YBA Preamp Phono Stage vs Classic Valve Design Phono Pre

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#1
I had the chance today to listen to my stereo shops custom made by Classic Valve Design- Solaris phono preamp.

I just got my turntable finished from the store with a newly mounted Dynavector 17D3 Karat MC cartridge. While it was at the shop, I had the owner have a customer bring in the Classic Valve Design phono preamp, called the Solaris, in to have a listen to it. I was considering getting one myself, so this was a chance to have a listen. This phono pre uses 6 6922 tubes and has an outboard power supply. Cost is $1650 US dollars, so Canadian value depends on the exchange rate. The service tech at Classic Audio custom designed this phono pre and custom makes it to order. Dollar value to quality is very high.

I brought in my YBA 2 preamp that has an onboard MM phono stage. We used a custom made step up transformer so we could use my Linn LP12 with the Karat cartridge. The YBA phono stage I was told was supposed to be very good, so this was a chance to see how it faired against the Solaris phono pre.

We played quite a few records and switched back and forth between pres. The YBA 2 preamp was used in both cases for volume and switching duty, and we just disconnected the step up transformer from each phono connection. Most obvious difference between the two phono stages, was the YBA phono section was a lot flatter, with less depth and space around the music. It was also harder in sound, less bass, clarity was a bit brighter to the point in was clinical, and 3D sound was less. The Solaris pre had a way more open sound, clarity was good, but not harsh, depth and 3D sound filled the room. It was more real and live sounding, and clarity was also good, but smoother. The guy that owns this pre, said since he got it, that pre gave the best sound from vinyl he's ever heard. He has since stopped listening to CDs because he can't stand the sound of them anymore since having the Solaris.

So soon I will place an order for my unit, but mine (unlike his), will come with the optional MC section in it. When you get that option, the preamp has both MM and MC inputs and will switch between them. So you are not tied to MC. I can't wait to hear the Solaris in my own system. The YBA phono section will not get much use here.
 

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#2
Thanks for the review, Scott. I have been listening to vinyl more than any other format, lately. I recently picked up about 20 1980's 12" 45 rpm singles and remixes.

I would love to visit the store. Is there a Solaris phono preamp at the shop, available for demonstration, rather than a customer having to bring in their own?

Nando.
 

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Okay. Upon viewing their web site, the store sure has nice components for sale.

My Ariston Audio RD-80 has an old Grado MC-10 cartridge on it. Looking at the similarities to the Linn LP12, there's a murky history on how the two turntables are related.



Nando.
 

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Thanks, Scott - I think the Ariston Audio RD-80 Transcription Deck preceded the LP12. My turntable has an ADC ALT-1 tonearm fitted to it. I bought it years ago for $25, then had it serviced by a technician, (Petersen Audio Service) who specialized in repairs of older turntables and worked out of his home.

Nando.
 

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#7
Didn't know it was the other way around. Was the designer of both tables the same? Mine has the Ittok II arm on it.

While I had my Linn in at Classic Sound, he adjusted the suspension, as he said it was a bit off. Could be from transporting it in the car the couple times.

After listening to my YBA phono section, I'm wondering if the phono section in my Rotel is even better then the YBA. The YBA sounds flat, yet my Rotel had depth and air to it. The YBA is clean sounding, but its not great like you'd expect from vinyl.
 

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Elite-ist

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Very nice, Scott. This model of table has a very active suspension system, more so than any other turntable I own.

Here's an excerpt I copied from a forum discussion:

"History of the LP12

Origins

"There used to be a saying among the Scottish Hi-Fi community that the engineers coming out of university turned left to go to Heybrook and right to go to Linn.

The truth is, the two designs share a number of things in common. They are both three point sprung suspensions as both are based on the original AR white paper for transcription turntables. They both use a wood plinth which looks similar, a two-piece platter, and identical dust covers (except for the logo--LP12 Vs TT2).

There used to be another saying that Hamish Robertson who designed the Ariston RD11 was by nature a drinking man and not an entrepreneur. There came into his life a certain Ivor Tiefenbrun who suggested that his fathers' firm, from memory I think was called Castle Engineering, could machine parts for the Ariston turntable. Hamish accepted the offer and soon the product rolled of Ivor's production line. Imagine the shock some little time later when Ivor appeared at a northern Hi-Fi show with what seemed to be a carbon copy of the RD11 under his arm but now bearing the name Linn LP12.

From the above, it would appear that at least the Ariston and the LP12 were designed by the same engineer, to whit, Hamish Robertson..!!

Hamish, daunted by this, took to his bottle and some time later was found dead at home after a particularly heavy drinking bout. Rumour has it that he had committed suicide but I seem to remember the autopsy showed that he had asphyxiated by inhaling his own vomit."


Nando.
 

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#9
Quite a story. Funny thing is the Linn is still being made today. I wonder why the other company never continued on? Anyway off to work I go.
 

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I knew there was a sordid background to the history of the two companies. Have a good one at work, Scott.

Nando.
 

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#11
Very nice, Scott. This model of table has a very active suspension system, more so than any other turntable I own
Nando, you should see a Onkyo CP-1057F if you want to see an active suspension. A fly can land on the platter and make it wiggle
 

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Have you got that one, Ron? That's a pretty choice turntable.

Nando.
 

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Well the Solaris phono pre I ordered is all paid up and I have some tubes on the way for it. I should have the pre in a few weeks home, depending when the tubes arrive. So I'll be able to play records again soon.
 

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Well there have been some delays in getting my Solaris Pre. Tubes coming from Ukraine were late coming in and then 2 of the 6 were damaged. So I had to order 2 more. Those came this past week. I was supposed to have this pre well over a month ago. He hasn't worked on completing it for a while now. I let him do work on another customers unit for the last few weeks due to a deadline he needed to meet. That said I do wonder when I will be getting my unit, since I had this paid up 40 days ago. I'll give him another 2 weeks before I contact him on status.
 
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62vauxhall

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Well there have been some delays in getting my Solaris Pre. Tubes coming from Ukraine were late coming in and then 2 of the 6 were damaged. So I had to order 2 more. Those came this past week. I was supposed to have this pre well over a month ago. He hasn't worked on completing it for a while now. I let him do work on another customers unit for the last few weeks due to a deadline he needed to meet. That said I do wonder when I will be getting my unit, since I had this paid up 40 days ago. I'll give him another 2 weeks before I contact him on status.
Is that through the shop in Chwk or did you send it away?
 

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The anticipation grows, Scott. It's tough waiting it out, but what else can you do, as you depend on the goodwill with the shop you are at to complete the work. Once it has been delivered into your hands, you are going to have lots of fun listening to all your LPs again. In the future we can do a mix tape recorded exclusively from vinyl.

Nando.
 

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#18
Does that shop do the work on premise or is it sent out? I only ask because not long after it opened, I dropped in and chatted with who I presumed to be the owner. We yakked about our past jobs and he he said he was a fellow a&b'er (or Kelly's - can't recall) but I do not remember him mentioning a tech background. Maybe he has an independant come in and it is they who are stretched?

I think that is what IA did for a time.

It is frustrating when repair time stretches out like it seems to. I experienced that with my Teac reel to reel sent to Leon in Montreal. After 4 months I started asking "When?" and about every two months thereafter. Reply was always an apology and a sincere promise of "in another two weeks". Seventeen months after sending, I got the deck back. Sam Palermo through this forum explained that any tech who's competent with vintage gear will have their services sought to the point of "can't keep upedness". Also that they are reluctant to state worst case scenario (aka realistic) turnaround times. Logical I suppose because customers would probably look elsewhere if they heard at the get go it could be months to years,

But to counterbalance that experience, I sent my APT Holman preamp to Vince at Audioproz in Maryland and got it back within three weeks.

Hopefully your pre's repair time is closer to that.
 

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#19
Well this is a new product they sell to customers. Custom build order. Paid around $2200 for it. Would seem kinda bad if they can't deliver it to you in a reasonable amount of time. That said the tubes were partially what held it up for me. But I think I did ask him to get it ready while waiting for the tubes. He let it sit. I only bumped into Gregg recently with him telling me he needed time to work on another customers repair at this time. I said go ahead, but I hope that didn't set precedence that I can wait forever for the Solaris. Gregg did say it only would take an afternoon to put the parts into the case he has ready. If that was the case, I would of had it by now. But I'll admit I kept him waiting for the tubes to show up.

Karl is the owner of Classic Sound and Gregg is his tech. Gregg builds his design Classic Valve Design products there.
 
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braxus

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#20
Well I picked up the Solaris on Saturday and got it home. Plugged it in and it is working. Had found out 1 bank on my power conditioner seems to have failed. No power. Plugged it in a second unit and it lit up. Putting the power supply close to the pre section created a lot of hum, so I had to move the PS down a couple racks. Better though still slight hum. I will need to figure out the best placement for the unit when I get a new rack built. Sound from the unit it good, though it is doing the tube thing of squashing dynamics. Could be a double wammy causing that by using both tube phono pre and tube preamp in tandem. I didn't listen too much that night being late. My turntable is having issues with vibrations, as its causing the platter to bounce and the needle to skip. I need to get it situation on a better table. But the few songs I did play sounded alive.
 

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