A bit overwhelmed, need preamp advice

Hello! New Guy here...

I think the pre-amp must be the most challenging component to buy. It's like the master controller and brains of the whole system and I am having a hard time with narrowing my choices down and was looking for some advice.

When I setup my home theater system it was a much easier decision and I ended up with a Proceed AVP-S. Well, I've been selling all my HT gear and want to move back to a simple but very musical two channel setup.

Speakers are Snell B-Minors, my amp is a Bryston 4B-SST, and the front end is a California Audio Labs CL-25 but I am getting rid of the Proceed and the Cal Audio and moving to a RAID1 music server setup that I've built and ripped my 2000 CD's to Flac with exact audio copy.

I need to find a replacement for the Proceed and the only thing that will be connected to the pre-amp is a Musical Fidelity M1DAC.

The Proceed is a little on the dry analytic side, and I was looking for something that would add a bit of warmth, focus and 3 dimensionality and better depth and soundstaging. But not too much warmth and bloom!

One of the challenges is that whatever I get, the bass has to be pretty controlled which is why I got the Bryston. The Snell's have a 12" woofer and the Bryston is able to really take control of it.

My budget is about $1500 usd and I'm looking for some suggestions.

I was thinking of the Rogue Metis Preamplifier with the Magnum upgrades for $1,495.

Or the Placette Passive linestage with the remote for $1595.00

I was hoping I could get some thoughts from folks that have had these and let me know what you thought. The other thing is what are the downsides to a passive linestage? I've heard you give up dynamics for transparency and I'm not sure I can live with that.

I listen to literally all kinds of music so a good soundstage, accuracy, musicality, and dynamic range is important. Sorry for rambling but please chime in if you have any thoughts.


The Metis is a nice preamp and should be able to accomplish what you are looking for. Similar to the Cronus integrated, I think the Metis really plays well above it's price range.

Are you open to used or are you strictly looking for new items?

******Dealer Disclaimer--- I sell Rogue Products**********
You've got the right idea. I have B-Minors that I used to run with a VTL 2.5 and a Levinson 27. The combo of tube pre and solid state amp worked very nicely with the Snells. The Rogue is certainly a worthwhile choice. I'd pass on the Placette.
I do not want to push a brand of preamp. I think you should listen to as many preamps as possible. It is very difficult unless you have friends that have good equipmenta a pre-amp for you to boarrow. I was very fortunate that I was able to to try many preamps before I settled. I even bought several here on audiogon that I had to sell after I deemed them not what I was looking for. I would probably for starters try some of the Bryston Preamps as they will match your power-amp. My pre-amp and power amp are made by the same company that works very well in system.
Hi David,
I don't want to totally discourage a preamp, but with 1 source, I really recommend you run your computer to the DAC and straight to the amp. I don't know what server program you are using, but Foobar 2000 has a digital volume built in and I bet the others do too. If you want to find out just how capable your amp is, there is no better way or if you want to find out how transparent a preamp is when added in, this will tell you very quickly. Experimenting is free and this just might be very rewarding...
In your price range I`ve read many rave comments on the Doge8 tube preamp.
No I am definately open to used items as long as it is easy for me to get them serviced and the item is relatively low maintenance. I have some questions I'd like to ask you so I'll send you a pm.

You have Snell B-Minors! How cool. I've never run across anyone else that has had them. I've thought of upgrading them many times but I haven't come across anything that's not around $10,000 that would replace them. If you did replace them, what did you get?

Yeah that is a real challenge for me. The only stores in my area are boutique very high end stores. So it's going to be pretty much sight unseen. I have gone through a lot of equipment that way, but it's part of the adventure I guess. If could afford a Pass Labs or ARC I would just get that, I have a great dealer in my area. If I could afford it I would just get the XP-20 from Pass. I have been keeping an eye out for a used Bryston BP-25.

Hey man, I hadn't really thought of that before, duh! I am using JRiver Media 16 with Asio4all with the volume control bypassed because I understood using it threw away bits, but once the M1DAC is in the chain, the results could be interesting. I shall give that a go and see what happens. Right now I am waiting on a Logitech Touch, then the M1DAC then the pre-amp. The server is not in the main listening room. I will definately check that out first.

Thanks Charles, I will check that out, I am definately leaning towards a tube pre in my price range, thanks for the recommendation.
The Doge 8 is undoubtedly the best preamp under $2,500. It lists at about $1,500 and is available from Pacific Valve. It is beautifully constructed and also has a very good phono stage.

If you are interested in Pass, maybe give Mark at Reno Hifi a ring. He has a great trial policy and may have something used in your price range. Believe he also has a sale on this month.

Another pre I would look at is a Modwright 9.0. Used it will be in yourprice range
I second the Modwright 9.0. Be sure to try the Raytheon "red label" 5687 tubes from the 60's. (nice organic sound)
Thanks guys for all the input, I really appreciate! This will get me started!

-Allchemie: The Doge 8 does look very interesting.

As soon as I make some headway, I'll circle back. I forgot about the Modwrights, thanks for the heads up.

You can take a look at the HA-160D which is a pre/dac, it does have nice soundstage and imaging. A nice unit.
3rd the Modwright!!
Well, Davidwjones, I'm listening to Wilson MAXX 2's in my 2-channel, but I can't give up the Snells. I'm still using them in my surround system. The MAXX's are definitely better, but listening to the Snells last night for music, I'm not sure the difference really matters that much anymore.
ARC ls 26, CJ 17...you'll have to seach hard at that price, but you might get lucky. good luck!!!!!
I have heard the Doge 8 in a very revealing system and it is a giant killer. When used with a first rate SUT the phono section is top notch.
That said, I bought the new "Clarity" Doge 8 and while it is still breaking in I do believe I am hearing a marked improvement over the already excellent "old" Doge 8.
The sound stage seems to be more pin pointed,defined and accurate but without the solid state glare and dryness.It is also very quiet.
Indeed it is very smooth but at the same time exciting with lots of prat and tons of gain. The "Clarity" is more expensive at 1999.00 but I would say it is worth it.
I will be borrowing my friends Ypsilon phono preamp to do A-B comparing with the internal phono section. Not exactly a fair comparison, but still should be fun.
Check out a used Ayre KX5eMP. I've been very happy with mine, detailed, but very smooth. I upgraded from an ARC LS16 and it was a significant upgrade.
" the bass has to be pretty controlled "

With your budget then the best preamp is Joule-Electra LA-150Mk2, used. Harry Pearson wrote that is has extraordinary bass and gave it some award (Golden Ear?) a few years ago. Not only it has excellent bass - it will match excellently, fantastically with your Bryston power amplifier.

Search on Audiogon, call them and ask for dealers who might have demos or they may have demo. For you , there is no better preamp !
In my estimation, if you have a DAC worth $500 used and $1,500 to spend, you are better off selling the DAC and getting a better dac with volume control if you have no need for switching through a preamp.

An asynchronous USB dac with volume control you would get better result in a computer audio only application. The obvious condidate would be the wired4sound dac2. Another option would be a PS audio perfectwave DAC with bridge as music server. I use this myself and recently did a shootout between DAC direct and running it through my $10K Modwright 36.5 LS/PS tube preamp and it was a very close call.
A few thoughts...first, I agree that you should look for a better DAC. The PW DAC (used) or W4S DAC2 would offer a lot of bang for the buck in your system. Second, I don't like going amp direct from a digital source. Digital volume controls are often lousy and I always find the sound quality to be too sterile. I have similar feelings about passive preamps. If you want to experiment with a passive, I would order a Lightspeed Attenuator before a Bent You could sell the Lightspeed in a heartbeat. Third, I would look for a tube preamp for your Bryston amp. Finally, I would avoid false economies. Sure, the Doge may seem like a bargain at $1500, but try selling it at anywhere close to that price. An Aesthetix Calypso, on the other hand, might cost $2000 or so used, but it will retain it's value. (When they come up for sale used, they are sold very quickly.). There is a very active thread on Audioasylum by someone who has had great success mating a Calypso with a Bryston SST.
My only rebuttal is that you rarely see the Doge for sale and when you do they sell for $1000-1200. The last one I saw sold in the first hour. I am sure a Aesthetix would be first rate too. I would love to hear one. Does the Calypso have a phono stage? I thought you needed a Rhea for that. Would love to hear that too, especially with the remote control cartridge loading! Cool indeed.
btw I have my Doge mated up to a SS power amp and it works very well with my Acoustats.

great stuff
Maybe not the answer you were looking for. But why not sell the Bryston and buy a good integrated amp? I think it is an audiophile thing to think that pre + power is always better then a integrated amp. But i personally think that when you are not in the market for the super expensive, say Boulder, Soulution etc Integrated amps will out perform pre + power.
Emorrisiv, the Aesthetix Janus combines the Calypso and the Rhea into one complete pre-amp. Usually runs ~$3500 used.
Thanks for the info Ncarv. Aesthetix gear is very well respected and I am sure would be a winner.

btw For those who have SS gear, you need to try a tube preamp with your SS power amp. It can be a life changing experience.

My friend Mike Morrow is out at the high end show in Denver and has allowed me use of his Ypsilon phono preamp.Kind of like driving a Bugatti with a Porsche trailer.
This rig sounds nothing short of astounding! The micro/macro details,dynamics are in a class of it's own. The Doge 8 linestage is so good that it allows for the Ypsilon to do it's thing in spades.
I like it better than Mike's Einstein.

I understand that there are audiophiles that won't buy a piece of Chinese gear. All I can tell you is that if you are looking in the under $10k market, you need to check out the Doge 8.
Incredible build quality and sound to match.