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Linear preamplifier

Price (in Poland): 110 000 zł

Manufacturer : OCTAVE Audio

Industriestr. 13 ǀ 76307 Karlsbad ǀ Niemcy
tel.: 0 72 48 / 32 78 ǀ fax: 0 72 48 / 32 79



Country of Origin: Germany

Delivered for review by:
Eter Audio
Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Pictures: Octave ǀ Wojciech Pacuła/Piksel Studio

Published: 1. August 2012, No. 99

I will not make the introduction too long for the review is quite long on its own. I met Andreas Hofmann several times in Munich, during High End show; for the first time some 5-6 years ago. Each time we would exchange a handshake, I would listen to Mr. Hofmann’s charming, silky-smooth, very well-set voice of and we would part. Even for a moment I did not think that I would someday review his top of tops, the PRE preamp from the Jubilee line.
The idea for that device, released for a company’s round anniversary, was born in 1993. The design stage took five years and the PRE appeared in 1998. Next five years took designing the AMP power amplifier. The whole set was only available in 2003, ten years after the initial idea. Until now, Andreas has not come up with anything better and there is no indication that it’s about to change any time soon.
The PRE is a tube linear preamp with an external, solid state power supply. There is no remote control.

Our previous reviews of Octave products:

  • > Octave V 40 SE integrated amplifier; review HERE


A selection of recordings used during auditions:

  • Paganini for two, Gil Shaham, Göran Söllscher, Deutsche Grammophon/JVC, 480 246-5, XRCD24 (1993/2009).
  • Stereo Sound Reference Record. Jazz&Vocal, Stereo Sound, SSRR4, SACD/CD (2010).
  • André Previn, After Hours, Telarc/Lasting Impression Music, LIM UHD 051, CD (1989/2011).
  • Assemblage 23, Bruise, Accession Records, A 128, Limited Edition, 2 x CD (2012).
  • Beverly Kenney, Beverly Kenney sings for Johnny Smith, Roost Records/EMI Music Japan, TOCJ-9731, CD (1956/2012).
  • Beverly Kenney, Come Swing With me, Roost Records/EMI Music Japan, TOCJ-9732, CD (1956/2012).
  • Depeche Mode, Ultra, Mute Records Limited, DMCDX9, CD+DVD (1997/2007).
  • Dominic Miller & Neil Stancey, New Dawn, Naim, naimcd066, CD (2002).
  • e.s.t. Esbjörn Svenson Trio, 301, ACT Music + Vision, ACT 9029-2, CD (2012).
  • Handel, La Maga Abbandonata, Simone Kermes, Maite Baumont, Il Complesso Barocco, dyr. Alan Curtis, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi/Sony Music Entertainment, CD 88697846212, CD (2003/2011).
  • John Coltrane, One Down, One Up. Live at The Half Note, Impulse!, 9862143, 2 x CD (2005).
  • Kraftwerk, Minimum-Maximum, Kling-Klang Produkt/EMI, 3349962, 2 x SACD/CD (2005).
  • McCoy Tyner, Nights of Ballads & Blues, Impulse!, IMP 12212, 20-bit Super Mapping, CD (1963/1997).
  • Me Myself And I, Do Not Cover, Creative Music, 005, CD (2012).
  • Pat Metheny Group, Offramp, ECM, ECM1216 422 817 138-2, CD (1982/1994).
  • Portishead, Dummy, Go! Disc Limited/Universal Music Company [Japan], UICY-20164, SHM-CD (1994/2011).
  • The Beatles, Rubber Soul, Parlophone/Apple/Toshiba-EMI, TOCP-51116, CD (1965/1998).
  • Wes Montgomery, Smokin’ At The Half Note, Verve, Verve Master Edition, 2103476, CD (1965/2005)
Japanese versions available from

The Octave Jubilee is one heck of a preamp. I’m not only talking about its weight, though it is quite hefty, but about the sound. It is the first preamp in my system that is simply better than my Gerhard Hirt-modified, finely perfected Ayon Audio Polaris III [Custom Version]. Maybe not 100%, because there are sonic aspects of my device I like a bit more, but they appear to be negligible over time, not especially important.
What’s more, the Jubilee PRE is as good as the best solid state preamp I know, the Solution 720. The Swiss solid state shows that hi-tech devices, carefully designed, can do better here and there and that it is not just some silly talk about measurements. I will not fail to speak later about the advantages of the 720. But still, overall, the Jubilee is – OK, together with the Soulution 720 – the best linestage I know. Even the fantastic Ayon Spheris II cannot do everything so well and its presence is more accented in the audio system.
The Octave is, on the one hand, very precise in everything it does, exceptionally selective and definite, while on the other hand saturated, dense, slightly but really just a tiny bit tube-like. It is also very versatile and it does not matter what type of music we throw at it – the characteristics I’m talking about are always present and beneficial in re-creating the musical event.

For it’s very natural sound. You cannot pinpoint some particular tonal balance, because that seems to be exactly as needed. Tone color is less weighty than with the Ayon Polaris III, but better saturated than the Soulution 720. Lower midrange in all three solid state linestages reviewed in this issue of "High Fidelity", that is the Soulution 720, the TAD C-600 and the Avantgarde Acoustic PRE is slightly conservative, lacking some maturity and depth. Of course, let’ not exaggerate, it must be read in context as we’re speaking about the absolute top; they are all great devices, but in comparison with the reference preamplifier, where the range is fleshy and full of blood, it could be heard. On the other hand, all tube preamps, the Audio Research Ref5 SE, the ModWright LS 36.5 and also my Ayon Polaris III, slightly weighed down that range, sounding seemingly a little bit sleepy. The Ayon was overall best in this area.
The Octave Jubilee PRE is located somewhere in between - is has saturation, showing great vocals in a large space, i.e. virtual sources have much body, while not pushing it, without exaggerating that saturation; it does not particularly impact the sound, which is especially well heard by comparing it to direct coupling of an output-controlled CD player with a power amplifier.

The quality of the PRE is also revealed in its high definition. That characteristic is very difficult to reach while maintaining saturation, as I can see on the example of the other mentioned preamps, and usually some compromises needs to be made.
The reviewed preamp is exemplary in that respect; that is I have never heard anything better. The measure of its greatness is the fact that I had great pleasure listening to live recordings from different years representing various music styles, which for me is usually at least problematic. I can hear the distinct tone color, the spaciousness, etc. between the performers and the audience. Actually, audience applause always sounds to me paper-like, empty. Sometimes it is better, sometimes worse, but it well indicates a weakness of such recordings. The Jubilee PRE did something that finally united the applause with the audience, simply made it true.
An advantage of the reference system, especially the amplifier and the speakers, is that it shows the events without any compression, presenting them “live”. Next to bass saturation, that is the first thing to catch attention – as is clear from my experience – when someone listens to music at my place. And it is in such company that the characteristic I described above, the naturalness of performance, the sense of live musical event conveyed by the Octave preamp is most striking.
I think these are some of the advantages resulting from a combination of superb resolution and completely unprecedented saturation. It allows creating distinct virtual sources, tangible, with good texture, i.e. displaying minor differences in dynamics and tone color; showing those moments when the performer slightly tilts his or her head and steps back from the microphone. Such as on Smokin’ At The Half Note by Wes Montgomery and Wynton Kelly Trio, when before the track number 6 (bonus material) Alan Grant introducing the musicians jokes at Montgomery who forgot what they’re about to play. Or on the One Down, One Up. Live At The Half Note album where the musicians are introduced by none else but the same Alan Grant (material from both album was recorded in 1965). In both cases it was the same feeling of being THERE. Despite recordings’ technical imperfections, despite the passage of time – it’s been 47 years ago! – the Jubilee was able to capture the spirit of those times, the energy of the musicians and of the audience.

But as I said, that capability of the German preamp is not limited to one particular music genre, be that jazz, classical music, etc. I went on smoothly, without any problem to Minimum-Maximum by Kraftwerk. And the same thing happened – completely different music, time, venue (there a small club, here concert halls, including Warsaw’s Congress Hall, and stadiums), yet the feeling remained the same – the naturalness of audience applause, the organic presence of musicians; simply sending shivers down the spine.
And that is but an example of what the Jubilee is capable of, although the most convincing for me. The sound is juicy while being coherent and natural. Vocals from the Me Myself And I album had clear recording signature in that they were slightly guttural. It could also be heard with my Polaris III, even more pronounced. The Octave, however, went BEYOND without stopping there. The Ayon’s presentation was slightly closer, the soundstage somewhat homogenized. Despite that, it still shows and differentiates the soundstage better than any other device of this kind. Except for the Jubilee. The German preamp creates a very deep and better differentiated soundstage.
The other impressive characteristic of Mr. Hofmann‘s preamplifier is saturation. Both the bass and the midrange, and to a large extent the treble. The latter is not as open as in the Soulution 720 or the Avantgarde Acoustic PRE – these are world champions in uniform extension of treble – but it remains in perfect proportion to the rest of the sonic range. Especially the low end – strong, rich and full of energy. And it is the sound’s energy (especially the bass) that is particularly impressive. I does not allow the events to “fly away”, anchoring them in the here and now., Building on its soundstage presentation and high energy of sound, the Jubilee creates a large ‘bubble’ around us, dense and almost palpable. Background noise, tape hiss, etc. give us a feeling of entering another reality, of being somewhere else. Despite the fact that such artifacts are actually a distortion, something that should rather indicate ARTIFICIALITY of the whole process of music recording and reproduction. Perhaps it’s an aspect of ourselves, in that we got used to such interpretation of music recordings, that we trained our brain that way, but the result is one and the same – we’re somewhere else.

That’s probably what this game is all about – such matching of our audio system that allows us to emotionally go somewhere else, to leave our room and receive a dose of energy put into music on the other side of the microphone/console. It’s possible to achieve that level of realism with comparatively inexpensive gear. It must be good; the whole system properly matched and set up in an acoustically adapted listening room. But if we want to experience something on the verge of magic, if we want to erase the imaginary line between HERE and THERE, we need to spend much more. To achieve that top level we need at least a preamp of the Jubilee PRE class. As this review clearly demonstrates, I hope, a lot can be had with less expensive preamps; even the up to five times cheaper ModWright LS 36.5 gives its all, offering us powerful emotions. However, the German pre shows that that is just a prelude – great, successful, but still a prelude nonetheless.

I do not know a better preamp. Let me repeat –maybe except the Soulution 720 and to some extent my Polaris III (and thus the Ayon Audio Spheris II). Elegant design and ease of use (shame that the Jubilee comes with no remote control) makes the device stay forever. We can sense a real person behind it – if you talked with Andreas Hofmann and heard his deep, silky smooth voice made for radio, you would know what I mean. It is a thoroughly thought-out sound, extremely versatile and in some sense forgiving. You can listen to everything on it and have lots of joy with that.

The preamplifier receives RED FINGERPRINT award.

The award has previously been given to:

  • Dynaudio Focus 260 floorstanding speakers; reviewed HERE
  • Musica Ibuki Digital USB DAC; reviewed HERE
  • JPLAY software audio player; reviewed HERE
  • Pro Audio Bono Acrylic AP anti-vibration platform; reviewed HERE
  • Hegel H70 integrated amplifier; reviewed HERE
  • Leben CS-1000P integrated amplifier; reviewed HERE
  • ModWright LS 36.5 linestage; reviewed HERE

Testing methodology
The Octave Jubilee PRE was compared against my reference preamp, the Polaris III [Custom Version] from Ayon Audio, as well as other linestages reviewed for this issue of “High Fidelity”: the ModWright LS 36.5, the Audio Research Ref5 SE, Avantgarde Acoustic PRE, the Soulution 720, and direct coupling of my Ancient Audio Lektor Air V-edition CD player and my Soulution 710 power amp. The Jubilee drove two power amps – the above mentioned Soulution 710 and the Leben CS-1000P. It was connected to the AC mains by the Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version power cord and it was seated on the Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc spacers resting on the Base IV [Custom Version] rack.
The testing had a character of A-B comparison with A and B known. Music samples were two minutes long. I also auditioned whole albums. Coupling was via RCA unbalanced cables – both on the source and the power amp sides. Despite the fact that the preamp has XLR balanced inputs the audio circuit employs – according to description – unbalanced topology. Indeed, coupled via RCA cables it sounded better than via XLR cables.


The Jubilee PRE is a linear preamplifier from German manufacturer Octave Audio. It was designed together with the Jubilee AMP power amp to celebrate the company’s anniversary. It is manufactured to order, for a particular customer or distributor.
The Jubilee is a sizeable two-piece unit, with an external power supply. The audio section employs four tubes, all of the ECC82 family. Andreas Hoffmann, an admirer of NOS tubes, recommends some exotic and refined types, for example the rare E80CC in the input stage. The enclosure is almost entirely made of aluminum.

Linestage unit – front and rear
The front panel has a distinctive shape and consists of three parts; a lower middle section made of a stone slab sided by two higher, very thick aluminum panels. You can order the unit with marble or slate front panel, such as the Transrotor Super Seven La Roccia TMD turntable. In the center of the stone section there is a large volume knob with the company’s logo cut out below. Both aluminum sides feature smaller knobs with mostly blue LEDs around them. The left knob selects audio source – either a set of inputs without tape monitor loop (Source), or two inputs with the monitor loop. There is also a mute position, signaled by a red LED. The right knob is a proper input selector.
The rest of the enclosure is interesting because it is not a simple box. It resembles McIntosh products in that there is a top, higher chassis placed within a lower, wider chassis. Both sides sport long handles. The top cover also consists of three parts – the sides are made of perforated aluminum, and the middle of translucent Plexiglas. You can see a few LEDs through it – some are voltage gauge in the power supply, but one red LED indicates whether power supply capacitors have been discharged after switching off the preamp. Anyone who had anything to do with tubes surely knows it is quite useful…
The top panel features four buttons. The first button selects system gain (High: 17.5 dB / 23.5 dB for RCA / XLR; Low: 10 dB / 16 dB for RCA / XLR). I had no problem choosing the Low setting in my system, in which the signal to noise ratio is 8 dB better than in the High setting. The second button inverts the absolute phase, and the other two set tape copy direction between the two monitor loops. What is it for? I have no idea… Apparently, it helps integrating the preamp with home theater systems.

The rear panel is separated into two sections. The left features available inputs – four pairs of RCA connectors and two pairs of XLRs. The XLRs duplicate two RCA inputs. The balanced inputs are CD and Phono, or actually a line level input marked as Phono. The latter is wired in parallel to its corresponding RCA input, while the CD XLR input is transformer-coupled. It should, however, be borne in mind that it has a much lower input impedance than the RCA – 2 kΩ vs. 100 kΩ. Next to the connectors we have three toggle switches. The top one switches the CD XLR input between balanced and unbalanced mode, the middle one is a ground lift for the XLR inputs, and the bottom one switches active phono input between balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA mode.
The right section features output connectors and two monitor loops. There are as many as four outputs – two pairs of balanced XLRs (pin 2 = hot) and two pairs of unbalanced RCAs. Next to them is a special multi-pin twist-lock power connector for the umbilical cord to the outboard power supply.

Linestage unit – the interior
Audio circuits are spread on several PCBs – obviously it’s not an old-school unit as we can see microprocessor control, complex regulated voltage supplies, etc.
The input PCB is vertically attached to the rear panel, with input connectors coupled via straight wires. The PCB also carries the input selection relays. The signal then goes via cables to the main PCB. In the input stage we see the rare Siemens E80CC, highly valued by Mr. Hofmann. After that we have the NOS ECC82 manufactured in Germany by RFT, and finally two ECC802S tubes from JJ in Slovakia. The tubes are coupled via polypropylene capacitors, looking like components from ERO / Vishay. Unfortunately, their logos cannot be seen because they are paired and their printed sides face each other. It seems that the circuit topology is of the hybrid type, with solid state output buffers. The entire PCB is covered with a solid screen, with cut-outs for the tubes.
In the center, along the whole length of chassis runs a long lever attached on its one end to the volume control knob (through a ball bearing), and on the other to a beautiful potentiometer, located right next to the gain section. It’s a large, sealed, enclosed in a metal screen, Type C ultra-precision potentiometer from Japanese manufacturer TKD (Tokyo Ko-On Denko, which is actually headquartered in Yokohama). The potentiometer is coupled to a gear shaft forming a “rattle”.
Most of the interior, however, is occupied by power supply section and voltage regulators. Although there is an outboard power supply unit, voltage regulators and filter capacitors for most circuits are located right next to gain section.
At the rear, next to the input PCB we can see four huge filter capacitors from Frolyt. They are parallel-coupled via thick gold plated copper rails.
To the side we see a complex power supply, with a number of discrete solid state voltage regulators. Next to the microcontroller there is an ultra-precise, rarely seen although top class, DC-DC power converter (and voltage regulator at the same time from XP Power), sealed in metal case.

Remote control
Urządzenie nie ma pilota, ale można zamówić zewnętrzny pilot, wpinany do gniazda RS232 na tylnej ściance. Niestety nie wiem, czym można wówczas sterować – przy potencjometrze nie widzę silniczka.

Power supply unit
The external power supply’s looks match the linestage unit. It is not another black, ugly box, but rather a fully-fledged component of the audio system. The front panel looks like an amplifier - two thick aluminum plates with a stone slab in the center. It features one power button with an associated blue LED.
The rear panel features an IEC mains socket, two Neutrik sockets for remote switching of the mains power for Jubilee AMP monoblocks, and an umbilical cord for the preamp, quite long and shielded. The unit’s interior is divided by an aluminum shield into two sections. The rear section houses a huge EI core power transformer. It is fully shielded and soaked in shock absorbing material. Mains power switch is bolted to the shield and coupled with a long shaft to the front panel switch.
The front “clean” section houses two complete power supplies, with fast (i.e. low noise) Shottky diodes (a third rectifier with the same diodes is located in the linestage unit). There are also voltage regulators, microprocessor-controlled soft-start circuit, etc. The enclosure is made of aluminum. The power supply unit rests on three rubber feet; the linestage unit on four.

Technical specifications (according to manufacturer):

Frequency Response: 3 Hz – 500 kHz (+ / - 1.5 dB)
Distortion (THD): 0.001% / 3 V / 7.5 kΩ
Signal to Noise Ratio: 90 dB (High Gain) / 98 dB (Low Gain)
Maximum output voltage: 8 V
Channel Crosstalk: 65 dB / 1 kHz
Input to Input Crosstalk: 86 dB / 10 kHz
Tape Play – Record Crosstalk: 98 dB/10 kHz
Input Impedance: 100 kΩ
Output Impedance: 30 Ω (RCA), 2 x 30 Ω (XLR)
Attenuator precision: 0.5 dB (-70 dB)
Weight: Amplifier – 17.2 kg | Power Supply – 11.5 kg
Dimensions: Amplifier – 435 x 170 x 480 mm | Power Supply – 220 mm x 170 mm x 480 mm

Distribution in Poland:

Eter Audio

30-646 Kraków ǀ ul. Malborska 24 ǀ Polska
tel./fax: 12 655 75 43



  • CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air V-edition, review HERE
  • Phono preamplifier: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE
  • Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE), Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE
  • Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Polaris III [Signature Version] with Re-generator Power Supply
  • Power amplifier: Soulution 710
  • Integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier: Leben CS300 XS Custom Version, review HERE
  • Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
  • Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro; 600 Ω version, review HERE, HERE, and HERE
  • Interconnect: CD-preamp: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300 (article HERE, preamp-power amp: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
  • Speaker cable: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review HERE
  • Power cables AC (all equipment): Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300
  • Power strip: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE
  • Stand: Base; under all components
  • Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD, Audio Revive RAF-48 platform under the CD and preamplifier
  • Pro Audio Bono PAB SE platform under Leben CS300 XS [Custom Version]; review HERE