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Van Alstine Super PAS 3 preamp KIT

Rebuilding a vintage Dynaco preamp - Part II

[Italian version]

Product: Van Alstine Super PAS 3 rebuild KIT
Manufacturer: Audio By Van Alstine Inc.
2202 River Hills Drive
Burnsville, Minnesota 55337 USA
Phone: 612-890-3517
Approx. price: Super PAS 3 Rebuild Kit - $299.00
Optional Gold Plated Jack Set - $ 65.00
Optional Fiberglass Selector Switch - $ 55.00
Shipping and handling additional
Reviewer: Nels Ferré

[Van Alstine Super PAS 3]
The Super PAS 3 rebuild KIT

Listening and Overall Impressions

In Part I of this review, I described the construction of the Audio by Van Alstine Super PAS 3 Preamplifier. Before turning the unit on for the first time, I installed a set of the new Sovtek 12AX7LPS tubes from St. Petersburg, Russia, along with a new General Electric 12X4 Rectifier tube.

I spent approximately 25-30 hours in my "spare" time rebuilding the old Dynaco preamplifier. Was it worth the effort? You betcha!!
As I noted in part 1, I foolishly powered up the unit before the recommended (and free) checkout at AVA's headquarters. This resulted in a failure of the LED power indicator, which was replaced during the checkout, and the underlying fault repaired. I did get a chance to listen to the preamp before I sent it off to AVA, and I found that I missed it while it was out of my system. This should give readers an idea of how taken I am with the AVA Super PAS 3.

So what does it sound like? It is a very musical sounding unit, indeed. Everything played through it, from Vivaldi to McCartney has a much more "real" sound to it. There is more detail in the sound, without ever becoming harsh or analytical. I wouldn't call the sound "lush" or "syrupy", like some people characterize the sound of tube electronics. I would say the sound is extremely involving and enjoyable, drawing the listener deeper into the musical event.

One of my favorite things about this preamp, for instance, was its ability to resolve low level detail. Just a couple of examples: While listening to Jewel's debut release, "Pieces of You", I heard something I had never heard before. Occasionally, when she would make the "p" sound, the air pressure hitting the mic diaphragm was clearly audible, just as it would if she were live in a small club.
The most striking example of the low level capability of the Super PAS 3 was during the drum intro to "Honky Tonk Women" by the Rolling Stones. I have heard this song probably thousands of times, and had never noticed that during recording there was a problem in the recording booth. It sounds as if the tape was “fluttering” against the record head. I had never heard this on any other system, ever.

While I do love this preamplifier, I have one reservation about the sound. The preamp does sounds a bit "reserved" or "polite" in the lower registers. Not far off of the mark, in my opinion, but enough to be noticeable.
The bass is there, but, while listening to popular music or the blues, the bass sounds "softer" than I am used to. I wish there were been a bit more quantity of bass. On the other hand, the quality of bass is excellent.
Drums especially, are reproduced with a realism that I have never experienced in my system. Overall, the strengths of this preamplifier far outweigh its weakness.

One does need to keep any negative remarks on the Super PAS 3 in context. Remember that fully outfitted with options, the kit costs only $475, plus the cost of a "donor" Dynaco preamp.
This preamp sounds far better than it has a right to. It totally destroyed the $1000 preamp that I have been listening to for the past 9 years. In fact, a good friend, whose opinion I trust, recently upgraded from a Super PAS 3 to a Cary Audio preamplifier, and is using the Super PAS 3 as his phono stage.
He says the Super PAS 3 holds its own quite well in his system.

Would I recommend that someone contact AVA and buy the kit? Not necessarily. I would wholeheartedly recommend it only if one already has a donor preamp, or can rescue an "orphaned" preamp for free. In fact, if you already have a Dynaco PAS series preamp, I would recommend you contact AVA right now.
If you feel that you do not have the time or the ability to assemble the kit, send your preamp to AVA, and they will rebuild it for a modest additional charge.

If you don't already have a Dynaco preamp to use as a donor, I would give it some thought before buying one. The reason for this is simple economics. After buying a preamp. the kit (with the options, which I highly recommend), and a new set of tubes, you will have invested approximately $625.

AVA makes a "new" kit, not a rebuild of an old Dynaco, called the Super PAS 3i SL. This kit has a dedicated headphone amplifier and jack, which the Dynaco does not. If you love headphones, the Dynaco isn't your preamp.
Additionally, the Super PAS 3i SL has a higher quality transformer 2 tape monitor loops, and updated styling. It comes with a new set of tubes as well in the $559 kit price.

Because I have not auditioned the Super PAS 3i SL myself, I cannot give a recommendation. Perhaps it can be the subject of another review at some time in the future. In the meantime, it promises to be a tremendous value assuming it sounds as good as the Super PAS 3. Frank Van Alstine says it sounds better.

I would like to thank Frank Van Alstine for giving me the opportunity to review the Super PAS 3, and for his patience and assistance during the rebuild process.

Manufacturer's comment

Thanks for the very kind and very accurate review. The only thing you missed was that the Super Pas Three was designed by my chief genius electrical engineer, Aado Perandi, with later assistance by my second in command genius electrical engineer, Mithat Konar (who is also responsible for the awesome Biro loudspeakers).
The only further comment I would have is that to fully appreciate our equipment (and your music), Aado Perandi's newest work of art, the Omega IV DAC, needs to be in the system too.
This will give you everything you have been missing, and have been wished you had in your audio system, for all the years you have been searching for the ultimate.
Frank Van Alstine

[Back to Part I]

© Copyright 2000 Nels Ferré - http://www.tnt-audio.com

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