Advice on new pre-amp

pjdamipjdami Posts: 1,898
edited March 2003 in 2 Channel Audio
I'm currently using my Yamaha RX-V1300 pre-outs for two channel stereo (breaking in some new LSi 9s). I am considering upgrading this status to a seperate pre-amp. From what I've been reading on some other forums, the pre-amp stage is very critical to the sound reproduction. A seperate pre-amp will sound better than a receiver pre-amp. My system sounds pretty good right now but I want to spoil myself if I can. Upgraditis bigtime.

I'm posting this so that perhaps I don't make a mistake in my purchase because this trial and error thing can be very expensive (as I've already learned).

I've been eying the NAD C160 which is a great match for my NAD C270 power amp. Others on this forum love this pre-amp.

Here are my choices and prices I can get them for:

NAD C160 factory refurbished $449.
Adcom GFP-710 new $499.
B&K PT5 new $547 (with am/fm tuner)

The Adcom I hear has a very neutral to warm sound. Something I'm looking for because I have rather "harsh" acoustics in my living room with ceramic tile floor.

B&K I hear and read superb things from them, but the PT5 has a S/N ratio of only 89 db. The NAD and Adcom are over 100 db S/N.

Can I really go wrong with any of these?
Post edited by pjdami on


  • RuSsMaNRuSsMaN Posts: 17,995
    edited March 2003
    No, you cannot go wrong with any of the above choices.

    If you don't have need for an active gain or internal phono stage (you can always add one), I HIGHLY recommend you look at a passive / straight line control preamp.

    That NAD 270 has plenty of power to spare, lots of headroom, I think it's a GREAT candidate for a passive pre. You won't need to worry about s/n ratio's and other specs, ALL you will hear is your amp, and nothing more, period.

    Other than that, if you really want 'spoil' yourself, find a good TUBE pre. A tube pre will typically put a REAL nice signature on a good sand amp, not to mention a ****-eatin' grin on your face.

    Check your lips at the door woman. Shake your hips like battleships. Yeah, all the white girls trip when I sing at Sunday service.
  • TonyPTXTonyPTX Posts: 545
    edited March 2003
    Originally posted by RuSsMaN
    A tube pre will typically put a REAL nice signature on a good sand amp

    Sand amp, eh? Is that a technical term? :D
    Damn....8 lines...I've gotta put my sig on a diet now....
  • organorgan Posts: 5,022
    edited March 2003
    Hey Russ,

    Do you know any cheap outboard tube DAC's I can buy off the net? Do you know if they make a big difference? Do they give you the tube sound even if you're running solid state gear?


    CD Player: Original CD-A8T
    Receiver: Harman/Kardon HK3390
    Speakers: Polk Audio RT1000p
    "I would rather have a cup of tone than an ocean of power" **Dr. Harvey Rosenberg**
  • HBombTooHBombToo Posts: 5,335
    edited March 2003
    Look for Cal Audio equipment... you will be most impressed. Audiogon alway has many flavors for sale.

  • madmaxmadmax Posts: 12,438
    edited March 2003
    You can often find the "Audible Illusions" Modulus 3 or 3A for $500 to $700 used. VERY nice tube pre-amp which has a built in phono input and external power supply. I love mine! It looks pretty awesome as well.
    Vinyl, the final frontier...

    Avantgarde horns, 300b tubes, thats the kinda crap I want... :D
  • pjdamipjdami Posts: 1,898
    edited March 2003
    Well, I decided to give the B & K PT5 a spin. I found a demo at the only hi-fi store in town that I haven't visited. The demo is six months old and was plugged into the AC outlet but never connected to any sources. Let me tell you why. Above it was the mighty B & K AVR 507, a pionner elite 45a dvd player, and are ya'll ready for this, Martin Logan fronts, center, and surronds. I have never seen MLs before and you can see right through them. They are like looking at a sculpture. The instant I saw them in person I thought of the huge face statues on Easter Island in the Pacific.

    Back to the PT5 preamp. I bagged it for $550 which is about the same price that I could get on the internet except from this dealer I get the full five year warranty. This dealer also has Lexicon, Music Fidelty, Krell, Acurus, and other names I've never even heard of. Well I pay for my modest "midfi" preamp and modestly walk out the door and open the hatch of my SUV where the salesman courteously places the box in my trunk. I'm driving home burping up the CO2 from the free can of coke that I received while I was there thinking about who really owns all of this stuff.

    My choices were the Adcom, NAD, and the B&K. I went with the B&K due to the available outputs on the back and obviously the reputation although all three were fine choices. The B&K has a low pass filtered output for the sub at 80 hz and a high pass output at 80 hz for the mains. It also has a mono unfiltered output for the sub and a full range output for the mains. Flexibility, I like that.

    I went to Best Buy and picked up "The Best of Acoustic Alchemy", a Diane Krall cd, and Natalie Merchant's "Motherland" to enjoy some new tunes. I own about 300 cds that I've accumulated in the past 15 years; everything from all of the Megadeth albums, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, to some Jazz and such.

    I hook up the B&K using the filtered outputs for the sub and the LSi 9's put in the "Motherland" cd into my cd player. The B & K has a nice luminescent blue display. The volume knob is a little quircky and only adjusts in 2 db increments as opposed to my Yammers 0.5 db increments. At this point, the Yamaha is totally disconnected and I'm about to listen to my first component system that I have ever owned on my week old LSi's.

    Needless to say, I was disappointed in the sound when I first turned it on. I figured the preamp need to warm up and burn in for a little while so I went to my office and listened from a far. After about an hour and a half I could hear a mellowing of the sound coming from the hallway to my living room. I thought to myself, "time for a beer" and walk by the system on my way to the kitchen, pop the beer, take a chug, walk back in the living room and wallah!! The LSis are singing I'm telling you.

    Well, it looks like I've made the right decision. The LSi's sound even better now running off the seperate preamp and NAD amp. A lot more "airyness" to the sound with more depth and an improved soundstage and no graininess in the upper frequencies.

    Well sorry for the long post. I'm a little excited and drinking a couple of cold ones.

    Tomorrow I try to figure out how to hook up the Yammer to the preamp per another thread to get the HT back; but for now I'm in two channel audio ectascy!

  • pjdamipjdami Posts: 1,898
    edited March 2003
    Oh yeah. Here's a pic of the new soldier.
  • organorgan Posts: 5,022
    edited March 2003
    That's super dude! The B&K sure looks sexy. Congrats on the purchase. Glad to hear you're really diggin your gear.

    So what's next on your upgrade list? Mine will be either the Rega P2 or P3. I just started listening to vinyl on a POS turntable and the airyness and smoothness of analog just blows away digital. Vinyl seems to have a lot more presence.

    CD Player: Original CD-A8T
    Receiver: Harman/Kardon HK3390
    Speakers: Polk Audio RT1000p
    "I would rather have a cup of tone than an ocean of power" **Dr. Harvey Rosenberg**
  • mantismantis Posts: 15,453
    edited March 2003
    everyone should take a minute and admire the beauty of B&K..........Ahhhhhhhh I love it.

    Dude the Silver is dead sexy,I'm getting my silver faceplate allday......comming soon with the upgrade.ALLDAY!!!!!!!!
    My personal quest is to save to world of bad audio, one thread at a time.
  • pjdamipjdami Posts: 1,898
    edited March 2003

    First of all, I was looking at the C160 extremely hard based on input from you, others, and one of my local dealers. I never gave it a listen in my living room on my setup but when I stumbled across the B&K preamp deal I just couldn't pass it up.

    What the seperate preamp has done for me is answer a fundamental question "why doesn't my system sound as good as the system at the dealer even though I have the same amp, speakers, and cd player?" Well that only leaves two variables, the Yamaha preamp source that I was using or room acoustics. What I have discovered is that the preamp was the biggest difference between the two.

    Future upgrades??? Well obviously you can see that my center channel and surrounds are not a timbre matching set with my mains. Now that I have eliminated the source problems, I will be able to perform a true "Paradigm vs. LSi 9 shootout" where I should mostly just hear the differences in the speakers. I haven't hooked up the Pdime Studios back yet since I hooked up the new preamp.....I'm loving the sound of the LSi's big time. I'm going to do a fair, unbiased sound evaluation of both speakers and then upgrade my center and surrounds based on what I feel sounds the best in my acoustic environment. Its all about horsepower. Just because you have a 400 hp car doesn't mean you will drive around everywhere at 170 mph. Its just knowing that you can if you wanted to that makes it kewl.

    About vinyl...well its been a long time since I listened to it. I own about 10 vinyl albums. I have a 20 year old Rotel turntable which hasn't played in about 15 years. Not even sure about what the last needle was that I put in there. I do agree though, if you can manage to listen past the cracks and snaps on the LP the warmth and prescence of the sound from a LP is sooo natural sounding that it makes you enjoy the sound even though it isn't free of some of the extracurricular noise that isn't found in the digital formats. I think I will have to resurrect the Rotel from my parents house next time I go by there.


    I'm hoping you can help me with this question. A few weeks ago you and others helped me with my 12 V trigger setup. The B&K preamp doesn't have a direct 12V trigger. I have to get a 5 pin Phoenix connector to do this for me. I tried to call customer service at B&K today to see what this was about but got put on hold for about 5 - 10 minutes at work and just couldn't wait around any longer. I've tried various internet searches on Yahoo and didn't come up with much. I even tried a Rat Shack search on their website but got nothing. What the heck is this thing and where can I buy one???? I'm hoping since you are so familiar with B&K products that you can help me out. I'm really missing the kewl 12V trigger thing for my power amp.

  • Tour2maTour2ma Old School Posts: 10,176
    edited March 2003

    Know what you mean on the B&K line. I replaced a Yammie C-2 with and AVP200 several years ago and it was like lifting veil off of my system. And I thiought the C-2 was a step up when I bought it about 20 years ago.

    As for vinyl, I can't wait to link my PC into my new B&K ref50. There are awesome pop and click eliminator programs available now for when they are needed. Thank goodness that need is not an issue with the vast majority of my collection.
    More later,
    Vox Copuli
    Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. - Old English Proverb

    "It's easy to get lost in price vs performance vs ego vs illusion." - doro
    "There is a certain entertainment value in ripping the occaisonal (sic) buttmunch..." - TroyD
    "Death doesn't come with a Uhaul." - Dennis Gardner
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