best bang for the buck tube preamp?

would like to try out a tube pre to see if tubes are for me without spending big bucks($250-$500). two channel, no phono and i need two sets of outputs.
Here's one that will be great to play with starting out 2006 Dared SL-2000a. Look around on Agon, a used one runs about $350. Make sure it's a 2006 you get two outputs.
Used Eastern Electric Minimax
The EE Minimax is a great one, especially if you can find it at $500. I had forgot about that one.
TAD 150
The Bottlehead Seduction preamp would be a great amp for the money. On the side you learn some DIY. And if not interested in DIY at all, you can find them used on Agon sometime.

The Quicksilver pre runs around $550 and gets some great comments as well. My favorite sub 1k tube amp is the Fi Y, although that one never comes up used and is usually discounted only 10-20% from new.

Also, not a tube pre, but the Promitheus TVC passive preamp sound like a great deal for the money. There is a 6moon review coming up.

Good luck!

The Bottlehead Foreplay is the Pre Amp.. Not the Seduction it is a Headphone Amp.
Based on your system- a tube pre should be a welcomed addition providing it is quiet enough. It needs to have good tubes in it, too.

From what I've read about your dvd/cd player, you need a pre that preserves your imaging. Adding a little "bite" might not be bad because some of your stuff is kinda on the smooth side- even if it is digital. You need very little gain...

So, I'd be looking for a tube pre with a lively attitude- yet quiet enough to not be noticed. If you want the ultimate in bang for the buck- think DIY (do it yourself).

I suggest a Bottlehead Foreplay III linestage. It's a DIY kit that's VERY easy to build and has enough gain to easily drive your amp. It should knock the socks off your system. My guess is that it would add some much needed sparkle and fill it all out with a more "lush" staging. Your rig is begging for something like this.

You could also get a DYNACO pas3 pre for cheap and do a few upgrades- like some good telefunken tubes, a better power supply, power cord, and upgraded input/output jacks. Once upgraded- they're really hard to beat. The cool thing is, their price gets you in the world of tubes for cheap and the upgrades will come later as you have the cash to do them. You can always get your money back out of a PAS3. They have a very firm value (+/- $300) for a good one.

Have fun!!
Thanks Rene..I hadn't thought about this either. A fellow(oliverlim) mentioned on a thread I started on audiocircle about the Promitheus that he replaced his Rotel 1068 with the Promitheus for music. I found his comments here Promitheus. It ain't tubes but it sure sounds fantastic!

Good listening
Koiman, thanks for the correction - the foreplay is the pre and of course the seduction is the phono-amp :)

Sound Valves VTP-101i meets all your requirements. The phono section is there, but it represents a superb bonus for some subsequent buyer if you ever get restless to upgrade. Reasonable price, probably less than $400 when purchased used on Audiogon and eBAy. Occasionally comes up for sale.
I have placed it in many different systems, without hearing any significant shortcoming.
It will even inspire you to try a tube amp once you see how fine tubes can sound.
In my trials, it far outdid my stock Dynaco PAS-3, and it doesn't require internal upgrades to be fully competent.
Just choose your footers (such as Herbie's Tenderfeet), and power cord of your choice, and prepare to be impressed.
Surprised nobody has mentioned the Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 or better yet, the Signature version if you can find it. Here are links to two currently listed SFL-1's.

BTW, they also come with a black faceplate.
HemiDakota (Dodge guy?),

Forgot to mention- the phono stage on a stock DYNACO pas3 is exceptional. Not the end all- but pretty sweet. In case you ever wanted to spin some records- it's really there...

As suggested before, the PAS2/3 in stock form is pretty pedestrian- but it's an absolute rocket ship for someone trying out his first tube pre. It's certainly not INcompetent. Ask around. Upgrades can transform the little PAS into something most peoples' budget would not allow otherwise.

And due to their overwhelming popularity and long run- they are ALWAYS for sale. There are a huge amount of forum threads and websites dedicated to these little gems. Support, parts, and just about everything else for them is readily available.

Such can be said of the bottlehead Foreplay, too. It's a classic. 2 very good choices, trust me.
Check out the entry level Tube Preamp from Space Tech Labs. some reviews can be found here and other forms that will hold it's own against those costing $2-3K all for $480.
I would agree with Valve_and_vinyl. Nice assessment.
Happy Listening!
I will second (ot third?) the Bottlehead Foreplay.

Note, the new Foreplay III is not the easiest build out there. It sounds superb but it is a bit a more involved build than the ver II they had before. Never-the-less, for double the money of the foreplay, I doubt anything comes close.

I have the Bottlehead Foreplay II, not the newest edition, and it is a great little pre for the money. However, for a few hundred bucks more, I would strongly urge you to consider the Mapletree Audio Ultra 4A or the Triplex. What you will get will be better overall resolution and tonality and I think you will be happier in the long run. At the time I was looking for an upgrade for my Foreplay (upgrade fever), I took a risk with Mapletree and have not a single regret or ever felt to need to look elsewhere ever since. Since then, I have convinced a couple of other devout audiophiles to give it a try. Each and everyone has found the same results I did, a warm, but resolving, engaging and musical preamp. Mapletree Audio is an often overlooked company that really deserves more attention. Check out their website at and take a look at what they have to offer. The designer and operator of the company, Lloyd Peppard, is a great guy who stands behind his products 110% and can answer any questions you have. You should also check out the Mapletree Audio user forum on In my opinion, the MAD products are the best bang for the buck in audio today.
consider the zbox from decware.
Hi Hartwerger

I had a look at the website – the Mapletree stuff look great.

Do the kits look like what is on the web page? I need a ‘project’ and wanted to build another pre. I like Bottlehead gear, but I am not fond of their aesthetics. Also the cable going in on the top is just a PITA.

Hartweger, great suggestion on the Mapletree audio. And they are in Canada! Don't know how that escaped me....

I already like the red ones, although I think the red clashes with the red of my Abbys ;)

Hey Pauly: You should call or email Lloyd Peppard of MAD for info on the kits. I have the Ultra 4A which doesn't come in the kit form. A good friend recenty built the Triplex and it pretty much looked like the one on the website with a few changes of his own. He loves the triplex and that's the direction I would take if I was doing it all over again as you get the choice of the different circuits. I still have my Foreplay and it has a special place in my heart, but I think you would be happier with any of the Mapletree products for the long haul. Also, my friend that built the Triplex also had previously built a Foreplay. I am certain he would tell you the same as I am. In addition, he thought the Triplex was easier to build as there was more room to move around when soldering all those joints. The Foreplay box is still a little cramped for the ole soldering gun. Good luck with whatever you choose. Let us know how things turn out.
I'll second Benies suggestion for Space Tech Labs. I recently listened to their pre, hooked up to a Sim w5 and a pair of Maggies. It really is a great pre-amp. For the money? an excellent pre-amp.
Also make a really fine passive, wich I prefered.
thanks for all the input everyone. im kinda leaning toward the Mapletree Audio Line 2A SE. good or bad choice?
I recently went through a search for a reasonably priced tube preamp.
Ended up getting an Audio Mirror PP1.
Audio Mirror also makes a linestage only (T61)
that is a little above your pricerange new, but gets rave reviews.

Also, this looks interesting:

I have no affiliation with this ad.

Good Luck.
What other components do you have? particularly your amp? The 2A has a low output impedance so it shouldn't be hard to match with an amp. Your amp would need an input impedance of lower than 4.5K ohms for their to be any problems. Has adjustable gain which is good and makes it flexible for amp matching. Separate power supply which is good. Barring some unforseen reason not to choose the 2A, I think its a great choice. I think you will really like it for a long time to come.