The Audio Experience Symphonies tube line stage is available on ebay new for $400, including shipping, direct from the manufacturer. It is equal in sound quality to anything in the $1000, and even above, price range, Uses 3 12AX7 tubes and a 6X4 rectifier. Throw away the stock tubes and put in some NOS Amperex, Mullard etc and you will be in shock at how good this thing sounds.
A great choice would be a McCormack TLC-1. It's designed to fit perfectly with the 0.5 and can be found for $300-350.
A used Adcom GFP-750 would also be worth considering. It's a very fine preamp, and at used prices (usually around $750) it's a great value.
There is an Audible Illusions L-1 tube pre available right now on A'gon (no affiliation). I have one with my DNA-125 and it matches great.
I agree with Sdcampbell about the Adcom GFP-750 preamp.An outstanding preamp for the $$$.
Forget the GFP-750! It's not Class A, never was, never will be. Sold it at 3 audio/video stores over the years. It's not as good as many think.(maybe Class C...seriously). Infact every other preamp in the store at it's price or above was better...a sheer example that fuels the question from a post earlier that asked "is there any non-compensated reviewing anymore???"
Anyway, McCormmack's very own TLC is better by a lot over this piece, as is Pass Labs Aleph L for the same money used, or better than 750 Adcom.(can you tell I don't like it?..it's not so special IMO)
Other good pieces in Tube used are the stellar Cary linestage that retailed for about $1200 w/no remote. Can't remember model number.."LS50" or something like that.
The Audible Illusions pre's work best with tube amps. Used Audio Research pre's (LS2,5,7,15,etc) are good for $500-700 range with tube upgrades. Even the Audio Experience Symphonies tube line stage that "infintebaffle" recommended is something I'd try before pickig up an Adcom personally. Again, sold that line for years, along with McCormmack as well.
Another suggestion is a simple passive line stage from most any company(except...ehem!)
Dynamics will be better with active linestages however. I think the choices above should get you what you need for a few hundies. Good luck
No offense, but the Adcom GFP-750 is not as bad as you make it out to be!
I have tried and listened to several preamps in my, and in my friends systems, and we consistently prefer it over the others! Its not perfect, no preamp is, but is not bad at all.
I recently bought a John Curl designed Parasound P/LD 2000 preamp, and then a Pass Labs X-2.5 preamp. They were great preamps, but I wound up selling both of them and buying another ADCOM GFP-750! It sounded the best in my system! My friends even agreed that I made the right decision!
Until something comes along that I truly think sounds better and is really worth the extra price difference, I am going to stick with the Adcom.
I know you hate the Adcom, that is obvious. But there are lots of people out there who feel differently about it.
It is the best selling preamp at Audio Advisor and other dealers right now, so it can't be as bad as you make it out to be.I feel that it is competitive with many preamps that cost several times its modest cost.
Just my two cents.
One more thing: The Adcom is a great value!
Where else can you get true balanced CD inputs, true balanced outputs, gold-plated inputs and outputs, a full function remote control, an external processor loop for HT processors, a CHOICE OF ACTIVE OR PASSIVE OUTPUTS, a mono switch, and simple Nelson Pass designed Class A, single gain stage, balanced fully discrete differential circuitry, with no feed back for the Active Stage for $600.00 to $700.00 used? The circuitry is basically just a variation on the Pass Aleph P and Aleph L's design.
I regret selling my Adcom GFP 750.
I'd second the audible illusions suggestions. I picked up a mint 2D for $400. The 2 series has a very good phone stage. If you don't need a phono stage, then look for a L-1 as mattybumpkin suggests. If you prefer a warmer, thicker, more romantic sound, you should be able to find an older conrad johnson pre in your price range as well. Have fun.
I agree with the Audible Illusions suggestion. Used, they are a steal. Why this preamp has seemed to lose its appeal is beyond me. I still consider them one of the best at any price. I currently use an L-2.
The tubes balance out the sound of the McCormack nicely. These two form a real synergy. I used a pair of .5's in a biamp for years w/ the AI.
I don't know what the deal is with the fellow knocking the Adcom preamp but I found the 750 to be excellent(especially in passive mode. A little less so in the active mode) It is very similiar to the Aleph L. Both were Pass designs and the 750 was based on this very preamp.
It and the McCormack TLC-1 sound very similiar in the passive mode.
I have used all three of these preamps extensively and my favorite was the AI. It added a little warmth to the McCormack while at the same time remaining in the neutral camp.
I would say it is a toss up between the other two.
One other you might want to look at is the Placette passive preamp. It is one fine piece. If transparency is for you then this is it.
None of the passives will sound as dynamic as an active linestage(except maybe the Placette.) I never could decide if this is real or a byproduct of level matching or synergy with certain components. The Placette exibits less of this. At matched levels, it sounds just as dynamic on most material.
I tried a couple of CJ's and never did like their sound. They have a litle too much of the tube thing going on in my opinion.
Thank you, Bigtee.I agree with your findings 100%.I am glad other people are also willing to give the Adcom GFP-750 its due besides me!
My next goal is to find a used Audible Illusions L-2 line-stage.I have heard alot of great things about it also!
If you are willing to go all passive, Iamcrazy111, I would highly recommend the Placette Passive or the Bent Audio NOH,
Another suggestion: If you are interested in a DIRT CHEAP active preamp, that sounds really good, I'd go with a used Parasound P/LD-1100, P/HP-850, or an Adcom GFP-565 preamp.
Cheap and good sounding!
Daltonlanny, In the years that I have try to contribute to this sight, I have to say this is pretty much a first! Two guys agreeing on something.
Your suggestion of the 565 is good for a bottom basement unit. It's sins are of omission. It may not be the most transparent preamp out there but it doesn't do any nasties to the music.
The L-2 will be worth your wait and search. Unfortunately, I don't think a lot are on the market yet. It is an awfully good preamp and I think it has a little more dynamics than AI's previous offering and is better at the extremes. It also does loud better. Art is offering cryo'd tubes for it. I'm currently evaluating a pair. So far, well, I just don't know yet.
A Transcendant Grounded Grid preamp just ame up for sale here on Audiogon (for $250 I believe). I have no affiliation with the seller.
Jdombrow's advice is sound. Check out the Transcendent Sound GG pre- you might be surprised!