List Price $500
The RC7000P is an affordable entry point into separate components. It provides one digital input in either coaxial or optical form feeding an AK4588 DAC. There are three sets of analog RCA inputs yet only two are available if the digital input is used. There is no phono input provided which could kill the deal for some readers right here. In terms of outputs, there are enough RCA level outputs to achieve 6-channel stereo but this reviewer utilized the main two RCA outputs. Sadly, no balanced outputs are available. There is a subwoofer output which is a plus for many and the power cord is replaceable.
A remote controls every possible function as do the buttons and knobs on the front panel. The unit has a built in AM/FM tuner which turned out to be pretty decent. Readers of Stereomojo with small speakers, a subwoofer, and a tight budget take notice. A provided built in crossover comes in quite handy for those with small speakers and a subwoofer with optional settings ranging from 40Hz to 250Hz. The crossover not only directs the low frequencies to the subwoofer but also has an electronic cutoff for the main speakers which can provide a cleaner sound with less strain on the amplifier for the speakers.
There are no bass and treble controls but a set of built in equalizer settings. Luckily, there was always a setting available to help correct "mishaps in the mixing studio" where the audio engineer's taste may not match your own. The equalizer was essentially bypassed in normal mode 95% of the time spent reviewing this preamp. Volume is controlled via either a front panel knob or the remote control and can be changed in friendly 1db increments. The volume knob has a nice feel to it and can be turned very quickly without mistakenly causing extreme volume changes reminding me of the tuning knobs in the analog receivers of the 70s.
The Jaton RC7000P preamp is the shape and size of the average CD player from the 90s. There are two large knobs on the front for volume and tuning. There is a manual switch for power but also a button to take it in and out of standby. Pressing the standby button results in a small but slightly annoying "tick" if the amplifier is on but it's certainly not like the scary pop that some units create.
I have a pet peeve about bright LEDs, especially bright blue ones. To me, bright LEDs on the front of a piece of audio gear are the equivalent of the check engine light on a car. Got black tape? You won't need it here. The lighting is wonderfully done. The main power button is lightly back lit in blue while the four control buttons glow a soft white. In the center of the front panel is a small screen that glows blue giving modern functionality a retro feel. One night while sitting and listening with my wife, the dim blue glow kept reminding me of the glow of McIntosh gear giving just enough light to see her face and find my wine glass. Don't be fooled into thinking that this preamp is at the same level as the McIntosh, but it is still a nice touch.
The RC7000P arrived in the middle of a December snow storm by a guy in a big red coat. Apparently Santa Claus drives a FedEx truck. The box was surprisingly light. Historically, this has usually coincided with not so great sound, raising my curiosity a bit. Unpacking the box, there were several cords provided but the only one of decent quality was an optical digital cable. The unit was plugged in and played in my basement lab for about a week with various of CDs, iTunes, and using the internal tuner for break in. I couldn't help but notice that the tuner was pulling in stations other tuners had not during this time. Nice.
After breaking the unit in, it was paired up with a decent Fortel Model 5 amplifier and an old Nakamichi CD changer for transport. The power cords were simple shielded Volex 17604 plugged straight into the wall while the stock power cord was left in the box untouched. Connection between the amplifier and the Jaton was originally a BlueJeans 1505F but it was somehow not a good match. The interconnect that ended up taking its place was an old Monster M1000 cable from the 90's in 0.5meter length. The speaker cables were Cardas crosslink 1s and the speakers were high quality DIY.
TELL ME...HOW DOES IT SOUND?
My initial impressions of this preamp were good. The soundstage opened up and lateral imaging improved. A new sense of space and air had been brought into my system. The most significant difference was a sense of power and heft with a renewed sense of energy. My initial impressions of this unit caused me to carelessly toss my old preamp into a box of audio junk in the basement. That unit was essentially a passive attenuator from a company called Niles and had likely seen better days. The Niles box had trumped an Adcom preamp long ago and been in this particular system ever since. On paper, the Jaton preamp and the old Adcom preamp seem rather similar if one ignores the digital input. I never liked the Adcom preamp. Out of curiosity, I dusted off the old Adcom GTP-400 and tried it out. Yuck. The Jaton preamp seemed to be everything the Adcom preamp SHOULD have been. The sound was not even close with the Adcom's grainy texture and closed in soundstage. Next!
Over time I could not help but notice a tiny sense of that "Victory V" that some us did with equalizers back in the 70s and 80s. The highs were well extended and the bass was deep and powerful. The sound was good enough to warrant comparison with the preamp in my Linn Classik. It was a close race. The Linn had a deeper and taller soundstage that was just as open. The Linn was less dynamic along with what seemed to be a hint more grain. The Linn also seemed a bit rolled off at the extremes. The Jaton had a larger noise floor which had previously gone unnoticed. There is a fair amount of background noise with the Jaton, so be forewarned if that is a pet peeve of yours. I had to call it a draw because even with the shallow depth of the soundstage in the Jaton and it's greater background noise, it imaged better laterally and just had more funk. Rather impressive for a $500 preamp.
Some components seem to only sound good with certain genres of music which is a red flag. A good component cannot make up for a bad recording but I take a step back if a component consistently plays certain types worse than others. The Jaton RC7000P preamp was consistently enjoyable across musical genres.
After about two months of listening, I compared the Jaton preamp to the preamp section of the Bryston B100SST which is basically a BP16. The Bryston was clearly superior in transparency, quiet, and more invisible. This is an unfair comparison given the huge price discrepancy but a little perspective is always good after spending a fair amount of time with a component. Switching in the preamp section of the Bryston preamp was like an audio sorbet. Switching the Jaton preamp back into the system resulted in further dissecting its sound. The midrange of the Jaton can bit a bit congested at times, but this is subtle and took some time to flesh out. At its price range it performs very well indeed.
Bill Joel's "Fantasies and Delusions" is a nice departure for him into classical piano. Other than one section where he goes into what I swear is "The Bear Ran Over the Mountain" I have been enjoying it. It was a good CD to expose the slight congestion in the midrange of the Jaton preamp.
Vince Guaraldi's "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was a nice surprise. Given that I was reviewing this preamp over the holidays, this CD received a fair amount of play time. I admit hearing layers of music in this release that had previously gone unnoticed and spent a fair amount of time re-digesting it.
Madeleine Peyroux's "Half the Perfect World" was a delight when played through the Jaton. One could clearly hear the wetness of her mouth while singing which became distracting at times but overall it portrayed her voice quite nicely.
Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein" was rather fun. The Jaton has a bit of energy to it that rather rocks. Frankenstein was begging to be cranked up to 11. With that Jaton that means turning the volume knob, in increments of negative db, to 0db. The kids came in to complain but were so moved by the music that they ran off to get fake guitars and drum sticks and they pretended to rock along with the band. My beautiful bride walked in to find the room oozing with testosterone and abruptly about faced to return from whence she came.
INPUT FROM OTHERS
During a holiday cocktail party, guests filtered in and out of the listening room where I had background music playing. One guy slumped in for a good long listen, asked how my speakers stacked up to Vandersteens, and then asked me for my resume. Unbeknownst to me, he was CEO of an audio related company. If the Jaton was not up to the task, the system would not have sounded as good as it did. How is that for validation?
When my brother in law heard the system he said to my sister; "Hey, come listen to this. It's as if you're wearing headphones". It was meant as a compliment.
I had already decided to purchase this preamp but after getting input like this, I whipped out the plastic and contacted Jaton. They did give me a discount but I wasn't really asking for one. My wife was a little upset until I told her the list price was only $500. Her response is telling; "Really?!?" I held back how much the preamp cost in hopes of getting more objective input.
Even though I purchased this preamp and am enjoying it, this will likely not be the last preamp I will ever buy and I do have some complaints;
Rumor Has It
After sharing my list of complaints with Jaton, they shared a little secret with me. They are coming out with a new version that is even more focused on the two channel audiophile. It will be very much like the existing RC7000P but with at least the following changes.
Will it be worth waiting for the new preamp they are coming out with? We, at Stereomojo, will try to get our hands on one as soon as we can and report back some time in the summer or fall of this year.
The Jaton RC7000P is a worthwhile choice for people on a budget who are looking to have separate components. It has a rather high WAF for both looks and ease of use. Although likely to not be the last preamp one will ever purchase, it delivers rather decent sound without breaking the bank. I am recommending it to friends and our readers that want to be on that apex of the performance to cost ratio. Those looking for something a tick higher will have to look elsewhere or wait for the next generation from Jaton.
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