Thursday, September 17, 2009

Diva Audio M7 Preamp - Latest update

For all you Diva Audio M7 users out there, T.S. Lim has just revised his flagship M7 preamp.

The latest revision combines two stages of modifications.

The first stage involves new voltage supply filtering on both the B+ and the heater, combined with star ground wiring arrangement.

The second stage is a rewiring of the tube arrangement to allow easier tube rolling, and the installation of a new internal bracket that allows higher quality smoothing capacitors to be installed.

More on the tube rolling - previously the tube stages in the M7 are arranged as follows, the bottom tube uses one triode (the 12ax7 is a dual triode) as first stage, and the other triode as the second stage of the left channel. The top tube is identical and is used for the right channel. This then passes through the third stage in the middle tube (one triode for each channel). This means that you can only roll two different type of tubes at the most since the first and second stage use the same tube.

The M7 is now wired with each stage using one triode in the tube, i.e. the bottom tube is the first stage, the middle tube is the second stage and the top tube is the third stage. Now you can roll tubes to your heart's content.

Anyway, enough talk about the technicals. How does it sound ? I only managed to put in an hour of listening before sleeping but here are my initial thoughts on the latest incarnation of the M7 :-

1. Resolution - There is a noticeable increase in low level resolution and background "blackness". For example, on guitar notes, you can hear more of the body resonance of the guitar instead of just the plucked strings. Even in loud and complex passages, the increased level of detail is obvious.

2. Bass - Bass is substantial with more depth and extension.

3. Soundstaging - More 3D like with an noticeable increased in soundstage depth. Image sizes also are slightly larger.

4. Dynamics - The dynamic contrast between the loudest and softest passages is increased. Interestingly even at very high volumes, the dynamics are realistic and never fatiguing.

Note that my M7 uses a vintage military choke and NOS silver plated internal wiring. The volume pot is the standard Alps blue model though.

Oh yes, most importantly, T.S. Lim is offering this upgrade to existing M7 users for S$ 700. If you have already done the voltage filter and star ground, then the cost is S$300.

If you take this as an unreserved recommendation to upgrade your M7, you are not wrong. I highly recommend this upgrade. In current times when sought after NOS 12AX7 has reached silly money levels, this is money well spent.

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