Amplification Solid State

EMM Labs PRE stereo preamplifier Review

About this time final yr, I acquired what EMM Labs referred to as the Reference PRE. The only identification that seems on the preamp are the letters PRE, which I discover a bit confusing, provided that the earlier design was referred to as the PRE2. Whereas I really didn’t anticipate drastic enhancements from the PRE over the PRE2, I hooked it up in my system and virtually instantly realized that the PRE was a shocking leap forward. The remainder of this evaluation focuses on the differences and the way those variations contribute to a more lifelike recreation of the recorded event.

Technical Details

One of many many issues that sets the PRE aside from the overwhelming majority of solid-state preamps is the relative simplicity of its design. Whereas most other trendy preamps typically boast of the variety of opamp chips or large-scale built-in circuits within the audio path, the PRE eschews using such units in favor of discrete transistors, which in complete are far lower than the variety of sign path transistors inside a single opamp chip. The audio sign path of the PRE is, in comparison to the nicely regarded PRE2, purer and more simplified. Because the PRE is designed for balanced operation, there are two equivalent however distinct class A audio paths per channel, one for the constructive polarity signal and one for the mirror image unfavourable polarity. Given the claim of purity and ease, you might marvel why the motherboard accommodates a whole lot of elements; nevertheless, ninety % of those elements — visible on the surface mount, ceramic printed circuit board — are part of the extremely refined power supply regulation system defending the comparatively few transistors in the audio signal path from undesirable external influences. This regulation system ensures that each transistor within the audio sign path is in its own special cocoon of secure and noise-free voltages to provide state-of-the-art, low distortion, class A, DC coupled efficiency. Very similar to in the EMM MTRX Reference amps, the audio circuitry is characterized by extremely vast bandwidth, extremely quick rise time, and vanishingly low distortion.


Nearly as good because the PRE sounds straight out of the box, it benefits significantly from some break-in as well as from careful selection of a power twine and correct mechanical isolation. With the mistaken power cords the unit can sound considerably bleached and lacking in tonal shade. Two power cords that work fantastically are the Jorma Prime and what I consider because the Furutech RED (Furutech DPS-Four wire, which you’ll need to terminate).  Likewise, depth, focus, and element benefit from using isolation ft. Two products that I’ve found to work fantastically are the Stillpoints Extremely 6 (two at the front and one on the rear) and the CenterStage 2 (on this case two at the entrance and two in the again). In this specific software, I might go together with the Stillpoints Extremely 5 or Ultra 6.

Listening (digital sources)

Invoice Evans, Sunday on the Village Vanguard, XRCD.This is in all probability the most effective that I have heard this XRCD. Particularly, the soundstage is less flat with Paul Motion’s drum set extra clearly situated behind Scott LaFaro’s bass. LaFaro’s bass just isn’t “in” the left speaker in the identical approach that I have heard before. As an alternative, it is set again only a bit. The viewers noises are clearly there, lending a way of event and actuality, but not as intrusive —just there, like in real life. The piano does not sound fairly as huge as I recall, however prior to now I assumed that I heard some overload, which I not hear. All good, all musical.

Tord Gustavsen, ECM, CD.First, the cymbals are fantastically detailed — essential right here as a result of the drums are so exposed with this quiet Scandinavian piano trio and the cymbal work is usually delicate. The bass is massive, fat and wealthy, but clearly situated. I also can hear La Faro’s respiration through the bass solo that begins monitor 2. The detail is unimaginable. The primary tonal distinction that I notice that between the EMM and the Audio Word preamps is the piano sounds fatter and hotter with the tubes, i.e., the “tube midrange.”  Which is more real? I am somewhat extra conscious with the PRE that the piano is appropriately thought-about a percussion instrument, consisting of hammers that strike metallic strings, however this isn’t in a nasty or exaggerated means. It’s just actuality. You possibly can inform me that the EMM had some tubes in it and I might in all probability consider you —the top end result isn’t just very detailed, but very musical as nicely.

Corinne West and Kelly Joe Phelps, Magnetic Skyline, Tin Angel Data, CD.Two guitars, two voices, certainly one of them the good Kelly Joe Phelps. Possible recorded in stay takes within the studio (if my ears are right) and fantastically so. I acquired goose bumps multiple occasions. The sound of two superb singers, female and male, harmonizing with excellent pitch and style, is among the most lovely issues that people can do, notably when completed over the inspiration of two very experienced acoustic guitarists enjoying nice sounding guitars. This preamp opens up each element. I know the place Phelps and West are sitting. I can hear the small print of the picks on the strings (the guitars sound freshly strung). I can hear the small print of the pronunciation, the closeness of their lips to the microphones, which, taken with all the things else, accounts for the shivers down the spine. That is nearly as good as it gets.

Linda Ronstadt, What’s New, FIM CD.What I anticipated to listen to was slightly brilliant and edgy strings from Nelson Riddle’s terrific preparations . . . and then the brass would are available with gusto, sparkling but just a bit painful. On both counts, I used to be flawed. To begin with, this sounds as if it was recorded yesterday.  I’d swear that Ronstadt was singing into a Neumann tube mike.   I can hear all of the detail of her voice. It has bothered me at occasions that Ronstadt doesn’t sound like Anita O’Day or Helen Merrill or Chris Connor — the angels of the American Songbook in the 1950’s (to me a minimum of, though, yes, Fitzgerald and Vaughan can bury them in lots of respects — perhaps the issues and vulnerability are what grab me). Here, Ronstadt feels like Ronstadt and she or he has nothing for which to apologize, particularly with Nelson Riddle providing the security internet. With that security internet so clear that a professional might transcribe the preparations by ear. The location of devices is almost 180 degrees throughout the listening stage and the audio system disappear. What an illusion.

Beethoven, 4th Symphony, La Chambre Philharmonique. Beethoven on unique devices, the strings played without vibrato, by a chamber orchestra-sized ensemble, is usually a dangerous combination when played with too many microphones up shut. This stay recording does not endure from the edginess and brashness that always characterize such performances, at the very least not as heard by way of the EMM Labs PRE (and EMM digital gear and MTRX amps). The soundstage is sort of clear. The antiphonal impact of the strings on either aspect of the stage is true there and, for me at the least, is among the many new and thrilling things I hear with these performances. Most enjoyable, nevertheless, is the very palpable sense of eager enthusiasm that we will hear from the musicians. I discover it arduous to define the precise musical cues that make this so palpable, however it is there in spades as heard by way of the EMM gear. Certainly, it’s edge-of-the-seat pleasure. Is it the distinctive consideration to dynamics fostered by Krivine but captured by musicians which are proper there with him? Is it the hair’s breadth musical acuity? Is it the occasional edge of an excited bowstring? All of these things? Whatever it is, the joys of the music comes throughout in distinctive glory.

Schumann, Symphony 2, Dausgaard, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, BIS SACD. There isn’t a doubt that that is an SACD as it presents a degree of spaciousness, air, element and ease that simply surpasses Redbook CD, particularly as introduced to us by the EMM gear. Dausgaard’s historically knowledgeable performances of ordinary repertoire have been attracting very constructive press (with a couple of detractors) over the previous few years. This Schumann 2nd is a large success to these ears. The EMM presents wonderfully grain-free strings over a really extensive soundstage. With the smaller orchestra we get the advantage of extra colorful blending of the winds with the strings. The prevailing knowledge of the previous was that Schumann was a poor orchestrator whose work needed “cleaning up.” With the smaller orchestra, it is arduous to see how the objection stands.

The second movement is considered one of my favorites in the literature and Dausgaard moves it together with exceptional élan. The EMM helps us hear, particularly, the careful consideration to dynamic gradations that make this efficiency particular. It additionally helps us hear the cautious attentiveness of the orchestra. The gamers do not miss a beat — actually — in this efficiency, which, whereas brisk, can also be considerably liberal with rubato and expressive hesitations.

Gillian Welch, EMI, CD. The LP of this album has held me virtually breathless on multiple occasions. It is virtually as if even probably the most minor squeak of my chair will completely spoil the quiet, moonlit environment spun by Welch and her companion. I have not prior to now been overly impressed with the Redbook model of this album and, apparently, neither was Welch who pushed for the LP situation. While I do not utterly perceive the why of it, listening now with all EMM gear, the Redbook CD makes me virtually as breathless as the LP. That is to recommend that there is clearly a synergy among the EMM pieces and, for that matter, between the PRE and digital media.

Frank Sinatra, Solely the Lonely, CD. I’ve heard some listeners say that early CD’s are sonically among a number of the greatest, which appears silly given the relatively big technical strides which were made because the early 1980’s, not to mention the persevering with progress in understanding tips on how to exploit the differences between digital and analog. Yet this early difficulty of what’s arguably Sinatra’s biggest report sounds just terrific tonight, because it virtually all the time has. Sinatra is completely centered and I feel as if I can practically attain out and contact him. That slightly nasal quality is true there, captured in probably the most flattering mild by the ever present Neumann tubed microphone.  A minimum of fifty % of what makes this album such a gem goes to Nelson Riddle. The instruments are positioned very properly on the soundstage and sound marvelous. In reality, I had forgotten how intricate a number of the wind work is.