There was a period not too long ago where passive preamps was all the rage in hifidom. It still is for many audiophiles who swear by their signal purity (or neutrality) where the passive preamp is nothing more than a conveyor of signals from the source unit to the power amp. With that premise in design, some can cost tens of dollars while some of the more exotic passive preamps can cost into the tens of thousands of dollars!
The Reference TVC4 you see here happens to be in the more “affordable” camp. It is beautifully made with Merbau hardwood and has the more “premium” control knobs. Volume control is dual mono with stepped attenuators which allowed easier and more accurate balancing between the left and right speaker levels. There are three input options – two RCA pairs and one XLR pair with three similar outputs. A key note here is the RCA inputs are married to the RCA outputs and likewise for the XLR input and output. You can’t cross input and output like RCA in and XLR out. Input selection is via the center control knob where it toggles between three notches with reference to the sequence of the input jacks on the rear.
Needless to say, the TVC4 is as neutral as passive preamps come. It has zero sonic signature and doesn’t add or take away from the signal it gets and passes through. So a quality source unit and poweramp is pretty much critical. If you have not used a passive preamp before, it may take a while before you start appreciating the virtue of “emptiness” or its lack of coloration. Its almost like undressing the music to its stark naked self. It may not be to everyone’s taste but if you have assembled a good source unit, amp and speakers and love music at its neutral roots, passive preamps or the TVC4 in this case is a very good option. There is no electricity needed and no circuit boards, just top quality wiring and volume pot. Pure and simple.
Cosmetically, the TVC4 looks really good. Some minor scuff marks here and there from use but nothing major. We don’t have the original packaging but will securely pack this for safe shipping.