AMC CVT 1030a Preamplifiers

CVT 1030a

Class A tube preamplifier

User Reviews (18)

Showing 1-10 of 18  
Byron4   AudioPhile [Apr 04, 2012]

When I bought my Alon speakers I felt it was a bright and forward pair of speakers. When I brought this to the attention of Carl the designer of Alon speakers at one of the Stereophile shows he said that these speakers were designed to be used with tube electronics. I felt the AMC CVT-1030 preamp would be just the ticket. I enjoyed this combination for over 10 years until my Antique Sound Lab (ASL) preamp replaced it four years ago. There are number of things about this preamp that requires special attention. 1) When this unit is turned on it gives out DC which could destroy your speakers. Fortunately my Parasound amplifier had protection relays that prevented this from happening the times I made the mistake of having the power amp on when I turned on the preamp. This flaw meant I could not use this on a long term basis with my Quicksilver power amps because one mistake and I would need a new pair of speakers. 2) Noise would come through my speakers when we used our stove or the refrigerator door was opened. As the unit got older certain light switches would make noise. I tried the Audioprism Quietlines and they did nothing to reduce the noise so that was a waste money. 3) My model had the the tubes soldered so it takes a new tube board just to replace the tubes. 4) AMC is not to far from me so I thought when the tubes needed to be replaced or the unit needed to be serviced I could just take it to them. I found out they no longer service this preamp at all. Fortunately there is a company called Retrodaze that could service the unit. Brent over there is a good guy and knows these preamps well.
Sound wise this preamp is great. It has a natural mellow sound that really made my Alon's sing and made me enjoy my first tube experience. In addition, the AMC has a really nice sounding phono stage. At one time, I had decided to replace this unit with an Audio Innovation preamp. I used the Audio Innovation preamp for about a week and decided to stick with the AMC. The AMC was just a more neutral sounding preamp that I could listen to for hours, whereas the Audio Innovation had no bass and rolled off the treble. The Audio Innovation may have been the worst piece of electronics I have ever owned. When the noise from my AMC started getting really bad I replaced it with the ASL preamp. Both units are wonderful sounding units. My AMC seemed more compatible with the Parasound power amps and the ASL was more compatible with the Quicksilver power amps. I could listen to both indefinitely, although the AMC had a lot of features to enhance your listening experience including a nice phono stage and a tape loop. I almost gave this preamp 3 stars because of the above however, I did enjoy listening to it for over 10 years. If you buy one used just be careful when you turn it on because of the DC and get the model with the tube sockets so you don't get stuck like I did. Brent can put the tube sockets in for you, however it's cheaper just to buy it with the sockets.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
4
steven tom   AudioPhile [Aug 16, 2006]
Strength:

+ Super value for sound and flexibility.
+ Tunable sound with tubes.
+ Soft treble and relaxed sound without losing much detail. This is with direct comparison to direct inputs and passive preamps.
+ Very good soundstage and imaging, though not breathtaking.
+ Very good balance, dynamics, pace and rhythm.
+ Good dynamics and bloom without over-softening treble or flabby bass.
+ Good for my CD system and Triangle speakers with lively treble.
+ Good match with SS or dynamic tube amp.

Weakness:

- A bit soft in the top end when stock. Next mod is to replace 2.2uf coupling caps. This was not an issue until I upgraded my CD with a DAC.
- Tube sockets are not great. I'd like to upgrade to ceramics.
- Loses a bit on treble side, but never transfers harshness in sound like SS. This matches my Triangle speakers and CD player well at this time.
- May not match well with dull speakers, soft amp or laid back sources.
- Circuity could use upgrade with FRED, removable power cord, internal wiring, capcitor changes, volume pot change, soft start.

This AMC has user replacable (2) 12AU7 and (2) 12AX7 input tubes. Toss those tubes and replace with Mullard ECC82, RCA clear 12AU7, Amperex 12AU7 or Siemens 12AU7. For 12AX7, I've had good luck with Sovtek LPS version, Amperex. The Ei silver plates sounded good but became microphonic.

The front end is completely tubed, except the phono stage. User features that I've enjoyed are two sets of outputs for amps, when needed - balance and tone control, easily replacable tubes, good number of inputs and ultimately, and tunable sound with tubes. Overall and value rating, I give it a 5/5 since those super-exotic tube-o-philes won't be considering this preamp in this price range. Excellent.

Customer Service

Excellent support when I needed questions answered.

Similar Products Used: * Custom built Bottlehead Foreplay with 12AU7 and 6SN7 w/C4S (Compared to my custom Bottlehead foreplay, this amp is immediately softer and less lively. Though, after longer listening, this is much more together harmonically, and has even sound. The bottlehead has a brighter (not harsh) treble and better transparency, but is not as listenable for long-term with its light balance. The midrange is a bit sucked out and the Bottlehead was a poor match in my system and likings. Although, it did sound better than anything I owned at the time).
* Solid state Parasound, direct CD control, passive attenuator, 300B integrated.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Michael Hawthorne   Audio Enthusiast [Jul 26, 2002]
Strength:

This preamp brings out the best in your system. The unit's midrange is terrific. I used it with the tubed int.amp, McIntosh MC250, and SAE TWO 100watt/channel solid state amp. Build quality is good, and you have the option of using discrete tone controls or controls bypass. If you use a harsh or brittle sounding cd player, try hooking it to the dat inputs; the dynamic range is there, but with a pronounced mid-range. The phono stage is much better than in the ok McIntosh C26 preamp and in the excellent Sansui AUX-501 int.amp.

Weakness:

The stock Golden Dragon 12AX7A is not bad; the sound is similar to a lower gain 5751 tube. Consider substituting the harsh sounding stock 12AU7 with a NOS.Reasonably priced ones can be found at www.audiotubes.com and ASTI Tube Services.

After hearing the improved sound of my cd player through a 12watt/ channel tube integrated amp, I knew I wanted tube electronics some- where along the audio chain. Checking the Retrodaze web site, I decided on the AMC 1030a preamp w/tube sockets. This is a one of the best buys in audio today; there are inputs for phono, cd, dat, balanced cd inputs, tape decks, and bi-amp capablities. Tube sub- stitution allows you to tune your system to your tastes.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Jimmy Tidwell   AudioPhile [May 24, 2002]
Strength:

See previous review.

Weakness:

See previous review.

Because of the exceptional customer service that both Brent and Jim provide, I will be doing future business with the two of them. And because of their effortless help they provided me, I now have a bargain vacuum tube preamp that I think blows away most solid-state preamps in the $800 to under $2000 price range. Best of all, I know that I can bring the AMC CVT1030 tube preamp a bit closer sonically to McIntosh, Cary Audio, Manley Labs, or Hovland tube preamps costing three times as much, simply by upgrading the vacuum tubes to Ei, Mullard, or even Telefunken! I wholeheartedly recommend the AMC CVT1030 (including the "a", "s", or "as") for those audiophiles on a strict budget...this is a great preamp for those individuals breaking new ground into the world of vacuum tubes. With the option to experiment by upgrading tubes to acheive musical nirvana, and at such a small cost, I don't know why I didn't do this much sooner!

Similar Products Used: See previous review.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
  AudioPhile [May 24, 2002]
Strength:

See previous review.

Weakness:

See previous review.

Without hesitation, Brent went ahead and sent me a brand new CVT1030 (normally a non-socketed version), but with tube sockets installed, and the very same JAN Philips/Sovtek combo in place...all this even before I could ship my "defective" unit back to him! It has to be said that Brent provides excellent service! When I received the new replacement CVT1030 a couple of days later, I immediately opened the unit to find the JAN Philips/Sovtek vacuum tubes all snug in their newly installed tube sockets. I then installed the new preamp in my system, and carefully turned it on...so far, so good! After letting it warm up for a few minutes, I began to realize what all the fuss was about when listening to my audiophile-quality reference CD's and Direct-to-Disc LP's. Almost instantly, I noticed the midrange harshness usually associated with solid-state equipment, virtually elliminated from my recordings! The grain was gone; in its place was a much warmer, open, airy quality that I've never experienced before. And as the preamp's tubes were broken in for over 48 hours, the sweeter the soundstage became. Unfortunantly, I began to experience another problem; from time to time, there would be a faint popping sound coming from my Klipsch Cornwall loudspeakers, similar to an LP "pop". I knew it wasn't my music, and after searching through various vacuum tube websites, several sites all mentioned the very same noise problem associated with the inexpensive Russian made Sovtek 12AX7WA tubes. As with Brent Hite, major props also have to go to Jim McShane of "Jim's Citation Amp and Vacuum Tube Pages" (http://pages.prodigy.net/jimmcshane/), a proud individual sponsor to www.audioasylum.com. Jim also went way beyond the call to duty by answering each and every question I had concerning the noisy tube, tube matching, mixing and matching by manufacturer, tube functions, etc. By his recommendations, I was able to isolate the popping Sovtek, choose another inexpensive pair of 12AX7WA's (JAN Philips) to replace the Sovteks, purchase them at a discount, and recommend future (more expensive) upgrades later on. I quickly received the expertly packaged JAN Philips NOS tubes in the mail, popped them in, and not only did the noise disappear, but the tube swap smoothed out my mids and highs even further, without sacrifising the bass. Because of the exceptional customer service that both Brent

Similar Products Used: See previous review.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Jim Tidwell   AudioPhile [May 24, 2002]
Strength:

Simple, somewhat plain looking, but straightforward appearance. Functions are as described, loads of features plus upgradability, it's warm sound that makes music come alive, and it's attractive price...even at retail, it's a steal!

Weakness:

Build quality could be improved, rubbery knobs a turn-off (prefer metal), ganged "Balance" control sucks (spend the extra costs in providing a seperate control/knob), also adding "Mute" and "Mono" would be nice...I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to afford this preamp if all these conditions were met!

For years I've been reading the virtues of vacuum tube components over solid-state (both Sterophile, Listener, and other audio magazines provide great articles on the subject), but I've been pretty much turned off by their rather quirkey nature, lower power amp ratings, and exceedingly high pricetags! I didn't want to give up my powerful 200 watt McIntosh MC 7200 amplifier, so I concluded that if I wanted that warm tube sound while maintaining the power and deep bass punch of a solid-state amp, I'd have to switch to a vacuum tube preamp. Unfortunantly, even used tube preamps from McIntosh, Audio Research, conrad-johnson, Sunfire, etc. were out of my price range! What's an audiophile with champagne tastes on a beer budget supposed to do? While searching on eBay for used tube preamp auctions, I stumbled across an auction for a British designed "valve" preamp; a demo AMC Model CVT1030s, with the "Buy It Now" price of $365! I've never seen a vacuum tube component of any kind at this unheard of low price, so I was a bit skeptical. I decided to do some research by reading the reviews about this preamp on this very website, and I have to say I was rather impressed with the results, so I decided to take a chance and buy it! This preamp is packed with quality features: seven inputs, including phono; two outputs; a "Direct" switch that bypasses the tone controls; optional balanced output plug-in module; and three convenience AC outlets (two switched, and one unswitched). The seller, Brent Hite of "Retrodaze Audio Products" (www.retrodazeaudio.com) was extremely communicative, answering all my questions, and wasting no time in shipping the preamp! Within days, UPS delivered what looked like a new unit, even though it was a demo CVT1030s (the "s" representing the socketed version). At no extra charge, Brent installed two JAN Philips 12AU7 tubes, and two Sovtek 12AX7WA tubes, replacing the original Chinese tubes. I disconnected my Carver C-4000 preamp, connected the AMC in its place, and turned my audio system on. Imagine the shock I experienced when with all the gains set to minimum, I heard a howling, buzzing sound that also blew a fuse in my power amp! I immediately shut my system down, and notified Brent that I had what I thought was a defective preamp (I found out later it was a bad 12AU7; there was absolutely nothing wrong with the preamp). Without hesitation, Bren

Similar Products Used: None! All previous preamps were solid-state...Carver C-1 and C-4000 Control Consoles.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
SunHawk7   Audio Enthusiast [Mar 01, 2002]
Strength:

Budget preamp is the wrong phrase. This is an inexpensive but full featured, well-made, high quality piece. Even at $799 retail, this is a steal. I''ve listened to many expensive transistor preamps in audiophile friend''s systems, but none have struck me as this one has. If you''re thinking about experimenting with tubes, I would call Retrodaze Audio at 574-255-3396. Brent Hite was not only extemely helpful to me, but was very polite and honest. Just the type of person I enjoy recommending to others.

Weakness:

Somewhat plain Jane looks disguise the magic within. I wish that the vents were on the side so I could see the tubes glowing from my seat. There is also a loud pop when turning the unit on if the amp is already on, but I''ve been told this may be related to the Philips tubes. Still with the quality of sound it produces compared to the price, I can''t say anything bad about it.

I am running a Meridian 586 CD player through Nakamichi PA-7 amp at 200W per side and a Nakamichi CA-5 preamp, using a pair of Acoustat 2 electrostatic speakers. The Acoustats are very transparent and unforgiving of equipment or recordings. I wanted to see if tubes would make a difference in my system and decided on a preamp. Since this was an experiment, I didn''t want to spend a lot of money to find out that I didn''t hear much improvement. After all, tubes and low budget don''t exist in the same sentence. Then I talked to Brent Hite of Retrodaze Audio who seemed very enthusiastic about the AMC 1030s. He had availability to a much more expensive gear, but recommended this unit. At a price of $345, I was very skeptical that it wouldn''t be very good at all. Especially since it was hundreds less than what I had spent on my Nak preamp back in ''85! But at that price, I was too curious not to at least try it. I got the preamp a couple of days later and even though I was told it was a "demo", it looked factory fresh with no blems. It was even packed like it had never been opened before. Brent had told me it was a 1030s (socketed version) but the markings said 1030. I opened the unit to see what kind of tubes were in it and was surprised to see that they were Sovtek and Philips, not the Chinese tubes I had expected. I plugged it in and let it warm and then got a couple of my reference CD''s. After the unit had warmed up, I sat down and was pleasantly surprised. Several days later as the 1030s burned in, I was amazed. The AMC had magically opened up the soundstage. Instruments hung disembodied in the air in perfect focus, cymbals shimmered with a precise metallic ring that never seemed to end. The sound was warm and liquid and alive. Performers hovered just in front of the instruments and I could hear them breath and sigh as if they were in the room with me. The 1030s had tamed the big Nakamichi. My CA-5 had seemed so clean and I now realized it was bright to the point of being shrill and harsh. It was analytical to the point of being sterile. Now with the 1030, the sound was still clean, but it was more musical, more emotional. It was as if the tube pre-amp had added a little soul to the sound. Suddenly, I found myself sitting on the couch more with the lights low just losing myself in the music again as I had many years ago.

Similar Products Used: Carver, Nakamichi, Adcom, Pioneer Elite, Yamaha
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
larrimore   Audio Enthusiast [Feb 18, 2002]
Strength:

Warm, detailed, silky smooth sound with the upgraded tubes. Quality phono stage built in.

Weakness:

No remote (some would say "as it should be"). I''m not sure it is a weakness since I haven''t had to adjust the volume more than a coule of times.

I have never been a believer in tubes- after all, with the superior measurements of solid state (sounds like CD), why would anyone? Well a funny thing happened to me a few months ago: After a dissapointing experience with DVD-Audio and the "multi-channel" SACD promise, I bought a turntable. I figured if all of these high end formats keep blasting us with how analog sounding they are, analog must be the holy grail. After cleaning all of my old LPs and adding some true audiophile records, I have been hooked. So, my next quest was to get the analog sound as right as possible. I researched some pre-amps and amps but with my Magnepans, I figured I''ll have to stay solid state with the amp anyway. A friend suggested a tubed pre-amp and dropped AMC''s name as a good entry-level product and with the amount of different tubes out there said it would take a long time to tire of it. I visited the web site and was asking mucho questions via e-mail when they recommended I talk to one of their authorized resellers who offered me a 1030 with sockets for $345 plus shipping. When the package arrived, having read the reviews, I wasn''t expecting much with the stock tubes and that''s pretty much what I got. Everything was dark and veiled with the unit, so I decided to leave it until I could get new tubes. However, over the weekend, I kept it on most of the time and decided on Sunday night. WOW! I was so impressed, I removed the cover and found to my surprise, upgraded tubes Svoteks and Phillips as mentioned in other reviews- what a bargain. For days, I couldn''t pass my music room without listening. I have since dragged all of the equipment I have up there to compare (Denon AVR-4800, B&K PT-3/Reference amp) and It has blown away everyting with CDs. With the phono input- LPs are even better. This is a quality phono stage to my ears. An overall unbelieveable value with excellent soundstage, detail and a warm "listen all night" quality. An unbeatable bargain to me. Equipment: B&K Reference Amp Magnepan MG12 speakers Toshiba SD-9200 DVD/CD/HDCD player Music Hall MMF-5

Similar Products Used: many SS preamps
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Schwittek   AudioPhile [Feb 03, 2002]
Strength:

Lots of inputs. Excellent sound. Good value.

Weakness:

Stock Chinese tubes need to be replaced.

I''m new to tube preamps. This model had all the inputs I needed. I was very happy with it then I finished the tube upgrade others have done here and it''s now the best. I really didn''t know what to expect by installing better quality tubes but the results were excellent. I went with the JAN Phillips 12AX7WA and 5814A from thetubestore.com. I didn''t use sockets but the install was smooth as long as you have a good solder sucker.

Similar Products Used: Hafler DH-100 Ohm Walsh 300MK2 Hafler DH-220
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
4
Joseph Horn   Audiophile [Dec 07, 1999]
Strength:

Warm tube sound, liquid midrange, exceptional price value

Weakness:

weakenesses are olny appearent after extended listening vs a much more expensive brand, like a $1,200 Quicksilver

For the gran sum of $799 this is a little giant. Class A front end with a very nice tube sound. It makes an *excellent" pre amp for a solid state amp or entry level tube amp. It is exceedingly diffacult to critisize such a great piece that offeres big league sound for under $800.
There is a Quicksilver amp for about $1,100 that sounds better with Quicksilver amps, but when mated to an SS amp or other than Quicksilver product, the advantages are harder to spot.
If you want a tube amp that sounds better than a $1,700 Adcom preamp [the very unit Stereophile recommends] then this is the ticket. I don't necessarily prefer tubes, I like an accurate sound by whatever means available.
This preamp delivers *Very* expensive sound for such a small price. I have not heard any sub $2000 solid state pre amp sound this good.
You opinions may differ, but this is one excellent piece! An unabashed 5 star value!

Similar Products Used: Quicksilver, VAT, Carey, Macintosh
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Showing 1-10 of 18  

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