Author Topic: Eva LDR Preamp Review + Preamp Roundup  (Read 15105 times)

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Eva LDR Preamp Review + Preamp Roundup
« on: December 20, 2009, 05:07:59 PM »
As you may or may not know I took delivery of an Eva LDR preamp a little while back. The sales pitch for LDR preamps is that they combine the transparency of passive preamps with the dynamics of active preamps, and there's a few models on the market, the Eva model has been getting some very good press and considering the low low price of 170 delivered from Malaysia, I took a punt on it.

A week later a FedEx bag turned up with this rather attractive little unit:



It's very stripped down, a single input and output, and an Apple remote for controlling the volume. There was some bother when it first arrived as it wasn't responding to the remote, and on the advice of the seller, Yeo, I sent it back. Turned out it was just flat batteries in the remote (although I suspect it may have also been interference issues see below), and after some testing it was returned. This all took a little while, partly due to the distances, and the guys in Malaysia could be a little slow in getting back to me (they have day jobs) and it was a month after payment till I had the unit back and finally working. It's worth mentioning that delays aside Yeo and Kok's communication and help has been excellent, all postage there and back by FedEx was paid for by him, and what with three FedEx trips I doubt he made any money on the sale.

There are some interference issues with the unit (probably because it's in such a nice wooden box), and it has a tendency to occasionally stop responding to the remote, however moving it a foot away from my monster mono amps fixed this.

So, how does it sound! It sounds bloody good. In order to answer this question properly, I have to do a mini review of all my five volume control solutions (also known as Mat's Epic Money Burning Adventure)

Digital volume control

In other words, the output of the DACMagic going directly into the power amps, with no preamp, and volume control via the Sonos unit. This the most detailed and transparent solution. When I was doing tests on compressed audio streams the other day, this was the solution I went back to to hear the most detail in the treble. Due to the treble detail, it has the most accurate soundstage. I truly believe this is the most accurate and neutral solution. The downside is the sound can be a little raw and unrelenting, a case of too much truth perhaps. Another downside is that if I accidently flip the volume to maximum on my Sonos unit, there is the potential to clip my amps and destroy both them and my speakers. Yikes.

Digital volume control with -14dB Goldenjacks Attenuator

So yes, let's just add a single resistor, bang job done! Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. The Goldenjacks have a very warm signature due to some significant treble rolloff, and there's something a bit funny going on at the upper midrange as well. I think these will eventually go on my sub which I'll drive directly from the balanced outputs on my DAC.

Rothwell Indus Passive Preamp


This solution is very good indeed. Very clear sound - the second most transparent after only using the Digital Volume Control, plus the convenience and safety of having a physical volume dial. However, the sound is very slightly flat and there's a slight loss of dynamics which doesn't work for me in my system. Full review here: http://www.rdhworld.co.uk/punbb/viewtopic.php?id=14821

LFD LS0 Active preamp

My original active solution. It can't match up to any of these other solutions for transparency, but has great dynamics and bass slam. I would happily pair it up with cheaper amps and speakers, but it doesn't really belong with my system. To put it in perspective, it was significantly more controlled than my Cyrus Pre Vs2 + PSX-R that I had previously.

Eva

So where does Eva fit in? It doesn't quite have the transparency of the direct connection or the Rothwell Indus, but it is still very transparent compared to the active solutions I have tried, and crucially it has a really nice sound signature. There is a very slight rolloff at the top which results in a less clear sound stage than either of those two solutions but it is significantly more controlled than my previous active preamps. It has all the dynamics of an active solution, and adds something extra (this is coloration sure) that makes the music sound alive. In a way it ends up being more than the sum of it's parts. I've been switching between all the above solutions all afternoon, going slowly mad, and eventually the two that are left are the direct solution (no preamp) and Eva. If I wanted to impress someone with how accurate and transparent my system was, I would plug the DACMagic direct into the power amps. But if I wanted to sit back and just listen to music, I would use Eva.

What should this tell you?

Frankly, I think this comes down to a system matching issue. My speakers have very soft tweeters, and my mono amps are fantastic but can have a slight lack of sparkle up top, and I still have upper frequency hearing in at least one ear, so I'm very sensitive to treble rolloff and that's on my mind when I'm looking at adding components to the system. On the other hand, my amp and speakers between them have a ton of character so I can put up with very transparent solutions - those of you who were kind enough to try plugging your DAC directly into your amps will know that this can easily deliver a little too much truth. The Rothwell Indus may well work for a lot of people. The Goldenjacks, meh, I'll use them to stop me blowing up my sub.

If I was using a cheaper amp with speakers that a bit lacking in character (8 Power into PMC DB1i?) I'd suspect I'd want the active preamp. But then I would say that, because it's going to be up for sale along with the Rothwell Indus in the New Year ;)

But if you can manage a single input/output, and all you need is a single volume control, I can recommend Eva very highly indeed. The only trouble now, is that I'd like even more transparency with the same sound signature... But without wanting to spend significantly more than 170 :)

You can buy them here:

http://diyparadise.com/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=18&products_id=109

There's a HifiWigwam mega thread on LDR preamps:

http://www.hifiwigwam.com/view_topic.php?id=42153&forum_id=7&page=1

Looks like they have a new version coming out with multiple outputs that will cost a little more and has a metal case to deal with the interference issue:

http://www.hifiwigwam.com/view_topic.php?id=49222&forum_id=7&jump_to=771231

Phew!

Matthew.

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« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2009, 05:54:20 PM »
Nice review Matt. Glad you finally got Eva working, seems quite impressive from what you are saying especially for 170. My pre amp journey is still on going but for now I'm settled with a Sugden Masterclass pre. I might be able to try a Shindo in the new year if the chap is still going to sell. This is apparently better than the Graaf I got gazumped on a few weeks back so should hopefully turn out to be a better option.

Must say though, the Sugden is quite impressive with the Gamut D200, lots of detail throughout the range and a sound stage that is both deep and wide. Much better than the pre in the DAC/XP and the valve pre that I tried, both of these tended to have a slightly flatter sound stage and not as much detail in the mid range compared to the Sugden.
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« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2009, 08:09:37 PM »
theres been a lot of press about these.
i notice that the little creek ob22 which is about twice the price of the eva has received a lot of praise from hi fi critic recently
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« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2009, 12:51:30 PM »
I wonder if I should pick one up whilst in the country? V curious as the middle link on wigwam the guy commented that the LDR is better than the Supratek! I believe the Suprateks are very highly regarded and cost many zeros...


Just checked looks like both the EVA and EVA2 are out of stock.


Very stupid question but LDR = Long Distance Relationship??   :P  (google didn't tell me in a hurry and I am lazy!)
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« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2009, 02:46:13 PM »
Nice review MisterMat, thanks.

I have an 8vs2 which is used as a pre and would love to try the new metal cased -multi input eva, although I don't hold out any hope of ever getting one. Every time I visit to the site its sold out and I've registered for updates on new stock by email - haven't heard a peep!

Maybe I'll give them a ring tomorrow and do some sweet talking.  :)

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« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2009, 11:20:38 PM »
Yes 8VS2 is used as pre amp.
The only problem I have it going away from the look of black boxes...

But its cheap enough to have a play.
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« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2009, 11:47:53 PM »
Just checked my email and was told by Yeo to go use the shipping estimator but it won't turn on unless there is something in the cart!  I will call them today.  :D

Should I buy one if they can make one up quickly?  :)
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« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2009, 11:59:01 PM »
Its relatively 'cheap' but I am trying to resist because of over-stretching finances recently (Mono Xs arriving in a few weeks).

I would go for the EVA2 if any. Only use two sources CD and Phono. Maybe a distraction until enough cash comes around for the DAC XP+ or something...
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« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2009, 07:13:28 AM »
Good write up Matthew.

This bit is spot-on from my experience:
Quote
But if I wanted to sit back and just listen to music, I would use Eva.

I arrived at the Eva after running a TVC passive for a fair while and am interested in your comments on the roll-off at the top and also how this relates to detail and transparency.

The TVC was clearer/brighter/more sparkly/more detailed etc at the top, but this was eventually what made me look for a change - as it could get a bit much at times. Although the Eva is more restrained at the top I actually find it to be a more 'complete' sound. It doesn't over-emphasise anything in particular and to me, that makes for a more balanced picture.

I think there is sometimes a temptation to hear a crisp top end and assume what we are getting is detail and transparency (not saying this is the case here, but it is something I have experienced), for me at the moment, getting a satisfying sound is important; in terms of communicating the music this LDR unit is very satisfying. So much so that I've actually gone back to using a previous pair of speakers which I had previously thought of as far too coloured and am now really enjoying again.

Last point: have you spoken to anyone at LFD? If not, you might find it interesting.

Richard (Mr LFD) answers his own phone and could probably tell you a fair bit about the design of your amps. I can't remember which way around it is but (in his view) because punters mix and match between manufacturers, most pre-amps are designed to be bass-lite (so as to appear detailed at the top) and therefore power amps are bass heavy to compensate (or it may be the other way around, the important bit being that neither are designed to be neutral). He takes a different approach and designs his components closer to neutral which means they compliment each other very well but can give slightly unexpected results when paired with other kit.

It sounds like you have found a good pairing for yours in any case, but it might be interesting to hear the thoughts behind your amps design.
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« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2009, 11:33:40 AM »
Just called Yeo in KL. He was a very nice chap and I have placed an advanced order for an EVA2.

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« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2009, 11:45:42 AM »
Yeo told me he thinks should have EVA2s in a week or two. I did not commit... hesitating about not matching the boxes in the arbour rack... ...

b4sound is vision...
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« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2009, 11:58:11 AM »
Quote from: Hidden
Quote from: Hidden
I did not commit... hesitating about not matching the boxes in the arbour rack... ...

Haha you should see the mess that is my hifi! I have a stack of boxes, several of them not being used, piled up on one corner of a computer desk, with a fire hazard of power cables snaking underneath it. Don't care how it looks at all - unlike my girlfriend! There's a reason I haven't posted pictures in the "Pimp Your System" forum ;)

Matthew.


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« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2010, 11:56:28 AM »
I emailed yeo again today and asked if they will have stock of pretty EVA2 by mid next week. If they do, I may take the plunge if can meet up to save the courier fees...
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« Reply #13 on: January 01, 2010, 12:58:11 PM »
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I emailed yeo again today and asked if they will have stock of pretty EVA2 by mid next week. If they do, I may take the plunge if can meet up to save the courier fees...

b4sound I am in exactly the same position as you, having an 8vs2 and wanting to hear an eva. I spoke to Kok and the other guy on the phone a week or so ago and they have me on their list.... but I have also been speaking to Matthew about meeting up to hear her singing. Mat- any change of a meet up in the next week or so?  :D

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« Reply #14 on: January 01, 2010, 02:10:45 PM »
Did you see on wigwam, there was a comment that the EVA was better than the Supratek Chardonnay?
http://www.supratek.biz/chardonnay.html

For SGD408, it is too good to be true!
Wonder how it will compare against the DAC XP as a pre-amp.
Maybe I can buy an empty blackbox and put the EVA inside it!  :D
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