AMC 1100 £150 Mar 99 Tone controls cannot be defeated and the sum total is a little metallic but value in spades.
Creek OBH-11SE £199 Apr 99 A very lucid, natural headphone amp which scores as highly on acoustic and Classical as it does on Rock.
Creek OBH-12 £200 Jul 98 Only poor cosmetics mar the Creek. Sonically it's a gem.
Moth 30 Passive £149 Mar 99 Won't win prizes for best build but a flexible effort for a passive. Somewhat dry presentation overall.
Musical Fidelity X-Cans £130 Mar 98 If you haven't yet experienced the world of quality headphone listening, the X-Cans is the way to start.
Musical Fidelity X-Pre £200 Jan 98 A smooth, sweet and musical performer.
Musical Fidelity X-Tone £120 Mar 99 Easy-to-use stand-alone modern tone control with subtle effect. At present deleted, worthwhile 2nd hand.
Project 7  £259 Feb 95 Immensely enjoyable and listenable, a rare mixture of sophistication and fun.
Rotel RC-971 £150 Mar 99 Five line-level inputs and tone controls make for flexibility. Partnered by the RB-971 power amp,  good value.
Technics SU-C1000MkII £299 Apr 98 Needs slightly more taut bass and a less grainy midrange to bring it up with the best.
PRE-AMPLIFIERS - £300 - £799
Audio Note MIR Preamp &
Audio Note P Zero monoblocs
Aug 01 Tremendous life, zip and brio make for an eminently musical listen, but try before you buy as it may not be to everyone's taste.
Audio Analogue Bellini £475 Apr 98 Organic and transparent. Free from transistor hardness.
Aura CA200 £749 Mar 97 A smooth and sweet sound devoid of roughness.
Crimson CS610C £440 Nov 98 The phono stage is the main area of weakness. Can sound a touch muddled at times.
Croft Epoch £600 Jun 96 A fine sounding preamp, but the phono stage is weak in the bass.
Croft Vitale £350 Feb 00 Sparkling valve pre-amp at a very modest price. Humble finish but exceedingly sweet sound.
Cyrus Pre £650 Feb 96 Pre-amplifier has plenty of facilities, but sounds a little unexciting and 'conventional'.
Heybrook Signature II £549 May 97 Impressive smoothness and tonal colour, transparent as well.
Meridian 501.2 £750 Nov 99 Impressive with high octane music, but lacks that bit of warmth to bring out the best in laid-back material.
Naim NAC 112 Pre &
Naim NAO 150 Pwr
Jun 01 A more gripping and thrilling sound at this price you will not get, but this combo won't be to everyone's taste.
PM Audio Lab L1S £650 Dec 95 This valve pre-amp is very good value indeed.
Rothwell Indus £499 May 99 Passive pre of box-of-switches, whichever way you look at it the Indu sis stylishly finished and well conceived.
Sumo Athena II £767 May 96 More valve-like than transistor in sound; highly competent if not spectacular.
Talk Hurricane 1 £500 Jun 97 Flexible with a strong controlled sound, but won't suit all tastes.
Technics SU-C1000 £350 Feb 97 Good when mains powered, even better running on its batteries. One to consider at the price.
Thorens TTA2000 £550 Jul 95 Poor sound quality and engineering let this pre-amp down. Pricey too.
Unison Res. Feather 1 £795 Aug 98 Warm but still exciting, it is only let down by a slightly recessed midrange
PRE-AMPLIFIERS - £800 - £1499
Audiolab 8000Q £999 Jun 95 Highly recommended for its blend of operational sophistication, build and sound quality.
Croft Epoch Elite £950 Oct 99 Fast and detailed with a breathtaking clarity and sweetness. Well worth saving up for.
Cyrus aCA7.5 £800 Jan 01 Confident, musical and a joy to use. The competition is tough but they stand their ground admirably. Great upgradability.
Etalon Preamplifier £1095 Feb 98 Smooth, even and transparent. Well worth the outlay.
John Shearne Phase 6 £895 Sep 96 Matched with a smooth amp and íspeakers the Phase 6 is capable of a transparent and rewarding performance
Linn Wakonda £900 Apr 98 In terms of musicality and involvement it falls short.
Meridian 502 £1295 Dec 96 Transparent, detailed sound with good tonal range and very natural presentation.
Meridian 502 pre & 
Meridian 557 power
Mar 01 Classy, confident and mature sounding with plenty of power and dynamic control, this is an essential audition. Supremely versatile too.
Musical Fidlelity A3cr Pre & Power £999
Apr 00 A corking duo that set a new sonic standard at the price. Listen and weep!
Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista £1200 Sep 98 A truly competent pre-amp whose high-end sound comes with a very reasonable price tag.
Musical Fidelity X-P100 £800 Jul 99 Clear, fast and flexible. 'Son of NuVista' is a substantial chip off the same block.
Naim NAC102 £999 Apr 97 This even-handed performer images well and deals confidently with music regardless of genre
Quad 7741 £850 Jul 96 Bright and detailed, but phono stage is inadequate at this price.
TAG McLaren PA10 £850 Nov 98 Justifies its price with a very musical and revealing performance.
XTC Pre-1  £1000 Nov 96 This pre-amp is highly detailed and spacious.
Audiovalve PPP30 £1995 Mar 95 A bright and lean approach to the valve sound.
Canary 601 MkII £1600 Apr 99 Very musical, very revealing. A credit to the valve tradition with considerable kick in reserve.
Chord CPA 1800 £1774 Mar 98 Has it all - detail, transparency, slam and rhythm. In a word excellent.
Final Music 5  £1500 Feb 99 Partner for the Final Music-6 power amp. Battery powered.
Focusrite Red 4 £2345 Feb 96 Smooth and detailed sound. Not as clinical as some professional amps can be.
Galactron Pre £1630 Nov 95 Smooth, but dull balance makes it suitable for bright systems.
Marantz 7 £3500 Mar 97 Superb, combines delicacy and power, especially with a vinyl source.
Michel Orca £1650 Oct 98 With its Panasonic pot, the Orca reaches new standards of transparency and involvement.
Samuel Johnson PCA 100 £2115 Jul 00 Very creditable solid-state amplifier with well-maintained power. Clean and full musical sound. Slightly expensive but stylish.
Sugden Masterclass Pre
Sugden Masterclass Pwr
Nov 01 These are serious amps albeit at a serious price. Beautifully built with a smooth sweet valve-like quality but with plenty of power.
Unison Res. Mystery 2 £1750 May 98 Offers finesse, control and clarity for a very reasonable outlay.


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