Convergent Audio Technology SL1 Renaissance Black Path Edition

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Tullman, Feb 8, 2016.

  1. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston MA
    After enjoying my original CAT SL1 Signature for about 2o years, I decided to buy the new CAT Renaissance Black Path Edition model.

    Recently, I visited CAT to have my mono blocks refurbished and upgraded to accept KT120 tubes, the results were stunning. It got me to thinking what 20 years of evolution for the preamp would sound like.

    I called Ken Stevens and ordered the new preamp. It took about a month for delivery.

    It took me about four hours to remove the old unit, pack it, unpack the new unit and install it into my system. I have a tuner, two disc players and a TT plugged into the preamp. I had to reconnect power cables, ground cables and interconnects.

    When I finally pushed the on button, I held my breath hoping everything worked and no funny popping sounds or whisps of smoke appeared.

    It worked, but I noticed it took a lot of gain to get good sound. I remembered when Ken told me that there was a line stage gain selection switch inside the unit that could be selected HIGH-25 DB or LOW 15 DB of gain. I put the switch to HIGH, and the gain selection was what I was used to, however, the low gain selection would be great for sources that are too hot like my tuner. I would like to play around with these settings more.

    I set the phono select switches inside to MM high output for the Zephyr II. The preamp also has a switch for MC, a separate built in step up transformer.

    I let the unit warmup for about 20 minutes. I put on a cd and my jaw dropped. The noise floor so much than lower than I was used to. The instruments were precisely placed, the tone was accurate and the soundstage wrapped around the room. The Renaissance Black Path made every other component much better. My Esoteric proved to be much better than I thought and that goes for my TT, tuner, and disc players, as well.

    Ken Stevens told me that this preamp can compete with everything out there, and I can see no reason to disagree.

    Here is a picture, probably one of the first online. The Renaissance Black Path was released a couple of months ago.

    [​IMG]

    This ain't your fathers volume control, the optional 46 point VC. Ten tubes are in there.


    [​IMG]
     
    Benzion, IanL, 56GoldTop and 9 others like this.
  2. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Bend, IN
    Absolutely gorgeous, inside and out. Congratulations on your new gear!!
     
    Tullman likes this.
  3. econalan

    econalan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    Congrats man! That looks and sounds like a "preamp for life" piece.
     
    Tullman likes this.
  4. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston MA
    Yeah, for my life anyway.:D
     
    econalan likes this.
  5. dogpile

    dogpile Generation X record spinner.

    Location:
    YYZ - Canada
    Congrats!! I see the design haven't changed much over the years...it's one sexy understated design.

    I owned one several years ago and believe it was the SL1- MkIII in black.

    Unfortunately I had to let it go due to the MC phono section which didn't have enough gain for the LOMC that I was using.

    Enjoy your new toy!!
     
    Tullman likes this.
  6. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston MA
    Yeah, it seems to be the same basic design with many many improvements. The caps are unique to CAT. The MC step up transformers is a welcome edition.
     
  7. dogpile

    dogpile Generation X record spinner.

    Location:
    YYZ - Canada
    I had no idea CAT was still in business. What is the retail price of the piece?
     
  8. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston MA
    Yeah, still in business and going strong. They've been in business sinc the 80s. They do business all over the world.

    Retail price?? $12,099.00 with the volume control option. :tiphat:
     
  9. dogpile

    dogpile Generation X record spinner.

    Location:
    YYZ - Canada
    The SL1-MkIII that I bought around 15 years ago was around $4000 and that was a hard pill to swallow. I'm shocked about the current price but it will definitely last for decades.
     
  10. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston MA
    Yeah, CAT raises their prices just about every few years. That's one of the reasons it took me so long to get the new preamp. I did get a $4,000.00 trade in for the SL1 MKIII.
     
  11. Juan Matus

    Juan Matus Reformed Audiophile

    Four hours! Must have been a union job.
     
    Benzion likes this.
  12. doublenaught

    doublenaught Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    Congratulations. I'm going to be living with my Ultimate for a while but I wish it had the MC step up transformer.
     
    Tullman likes this.
  13. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston MA
    Well, the process involved removing the top plates on both units to insert/remove ten tubes that also had to be removed from the boxes. I ended up removing and installing the top plate twice on the new unit. That's ten bolts each time I'm not using a drill on something that nice. I am also in tight quarters and so a lot of care had to be taken, not to mention some things like the speakers had to be moved and put back into place. Dealing with packing and unpacking takes time as well. I had to unplug and plug in 10 interconnects and 5 ground wires. Things had to be checked and double checked so there are no phase, channel, or grounding issues. It's not like I just rip the unit out of the box and throw it on the floor and plug it in and leave the boxes sitting around to be tripped over later.

    Also the old and new units weigh over 40 pounds each and have umbilical cords hard wired to a ten pound power supply, so imagine trying move the power supply from one rack and thread it through the rack of the of the preamp at floor level on your hands and knees.
     
  14. DaveyF

    DaveyF Forum Resident

    Location:
    La Jolla, Calif
    Congrats, great preamp. What tubes ( brands) does Ken currently use? I know when I rolled in NOS Mullards and GE's into my CAT, the performance increased to an almost unbelievable amount.
     
  15. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston MA
    I haven't checked specifically on this preamp. In the past he used EH 6922's and ei 12ax7's.
     
  16. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    Awesome. I like the dual mono construction, stepped attenuator, and all tube signal design with the step-up transformers. That's a lot of tubes to futz with, but I am sure that it sounds great.
    -Bill
     
    Tullman likes this.
  17. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston MA
    Yeah, I forgot to mention that it is in fact dual mono. There are 2 switches for the phono section and 2 switches for the line gain section.
     
  18. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

  19. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston MA
    Steve, thanks for the recommendation. :righton:Let's see, platinum versions go for $189.00. I have six 6922's in my CAT = $1134.00.:sweating::faint:
     
    Benzion and SandAndGlass like this.
  20. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    I know, I bought them from UPSCALE AUDIO for my CAT. Elevated the unit up to the stars. Save some $$!

    But don't worry about the driver tubes (I use the EH there), just the ones in the actual sound circuit..
     
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  21. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston MA
    Which ones are the driver tubes? What is the Line Cathode Follower? Are the line and phono input tubes the actual sound circuits.
     
  22. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    Your tubes should have come in little white boxes with numbers on each box, like "V4", etc.

    Aren't the tube positions numbered on the circuit board? On my "Ultimate" for example, the line tube sockets are numbered, and the input linestage tubes in position V6, V7 are more important than the V10 position of the 6922 which is the driver tube.

    In mine, each channel has:

    3 6922's and 2 12AX7's

    The lone 6922 up by itself is the driver for each channel, the two 6922 and ECC83s in line are the sound tubes. All important but the driver has no sound and it needs to be a strong tube, the EH is perfect.

    Mine has 10 tubes in all, five a channel. The odd one out is always the driver.
     
    Tullman likes this.
  23. DaveyF

    DaveyF Forum Resident

    Location:
    La Jolla, Calif
    Steve, I believe that to this day, Ken is adamant that rolling in tubes has no sonic benefit. I simply cannot agree with him at all, but have to wonder if he has actually heard the preamp with rolled in tubes; like the ones you and I are using. I actually think that the sound from my CAT is so much greater than before the tubes were rolled that it could be mistaken for a completely different model! Like you said it elevated it up to the stars....no kidding!
     
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  24. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston MA
    Actually, my preamp was delivered with the tubes installed. My preamp has the exact same layout as yours and the manual does indicate the where each tube goes. So thanks, you answered my question. I now know where to place the tubes and save about $400.00.
     
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  25. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston MA
    Actually, this statement is not true. Ken does believe in the sonic benefit of tube rolling, he does it all the time. The ei tubes are NOS and the RFT 12 Au7 he uses in CAT amps are NOS.

    What Ken told me is that the reliability and availability of most NOS tubes isn't worth it for him to install in his amps and preamps.
     
    SandAndGlass likes this.

Share This Page