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The front panel is sparsely populated with small buttons which, from left to right, operate the power and standby modes and volume up/down whilst finally you’ll find a row of three buttons for the ‘Profile’ presets. These store preset EQ curves to correct room issues, tailor for listening tastes and/or compensate for poor or coloured recordings. Purists aside, this last one is a terrific feature for combating, to a certain extent, the dreaded ‘Loudness Wars’ syndrome that sadly has infected most popular CD releases for a number of years. Pressing two ‘Profile’ buttons simultaneously will activate bypass mode (or in my case P0 set up for that purpose). A comprehensive remote control provides access to all the unit’s features.

I briefly auditioned the PreMate as a pure preamplifier fed with a single-ended analogue signal from my reference AMR CD-77.1 CD player. As such it performed very well with the clean, detailed, transparent and resolute sound one expects from a competently designed solid-state preamplifier. The remainder of the time was spent feeding the PreMate’s wonderful onboard DAC with either a S/PDIF signal from the AMR CD player or via the USB input from a MacBook using BitPerfect player and AIFF files.

Uncorrected response for the left and right Wilson Alexia speaker in the seat. Those who've never taken in-room measurements could be appalled by how far it diverges from the mythical flat line. This actually is an unusually good uncorrected plot. Most are far worse. Really!

Our current room is quite fortuitously flat and resonance-free without relying on the intrusion and spouse troubling of bass traps and acoustic paneling. However there is a medium amplitude/low Q hump around100Hz which manifests as a tad of bass warmth. It’s not objectionable and can actually be somewhat pleasing even though its added weight takes away some low-end transient impact.
Corrected response.

With the PreMate configured for a subtle fix around 100Hz on ‘Profile 1’ (P1), then adding a minute tidying up via parametric EQ around 1kHz with P2 and a total bypass as P0 on the remote, I got into the sonic evaluation. At this point it should be mentioned that the EQ feature allows endless response adjustments at any frequency (from 10Hz to 40kHz) to correct for just about any deviation. Once you’ve reached the desired sound, store it as a profile and use it as you please.   

As much as I hadn’t minded the slight hump around 100Hz prior to DEQX’ing the system, the P1 Profile with the slight modification provided for a surprising difference. DEQX’ed out, the sonics became more dynamically exciting and much punchier in the low end. Switching between P1 and bypass clearly demonstrated the added punch which the fix provided. Kick drum was felt far more profoundly and the overall bass region sounded tighter with enhanced rhythmic pace. This in turn provoked a change in the midrange. It became somewhat more detailed and its clarity stretched upwards towards the lower treble, taking the soundstage a tad more forward and pleasingly so.

Switching to bypass to compare the familiar sound but now using the PreMate’s DAC showed further skills. The DAC excelled at presenting a detailed, powerful, full-bodied and dynamic sound with the kind of sonic energy that will instill a sense of life and enthusiastic pace into any system.