Review: Musical Fidelity A3CR Preamplifier

Category: Preamps

I had a Naim 90/92 Pre/Amp, and it sounded great. To some people, myself included, this hobby is as much about gear as it is music. Why else read Stereophile when you are happy with what you have?

One day I came across a compelling review of the Musical Fidelity A3CR Pre/Power, and lo and behold it received a class A rating for the amplifier and a class B for the Pre. When was the last time I saw a Class A amp for $1,500 says I, but I held off.

Next, I am reading Soundstage, and guess what: "Editors Choice". Seemed like everywhere I looked people were talking about this amazing pair. OK, I gave in, I was hooked and had to try it.

I ordered online from Audio Advisor, nice folks with a great 30 day money back guarantee. The gear arrived quickly, with the delivery driver swearing under his breath as he lugged what turned out to be fairly heavy equipment (perhaps he needed some exercise).

When I open the box I liked what I saw. Not only well built, but nice cosmetics with gold trim. I know, it looks good, but how does it play.

Well the Naim gear has got the PRAT down cold, but the sweet sounds from the MF gear could not be beat. There was plenty of power with well defined bass, and it retained a magical delicacy even at high volumes that invited you to stay up way too late listening. PRAT was also there, perhaps not quite as good as Naim, but good enough!

Although some people have felt the phono stage could be better, it is good enough for me and the Planer 3 turntable that I own.

I have had an opportunity to hear the amplifer without this preamp, and the amplifier is impressively transparent but the sweet tonality of the MF A3CR is largely due to the preamp.

After listening to the amp without the MF Pre, I can tell it does slightly roll off the top end, and the background was perhaps not as dark as the best Preamp. However, my CD collection, including older CDs, have never sounded better through any other Pre-amp.

BTW, it does benefit from an upgrade in power cords, and/or power conditioning.

Highly recommended!

Associated gear
A3CR Power Amplifier
Sony SCD-777ES SACD Player
Perpetual Tech P1/P3 DAC
Reference 3A MM DeCappo Speakers

Similar products
Naim 90, Arcam Alpha 9
Yes it is a winner for the price, beautiful piece of gear to boot. I am using Virtual Dynamics Reference Cryo AC cord
and also Mapleshade massive heavy foot brass cones with mine.

Now they have a new 3.2 line of products at Musical Fidelity, which may be even better buy.
I've paired the MF A3cr Pre with a Bryston 4bst to drive maggie IIIA's and it works wonders. The sound stage is deep and broad, and the highs are detailed but warm. After a 2,500 mile move, I left my LP's in Nashville, so I don't use the phono option; just CD's (Arcam Alpha 9). (By the way, I wonder if the phono stage is all that really keeps this thing from being class "A"?) I too found that a PS Audio power cord helped. Overall, a great component, one I like a good deal more thanits predecessors in my system: Bryston BP-20, Sonic Frontiers SFL-1, and the Quicksilver line stage.