Purity Audio Silver Statement Preamp

User Review #1 (copied with permission)

I first heard the Purity Audio Silver Statement preamp at the 2010 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.  I have read about it and was interested in hearing it at the show.  It was love at first "sight."  Something about the sound grabbed me the first time and I kept going back to listen to it.  I had heard a previous design from Bill Baker before at the 2008 show also paired with Rethm speakers and it didn't work for me then.  I had wanted to like it but something was missing.  It may have had something to do with the lack of high frequency extension from the speakers.  The prototype RAAL tweeters augmenting the speakers this time really showed what this preamp can do.  I liked it enough to make a deal at the end of the show to buy the Silver Statement and audition it in my room for 30 days.  Joe "Jam'n Audio" Jurzec and Bill "Response Audio" Baker extended a 30 day return period if things did not work out.  This was important for me since audio shows are notoriously bad for getting the sound right.  I had high hopes though since I liked what I heard in that small room at the Marriott even though it was not an ideal acoustic environment. 

The preamp arrived in two crates.  They were built like a proverbial tank and each weighed a "ton."  Needless to say, they arrived in perfect physical shape.  I pulled the metal "heat sink" off the tubes as I never like them.  It is quite spacious in there and I didn't think there would be any overheating issues.  I put on a pair of Herbie's UltraSonic Rx-9 tube dampers instead.  I was able to hear the preamp after a minor glitch with volume control was resolved.   A cable connector came dislodged during shipping and it was causing a hum when I first turned it on.  Bill identified the problem and I just reconnected it.  It’s really not a big issue since this contact is not directly in the signal path.  I could tell that I had something special even with the stock JJ 12au7 tubes in them.  Bill later sent me a pair of OS RCA clear tops and what little mid range congestion I heard cleared up.  After rolling through various tubes, I settled on a pair of NOS Telefunken ribbed plates.  The Silver Statement is the best preamp I have heard in my room.  There are others that can do better on certain aspects of music but nothing has as good an overall presentation as the Silver Statement.  I spent a month comparing the Purity preamp to my two previous "reference" units:  Aesthetix Callisto Signature with 2 power supplies and MBL 5011 with direct input and MM phono options.  These are really excellent units on their own and it's a testament to the excellence of the Silver Statement for me to have decided to keep the Purity preamp over these other units.

Before I delve into the nitty-gritty comparison of the units, let me tell you what I look for in my audio system.  I am foremost an Opera fan who loves the sound of female vocals.   My audio system is all about getting the Divas to sound right in my room.  I attend Operas regularly and I want to recreate the live environment of the best live productions in my room.  I was fortunate enough to attend a performance of The Barber of Seville featuring Juan Diego Florez and Joyce DiDonato at La Scala this past summer.  What a fantastic venue and the music was first rate that night.  I want that in my room.  When I put on a recording from La Scala, I want to hear the same acoustics with the perfect balance of the orchestra and the singers.  With the Silver Statement, I am the closest I have ever been.

As generalizations go, one would guess that tube preamp would be smooth, textured and airy whereas the solid state preamp would excel at PRaT at the expense of leaner tonality.  This generalization holds true for Callisto which uses 8 tubes in the preamp section and 8 in each power supply for a total of 24 tubes in all.   This is an amazing preamp that gives incredible layering and texture for mids and highs.  When it comes to rendering vocal music right, there may be none better.  Notice many females vocals I have listed in the reference.  Callisto makes almost everyone sound the best she can be.  Lee Ann Womack’s recording is compressed and voice comes out thin on my midfi home theater.   I know because my wife used to play and sing “I hope you dance” to our then infant daughter all the time.   Through Callisto, however, her voice gains body and texture that conveys her feelings.  This is pop at its best in a sappy way.  I am a sucker for that.   The acid test for vocals to me is always Maria Callas.  I love her artistry but detest the way her steely voice comes through on stereo systems.  I give the nod to Callas as the best Tosca because she brings passion to her singing and Floria is nothing if not passionate, but I can’t stand the horrendous screeching that I hear from a lot of stereo systems.  Vissi D’arte on 1953 recording on vinyl through Callisto is the best I have heard her voice.  The impassioned high notes convey anger, defiance and resolve with flintiness but without harshness.  The artistry comes though.  I thought I would stretch my luck to see if I can make Diana Krall listenable.   So many people like her and I want to join the crowd but I just find her singing unenjoyable.   I play “I Don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You” from the only Krall CD I have, the Love Scenes.  Nope.  I mean she is right.  She doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance with me.  I think I would rather listen to Fran Drescher sing. 

As expected, the MBL 5011 has a leaner sound than Callisto but this is probably true for 99% the preamps out there.  It’s only leaner in comparison to the Aesthetix as I remember it is warmer than Modwright SWL 9.0 SE that I had before.  Where MBL excels is the Pace, Rhythm and Timing.  It is adroit, facile and dynamic.   Chesky recording of Africando by Ana Caram has good pace and rhythm accompanied by tidy spatial cues.  5011 handles it with aplomb.   Ani DiFranco/Utah Phillips' instrumental track of Joe Hill is a good recording to test how much width and depth you notice in your system.  With MBL you can really recreate the whole stage inch by inch from left to right and front to back.  There is a picture in the booklet and that is exactly what you hear.  The unreal sweeps across the width of the stage on Pink Floyd's "Time" from TDSOTM album is like a sonic laser show with the MBL preamp.  Evelyn Glennie's Last Contact has a deep foreboding rumble with very fast percussive upper frequency from wooden sticks, ceramic balls and metal pipes.   The fast and furious attack was no problem for 5011.  Decay was excellent with the right amount of tingling.  The low rumble was clearly defined.  The lowest organ notes on Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor were more mumbled into a long rumble by Callisto whereas the MBL clearly delineated each note.  Montagues and Capulets from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet (recorded by AC member, Russell Dawkins) and Mars from Holst's Planets really need good rhythmic punches and MBL delivered them crisply.   

Eva Cassidy, more known for crooning, gets a good rhythm going on the blues number, “Take Me to the River.”  I like this recording because I am familiar with the acoustics of the Blues Alley where it was recorded.  The big brick wall behind the stage and the intimate size gives Blues Alley a very recognizable acoustical signature.  Surprisingly, I like this one through Callisto more than the MBL.   The smoother presentation from Callisto was more akin to the live sound I remember.  High resolving power alone doesn’t always give you the real live sound.  On her “Fields of Gold,” the sibilance is noticeable through the MBL. 

This brings us to the Silver Statement Preamp.  It only uses 2 tubes.  The gain is transformer coupled.  What does this mean?  I don’t really know.  I listened in the passive mode using the Statement as a silver TVC and I didn’t like it all that much.  There wasn’t much drive or oomph to the music.  It was very quiet in the background but it was also bleak even when the music was playing.  Go back to the active setting and it comes alive.  What I know is that the tubes and the transformers, together, enable this preamp to do some amazing things.  I want to say this Purity preamp gets the best of both tube and solid state characteristics while minimizing the deficiencies inherent in each.  But this would be like having the cake and eating it too.  We know this is not supposed to be possible.  Or is it?

Let’s take the first couple’s dance song at my wedding.  We selected the Blue Moon Revisited [Song for Elvis] by the Cowboy Junkies.  I love Margo’s voice but bass guitar has always been problematic when I play the Junkies’ albums.  At the wedding with DJ’s pro speakers it was fine, but I always got a sense of bloated bass when I play them in my system.  Enter the Silver Statement and the problem is solved.  Instead of an amorphous and booming bass rumbling I can hear Margo sing sweetly above the cleanly plucked bass notes.  It is interesting to note that clarity removes the boominess from the bass and restores the musical balance.  Nice.

My favorite Diva is Ileana Cotrubas, a Romanian Soprano who sang from the late 60s to the mid-80s.  I have scoured the European E-Bay to get every obscure LPs that have her anywhere on the recording.  I already have everything available in the States.  In other words, I am nuts about her singing.  So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that any gear in my system would have to get her singing right.  Silver Statement does just that.  I have to admit the Callisto wins out on the sheer vocal rendition but when accompanying instrumental music is also considered, Purity wins out.  Cotrubas’ voice is very brittle on the top register and husky in the lower.   Callisto holds together her brittle top register while smoothing her husky lower register to really showcase her artistry in portraying delicate female roles.    When Violetta starts to read the letter in her husky voice leading to singing “Addio del pasato” in that delicate treble, my heart always just ache.  Purity gets the emotional drama, but Callisto is magical with voices.

Where Silver Statement outshines Callisto is when melody is accompanied by a rhythm section.  Take “Moritat” on the B side of Sonny Rollin’s Saxophone Collosus.   Both preamps make Sonny’s sax sing but only the Purity preamp keeps up with Max Roach’s drumming.  On “Allegro” on Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto, the hammers hit with more authority and definition when heard through the Silver Statement making it sound more like you are in the premier orchestra seat.  With Callisto you are sitting in the back on the top tier.   Mahalia Jackson had a great alto voice and nowhere is it more showcased than in the 1952 recording of the “Upper Room.”  Her strong singing on this gospel comes though with conviction on the Silver Statement whereas Callisto presents a more sedate Mahalia.  It’s kind of like the 60s Columbia recording that only shows the shadow of her younger self.

With the Silver Statement preamp, I am really rediscovering songs like “Rollin’ On” with Mark Knoffler and Emmylou Harris, SRV’s guitar virtuoso on “Riviera Paradise,” Joni Mitchell singing “Morning Morgantown,” Annie Haslam flexing her awesome voice on “Carpet of the sun” and even Rebecca Pidgeon wishing you an “Auld Lang Syne.”  I like them before but they are just better today. 

So there you have it.  I think I am eating the cake right now.  As I listen to Nina Simone singing “I Put a Spell on You,” I can tell you the Silver Statement has put a spell on me.

Music Reference
Bach, Johann Sebastian.   “Toccata and Fugue, for organ in D minor, BWV 565.”  Toccata & Fugue in D minor; Prelude & Fugue in B minor; Concerto No. 2 in A minor; Prelude & Fugue in D major.  Perf.   Michael Murray  on the organs at First Congregational Church, Los Angeles.  Telarc, 1990.  CD.
Beethoven, Ludwig.  “Allegro.”  Piano Concerto No.5  [Emperor] In E Flat Major Op.73.  Perf. Claudio Arrau and Concertgebouw Orchestra.  Cond. Bernard Haitink.  Philips 1964. LP.
Caram, Ana. “Africando.” Maracana. Chesky Records, 1993.  CD.
Cassidy, Eva.  “Take Me To The River,” “Fields of Gold.”  Live at Blues Alley.  Blix Street Records, Inc. 1998. CD.
Cotrubas, Ileana. “ Depuis le Jour.” Louise.  Comp.   Gustave Charpentier.  Perf.   Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus and Placido Domingo.   Cond.  Georges Pretre.   Famous Opera Arias.  Sony, 1998. CD.
Cotrubas, Ileana. “Pace, Pace mio Dio.”  La forza del destino.  Comp.  Giuseppe Verdi.  Perf.  Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus.  Cond.  Sir John Pritchard.  Famous Opera Arias.  Sony, 1998. CD.
Cowboy Junkies.  “Blue Moon Revisited [Song for Elvis]”  The Trinity Session.  RCA 1990. LP
DiFranco, Ani and Utah Phillips. “Joe Hill [instrumental]” Fellow Workers.  Righteous Babe, 1999. CD.
Glennie, Evelyn.  “Last Contact.”  Shadow Behind the Iron Sun.  RCA, 2000. CD.
Harris, Emmylou and Mark Knopfler.  “Rollin’ On.”  All the Roadrunning.  Warner Brothers, 2006. CD.
Holst, Gustav.  “Mars: Bringer of War.” Planets.  Perf.  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.  Cond.  Andre Previn.  Telarc 1990. CD.
Jackson, Mahalia. “In the Upper Room.” Appolo Sessions: 1946-1951. Pair, 1994. CD.
Krall, Diana. “I Don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You.”  Love Scenes.  Grp Records, 1997.  CD.
Mitchell, Joni.  “Morning Morgantown.”  Ladies of the Canyon.  Warner Bros, 1970. LP
Pidgeon, Rebecca.  “Auld Lang Syne.”  Retrospective.  Chesky Records, 2003.  24/96 FLAC.
Pink Floyd.  “Time.”  The Dark Side of the Moon [Original Recording Remastered].   Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, 1979. LP
Prokofiev, Sergey.  “Montagues and Capulets [Dance of the Knights]” Romeo and Juliet Suites 2 and 1.  Perform. Ukranian Radio and TV Orchestra.  Cond. Aram Gharabekian.  Rec. Russell Dawkins.  Russian Disc, 1999. CD.
Puccini, Giacomo.  “Vissi D’arte.” Tosca.  Perf. Maria Callas, Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala. Cond. Victor de Sabata.  Columbia, 1953. LP.
Renaissance.  “Carpet of the Sun.” Tales of 1001 Nights I. Sire, 1990. CD
Rollins, Sonny.  “Moritat.” Saxophone Collosus.  Analog Productions, 2002. LP.
Simone, Nina. “I Put a spell on You,” “I Love You Porgy,” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” Verve Jazz Masters 17 [Original recording remastered]. Polygram Records, 1994.  CD.
Vaughan,  Stevie Ra .  “Riviera Pardise.”  In Step [Extra tracks, Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered .   Sony, 1999. CD.
VerdI, Giussepe.  “Addio del pasato.”   La Traviata. Perf. Ileana Cotrubas,  Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Pacido Domingo, Sherill Milne. Cond. Carlos Kleiber.  Deutsche Grammophon, 1977. LP.
Verdi, Giussepe.   "Gloria all'Egitto,” “Marcia trionfale."  Aida.  Perf. Rome Opera House Orchestra.  Cond. Georg Solti.  RCA Victor 1962. LP.
Womack, Lee Ann.  “I Hope You Dance.”  I Hope You Dance.  MCA Nashville, 2000.  CD.