Golden Tube SEP-1SE Preamplifiers

SEP-1SE

User Reviews (7)

Showing 1-7 of 7  
histo1   Audio Enthusiast [May 08, 2005]
Strength:

Neutral uncolored sound. Easy and economical to replace the one 6922 tube. Balanced outputs. Good build quality.

Weakness:

Poor quality manual. Reads as though the technical writer struggled with the English language.

So the GTA SEP-1 is not an ARC LS2B and the parent company went belly up some time ago, but I think this unit has been unfairly trashed by past reviews. I bought this NOS on E-Bay and so far I've been really happy with it. I've found none of the problems encountered by other users. I replaced the installed 6922 with a goldpin Tesla and after attaching a PS Audio X-Stream XLR cable to the balanced inputs on my AE-25 amp, the sound is wonderful: great soundstage, pinpoint focus of instruments with neutral and natural uncolored sound. When I switch the inputs to the Parasound monoblocks, the SEP-1 takes some of the harsh edges off the solid state sound. (Because my tubed amp generates enough heat to warm a room all by itself, I run my ss amps during the summer.) Anyway I wanted to set the record straight for those thinking of purchasing a used SEP-1 that it's a great way to get a quality tubed preamp and not pay an outrageous price.

Similar Products Used: NAD Integrated Amps Parasound PHP-850 Preamp
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Paul Dunn   AudioPhile [Oct 02, 2003]
Strength:

Looks

Weakness:

Mediocre sound

I owned this product for two days, the dealer allowed me to take it home for a try. It was the first tube preamp I ever listened to, so at the time I was comparing it to the solid state preamps I owned and heard in the past. I was immediately taking by it's good looks and couldn't wait to play it. The sound I heard didn't exactly impress me but I didn't find the sound to be awful, it wasn't what I was looking for. I returned it to the dealer whom I purchased it from and he wasn't very happy either. Since then I have listened to other tube like ARC, Precision Fidelity, Conrad Johnson, and if you want my advice stay with companies like the above mentioned who have a proven track record.

Similar Products Used: Listed above
OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
3
Tom   Audiophile [Aug 03, 2000]
Strength:

Single stage design and transformer coupling make this preamp very uncolored. Somewhat like a passive preamp with 12 db of gain.

Weakness:

Single stage design does not broaden the spectral balance of the source components. Also, some power amps may not like the load from this preamp.

I don't really understand the other reviews but I believe this preamp was designed to be a very neutral preamp achieved via a single stage design using a 6DJ8 and a pair of high quality coupling transformers. This design is very unusual. Based on direct comparison to several preamps, I believe this one is the most neutral, least colored. The Conrad Johnson in comparsion, had a fatter, bigger sound which made for great listening. The Golden tube had very good low level clarity, and a lack of coloration. Clearly, dynamics were less impressive than the Conrad.

My thoughts are this is a great choice for a purist thinking about a passive preamp. You get clarity and some gain. Go with something else if you want slam, or a big fat sound. (P.S. used a new old stock Amperex bugle boy)

Similar Products Used: Conrad Johnson PV-5, B&K Sonata
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Tony Green   Audiophile [Mar 19, 2000]
Strength:

Sweet, well-balanced sound

Weakness:

Not the most precise sound for the money

Of the three brands I know the Golden Tube is the best value, although sound wise I'd rank the Cary at the top. The Audio Note Zero was a very neutral line stage preamp, but overpriced for what it did. After having used it long enough to break it in, I'm pleased with the Golden Tube. There are no particular faults with the sound, and it works well with the GTA SE-40 power amp, which I also own.

The preamp allows several interesting tweaks such as bypassing the output resistors so cables can be used with resistors at the amplifier inputs. This allows the interconnects to be driven at about 100 times the current level and significantly increases signal strength so long amplifier interconnects can be used. Other possibilities are jumper switching of the tube filament from grounded to floating, and jumper selection of the balance control to be in-circuit or bypassed.

The SEP-1 uses a single 6DJ8/6922 dual triode valve, and comes supplied with a Sovtek 6922. This is a very plain & boring tube which is quiet, but has pretty dull sound. Try experimenting with other 6922s, particularly some of the more esoteric NOS valves available - the difference between a $10 valve and a $30 valve is staggering.

I still feel all commercial tube preamps are overpriced for what they do. If you are in the market for such an item, look around carefully and consider a kit preamp if you don't mind a bit of DIY. They probably offer the best bank for the buck by far, but the SEP-1 is still a recommended audition. I've given 5 stars in both categories, but that is as judged against its closest competitors - in ultimate sound rating asgainst the best tube preamps I'd it give it a 3/5.

Similar Products Used: Audio Note, Cary
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
4
Alan   Audiophile [May 19, 2000]
Strength:

Inverted polarity outputs for bridging amps, good headphone amp.

Weakness:

Bland sound, marginal build quality, terrible product service/support.

I bought this SEP-1 (upgraded to SE status after purchase)as a demo unit from a dealer and consider it a learning experience. In a nutshell, if you want a truly good preamplifier - keep looking! Sonic quality is poor... veiled and bland. Build quality is iffy. Product support is very poor. I sold this unit at a terrible loss - and let my SE-40 go as well as I wish to have nothing to do with Solo Electronics ever again. Even at a discounted used market price, this preamp is no bargain... and the low value of SE-40 amplifiers is an indication I might not be alone in my opinion.

Similar Products Used: Various Adcom, Carver, Sony ES and Lexicon models.
OVERALL
RATING
1
VALUE
RATING
1
Bob   Audio Enthusiast [Apr 14, 2000]
Strength:

Looks Nice, Excellent build quality.

Weakness:

Poor sonics period.

Bought one of these used for a stupid reason. Wanted the gold face to match some other components. That was my first mistake. The second was not buying the CJ first. The SEP looks nice but why did they have to make it so BIG. There really isn't that much inside. From the very first time I hooked it up to my system I was not impressed. Tried it with different amps, interconnects and speakers. No difference. Put in a NOS Mullard. No difference. Played around with the user settable internal settings. No difference. These preamps just do not sound good. I have since sold it but distinctly remember saying to myself how bad I thought they made things sound. It is really a kind of indiscribable muck. I would suppose you could buy a used one in the $400.00 - $450.00 range but save your money. I have a AVA, CJ. and an old Mac C-26 around here and they are all leaps and bounds above the GTA. I suppose some of you will be tempted to have one of these things but with so many "really good" preamps out there pass the SEP by. You will be glad you did when you have a CJ or better yet the AVA in your rack. I would give the SEP a 1 for Value and a 2 for build quality but they still sound terrible.

Similar Products Used: VanAlstine Pas 4i
Conrad Johnson PV-al
OVERALL
RATING
2
VALUE
RATING
1
Tony Green   Audiophile [Jun 12, 2000]
Strength:

User configurable for long interconnects. Build quality.

Weakness:

Many. The sound overall.

This is a follow-up to my initial evaluation of this product, after several month's use.

Unfortunately, the SEP-1 preamp has not continued to please me, but has increasingly emerged as the weak-link in my audio chain. The build quality and parts list is fine, but after that the performance takes a nose-dive.

On mine there is an obvious channel inbalance on the CD input (only) which has become more and more apparent over time. The almost imperceptable balance control does nothing to correct this (the balance control is selectable to be in or out of circuit via a jumper on the PCB, and yes I do have it connected). I know of other owners who have reported channel balance problems with the volume pot.

There is also audible input crosstalk. If listening to a CD at normal listening levels the tuner and video must both be off, otherwise they can be heard faintly in the background.

Finally, the general quality of amplification sucks. It is non-linear and distorted. I also own a GTA SE-40 power amp which I bought at the same time as the preamp. One of the frequent criticisms of this amp is that it has rolled-off highs and soft or mushy bass. I believe that whilst this is true to a certain degree, the sound is made considerably worse by the presence of a SEP-1 preamp, which has exactly the same problems, but to a much worse degree.

I recently tried connecting my CD player directly into the SE-40 power amp via a passive line attenuator, which was there purely to act as a volume control. The improvement in sound from my system achieved by banishing the SEP-1 preamp was nothing short of astounding. Suddenly the bass which I have not heard since I replaced my old solid state gear was back, but with much greater resolution and punch than ever before. The highs were also more detailed (but not over bright) and the midrange "blossomed". Overall, the sound was suddenly "right".

In summary, the SE-40 poweramp is a better deal than many people realise, but it is often unfortunately partnered with this lemon of a preamp, which I am unfortunately forced to give at least 1 star, although it deserves 0. The fact that it costs over US$1,000 and is easily swept away by a home made line attenuator worth $25 speaks for itself.

Avoid this preamp - it is blown out of the water by almost anything else available.

Similar Products Used: Cary, Audio Note, Audio Research, AES.
OVERALL
RATING
1
VALUE
RATING
1
Showing 1-7 of 7  

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