Preamp Deal of the Century

If anyone is looking for a true "World Class" preamp at a very fair price..heed my advice. I just recieved a Supratek Syrah preamp that was hand built by Mick Maloney in Western Australia, and it is absolutely beautiful! This preamp is the best deal you will ever find. I would put it up against any preamp out there for both looks and sound. Price? $2500 for the Syrah (includes Killer Phono stage). Not into phono? Try the Chardonney line stage for $2100. Don't get me wrong, I am not associated with this company. I am just a very happy owner! This preamp is VERY dynamic, yet liquid. It conveys the sound of music better than any other preamp that I have ever heard! You can check out the Supratek website at www.

I gotta say, using 12j5gt tubes in my Cabernet has been an ear opener. The round plate Sylvania tubes have been a clarity revelation and the JAN Tungsol are no slouch. I don't think I'd want a preamp that only uses 6/12j5 tubes but it is easy to use adapters in the *sn7 preamps. The *j5 tubes are still fairly cheap, and that goes doubly (halfly?) for the 12v tubes. 

Over the last year I have been playing around in the low fi end of things.  It started with my first "audiophile" headphones.  Then a good amp.  Then a tube amp (which has introduced me to a sound that my SS stuff can't seem to reproduce).  Then entry level speakers, and a gradually building cache of components.  Nothing expensive really.  Now  I have several systems that I am able to play around with to gain a sense of what component and speaker pairing  as well as room setup and speaker positioning will do to the sound. Some things make me smile, others make me occasionally grimace, but overall a lot of fun which has drawn me in a little deeper.

Anyway... As I begin to mull over the prospect of  heading to the next level I am almost paralyzed by the myriad of options combinations and opinions on pretty much everything.   Then I stumbled upon this thread.   I have never experienced such unbridled enthusiasm.  Truthfully as I wade slowly into the audiophile waters this level of enthusiasm really makes me want to simply talk to Mick, order one of his wonderful looking (and apparently fantastic sounding) pre amps and build a system around that as my starting point.  Is this crazy or does it make a modicum of sense.  

Any help or encouragement or guidance would be great!

Modicum of sense, I'd say. You might want to read Mick's Guide to buying a preamp discussion to get a sense of what he's up to. If you look around for reviews of his gear, not a whole lot, you might come across some criticism of his "spaghetti" style of point to point wiring. It's something he apparently has cleaned up to some extent, although I haven't looked inside. It doesn't bother me, as he is not alone in point to point wiring among good developers and his gear has a reputation for lasting. The Chardonnay is a good place to start, although if I were having the internal debate again, I'd have better gone with a 6SN7 Cabernet. If you're willing to roll tubes, the stock set can be improved upon significantly. In any case, try  communicating your thinking and desires with Mick, see what he has to say. 

Couple thoughts.

1. I kinda might have been where you are now, about three years ago. I had owned Naim gear, and been satisfied, for a couple of decades plus. BUT, I knew that tube gear would sound better. Not just "different", but better. Better in a musically significant way. But where the f**k to start? Geez! So many well known, well regarded brands. So many enthusiasts. So many different kinds of tubes.

I consider myself lucky to have randomly bumped into someone on one of the many Fora that I was obsessively reading who recommended that I look for a 6SN7 based preamp. I had no idea what he was talking about. But i read more, I sought to learn. I ran across this same thread and scratched my head. I loved the enthusiasm. And lots of guys were saying they’d arrived at Supratek after owning many of the other well known and well regarded brands that I was thinking about. The fact that they voted with their wallets made an impression on me. And the fact that many of them said they considered their search "done" resonated with me. I hate shopping for equipment. I hate the stress. The self doubt. The misgivings. Second thoughts. The potential for buyers remorse. Reading the thread, along with many others here and elsewhere, helped me learn more about myself. And the kind of listener and audiophile I am. I’m kind of a "set it and forget it" kind of guy, BUT the other super important question that must be considered is this one. "How good does it have to be?" The answer (IMNSHO) is "good enough that you don’t think about "I wonder how this could be better?"" Simply speaking, the goal should be superlative performance. That’s what we’re looking for, right? And value, of course, however you might define that.

Ok, that counts as one thought. But I could write a lot more about this subject...

2. Regarding the comment above that "his gear has a reputation for lasting". Well...Shee---yeah it does. It has a transferable LIFETIME warranty. Huh? Say wha...? You heard me right.

Can’t help myself. Gotta’ ramble. Gonna keep going here.

During my career I traveled extensively. Eating out was a constant thing. But *one time* I got lucky and ran across a "Chaîne des Rôtisseurs" restaurant. Frankly, the food was totally next level. Really up there. It was so good I had to talk to the chef. Turned out there were two. The owners. I learned a lot. About quality. And dedication.

Basically, they didn’t care at all about growing their restaurant. Getting bigger. Their restaurant was not large. All they wanted to do was cook. That was what they enjoyed. All the other stuff required to run a business? Do ya’ gotta’ do it? Yeah. But keep it in it’s proper perspective. It’s proper place. Don’t let it take all the fun out of doing what you love to do. The "Chaîne des Rôtisseurs" is basically a bunch of restaurants that are run by the same kind of dedicated, somewhat insane, fanatics who just want to cook the very best food they can. That’s where their fulfillment comes from.

To me, Mick Maloney and Supratek, along with a small number of other dedicated hard-core builders, are like those "Chaîne des Rôtisseurs" chefs who schooled me so long ago. You’ll find these builders referred to with deep respect, almost in the same hushed, fanatical, reverent tones. Not all of them are still in business. Some have chose to move on to other occupations. A pity, because their equipment is at that "next level" I’m talking about.

They just like building great stuff! Almost all of them are tiny, boutique builders. Hand built. Point to point wiring. Solid, solid design. Superb execution. FANTASTIC SOUND. Am I saying Supratek is the best? No. I have no basis upon which to express such an opinion, nor, do I believe, does anyone else. There’s simply too much equipment out there, much of it very good, to hear it all. Should it matter that long-term Stereophile reviewer Dick Olsher owns a Supratek? Probably not, but I like it that he does. He can probably own, or obtain on long-term loan, any piece of equipment he desires, from anywhere in the world, regardless of cost.

One final thing to say in this long, rambling, hard-to-follow post. I paid more for my Supratek than I’ve paid for almost anything I’ve ever bought, other than a couple of cars and the houses I’ve lived in. Most of my cars over the last 40 years cost me less than my Supratek. Ya’ know what? I’ve never, not even once, not ever never ever, had one tiny particle of buyers remorse. I’ve only ever had long term satisfaction and gratitude to God that I ended up being in the position where I could afford it and it was available.

So no, I don’t think you’re crazy to be considering a Supratek. I think you’re saving yourself a lot of money, time and hassle.

Just thought of one last thought to share. You *might* be thinking "if Supratek stuff is so good, how come I never see any of it reviewed in the magazines?" Well, consider that Mick’s always sold out and has a waiting list. So do many of the other so highly regarded small-boutique builders. He doesn’t advertise. Doesn’t need to. There’s absolutely no incentive for a magazine to review his stuff. They’ll never earn a penny from him advertising. What does he need? A longer waiting list? Why? Better to keep the public chasing that "next greatest thing" and churning through upgrades that are really side-grades and distractions. After all, if people bought equipment and were satisfied with it, and it lasted forever, where would the industry be?


Thank you for that post!  Rambling is good.  You hit upon a bunch of thoughts which were tumbling around my brain for a while.  

I think I will be talking to Mick shortly.  And so the next journey begins.