3 great tube preamps. Which would you purchase?


I’m currently looking at a used VTL TL-5.5 Series II Stereo Tube Preamplifier
Don Sachs 65N7 Preamp (new), and last but not least LTA Microzotl Preamp - new. 

I like Ike the fact that the VTL has balanced outputs. Which the 65N7 and LTA Microzotl lack. 

My current amp - Bel Canto Ref500s. Has the option of XLR or RCA for input. I like the idea of going all balanced with my set up. 

Its not mandatory to have an all balanced system if one preamp lacks xlr outputs. It’s more of what will work best.  It’s a heavy investment for me. Regardless of which one I will purchase. I like to set it and forget it. Upgrading every couple of years is despised as much as clothing shopping. 

Price is not always indicative of quality. All three mentioned are great contenders imo. All fluctuate a bit in pricing. If anyone could chime in, stating which preamp they might prefer would be greatly appreciated. 

It’s a safe assumption all have their own sound signature. I’m looking to round off the class d sound a bit. It’s not overtly bright. Though I’ve heard the tube sound. I know it will be a game changer in conjunction with my current equipment.  Very curious to know what the communities take would be on this post. 

I have a very basic set up.  
MacBook Pro 
Dynaudio Special 40’s
Bel Canto Ref Link
Bel Canto 3.7 Dac
Bel Canto Ref500s / most recent build. 
interconnects, speaker cable, and power cords are holding up well. 

Turntable preamp to be determined in the future. 

My kind regards,


You may want to call Roy Mottram at tubes4hifi, he has a custom sp-14 which you can customize to your liking for great price.
Hey All,

Welcome to my noob review. I tried my best to describe my experience with the Herron for the past two weeks since purchase. 

The Herron VTSP-3A(r03) was my first foray; tube component added to my system. The added sonics where a given when initially powered up, and of course all improved as settled. 

To the best of my terminology the Herron adds that extra amount of mass/weight/ expansion to the music. Though not in a artificial bloated way. It opens up my system (warmth) and adds the characteristics of what I was hoping to attain - well with what the tube sound offers. I have not heard other tube pre’s. Though I’d gather some companies might offer a syrupy sound or perhaps a linestage that might be a bit more relaxed? The Herron is neither syrupy nor portrays a laid back sound. Neither is the Herron in your face clamoring all attention. 

I would guess from my minute experience with tubes ( lots of reading and researching ) - the Herron fits somewhere in the middle of sonic characteristics of this specific (tube) line stage.  It’s not colored. Holographic imaging is present. It’s not syrupy as I’ve read that some might prefer. Your mileage may vary. It’s not lean. Meat and bone were brought to the table. It’s more like that specific friend that gets along with everyone.  “Hey guys I’m here for the party, and I brought a great Japanese Scotch!!” They blend right in with the crowd. As the Herron worked quite well in conjunction with my existing equipment. As I forgot to mention. Detail is present. The Herron is balanced. Balanced very well.

WAV files at 24/192 felt more alive. Dark Side Of The Moon made everyone smile. The wav was not as dynamic before integrating the Herron. “The Revenant” soundtrack (wav) really came into its own. Though the mastering is darn near perfect. Wav dare I say did not sound organic though rejuvenated with more depth. It’s one of those situations where you revisit the reference tracks and dig out some music one has not heard in a while to notice new and improved dynamics.

Vinyl stole the show hands down. I had some friends over. I played Hugh Masekela “Introducing Hedzoleh Soundz” and everyone was floored. My friend has a VPI Prime with a Blue Ortofon. He could not believe the depth. Slam. Well let’s just say prat. Following, I played the J.B.’S “Doing It To Death”. Again. All in company were pleased. 

Floor noise was barely present. As a test I set the volume at 25 with no music playing. Your ear must be within one inch of the speaker to hear anything, and what you hear is practically nil.   Please keep in mind I have a modest system. So this test could very well not be accurate. During my listening sessions. Regardless of critical listening or just enjoying the music.  I heard no added distractions regarding noise.  I believe you would coin that term being dark?  Even during passages. Silent. Dead silent.

The decay, especially at the end of songs presented a beautiful extension. Listening to some tracks I’ve not heard in a while, I picked up some subtle nuances that where not present beforehand. Micro dynamics indeed. Distortion was not present at all. Even during power hour sessions. 

Though with no acoustic treatment and a small footprint for my listening area. I know for a fact that all of the potential dynamics are not truly present with my system. Thus preventing me from providing to the best of my abilities the most accurate review of this component.  The cost was a bit expensive. It’s all relative.  Fortunately I obtained a unit in pristine condition with new tubes.  The same as stock. Sometimes you have to run with that gut feeling. You take the plunge. I could not fathom taking the Herron out of the chain. Listening would not be as captivating. 

Build quality, and execution of the Herron is just as I expected. Point to point wiring is dead on. Nothing looks rushed under the hood. The craftsmanship shows. Everything feels extremely solid, and well engineered. When powering up the unit automatically switches to mute, and displays a countdown of 60 seconds ( warm up period ).  The volume is preset automatically to 10. Mute stays set as a safe guard until disabled.  The volume control feels ridiculously solid. Same goes for the balance. All select inputs ( contacts ) are once again —— solid. Everything is authoritative, nothing is questionable within the Herron. When using the remote. The volume control does not move, click, whirl or send morse code. I’ve read that other pre’s have a low yet audible detection when adjusting the volume. 

I’ve let the phase inversion stay as is. There is a difference. The soundstage seems more centered.  I prefer to leave it off. The polarity switch has been kept to the “A” setting. 

I spoke to Keith Herron for a bit. Asking the obvious, and not so obvious questions pertaining to the pre. Keith’s very down to earth. No pretension. No sales pitch. The facts were stated, and all questions were answered. The main inquiry pertained to leaving the unit on for extended periods.  Rest assured one can leave the Herron on 24/7. Heat emitting from the unit is barely noticeable. It’s mildly warm. Just enough to state. “Hey. All is working here. Let’s go!” The tube complement consist of 6 Electro-Harmonix 6922 EH. They’re very efficient. It’s assuring that one does not need too concern to power off the Herron. It’s a nice luxury to come home, play a song and you’re there!  

My two gripes with the Herron are minuscule. The remote has to be directly pointed at the unit to initialize the command. Speaking of the remote. It’s a bit small. Though all of the selections one might choose are included. Minimal yet thorough. The remote control size is quite reminiscent of the Bose wave radio/cd. Though more tactile. A milled aluminum remote would have been killer. Though it’s a sound assumption the internals take precedence.

The unit has a dimming mode. Once initiated the display is not obtrusive, and perfect for late night listening. Unfortunately. Specifically the blue led’s caught the corner of my eye. You accumulate. An “all off” option would have been perfect. Trivial complaints as stated. 

The Herron IC’s that I purchased as well left me impressed. Great build quality along with being very clear. The IC calls it as it is with the given source material. It’s very mildly forgiving with poor recordings. Dare I say a bit of air is present. Extending the highs.

The concept of integrating a tube line stage into my mainly digital chain worked as planned. My components were not harsh or bright. Though it was, well very digital. Sterile, overtly analytical. It has balanced out a bit. Generally speaking. More alive. The system sounds a heck of a lot more solid. More musical. Meat on the bone.

I’m quite hesitant to even entertain the notion of thinking how a tube amp or class A solid state would pair with the Herron VTSP-3A(r03). The class D will suffice for now. First world problems. 

My hunch would be that there are very few competitors of similar quality of this line stage. I’m glad I rolled the dice, and found the synergy I was looking for. 

Ok. Time to get a larger apartment to allow the system to really show its true potential!

Thanks again for all of the advice and recommendations. It helped tremendously. 



Dynaudio Special 40’s

Herron VTSP-3A(r03)
Bel Canto Ref Link
Bel Canto 3.7 Dac
Bel Canto Ref 500s. Most recent build. 
Mcintosh Ma-6500 - bridged as a phono stage. 
Technics SL-1200M3D
Ortofon Concorde 

MacBook Pro 2011

Blue Circle FX2 6 XOe Power Line Conditioner

TWL Digital American PC

TWL HP Digital American PC

Nordost Red Dawn PC

TWL Discrete Audio USB

TWL American Speaker Cable-The American Series

Herron Fully Shielded Oxygen Free Copper IC

Silversonic Air Matrix IC

AudioQuest Black Carbon AES/EBU

ST fiber optic cable

It seems a bit absurd to state the following though I in know way was granted anything gratis for this review. 

The community put in the time to offer advice. Some wanted my initial opinion. The least I could do is attempt to write a review that  I hope was informing. Offering my personal impressions of the Herron VTSP-3A(r03). 

Now @jred, get yerself the matching VTPH-2a phono amp, and be REALLY happy!
I would listen if possible. If not, my vote would go to the LTA by a wide margin.

I would definitely consider his phono stage though atm, I’ll be saving up for quite a while,  

Meanwhile I’ll peruse equipment like we all do. Though my top priority is to sit back and enjoy the music.