Hello all,
I am wanting to experiment with tube preamps for my JC-1 monoblock amps.
Here are my requirements:
1. MUST have balanced XLR outputs.
2. Remote control preferred.
3. Would like a headphone jack.
4. Would prefer Class A, dual-mono, all discrete circuitry.
5. Must match up extremely well and have exceptional synergy with the JC-1's.
I want it to retain ALL the sound qualities of solid state preamps such as top-end extension, detail, transparency, dynamics, speed, bass power and extension, etc., while adding the dimensionality, staging, and "air" of tubes.
I do not want one that is the least bit rolled off on top, laid-back, too euphonic, warm, or rolled off or spongy in the bass.
Some balanced tube preamps I have heard some good things about are the Aesthetix Calypso, ARC LS25 MK.II, Sonic Frontiers, etc.
I want to hear from people with first hand experience only.
Thanks for all your help and answers, everyone!
Hi Angela,

I'd recommend the BAT VK-51SE, does everything on your list except the headphone jack. If the headphone jack is that important, than the Sonic Frontiers Line 3SE. Not as transparent or dynamic as the BAT, but a close second.

I have an Atma-sphere MP-3 w/phono that is fully differentially balanced & will do all the sonic things you're looking for, although no remote or headphone jack.

I'm running w/Ayre V-1xe & it's a great match-up. I was thinking about the K-1xe from a synergy standpoint, so if you'd like to swap preamps for testing purposes, let me know.
I'm using an Atma-Sphere MP-3 with JC-1s right now and think it's a great combination. I am a dealer for both. If you go with the MP-3, be sure to opt for the regulated power supply option. Sonically it will meet your criteria, but it does not have a phono jack or remote. Some people find the discrete-step resistor ladder volume control a bit clunky, but it's a very high-performance solution.

The Atma-Sphere MP-1 would be even better, but is quite a bit more expensive.

I have a couple of tube headphone amps on order, but until they arrive my headphone experience is limited to preamps with headphone jacks and a Headroom maxed-out home unit, and the Headroom was definitely better.

Suggest that you check out the Einstein preamp. No headphone jack but otherwise meets all your requirements and from personal experience, I can say that it mates extremely well with the JC-1's.
I second everything John (Jmcgrogan2) has to say.

Thanks for your responses so far!
Just throw the headphone jack option out the window, since very few preamps have one anyway.
I was just going to recomend the preamp you already have even though it's not tube. I love the Ayre K1x with my JC1s, and felt like it's addition was a huge improvment to my system. I had the CJ 17 before and no balanced outs, so it may not be a good comparison. I will be very interested to hear how your new preamp works out since you are using the same gear now as I am. If you can deal with the price, I would check out the VTL 7.5, also I think the Calypso sounds like a good idea too. Keep us posted on how things turn out, and good luck girl.
I don't know what the best balanced pre-amp would be for you. However, to achieve the results your looking for. Be certain the tube pre-amp you wind up with has a fully regulated power supply.
Looks to me as though your specifically asking for Sonic Frontiers Line 3. It's everything your asking for and then some. Its DC coupled low out-put impedance makes this tube line stage unusually compatible with solid state power amps.
Hey Angela,

It seems like there are many varied responses. If I may ask, why do you want a 'tubed' preamp? As a some have stated, your Ayre is as good as it gets on the SS end of the line.
If the Ayre 'floats your boat', you need look no further.

If you want the dynamics and power of SS, but with some 'tube bloom' in the mid's, and headphone jack is not a big deal, then again I think that the BAT VK-51SE is what you're looking (listening) for.
I'm not a schill, but the BAT gear is really fantastic. You owe it to yourself to at least give it a listen.