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

Soundstage width is as good as I’ve heard. I don’t know what else to say other than that the sound easily moves outside the speaker boundaries and gives a feeling of row 3 to 4 seats in any venue. Soundstage depth is very good.  In my 14’ x 17’ x 9’ WxDxH room, I have an almost near-field listening environment where I sit 8 - 9 feet from the speakers which are 4.5 ft. from the front wall. The soundstage behind the speakers extends several feet deep and all the way to the front of the speaker plane. 

There is an eerie ease and naturalness about music flowing from the RTP3D. The sound is so relaxing yet life-like, I don’t ever think about listening. Rather, I just relax and enjoy the music. No other preamp before came close in this regard. Instead of analyzing the sound and trying to figure out what is wrong and right, the music pulls me into the venue and I forget about everything hifi and encounter musical artistry instead.

I immediately knew that the RTP3D was different. But how? First off, it immediately relaxed my shoulders. Have you ever noticed how neck and shoulders tighten when listening to a poor recording or an imperfect system? With the RPT3D, the relaxed shoulder factor is amazing. Instead of listening for sonic and flaws, strong bass, extended highs or any other hifi attribute, I lose sight of the hardware and just enjoy the music. The musical captivation quality creates relaxation and I want to listen to more and more music.

One of the most important factors to recreate a convincing musical event are dynamics. When one is outside a room of live musicians playing, it’s immediately apparent. Tonality, soundstaging, imaging, bass and treble extension don’t factor. Regardless, we still know that we’re privy to a live event. It’s the dynamics which telegraph even outside the room. A cymbal crash is the simplest example which undeniably identifies the real thing. Once we enter a live music venue, we experience not only the event's macrodynamic or dynamic range but also the room size, tonality and location of each instrument and musician. That’s microdynamics. Combined, both macro and microdynamics are the most important factors to recreating a convincing illusion of the real thing.

No other preamp I’ve heard matches the microdynamic capabilities of the RTP3D.  On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s an 11.  The nearest competitor is the Lyra Connoisseur 4.2SE with a score of 9.  And the Lyra Connoisseur is head and shoulders above the rest. So the RTP3D in my book has no peers on dynamics and especially microdynamics. Its dead silent background coupled with an ability to allow super-low details to flow from the music is unrivaled – surprising given its use of valves. On recordings of classical, jazz and well-recorded rock, venues immediately take shape due to hall ambience cues and 3-dimensional boundaries that can only be heard with the RTP3D. I had no idea what I was missing before. I suspect most audiophiles don’t until they audition an absolute reference preamp like the RTP3D. One of my favorite choral recordings is Rachmaninov’s Vespers on Angel. This LP is from the early 60s with hall ambience and spatial cues galore - but only if a system won’t mask microdynamics. The RTP3D makes audible many more nuances to create that sense of being there. The venue’s walls, ceiling and floor are defined and individual  voices are properly placed in space.

I was surprised with the off-the-charts top extension. Not only that, tonal balance was perfect to my ears – no harshness, no muting or rounding, just natural sound. The bottom end has the most natural tonality and my only quibble is that it’s not as controlled as either the Vitus SL-010 or Lyra Connoisseur. The transistor preamps have better control and slam in the sub 50Hz region but the tubed RTP3D sounds more natural.

The following two paragraphs are quoted from zen resources on the Internet. While I have pursued no formal zen studies, this information is logical and applies to audio: "To counter the time-aperture effect and to feel like the days aren't rushing by, you need to relax your brain. When your brain is completely relaxed and healthy, it starts to take pictures at a higher rate and becomes more focused… When you rely on your slow consciousness, your perception becomes slow too. …when your mind speeds up, your perception of time slows down." [link]

"A concentrated mind is not an attentive mind but a mind in the state of awareness which can concentrate… It is not a constricted concentration but a relaxed and free one. When you get into the calm and unperturbed state of mind of conscious awareness, you can perceive easily and nothing can happen too quickly." [link]

In audio, if you are relaxed, your mind will perceive events as occurring more slowly. The music will appear to be slower and more deliberate. One of the most fascinating audio experiences I had occurred when the RTP3D began to make the music sound slow. Only after a while did I realize that the perceived slowness was caused by a more relaxed state of mind. I no longer focused on audio traits. I did not try to pick apart the bass, treble, soundstage and imaging. Rather, my foot was tapping and my shoulders were at ease. This induced relaxation was unparalleled. The slowness should not imply a lack of PRaT. Rather, I feel so relaxed and entranced that time no longer factors. I no longer worry about it. That’s when the magic happens.

As an ultra hi-end audio enthusiast for many years, I was fortunate to own several state-of-the-art preamplifiers both phono and line. Prior to owning the RTP3D, my favorite preamp was the Lyra Connoisseur 4.2L SE and 4.2P SE (phono and line stage respectively). Those are currently not in production and at the time (2008) retailed for $50.000/pr.  

Vaccum State website