Here is my review of the Anthem Pre-2l. Sorry this ended up going on longer than intended.
I originally just had my receiver w/out a separate preamp which I thought was ok then I used a passive CI Audio Pre which seemed only slightly better than the Onkyo - a little more open but not by much I thought. At the time I also still had the Polk RT800is rather than the Tylers. I then upgraded to the Parasound P/HP-850. This pre might have taken back some of the openness I found with the passive but I can’t really recall now there being any major sonic change here either.
To this point my expectation of major changes being introduced by a pre were in doubt.
I was however driven to obtain a pre with a remote and HT bypass with the possibility of introducing tubes into the equation. This narrowed my search down to just a few preamps.
The Anthem Pre-2l rose to the top of the list based on features, reviews and opinions of those on this board who had used it, as well as it’s reasonable used price - roughly $500.
I took a near 2 hour ride to a shop in CT since they had one, which was previously owned by one of their installers. It was in great shape and the case had never been opened. Still had the stock Sovtek 6922s installed.
I wasn’t overly impressed at the store. The setup was less than optimal being it was in a large open space with one wall directly to the left and completely open to the right. It was hooked up to a Rotel CDP and a newer Rotel amp and some smaller B&W speakers – 705s I think? It was the pre the guys in the shop listened to all day – their pre of choice in the entire store they said. I threw in a few different CDs and heard subtle but enjoyable difference…but I really thought my system at home would improve on the things I was hearing.
At one point I played Garcia, Grisman and Rice – The Pizza Tapes, some acoustic playing with textured male vocals. These guys were just noodling around and Garcia says, “ I done f**ked it up already” and they laugh. The guy in the shop turned from setting up some stuff for another customer. He actually said he thought someone in the store said it.
Anyway pinning my hopes on the thought my environment and speakers would serve the pre better I did the deed.
It really was a vast improvement to which I credit the Tylers and the Bada vs. the B&Ws and the Rotel CDP. My room isn’t the best but the positioning was certainly better than at the store.
Enough of my life story right?! What’s are the sonic differences?
The soundstage became 2-3’ larger in every direction but still slightly better focused in the center. So sounds were coming from outside of the speakers to the left and right and higher and further back (at times) in the center. Slightly more space and air too, though these characteristics were more subtle but still distinct. I had some notion that things might get too tubey…whatever that might mean since I have virtually no tube experience. I didn’t find this the case at all. In fact I’m still looking for things to get warmer and softer.
I’ll be targeting some replacement tubes for the stock Sovteks in the Anthem to hopefully address this.
I can’t say that there was necessarily increased detail. (Maybe a credit to the Parasound?) I think between the Bada (w/Bendix tube), cables, existing Rotel amp and Tylers I have a pretty reasonable amount of detail. I can say the music became even more alive though, it jumped off the page or out of the speakers as it were. Not forward but just alive is the best way I can say it. An added sparkle/shine but not any brighter. The music literally gives me an aural sensation in my ears that I can’t recall having before. ( I know this crosses some sort of line!)
There was definitely an increase in bass fullness too. I haven’t yet determined if it was lacking before or if things are just slightly over pronounced now? In any case I’m enjoying it. It’s certainly not distracting which makes me believe the music sounds complete rather than bloated.
Being it’s tubes there is just a bit of noise when putting your ear up to the speaker but really nothing audible or that I’m worried about.
Anyway I think it’s great and am very pleased.
Now who has a quad of reasonably price 7308/e188cc tubes??