Full Of Surprises: new SM6 MkII preamplifier reveals all

The new Prisma SM6 MkII Balanced Stereo Preamplifier hasn’t been out long, however it’s already winning a few converts.

Read why longtime audio enthusiast Warren Saunders thought the SM6 MkII was full of surprises:

“I‘m compelled to write a few impressions on my findings of this surprising preamp.

Everyone likes opening presents. Christmas is a stressful time for many, but I reckon regardless of all the tensions, trappings and tears of Christmas, opening presents is always the fun part. I took great joy in opening the present with a handmade card from my two daughters. It was the latest CD from the Beatles “LOVE”. My 4 year old Celeste took great delight in saying “I picked it just for you, all by myself”. I looked at her and smiled, with a tear in my eye “thank you” I said.

Now it’s mid January and I have a late Christmas present to open. It’s a brand new SM6 MkII Balanced Stereo Preamplifier from Perreaux. I placed the order too late prior to Christmas. I thought I wouldn’t mind waiting for this hand-made masterpiece to be born, but now that it’s finally here, it’s like Christmas again.

Firstly opening a Perreaux product from new is a deeply religious experience if you are of the audiophile mantra. This moment didn’t bring a tear to my eye like my daughters Christmas present, but it did come close.

I don’t know if it was the impressive looking black large outer box that folded out to an inner black box. Maybe it was opening the solid inner box to reveal even more layers of exquisite wrapping to undress? Could have been the wrapped covered packaging or the encasing bubble wrap? Or the softer wrap? Perhaps the final black cloth wrap? What ever it was, I have never had the privilege of opening such a beautifully packaged and wrapped piece of audio art ever!

First Impressions

Picking up the SM6 MkII revealed the first of many surprises. It felt heavy; with power amps I have come to expect some weight, but a preamp?

Weighing in at nearly 8kg (approx. 17lbs) this is obviously a heavy weight of the preamp world when it comes to build quality. Peeling back the black cloth to reveal the crown jewel is something special. I had opted for satin black to match my black Perreaux power amp.

The look in the flesh is clean, stylish and elegant; when combined with its weight, you know you are holding a premium piece of audio excellence. It’s like a Bentley, Rolls Royce or Ferrari. You don’t need to know anything about cars to appreciate the lines and look of stylish quality.

So does that mean the best looking audio pieces sound the best? Of course not, personally I have always maintained that it’s sound first, and second who cares about looks. That said, seeing it in the flesh, its one hell of a good looking preamp.

But the surprises kept coming. Picking up the remote for instance, it’s milled from a solid piece of brass and electroplated in satin black chromium. Its size to weight ratio makes you think you have a block of gold in your hand. It must be the only remote on the planet that comes with its own screw driver so you can put the new batteries in.

The 3 page performance test sheets with very detailed graphs on distortion, frequency response and single to noise ratio, all personally signed off, was a nice techy touch. Most notably for me was the ruler flat graph of the frequency response from dipping to just -0.2dB at an incredible 5Hz, but absolutely ruler flat from 20Hz to 60,000Hz. That means in theory no tonal character of its own being placed into the music; just select your source and volume. The music is delivered to your power amp untouched from the original source.

The Sound

So how does it sound?

I have had the opportunity to try a few preamps over the years, namely Bryston, NAD, Perreaux SM5 and Audiolab. There have always been differences between preamps, even though in most cases, technically speaking, the differences are minor. When listening to music its interesting how different the music “feels” when comparing preamps. Not very scientific, but at the end of the day you always tend to prefer the sound of one component, in this case a preamp, over another. Firstly, I left the preamp running for a few days with continuous music before making any critical evaluations.

The shocking truth with the SM6 MkII is that the difference was big - very big in fact. Normally I’m switching back and forth between components assessing the merits of each very carefully over several weeks. Well this was one rare occasion when it only took 4 listening sessions to seal its fate.

I have found the sound from the Perreaux SM6 MkII to be the most detailed and controlled I have ever heard. Hands down beats my Perreaux SM5 in every way.

What else is there to say? The bass is so controlled (remember mentioning it can control down to 5Hz). The tightness of foot pedals and bass lines is so clean it’s breath-taking. The mids and tops are open and extended with soundstage and detail that I haven’t heard from any other preamp. Also, at full volume, with no music, there is no noise or hiss and that's with my ear hard against the speaker, so all you truly hear is the music.

A friend of mine recently brought over some Perreaux SX60m mono-blocks. These little 60 watt per channel power amps are tiny when compared to the share size and weight of my 350P. He was keen to see how these little amps would go running off the SM6 MkII compared to his personally built labour of love high end preamp.

I was a little uneasy about hooking up such a small amp to my 6ft Magneplanar panel speakers, as these babies are hard to drive and control (hence the Perreaux 350P I use). I have seen many small amps try but few truly control these current hungry beasts.

We did several tests with his KEF speakers, my Magneplaners with the 2 x SX60m’s power amp my 350P power amp both using the SM6 MkII preamp.

The SM6 MkII sounded stunning in both configurations but the real surprise for both of us was how much control the little SX60m’s had in the mid range and top end. The 350P controlled the panel better overall especially in bass. But the smoothness of the mid range in the SX60m is incredible.

I guess what I’m saying is the SM6 MkII is so neutral, clean and detailed, it made making preamp, speaker and amp comparisons even more of a pleasure.

I know some out there will disagree, but if you are serious about audio, then this preamp is one component well worth trying. Don’t be like me and wait till after next Christmas…”

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