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Help choose: Tortuga LDR3000T, LTA microZOTL MZ3 or Kinki Studio EX-P7?

Posted on February 17, 2020 at 15:15:17
James Romeyn

Posts: 148
Location: Cache Valley, UT
Joined: November 24, 2000
I narrowed my search to these 3 line stage preamps, 2 released 2019, 1 released 2018. Please comment if you know or suspect one may outperform the other two.

For this discussion disregard price differences; imagine all 3 have similar SRP, which they don't. (FYI Tortuga w/1st cap upgrade $3450, Linear Tube Audio/LTA MZ3 $3700/no upgrades offered IIRC, Kinki Studio w/shipping and tariff about $2300/no upgrades offered except a Goldmund type face plate.)

IMO these 3 line stage preamps offer the best value and best performance for my needs listed herein. Better performance likely costs at least 3x more.

Please suggest other preamp only if it fits my needs listed herein, it has SRP under about $6k, you AB tested it vs. one of the subjects (or a derivative listed herein), and you preferred that other preamp (that's a lot of qualifications).

Important: the associated speakers have wide range tuning functions including active distributed sub array and gain and tilt controls for mid-treble crossed @ either 750 Hz or 1.3k Hz (depending on the model). The speaker tuning functions eliminate or almost eliminate spectral differences between the preamps.

Derivative models w/same performance: LDR3000T released mid-late 2019 is one box combining the earlier celebrated passive 4th Generation volume control + outboard tube buffer w/3 gain settings (0, +3, +6 dB). Of the 2 cap upgrades Tortuga offers I would get the 1st cap upgrade, about $440. The preamp stages are identical in LTA's $3700 MZ3 and $4400 "Preamplifier" model (both released 2019); both models are LTA's all time best preamp stage by yuge margin.

My line level preamp needs:
1. Remote volume
2. Unbalanced OK
3. Switch between 3 sources, tape outputs irrelevant
4. Requires current capacity to drive load impedance as low as about 8k ohm, comprising 12k ohm sub amps and a wide array of different main amps.

I suspect and shall confirm all 3 subjects meet all needs. That's it. Any other feature is unnecessary. Internal DAC is fail, period, full stop. Headphone feature is irrelevant.

This is likely my last active line preamp purchase; I want it to last for decades. If the preamp has an LED I plan to buy a spare LED for future replacement. IOW long term service is yuge.

Tortuga: US made, nice. I lean this direction. Srajan/6moons slightly preferred the $15k Nagra Classic tube preamp over the Kinki; I hope the Tortuga performs more like the Nagra. Dave Slagle is one of my heroes; he used to make autoformer volume controls. I hope Tortuga's LDR volume control performance equals or beats Dave's autoformer volume. Switchable gain of 0, +3 or +6 dB via a triode tube followed by a SS current buffer. Did not check the PS type.

Linear Tube Audio microZOTL MZ3: US made. Employs Berning's "Zero hysteresis OTL" circuit alleged to improve tube performance by modulating the music signal atop a carrier frequency (150k or 250k, forgot). Advertised to increase tube life, but it employs 4 tubes to Tortuga's 1 or 2 (forgot). Highly refined ladder-resistor volume control. Deluxe linear PS.

Which weighs more on performance: Tortuga's volume control, ZOTL's unique gain stage, or is it a wash?

If it's a wash I may lean toward LTA for it's more common parts and technology improving odds for long term service and parts supply.

Kinki Studio: all SS/no tube maintenance. Chinese newcomer but reviewers rave about performance. Gold plated PCB traces. Separate transformer per channel each isolated in alloy sub-enclosure. Internal images evoke a $10-15k preamp. Long distance service from China (manufactured) and/or Singapore (international sales rep). Kinki replied quickly to my email. Per Srajan/6moons: the only thing clearly better, and only marginally is Nagra's $15k Classic tube preamp.



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RE: Help choose: Tortuga LDR3000T, LTA microZOTL MZ3 or Kinki Studio EX-P7?, posted on February 17, 2020 at 17:39:30

Posts: 496
Location: Central VA
Joined: December 10, 2000
I've been using a Tortuga LDR DIY for years. It replaced a Sowter based TVC. Don't fear the LDR technology.



Such a question..., posted on February 18, 2020 at 11:12:46

Posts: 5865
Location: North Island
Joined: April 4, 2000 too important to be left to an open board like this. You'd be best offer getting them into your system one by one for several days each to fully experience them.

For my part, I'd lean towards the full function LTA, as I have a nice tape deck. I'd have a Music First TVC over the Tortuga and as nice as the Kinki is, I'd pass. But I've not heard any of them, so I know nothing, aside from my past experience of passive, ss and tube amps, transformer coupled and OTL amps (Graaf).

For the record, I also have a pair of Dave Slagle's TVC transformers that never got deployed. They will at some point.

Big J

"... only a very few individuals understand as yet that personal salvation is a contradiction in terms."


RE: Such a question..., posted on February 18, 2020 at 11:48:10
James Romeyn

Posts: 148
Location: Cache Valley, UT
Joined: November 24, 2000
Yes, I agree, and thanks for your post.

The flip side is that I reasonably expect I'd love any of the 3 subjects, which IMO own the non-digital preamp market below about $10k SRP. (Only 3 other non-digital preamps interest me: the $10k Backert tube, $15k Nagra hybrid, and $17k Vinnie Rossi tube; I suspect these offer equal or marginally better performance.)

I hoped against expectation that a member might post something I did not consider, helping me eliminate 1 or maybe even 2 choices.


"....which IMO own the non-digital preamp market below about $10k SRP." Based on what?, posted on February 18, 2020 at 15:30:53
Rick W
Bored Member

Posts: 13744
Location: NJ
Joined: October 3, 2001
March 22, 2002
You've picked out a top 3 for consideration apparently due to reasons that do not include how they sound, then mention other pre's that interest you which likewise you haven't heard.

Is there some reason why you can't audition one or more of them? You wanna buy a "last" preamp unheard? Hope those companies you mention all have decent return policies.


RE: "....which IMO own the non-digital preamp market below about $10k SRP." Based on what?, posted on February 18, 2020 at 19:33:19
James Romeyn

Posts: 148
Location: Cache Valley, UT
Joined: November 24, 2000
Thank you for sharing.


RE: Help choose: Tortuga LDR3000T, LTA microZOTL MZ3 or Kinki Studio EX-P7?, posted on January 5, 2021 at 22:10:35

Posts: 1
Location: Qld
Joined: January 5, 2021
I was previously running the LTA MicroZOTL 3 which prior to moving to the DACGEAR LDR Pro Mk2 was the finest sounding preamp I've ever run. In my system though the DACGEAR was a significant step forward in terms of simply letting more of everything though. More fine detail, greater soundstaging, improved dynamics, sound is more fleshed out and solid sounding. Basically it did everything I'd ever hoped for in a preamp. If you need a headphone amp as well as preamp though then it rules it out as it's purely a passive.

I use mine to bi-amp as it has two switchable outputs and 4x inputs, and can be controlled by an Apple remote.




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