Don Sachs Owners Thread

A place to discuss amps, preamps, and phono stages from Don Sachs. 


I just purchased a like new D2 linestage. It has 2 gain controls, 64 step volume control, and digital volume readout. It is set up for the new rectifier. This is my first 6sn7 based linestage. It came with Ken-Rad Vt 231and gray RCA tubes. There are 3 rectifier tubes. A huge Philco 6BY5G, a Tung-Sol 6BY5G, and a Bendix 5852. There is also an Ice Age Audio power cord. With 2 different sounding outputs there are a lot of options. I need to find out what value the output caps are. I have the D2 connected at the moment to a VTL ST150. Input impedance is 125K and 2v in for maximum gain. 

I placed the RCA tubes in left front and rear and Ken-Rad in the right. Used Philco rectifier. Plugged VTL amp into output 1. The brightest sounding preamp I've ever heard. It was comical, bass drums sounded more like cymbals. Output 2 sounds like normal music. This surprises me. With 125K input, I thought there would be no problem getting bass response. 

Some questions.

1. Are the 6Sn7's in the right locations? I guessed by looking at the sellers photograph.

2. Is the Ice Age Audio the AC cord the brand Don offers as an option? 

3. I'll audition all 3 but which rectifier would be considered tops?

The linestage sounds amazing. 




Match the rears R/L then the front R/L. Also, I power down & wait 30 seconds & pull the plug before I pull a tube. Running Ken Rads in the rear & Syl. in the front.

Just took delivery a couple weeks back of Don's Custom Phonostage after a 6 month queue. I'm glad I waited! Once the caps have settled in I will A/B'ing against my Fosgate Signature....   

This is a great idea. I don't own one, but Don's preamps are so highly regarded. It'll be great to have a place for owners to share questions, comments and experiences.


Looking forward to your opinion. I used to have a Don Sachs Line Stage, it's gone now. However, I do have a Fosgate Signature phono stage but just picked up an SPL Phonos which I anticipate will be replacing it.







Congratulations on scoring a Model 2! If your output caps are configured anything like my first Model 2, output 1 may well be setup as a subwoofer out. When I bought my Model 2, I had two-way monitors and a subwoofer, so I asked Don to set it up as '1' for subwoofer and '2' to the amp. 


Experiment with different gain settings until you find a setting which is the most pleasant sounding. 

I liked my 'old' Model 2 so much that I decided to buy a second one after reading about how much improvement there was. I had thought I would sell my old model once my new model had burned in, but decided to keep both - one for a vacation system and one for my main system. I'm delighted with both of them. I have a Kootenay 120 as well. 


I’ve heard Don is now semi retired.  Not that this negates the value of this thread, but has anyone else heard this?

@ozzy62 I'll let you know how the A/B turns out. 


And yes, Don is "semi-retired" but dont really know what that means. He told me he is finishing up his queue and will no longer be taking in new orders. YMMV. 

 Thank you @danmar123 . Don's site shows 4 matching tubes, which didn't provide orientation info. Mine are now correctly installed and the channels are more "balanced" sonically. Interestingly the Schiit Freya+, and I believe the Cary SLP 98 position  tubes as I did originally. Thanks again for getting me on track.

@markusthenaimnut  thanks, your thread was my inspiration. 

@mresseguie thanks for the tip on line outs. Never considered one set could be set up as a sub and the other full range. Makes sense. When time allows, I'll pop the bottom cover to see what value the caps are. I'll also audition different gain settings. Glad to hear you love the D2. Do they sound pretty similar or worlds apart?


@soix, ​​​​@ozzy62 and @jaynemo1962 Don has posted about work load changes on his website. He says:

"LATEST:  I have decided to close the build queue.  I now maintain a wait list for every product I build.  There are no deposits.  I will continue to produce tube equipment.  I am NOT retiring, but doing things on my schedule at my pace.   This allows me to perfect designs.  The current version of the preamp, the phono stage, the Kootenay 120 KT88 amp, and the Valhalla integrated amp are the best I have ever built.   If you are interested in a product send me an email and I will tell you about how long the wait will be.  I work more in the fall and winter and less in the summer.NOTE:  After many years of rebuilding vintage tube gear I have stopped taking on any new repair and restoration jobs to focus entirely on production of custom tube line stages, phono stages and my KT88 power amp.  I may do some more vintage work in the future, but for now I am only building custom pieces."

He is still building equipment. Just focusing on his brand vs reconditioning other equipment. 

Time to do some listening.




@aldnorab thanks, pretty much what he told me when I got in queue about 6 months ago, but thanks for the follow up. Yes, time to listen.....


@jaynemo1962 , wow, 6 month wait. That is patience. Had a chance to buy the DS phono along with the DS2.  I passed, perhaps stupidly. Couldn't see buying a matching component for something I hadn't even heard yet. Looking forward to your thoughts on it.



Anyone using Linlai 6SN7 tubes in their preamp? Thinking about getting 2 as a trial. Need some back up tubes, and new would be a great addition to my nos. 



I just sent back my model 2 for some upgrades.  Don completed the work and had it back to me within 2 weeks.  I'm not sure he knows how to retire.

@firstgrowth  good to know. Hope he doesn't over do it and stays healthy. Which upgrades are Don adding to your Model 2? 

Just saw a post by Jim McShane saying his tube/ Citation amp business was swamped. Don used to do his Citation restorations. Mick is running about 4 months on Supratek orders. They are all getting up in years and fighting supply chain issues. We are pushing small artisan businesses to the max. 

Thanks for the update,


He upgraded the caps, improved the regulated filament supply, and modded the hole for the rectifier tube so it can accommodate a 6BY5 tube.  

@firstgrowth  that should improve sound quality quite a bit. Surprised it was finished so quickly. Hope you post updates on the sound improvement. It is always interesting to read about the changes.



Ok, first impressions since upgrade AND installation of my new Weiss DAC.  Background is blacker, more detail (that's the DAC and the upgrades.  There's a drop of tube noise but considering there are at least 15 in the signal path it's not a surprise.  Soundstage has gotten deeper and higher.  I'll give it a bit of time to run in and post again but I'm sure the upgrade path was the way to go.

@firstgrowth good to hear. It is always nice when upgrades move the sound in the direction desired. What 6by5 rectifier tube did Don send with the update? 

Weiss makes great DACs. What were you using before? Please keep posting updates.

Thanks for sharing,


Before the Weiss I was running everything through an Oppo 205 upgraded by ModWright.  The Weiss is a considerable step up, everything is faster so notes on complicated passages stay individual and precise.  Friday Night in San Francisco is  a great example.  Al DiMeola plays so fast it used to blur the music to my ears, with the Weiss it's a whole different story.


I'll check on the tube he sent when I get home.  

As good as the Model 2 sounds, I've been missing sweetness and delicacy in the high frequencies. Sound leans towards early CD digital sound, no give and little decay. Not quite effortless.

I've had other tube equipment, but used the new tubes they shipped with and always bought new replacements. With the Model 2 I'm using the 1950's and 60's tubes supplied by the original owner. I have 2 new Linlai 6sn7 on the way.

Read about using a Dremel to buff old tube pins. The buffing wheel looks to be made of soft cotton. The pins already looked clean and chromey. Except, the 2 Ken-Rad VT 231. They were almost black. Even after polishing they are no where near chrome finished. More dirty brass colored.

The sonic improvements are amazing. The high frequencies are more natural with  sweetness and decay. Just more pleasant all around. Amazing difference. Highly recommended.



Just received the 2 Linlai E 6sn7 tubes ordered last month. I'll try them in both circuit locations. If they beat out my GE/Ken-Rad, I will order 2 more.

These are huge tubes. Newer D Sachs have wider spacing. They will not fit in my older wood top D Sachs directly. They require a socket saver to raise 1 tube higher than the other. I used the savers from AES. Even this BARELY fits. The tubes are so close together a credit card won't fit between the globes. It would be nice if someone made an adapter to space the tubes further apart. May have to diy a couple.




Question for D2 owners; do you have tube rush at zero throttle? My Wilson's aren't overly sensitive at 91 db and the amp is a Cherry 2. I enjoy the sound but what keeps coming back to me is the Pass XP12 was almost dead quiet as a solid state unit. It wasn't nearly as musical as the tube set I have in the Sachs.


I'm going to try cleaning my tube pins and pulling out some tube dampers to try and see if they help. This is 15 inches from the tweeter, a small hisssss.

Depending on the input sensitivity/gain of the Cherry amps with the 18db gain of the Sachs and the 91db efficiency of your speakers what you are hearing is normal. Especially if the input sensitivity of the amp is under 2 volts.  

Okay. The music is sensational. I just want to have a blacker background. I've read elsewhere that the low level hiss is normal for the Wilsons but with my Pass pre I had almost no hiss. Probably half as much.

And that is the difference between the two combos. When you are matching tube preamps with amps and speakers you have to take into account the total gain of the combo or you will get hiss. If you have to get to that close a distance to hear it then it shouldn’t be a problem since we don’t listen at 15 inches. It’s not just your Wilson’s it would be most any speaker close to or over 90 db. Ran into the same issues with my Sachs matched to certain amps with my 90+db Verity’s. You can always contact Don and see if he can lower the gain.

I have 2 outputs of different levels. The Mytek output which I prefer is rated higher for a broader range of amps and is for >30k amps. The Mundorf Silver cap output is for SS amps around 10k. My DAC Cherry 2 is 20k. Either output has the same hiss and it does not matter if the gains for each channel are at zero or pegged. Still the same.

Anyway, the Miflex caps sound wayyyy better so I am going to stay with that.

I also changed out some tubes today. Good sound, same hiss. But again, it is putting your ear at 12 to 15 inches away at idle. Not something you can detect at the chair and certainly out of the scene during playback.

I may pick up a SS pre just for experimentation. I'm not excited about trying to find another amp. I am intrigued by Atma Sphere or Arion Class D's however.


@bugredmachine my Model 2 also has some noise at 15" away from the drivers. I have the dual gain control model and the hiss volume doesn't change with setting. Think they work on the input instead of the output. 

Just ordered 2 more Linlai E6sn7 tubes. Looking forward to hearing the Don Sachs preamp with all Linlai. I need to mark the tubes to keep from mixing up the sets. Any recommendations on how to mark them?


I reduced the hiss to 6 inches or less when I replaced the rectifier tube. Don has also informed me of new caps to put into the outputs which are on order. They should be even smoother and perhaps a little quieter.

I also have ordered the Linlai tubes. I just out in some 'treasures' tubes and they are nice versus the Shunguang I had in there.

@bugredmachine  that is a nice reduction in hiss. What rectifier were you using and what is the replacement?

I haven't tried comparing rectifiers for noise. Great idea. Looking forward to your thoughts on the new caps.



Tubes pulled out, and they may have many hours on them:

Psvane CV181-T's on the left-most sockets

Sylvania 6SN7GTB's in the middles sockets

Philco 6BY5 rectifier


The tubes I had in my stores placed into service:

shunguang Treasures CV181-Z's

Full Music 6SN7's

Raytheon 6BY5GA rectifier


Much quieter and as much, slightly more, musical than the replaced.

Interesting outcome. You have a nice collection of newer signal tubes. The fact you were able to reduce noise and improve sound quality is good news. The only tube I have from your bunch is a Philco 6by5GA rectifier. It seems very airy, but light on bass and midrange warmth. All of my rectifier tubes sound different. The Tung-Sol is probably the most balanced. Just acquired an RCA 6by5GA that is close, but a little softer sounding. The Bendix 5x4 is very, very punchy. Hearing all the different personalities of this linestage with different tubes, it would be very to review it properly.



I have a new solid state amp and some new IC's to try as well. This set of tubes is really sweet sounding, but I also have new Lin Lai's that just arrived yesterday.

The Coda 8 amplifier is fantastic, but it is slightly hissier than the Cherry. This amp is probably the best of the 30+ amps I have tried in the last 13 years.

Cables I usually run are Silnote Morpheus 3's in balanced config. In reserve I have a Jade and a Gabriel Gold. New to me I have a Silent Source, Acoustic Zen Silver Reference, and coming soon a Stealth Metacarbon. So far the SS is fantastic. I have high hopes for the Metacarbon.

More updates. Don emailed me about a change to the output caps he had made after the production of my unit. It took 5 weeks to get the caps from Chris as he was away on vacation. They are VH Audio V-Caps ODAM 400VDC 1.5 uf - Matched 1% pairs. These replace the Mundorfs which were fairly meek in their performance compared to the Miflex (Dueland clones) on the other output set.

I installed them yesterday and right from the jump they sound fantastic. As good as the Miflex and with time we'll see how they flesh out.

I also have a set of Stealth Indra's showing tomorrow. I had a pair a year ago and was sorry I let them go. I am not sure if they will recreate the magic they once brought and in the pre to amp slot I will have to see what cables in the DAC to pre slot mate best.  Right now I have the Silent Source there and the MetaCarbons going to the amp. 

I preferred the Gabriel Golds to the Silent Source there but the Meta's were the best of the bunch. I've pushed the Acoustic Zens to the sell pile and may keep the Jade Moontails in the rotation pile. We'll see if a full Stealth chain will be the ticket.

I tend to changes things in 3's and not one at a time. So between the Coda, Cables, and now caps I am headed to higher levels of performance and cause myself more complex thinking by changing multiple items at once.

I constantly think about upgrading my Wilson's to newer designs but every time I make these kinds of changes they keep wringing out more performance from the system. I guess that's  good thing!

I had Don's first preamp and now his latest version, which is fantastic as well.  I recently got the Linlai 6SN7's and they sound fine to my ears, as Don said they would.  My current ss amp in the rack is dead quiet and I sense no noise generated by the preamp at all.  I have dozens of NOS 6SN7 tubes -- not the holy grail variants, but Sylvania, RCA, and Raytheon, which were dramatically better than the crappy Russian tubes Don originally sourced with his first preamp, figuring buyers would be rolling tubes anyway, but Don has been a devotee of recent Chinese tubes and I absolutely agree with his assessment.  Don told me long ago that among the 4 6SN7 tubes, sonically the 2 most important ones are those on the left side of the top of the preamp.  If you have a pair of fabulous NOS tubes, it is best to place them there. 

I have both Don's preamp and KT88 amp and believe that I own legacy audio gear, somewhat rare in quantities produced as well as with respect to their sonic excellence.  Don's own passion for music is reflected in his excellent gear.


@bugredmachine nice cable collection. I always find it beneficial to try multiple wire looms with new components. Some setups just lock in and sound great.

Didn't realize Don provides caps and allows customers to diy install them. Good to know. 

@whitestix  just received my 2nd pair of Linlai E-6SN7. Can't wait to try the complete set. Good to know the left row makes the most difference. After full break in I will compare the Linlai vs antique tubes.



I did not buy it from Don. Since I can solder he told me what to buy from VH Audio and I did that.

My Linlai's are very noisy so I cannot use them. They are noisy at my seat and noisier than the music! That was a wasted purchase.

@bugredmachine sorry to hear there's a problem with the Linlai tubes. Can you get replacements in warranty? Mine don't have any audible noise 10 feet away. Have you tried just two in the left position to see if half are good? It is unlikely, but did you try cleaning the pins? Hope you get them working for you. 

Seem to remember something about VDH taking over the sales of certain caps. Greaf that Don refered you to them, and told you what to buy. 

Thanks for the info,


Just chiming in on the Linlai tubes.  I run four of these in my DS2 and they are very quiet.  They sound absolutely fantastic.  To my taste they are better than the recent offerings from Shuguang and Psvane.  With LinLais in place, I have no desire to explore further.  

@whitestix - How is that KT88 power amp?  I have enjoyed the DS2 for a few months and given how nice it sounds, I have been wondering if the matching amp should be on my wish list.

Cheers, Soren 

I only bought 2 tubes for the left sockets. Of course, no time on these, but out of the box they are not better than the shunguang Treasures CV181-Z's to me. I'll switch back to those tonight as I expect my Stealth Indra's to show today.


The Kootenai amp is really outstanding, far better than the HK Citation II and V amps that Don earlier fully modified for me.  Its 60-wpc drives a lot speakers just fine with remarkably solid base response, a warm liquid mid-range and extended high end.  It has none of the sluggishness as several my former CJ tube amps had;   it is as quick as any excellent SS amp.  The true magic of the amp is its outstanding soundstage, front to back, side to side, and up and down.  The amp provides a glimpse of "being there" with the music, which is additive to the sound of his preamp.  While it might not be exactly as quiet as the better SS amps, to my ears, it is very close, pretty much dead silent.  

When Don first told about his idea to create his Kootenai amp, I was at that point annoyed with tube amps because of the PITA biasing of my HK amps, but the Kootenai is self-biasing/auto-biasing (I don't understand the difference, honestly) and when a pal brought his Kootenai by for an audition, both of our jaws dropped driving my Spatial Audio speakers when compared to my Platinum-upgraded Modwright DNA .05 SS amp.  I currently run the Kootenai in the cool months here in Northern CA and a Wells Audio SS amp the rest of the year.  The Wells Audio amp is a SS amp masquerading as a tube amp and is as fine as the Kootenai, but at a dramatically higher cost.

I have a pair of Dynaudio Confidence C-1's in transit to me -- a relatively constant 4 ohm load, and Don assures me that the Kootenai will drive them just fine.

Back to the DS2 preamp.  Roger Modjeski of Music Reference fame, told me at a Burning Amp gathering in San Francisco that 6SN7 tubes were more appropriate for old TV's than for preamp circuits, inherently too noisy for audio.  Modwright and Supratek employ them to excellent advantage, perhaps others too.   Don's preamp is a fully-developed iteration of Roy Mottram's of Tubes4Hifi SP14 preamp, which employs the same tube configuration, the development of which has been fully sanctioned and applauded by Roy.  I had Roy's stock SP14 for a while and it not nearly the equal of Don's version, but it definitely will give one a strong sense of the magic of a 6SN7 tube preamps for a very economical price and if you have the skills, cap upgrades are pretty easy to do and very beneficial.  Tubes4Hifi make very well-made power cords and speakers for very reasonable price, as well.

As Don has always said, "there is magic in 6SN7 tubes."   My ears tell me that he is exactly right. 





@whitestix the Kootenay amp is very interesting. Wish my tube amp didn't require me to bias it. Looking forward to reading more posts about it and how it performs with the new speakers.




I told Don that I would never again consider a tube amp that did not auto bias and he assured me that he sorted this out with the Kootenai and the LED meter on the Kootenai has been locked on solidly since I got the amp for all 4 power tubes. By many accounts, the Carver Crimson 275 amp is a good performer, albeit with questionable current output, but it too required manual biasing which to me would be a PITA.   With modern electronics, this auto-biasing feature ought to be de rigueur for all tubes amps. 

The Dyn's are to arrive in a couple of days and since you asked, I will report back how well the Kootenai performs driving the consistent 4 ohm load they present. They will be compared to my Buchardt S400 SE speakers which are quite good.  

@whitestix Thanks for the description of the Kootenay.  It sounds like a wonderful amp and great complement to the DS2.

You got me looking up Wells Audio.  Their amps seem very well reviewed.  Which model 'matches' the Kootenay in your setup?  I have been thinking of replacing my trusty old Pass Labs, which also spits out a lot of heat.

Cheers, Soren

The Wells is nice and quiet but more laid back and not aggressive in any way. It does not "take control" like my present Coda does. Wells is well-built and very elegant.


I am picking up my Wells Audio first-gen Innamorata on Friday at Jeff Well's studio.  I currently have the Wells Audio Majestic which was uniquely configured as a pure power amp and it absolutely betters my former McCormack SS amp in all respects. I am sure that the there will be even more of the same "goodness" with the Innamorata that I currently hear with the Majestic.  I heard the Innamorata at Jeff's studio 10 years ago and have since heard it at several audio shows and it always make feel as if I were listening to a very quick and accurate tube amp.  Just like with Don's gear, I somehow knew that Jeff's amp was something that was really special, a legacy piece of gear.  Between the Kootenai and the Innamorata, I am going to be "amped" up for a good long time.


Here are the physically smaller ODAM’s installed in the spaces previously occupied by the Mundorfs:


"I just out in some 'treasures' tubes and they are nice versus the Shunguang I had in there." It depends upon which Shunguan tubes. They apparently no longer make the tubes Don was shipping with his preamps, but they smoked everything Chinese or NOS that I had heard until the E-6SN7s. 


Don has a rectifier upgrade, and if you have an older version, a coupling cap modification which together, IMO, amount to a 20% increase in sound quality if you are using the E-6SN7 tubes.

@bugredmachine thanks for the capacitor and circuit board images. Amazed at how much smaller the new caps are. For this hobby, it is great to have soldering skills.

@lous  the previous owner sent the model 2 to Don for updates. It has the 6BY5 rectifier, not sure about the caps. I'll have to pop the bottom and take a look.

Yesterday I removed the Pioneer M22 (30 watts x2 class A) and tried the similar speced Pass A3 volksamp. The Pass is MOSFET and the Pioneer is bipolar. There are differences, but both sound fine. I was worried about their lower 47K input impedance vs the VTL ST150's 130K. There was a little less bass but that could be transistors vs tubes and the VTL having twice the power in triode mode. Still fun to hear the D Sachs linestage with all these amps.