This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

Soundstage dimensions were more varied than with most active preamps and changed from recording to recording. The Tortuga did not inject its own inherent perspective and as a result all parameters of size, dimensionality and positioning were source dependent. The Tortuga could easily reproduce information larger than room size but only where venue and engineering allowed. The concepts of air around instruments, spaces between performers and hall acoustics all were determined by the nature of the chain around it and could easily be altered by those choices. The inclusion of the fabulous AURALiC DAC emphasized solidity, dimensionality and exceptional tonal accuracy to push the system towards the organic. The DAC 2 played towards transparency and wide dynamic contrast showing its designer’s preference for a breathless need for speed. Same event, two different takes with the LDR6 playing truthful translator.

Here comparisons come in and provisos enter the picture. My experience with the current crop of passives is minimal and this is the first of the new breed in house. I cannot answer how the LDR6 fares against other next-gen contenders like the transformer-based variety. That listening battle remains to be played out. I can say that against my old-school boxes and the motorized volume incorporated in my aging Luxman CD player there was no contest. Where those products were similarly direct in their passive execution and revelatory in their day, the Tortuga flexed its generational muscle with better dynamic authenticity over a wider range, better resolution and less inherent character. It was a leap into a better future.

Time to throw the Tortuga a tougher challenge. Mr. Sissener contends that a well-executed passive should outperform virtually any active under proper circumstances. The dominant force for most audiophiles will be the active preamp as had been the majority of preamps to enter my house. I thus put our little LDR6 to the test against a sampling of powerhouse performers, some direct, some against memory. The tonal balance of the Tortuga was surprisingly similar to the Audio Space Reference 2S set for accuracy rather than euphony. Although the 300B tube pre can be dialed to intoxicate, it can also play the part of precision instrument. It was interesting to see the Tortuga pay the Audio Space a compliment by demonstrating how successfully its active linestage achieved comparable neutrality of tone. Dimensionally there were differences. The Audio Space increased space between instruments and rounded their forms to a greater extent but overall stage dimensions were quite similar. In the dynamics department the big 300B preamp enhanced low level material by slightly raising the dynamic ground floor whilst the Tortuga showed superior prowess in both differentiation of shading and overall range of contrast. Since the Reference 2S was and is quite good in that department, the results spoke very highly for the little LDR passive.

The bout against the Wyred4 Sound DAC2 was quite revealing. It pitted the DAC2's own volume control against the Tortuga Audio. The DAC2 ran direct to the amps. The Tortuga was then introduced as pre with the DAC2 set to fixed as essentially a bypass test. The LDR6 took advantage of the fact that the Wyred preferred to romp at full steam for widest dynamic contrast. The Wyred's digital control was good. The Tortuga was better. The H2O Audio FET-based Fire preamp is true to its name with energy and exuberance that are extremely compelling. The Fire goes for a bigger brawnier meatier style that's vehemently organic and forceful. The Tortuga matched that dynamic intensity but played closer to the transparency line with overall response and presentation. Comparable fire with a cooler burning flame. The preamp stage of the wonderful Densen B-130+ integrated captured some of the fine detail and gradation of the LDR6 as well as its neutral tonal balance but couldn’t match the extreme dynamic swings or liveliness. Both designs demonstrated that neutral needn't mean anaemic or uninvolving but the contender from Florida added a degree of exuberant energy.

The Acoustic Buoy Scorpio tube preamp is another precision statement piece which eschews euphonics for the pursuit of timbral and dynamic accuracy and does so with resounding success. Built like a vault, the Scorpio is the device that spoke to the Tortuga on close terms. The Acoustic Buoy showed its active status with a little additional layering, soundstage density and a slightly warmer balance but to a far more subtle degree than the passive vs. tube situation would have suggested. The Scorpio’s considerable dynamic power met its match in terms of range and was exceeded by the Tortuga in better low-level gradation if only by a narrow margin. Equipment matching here would be key and could easily turn the tables.

If one looks at the results and factors in the price differences, the Tortuga comes off as a powerful little piece which more than vindicates Mr. Sissener’s claims about the virtues of passives in general and the LDR6 in specific. It offered an uncluttered yet exceptionally detailed and dynamic presentation that was fundamentally honest to the signal ahead of it. The performance of the little Tortuga reopens the passive vs. active debate. Is honesty the best policy? While many audiophiles claim to seek absolute truth and accuracy, their system choices reveal wide divergence on where their truth really lies. Active offers a different viewpoint as does the world of signal manipulation. This recreates an event beyond the recording chain. Do you mean to hear what’s actually on the recording? The LDR6 should faithfully comply. Do you want the system to translate further back and give a rendition that transcends the recorded medium? That’s where the LDR6 cannot go. Here the listener has to decide which truth to follow.

Has Mr. Sissener created a sonic giant beneath a demure little exterior? I'd say so. The realization of no mechanical contact on either volume pot or input selector appears to succeed at contributing less and revealing more. The Tortuga Audio preamp equalled or surpassed all basic performance parameters against any contenders I had in house, passive, active, tube, FET and at any price level with regards to faithfulness. That put the Tortuga Audio LDR6 into the position of personal benchmark as my current reference for accuracy. The top competition may offer equal or superior performance but that's for the future to reveal. For now the LDR6 is my top dog. Who should be marking it for their short list? If you don’t need an active stage, meet the qualifications and can handle the unvarnished truth, this is an easy recommendation. The price/performance ratio is exceptional. Remember though that this is a neutral passive which at its best won't contribute to the sonic equation. If your equipment can’t deliver the goods, the LDR6 won’t. Who should look the other way? If you need gain, no passive will do. If you yearn for additional enhancements in layering and refinement which active circuitry or a buffer might introduce, the LDR6 could be too honest for your tastes. It’s a sharp lens without effects filters.

Quality of packing: Priority Mail medium cardboard box. Internal protection via sheet polystyrene and folded corrugated paper spacers. Adequate protection for size and weight.
Reusability of packing: Yes.
Condition of components received: Perfect.
Delivery: USPS Priority Mail.
Website comments: Large amount of information covering technology, setup, product information, upcoming designs as well as DIY and customer forum.
Human interactions: Quick, friendly and informative.
Warranty: 5-year parts and labor.
Final comments & suggestions:Music through the LDR6 is an ephemeral experience. It dances with fire for a brief shining moment and disappears, leaving you wanting more. If that amounts to a display of character, whether virtue or flaw, it's one I might be able to live with. And I intend to find out as I’m purchasing the piece.

Tortuga Audio website