Supratek Owners Thread

Greetings All - 
It appears that the 26-million-plus view, multi-decade "Preamp Deal of the Century" Supratek thread has been removed. I'm not sure why, but suppose there must be a reasonable explanation.
In any case, on that thread I recently asked whether there might be interest in a "Supratek owners thread" and received some interest. 
The purpose of this thread is for Supratek owners to share the details of their system, ask questions, share information about any tube-rolling they have done, and so forth.
I'll kick us off here with a few details about my system -
ancient Linn LP12 with Ittok arm, Dynavector 17D3 cartridge into Cortese LCR phono stage
Power amp is a fully serviced Innersound Electrostatic amplifier
Quad ESL63 speakers (not USA monitors) or JBL 4430 studio monitors
Digital sources are immature and evolving - ancient Fostex CR300 cd player/burner
DacMagic 100 DAC
Nordost Blue Heaven 75ohm interconnect
Due to the fairly long lengths of speaker wire required in the new listening room, speaker wire is Belden 12 gauge wire designed for low-voltage outdoor lighting systems. 
Next steps - dedicated circuit, new power cords, new interconnects, new wires.
Hi Markthenaimnut,

Synergistic research recently came out with a new line on speakerwire, interconnect and phono cables called "foundation" that are very reasonably priced (especially for them) because as you probably know, some of their stuff can be insanely expensive. The affordable price is attractive but the performance is what's so special. A close friend on mine owns a stereo store in Morton Grove Il and I stopped in to say hello. While I was there I noticed a box of Synergistic interconnect on the desk and asked him if he picked up a new line of wire. He informed me that he did and was now a dealer. When I asked him how much he liked it, he said that he liked it so much that he had to be careful when demoing it because when compared to more expensive wire it usually sounded better which would make him less profit. He said that for the money it was really good. He sells Kubala Sosna, Cardas and Nordost. You may want to try it. I think a 12 foot pair terminated with either spades or banana's sells for $929.00. Now I realize that's still a lot of money but compared to some other wires out there that's not too bad. I've also Had good luck with Kimber Kable model 12TC. Good luck.  

Thinking about replacing my PS Audio BHK Signature preamp and I'm looking at 2 units, the Supratek Cabernet 6SN7 and the Linear Tube Audio Microzotl preamp. Has anyone had a chance to listen to either of the two preamps? Thank you.

I have a a Chardonnay on order, but have not heard either company’s gear. What I do know is what others have said: 1) Supratek is tonally on the warm side, Microzotl is definitely “neutral” (I’ll look up the forum link later); and 2) Someone with a BHK recently bought a current Cabernet used and ended up selling it in short order, saying privately to me that the BHK had better dynamics in his system. I think that Cabernet was the standard, not the dual. What I don’t know (or recall) is to what degree he had rolled tubes on either, which could have affected his results.
The thread was at head-fi and the response I got about where the LTA Microzotl preamps stand on a cool-to-warm continuum were either clearly "neutral" or hard to decipher (pg 7-8):

Here’s the message I got re the Cabernet, and it was a dual:
"I did like it quite a lot but have returned to my PS Audio BHK Reference. Both are really good but the BHK has better dynamics and immediacy... in my system."

Here's my two cents from owning the Chardonnay for a little over a month and the BHK for over two years plus having several friends that have owned the Micro-Zotl preamps. First from every report I have heard from owners I know the LTA is on the cooler side of neutral.  In my system using the BHK amp the Chardonnay has easily beaten the BHK preamp in terms of tone and sound staging from the time it came out of the box.  If someone is having a problem with the Supratek preamps in terms of "drive" then they need to check the rake angle on their speakers and turn the gain on the preamp up.  My BHK preamp is going up for sale as no matter how good it is it can't keep up with the Chardonnay and I can only imagine what the Cabernet would bring to the table.  
I am considering purchasing a used Supratek Sauvignon to use with my Pass XA-25. Any comments, suggestions?
The Sauvignon is not a current model, at least per the website. I noticed the older (early) one being sold by Echo Audio in the States, but Mick said the cost of bringing it up to date + shipping would be more than the cost of a new Cabernet, which is the model that I think replaced it. I’ve got an order in for a Chardonnay, but am still mulling over switching it. If I were to, it seems like the Cab single is not worth it unless one lives nearby.
Hi Guys,
I've been following this thread and investigating the Supratek line stage preamps. I've also reviewed some of the great information Mick has posted in his blog entries. It seems that there are a lot of satisfied owners of these preamps. But, when it comes to picking between the Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Cortese, which is the right choice, and why? I know they all look great, and are all Gen 3 designs. Price wise they range from $2500 to $4000. So, the price differences are not all that huge. It's not like one is $2500 and the next one is $10k. Can anyone provide some insight in choosing one over the other? Thanks very much.
If you don't need the phono stage then the Cortese isn't in the mix.  The difference between the Chardonnay, which I own, and the Cabernet seems to be mostly in the power supply.  For now I see the Chardonnay as being my final preamp. I have enough "top level" NOS tubes for it to last for decades.  
Thanks jackd for your response. It's great to hear that your Chardonnay is doing everything you want. Is it the Gen 3 Chardonnay?

The Cortese is available as a line stage only ($4K) or with a built in phono stage ($7.5K). I'm not interested in having an on board phono stage since the phono tubes are always being consumed whether or not they're being used, and due to the additional heat generated. So, are you suggesting the Cortese isn't in the mix because it's not as good sounding as a line stage as the other options? Or is it something else?
jackd, I just noticed that you've only had your Chardonnay for a month or two. So, it's obviously a Gen 3.
My understanding is that the difference between the Chardonnay and Cabernet is not just the complexity of the power supplies, but in the quality (or price) of the components used within both sections, i.e., the kind that make a difference in sound quality. How much more than that is involved, I don't know.

Btw, the prices you are quoting are for the more expensive cabinetry/finish (+ shipping presumably to the States, another $250).
Thanks highstream.

Yes, you're right, I was looking at the preamps with the chrome finished top plate. They seem too beautiful to resist.
Hi All,I have a simple question for my more techno-proficient co-owners that I am posting here as it is night in Oz and Mick ergo asleep:My Cab Duo left channel 101D is carrying too much heater current and Mick has asked me to measure it accurately (as my early model has pots for adjusting heater voltage), which leads to my question:I have removed the rectifier tube per his instructions to remove the HT high ac risk. Do all the other tubes need to remain in place minus the 101D being checked in order to test the heater current accurately?Thanks
(Promise more info on my kit later)
Hey Bob,   I have Mick making me a Pre as we speak (or in que at least, lol).   All Cortese models are Phono integrated pre's.  The price difference ($4K / $7K) is whether or not the phono is a standard CR or the more expensive LCR version and the $500 difference between those is whether or not the chasis is Copper/Chrome or Steel.   Having the phono (Cortese) is not going to make a difference in heat vs a Chardonnay,  it will be negligible.  The phono tubes are rated at ~10k hours as well so they will most likely outlive all the other tubes in use too.   If you don't need the phono section though, then you need to look at the Chardonnay or Cabernet.  After discussion with Mick,  I was led to believe that the difference between the 2 is in the capacitors and iron (transformers/chokes) in use, the circuit is pretty much the same.   The power supply I believe is pretty much the same as well except the Chardonnay has the Tube Regulators located on the preamp box (PS box has just the rectifer)  and the Cabernet has the Regulators located on PS box (3 tubes).   Biggest difference being the audio circuit components.  He told me that the Cabernet, even with some more exp. componets is not necessarily better per-se, but a little different. Possibly a bit more nuanced I guess.  Mick will tell you that all the magic is in the circuit design not fancy components, although he does use quality and nice components even in his cheapest builds.   Hope this helps!  
I got the same response from Mick. If you look at the reviews from roughly 15 years ago, there’s one that compared the two and found the Cabernet, or whatever it was called then, to be significantly more of the same. So I wonder what’s changed, and if Mick’s answer is a way of saying the differences have considerably narrowed over years.
Thanks jslateiv.
Well, there was a lot that I didn't understand about the Supratek models. And, some of the things I thought I knew were wrong. Like the fact that all Cortese models have a phono stage. In any event, you answered my questions very well. Very much appreciated.
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Tubes,.. all the way.  Only SS component currently in is the hybrid PSA-BHK Pre, soon to be replaced with the new Grange beast that Mick is looking to put back 'on-line'.    Will have a  DHT and 6sn7 circuit that can be flipped between along with the LCR phono.  He briefly mentions it in his latest blog post.  Due ~April/May,..  Amp wise I switch between a Decware SE84UFO 25th Anniv.  and Gerus 300B.   Never personally cared for the sound of SS or PP tube circuits.
Shibui,..   I would imagine that the only tube you should pull is the Rectifier which will sever the B+ voltage and reduce the risk of a short when trying to measure.    If you measuring the heater voltage,  all the tubes in that circuit need to stay in place to provide the 'running load' to the transformer.   When you start removing tubes,  the load changes and the heater voltage will start to vary a bit, increase.   Best to talk with Mick again if you have not though.
HighStream,  that was my impression from Mick.   That this new circuit really narrows that gap between components and really just makes the perceived change in components just different not necessarily better.
How many 6SN7 tubes are in the Cortese?
I am waiting for the delivery of the Cortese and thinking about ordering Shugang WE6SN7 tubes meanwhile.
Do you know the difference between  WE6SN7 and  WE6SN7 Plus?
Get the WE 6SN7 Plus, an updated tube with better parts and sounds amazing...

Here’s Mick’s answer to the difference between Chardonnay and Cabernet, dual DHT/6SN7 option aside:

As you know the law of diminishing returns applies here, its a bit hard to describe difference, but I’d say the Cabernets are just more pleasing , they have a bit more magic, stuff you don’t exactly “hear” but very satisfying. I’m very proud of the Chardonnay, because it sounds so good, and snubs its nose at the rip off prices of some of the junk out there. Its a simple uncomplicated design that delivers. The Cabernet is a little more complex that delivers a bit more, but is still very competitive price. I guess it comes down to want you want to spend, but you will be happy with either of them.
My Chardonnay is on the way. In the meantime, I need to make a quick decision about isolation. Would someone with a Chardonnay mind messaging me the dimensions (LxDxH, including tubes) of each of the pieces? Thanks,


Per Mick

Both units measure 340x 340x 175 mm or 13.5x 13.5 x 7 inches
Thanks. One more question about that: where is the remote sensor located on the main unit?

Has anyone tried Grant Fidelity's Treasure Globe 6SN7-SE?
Thanks,Jack. The reason I asked is because looking at the photos Mick has posted currently on Agon, it’s not apparent: Does what you have, assuming you do, look different? And btw, what’s that knob on the top left in front of the tube do, if it’s still there?
On mine that knob is on the right but it is the balance control.  The sensor is just barely sticking out the bottom in the center from the chassis.  You would have to look real close to see it which you can't from that photo. The knob in the center back is gain and the two switches are manual mute and one defeats the gain control.  
One more thing to add is that Mick estimates the PSU to be 18 lbs and the preamp 9 lbs (ships at 16 kg).
The Chardonnay is as advertised. Very nice warm clear sound with stock tubes. And maintained that and more with the Shuguang WE6SN7 and adding an aftermarket fuse. Easily an improvement over the very good PrimaLuna Dialogue preamp with the best tubes that I used while waiting. For $2250 shipped, an excellent deal.
What fuse did you choose? And how did it impact the sound?

Frankly,  I have trouble imagining that a change in a fuse will improve the sound,  but there are many posts on this site in which it is so.  I am not trying to be argumentative, just trying wrap my head around it.  Nice to see another Supratek owner say that they've tried it,  hence my question...
Synergistic Research Orange (but with the caveat to go up at least 25% from spec). Audio Magic Ultimate Beeswax second (spec ok; don’t know about the Ultimate Premium because the one I had broke while trying to pull it to change its direction, and so won’t be dealing with them again). Not all aftermarket fuses are created equal, anymore than our ears or pocketbooks are (which affects the what people say they like and recommend). I’ve tried several brands/models, but not all. 

Think of the power fuse as an extension of the power cord, the last step on the way to the most important part of any electronics, the power supply. Thus, fuses can potentially do sonically much of what power cords do. Here we spend all sorts of money and time fine choosing power cords, but then leave that least link as a mass produced cheap OEM design. So things tend to gravitate toward the least common denominator (not all the power cord’s effects are lost). 
Just ordered a Chardonnay a couple of days ago will be using a Pass XA25 amp. Was told it will take 3-4 months, if they are as good from what i have read it will be worth it.
@rh67 looking forward to your impressions of the XA25 with the Chardonnay preamp! Please keep us posted.

What preamp are you using now?
Good choice and definitely worth the wait, although I’m surprised about the time, as not long ago he was advertising the Chardonnay here on Agon and delivery looked almost immediate.

An idea while waiting is to time to acquaint yourself with the tube 6SN7 and recti tube market, if you aren’t already (the rear tubes in the preamp section are probably best left alone). In addition to reading this thread, good sources I’ve found are the following:

- the reference 6SN7 thread
- dubstep girl’s massive 5ar4 5r4 5u4g rectifier review (p.1 & p.118 redo)

What’s Best Audio Forums:
- Lampizator Valve Tube Rolling thread
- Psvane Acme Series (new flagship series)
- LampizatOr Golden Atlantic + TRP

TNT Audio:
- shuguang treasures cv181 thread (pt 1 and pt 2 - two threads I think)
- shuguang globe 6sn7-e thread

- 6SN7 NOS tubes video

Dehavilland HiFi
- 6SN7 shoot out

Grant Fidelity: go to GF site and click on Tubes for info and sales (located in Alberta Canada I think). Top notch & prices & service

Some of these are obviously indirect and just a matter of reading through and spotting ideas that you likely won't come across elsewhere, and also asking questions privately. I wish I had read these earlier, as it would have saved me a lot of time and money with both my Lampi TRP and the Supratek. Also feel free to message me if you have any questions (and for ideas from some private messages I’ve received). Good luck,


P.S. As for isolation, the AV Roomservice EVPs are about the best truly effective low cost deal around (I have four MDR’s under the pre and four HDR’s under the pre PSU -- under speakers too).
I`m using a LTA pre now. For me the LTA`s are a little on the cool side. And thanks everyone for the 6SN7 info.
highstream. Mick said he has been very busy during this pandemic.

The reason i decided on Supratek was not only the reviews but reading thru his blogs it became apparent that Mick and myself have the same beliefs in sound and what sounds good and what does not and the whys. And his thoughts and experience on class D amps mirrored mine to a tee. 
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I just got an email for a post by jeony about the Cortese and how well his tube rolling turned out, but I don’t see the post. In any case, in addition to liking the Melz 1578 the best and the Shuguang WE6SN7 Plus next, he mentions the 6922 and E108F. The latter two are not used in the Chardonnay afaik. The back pair are 6N3C. I tried the Tung-Sol 7581A as reputedly the best replacement but ending up sending them back, as I wasn’t sure one of pair was good. In addition, Mick made clear that he doesn’t like the 7581 and didn’t think the regulator works correctly with it. Has anyone had a different experience back there?
As Highstream has mentioned above, I've tried a quite few reputable 6SN7 tubes on my new Cortese preamp for last 2 months (Melz 1578, Shuguang WE6SN7 Plus, Sylvania 6SN7W metal base, RCA vt-231 grey glass and the stock EH).
Among them, I like Melz 1578 most for their wide/3D soundstage and air of the music.
Also, I like the Shuguang tubes for their clean and organic sound.
For 6922 and E180F, Mullard tubes replaced them with very noticeable improvement. The Supratek Cortese sounded really good with the stock tubes, but once equipped with good NOS tubes, it sounds amazing to me.
jeony, On the cool to warm spectrum, how would you rate the Melz?

For anyone interested, there’s a thread on Steve Hoffman Music Forums, "6SN7 tubes. Could you please put in order from best to worse these NOS tubes?" (links are not allowed on Agon) In particular, there’s a couple of photos of the Melz on page 2. I PM’d the writer and have learned a few more things to especially look out for: 1) a label or appropriate numbers showing legitimacy on the glass, and down below on the metal base an OTH; and most telling, 2) a pair of 5-hole vertical "plates" in front (not the solid ones), and inside them ridged posts (the hole and ridged post seem to go together). That eliminates the 1950’s ones and most or all of the 1960’s. And watching for those characteristics eliminates the counterfeits. Unless one gets lucky, it seems that virtually all the sellers these days are in Russia or thereabouts.