"Now that my upgraded SA5000 is well and truly bedded in I just wanted to say thanks again for the work done. Your standard preamp is an excellent piece of kit but upgraded it reaches a different plane. Deadly quiet on vinyl with more solid imaging and a deeper richer bass response. Excellent!"
-- G. Browning
"If you own one of these beauties, have Mike re-do it! . . . The bass-midrange-treble improved! The imaging is breathtaking, it's like having the singers & players in the room with me. Dynamics are scary! You adjust the volume so it is comfortable to listen to, and all of a sudden, something comes out of nowhere & knocks your socks off. It is a LOT quieter. Those little silences between the notes are incredible. You can hear notes decay much better. You can follow individual players & singers much easier, everyone is in their own, individual spaces. Not that they are of the super-etched type, it is just so natural, like the real thing! . . . the soundstage is completely "divorced" from the speakers. It's like they're there, but not needed. This may not make any sense to anyone reading this, I'm having a very hard time explaining this ! At night, there is this "wall" of sound coming at you. INCREDIBLE!! . . . Give Mike Elliott a call. You'll never know how good this unit is, until you hear what he does to it!"
P.S., I recently compared my upgraded SA-5000 to my friend's Krell KRC-3 pre-amp. The only thing I can say positively about it is that it is slightly quieter. In every other way, your pre-amp bested it by a wide margin. Imaging, dynamics and frequency balance was better with the SA-5000. The Krell sounded bland to me! Imaging was like 2-dimensional cutouts, not the 3-dimensional imaging I've gotten used to. And this vertical imaging thing still astounds me! Listening to someone playing guitar and singing, or playing piano and singing. I can hear the distinct differences in height."
"My SA 5000 upgrade is better than ever. Never dreamt the changes would be so dramatic. My turntable is incredible; the CD is better . . . even my tuner sounds great. If the amp upgrade does what you say, well, I'll have a better-sounding system than I ever dreamed -- and at a reasonable cost."
-- Ed Freedman
the full text of these mini-reviews on the testimonials page.)
SA-5000 is a great preamp, with amazing potential. The vacuum
tube power supply sounds phenomenal and having the audio board mounted
on a floating suspension isolates the componentry from outside vibrations.
I do a process of parts upgrades and install better wiring. All these
modifications use a class of parts I could never afford to use in production
because the cost of a new preamplifier using these parts would have been
astronomical. But I do far, far more than simply upgrade the components
I make several changes to the circuitry itself. After all, I am
the designer of this preamplifier, so I am intimately familiar with how
it operates. You have to hear the improvement in clarity, transparency,
richness and harmonic "rightness" to believe it.
of the way the product is put together, with a "floating"
audio board with a high number of wires connecting it to the associated
front and rear boards, disassembly and re-assembly is time-consuming, so the labor
content of any modification work performed is necessarily high.
Stage Upgrades (Standard and new-style Premium
Direct In Modification
Power Supply Upgrades
Phono Stage Rebuild
OPTION: Upgraded Power Umbilical
Upgraded Volume and Balance
Controls with DACT and Remote Control
Improved RCA Jacks
A Special Note About Shipping
Stage Upgrades -- This is the place to start -- all the signals go through the line
the front-end of an upgraded SA-5000 Line Stage. The new output
caps are located to the rear of the unit and are not visible in
this picture. Note the flat, white Caddock resistors and large
black Mills resistors. (Earlier version shown with Auri and Multicaps, we now use Dynamicaps.)
Stage Standard Upgrade. I replace the tube's grid bias, plate
load, and buildout resistors with Caddock Tetrinox film resistors
and Mills Non-inductive wirewound resistors, and I upgrade input and
output coupling caps to TRT Dynamicap capacitors. The energy storage
caps are also upgraded. All 47 of the wires that bring signal into
and out of the audio board are upgraded to Cardas OFC Litz wire.
for SA-5000 "LSP" Standard Upgrade: $1400
Premium Upgrade. Just like the standard LSP upgrade, but with Continental Capacitor Type-A power
supply bypass caps (see photo below), and (new in 2010), TX2575 "naked" Z-foil Vishay signal path resistors. This upgrade is tremendously transparent, sweet,
lifelike, three-dimensional and musically involving.
for SA-5000 "LSP Premium" Upgrade: $1860
|For the "LSP Premium" (premium line stage) upgrade we mount a couple of Continental Capacitors to the underside of the top cover for line stage energy storage. It took us a few months to figure out how to fit them in the already crowded SA-5000 chassis, but the wires are long enough so you can open the hood to change tubes, they unplug from the caps if you need more room, and the sound is totally worth it!
Option: SA-5000 "Direct In" Mod. If the preamp was mine, I would
disable the front panel Absolute Polarity function switch to eliminate
the FET from the line stage signal path. After this mod is performed
the front panel mono/noninvert/invert switch does nothing, but thats
a small price to pay, in my estimation, for the increased purity of
sound that results by getting that transistor out of the signal path.
Price for SA-5000 "Direct In" Upgrade: Add $200
(Requires installation of Line Stage Upgrade)
Option: Balanced Outputs.
||SA-5000 with Balanced Outs. This unit did not have pre-existing XLR
| Back in 1994, overseas distributors requested that Counterpoint add balanced
output options to all of our preamps. This was done, but I wasn't very
proud of the results. In order to keep costs within the range requested
by the distributors, Counterpoint needed to use integrated circuits to convert
the single-ended signal from the line stage tube to a balanced signal.
If you own an SA-5000 with balanced outs, you're listening through transistors.
But if you'd like to add real balanced outputs to your SA-5000, (or convert
the factory-installed balanced outs), this upgrade is for you. I rebuild
the line stage so that it can provide a pure-tube balanced output without
using any integrated circuits or other devices in the signal path. The
tube drives the XLR directly. NOTE: The line stage must first receive the standard or premium line stage upgrade before this modification can be done.
to add Balanced Outs: $550 for SA-5000's with pre-existing XLR mounting
holes on the rear,
$650 for SA-5000's without pre-existing XLR mounting holes on the
Power Supply Upgrades.
The vacuum-tube voltage regulator section in the SA-5000 provides power
to the line and phono stages. It is this very power supply that is responsible
for the SA-5000 sounding so much better than the less-expensive SA-3000.
But guess what? You're not really hearing what a great performer the SA-5000
really is until the power supply is upgraded.
I offer two levels of upgrade for the SA-5000
power supply, for different budgets and listening preferences.
- Power Supply Level I Upgrade. Similar to the Line Stage Passives
upgrade, the Level I Upgrade improves the power supply's resistors and
capacitors, eliminating or upgrading solid-state parts, and replacing
several key electrolytic capacitors with Continental, and Nichicon MUSE
capacitors. In addition, the pass tubes are upgraded to 6922's, the
error amplifier tube is upgraded to a new 12AX7, and we modify the rectifier
tube socket to accept 6BW4
type rectifiers as well as the standard 6CA4 and 6V4 rectifiers, giving you a choice of tube to use there. Note that we do not automatically upgrade this tube (the one in the power supply) because there are so many choices available. If you want this tube upgraded, take a look at the selection and pricing on the rectifier tube chart and tell us what tube you'd like. Smoother sound, no more high-frequency "hash,"
and much more bass punch. This is a very audible improvement.
Level I Power Supply Upgrade. This unit belongs to Chip Chilton.
high-voltage regulator section of the audio board is responsible for the
overall sonic "signature" of the product. No matter how good
the audio sections themselves might be, if the power supply can't provide
them with uncolored, fast power when they need it, you'll never hear what
they can do. Improving the quality of the power feeding the Line and Phono
sections allows them to speak more dynamically and easily.
for SA-5000 Power Supply Level I Upgrade: $2000
Add setup fee to this
price if not done with an "LSP" upgrade.)
Supply Level II Upgrade. It's like the Level I Upgrade shown above,
but with better components. The Level I Upgrade just cleans up the more
obvious bottlenecks to great sound. This upgrade goes much deeper, with
more components upgraded, and more expensive components upgraded, like
replacing the large electrolytics in the power supply chassis with Continental Capacitors' oil-filled parts, for a quieter background
and silkier highs. Tthe tube sockets are upgraded to ceramic-gold, and (new in 2010), TX2575 "naked" Z-foil Vishay signal path resistors are used in the critical low-power locations. The net
result of all these improvements is a very open, exciting, detailed
and generally likeable sound. You'll be surprised by how many nuances
you'll hear in your recordings!
for SA-5000 Power Supply Level II Upgrade: $2600
fee to this price if not done with an "LSP"
"PSR" (Phono Stage Rebuild).
listen to a lot of vinyl, and cherish your recordings, get this upgrade.
After all, what's good for the line stage is superb for the phono stage,
where using high-quality components really shines, especially in the first
stage and riaa de-emphasis network where high-frequency energy levels
are extremely high. Upgrading the phono stage is more costly than upgrading
the line stage because it is over twice as complex, but the increase in
sound purity, imaging precision, air and musicality, is readily apparent.
During the process, I remove a lot of solid-state parts from the signal
path, including two solid-state buffers per channel, and one JFET per
channel -- these are no longer the '80's, and no one cares that these
parts resulted in better measurement specifications, the bottom line is
that the phono section triodes sound better, are more musical, tubelike
and liquid, when the extra parts are removed.
for SA-5000 "PSR" Upgrade: $1430
(add setup fee to this price if
not done with an "LSP" upgrade)
Option : Transformer Step-up MC Input. Natural sound with
no transistor interface -- for the listener who wants the best possible
sound for MC cartridges.
SA-5000 has both MM and MC inputs and uses a JFET (junction field-effect
transistor) for the MC step-up. JFETs, like all transistors, have their
own sonic signature. It's not bad, it's not real transistory, but it's
not as smooth and sweet as a tube. Fortunately, it is possible to eliminate the JFET from the
MC signal path and use a transformer as an MC step-up device. I greatly prefer the Sowter 8055 for this application due to its transparent, open, and musicially involving sound.
(Click here to read more about why
transformers are your best choice for MC step-up.)
|Musically-accurate and emotionally involving Sowter 8055 MC stepup transformers (the two small red cylinders mounted to the rear of this SA-9 belonging to Michael Savuto, Analogue Associates -- a fine modifier of Acoustat servo
amplifiers, but the idea applies to the SA-5000). Eliminate the original JFET step-up
circuit, eliminating transistory sound. Versions available for 20dB step-up (suitable for medium-output MC cartridges), or 30dB step-up for low-output MC cartridgtes. Dead
quiet, transparent and warm-sounding.
are two ways the SA-5000 can be modified to use MC stepup transformers:
The Fellow That Knows What He Wants: The original MC step-up JFET
is removed from the input stage and replaced with a pair of MC transformers.
The MM inputs remain available for MM use. Not only does the flexibility
of the preamp remain unchanged, there is an additional benefit even
when listening to MM cartridges! This is because even when in MM mode,
the SA-5000's MC JFET is connected from the tube cathode to ground. It's
biased fully "on" and "looks like" a pure resistance
to the phono tube, but as we know, using the very best-sounding resistors
is important in an audio product and that JFET in the tube's cathode circuit
is not a great-sounding resistor. By installing an MC transformer and
removing the MC JFET, both the MC and the MM inputs benefit. THIS IS THE BEST-SOUNDING CHOICE!
The Man Who Is Afraid To Commit: If you know you will not be using
an MM cartridge, we can keep the existing MC input jacks and their associated
JFET step up circuitry. But we take the MM jacks and connect then to a
pair of MC transformers. Both sets of inputs become MC inputs, and both
are available for use (using the internal MC/MM switch to select between
them). One set provides gain via a JFET, and one via the new transformers. However please note that unlike the option above, the original MC JFET
which is located between the input tube's cathode and ground in classic
cascode fashion is not removed. When the SA-5000 is in MC mode, the MC
cartridge signal is connected to the JFET which provides low-noise signal gain,
driving the tube through its cathode. But even when we select the MM (new
tranformer-driven MC inputs) that JFET is still in the tube's cathode.
It is biased on so hard that it looks like a resistor so it should not color the sound . . . but you can still hear the its subtle "JFET-y"
sound: a slight brightening, a slight grain and mist on the treble.
Price for SA-5000 MC Transformer Inputs (either way):
$320 for the transformers, and $720 for installation.
(Requires phono stage upgrade. We can accomodate nearly
all MC loading requirements when the upgrade is performed. Contact me
* If you'd
like to provide your own MC step-up transformers, please contact us. We
need to check for fit and compatibility and if we can install the parts,
deduct $320 from the cost of this option.
Upgraded Power Supply Umbilical Cord.
|You know how a good interconnect sounds miles better than the $2 interconnects that came with your CD player? Or how high-end speaker cables trounce zip cord? Or how a good AC Mains cord can transform the sound of your system? The same applies to the cable that connects your preamp to its power supply. New in summer of 2007 I am offering upgraded power supply umbilicals that so completely outperform the original $20 umbilical in every way possible. It's not even a close race.
Click here for more information and pricing for the Power Supply Umbilical upgrade.
(Requires Power Supply Level I or Level II Upgrade)
Volume and Balance Trim Controls.
excellent feeling and sounding volume and balance controls. Once you've heard (and felt) the difference between a $7.00
volume control and a $70.00 control you'll understand why people
go to such lengths to get cheap controls out of their signal
| The best-possible, best-sounding control: Danish Audio ConnecT's stepped control with optional remote control. Click here for more information and pricing.
"he-men" (and "she-women) out there, why not have the trim
controls bypassed altogether? You
know you don't use them, why run the
signal through them?Or, if
you need the flexibility of balance controls, and want the cleanest signal
path possible, how about converting to dual-volume controls? I can install
TKD volume controls in the right and left Trim control locations in the
SA-5000, and disconnect the existing volume control. It's a little more
difficult to control, but you get control over balance and volume while
only having one control in the signal path.
to Upgrade Volume Control: $200
Price to Upgrade Both Trim Controls: $260
Price to Bypass Trim Controls Altogether:$30
Price to Convert to Dual-Mono Volume Controls: $260
For pricing on the DACT volume control, click here.
(Requires Line Stage, Phono Stage, or Power Supply Level I or II Upgrade)
replace the old RCA jacks with oxygen-free direct-gold-over-copper RCA
jacks from Sound Connections.
for SA-5000 "Connection" Upgrade: $145 for the First Pair of
Add $75 for Every Additional Pair.
Price if You Upgrade All 13 Pairs: $800
(Requires Line Stage, Phono Stage, or Power Supply Level I or II Upgrade)
Board Damping. Circuit
boards are light and stiff -- they are resonant as heck, which causes
smearing of the sound. Your audio will be substantially improved when
we apply thick wool felt damping pads between the circuit boards and the
chassis to damp all resonances. This results in MUCH tighter imaging and
spatial resolution, MUCH greater retrieval of low-level details, a surprising
reduction in edginess, and a greater weight to the tone, which makes everything
sound fuller and more "real." Click here for pricing.
(Requires Line Stage, Phono Stage, or Power Supply Level I or II Upgrade)
Options. I can provide replacement tubes for this unit. Go to the Replacement Tubes page and select the SA-5000
information to read about the required tubes, and what I suggest.
Special Note About Shipping the SA-5000:
SA-5000's internal suspended subchassis needs to be secured before
shipping. If you don't, the heavy subchassis may break free from
its mounts and cause a lot of internal damage. Use the three red-headed
bolts that were provided with the unit and insert them into the
appropriate holes on the bottom of the chassis. Tighten them to
firmly cinch the internal suspended chassis down. If you do not
have the original bolts, you will need to go and buy three 4-40
x 3/4'' bolts and three 6-32 x 3/4'' bolts (both philips pan head).
First try the 4-40 bolts. If they are too loose, use the 6-32
bolts. These are American sizes -- there are no metric bolts that will fit. Earlier SA-5000's use the smaller diameter bolts; later
production runs used the larger bolt.
If I can
be of any further assistance, do not hesitate to contact me.