Purity Audio Design "Ultra GT"

User Review #1KJ-Part 1 (copied with permission)
 

Equipment: My gear is listed in my Systems link, but I'll give the quick run down here.  I believe it's important to note the tonalities imparted on the system given the tubes and cables.

   Speakers: Wilson Sasha
   Amplifier: VAC Phi 300.1 w/ stock tubes
   Pre-amp: Purity Audio Design Ultra GT w/ stock Brimar tubes
   DAC: Eastern Electric DAC w/ Psvane tube
   Source: Marantz SA-11S1 CD player (for now)
   IC Cables: KCI Silkworm+ S.E. (pure gold and silver wiring)
   Speaker Cables: Straley Reality

Music cuts sampled
 
  • Pink Martini - Sympathique
  • Natalie Merchant - Selections from the Album Leave Your Sleep
  • The Swingle Singers - A Cappella Amadeus, Bach Hits Back, 1812, Around the World
  • Pirates of the Caribbean - The Curse of the Black Pearl
  • Burmeister III Demo Disk
  • American Beauty Soundtrack
  • Wynton Marsalis - The Magic Hour
  • Eagles - The Millennium Concert
  • Laura Fygi - The Latin Touch
  • Best Audiophile Voices III
  • Usher - Dancer II Beryllium Series
  • Happy Anniversary Charlie Brown!
  • Dire Straits - The Very Best of Sultans of Swing
  • Tom Petty - The Live Anthology
  • Ray Brown Trio - Summertime, Soular Energy
  • Bill Frissell - East West

Ultra Features - Pros:

  • Acrylic - unique smoked look, laser engraving is a nice touch, beneficial sonic attributes over common materials
  • Adjustable gain - the ability to adjust gain to your liking and/or to accommodate any amp is awesome
  • Passive/active switch - great for comparisons, but you're bound to switch to passive only once
  • Remote control - this thing has such a solid feel, it's incredible; Harley riders will dig the black and chrome
  • # of connections - great for flexibility
  • Manual - Bill laid out everything in great detail - kudos
  • Phase adjustment - again, great flexibility of design
  • LED indicators - intelligent integration of LEDs to indicate what's in use, and what's not including phase

Ultra Features - Cons
 
  • Acrylic - fear of scratching a softer material than aluminum/wood, but then again I fear scratching any of my gear
  • Volume control - Attenuator clicks when changing volume level, but that's the price you pay for better quality components; I don't really notice it anymore anyway


Summary of thoughts

Where to start?  Making the decision to go with the Ultra over the Silver Statement was a tough call to make.  Although I could surmise there would be an improvement given the extreme quality and design of parts added, I still mulled over the law of diminishing returns for this purchase quite a bit.  The Ultra is no small step up in price, but if you start to add up the parts costs alone you begin to wonder if it's a less profitable product than the SS.  Nonetheless, I took the plunge and I'm happy to say I haven't thought twice about the extra cost since turning it on.

Fit and finish of everything is superb from the solid remote down to the on button on the power section.  The smoked acrylic is absolutely stunning to look at (or through it with good light), although when man handling the unit into place I was as paranoid as ever for fear of scratching it's beautiful finish.  The adjustable gain is perfect for dialing in late night low listening levels to your tastes.  There is an audible click when changing the volume levels due to the attenuator.  However, after some conversations with Bill I understand this is the minor price you pay for perfection of sound.  Once you've set your preferred level, you'll forget about it entirely.  Another flexible option is the ability to change phase.  If you ever find yourself bored some day, you can enjoy replacing the main singer's location from center to left to right and back again.

Given the insane quantity of silver residing inside this unit, I'm told it will take at least 600+ hours to burn in.  The good news is that straight out of the crate it sounds simply fantastic.  No hot sizzle in the high frequencies or overt brightness that some tend to think of when silver is in play, and no edginess or listener fatigue.  Just phenomenal silky texture and dimensionality of sound with incredible speed and articulation.  The attack when strings are plucked is immediate.  The last pulse of air breathing through a trumpet or saxophone doesn't escape you while the background remains true to the locale of the event being played at.  Everything has such an incredible sound stage that I find myself waiting for a new instrument to unfold in a song so that I can gauge it's placement relative to others.  Having the ability to discern what type of venue each piece is recorded in is just downright entertaining.  I find myself laughing as I'll look upwards at a stage from row 5 in one song, and then looking down at an orchestra from row 12 in another.  In a word, it's engaging.

Probably the best strength imparted on me is the sense that no sound or micro dynamic is lost while traversing the Ultra.  If it's in the recording, the Ultra will bring it to life whether it's an echo off the venue's floor, a pursed mouth parting way or the rubbing of an instrumentalist's clothing as they reach across their instrument.  All the while, everything remains completely and utterly musical.  No one instrument inadvertently takes away from another or provides a false sense of imbalance.  There's just a completeness of realism and truth when the Ultra is engaged.  It's no wonder the boys used Purity in their company name.

The quickest way to instill confidence that such luxuries aren't being taken for granted is to switch the Ultra to passive mode.  Although the quality of tones provided by the rest of your system are still present, you find yourself listening to what I'll call a very polite sound.  It's all there, but it's suddenly a bit more dull and flat as if the energy of the music was removed.  The three dimensionality and grit of texture just disappears.  I began to wonder how I made it without a pre-amp all this time, let alone one as revealing as the Ultra GT's.  It didn't take many cuts before I finally caved and switched back to active mode.

All this makes me question what more I can expect as I accumulate more time on the unit.  As much as it pains me to be patient, I'm refraining from tube swapping until I have more hours run through in order to form some sense of a solid baseline.  If I've learned anything from having the pre-production Silver Statement in my system (and what I believe to be a very revealing system), it's that tube changes in these units have a profound impact on the overall sound.  I have some Mullards in the cabinet, and I'm also eager to see what a pair of Psvanes will do.  However, I'll save that fun for another day.

I have enough sensory overload taking place that it's difficult to remain objective.  However, I'm simply having a hard time finding much fault in this wonderful piece.  Suffice it to say, I'll be spending a lot of time enjoying each CD I own again with renewed enthusiasm.  Furthermore, I'm eager to see just what the Ultra reveals as I continue to hone my system with different tubes and my forthcoming Rebox.  If anything, I expect it to be honest to a fault and reveal where I'm lacking any synergies as I move forward.  I guess you could say I expect it to be pure as Bill and Joe intended.

All that said, I'll continue to burn things in and post more thoughts as time goes by.  I expect I'll eventually cave and have some fun tube rolling.  In the meantime, if you ever find yourself in the Milwaukee/Chicago area, the door is open for you to listen and form an opinion.  Bring your favorite cuts (or tubes) and grab a chair.  You'll have to pry me out of it first though.   
:)