Music Reference RM 4+ Preamplifiers

4.33/5 (3 Reviews)

Product Description

Phono Preamp

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Reviews 1 - 3 (3 Reviews Total)

User Reviews

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Michael a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: February 10, 2001

Bottom Line:   
I was pleasantly surprised to find this unit listed. It is a very good sounding MC step-up amp and it is based on a pair of reasonable quiet ECC88 tubes. The inputs and outputs on the original RM 4 are a bit cheap. In fact, they are PC board jacks and mine sold for $40 because one had become loose. It is a very nicely designed board with lots of space for DYI projects, and the jacks can be easily upgraded. I think this unit is outstanding with extremely revealing phono cables. I use the top of the line Straightwire Virtuoso cable designed for tube amps -- without tubes the highend detail is too much -- but with this step-up amp into a very neutral preamp (Dunlavy Consonance) the sound is glorious. Get this if you can still find it. I am going to try the upgrades mentioned by the first reviewer.

By the way, I had been using an Audio Design MCP-1 which was ok. I could be using the phono section of my Consonance, but my turntable is far away and I didn't want such a long signal path without a boost. But the RM 4 tube based boost is just what the doctor ordered. I should add that I use an AT OC-9, which is also a little lively on top. So maybe without the RM-4 would be too rolled-off on top with more normal equipment, but with the top heavy virtuoso and OC 9, the RM 4 is fantastic.

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Used product for:   3 months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   Pre 1995

Price Paid:    $40.00

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by ROBERT LANG a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: February 29, 2000

Bottom Line:   
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Mike’s review of the Music Reference RM 4+. A couple of months I attempted to submit a review of this fine product but was unable to because it was not listed. I contacted the web master who said he would get back to me. Interestingly, I had just made reference to the RM 4+ in my recent review of the Audible Illusions 3a. (Feel free to read that review; I guess it is somewhat controversial because an Audible Illusion representative has contacted me about my comments)

The RM 4+ was recommended to me by my dealer as a solution for my need for a good sounding but moderate cost phono pre amp. I was wary because I was not at all familiar with Music Reference. And literature on their products is very sparse. The information I received from group was extremely useful; not so much about the RM 4+, but about the company and about their products in general. I then contacted the people at Music Reference.

I have a *strong* preference for products for which I can call and chat with the designer(s) or people intimately involved with the technical aspects of the product. Often the products are hand made, as are Music Reference, very often by the individual that you have on the phone and can be made to order, that is; tweaked with your ancillary equipment in mind. You can find out a lot about the attention to detail, decisions on inevitable compromises etc. Plus you learn about about high end audio in general. (You just have to see past the colossal egos which seems to come part and parcel with the high end gurus and designers). I enjoy the passion they exude when talking about their designs.

The Music Reference people are not particularly easy to reach but once you learn their schedule and do reach someone they are only too glad to talk about the product and the manufacturer's approach to audio. There was absolutely no sales pitch. In fact, I had been forewarned that because of international demand (especially Japan) of their tube pre
amps, including the phono pre amp RM 4+, that certain of their products are hard to come by. There is absolutely no domestic marketing efforts made for the product. They were only to happy to help me optimize my old P.S. 4.5 phono stage. (They hold Paul Magowan, the P.S. Audio designer and his old pre amps in high regard). However, I had already decided that I was going to eventually replace the P.S. Audio so I opted for a stand alone phono pre amp.

So, I purchased the RM 4+, new and made to order, from my dealer for $975. It is, in fact, an excellent phone pre amp. Is it among the higher echelon of phono pre amps? No it is not, nor is it designed to be in that lofty company. Mine is optimized for use with high output cartridges, so that eliminates most, (but still leaves many to chose from) moving coils. (Actually, what I learned from Music Reference differs in this regard from Mike’s previous review. I was told that the RM 4+ is best used with high output cartridges (MM or MC as long as the output is sufficient. It will, so I was told, be unacceptably noisy with low out put cartridges). I use a Shure Type V xMR with a 1978 Denon DP 60 direct drive, which meets my needs well. However, I will upgrade this set up later this year. In this set up the RM 4+ is *extremely* quite. But keep in mind that Mike's RM 4+ is 12 years old. My model is brand new.

(Currently 98% of my listening is to Romantic classical on CD but I have begun to drift back to my vinyl collection which is 80% R&B and theremainder classical and other, which is why I began my quest for a phone pre amp).

Actually, the very best phono pre amp I have had the pleasure of listening to was the phono section of the Arye Acoustics K-1. I have used the same few vinyl selections for over twenty years when auditioning audio gear. (I first used them in 1977 to audition speakers from Dayton-Wright, Beveridge, Acoustat, and Ohm and Kef. I settled on
the Ohm F back then). So I am very familiar with these records. I was totally stunned when I heard the disco mix version of the Brothers'Johnson Strawberry Letter 23 and Get the Funk Out Ma Face through the Ayre K-1 (and K-3 for that matter). I heard seemingly obvious details on the Brothers Johnson disc that I had never heard before. My comparisons showed that the phono stage was the primary reason for this improvement.

So, the Music Reference RM 4+ does not obtain the level of
resolution/detail as does the K-1 phono stage, but it comes very close. It performs better in my system than the phono stages of other, well regarded pre amps I have auditioned in my system.

The Music Reference RM 4+ is definitely worth a listen. Highly recommended with 5 stars.

My current system (changing rapidly):

Nestorovic System 16A speakers (satellite/sub system)
Nestorovic electronic crossover (used for low pass only)
Musical Fidelity Nu Vista 300 amp (for satellites)
Electron Kinetics Eagle 400 monos (two for the sub pair)
Monster Cable speaker cable (Powerline 2)
Monster Cable interconnects throughout (Interlink 400)
Sony SCD-1 (Super Audio CD Player) Please see my review of this excellent product.
Placette Passive Line Stage I have had this in my system for only 3 days of a 30 day trial. I doubt if I return it. So far it is the *very* best pre amp I have heard.
Music Reference RM 4+ phono pre amp
Denon DP 60 turntable with Shure Type V MR (This set up will
replaced this year.

Robert C. Lang

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Used product for:   3 months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   1999

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:4
Submitted by Mike a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: February 28, 2000

Bottom Line:   
This is a "vintage" vacuum tube moving-coil pre-preamp. The unit was made roughly 12 years ago and uses two 6DJ8 tubes. Input loading and output gain are adjustable via plug-in resistors (newer units used RCA plugs on the back).

This is an extremely dynamic sounding piece and tonally very neutral. By far the best step-up device I've heard. With a little updating (replacing the old Rel-caps/Wonder-caps) with Hovland MusicCaps, this unit really shines.

They can be had on the used market usually for around $250. If you are running a low-output MC "straight in" to your high-gain preamplifier I suggest that you try one of these in your system.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   1995

Reviews 1 - 3 (3 Reviews Total)

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