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Counterpoint SA-5.1 Pre Amplifier

Bu yazı tarafından 18 Nis 2012 tarihinde English, Stereo bölümünde yayınlandı. 1 yorum aldı ve 6.536 defa okundu.

Preamplifier is the core of the system and in my belief must be chosen more meticulously than other components. It is your Conductor at your home orchestra, he will manage other components; so your music tastes must match. In that sense I can say that I truly love Counterpoint sound. Neither warm nor pure clear. So pre-amplifier choice was easy for me.


This unit was built in the era when lp’s still were the most popular source for music. And in that era, commercial products were not being designed considering the part costs, oil prices, euro/dollar exchange rate etc. Yes, today technology gives more ability to designers and some components benefits from the technological advance. But there are still some components and designers in audio world which were better in old days.


When I began my search there were older units like Audio Research Corporation SP 10 and 11, Audible Illusions Modulus II and III, Counterpoint SA-5.1 and 3.1  as well as units from modern companies like Manleys, Coincidents and Aesthetix. Since I live in Turkey, it is not easy to find these units easily. Nevertheless, I began to wait while keeping an eye at the auction sites and local webpages. Unfortunately I couldn’t compare neither of them in a controlled situation since this pre-amplifier would be the second item in my SET system, after the Coincident Super Eclipse Speaker. I don’t have a golden ear like some of the reviewers around, who can evaluate the components in a hi-fi system by listening them in different systems. No, I must listen them in the same system with same cables, but for pre-amplifier choice I was alone with my choice.

The tubes used in pre-amplifier affects the character of the sound. This is a fact. Over time, I realized that I’m better with 6922 tubes. They seem to be perfect for me and for my music taste, neither to harsh nor too warm or transparent as some tubes. One of the main reasons I lean to Counterpoints was their tube preferences; they use 6DJ8 tubes. And there are really good 6DJ8′s out there.


One day a member of a Turkish hi-fi forum who knows I’m searching for a Counterpoint offered me to lend his Counterpoint SA-5.1 for a weekend. It was a generous offer since we haven’t met before, and above all too good to refuse. So we met bring the Counterpoint to home, made a brief listening session. Then he went away leaving Counterpoint and his Cary CAD 572 mono power amplifiers with me. That weekend I made extensive listening both with friend’s Cary and my then current stereo solid state power amplifier Rega Maia 3.


In that listening test, Counterpoint SA-5.1 has replaced the Rega Mira 3, a humble solid state integrated amplifier. So they are “quite” different character  in general. After that weekend I was sure that this is the pre-amp I’m looking for. Honestly, I knew that it could be take years to listen every choice I want. Since Counterpoint gave me everything I want, while search for years, make un-controlled comparisons and still unsure what to do.


When I made my mind I began a search for SA-5.1. Fortunately one day I find a SA-3.1 in Turkey which is as desirable as SA-5.1. SA-3 was designed in 1982 and the SA-5 in 1985. Apparently Michael Elliott cheated the design of SA-5 from already excellent SA-3. They were both revised upward to “point one” status in 1986 with the addition of automatic power-on muting circuits. Both of these preamps share the same pure tube signal paths. Nothing new has happened in preamplifier design to make them outdated.

In many respects, SA-5.1 and SA-3.1 preamps are very similar, and they share the same phono and line stage design. The essential difference between these two preamps is that the SA-5/5.1 has two line stage tubes where the SA-3/3.1 has a single tube shared by both channels; and the SA-5/5.1 uses a vacuum-tube regulator whereas the SA-3/3.1’s regulator is solid-state. Since they are similar in nature, I thought, I’d also be happy with the SA-3.1. But then a miracle happened. When I mailed to seller, he told me that the unit is just sold. Otherwise I’d bought it and never be blessed with SA-5.1.


After this I began to search Audiogon and others. After two months another miracle happened and my friend who lend his SA-5.1 to me called me and told that he is considering to sell his unit. Well, after that call time has accelerated, and in a few months I was a happy owner of an excellent SA-5.1.


This unit has a Phono Stage Premium Upgrade and Line Stage Standard Upgrade performed by Michael Elliott. This makes almost all the line stage and phono stage is replaced with top of the line parts. He also made some smaller modifications like RCA jack upgrades to several inputs and amplifier out. For further fidelity, he also bypassed low gain input for phono and bypassed balance trimmers. Nowadays his motto is: “Whenever flexibility is added, the additional complexity has a negative sonic impact. And I humbly agree with him.


My friend bought this unit from US, and have it shipped to Turkey. When the unit arrived he experienced some hum (probably occurred during shipment) and have it serviced to Mete Kuzer, a gifted technician. Kuzer removed the hum and also performed the 110V-220V change and changed the volume pod with a Alps Volume Pod.

As you know tubes in a tube pre-amplifier are extremely important. They can change the character of it totally, so they must be choosen wisely. After some search I’m using Telefunken 6922 E88CC Gold Pins at phono stage and Amperex 7308 E188CC Gold Pins at line stage. I also installed C8 type 6CA4 at Rectifier.


Next move will be changing the old capacitors in the power section. My main motivation is to get rid of the 20 year old electronic pieces. Added gain in sonics will be my profit (if any). I’ll also install a Plitron tranny and a Hi-Fi Tuning Supreme fuse.

One Comment

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  1. afredrick

    if you really want to improve the sound of the 3.1/5.1 try installing a stepped attenuator instead of the alps pot

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