As you may have read in the earlier post on my upgrade bug, I was working the late shift at Sam Goody when a customer walked in and asked me “how can you stand to listen to all this solid state stuff?” I was very puzzled at first and asked him what he meant. He started telling me about how much purer to the music a good tube system was. We talked for over an hour about gear. We agreed to get together on Sunday afternoon and do some listening. He wanted to hear the DQ-10’s but had a surprise in store.
When he came by, he had an amp and preamp in his car. The amp was an Audio Research D76, an all tube amp. The preamp was an Audio Research SP3A-1, probably one of the most famous tube preamps of all time, but back then I had no clue what I was in store for.
I can clearly state, the sound of that Audio Research stack is what inspired me to open my own business selling high performance audio! I was just blown out of the water. I had never heard my DQ-10’s sound so good! Simply and utterly amazing! We kept comparing pieces and discovered the preamp made a bigger impact on the sound than the amp did. I’ll never forget playing my system later on that night after the ARC had left the house and just wanting to throw that Crown preamp in the trash! It only took me a week to replace the Crown. There were no ARC dealers around and it was far more expensive than I could afford, so I wound up getting a Conrad Johnson PV-1 from Vickers in Chapel Hill. This was an early value oriented tube preamp. While it was clearly not as good as the ARC, it did make me very happy and I was back to enjoying music again.
Travel in the time machine to 2013 and I’ve got another great ARC preamp in my house once again, the REF5. Audio Advice has been an ARC dealer since 1981 (they would not sell me the brand at first as we had no track record) and its been one of the most consistent great sounding product lines we have. They now have a full line of tube preamps, both solid state and tube power amps, and digital products that all are at the top of their class. The preamps start for as little as $3995 and for that you get 100% American made build quality with a lifetime of great customer service. While most of their pieces have a 3-5 year warranty, the thing that amazes me the most is they can still completely rebuild anything they have every produced! How is that for customer service! If you want your system to just come to life, try out an ARC preamp, you’ll probably have the same kind of reaction I had back in 1977!