DHT in excess
We met yesterday at Andy Evan’s with our friend Tony for an interesting set of tests. Firstly we looked at measuring Andy’s 4P1L SE and PSE amplifiers:
- 4P1L SE LL1682: a great sounding amp overall which sounded as well as it measured. A must amplifier to listen to!
- 4P1L PSE (O’Netics OTs). This one particularly revealed an issue with the 4P1L driver configuration as it was running out of steam at about 2W before distortion creeped in. I think Andy will look into fixing this shortly. It also showed a slight dip above 10kHz up until 20kHz which may be attributed to the O’Netics.
- 4P1L PSE which I nicknamed the “Daemon” as it nearly screwed up my measurement gear due to some nasty grounding issues. We decided to give up on testing the response of this amp after this.
Andy’s speakers are Mark Audio Alpair 10s full range in some standing 23L cabinets. They do sound great with a solid bass and detailed treble. Perhaps a bit higher on the treble, but they are worth every penny.
We set the listening session to rotate the amps as well as the preamplifiers:
- 4P1L Siberian Gen 3
- Andy’s 26 preamp, filament bias, LL1692 step down transformer and Rod Coleman regulators.
- Tony’s 30sp with Rod Coleman regulators and depletion FET CCS loads
- 01a preamp Gen2
In my opinion, I think we can draw a conclusion to the 4P1L-4P1L-4P1L configuration. Perhaps it’s the H3 harmonic profile, but it doesn’t sound good – a bit harsh on the treble. The challenge in my view was that one 4P1L stage driver wasn’t sufficient to bring out to life in full Andy’s system. It forced the DAC to swing higher output levels and didn’t sound as good as with the preamps.
Don’t get me wrong here, all the preamps sounded great, however there were subtle differences which showed that 01a was superior in this setup. The 26 was also outstanding as expected, however the 30sp was slightly thin. The three agreed on the evaluation carried out and we concluded that 01a-4P1L-4P1L was a wining formula!
The 01a brought a level of clarity that it was superior. The piano, bass, snare drums, brass and voices we listen to in detail across various test tracks sounded with a level of detail and delicacy which was unique. This was a surprise to all, as we were expecting a system with 2 stages to be the superior combination. I wish the 4P1L could have a gain of 20!
Here are some few pictures of the messy DHTs spread around:
Andy’s HT supplies
4P1L Gen3 preamp, 01a Gen2 preamp, Tony’s 30sp preamp and Andy’s 26 preamp
Andy’s 4P1L SE Amp
What a mess on the floor!
First tests on the 01a, 4P1L preamps into Andy’s 4P1L SE Amp
wiring 01a, Slagle’s AVC and 4P1L Preamp into Andy’s 4P1L SE
Andy’s 4P1L PSE
Andy’s 4P1L PSE a.k.a “The daemon”
Thanks Andy for hosting a great day.
Here are Andy’s impressions posted in DIYAudio of our great experience testing the preamps and the 4P1L SE and PSE amplifiers:
“I had a very interesting day today with Ale Moglia and a friend of ours, Tony. We auditioned 4 line stages. Amp was a PSE 4P1L, with 4P1L input (plate choke and FT-3 coupling cap). Speakers were Mark Audio Alpair 10s. Full range, 23 litre infinite baffles. We placed them in this rank order:
1. Ale’s 01A
2. 26 into LL1692A stepdown
3. Ale’s 4P1L
All DHTs and all sounded good – quite alike in having that DHT sound. I think they were all filament bias. Ale’s 4P1L line stage might have suffered from going into two more stages of 4P1L so may be better into a different amp. In that sense it may not be a definitive test, so the jury is out on that. We have known from past experiments that 3 4P1L stages in a row just don’t sound that good.
The 26 preamp was predictably nice, sweet and detailed. Audibly better than 30sp. Just a bit better in this context than Ale’s 4P1L but not far away.
The star without any doubt was Ale’s 01A preamp. It was just stunning. Quite magical. So if it’s a question of building a line stage, this to my ears supersedes the 4P1L. I never expected this – I’ve built 01A preamps in the past, but this is a very clever circuit. you can find it here:
01a Preamp (Gen2) | Bartola Valves
I do urge you to look seriously at this design. It’s a bit special. It was the only one of the 4 we auditioned that actually sounded better in the system than without it. There is enough gain with just the 2 4P1L stages in the amplifier, which I usually drive straight out of a ES9023 DAC. But adding this stage was a better sound. I never expect 3 stages to sound better than 2, but this did.”