Backert Labs Rhumba 1.3 vs Extreme

I am looking for a new preamp. I was curious about the preamp from Backert Labs. I saw some good reviews on them and they peaked my interest. My experience with tubes are limited, but I do have tube headphone amp- McIntosh MHA200. When listening to headphones, I always come back to MHA200 over SS amp. So I know I like tube sounds. Long ago I had Schiit Freya which was the only tube pre I had. I do not like veiled and thick sound sometimes I hear from tube gear. I prefer clarity / open / spacious sound with a hint of softness. I think the Rhumba can deliver the sound I am looking for, but just wondering if anyone has experienced the two models and share extra money on the extreme version is well justified. I will be hooking up the pre with Pass X250.8. Also I'd appreciate if you can comment on quietness of the preamp. Do you hear any noise when no music is playing? 


I can't compare the Rhumba to the Extreme, but I purchased a Rhumba 1.3 in December and am very happy with it.  I upgraded from a Freya (OG) and you will not experience anything thick or veiled with the Rhumba, no hint of tubiness at all. It is really quiet, I have 98db efficient speakers and I have to put my ear right up to the tweeter to hear any hint of tube noise.  With the Freya, I could hear some tube noise from my listening position.  Andy at Backert Labs is a straight shooter, and I think he will talk to you about your system and make an honest recommendation as to which version to get.

Hi @panerai557 

So I can't compare the 1.3 to the 1.3 Extreme but I can compare the 1.2 to the 1.3 Extreme which is the upgrade path I took. First I will say that I loved my 1.2. It replaced a Parasound P5 that served its purpose but was somewhat dry and lacked PRAT. When I put the 1.2 in my system for the first time it was a revelation even with no break-in though I believe Andy told me that they do run these in for some time prior to shipping. But it really did take my system to a new level. I also spoke to Andy about tube rolling and he downplayed it somewhat. I forget exactly what he said but characterized the effect or change as mostly minor. The first tubes I rolled in were a set of NOS Aperex Bugle Boy tubes from the early 60's (I think) and these things just blew me away. I remember sitting in my music room and the hair was standing up on my arms. I think I paid less than $200 for the tubes but the improvement in texture and palpability was significant. So this sent me down a path to experiment more with other tubes which was great fun. After trying many other lesser priced and similar priced tubes, the Bugle Boys were still the clear leader. So I took the plunge and bought a pair of Amperex 7316 which cost me a bundle and they did sound great but not better than the original Bugle Boys. Anyway, to date I have 12 or so pairs and in my 1.2 the tube changes are obvious. Most every set changes the sound signature in one way or another and most times you don't have to try to hear it, it is pretty obvious. So a couple years after owning the 1.2 and loving it I came into a little extra cash and called Andy about a trade in. I forget the exact number but they were more than fair and the deal was that they would send me a new 1.3 Exteme that I could compare to my 1.2 and decide if the improvement was worth the extra dough. The Extreme shipped with Millards and it sounded terrific right out of the box with the stock tubes. I was super excited because I assumed rolling in some more expensive tubes would deliver the same results as what I experienced in the 1.2. I know there are significant differences between the two pre's but somehow the Extreme is less responsive to tube rolling than my 1.2 was. I'm not sure why this is but that is the case in my system. Now, with all this said, I kept the Extreme and traded in my 1.2. Even with my favorite BB tubes in the 1.2 the Extreme is easily better but the difference is not like going from my Parasound to the 1.2; it is more incremental. The sound is more authoritative and muscular but still maintains the quickness and agility they are known for. I would say if you are inclined to upgrade and you have the extra money, buy the Extreme. If you have other priorities buy the 1.3 and play around with some different moderately priced tubes from a reputable dealer. Either way you'll be a very happy camper. I HTH, /mike

Member Terry London reviewed both the Rhumba and the LTA MicroZOTL and slightly preferred the LTA.  Just another option.  I believe LTA gives a 14-day trial FWIW.  Both are great and I don’t think you could go wrong with either, but the LTA also happens to be an outstanding headphone amp if that matters.  Best of luck. 

Just to update the thread, I went with LTA MicroZOTL Preamp with L2 upgrade. All I can say is that the preamp met my expectation. I agree with Mr. London's assessment in his review. I think the biggest strength for this pre is its ability to pull me into natural live sound. It still does have its own sound (all gear does, IMO), but I won't say its veiled or anything like that. A really good highend setup can take a listener to where the music was recorded. So you hear the room and the band. With MicroZOTL Pre in my system, it sounds more like taking the band into my listening space.

I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for natural live sounding preamp with convenient features.  

At a glance, it looks like these reviews were conducted nearly three years apart. He reviewed the Rhumba 1.1 in early March 2016 and the LTA in late November 2018. I'm wondering if he was able to compare these side by side in the same system or is relying on auditory memory over three years? If it is the latter I am seriously jealous as my auditory memory is good for about three minutes.

Just to give a quick update, been listening to MicroZOTL preamp 2.0 for 3 solid days, and I must say this kit rocks. Microzotl - x250.8 - falcon ls3/5a gb is a sublime combo. Extremely musical and enjoyable. I don't want to leave my hifi, that's how addictive it sounds... For those who owns this preamp, what tubes are you using? Any difference?