Audio Electronic Supply AE-3 Preamplifiers

AE-3

2 channel preamplifier. 3 RCA inputs, RCA output. Single-ended Class A Triode.

User Reviews (22)

Showing 1-10 of 22  
John   AudioPhile [Dec 08, 2015]

I picked this up used for $350. I liked the way it sounded but thought it could be better. After reading the reviews and comments on here I replaced the coupling caps with Auricap XO series capacitors. WOW, what a major difference. The Kimber caps (nice caps) sounded slow and lethargic and much more 2D compared to the Auricaps. The soundstage has so much more depth to it and the sound is so much livelier. I even talked with the people at Cary. They were very friendly and helpful. It came with Tung-Sol tubes so I didn't find it necessary to roll them. This is a well (over) built little amp that has found a home in my system. The remote control is nice too. I would highly recommend anyone looking for a pre that doesn't want to take out a second mortgage to get one of these if you can find one.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
matt   AudioPhile [May 18, 2006]
Strength:

soundstage, quiet, transparency, good detail.

Very nice little pre. I use it with the aes superamp. Some say the combo is bright. I have not found that to be with my system. I dont see why you should spend more money on a pre, unless you want the best of the best, like cary slp98, conrad johnson art, and the likes.

Customer Service

They have great customer service.

Similar Products Used: bryston, threshold
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
mjcmt   AudioPhile [Mar 29, 2005]

I agree with the last review 100%. I too have built, owned, and used the standard AE-3 tube preamp. It has the basic desireable sound of a tube preamp, but lack resolution and ultimate detail. I have always wanted the DJH signature version and when I saw one come up for sale I grabbed it without haggling the price because they don't stay around long. The DJH version of the AE-3 are similar only in name and the tubes used. It is superior in every aspect and is true audiophile preamp. The difference is not subtle. I have compared this preamp to many more expensive and sought out preamps and the AE-3 DJH is simply better. I have taken this little preamp to stereo salons as well as audiophile's home systems and have shamed many a preamp with the DJH's sonic excellence. This preamp is superb and worth considering, but don't wait too long if your buying used, as they don't hang around long. I am currently using it with the Pass Labs Aleph 30 poweramp. It has excellent synergy with this 30/30 watt class A poweramp. The preamps 20db gain is a plus with lowish powered amps, too. The only drawback is the limited 3 inputs and on output if you use it with 2 channel H/T.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
goldlizsts   Audio Enthusiast [Feb 25, 2005]
Strength:

Warmth, soundstage, pin-point positioning of instruments, speed.

Weakness:

None.

Pursuant to a casual friend's recommendation, I built my first AE-3, with pretty much all the upgrades. I had then been in the market for a preamp recently, like a Counterpoint 3000 (impressed with the sweet sound, but the cost to upgrade was not worth it I thought). He then added in the 6CA4 rectifier for me, to make it theoretically on par with the AE-3 DJH, Dennis J. Had's signature piece. I have thoroughly enjoyed the warm and great sound of my homemade AE-3 pseudo-DJH. I think it's a steal for the money, though it lacked a little in soundstage and transparency. Then, over the years I've used several other preamps. Last week, I saw this true DJH listed in Audiogon, fully equipment with the remote and tube upgrades. I was hesitating to get the same unit. But, in the end, I sunk down the $1K and brought the baby home, counting on the fact that I already knew what I had, it'd be great if it's a true upgrade. Boy, did my jaw drop when I first turned it on. It was a night-turning-to-day upgrade. It's much more dynamic, preserving the sweetness of my home-built. The soundstage improved tremendously, the bite, the pin-pointing position of the performer or instrument in the soundstage, the improved depth of the soundstage. I actually was debating if I should also consider the Cary SLP98P, since I still have vinyls. I did a little research, and decided that the SLP would be too velvety and laid back for me. What a gem. There is not a SLP98P DJH, so the AE-3 DJH must mean something special.

Similar Products Used: AE-3 basic with oil cap upgrades, etc. Bryston 4B Adcom GFP 750 Audio Research SP 11 MK II
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
kek   Audio Enthusiast [Sep 06, 2002]
Strength:

Cary quality, 6SN7 tubes make it easy for tube rolling, and at $599 for a standard factory assembled unit this might be your least expensive upgade!

Weakness:

$599 for a tubed preamp, there might be some who feel that you have to spend more for better quality.

After many years of a ss preamp, I felt that my system was missing good upstream data.I changed out amps, speakers but something was choking out sonic bliss. I knew that a tubed preamp would bring this happiness to me, but which one? I searched many reviews and posted many questions concerning different manufactures and Cary was always the front runner amoung the rest. During my quest I found that Dennis Had the owner of Cary had another company he started Audio Electronic Supply (AES)and the reviews on their preamps were outstanding. I found a AE-3 factory assembled used on the internet for $400 used and was I blown away by the sound from this little charm, it made my whole system sound as if I just upgraded all the components. This AE-3 came with the standard caps and tubes, and upgrading to the oil caps and NOS tubes will only better the sound.

Similar Products Used: Bryston 4bst AE-3 preamp Klipsch KLF30's Sony C69ES cd Harmon Kardon TU915 tuner Straight Wire speaker cable
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Richard   Audiophile [Aug 28, 2001]
Strength:

See my review from June, 2001 below

Weakness:

See my review from June, 2001 below

OK, this is an update to my review a couple of months ago. There are three things necessary to make this preamp absolutely kill:

1. Replace the chinese 6SN7's with NOS tubes. Absolute MUST. As William noted, these are very microphonic. I have three sets of them, all of which were either microphonic from the start, or developed problems within ten hrs. of use.

2. Get rid of the cheap rubber feet. As William notes in his review, the preamp has problems with microphonics and acoustic feedback. This is due to a couple of reasons, but is fairly easily mitigated. First, one could try their big foot option for about $100 which comes standard on the newer, revised DJH version of the preamp. Second, I have found that using a Bright Star Big Rock 3 or 4 with Mapleshade records' wonderful ultimate triplepoint brass conepoints (each conepoint weighs a lot and is quite large) and a VPI brick or other weight on the transformer along with the NOS tubes made a HUGE difference.

3. Dump the Kimber cap or Audio 1 copper-foil-in-oil optional .22 mic and 2 mic coupling caps immediately. The Kimbers are lacking "life" of any sort, and the Audio 1 oil caps are slow, thick, dark chocolatey sounding, lacking any sort of definition, extension, speed or proper musical pacing. They lack any sort of musical true presentation. Replacing these with the Auricap capacitors made incredible, and I don't use that overused and hackneyed term lightly here, differences in sonics in all aspects of the presentation by the AE-3. Musical, incredibly open, fast, sweet, extended, 3-D presentation, natural - you name it. The Auricap is the best capacitor I have ever encountered, and the same is true with more and more designers, tweak engineers, etc. who use custom built caps. The Auricap has walked over every single one of them and by a wide margin. Simply astounding, and a significant (SIGNIFICANT) step forward in capacitor technology. The best part of them is that they are not expensive, at all, being about the same price as a TRT cap is. You simply have not heard what your system is capable of producing until you install these caps in your AE-3!!!

Oh, and the four caps involved are easily replaced if one is even remotely good with a soldering iron. Try them and you will not be sorry you did.

E-mail me for info if you want more details. These changes bring the overall performance of the AE-3 up so far it is scary what this little preamp is capable of. The DJH signature version uses no coupling caps, but does use the foil in oil caps in the power supply at some point, so replacement of those with Auricaps would produce some further improvement to what I hear is a stunning preamp for $1,200.

Similar Products Used: See my review from June, 2001 below
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Bob L   Audio Enthusiast [Feb 25, 2000]
Strength:

Good value, deep and wide soundstage, very quick and clean sounding - looks cool also

Weakness:

Slight hum noticeable about a foot away from the speakers that I heven't been able to get rid of .

This is actually a review of the newer AE-3 model. I built this from a kit ($399 - a great buy! ). I would say the difficulty level of the kit is moderate. I don't recommend this in a kit form to someone who has never built any electronics kit before. The instruction manual in general is good but not up to the standards of manuals that came with the old Dynakits and Heathkits I built back in the '60's as a kid. The layout is a little cramped in spots but workable.
High quality parts abound in this kit - teflon coated OFC wire (layered with silver )is used throughout - 1% resistors - a LARGE oversized transformer - and quality caps throughout - jeez - when you turn the preamp OFF it STILL PLAYS for about 15 seconds from the current still left in the capacitors!!
I have up graded mine with 4 JENSEN "oil in aluminum foil" high grade audio capacitors and 2 JAN Philips NOS 6SN7 tubes. The increase in image depth and resolution from the modifications are easily heard.
The thing that really gets me about the sound from this preamp is how "quick" it is. Excellent transient response at both ends of the spectrum. Drum hits have a real quick "whack" and cymbals and brushes are nicely detailed. Some people have the idea because some tube AMPLIFIERS are a lttle soft, "wooly" ( read wooly as slow )and weak that tube preamps must be the same - NOT SO !!
A high end preamp at a low end price - what more can I say ..

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
William   Audio Enthusiast [Jul 22, 2001]
Strength:

Superb sound for a sub $1000 preamp. Excellent soundstage, detailed midrange and crisp highs. Upgrade options are a plus too.

Weakness:

None if you're not being picky. Blue LED takes a little time to get used to its brightness. Three sets of inputs is enough for me. I run a cd player and an outboard phono stage, so I only really need two anyway. If you order preamp as a kit like I did you'll find the drawings and instructions a tad bit confusing, which adds a bit to the build time. But hey, I got my to work flawlessly on the first power up.

Most everything has already been said about this preamp. A little awkward looking to some, but to me I like the way it looks. Wood side panels look a little cheap, but refinishing them in another finish might make them look better.

The unit came with Chinese tubes, which are ok. I tried to upgrade to NOS RCAs 6SN7-GTAs, which improved the sound a bit but still have some microphonics. Next I bought NOS JAN Philips 6SN7-WGTA chrome domes and to me these rock! Literally no microphonics (which can be a problem/annoyance with this preamp) and superb detail. I imagine these are similar to the top performing RCA red based 5692 tubes, but I saved myself $80 by getting these instead of the RCAs.

This preamp is basically the Cary SLP-50B preamp, which will set you back $1300. Upscale Audio now features the DJH version of the AE-3, which costs $1200 and seems to be a more polished preamp than the SLP-50B. It even comes with a tube rectifier stage and reworked AE-3 chasis with a more polished design and faceplate.

Items in my system:

-Homemade speakers with Scanspeak/dynaudio drivers
-Vampire Wire speaker cables w/ spades
-Thorens turntable
-AMC CD 8b player
-Creek CD 43 MKII player
-Solid State Stewart Audio Monoblocks
-Cary SE-811 monoblocks
-Kimber Kable PBJ interconnects
-Musical Fidelity Power Supply, headphone stage, and phono.

Similar Products Used: I used to have an Acurus L-10 (not bad for solid state < $1000) and I also had a McCormack Micro Line Drive (better in my opinion than the Acurus, but still not on par with the AE-3). McCormack does offer upgrades to this and other models...but the upgrades will cost you. If you want solid state, go with Morrison's preamp, or give the Monolithic pre a try. Even Creek's line of mini preamps are good.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
James Carroll   Audio Enthusiast [Oct 15, 2000]
Strength:

Great soundstaging, very engaging sound, smooth but with surprisingly crips highs, price

Weakness:

Instructions a little crude, was sent an incorrect resistor.

This is a review of the AE-3 kit.
Overall the kit is well done. I only found one misprint, but a little common sense prented a problem. The only problem with the kit was a resister of the wrong size that was sent with it. After the fact a friend of mine introduced me to the cardinal rule of resistors...measure them first...
Construction was ok, although it would have been a lot easier if the chasis were a little bigger. The end result isn't the cleanest looking inside the chassis but once you button it up it looks fine. I did have a problem with on knob spacing furthur (about 1/2") away from the chassis, but I can easily fix this with some washers. One design note, the power led is really redundant in a kit where the tubes light up...and it's way too bright. After I was comfortable with the kit I cut the leads to the led. My kit included the Caddock volume resistor shunt upgrade. More on that later.

Listening:
Man...I'm a tube fan now. Once broken in this is a really sweet sounding preamp. I was surprised at the treble response of the unit. It really has an open sound with great spacial effects and a very listenable sound. I've heard cleaner preamps (Welborne) but the tube sound really has a beutifull warmth that opens the music. This little sucker sounds noticably better than the NAD C160 class A preamp that it's replaced. I have paired it with a solid state amp (NAD and Acurus) to provide enough juice for my speakers. Overall the combination works very well. I don't have a great deal of experience with tube amps so I can't really compare it to other tube gear, but overall I do love the way it sounds and I'll have difficulty listening to any solid-state preamps after this.

Upgrades:
My kit included the shunt Caddock resistor upgrade and I purchased a set of GE NOS 6SN7GT tubes. The Caddock upgrade
makes the volume control more sensitive and does seem to add a little more clarity to the system. For $50 it's not that expensive and upgrade and gets you very close to the purity of a stepped-attenuator. Surprisingly the NOS tubes just don't have the open stage that the Chinese tubes the kit came with offer. I thought it was a break in issue but they aren't getting better. The NOS tubes are smoother but don't offer the wide soundstage and upper treble of the stock tubes. I'll experiment with some Sovtek tubes next.

Overall:
This is a great kit for someone with a little soldering experience. I'd steer towards the Bottlehead kit if you don't want to drop the $400 this kit costs but the parts in this kit are definitely better. Sound quality for the price is hard to beat. I recently listened to a Rogue preamp in a local store and this unit sounds just as good if not better. I'm dying to take this sucker down there for a head-to-head against some of the other equipment. If you have the time, don't mind a solder burn here or there, and want a well built simple preamp, this is hard to beat.

Similar Products Used: NAD C160, Rotel RSP-860, various NAD, Carver, etc integrated amps/receivers
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Tony   Audio Enthusiast [Mar 29, 2001]
Strength:

amazing little tube pre for the price

Weakness:

Seems sensitive to microfonics, or maybe it is just the tubes

I love this little pre-amp. I set out to replace my Adcom pre-amp a few weeks ago. I went with a budget of $2500. I listened to several pricy pre-amps and just could not believe how great this pre-sounded. I saved myself $1900. If you need a new pre-amp, give this little baby a try. You may be in shock as to how well it sounds compared to some of the big name pre-amps!


Current system:
Sony SCD-777ES SACD/CD player
Audio Electronic Supply AE3 pre-amp
Sonic Frontiers Power 1 tube amp
Vandersteen 3A speakers

Similar Products Used: Rouge 99 magnum,Quicksilver, Audio Research
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Showing 1-10 of 22  

(C) Copyright 1996-2018. All Rights Reserved.

audioreview.com and the ConsumerReview Network are business units of Invenda Corporation

Other Web Sites in the ConsumerReview Network:

mtbr.com | roadbikereview.com | carreview.com | photographyreview.com | audioreview.com