COUNTERPOINT SA-1000 HYBRID PREAMP W/PHONO STAGE
The SA-1000 starts out by NOT cramming everything into a small chassis. Sleek though the '7 may have been, it couldn't have been too comfortable for the tubes to be lying on their sides in a shallow chassis. In the SA-1000 they stand upright, with plenty of breathing space. It also allows for a less-cluttered fascia, though I must admit that the slighty assymetrical hodge-podge and undersized controls favoured by the company help neither the aesthetics nor the ergonomics.
The SA-1000, from left to right, offers the essentials and nothing more: a source selector choosing between one of two phono settings and three line sources, a tape monitor switch, balance, volume, mute and power on/off. No complaints here, as that's all you need, though I wouldn't have minded a polarity inversion switch on a product from a company which championed the facility. The only unusual facility is the choice of phono settings, the unit arriving in a high gain mode ideal for the majority of moving coils.
To configure the SA-1000 for the low gain setting, for high output cartridges, you simply remove a couple of internal shunts which connect pins on the circuit board behind the input
selector. This activates the low gain setting while deactivating the high gain option. Counterpoint feels that keeping both active would degrade the sound, so the user makes a choice. One other option is available to phono users who don't like 47k Ohm loading for m-cs. Two sets of internally positioned sockets will accept loading resistors should you wish to tailor the sound to best suit an m-c unhappy with the factory setting.
At the back are high quality sockets which accept the various source components, plus outputs for tape and 'main out' and an earthing post for phono. Aside from the phono adjustments, the only effort demanded of the SA-1000 beyond basic hook-up is the installation of the three valves; removal of the lid for this procedure presents the perfect opportunity for setting the phono section, ideal if you don't want to keep removing the lid. The valve complement consists of a pair of 12AX7s and a single 6DJ8, clearly identified and easy to install.
Details which make the SA-1000 a more 'real world' proposition than the SA-7 include the hybrid line stage which minimizes tube ringing, the aforementioned 'big box' topology and a superior selector switch which shorts out unused inputs to eliminate crosstalk. A pleasant surprise for those moving from an SA-7 to an SA-1000, in addition to owning a pre-amp which you can touch without sending a thump or ringing through the speakers, is the presence of an auto-muting circuit which eliminates the clicks and pops that made you feel a 'Kellogg's' logo would have been a more apt decoration for the fascia.
Circuit details, reflecting the hybrid nature of the design, include solid-state regulation (good for extending tube life) and a MOSFET in the line stage to buffer the main outputs from the line valve. The SA-1000 uses triodes for all amplification stages, with the pair of dual-triode 12AX7 in the phono circuit and each half of the 6DJ8 providing line stage voltage gain for each channel; a MOSFET supplies current gain. A capacitor prevents DC from reaching the outputs. (Chorus of deep sighs of relief...) The power supply consists of a high voltage winding off the transformer for the main amplification stages, with a low voltage winding to supply filament voltage, all fully rectified.
The net result is a pre-amp which, well, "behaves", something which I found staggering considering the ornery nature of its predecessor. It will drive long leads without difficulty, it runs
cool enough to survive with a gap of only two or so inches above it and warm-up is remarkably quick, the unit reaching optimum performance level in 15-20 minutes.