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Reviewer: Stephæn
Analogue sources: Nottingham Analogue Studio Space Deck driven by Walker Audio Precision Motor Controller. NAS Space Arm with The VTAF® from Pete Riggle Audio. Dynavector 17D2MKII, Dynavector 20xl, Denon 103, Audio Technica OC9 cartridges.
Digital sources: Wavelength Audio Cosecant USB DAC fed by iBook G4 with dual 500GB LaCie Firewire drives; Tube Research Labs fully modified Sony SCD-2000ES (for SACD playback). Secondary: TRL-modified Alesis ML-9600 high-resolution master disk recorder.
Preamps: deHavilland UltraVerve; modified/upgraded Eastern Electric Minimax (larger PS, 12FQ7 ready, gain cut to 9dB); Herron Audio VTPH-1MC; Monolithic Sound PS-1/HC-1.
Amplifiers: AudioSector Patek v2; Wright Sound Company WPA 3.5 monoblocks. Secondary: Outlaw Audio RetroReceiver.
Speakers: DIY Altec 604 MLTL. Secondary: Zu Audio Druid Mk.4; Sound Dynamics RTS-3; REL Strata III.
Cables: DIY WM-XTC; Audience Au24 and Zu Audio Libtec cables; Audience Au24, Audience Maestro [on loan] and TG Audio Lab custom copper interconnects. Secondary: Analysis Plus cables and interconnects.
Stands: Two three-tier Grand Prix Audio Monaco units on GPA Apex footers
Isolation: Main: GPA Monaco. Secondary: Acoustic Dreams Dead Ball Isolators; Neuance platform
Powerline conditioning: BPT 3.5 Signature; cryo'd Pass & Seymour wall outlets; Audience, T.G. Audio Lab SLVR, Analysis Plus Power Oval, and Zu Audio Birth and Bok [both on loan] power cords. Secondary: Brick Wall PW8R15AUD
Sundry accessories: HAL-O® Vacuum Tube Dampers, Herbie's Way Excellent Turntable Mat, VPI 16.5 record cleaner, Shun Mook Valve Resonators, Auric Illuminator, and Walker Audio Vivid CD & DVD Enhancer.
Music makers: Epiphone Dot (Gibson ES-335 knock-off) and Chet Atkins CE (nylon-strung classical) electric guitars; Fender Blues Jr. amp; Privia PX-555 keyboard and 1906 Ellington upright piano.
Office system: Soundquest R601 Tube Hi-Fi FM/AM Classic Radio and Gibson j-100 acoustic guitar.
Room size & treatments: 26' x 19' x 9' (a fractured 'L', nominally 16' x 19' with 12' feet of the 19-foot dimension opening to the 20-foot section of the 20' x 12' kitchen/eat-in area); concrete slab, sheetrock walls. ASC Tube Traps and Sound Planks, Echo Busters absorbers, Shakti Hallograph Soundfield Optimizers and Acoustic Revive RR-77 Ultra Low-Frequency Pulse Generator.
Review component retail: $3,300

As the sun set on this day in early May, I picked up Bill Van Winkle for dinner and audio games at my place. For those unfamiliar to the audio scene in our hamlet, Bill's a long-time local; an ultra-cool 79-year old sightless master piano recrafter/tuner and certified babe magnet®. While he's retired from the former calling, the latter keeps him young - and us pining for his increasingly rare company. After a feast of barbecued salmon with fresh apricot glaze, cucumber salad and a nice Pinot Noir from the Chelan Estate, we settled down for a listen to one of the new toys in house.

Bill's quite familiar with my system (and tactics). When I asked him to compare the sound of my now year-long resident the deHavilland UltraVerve preamp and the in-for-review Dodd, he was typically reserved. "It's interesting, the differences. I'm getting some mental pictures and there are some real differences - but both are very good." Now if you know Bill, you know that for him to pronounce something as 'very good' is an event. That's a comment I've heard him save for only the very best pianos that come through his workshop. So I knew what he meant. He was surprised and impressed.

Turning the tables, he challenged me to characterize the sound of each preamp in one word. I said "Okay, but first it would help if you think of Badger Mountain (whose scenic sagebrush slopes start in our back yard) on a clear summer day."
"Okay, I've got it," he nodded.
"Great. Now think about this: While one side is sunny, the other is shady."
Bill stopped me. "Yes, I see that. I think you've said all that needs to be said."

So there you have it, folks. All that needs to be said. Move along now.

Okay, maybe a little more
Bill loves to listen for the color. "The only time I can visualize colors is when I hear music," he added. In BillSpeak, that's code for "I want to listen to more music."

What's a guy to say? I hit play.

Here are the basics according to Walter Liederman (of Underwood HiFi), distributor: "Continuous battery operation; input impedance 100K ohms (quieter and more universal); output impedance < 200 ohms; gain 16dB; 4 RCA inputs, 2 RCA outputs; home theater bypass; high quality Cardas sockets (Vampire copper on the CD input and one output); Vampire continuous cast copper internal wiring; very simple circuit design with only one capacitor in the signal path; Sonicaps bypassed with Platinum Sonicaps for the output section; uses 2 x 6DJ8 tubes or any variant of this tube (6922); matching remote with volume control via motorized Alps Black Beauty; battery life expectancy 12-14 months; cost of battery replacement $19.95 x 4 direct from Dodd."

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"Think about it. No need to deal with power conditioning and expensive power cords. The Dodd preamp runs off perfect DC, direct from its internal batteries. The preamp is remote controlled and offers 2 outputs for biamping or adding a subwoofer, as well as having a passive pass-thru that operates with the unit in the off position. It has a low output impedance of only 200 ohms and will therefore work with virtually all power amps. Parts quality is world class with Vampire wire, Cardas jacks and Sonicaps bypassed with Platinum Sonicaps on the outputs."

So that's what you get for your $3,300. I don't think he mentioned that it charges using a small plug-in charger and comes in your choice of Curly Maple or Rosewood chassis. Beautiful stuff.

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Designer and builder -- yes, each and every one by hand -- Gary Dodd adds: "I believe this to be the first of its kind in the world, at least the only one contained all in one chassis. I am very proud of this preamp and have been working on it for three years. In fact, this preamp is so good that I have discontinued the older preamp models."

I took the opportunity to pose the usual questions to Gary: How about a brief (or not) statement of your design philosophy?

When I design a product, I use as little as I can to achieve the sonics I am looking for, without cutting corners in other areas such as reliability and aesthetics. I am a believer in the KISS (keep it simple stupid) method.

Is there anything you'd like to share about your personal history?

As a boy I was always messing with old radios and other electronic items. I would take them apart and make them into other things - or at least that's what I thought. As I got older, I got into music and how to reproduce it so it sounded realistic (there were very limited sonics in those days). As I went along building things, I found out that I could take away parts and it would sound better. This is where I am today.

What associated components and music do you use when voicing your products?

My listening system consists of a CEC player currently using the internal DAC; a Pro-Ject Experience turntable by Sumiko with carbon fiber arm and Blackbird cart. I am using a small version of my battery preamp and I typically use my own amps as well. Currently I am using a GR Research Alpha LS speaker system, a line source speaker. I normally listen to all kinds of music but for voicing, I use a small collection of material both vinyl and CD. It consists of mostly female vocals, rock and blues.

Could you send me a picture (or three) of your listening room/s and system/s?

My room is in such disarray I can't possibly show it. Sorry.