Musical Fidelity A3CR Preamplifier Preamplifiers

4.73/5 (22 Reviews) MSRP : $1595.00


Product Description

Remote-control operated dual mono preamplifier with phono stage Choke regulated power supply Massive transformers Sophisticated double-sided PCB layout, and premium parts used throughout


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Reviews 1 - 5 (22 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

Overall Rating:3
Value Rating:3
Submitted by nerol71 a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: November 12, 2009

Bottom Line:   
My Musical Fidelity a3cr was purchased though Audioadvisor.com. My initial interest was sparked by Sam Tellig's review in Stereophile magazine (my favorite magazine by far). I was looking for a preamp to replace my $500 Adcom preamp. My Thiel 2.3's turned out to be merciless on the harsh solid state black box. The Adcom was a much better match for my Acoustic Research 308 HO's. Well, the a3cr sounded better than my $500 Adcom preamp, so I purchased it. Better soundstage, softer mids/highs, no change in bass definition. The remote is cheap plastic, but functional. The volume knob has become jiggly, not something that a $1500 preamp should have. Come on now, there is only one knob on the front, can't MF get it right? Removable/upgradeable power cord is nice for those who tweak. I can make no comment on the phono section.

Not being completely satisfied with the perceived brightness of my system, I went product hunting again. I had auditioned a top of the line Adcom 750 preamp, it was more accurate and uncolored than the MF a3cr, but the source selection knob broke within 10 days (!), so it went back to the dealer. Subsequently, a Bryston 4bsst (a big SS amp, and a Ah! Tjoeb 4000 (tubed cd player) found their way onto my rack. I discovered TUBES! Soon after I bought a Primaluna Prologue 3. Wow. The brightness was gone, replaced by sweet, 3 dimensional, and uncolored music. The Primaluna was $100 less expensive than the MF. The MF now has a nice home in my secondary sys.

The sys:
Ah! Tjoeb 4000 digital source
Primaluna prologue 3 preamp
Bryston 4bsst amp
Various cables from audioquest and MIT (don't spend too much on cables)
Thiel 2.3's
Velodyne DD10 subwoofer

Side bar:
Over the years of reading Stereophile, I realized Sam Telling and MF have a close relationship, so much so that I believe that Sam overrates all MF products. Heck, one month, Sam even reviewed on a MF wrist watch! Wasn't there any audio products he could have reviewed?

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   1998



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Allan G a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: August 26, 2009

Bottom Line:   
I see that it has been years since this now classic preamp has received a review. Like anyone else considering this pre, I purchased my from the used market and was pleased to get one in mint condition. I had first bought a A3.2cr and then purchased the original A3 and found that I preferred the A3. It brings out a warmer presentation, which is what I was looking for. Initially I paired it with the A3cr power amp, which gave me excellent results but I was able to acquire a pair of AES(Cary) Six Pac mono block tube amps for a very reasonable price. To my ears, this is a match made in heaven. Lush, wide sound stage, with warmth to spare. I principally listen to jazz and 70's rock, which suits this combo just fine. Operationally and sonically I have no complaints about this preamp. I do want to mention that I feel that the phono stage is under rated. I have used the ProJect Tube box 2, which I enjoyed and the Graham Slee Era Gold V, which I feel is grossly over rated and have found that the A3's internal phono stage has held up quite well in comparison. My only gripe is the remote control, which could have been much nicer, a minor complaint.

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2000



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Platinum Ear a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: August 1, 2004

Bottom Line:   
This review is a follow up on a review I posted a few years ago. I rated this product with 5 stars at the time and my opinion hasn't changed much over time, except that I found a slight flaw when playing SACD. This preamp has been supposedly designed with SACD in mind so the design flaw is a little surprising. Anyone who's heard this preamp will testify that it's a fine preamp with a lush sweet treble and midrange. Well that's very true of CD but I discovered that with SACD the treble actually sounded a little dirty and smeared on many discs. I eventually pulled out the sig gen and scope and fed a 10KHz square wave in at 2V P-P. The problem appeared on the scope right there in front of me. There was a 1V overshoot on the positive edge of an otherwise reasonable waveform. Reducing the input amplitude significantly reduced the overshoot so that proved the problem into the first gain stage. The amp is now out of warranty so I lifted the lid and took it to the test bench. It didn't take too long to track down the problem. Essentially it's due to slew limiting caused by excessive shunt feedback which provides hf compensation. The capacitor can be identified as a ceramic 47pf (in both channels). I replaced this cap (both channels) with 22pf polystyrenes. The mod is qute simple if you snip but leave a little of the original component leads sticking up and then solder the replacement caps to those exposed leads. I tested the amp again and hey presto a perfect looking square wave even with the level raised beyond 2V P-P. While I was at it I also replaced a few other ceramic fb caps with the same value polystyrenes and there was one other mod which is well worth while. The output coupling caps are polarised 10uF electros which are notoriously bad for audio at LF and explain the slightly lumpy rounded base that I always noted as a signature. I was able to mount a 100uF NP electro almost directly above them with one end soldered to the output post and the other to one leg of a nearby raised resistor leg that's connected to the input side of the existing electro.
OK, with the lid back on and the player back in the Hi-Fi how was it. Massive improvement? Answ = yes. The fat rounded base was almost all gone and was replaced by a tighter more defined and detailed base. Treble was even more pristine than even on CD but now it was unbelievable on SACD too. There are a few other mods that I'm going to do (a few more caps to replace here and there) but this is now one hellava preamp.

I don't advise anybody do the above mentioned mods unless you can first test the player with a cro and sig gen as I did. My preamp was a fairly early factory release so the faults that I've discovered may have been partially or wholly corrected in later produced units. There's also a version 2 of this preamp which is also probably fine. Having said that, if you have noted any of the mentioned sonic traits of my previously unmodified preamp then it's very advisable to have it tested out.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2001

Price Paid:    $3000.00

Purchased At:   Len Wallis Audio, Sy



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by tnaff a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: November 19, 2003

Bottom Line:   
Some other reviewers of the A3cr preamp only evaluated it with the A3cr power amp. This can be misleading, since the power amp's sound is strongly dependent on speaker sensitivity. I've demonstrated this dramatically in my own very large listening room, where the power amp struggled with 86dB-sensitivity speakers, sounding extremely strained. The same power amp, played through Avantgarde Duos (104.5 dB sensitivity) sounded like a $4000 amp.

Taken on its own merits, the pre amp line stage is terrific. It combines resolution with clean highs, transparent midrange, and full, solid bass. Soundstaging is excellent, and there is no trace of hardness or harshness. If it has a sonic signature at all, it would favor the warm side in the mids, but only very marginally. (The A3cr power amp is, in my opinion, a little on the lean side, so there is some complementarity, although I think the combo is very slightly lean, even through sensitive speakers.)

The preamp design applies amplification ahead of the volume pot, which reduces noise (since any noise associated with amplification is reduced by the volume control). This also means that the amplification stage must run at essentially full volume, which is undoubtably one reason for the massive power supply. The amp is very quiet, as attested by the Avantgarde Duos. Through the Duos, the combination of A3cr pre and power amps is not absolutely silent at very close range, but then, nothing is -- at least in my experience.

Build quality on the preamp is excellent. The styling may or may not appeal, but the appearence and feel clearly send a message of sound, solid construction.

The phono stage is decent and is switchable to cover low output or high output cartridges. I invested in a separate phono preamp (Camelot Lancelot Pro, $1000 MSRP) that does out-perform the A3cr phono section in terms of resolution.

I ordered this product from Audio Advisor as an afterthought along with the A3cr power amp. I made sure that I had the right to return it, and actually expected to do so. It really caught me by surprise. The A3cr preamp is one of the great buys around right now: true, affordable high-end performance. Stereophile catches a lot of flak for rushing to review every Musical Fidelity product that comes along while other brands sit on the sidelines. This preamp makes you understand why Stereophile is willing to take the heat.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2001

Price Paid:    $1295.00

Purchased At:   Audio Advisor



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by John Hatton a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: October 16, 2003

Bottom Line:   
I bought this pre after I had the Musical Fidelity A3CD and the A3cr power, and although the audiophile would snob a complete brand match, this one actually works. The overall feeling is a sense of naturalness and effortless, music is not in the face but neither to layed back. The sound is extremely clean and there is no signal interference at all (and I mean at all). Soundstage is good, even in depth, and instruments are individually layed out. Detail is good and no sense of fatigue what's so ever over long listening periods. It works well with all kinds of music from acoustic to electronic, to rock++, except for very aggressive music where in my opinion for some there may by a lack of sparkle in the system, which could be due to the character of my cd player.

The system it's used in
Musical Fidelity A3CD
Musical Fidelity A3cr pre
Musical Fidelity A3cr power
B&W CDM 7nt
QED Qunex Siler Spiral interconnects
QED Silver Anniversary Bi-Wire speaker cables

Expand full review >>

Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2002




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