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PRE-AMPLIFIERS - UNDER £300
PRICES SHOWN ARE THOSE AT THE TIME OF REVIEW
Pre-Amplifiers
£
Year
Verdict
AMC 1100 £150 Mar 99 Tone controls cannot be defeated and the sum total is a little metallic but value in spades.
Creek OBH-11SE £199 Apr 99 A very lucid, natural headphone amp which scores as highly on acoustic and Classical as it does on Rock.
Creek OBH-12 £200 Jul 98 Only poor cosmetics mar the Creek. Sonically it's a gem.
Moth 30 Passive £149 Mar 99 Won't win prizes for best build but a flexible effort for a passive. Somewhat dry presentation overall.
Musical Fidelity X-Cans £130 Mar 98 If you haven't yet experienced the world of quality headphone listening, the X-Cans is the way to start.
Musical Fidelity X-Pre £200 Jan 98 A smooth, sweet and musical performer.
Musical Fidelity X-Tone £120 Mar 99 Easy-to-use stand-alone modern tone control with subtle effect. At present deleted, worthwhile 2nd hand.
Project 7  £259 Feb 95 Immensely enjoyable and listenable, a rare mixture of sophistication and fun.
Rotel RC-971 £150 Mar 99 Five line-level inputs and tone controls make for flexibility. Partnered by the RB-971 power amp,  good value.
Technics SU-C1000MkII £299 Apr 98 Needs slightly more taut bass and a less grainy midrange to bring it up with the best.
PRE-AMPLIFIERS - £300 - £799
Audio Note MIR Preamp &
Audio Note P Zero monoblocs
£749
£699
Aug 01 Tremendous life, zip and brio make for an eminently musical listen, but try before you buy as it may not be to everyone's taste.
Audio Analogue Bellini £475 Apr 98 Organic and transparent. Free from transistor hardness.
Aura CA200 £749 Mar 97 A smooth and sweet sound devoid of roughness.
Crimson CS610C £440 Nov 98 The phono stage is the main area of weakness. Can sound a touch muddled at times.
Croft Epoch £600 Jun 96 A fine sounding preamp, but the phono stage is weak in the bass.
Croft Vitale £350 Feb 00 Sparkling valve pre-amp at a very modest price. Humble finish but exceedingly sweet sound.
Cyrus Pre £650 Feb 96 Pre-amplifier has plenty of facilities, but sounds a little unexciting and 'conventional'.
Heybrook Signature II £549 May 97 Impressive smoothness and tonal colour, transparent as well.
Meridian 501.2 £750 Nov 99 Impressive with high octane music, but lacks that bit of warmth to bring out the best in laid-back material.
Naim NAC 112 Pre &
Naim NAO 150 Pwr
£625
£750
Jun 01 A more gripping and thrilling sound at this price you will not get, but this combo won't be to everyone's taste.
PM Audio Lab L1S £650 Dec 95 This valve pre-amp is very good value indeed.
Rothwell Indus £499 May 99 Passive pre of box-of-switches, whichever way you look at it the Indu sis stylishly finished and well conceived.
Sumo Athena II £767 May 96 More valve-like than transistor in sound; highly competent if not spectacular.
Talk Hurricane 1 £500 Jun 97 Flexible with a strong controlled sound, but won't suit all tastes.
Technics SU-C1000 £350 Feb 97 Good when mains powered, even better running on its batteries. One to consider at the price.
Thorens TTA2000 £550 Jul 95 Poor sound quality and engineering let this pre-amp down. Pricey too.
Unison Res. Feather 1 £795 Aug 98 Warm but still exciting, it is only let down by a slightly recessed midrange
PRE-AMPLIFIERS - £800 - £1499
Audiolab 8000Q £999 Jun 95 Highly recommended for its blend of operational sophistication, build and sound quality.
Croft Epoch Elite £950 Oct 99 Fast and detailed with a breathtaking clarity and sweetness. Well worth saving up for.
Cyrus aCA7.5 £800 Jan 01 Confident, musical and a joy to use. The competition is tough but they stand their ground admirably. Great upgradability.
Etalon Preamplifier £1095 Feb 98 Smooth, even and transparent. Well worth the outlay.
John Shearne Phase 6 £895 Sep 96 Matched with a smooth amp and íspeakers the Phase 6 is capable of a transparent and rewarding performance
Linn Wakonda £900 Apr 98 In terms of musicality and involvement it falls short.
Meridian 502 £1295 Dec 96 Transparent, detailed sound with good tonal range and very natural presentation.
Meridian 502 pre & 
Meridian 557 power
£1385
£1525
Mar 01 Classy, confident and mature sounding with plenty of power and dynamic control, this is an essential audition. Supremely versatile too.
Musical Fidlelity A3cr Pre & Power £999
each
Apr 00 A corking duo that set a new sonic standard at the price. Listen and weep!
Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista £1200 Sep 98 A truly competent pre-amp whose high-end sound comes with a very reasonable price tag.
Musical Fidelity X-P100 £800 Jul 99 Clear, fast and flexible. 'Son of NuVista' is a substantial chip off the same block.
Naim NAC102 £999 Apr 97 This even-handed performer images well and deals confidently with music regardless of genre
Quad 7741 £850 Jul 96 Bright and detailed, but phono stage is inadequate at this price.
TAG McLaren PA10 £850 Nov 98 Justifies its price with a very musical and revealing performance.
XTC Pre-1  £1000 Nov 96 This pre-amp is highly detailed and spacious.
PRE-AMPLIFIERS - £1500+
Audiovalve PPP30 £1995 Mar 95 A bright and lean approach to the valve sound.
Canary 601 MkII £1600 Apr 99 Very musical, very revealing. A credit to the valve tradition with considerable kick in reserve.
Chord CPA 1800 £1774 Mar 98 Has it all - detail, transparency, slam and rhythm. In a word excellent.
Final Music 5  £1500 Feb 99 Partner for the Final Music-6 power amp. Battery powered.
Focusrite Red 4 £2345 Feb 96 Smooth and detailed sound. Not as clinical as some professional amps can be.
Galactron Pre £1630 Nov 95 Smooth, but dull balance makes it suitable for bright systems.
Marantz 7 £3500 Mar 97 Superb, combines delicacy and power, especially with a vinyl source.
Michel Orca £1650 Oct 98 With its Panasonic pot, the Orca reaches new standards of transparency and involvement.
Samuel Johnson PCA 100 £2115 Jul 00 Very creditable solid-state amplifier with well-maintained power. Clean and full musical sound. Slightly expensive but stylish.
Sugden Masterclass Pre
Sugden Masterclass Pwr
£2100
£3150
Nov 01 These are serious amps albeit at a serious price. Beautifully built with a smooth sweet valve-like quality but with plenty of power.
Unison Res. Mystery 2 £1750 May 98 Offers finesse, control and clarity for a very reasonable outlay.
 

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