Amicus Addendum to Tube Pre-Amp Thread by Hilde45

I was happy to see @hilde45’s thread on Tube Pre-Amps since I am in a similar situation. I also have some additional questions, but didn’t want to hi-jack the @hilde45 thread with a bunch of questions that may not be of interest to him or others. So, I’m calling this an "Amicus Addendum" in order to incorporate everything already answered in Hilde45’s thread so that no one feels obligated to re-write their previous answers or cross-post (let’s keep it simple!). Assume everything there was already written here. Also, the same parameters apply as far as price range, etc. As for my requirements, power isn’t a concern because I’ll be using it with my Klipsch Chorus II speakers (with 101 db sensitivity and new Crites crossovers and Crites titanium tweeters). I have an ELAC ss integrated amp and the Monoprice Pure Tube integrated amp and, even though it is a "starter" amp, the Klipsch sound so good with tubes, I want to continue down that road. (For those not familiar with the Chorus, they are from the same line as the Forte - the Chorus replaced the Cornwall (when it was discontinued and before it was reissued as "Heritage") and the fortes were the Chorus’ little brother. So, they look like a larger forte, but perform similar to a Cornwall, with similar drivers.)

If you happened upon this thread first, you may want to start by reading @Hilde45’s thread:

1.) Can anyone narrow recommendations to pre-amps that do not have a headphone amp or phono pre? I don’t need either of those functions, so my thought is why pay for them? On the other hand if a pre-amp mfr. acknowledges just throwing in a $2 part leftover from knock-off walkman stock for the headphone amp, or something similar where I know I’m not paying for an expensive feature, I guess I’m fine with it. Or, if it’s such an amazing deal that it doesn’t matter.... Speaking of inputs, I primarily listen from my PC, streaming, and CD player.

2) Integrated vs. Individual Components? I have integrated amps that I want to upgrade from and thought it was time for components, but some integrateds look pretty good. I like the new PrimaLuna’s for example (especially comparing cost of the integrated vs. pre). I know this has been discussed before, but integrateds have been getting a lot better in the past few years and this discussion is within fixed parameters, so we don’t need to discuss the topic from the beginning. Though primarily seeking components, I’m still looking at integrateds in this price range because 1) there is good stuff out now, 2) I think it is the way the industry is headed in the sub-$5k range, and 3) I wonder if some of the benefits of an integrated outweigh the negatives. Benefits: a) the pre- and the power amps are expertly matched and dialed in together (no concerns about synergy of different brands or product lines or impedance matching or gain concerns). b) Eliminates 2 sets of In/Out connections and a cable run c) eliminates one power supply/connections/cable. Thoughts on benefits vs. negatives?

3) Opinions on balanced/XLR connects at this price level? Worth it or jewelry? I am also very tempted by the Schiit Freya+ pre and schiit amp, as recommended in the @hilde45 thread. Saw a few Dan Modwright suggestions in that thread, but I had checked out his website a few weeks ago and had the impression his stuff was a bit higher than this price range. Prices are listed for some of his modifications, but I had to go to reviews to dig some up for his products because they aren’t on the site. I hate when msrp isn’t listed on a mfr. website... If anyone knows where I can see a pricelist without needing to contact them, please show me!

4) Is it time to stop focusing on pre-amps and spend the money on a good DAC/streamer with lots of inputs? I currently use a Topping D30 DAC and, despite it’s low price, it has great numbers and low distortion and improved sound from my PC immensely. Anyone have a good tube DAC to recommend instead?

I am open to suggestions for used products, as well as new. Thanks in advance!
I'm mostly a newbie, so here is a limited answer based on what I've been learning:

1.) Van Alstine keeps phono out unless you want it.
Parasound's recently retired NewClassic 2100 2.1 Channel Preamplifier has the phono as an option.

2.) Many said to me that integrateds in the price range you mention are just fine and also the advantages you cite. One additional is that you're not paying for an extra box. And you can swap out one of them later. Possibly of interest:
Thanks for the reply! I will check those out.

Judging by lack of response from others, I think people may be tiring of this question . . . at least there's lots of good info in your thread.
used Aesthetix
the Odyssey Candela is quite musical
you have lots of choices

i have a pair of Crites plus my own mods Cornwall that I run with a MC240 and a MX-110 Z to quite awesome sound..

have fun

If I had 101db sensitivity Chorus speakers, a very "low noise" separate preamp and and amp would likely be one approach, keeping power supplies separate. A super high quality (low noise) integrated could be ultra expensive if cost is a first consideration. However, Mike at QS offers a nice little low watt integrated though, great value, works with horn speakers pretty well. No imbedded headphone amp as per your request. Sounds nice, tubes are not costly on this one, run it for long time.

If you want to go triode, that’s a whole league of its own, and there are all kinds of options - advice from all directions from around the world. Kinda depends if you just like to turn on music and let it play, or are you a super critical listener focusing on every aspect and detail of the music. Triode with horns can be amazing, and prepare to explore all kinds of different tubes, another journey in itself. A starter amp like a Class A Audio Note OTO SE pentode could be nice too, if you want to explore other low watt integrated amps with high efficiency speakers. From there, it goes up in price with incremental benefits. Good Luck.

Thanks for the reply! I’m still facing this decision because I decided not to rush it until I’m in my new place - unless a deal pops up. Plus, you can research this stuff forever . . . . :)

I have an open floor plan, so it will get a lot of use and probably 80% will be "everyday" listening and 20% will be critical - but I don’t listen to much classical and I like the "tube sound" that isn’t known for hyper-detail, so I don’t know if my "critical" is as demanding as some peoples’..

I’ve realized I need a "low noise" pre- and that seems to be the only tricky thing in selecting things. I always liked ConradJohnson, but those are way too loud for 101db sensitivity! I’m leaning toward separates instead of integrated more and more. I want the amp and pre to both be old-school with zero features and I’ll get all of the features I need out of my DAC since those are increasingly full of features like streaming, NAS - everything digital really. This will give me a modern digital rig and a very clean analogue rig off of the same amp and pre and that seems to be the best way to spend the money to get bang for buck. I’m going to check out your suggestions, so thanks!
@ oside
This Quicksilver horn mono would be a good fit with the high sensitivity Klipsh! BTW, I own QS gear !!
Add this Quicksilver line stage and you will have an outstanding system for about 3 grand!!
+1 decooney and yogi. For ~3K Quicksilver is a great option. I also recommend checking out Aric Audio. I own his Special Preamp (earlier version).

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Addressing your questions here, lets start with balanced/XLR.  

If a unit/system is fully balanced, XLRs are superior. If the whole unit is not balanced, then there is a transformer that converts a single ended signal to an XLR. The quality of sound will be heavily driven by that transformer. For instance, the Musical Fidelity M6 line is fully balanced. It is at its best when the entire system including DAC is balanced. Alternatively, look at the Marantz MM7025. This is not fully balanced and has XLR connections. It is potentially better with single ended interconnects.  

If everything in your system is fully balanced, including DAC, go balanced.  If not, single ended is probably the way to go.  

Integrated vs. Separates - This to me is easy.  Unless you are looking at higher end gear, integrated amps are almost always the way to go.  To me, the first separates I can think of that are worth buying new Are the Rogue RP5 and the Rogue Hydra or Stereo 100.  That is a $6500-$7000 spend.  I don't feel the lower end Musical Fidelity (M6) or Parasound (P5 and A21) are better in any way than the integrated amps they offer.  This is my opinion and worth what you paid for it.  

The nice thing about an integrated amp is that it is going to have a properly matched preamp and amp stage in terms of gain.  Connections are short and will be well insulated.  They tend to be extremely quiet.  Where the tend to fall down is the internal DACs and phono stages. 

I say all of this with a heavy bias toward separates as I have had separates for the past 25 years starting from Carver, Ayre, Rogue, PS Audio, Chord, Marantz and Art Audio.  I have also owned a few integrated amps and have always been shocked at how good they sound.  Micromega, Musical Fidelity, Musical Fidelity & Rega are a few.  

I am not sure I can think of a tube preamp in the sub $3K range that I would pick over a $5K to $6K integrated amp new.  There are plenty of used units that are very good.  If you can find a used Rogue RP7 in this range, that would be one of my first choices.