APT - Holman preamp

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TheChairGuy

Re: APT - Holman preamp
« Reply #20 on: 6 Apr 2007, 03:36 am »
Ahhh, now I understand.  You bailed on the hype of high end audio, per se.  Me, too.  I have less invested in my system two years ago and I'm measurably happier with it.

I stopped caring about wire (in fact, my preamp and mono amps right now are - shutters! - hardwired with 14ga. crap cord and my TT has captive leads that it came with).  It's not that I haven't found wire to matter - it's just that I haven't found 'good' wire to sound re-produceably good each time, every day. It's so low on the totem pole of things to improve that removing it from the equation was far easier than continuing to fret about it  :roll:

My tuner is a $40 one I got at Goodwill - sounds no different to me than my departed SAE Mark VIII that I sold for $300 a couple years ago.  FM is inherently low-fi; it's only measurably worse (thru radio frequencies bouncing and deflecting all the way to your home - boing, sproing, zoing) than the equipment that is being used to broadcast it. It inherently can't be better, so why spend money chasing some elusive audio dream for it?

My speakers are $200.00 Radio Shack LX-8 with (glorious) Lineaum tweeters.  Packed with 6-8 lbs of Plast-i-Clay each 10 lbs on Moonrocks inside and residing on heavy sand filled stands...they sound consistently excellent to me and the handoff from woofer to tweeter is rather seamless.  The woofer is a bit weak tonally, but someday I'll just put a line level filter on them at 85Hz and mate them to a pair of subs and relieve them of all the subterranean duties and distortion they are likely causing due to them being asked to play lower than they comfortably can .  In time tho.... I'm happy now...violins and piano are rendered so wonderfully with vinyl on these tweeters  :)

Maybe my hearing sucks now; maybe I'm officially old nearing 44.  Maybe I've found other things to replace my audio nervosa...but I'm simply happier and a lot wealthier now

So, I know what you mean Wind Chaser - totally  :D

Far from it.  I just no longer have a "high end" system.  If I could just have 1/4 of the money back I've spent on audio over the years, I'd have a brand new luxury car.

TheChairGuy

Re: APT - Holman preamp
« Reply #21 on: 3 Jun 2007, 04:02 pm »
I thought I'd finish my thoughts on this pre-amp for posterity...I've been meaning to for weeks now.

Apparently, every dang coupling cap in this pre was changed out as the line took a week + to run in.....and the phono (it's a lot of time to amass 150+ hours in phono) took another few weeks.  So, my initial dissatisfaction about the phono section was premature.

It is a bit low in gain, overall, in the phono section - but I finally figured out why it's particularly low in my setup.

My vintage tube amps are industrial units...they were not expressly made for hi-fi use.  They are built for longlasting use, quite powerful....but not the quietest units on the market.  The 6CD6 output tubes are likely the culprit....I have been told they are video/TV sweep tubes, not audio tubes.  Fortunately, the amps have variable gain control.  I have each at perhaps 40% of the dial and they are as quiet as a tube amp can be that way.  But, as they are quiet, they match best with at least an average gain phono section...the APT is of low-ish gain at 36db over line.

If you ever buy an APT-Holman you will likely not encounter this issue as your amp(s) will be ordinary gain.  My speakers, btw, can and have been quite well driven by as little as 5watts (in a 12 x 15 x 8-12' room)...the Lineaums have no crossover on the bass unit and only one capacitor running on the tweeter.  There is no gain issue on the line stages...they are fine.

This is absolutely the quietest pre-amp I have ever owned.  The speakers absolutely rock out with CD....like I added a small subwoofer to the system - amazing.  Seems the 50Hz extension or so that my speakers run to is likely sufficient in my small-ish room.....I had been thinking of adding a subwoofer of late.  This pre-amp has mostly banished that thought.  Noise is listed at -123db below reference level.  Lower noise, overall, is a recipe to sonic bliss  :D

The phono section, for reasons explained above in my system, is low-ish in output.  If I use any cartridge with less than 4.5mv output, the resulting playback sounds weak and ineffective.  It leaves me with only my 4.5mv Grado Green, AT440ML/OCC, and ADC XLM Mk. III.  The Grado and ADC are among my favorites anyhow...the AT is not.  That said, this amazingly quiet and capable (MM-only) phono stage almost makes the AT enjoyable to listen to.  Properly loaded with only about 150pf capacitance, it sounds passable.

The Grado sounds good....but as there is no resistive loading available (high output Grado's should be loaded from 10-12kHz...not the 47K standard out there)....it's not quite a fair test.  But, the Grado never fails to impress in my system and here it was quiet, just slightly muted in dynamics (again, gain related as I know the Grado's can strike thunder when set up right) and enjoyable.

With the ADC - it's glorious.  Maybe among the best setup ever for me.  The 6.05mv is really needed for this system to counteract low gain elsewhere, and despite a slightly false treble response (not tipped up at ALL like the AT or most moving coils, just not terribly recognizable treble reproduction) it is fantastically punchy, sounds quite flat in it's response and iis a joy to listen to for hours at a time.  Really, among the best listening sessions I've ever had running it into the APT at the recommended 275pf (actually, with my TT cable factored in, at 285pf) for flattest response.

The ADC run stright to the APT phono section is very direct....one nasty rca junction is all.  The APT and the tube amps are so quiet (with gain turned low) run into my minimalist crossover Linaeums...it is really wonderful to hear it in here.  It's layered front to back like no MM/MI I've ever encountered, with great height and good width to the soundstage.  Dynamics are plucky and it's as quiet as a phono system can be led by a high output Moving Iron/Magnet  :guitar:

When I use woodsyi's EAR 834p phono preamp run with the low output Pickering XLZ-7500-s it sounds great, too.  A little of the urgency/pace of running the ADC straight into the APT is lost (additional rca junctions, particularly with low output phono signals, just suck)....but the inherent advantages of low impedance (more signal passes) and low inductance (more extended treble response and quieter coils) that come with low voltage cartridges is a good counter-balance.

Anyhow, I'm quite happy with my $500 spent.  There are indeed differences in preamps out there (beyond even the tube vs. SS debate), and by no means is the best that was ever produced, but after this expenditure the likely benefits I will get in a new preamp will be rather small. This audio-illness is bound to get ever more costly when I step somewhere from the APT-Holman.



Johnny2Bad

Re: APT - Holman preamp
« Reply #22 on: 9 Nov 2010, 06:56 am »
We sold the Apt Holman when it was new. Broadly speaking, I can't really argue with the conclusions of the OP, but I think he places too much emphasis on the age of the unit versus it's inherent qualities. His description of it sounds exactly the same as my overall assessment of it's sound, only I came to my conclusions 30 years ago.


It was a very good, but not drop-your-jaw great, preamp at the time. It is very quiet, one of it's best qualities. It has no glaring flaws. The phono section was above average compared to most, but not all, preamps you could get then. You have to realize that compared to it's peers it was revolutionary in the way it approached flexibility along with high sound quality. There were few standalone phono preamps available from anyone ... the dB Systems and PS Audio units were around, and of course there was the very expensive Mark Levinson. There were a few more, but the list was still very short. For the most part, you used the phono section of the preamp you ended up buying. dB Systems sold a kit of matching resistors and capacitors you could add to any unit to mimic what the Apt does in it's phono section (in fact, they still do sell it).


You could get preamps that had the flexibility of the Apt Holman, but they were mid-fi units to a large extent, and the Apt either beat them, or cost half or more as much as the ones it couldn't beat. You could get "no-knobs, no buttons" type phono and control preamps at the time, and the better examples beat the Apt Holman. In the end, it was a cool unit that didn't sell very well because it's target market was small. High End users preferred one group of products, and the "every amp sounds the same, but I like those knobs and buttons" crowd preferred another group of products. Both groups "liked" the Apt Holman, but usually ended up buying in their comfort zone.


We sold a few, mostly to musicians who were also into good sound. They loved the flexibility; it has great tape options as well, and this was a crowd that had a TEAC 3340 in the rack, beside the Technics SL-1200 with pitch control. Perhaps not everyone is aware of it, but pitch control allows a musician to play an LP and adjust the pitch to his instrument so he can play along and learn the song without re-tuning, since every song is typically tuned differently. The tape options allowed him to record his guitar, or whatever, and compare it to the record in real time. At the same time it could form the heart of a decent system for recreational music listening. If you were looking for one word to describe it, it would have to be "flexible". I think it did as much as you could reasonably expect it to sound-quality wise, considering the design goal.


Now, the musician with a good system is a rare breed ... musicians don't necessarily need accuracy since they use musical cues to replicate music in their head in a way ordinary listeners do not. Plus, they are always broke, and when they do have money, spend it on different electronics than audiophiles do. So, no-one ever made money selling quality hifi to musicians.


One question I would ask the OP (if he's still around; this is the reason I'm digging up this thread) is this ... did it come with the original manual? The Apt Holman owner's manual is the best organized, best written, best example hands down, of what an owner's manual should be. If it were up to me, I'd make every audio manufacturer read it, and learn from it. It's an outstanding document and should be the template for every manual for every thing, period.

Russell Dawkins

Re: APT - Holman preamp
« Reply #23 on: 9 Nov 2010, 04:56 pm »
One question I would ask the OP (if he's still around; this is the reason I'm digging up this thread) is this ... did it come with the original manual? The Apt Holman owner's manual is the best organized, best written, best example hands down, of what an owner's manual should be. If it were up to me, I'd make every audio manufacturer read it, and learn from it. It's an outstanding document and should be the template for every manual for every thing, period.
AMEN to that! Another good one, though obscure for sure, was the telephone book I got with my Apogee AD500. That's pro gear though, and the manuals are much better in general.

At the other end of the scale, in my experience, was the "manual" I got with my Sugden power amps, although that might be excused by the fact that the model (Au-31) was exclusive to Canada and the company is small.

Letitroll98

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Re: APT - Holman preamp
« Reply #24 on: 9 Nov 2010, 05:46 pm »
One question I would ask the OP (if he's still around; this is the reason I'm digging up this thread)

Ha!  Yeah, I think John's still around, unless someone has taken over one or both of the circles he facilitates here.  God forbid that he's had a heart attack lifting some heavy item on his Magna Cart, so I would expect a reply.  It'll be a hoot comparing his thoughts on audio equipment today vs 2007, can't wait.

As far as your post, I love vintage gear and have two older pre amps, a PS Audio and a B&K.  The Apt unit while groundbreaking in it's time, has always been flawed sonically from the start and durability wise over time.  Worth it as a piece of audio nostalgia if you can get it for under $100 + servicing, otherwise a non starter. 

TheChairGuy

Re: APT - Holman preamp
« Reply #25 on: 9 Nov 2010, 06:32 pm »
Ha!  Yeah, I think John's still around, unless someone has taken over one or both of the circles he facilitates here.  God forbid that he's had a heart attack lifting some heavy item on his Magna Cart, so I would expect a reply.  It'll be a hoot comparing his thoughts on audio equipment today vs 2007, can't wait.

As far as your post, I love vintage gear and have two older pre amps, a PS Audio and a B&K.  The Apt unit while groundbreaking in it's time, has always been flawed sonically from the start and durability wise over time.  Worth it as a piece of audio nostalgia if you can get it for under $100 + servicing, otherwise a non starter.

Yup - still around and spry at 47 at that :wink:

In the end, I came to the same conclusion as Letitroll with this preamp...sonically, it was fatiguing to listen to.  So, a few months after buying it I put it on ebay, lost $100 on the turnaround and moved on.

Yup - I have the manual - it's amazing.  It's better than the product, unfortunately :(

However, I wasn't done with Tomlinson Holman.  A ~ year later I bought a fully tricked out Advent 300 from Sound of the Wood: www.soundofthewood.com

The link for preamp mods are on the left side as you scroll down.

THAT product is a winner...especially with the on-the-fly resistive and capacitive options built in by the designer, David Plummer. It's one of the best non-dual mono preamps I've had to pleasure of owning.  In my experience, nothing bests true dual mono - especially for vinyl.

I wrote a bit about the modded Advent 300 here if you scroll down a few posts: http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=60309.0

Ciao, John


dmadmc

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Re: APT - Holman preamp
« Reply #26 on: 24 Apr 2018, 09:40 pm »
We sold the Apt Holman when it was new. Broadly speaking, I can't really argue with the conclusions of the OP, but I think he places too much emphasis on the age of the unit versus it's inherent qualities. His description of it sounds exactly the same as my overall assessment of it's sound, only I came to my conclusions 30 years ago.


It was a very good, but not drop-your-jaw great, preamp at the time. It is very quiet, one of it's best qualities. It has no glaring flaws. The phono section was above average compared to most, but not all, preamps you could get then. You have to realize that compared to it's peers it was revolutionary in the way it approached flexibility along with high sound quality. There were few standalone phono preamps available from anyone ... the dB Systems and PS Audio units were around, and of course there was the very expensive Mark Levinson. There were a few more, but the list was still very short. For the most part, you used the phono section of the preamp you ended up buying. dB Systems sold a kit of matching resistors and capacitors you could add to any unit to mimic what the Apt does in it's phono section (in fact, they still do sell it).


You could get preamps that had the flexibility of the Apt Holman, but they were mid-fi units to a large extent, and the Apt either beat them, or cost half or more as much as the ones it couldn't beat. You could get "no-knobs, no buttons" type phono and control preamps at the time, and the better examples beat the Apt Holman. In the end, it was a cool unit that didn't sell very well because it's target market was small. High End users preferred one group of products, and the "every amp sounds the same, but I like those knobs and buttons" crowd preferred another group of products. Both groups "liked" the Apt Holman, but usually ended up buying in their comfort zone.


We sold a few, mostly to musicians who were also into good sound. They loved the flexibility; it has great tape options as well, and this was a crowd that had a TEAC 3340 in the rack, beside the Technics SL-1200 with pitch control. Perhaps not everyone is aware of it, but pitch control allows a musician to play an LP and adjust the pitch to his instrument so he can play along and learn the song without re-tuning, since every song is typically tuned differently. The tape options allowed him to record his guitar, or whatever, and compare it to the record in real time. At the same time it could form the heart of a decent system for recreational music listening. If you were looking for one word to describe it, it would have to be "flexible". I think it did as much as you could reasonably expect it to sound-quality wise, considering the design goal.


Now, the musician with a good system is a rare breed ... musicians don't necessarily need accuracy since they use musical cues to replicate music in their head in a way ordinary listeners do not. Plus, they are always broke, and when they do have money, spend it on different electronics than audiophiles do. So, no-one ever made money selling quality hifi to musicians.


One question I would ask the OP (if he's still around; this is the reason I'm digging up this thread) is this ... did it come with the original manual? The Apt Holman owner's manual is the best organized, best written, best example hands down, of what an owner's manual should be. If it were up to me, I'd make every audio manufacturer read it, and learn from it. It's an outstanding document and should be the template for every manual for every thing, period.

Outstanding and very objective point of view!  Thank you very much.