Music Reference RM 5 Preamplifiers

Music Reference RM 5 Preamplifiers 


Tubed line stage preamp with phono sectionTubed line stage preamp with phono section


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[Sep 03, 2001]
Will L.
Audio Enthusiast


Natural sound, revealing but musical, only uses 3 tubes, a very good phono section. Adjustable gain.


Isn't going to impress anyone with it's cosmetics.

Having decided to upgrade my system, I wanted to try a tubed component and experience some of that "tube magic." Following traditional advice for someone getting into tubes, I decided on the solid state power, tubed pre route. An overview of the available 2k. and under units showed this one to be a very good value, as it offers a phono section. Another appealing factor was the use of only 3 6922 tubes, 1 in the line stage and 2 in the phono secion. This unit has been in production a LONG time, at least 10 years. Stereophile reviewed an earlier version around a decade ago, earning a "B" rating.
A nice example, roughly 5 years old, came up on Ebay and I bought it for about $450.00. I suspect UPS dropped it, because it was DOA on arrival. I called Roger Modjeski, the unit's designer, at Music Reference and then sent it back for a checkup. Roger immediately checked and repaired it for reasonable price (an open circuit in the transformer windings.) Although I had a few reservations about the price, I purchased a new set of his RAM 6922 tubes (Sovteks) to have a baseline reference for voicing when experimenting with NOS tubes. Roger is extremely nice and ready to talk about his products and design considerations. He informed me that my model 3 differed from latest production models in that it lacks a detachable IEC power cord connection and a switch to turn of power to the two phono section tubes. Exterior build quality is decent, but Roger didn't put money in expensive cosmetics and 1/2" thick faceplates. All controls operate with solidity. Inside, electronic parts quality is high.
When I finally installed it in my system I was immediately very happy. Compared to the Cambridge Audio D500 preamp it replaced, every audio parameter improved. Soundstaging, ambient and low level info retrieval, bass, mid range , treble, you name it: much, much better. It manages to sound both relaxed and very accurate at the same time, very revealing without being analytical. Bass extension is excellent, nothing soft or loose at all to my ears. Difficult instruments are rendered beautifuly. Brass instruments have wonderful spit and bite, cymballs and bells have that subtle metallic shimmer, and Tympani have realistic grunt and timbre. I'd have to agree with writers who say that a system's voice is built around the speakers and preamp (unless you're going without a pre in a cd only system.)
Roger insists that his RAM tubes provide the best voicing, but after a fair bit of experimentation with other tubes, I disagree. Amperex 6dj8 Orange Globes, Siemens 6dj8's, G.Britain RCA/Amperex 6922's all sound wonderful and offer more of that tube magic. The RAM/Sovteks don't stink, as some reviewers would have you believe. They only reveal their slightly dry sound when contrasted to older tubes.
This preamp offers an unusal feature, the ability to adjust gain from 3.5 to 27 db gain, in 5 increments. I've used the advised 19 gain, just right for the Goldring 1042 phono cartridge I use.
In short, this preamp is a real bargain, don't hesitate to consider this one in addition to similarly priced others like Rogue and Audible Illusions. Classical, Jazz, or Rock, it sounds great with all types of music. I only give it 4 stars for overall rating because there are better products, but you'll have to pay more. The value rating tells the real story.
For info, used with Belles 150A Hot Rod power amp, Magnepan 1.6qr speakers, Sunfire Jr. Subwoofer, Cambridge CD4se cd as transport, Assemblage DAC 2.7 Platinum, Empire Troubador III/Goldring G1042 for analog, Kimber 4tc speaker cable, Music Reference Calibre interconnects.

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