There are those brands in high end audio that are seemingly fused with our collective psyches and then there are those a bit on the fringe, out there in the wild, wild west of audiophilia where, like Fight Club, the only rule is…well you don’t talk about Fight Club.
Decware is one such brand, however unlike other uber-esoteric manufacturers, Decware and its founder and chief designer, Steve Deckert, do talk about their products and encourage others to as well. What started off as one man’s obsession to build a better mousetrap, or in Steve’s case better audio components, has grown into a full-fledged brand with numerous product offerings and a very loyal following. I should know, I’m one of Steve’s biggest fans and a proud owner of several Decware products including the CSP2 reviewed here.
• Read more about Decware on the official Decware page at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Read more tube and audiophile preamp reviews from the likes of Decware, Audio Research, VAC, Jadis, McIntosh and many others here.
The CSP2 is sold exclusively online through Decware’s own site and retails for an affordable $795 and comes with a lifetime warranty to the original owner as well as a 30-day money back guarantee. The CSP2 isn’t your traditional looking preamp, though despite its kit like appearance it’s still rather striking and elegant in its simplicity, no doubt aided by the solid walnut base and powder coat gloss finish top plate. All Decware products feature point to point wiring and are manufactured and assembled right here in the good ol’ US of A.
The CSP2 is a single ended triode design that utilizes your choice of 6N1P, 6DJ8, 6N2P or 6922 input tubes and either 5Y3GT, 5AR4, 5U4, or 274B tubes for rectification. The CSP2 is a self-biasing design virtually eliminating the need for normal tube maintenance as well as extending tube life and facilitating experimentation or tube rolling. Beyond its tube design, the CSP2 features two inputs with adjustable gain for each channel and an OTL headphone output, that’s right the CSP2 is also a headphone amp/preamp. The CSP2 has a both stereo and mono outputs as well as a detachable power cord and a substantial pair of gold plated binding posts.
The CSP2 does not have a remote control so source selection is done via a small switch near the rear of the unit and volume is controlled via the front mounted Alps pot.
Decware claims many, if not all of their products, are pretty much silent in terms of noise floor. While not a grand exaggeration I can’t call the CSP2 silent though I’ve yet to encounter a product that truly was. Among the best, most costing 10 times what the CSP2 does, it is silent in comparison and a remarkable feat considering this is a tube preamp. Sonically, the CSP2 isn’t your traditional tube fair; it is very quick, very composed and doesn’t possess a great deal of artificial tube warmth or bloat. In many ways it possesses many of the qualities of a quality solid-state preamp with just the right amount of that tube magic and musicality audiophiles gush over. In terms of soundstage performance and dynamics I challenge you to find a better stereo preamp this side of $2-3K.
Read The High Points, Low Points and Conclusion on Page 2