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Apt Holman Preamplifier Review (vintage Audio)

tigerdog

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Really cool to see a review of this unit. When I was a young audiophile, this was an aspirational piece that I could only dream of owning. Great to see it's held up well over the years. Fun fact: the "Holman" in Apt Holman is Tomlinson Holman, the same guy who invented and whose initials form the first two letters in "THX" cinema sound.
 

DonH56

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Really cool to see a review of this unit. When I was a young audiophile, this was an aspirational piece that I could only dream of owning. Great to see it's held up well over the years. Fun fact: the "Holman" in Apt Holman is Tomlinson Holman, the same guy who invented and whose initials form the first two letters in "THX" cinema sound.

That was noted, and he himself posted, earlier in this thread.
 

sejarzo

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So what was the price back then?
many times when we have the impression that old products where better it is because they were not as afordable
I believe the MSRP was $499, but I got mine from a friend who ran a shop known as Good Vibes across the street from the Purdue engineering campus (and sold a TON of Apt gear to EEs, etc.) It had been loaned to one other customer for an overnight home demo and I got mine for $450.

Good Vibes sold so much Apt gear that Holman himself came to the store to do a seminar on the development of the circuitry and explain why that continuously variable stereo/mono control was included.

Eventually I paired it with an Apt One power amp when I could afford that. For many years, my system was a Kenwood KD500 turntable with a Platter Matter mat, Grace 707, SME 3009III, or Fidelity Research (unsure of the model) arm with a Sonus Blue, Denon DL103D, or Grado Signature (forgot the model) cartridge...Apt Holman/Apt One...and the original DCM Time Windows. In that era, those were almost all Class B components as rated by Audio Critic (best value.) I do recall that for a while, the Apt Holman was their Class A preamp.

The most problematic part in all those components were the relays for muting and tape loops, which were also used to mute the output from the Apt One for some time after it was powered up. I don't know anyone who didn't have to send theirs back to Apt for new relays.
 

EJ3

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Designed Sept '77–Jan '78. Built from 1978–1982 approximately. Original serial numbers started at 1001 and went through more than 10000 when the numbering system was changed.
It's is great that you have come on here & given some interesting history & perspective. Thank you. Yes, indeed, it is a real pleasure to have you here.
 

MAB

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I believe the MSRP was $499, but I got mine from a friend who ran a shop known as Good Vibes across the street from the Purdue engineering campus (and sold a TON of Apt gear to EEs, etc.) It had been loaned to one other customer for an overnight home demo and I got mine for $450.

Good Vibes sold so much Apt gear that Holman himself came to the store to do a seminar on the development of the circuitry and explain why that continuously variable stereo/mono control was included.

Eventually I paired it with an Apt One power amp when I could afford that. For many years, my system was a Kenwood KD500 turntable with a Platter Matter mat, Grace 707, SME 3009III, or Fidelity Research (unsure of the model) arm with a Sonus Blue, Denon DL103D, or Grado Signature (forgot the model) cartridge...Apt Holman/Apt One...and the original DCM Time Windows. In that era, those were almost all Class B components as rated by Audio Critic (best value.) I do recall that for a while, the Apt Holman was their Class A preamp.

The most problematic part in all those components were the relays for muting and tape loops, which were also used to mute the output from the Apt One for some time after it was powered up. I don't know anyone who didn't have to send theirs back to Apt for new relays.
I got my Apt preamp used at Audible Difference. I recall being scared just walking into the store. I paid $375, used, in really nice shape. With the greatest manual of all time. I used the Apt with so many different combos, including Time Window speakers which I loved!

I gave the Apt to my brother, who had to get the relay repaired. I replaced it with a Sonic Frontiers SFL3 two-chassis monster, which was a ton of fun, had acres of tubes, and all sorts of ways to enjoy audio as a high-maintenance hobby... I sold it for not much less than I originally paid.

I missed the Apt. I bought one to replace it on Craigslist a couple of years ago. It too had a relay go bad!
 

sejarzo

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I got my Apt preamp used at Audible Difference. I recall being scared just walking into the store. I paid $375, used, in really nice shape. ...

One channel in the preamp had become intermittent and it didn't seem to be the relay, so I found a cheap HarmonKardon tuner/preamp at some point in the 1990s but still used the power amp until we built a new home theater room. Eventually, I soldthe Apt pieces on Audiogon to a guy in NY who had them totally rebuilt for one of his adult kids. Both pieces were still in great shape, cosmetically, after 25 years or so--other than a couple of tiny nicks on the top edge of the faceplates.
 

restorer-john

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It too had a relay go bad!

The output relay could have been wired differently. Instead of putting the relay in series with the output, requiring the signal to pass through it, the 330R resistor could have been placed before the contacts and the relay could have been wired to short the output to ground when muting.

That way, both the preamp-out is tied to ground and the amp input is shorted when muting is pressed/or turn-on.
 

sejarzo

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I couldn't afford them, but I had friends with LS3/5as and with Magneplanars. I though they sounded pretty good.

My first "really good" (???) speakers were a pair of JansZen Z412HP hybrid electrostatics that I bought from a friend down the hall in the dorm. He owned the original Quad ESLs that were kept at home, which he drove with a J.E. Sugden pre/power amp combination that I eventually bought, too. He had a Linn Sondek TT with SME arm and Ortofon MC cartridge, HK Citation tuner, and an Advent cassette deck...pretty high end stuff for a college student, living for most of the year in an 11x14 foot dorm room. His goal was to have a dedicated listening room with Magnepans (the big ones). I acquired the JansZens when he decided to try the LS3/5a when he took off for grad school.

One guy who worked at the shop where I bought most of my new gear owned Dahlquist DQ10s, which were considered very good in the era. The next "hot" speaker I recall were the original Vandersteens--several folks I knew who'd acquired DCM Time Windows ultimately sold those to buy Vandersteens.

The shop where I bought most of my gear was originally rather small, but acquired the space next door and put in a new listening room with sand filled walls, conforming to what was then thought to be optimal size and configuration. They put some of the big Beveridge hybrid electrostats in there, but I honestly wonder if they ever sold any of them. I remember they had a huge grand re-opening when all that was done, and the guys who founded DCM were there along with Andy Rappaport, who put out several preamp and power amps for a few years. Pretty sure that the shop sold Audionics and Hafler electronics at some point.

However, when it comes to the other speakers that were popular then that friends owned or I was able to audition at length, I am kind of drawing a blank. I recall Fried and Thiel were often fairly well reviewed but never heard them at all.
 

dr0ss

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I recall Fried and Thiel were often fairly well reviewed but never heard them at all.
I had a college roommate with Frieds. Mid-70s. They were good enough that I still remember what he had. I know my own scholarship-student system, a Technics that I only had because my dad was a Panasonic dealer, lived in boxes.
 

Mandatrix

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According to quirkaudio a refurbed preamp gets new ICs, so I expect that in the tested unit those TL072 have been replaced by something more modern. With a +/-18V supply voltage I would chose a model like the OPA2604 which is rated for +/- 24 V to have some reserve.
TL082???????
Amir, what's really inside the beast you reviewed?
 

MAB

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The output relay could have been wired differently. Instead of putting the relay in series with the output, requiring the signal to pass through it, the 330R resistor could have been placed before the contacts and the relay could have been wired to short the output to ground when muting.

That way, both the preamp-out is tied to ground and the amp input is shorted when muting is pressed/or turn-on.
Thanks! Makes sense. I guess if wired as you suggest, a bad relay would simply result in incomplete muting.
 

RMBradley587

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Have been using an Apt/Holman pre for about 10 years now after running across a used one at a resale shop. Think I paid around $200 at the time. I had a level 3 refurb done at AudioProz (old Apt tech guy) about 2 years ago after the balance control started to get a little scratchy. It feeds a Perreaux 3150 power amp running Thiel CS3.6's. Just a great preamp that does everything you need a pre to do, and is dead quiet, and sounds fantastic. Great to see a full review, with test data, of old gear like this. Hoping mine will run another 30 years before it needs any attention! Another fun review I saw a few years back is at holman-preamplifier.htm
 

Labjr

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Hard to believe how much hi-fi was made in the USA at one time. Particularly, in Mass.
 

Prana Ferox

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I really wish someone in the US close to Amir could send him the old Japanese classics of the same era, such as the Yamaha C-2/2a/2x, Denon PRA-1000/2000/3000, Kenwood LO-7c/7cii, Sony TAE-86/86B, Technics SU-9070/9200/9600 etc. Surely some of you guys have some in your collections?

PXL_20211202_223059784.jpg


Unfortunately I'm at the wrong end of the country, and both would need a refurb anyway.
 

sejarzo

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I had a college roommate with Frieds. Mid-70s. They were good enough that I still remember what he had. I know my own scholarship-student system, a Technics that I only had because my dad was a Panasonic dealer, lived in boxes.

A coworker attended grad school at Minnesota, and while he is a chemical engineer, he had to learn to design circuits to build specialized instruments required for his thesis, so he was also an EE, practically speaking. He was a bassoon player and audiophile, and somehow he got to know Frank Van Alstine during that time. He said Frank had a concrete column poured that extended all the way up from the floor of the basement and through the floor of the listening room on which his turntable was placed to maximize isolation. One other thing that we no longer worry about in the digital era, eh? Anyway...I believe that he said Frank's primary speakers were Frieds.
 
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1979 this thing exceeds the performance of any consumer media aviable at the time ?
And loudspeakers of that era how good where they.
At the time this would have been “transparent” to the end user . And probably still is today in most cases
No, it does not even meet the requirements set forward by the main consumer media in 1979 - that of the phonograph record. The overload margin of phono input above 5 kHz - where almost ALL of the action is ( due to the RIAA curve ) - is way too low . Too low even for normal better recorded musical material, let alone for ticks/pops - not to mention an occasional scratch that is sadly unavoidable in records. It is the typical limitation for the circuits operating with standard +'- 15 V DC power supply rails using op amps.

The review itself is good, but clearly displays that the reviewer is not at home with phono gear. There is no mention of the phono input gain adjustment that can be set for each channel independently ( to cater for the compensation of phono cartridge output voltage imbalance - allowing for the correct balance rec out levels ) - which has been unheard of at the time. Nor is there any mention of the circuit having - as one of the first if not actually the first to do so - a buffer stage at the input that isolates further circuitry from the interaction with phono cartridge inductance, an old and known problem affecting RIAA accuracy when using real world source and not lab measurement gear.

This preamp is a large collection of TL071 ( family.... ) opamps. Therefore nowadays it can be considerably improved by the use of direct replacement modern version of this op amp - TLE2071 ( family ). Lower noise, lower distortion, triple slew rate ... - it yields both measurable and audible improvement.
 
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