My time with the McCormack RLD 1 preamplifier

I bought my McCormack RLD 1 after listening to it at Progressive Audio in Columbus Oh.

This old preamp is a bit of a mystery to me.

Shortly after I bought it I traded it in on another piece of gear that was less expensive. Although for the price and performance, I would consider the McCormack RLD 1 to be anything but expensive.

McCormack RLD1 picture

I had purchased a different, cheaper preamp because at the time, I thought it was just as good for less money.

Ever since I sold it, I have wanted to get an RLD-1 back into my system:

However, I now use an active digital crossover setup and need 6 inputs and outputs for my stereo speaker system.

So the RLD-1 preamp is not going to work for me anymore anyway. Unless of course I would use three identical McCormack RLD 1 units -seems a bit complicated to me.

I think the better question of why I replaced this preamp is -why I want it back. Yes, I realize that this is an old preamp and probably not the newest, most popular item on the block right now. But I liked my McCormack RLD 1 preamp. And I want another one.

Sound Quality:

Neutrality: I would say that this preamp is just slightly cooler than absolute neutral. I am not implying that it is cold or analytical. Imagine a neutrality scale of 1 to 10 with 5 being the middle and absolutely neutral. A 1 would be the coolest sounding and 10 the warmest. The RLD-1 would probably register about a 4.5, meaning a little less than neutral but nowhere near cold.

Sound staging: From 1 to 10 with number 1 being flat and 10 being a very wide sound-stage. The McCormack RLD 1 will register about a 6.

Transparency and detail: From 1 to 10 with number 1 being nearly zero transparency and 10 very detailed with tons of low level information, resolution, and transparency.

The RLD-1 lacks the last bit of detail and extreme transparency. I would give it a 7 for transparency and detail. Just for reference a good preamp with high levels of detail and transparency would be the fabulous Halcro pre-amp scoring around 9.5. Also note that having high levels of detail and transparency are not always a good thing. It often means that the preamp is balanced more to the cool side of neutrality.

I like the balance of transparency that this preamp has.

Bass: The bass of a preamp is scored more by it’s presence in the bass region. This also gets described in the magazines as pace and rhythm. But it is really just the preamp’s ability to produce bass notes quickly and on tone without sounding slow and muddy or quick and thin. For bass to be produced realistically it should just sound like the instrument it is reproducing. If it does that –it’s doing its job well. The RLD-1 does its job well.

If the music being played contains a double bass, it sounds like double bass then it is a double bass. The entire system should be doing a good job at producing the sound of the body of that instrument.

Loudspeakers play a much larger role in whether bass sounds real or not. So for the RLD-1 I give it a solid 6.5 for bass. Any -well designed preamplifier is not likely to cause issues in the bass in most systems. Or at least they shouldn’t. The final analysis of bass is more a result of the preamp’s overall balance which is described above.

Overall score: 8 out of 10 for performance and price


I did have one mechanical issue with my unit. About 6 months after I owned it the channel balance function did not work anymore. The signal coming out of both speakers sounded more mono than stereo. Not sure what went wrong but they fixed it quick, so all was fine.

You might know where this is going if you know anything about McCormack products.

Enter the McCormack MAP-1 multichannel preamplifier. The MAP-1 has the same channel modules that are in the RLD-1 preamp. However, there are three pairs instead of two.

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