Review: Musical Fidelity A3.2cr Preamplifier

Category: Preamps

1. Musical tastes: progressive and contemporary jazz, modern melodic rock and pop, pre-1980 rock n'roll

2. Reference recordings: Richard Bona (Reverence), Nora Jones (various), Radiohead (O.K. Computer, Kid A, Amnesiac) Ben Folds (Rockin' the Suburbs), Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon), Chick Corea and the Electric Band (Alive), Phish (Story of the Ghost)

3. Important aspects of sound to me: smoothness, non-fatiguing high frequency presentation, soundstage and depth, neutrality, musical (as opposed to analytical)

4. Worst thing about systems I've heard: fatiguing high frequencies, boomy bass

5. Musical Fidelity A3.2cr Preamplifier:
a. In my system for three months
b. Replaced a Creek 5350SE Integrated Amplifier (passive)
c. Added amazing detail, realism, and bass response
d. Strength: beautful warm sound, how I like my music
e. Weakness: I had to pay for it, that's all
f. If money were no object, I would still own this preamplifier, but would place it in a strictly solid-state system. I would use Musical Fidelity's new Tri-Vista components in a second system (I'm a huge Musical Fidelity fan).

Associated gear
Musical Fidelity A3.2cr Power Amplifier
Musical Fidelity A3-24 DAC
Denon DVD-2800 (digitial out)
PS Audio Interconnects
Tara Labs Speaker Cables
PS Audio Ultimate Outlets & Power Ports
Vibrapods & Salamander rack

Similar products
PS Audio PSA-2 Pre-
These guys must like McIntosh, too. I did numerous shoot-outs with equipment of various brands until I landed on my Musical Fidelity A308cr amp and preamp, blowing away gear that cost WAY more with aplomb -- UNTIL, that is, I borrowed a new Tri-Vista from my hifi dealer... *sob* This thing is nothing short of amazing. That detailed, in-the-room-with-you MF presence, but with zero stridence in the top end, thanks to the Trivistor tubes. Aboslutely the closest I've gotten to fooling my ears into thinking they're witnessing the recorded event, not the playback of the recording. And orchestral levels are no problem with my Thiel 2.3's from Tri-Vista's 600Wpc/4 ohms.
A year has passed since I wrote my review of the Musical Fidelity A3.2cr preamplifier. Wow, my review was crap compared to others on this site. Anyway, I sold it and purchased the MF Tri-Vista integrated. If money were no object, I'd purchase other gear for decorative purposes only. The MF is staying in my system.

Dear Schuesmp,
I have owned the Mac C-46 and the Levinson No.380S, and I have auditioned (in my living room) the Levinson No.32 Reference, the VTL TL-7.5, the Ayre K-1x, and the 2 latest upgrades of the CAT. I have also auditioned the Musical Fidelity A3.2cr. I own the Musical Fidelity A308cr. I agree with you. The A3.2cr is as good as any of them, and a couple of the above are 5-figure outlays. You get bragging rights with them, but no better sound. I bought the A308cr instead of the A3.2cr because I got a demo-deal that made it too much of a bargain to pass up. It sounds identical to the A3.2cr but is capable of swinging a bit more voltage. I still own the VTL, in a different system in a second house. It is just as good, but no better. Plus, since it is a tube model, you have to baby it -- i.e., take care turning it off and on, warming it up, etc. You could hit ANY of the Musical Fidelity preamps with an axe, drop it on the freeway in front of a semi, pick it up, plug it in, and leave it on for the next ten years, and it would STILL work, probably sounding better for the burn-in. It is as transparent as any active preamp I have heard, favors NO part of the frequency spectrum, and can put out enough voltage, with no overload, to drive 200 feet of cable. It is dynamic as hell, probably because of its ability to swing so much voltage. The ONLY area in which some of the more expensive brands can "beat" the Musical Fidelity is flexibility: the Musical Fidelity has no balance control (which, to me, is a plus, because it takes about 3 grand off the price tag/quality ratio) and no second set of outputs. If you want transparency and reliability, and you need a balance control, better pull out that wallet and pony up the big bucks. I am glad you did this review because it exposes a silly (and expensive!) myth: brand-name prestige + high price + reviewer hyperpole + dream factor = greater quality. Your review is just as good as any I have read on this site. Happy tunes!
Gerald Clifton
I own a MF A3Cr for 5 years. I'm now replacing it for a demo Audio Research Ref2MkII, which costs (new) 10 times more money. One has to spend a great amout of money to take a step forward replacing the A3cr preamp. Some models are more expensive but just different, not better. The AR gives you more focus on the soundstage, and a bigger dimension on the soundstage.
However, I'll miss my A3Cr and you're right. For the money its the better preamp I know. It beats some much more expensive models and is very reliable.