de Havilland Mercury 3 preamplifier review

First off, I found the preamp used from an Audiogoner in South Carolina and have no connection with de Havilland other than owning the piece.  I emailed Kara Chaffee, the designer/builder, with questions while considering a new piece purchase.  She was quite responsive with carefully considered answers regarding use of the type 85 tube, her choice of  attenuator and filtering.

After an exhaustive search to replace my Manley Neo-Classic 300B, I landed this preamp, used.  I ordered a complete new set of tubes from Kara Chaffee after making apologies for finding it used and allowed about 60 hours of break-in time.

This is a dynamic big sounding preamplifier.  The soundstage is huge and it has enough slam to drive my ATC 40 active floor standers.  It runs the type 85 six pin triode vacuum tube which the designer attributes a lot of that BIG sound to.

Not that the Manley is weak, I run it with Taketsuki 300B tubes and other carefully chosen tubes and it carries plenty of scare.  It's just that the de Havilland betters it in every respect.  The usual chase items we all pursue;  resolution, deep/wide soundstage, dynamics, attack and accuracy or timbre are all there.

And a complete set of replacement tubes cost me $220 shipped.

I don't know what it would take to dethrone this piece, of course it's possible.  But I'm not into 10K-15K to find out.

I hope this information is helpful to others on the hunt.  I realize my experiences are not isolated and thank others on this forum for their insights into this product.

System:  Naim UnitiServe with custom PS (not Teddy's, it's price worthy, I own one), Nordost Valhalla 1 dig.,
Mojo Audio Mystique' 3 DAC, de Havilland pre, Wire World Silver Eclipse 8 ICs from pre to ATC SCM 40 active floor standers, Gaia II footers with carpet spikes.  

All equipment on a Quadraspire Reference X stand.  PTT 'The Gate' wired into the circuit box.  Decware ZTL power conditioner, VPI DB5 Magic Bricks on component casework.  Patrick Cullen Crossover II power cables.  Decware ICs with Silver Xhadow connectors.  Cathedral Sound tiles behind ATC floor standers.  Two 72" quarter-round Echo Busters in corners (where else would they live).
Kara is a great  audio  designer and I have heard both her amps and preamps in various shows and systems.   Always musical and extremely well built.  She is also extremely responsive to any inquiries to her products.  I am sure her support of her products are first class.   I am still planning on having her build me a set of mono amps as soon as I recover from a large unexpected car repair.

Enjoy your new preamp!
Cool that's a preamp I've always wanted to hear but never have. Glad its working out so well for you and nice system!
I bought a used Ultraverve and liked it so much I had Kara build me a Mercury III with upgraded Dueland output caps. I am keeping both preamps. Love her stuff and she has been great to work with. Ironically I live in SC also. My power amp is the Audio Mirror 45-watt SET mono blocks from Vlad Bazelkov. Both preamps sound wonderful with these amps and Vlad, as Kara, was great to work with.