In the past there was such a concept of full-function preamplifiers that included MM and MC inputs. With time such devises die out and nowadays it is VERY difficult to find a full-function preamplifier generally and a good sounding full-function preamp in particularly. With time goes by the full-function preamps evolve in something very different and I would like to share some of my thought about it.
My personal evolution with preamplifiers since I mid of 90s was following: BAT VK3i, Theta Casablanca, BAT VK5i, Lamm L1, Lamm L2, Placette Passive, Placette Active, Placette Active Custom. I use Active Placette for quite number years and do not even imagine better sounding preamplifier. Still, at the conceptual level I think there is a room for talking.
I need to say that in most of the cases audio people do not need preamps. Most of the audio people do not go doe serious bass reproduction and do not use elaborate playbacks with multiple sources. However, for some of us who has multiple sources and who do not use bass-relaxed acoustic system with port tuned at 40Hz pre-amplification is a necessary tool. I do not mention those of us who do multiamping. With multiamping, particularly with passive multiamping the entire system design is sitting upon the drive capacity of preamp and in my particular case my configuration would not be possible with most of the preamps out there.
So, why I suddenly begin to talk about preamps? Because I think that contemporary preamps shall have DAC and perhaps optional ADC onboard. Take a look, the D/A convertors are getting smaller and smaller each year, why do not integrate them with fully functional preamp? So, what we have: one MM input, 2-3 MC inputs with one-two stages gain of 80dB, 5-10 line level inputs, SPIDIF/USB/AES/EBU inputs, one tape loop input, bully balanced operation, analog volume control, single output stage for line level, output impedance of a dozen ohms, DC or near DC operation, ability to drive in Class A some kind high sensitively speaker. They are in my view the requirements for contemporary serious preamps.
Let see if someone does anything like this. Starting from the companies I used. Balanced Audio Technology has their REX preamp that has no D/A capacity. I think that sine they do phonostages and CD player they are in position to make anew large and expensive contemporary preamps that would have everything integrated. To make it to sound good it is another story but we do not touch this side of the story. Lamm has his LL1 preamp. It has balanced buffer (eventually, even Vladimir got it!) but knowing Lamm it will never have any digital capacity. Vladimir might go in his next model for MM/MC on-board but I never was satisfied with Lamm’s Phono efforts. Also, Lamm has a number of own something that I call “idiosyncratic design idiocyties”: can you explain to my who else would make $45K, 4 chassis preamp with one single input that is more or less operational. I would not mention that to have balanced operation and phase switch and do not have remote control to that phase switch is absolutely ridicules. So, Vladimir Lamm can entertain himself by collecting those idiotic awards from the his industry mutually-hated friends but with the products that he offers I think he disqualifies himself from the list of serious preamp contenders. Ironically Theta Casablanca had all digital options onboard even 10 years back. They never had Phono-option and they never made anything sound good unfortunately. The best Theta sound was never better then sound of TV from Best Buy, so Theta is not in the picture. Placette. Unfortunately Guy is not the person who does anything with Phono or digital, at least commercially, if he was then it would be very interesting to see his beefed up version of his active preamp.
Let see what he have out there. I think the companies like Spectral, Boulder and Burmester are very much in position to make challenging contemporary preamps. In fact Burmester has been doing something like this for year but I do not know how Burmester’s preamps sound. Also, Burmester as far as I remember had some kind of inverter balanced configuration that makes it very hard to use. I would anticipate that as time goes buy more and more integrated contemporary preamps, at least with DAC’s onboard will show up. The ability to optimize gains and minimize amount of stages in such integrated design can’t not be overlooked. I am not out there to look what is being done out there but if somebody come across a large preamp that would feet in my definition of “contemporary” then dump some information to this thread.Rgs,
Romy the Cat
"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche