Well I've tried quite a few over the years. If you can find a good used CAT preamp in your price budget, I seriously doubt you'll be dissapointed...especially if you consder ther tube alternatives. These tube pre's seem to work well with either solid state or tube amps as well.
Another highly touted pre, which you can find at around $1300-1100 range used, are the Audible Illusions mod 3a. These pre's are all Class A rated, very high end performance, etc However the Audible seems to do best with tube amps for impedance matching.
I've used/owned Audio Research LS16's, Sonic Frontiers Line 1/L-2, etc, Pass Labs pre's, and others as well.
However, the CAT's are my personal fav's. My MKIII, which has served me well, is simply world class.
I second the CAT and add (used within the price range) YBA1, Goldmund 7, for speed & resolution. The CAT III is difficult to beat; also, in line form, a III can be modded to Ultimate status... an added bonus for those who seek an even better RF/mains noise rejection.
I should of noted that I am not in the market, I was asking more out of curiousity.
The MFA and Counterpoint preamps are some of the best ones ever made. Especially if you use the phono section. The rare Counterpoint SA-9 is probably the best dedicated phono amp ever made, although it is very expensive and very few made. MFA had the same designer as Audible Illusions, Bruce Moore, who is one of the best in the business. These can be great bargains on the used market, if you get them upgraded with new caps.
I like the neutrality of the Sonic Frontiers Line series of pre-amps, and the Line 1 and 2 can be found used for well under $2000. I just had my Line 2 upgraded to the SE level, and the new tubes/parts added a welcome bit of warmth to music. Cheers. Craig
I third the CAT, very tough to beat in this price range used. I would also consider the Counterpoint SA-11 and the ARC SP-10 Mk2 a wonderfully musical full range pre-amp. To my ears their absolute best effort along with the LS-5, no phono stage with that one though.
With upgraded parts all the above would compete with anything currently available.
I haven't heard CAT. I'll try to find one for a listen. Right now I am using an Aleph P and love it. The Aleph replaced a Sonic Frontiers Line 1. On my system the SF was slightly chalky dry in the mids. Should have taken the review seriously on that one.
Getting back to the question, the pre is very important. If your amp isn't clipping, the pre is just as important, but so are all the other components.
Are you interested in a traditional pre-amp with a phono stage? Do you have specific MM and/or MC requirements? If not for a little more money a used TacT might offer the biggest bang for the buck.
Three votes for CAT preamp's, impressive, where do these stand in comparison to the "Deal of the Century" Supratek? Do either of these have remote?
No pre-amp is best pre-amp! Check this link, and with some "elbow grease" you might end up with best kept secret in audio complimenting your amp!?
Yes indeed Brian - what about preamps? The pre is ONLY the most important component in an audio system.
Some may run without one & thinking that they're better off, but they may or may not be getting all of the performance possible from their singular source. If you have multiple sources then a preamp is practically mandatory, unless you like fussing around with changing cables all the time. I don't.
The pre should be the best component in your rig & can easily be the most expensive part thereof. Passives can be less expensive than actives; compromises in favor of either approach can go either way. But you still want the best pre possible so as to not limit the quality being delivered by your sources. If the amp is better than the pre then it's not going to make the sound much better, & in fact can have the effect of better demonstrating the marginality of compromised incoming signal quality. Yet, as you say, they are often overlooked & are therefor compromised, limiting many a system that could in fact be much better than it appears to be capable of being.
Anybody have any experience with the proceed gear. thinkinmg about the proceed avp2 pre and was wondering what we think abou the matching amps
I also concur with Bob Bundas with the pre being the most important link in the chain. Brian, the CAT doesn't have a remote. With the Supratek it is optional. As to which is better, I'll let you know in a few months when I receive my Supratek "Sarah". The CAT has no discernable weaknesses and must be considered among the best. Some may find it a bit lacking in warmth but I feel it is presents the signal in more of an unbiased or flavored manner than others including the 2 I've mentioned above. "Musical" is another matter. It is but some may find a warmer, richer or darker sound more to their liking.
Amps may get the thunder but ONLY if they are matched with the proper speaker. There must be synergy while this is not the case with a great pre-amp. It will meld well with any good system, and only improve on what is in front of and after it.