Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: The SA-3.1-An overlooked gem

  1. #1
    WBF Founding Member/Member Sponsor
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Posts
    9,649

    The SA-3.1-An overlooked gem

    If you are on a beer budget and long for the sound that a really good tube preamp can give you-look no further than the Counterpoint SA-3.1. The SA-3.1 was in the middle of the line-up between the SA-7.1 and the mighty SA-5.1. The SA-3.1 is a full-function preamp with the great sounding Counterpoint phono section which uses a pair of 6DJ8 tubes (or any of their better sounding cousins like the 6922, 7308, EC88, ECC, E188CC, etc.) and one 6DJ8 in the line stage. It has an outboard power supply and the rectification is SS vice vacuum tube like its bigger brother.

    The SA-3.1 is a very sweet and refined sounding preamp with a great phono section. Since most people have no idea how good this preamp is, you can sometimes see them selling on Audiogon for as little as $350.00. They are very undervalued. Even at double that price, you really couldn’t go wrong. I would recommend this preamp to anyone who is short on funds, but wants some high-end tube magic in their system. I personally wouldn’t recommend sending one back to Michael Elliott for any upgrades as the upgrades get pricey very quickly and you may as well save your cash until you get your hands on an SA-5.1 which is in a different league.

    Mark

  2. #2
    Site Founder And Administrator Steve Williams's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Coto De Caza, California on the 13th fairway of the south golf course
    Posts
    18,035
    Mark Is the 7.1 or the 5.1 their top of the line.

    What's special about the 5.1 and what can one expect to pay.
    Steve Williams
    aka oneobgyn
    There's ALWAYS another Steve Williams BUT there's only "oneobgyn"
    Industry Affiliation........Lamm Dealer
    My System

  3. #3
    WBF Founding Member/Member Sponsor
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Posts
    9,649
    Steve-Although counterintuitive, the SA-7.1 was the bottom of the line, the SA3.1 was in the middle, and the SA-5.1 was at the top of the heap. I once had a conversation with Michael Elliott who designed all of Counterpoint’s gear and asked him if he could only take one of his preamp designs to the proverbial dessert island which one it would be. Michael replied it would be the SA-5.1. The reason he gave was because it was the most pure tube of any of his preamp designs and the best sounding. The SA-5.1 starts with a tube rectifier which then feeds 3 tube voltage regulator tubes. The phono section is pure tube as well as the line stage.

    All of Mike’s later work after the SA-5.1 which would include the SA-9, SA-11, SA-1000, SA-2000, SA-3000, and SA-5000 were full of SS devices. The power supply regulation in the SA-5.1 was also the most pure tube of any of the other preamps.

    Depending on the condition of the SA-5.1, they can go as cheap as $800 and for the here and now top out at around $1400. The funny thing is the SA-5000 brings more money because people who don’t know any better think it is better because it is newer. Although the SA-5000 has some cool features like restricted cartridge loading from the front panel and it can take low output cartridges straight in, it simply isn’t in the same league as the SA-5.1. My brother owned an SA-5000 and once he heard my SA-5.1 he couldn’t wait to get rid of it and buy an SA-5.1. The problem was, there were no SA-5.1 preamps for sale anywhere. I told him I could smoke one out for him if he was willing to trade straight across instead of waiting for an SA-5.1 to become available and then sell his SA-5000 for more money. Sure enough, I found someone who owned an SA-5.1 to trade my brother for his SA-5000.

    If anyone knows of a better bargain in all of high-end audio, please let me know what it is.

    Mark

  4. #4
    Addicted to Best! jadis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Manila, Philippines
    Posts
    3,933
    Long time ago, I had an SA 7.1 pre amp. It's a very sweet sounding pre amp. I had an Ariston RD110/Premeire MMT/Grade 8MR front end and the amp was a Sumo Polaris driving the Infinity RS 3Bs. During that time, I loved the sound and specially the mass strings were reproduced with utmost sweetness with no trace of harshness. There was a slight problem thought, the volume control of the 7.1, when used, produced a harsh gritty screeching noise that would come out the loudspeakers. And the balance control would make the same noise. A neighbor liked my sound so much he offered to buy the Sumo/7.1 combo so that I could 'upgrade'. He told me he had the controls cleaned from the inside and it solved the problem but from time to time, it would recur and the cycle of cleaning needed to be done again.

  5. #5
    WBF Founding Member/Member Sponsor
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Posts
    9,649
    I too owned a brand new SA-7.1 many, many years ago. It was my first tube preamp. I never had the volume pot/balance pot problem you did. The 7.1 was a sweet little preamp and I had a few enjoyable years with it before I upgraded.

    Mark

  6. #6
    Addicted to Best! jadis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Manila, Philippines
    Posts
    3,933
    Quote Originally Posted by mep View Post
    I too owned a brand new SA-7.1 many, many years ago. It was my first tube preamp. I never had the volume pot/balance pot problem you did. The 7.1 was a sweet little preamp and I had a few enjoyable years with it before I upgraded.

    Mark
    Maybe it was just my unit that was fuzzy. And I recall the SA-9 phono stage highly praised by HP then, and he mated it with the Jadis JPL line stage. There were a couple of SA-9s here though with different pre amps, and both sounded very very nice. I was tempted but when I saw how many tubes the SA-9 needed, I passed on to get something with just 3 tubes. lol

  7. #7
    WBF Founding Member/Member Sponsor
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Posts
    9,649
    I know the SA-9 and SA-11 always had a cult status about them. I never had a chance to hear either of them. The funny thing is, Mike Elliott retreated from those type of designs and he no longer offers upgrades for either one-just repairs. I think the reason he only offers repairs on for them now and not upgrades is the price of the upgrades would exceed his new offerings under the Aria name. When Mike was offering upgrades for the SA-9/SA-11, he removed as many of the SS devices from them that he could. I think that was why the SA-5.1 was Mike's favorite preamp as it was the most pure tube preamp he ever designed under the Counterpoint name and the one he surely modeled his new preamp on that he is currently selling under the Aria name. If you look at the preamp and see the tubes he is using, it is the exact same tube line-up as the SA-5.1. The biggest differences I can see is that the new preamp has a switch that allows you to choose 6.3v or 12.6v so you can roll different tubes. It also has a choke for the power supply.

    Mark

  8. #8
    Addicted to Best! jadis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Manila, Philippines
    Posts
    3,933
    Quote Originally Posted by mep View Post
    I know the SA-9 and SA-11 always had a cult status about them. I never had a chance to hear either of them. The funny thing is, Mike Elliott retreated from those type of designs and he no longer offers upgrades for either one-just repairs. I think the reason he only offers repairs on for them now and not upgrades is the price of the upgrades would exceed his new offerings under the Aria name. When Mike was offering upgrades for the SA-9/SA-11, he removed as many of the SS devices from them that he could. I think that was why the SA-5.1 was Mike's favorite preamp as it was the most pure tube preamp he ever designed under the Counterpoint name and the one he surely modeled his new preamp on that he is currently selling under the Aria name. If you look at the preamp and see the tubes he is using, it is the exact same tube line-up as the SA-5.1. The biggest differences I can see is that the new preamp has a switch that allows you to choose 6.3v or 12.6v so you can roll different tubes. It also has a choke for the power supply.

    Mark
    Very interesting indeed, Mike.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •