsh at times, again on not so great recordings. And because of that I don't listen to those recordings as often as I would otherwise. With the Hafler amp that is gone and the music sounds much more full and rich. It just sounds more musical to me, more lifelike. And like often happens in this hobby I didn't realize what I was missing. I am really impressed with this amp. I would have thought a 20 year old amp would lack detail and wouldn't be as open but that just is not the case. Maybe there is a magical synergy I don't know. I have had a lot of amps in my system so this is definitely a surprise.

The reason I bring all of this up is I would talk to Fred from Lampizator. A few months ago I was talking to him and he had great praise for his Musical Concepts modified Hafler amp. He loves it with his Lampi Dac. I can't recall which model he has, Golden Atlantic or Golden Gate? I can't help but think you may be able to solve your issue with a different amp. I will be sending my Hafler in for upgrades, that's how impressed I am with the sound I heard today. Heck, I don't even think it needs any upgrades but like many here I always look for better sound. And once I get used to it I may find something missing.

Bill O'Connell

The Pass Labs XP-12

Slapshot

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I had a very eye opening day today, a friend gave me a Hafler XL280 amplifier. I connected it up to my Lampi Atlantic with volume and was dumbfounded by the presentation of the music. I've been very happy with a Rouge Audio 1200as2 based amp. It is very open with all the detail you could ask for. For the most part it is wonderful, especially with good recordings. The only issue I have is on many recordings like from the 70s and 80s it's not very forgiving. Those recordings feel lean with a lack of body sometimes. And the top end can get harsh at times, again on not so great recordings. And because of that I don't listen to those recordings as often as I would otherwise. With the Hafler amp that is gone and the music sounds much more full and rich. It just sounds more musical to me, more lifelike. And like often happens in this hobby I didn't realize what I was missing. I am really impressed with this amp. I would have thought a 20 year old amp would lack detail and wouldn't be as open but that just is not the case. Maybe there is a magical synergy I don't know. I have had a lot of amps in my system so this is definitely a surprise.

The reason I bring all of this up is I would talk to Fred from Lampizator. A few months ago I was talking to him and he had great praise for his Musical Concepts modified Hafler amp. He loves it with his Lampi Dac. I can't recall which model he has, Golden Atlantic or Golden Gate? I can't help but think you may be able to solve your issue with a different amp. I will be sending my Hafler in for upgrades, that's how impressed I am with the sound I heard today. Heck, I don't even think it needs any upgrades but like many here I always look for better sound. And once I get used to it I may find something missing.

Greg,

Thanks very much for your thoughts on this. I absolutely agree that amps can be critical, and I am very glad to see that the Hafler delivered for you. I can't see my amp as a limiting factor, though, it is one of the better amps that have ever been made available, was a very limited edition and highly respected model that sold for over $20k.

Slapshot

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The Pass Labs XP-12

Thanks for the recommendation, Bill. Have you heard this preamp in a system with a Lampizator, or are you simply speaking because of very high regard for the preamp?


OzarkTom

I had a very eye opening day today, a friend gave me a Hafler XL280 amplifier. I connected it up to my Lampi Atlantic with volume and was dumbfounded by the presentation of the music. I've been very happy with a Rouge Audio 1200as2 based amp. It is very open with all the detail you could ask for. For the most part it is wonderful, especially with good recordings. The only issue I have is on many recordings like from the 70s and 80s it's not very forgiving. Those recordings feel lean with a lack of body sometimes. And the top end can get harsh at times, again


Thank you for that info Greg. I have wondered how the 1200AS sounded on the older classic music. My present amps do not sound harsh on the oldies. I listen too much to the oldies.

paul79

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Not that I think the AS2 amp is the end all, but you can't make a generalization about the sound of the amp in one system. The demands the speaker puts on an amplifier determine allot about its behavior as well.

Delta77

I don't have any experience with this one , but I'm very interested to try it out for myself..
 Currently using the CPS3 model and love the way it produces music , just no remote control.. So I want the ZTPRE with the remote option.. http://www.decware.com/newsite/ZTPRE.html

Don't know if this preamp is on your radar or not, but should be in your price range..!!

Slapshot

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I don't have any experience with this one , but I'm very interested to try it out for myself..
 Currently using the CPS3 model and love the way it produces music , just no remote control.. So I want the ZTPRE with the remote option.. http://www.decware.com/newsite/ZTPRE.html

Don't know if this preamp is on your radar or not, but should be in your price range..!!

Thats a very interesting option that I was unaware of. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I like what Decware does, and have met Steve. In reading the information initially, I loved the amazingly minimal signal routes in the design, I started to get excited about possibly ordering one, until I realized that it was designed from scratch to be balanced. My only concern is that it was literally designed and built with balanced connectivity in mind, using a fully balanced design with single ended connections always extracts a price in lost sound quality, or at least less than optimum sound. And neither my amp or Lampizator is balanced. :(

genjamon

What are the strengths of the GG that you are hoping to build on?  More broadly, what are your listening priorities?

gregfisk

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Not that I think the AS2 amp is the end all, but you can't make a generalization about the sound of the amp in one system. The demands the speaker puts on an amplifier determine allot about its behavior as well.

Paul, I've listened to 4 different iterations of 1200as2 based amps with several pre amps and a couple of pairs of speakers. In general I think what I posted is pretty on. I agree with your thoughts but you can make your statement about any piece of gear in any system. Synergy is key to good sound in my opinion which is why "I think" the Hafler sounded so good to me in my system.