Back to tubes?

Seriously thinking of replacing my SS pre with a tubed linestage. Contenders include ARC Ref 5 and VTL 7.5. Certainly open to suggestions as well.

Plan to keep the Boulder 1060 for now.

Could pull the trigger on a Boulder 2010 but I am well aware that the cost of a component is often not commensurate with its performance.
Glad to have you back. I own the ARC Ref 3. I understand the Ref 5 has the same sonic signature as the Ref 3 -- just better. Some say a lot better. I love my Ref 3. It's simply a great line stage. So, the ARC Ref 5 has my endorsement.

What about a phono pre? If you have the bucks after the Ref 5, you may want to consider the PH-8 or Ref Phono 2. I own the PH-7. I own and love the PH-7. However, as with the Ref 3/5 line stages, I understand the PH-8 and Ref Phono 2 are much better than the PH-7. My question is how is that possible -- the PH-7 is so good.

BTW, I see Ref 5 line stages come up for sale from time to time on A'gon. It's a nice way to pick up a top performer and shave $3 to $4 grand off MSRP. Don't recall seeing too many used PH-8s or Ref Phono 2s for sale. But they're kinda new. But you never know.

One last comment. As I have said on other OPs, synergy makes a big difference. I would make sure the line stage, whatever it is, be compatible with your Boulder amp. I would think a high end audio dealer could help. Or call the manufacturer of the line stage or amp, maybe both. And . . . there's no beating a home audition if your dealer allows it. Some A'gon members report that they have been able to do home auditions.

Now. . . as often happens with similar OPs looking for equipment recommendations, get ready. Every owner or manufacturer of a tube pre is about to recommend their favorite rig. Shouldn't be a surprise though. There's a lot of great gear out there.

Good luck and signing off.
Look at some of the Shindo preamps. They emotionally connect you to the music better than any other preamp I have heard
I would look for used BAT 51SE. A bargain at these prices IMHO with all the attributes of clear and non-colored, great textured amplification.
Had the Ref.3, Spent time with the VTL 7.5 (series 1) and bought the BAT REX. For me, the better preamp. No idea how it will match up with your Boulder, but was great with amps from bryston, Manley, VTL, and of course the REX amp I use now. Downside is runs hot.
A strong 2nd for Shindo! For new gear and no discount, the Monbrison is a bit less than the Ref 5 and the Masseto is a bit more. And with each you get a world class phono stage.
The linestage that passes the cleanest signal I have ever heard is the Coincident Technology Linestage at $5,000. The only limiting factor is its 2 inputs, which can cause one to re-think their front end. But if you add their exemplary Phono Stage pre-amp at $5,495, it also adds an extra input. For about $10,000 it is a killer combination that absolutely slays all comers at anywhere near its price.

Allchemie - If you have heard the Shindo Masseto and/or Monbrison, can you please elaborate on your impressions in more detail as to what you believe is better about the Coincident Technology (both linestage and phonostage)?
Any tubed preamp discussion must include conrad johnson.
I think that you should also strongly consider the Atma-Sphere MP-1 or MP-3 as well. Check these out on
Hey Krys, as I said, by the time this OP ends, the members will recommend every pre out there! LOL
Bifwynne, you're probably right but I really appreciate being reintroduced to the tube equipment out there right now.
I'll have to see what's available for audition in my area as well.
I do have an easy lead on a Ref 5 or VTL 7.5 so I am particularly interested in opinions of those pieces.
How about no preamp? I know not always feasible (and much more diffiult with analogue gear) but if you are beginning "the search", why limit yourself?

I run my digital gear direct to amps but have a linestage for my phone/tape/tuner (I switch cables at the amps) which I was also considering upgrading and my top 2 contenders (for my budget) were the Ref 3 (used) and Shindo. The Shindo would have been my decision. Shindo gear (preamp and amps - they love synergy) into high sensitivity speakers is an incredible match.

For me - I will never ever put a preamp between my digital sources and amps again, ever.
your boulder pre is a classic....
Cerrot, I am considering that option also. There is certainly no preamp like no preamp.

Jaybo, I love the 1012 but no longer need the inboard phonostage or DAC. I might just succumb and get a 2010 but peerless though it may be, it certainly exemplifies the law of diminishing returns.

Sounds like Shindo should be on the short list for auditions,
Have anybody compared Manley Stealhead/Shindo Aurieges-L combo vs. Masseto, Monbrison and up the line Shindo preamps?