The Atma-Sphere MP-3 might suit the bill and you can likely find a used one for less than that. Its all-tube, fully balanced and differential, has a direct-coupled output and can drive long cables easily. Plus it does not matter if the amp is tube or solid state.
9 responses Add your response
Thanks for the feedback folks. The one thing I forgot to mention as a requirement: I'm a lazy bastard who wont get out of my armchair and walk to the other side of the room to adjust volume so remote volume is a must. I don't think the Atma-Sphere has remote volume :(. Also open to suggestions on cartridge upgrades!
Unfortunately I think I would have to go new if I wanted a remote with the MP-3 which I think puts me out of my budget (Maybe ~$7K?)
The MC352 is fully balanced so it would be nice to take advantage of that but if there is a clear winner with single ended only then I'm not averse to going that route.
You've already got some great candidates on your list, so I'll add a few more "off the radar" options that might be worth a look in your price range.
Sachs SP14 -- this is one I'm seriously considering myself. A big bonus is that I think they offer a brief in-home trial, which to my mind is huge. I know they offer balanced connections, but I don't know if it's fully balanced. Here's a link...
A couple others would be the Backert Labs Rhumba (again not sure if fully balanced) and Linear Tube Audio microZOTL2.0, which looks to be single ended only. Just for some other options. Best of luck.
Agree with soix, excellent preamps in the running here. To answer -
all of the new Backert Labs preamps are balanced, with the more affordable models including 1 balanced input and 1 output (in addition to 3 RCAs in and 2 out).
With your speakers, which are beyond excellent, we would suggest the Rhumba 1.2 Extreme at $5,500, but the regular Rhumba 1.2 at $3,400 would also work nicely. Reviewer Terry London, "teajay" in the forums, is listening to one now and seems happy.